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Are You Talking To Yourself Again?

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Picture yourself at a dinner party.  You are seated between two people you have never met before.  Both are attractive, intelligent and well-spoken.

The person to your right introduces himself and starts talking ... and talking ... and talking.  He doesn't stop to ask if what he is talking about is of interest to you.  In fact, he doesn't let you get a word in edgewise.  Because he is engaged in his topic, he assumes you are.  When you do manage to ask a question, he either ignores it or rushes through an answer in order to get back to his own monotonous monologue.  You get the sense that there might be something interesting in what he's saying, but he hasn't given you a chance to find out for sure.

Now, the person to your left introduces herself.  She tells you a little about herself but also asks you some questions -- about your family, what you do for a living, where you're from.  She asks if you're interested in something and waits until you affirm that you are before sharing her perspective on it.  She stops talking frequently to allow you to contribute.  She listens attentively and answers your questions.  She actually shifts her train of thought in response to what you've shown interest in.

With which guest would you rather converse?  And with whom would you rather reconnect at a later date?

The problem with so much marketing is that while it may attempt to engage the customer or prospect, it's really taking the role of the first person we've just described.  Even committed direct marketers, professionals who champion the concept of two-way communication, spend most of their time, effort and money talking about their own product or service.  Too often, marketers don't listen.

And that means that consumers won't listen either.

Today, you need to build an ongoing conversation.

As a marketer, you need to introduce yourself, pique their interest, attain their permission to speak, listen -- really listen -- and speak again.  The customer will tell you how and how often they want you to contact them. 

Make sure you're listening.

The good news is that customers across every industry want to be heard.

Like the retail customer who appreciates a seamless online and offline experience.  The customer browses online, downloads a coupon, shops in a brick-and-mortar store, receives a thank-you note by mail and monthly offers for future purchases.

It's the Chief Information Officer who attends a live Web conference and then takes the time to answer a long form questionnaire in order to opt-in to an e-newletter with highly targeted, dynamic content.

Or the new parent who feels an emotional connection to a TV spot, reads about the company's new kind of formula in a magazine, joins a chat group on social media for answers to late-night feeding questions, and sends an email registering to receive monthly coupons in the mail.

That's today's consumer.  And, that's the new marketing conversation at work.

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