Listening is perhaps the most underrated marketing skill for any small business

When most people think about marketing, listening is not the first thing that comes to mind. But before you can start designing a marketing message and communicate it effectively, you need to understand your customers and what they need and want. Listening is the place to start.

There’s an old saying: “We were born with one mouth and two ears.” In other words, we should listen more than we talk. When it comes to marketing, this is often forgotten as we spend our time, effort and money trying to tell anyone and everyone about our great product or service and why they should buy it. This misses the true point of marketing, which is to increase your visibility in a way that is perceived as value-adding.

To boost your credibility and to add value, you need to understand your target market and the key challenges your clients face so that you can help them overcome these. I’d recommend spending 80% of your time listening and only 20% talking and asking questions. Asking probing and intelligent questions is crucial to establishing your credibility.


Listen carefully to what is said, as well as to what is not said, when you ask your questions. Listen for cues that signal future needs or niggles that will become bigger problems. Listen for gaps in the products and services they receive and then identify ways in which you position your offering to close these gaps.

One of the first questions to ask is if a client would recommend your product or services. If the answer is no, go back to basics to understand what you need to fix to make them enthusiastic ambassadors for your brand. If the answer is ‘yes’, ask why. You may be surprised at the reasons that people give. For example, you might think you’re referable because your product is unique, but your clients are actually recommending you because you have fast turnaround times.

Get periodic feedback from your colleagues and clients about where you’re doing well and where you could improve. Listen to what they say, make improvements and ensure that your marketing efforts are focused on what you know about your clients – show them you’ve listened and that you care about their problems.


Donna Rachelson – Founder of Branding & Marketing YOU (Your Business – Volume 19 No 5)