How to Produce Content That Answers Questions and Educates Everyone

I love live music. Now that I have (several) kids, I don’t attend shows as often as I used to, but I still enjoy them when I do go. Some of the greatest shows I have seen are artists that I knew little or nothing about going into the show. All of the greatest shows I have seen had one thing in common – the artist knew how to engage and read the audience.

I remember going into a Mary Chapin Carpenter show once because I got free tickets (not knowing a single song she sang) and leaving a huge fan (her live show is brilliant).

I was on vacation with a friend last week who was talking about a show she saw in college – Paul Simon on the Graceland tour in North Carolina. Midway through the set, Paul and the crew played “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” followed immediately by “You Can Call Me Al.” By her account, 20 years later, it was awesome.

She was beaming just telling the story of how amazing it was, how the audience went nuts and how, when it ended, Paul paused for a minute, looked at the crowd and said, “That was fun. Let’s do that again” and the whole brilliant bit started again – just as good as the first time.

I was fortunate enough to see U2 play in Dublin several years ago. It was a sort of homecoming show for the band and the place was nuts. Prior to the performance, Bono was being interviewed and he was asked a question about the set list. I remember he said something to the effect of, “We watch the audience. We can see/feel when we have them engaged. We can feel the energy. The minute we think we are losing them, we go to ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ to bring them back.”

Thomas Edison once famously said, “We have but two ears and one mouth so that we may listen twice as much as we speak.”

That rule holds for one-on-one conversations. It holds just as well for marketing initiatives, sales cycles, social media engagements, and stadium concerts. In the midst of all the showmanship, the best performers are still constantly listening for feedback from the audience. Normal conversations should be much easier.

If you can remain quiet long enough to listen to the person on the other end, you can pause, digest, and respond thoughtfully to what they are telling you. As a marketer, you don’t have to perform and listen at the same time. All you have to do is stop broadcasting long enough to hear your audience react.

Trouble is, most of us don’t listen well. We’re so busy thinking about how to respond while the other person is talking that we miss the second half of what they said. We are not comfortable in the silence once they have paused, so we rush a response into the silent void with little time for thought. Or we have predetermined our position to a point where don’t listen at all, we just wait for a break in the thread long enough to state a claim. Then we start planning our next burst while the person we are engaged with talks at us.

Connections turn into engagements when we pause long enough to listen, but it’s hard. Most of us aren’t comfortable in the silence that can often accompany listening, so we speak. Even when we claim to be listening, we are mentally planning our next set of words – our response.

Failure to listen will cause a failure in a conversation.

If two people are just talking at each other, neither will hear what the other has to say/offer. In some ironic way, this is where technology can help. Technology stays quiet when you ask it to. It listens well and reacts as you ask it to. Technology, like marketing automation tools, is built to help us listen to how our customers and prospects are engaging with us. What are they saying with their digital actions and voices? In the right hands, a marketing automation tool can help you plan for, listen, and engage customers and prospects with the right messaging at the right time.

Not a constant barrage of noise because you signed up to learn more, but a thoughtful campaign of carefully planned content that is delivered based on what the customers is saying. Marketing automation systems are designed to listen to each person that is engaging with you and respond appropriately and thoughtfully.

To truly engage with your audience (be it one person, an Internet of people, or a stadium full of screaming Dubliners), you have to spend time and energy listening, not just broadcasting. If you aren’t actively listening, you won’t know your audience wants (needs) you to double down on “You Can Call me Al.” If you aren’t actively listening, you won’t know you are losing them and you need to audible to “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

If you want to connect, if you want to engage – listen.

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