What Exactly Is Proactive Listening?

In the new consumer marketing world, which includes social media, “listening” has become quite a buzzword.  We’ve discussed the “social silo” and the need for businesses to listen to their customers across all channels, not just social.  Now I’d like to dig deeper into what we actually mean by “listening.” In particular, the emerging concept of “proactive listening.”

Proactive Listening for Consumer Marketing

proactive listeningThis new term, featured in a new David Raab whitepaper, is used to describe the state when a business is always listening to all of the activity and comments of a customer, and can determine from these inputs what a customer really needs, perhaps even before the customer realizes it for themselves.  In this situation, a business can proactively reach out and solve a customer’s problem. Or, they can meet their need immediately, without waiting until they are asked. This type of proactive listening will be seen as a key transition into truly engaged customer service.

Proactive listening is the next natural progression in sophistication of consumer marketing. It is a huge step forward from the standard database marketing used by most companies today.  We can define the progression in three phases:

Outbound Campaign Management

Outbound campaign management makes up 90% of the marketing automation in use today, is about pushing out messages to customers. Businesses select groups of customers who they think fit the message/offer they want to send out.

Real-Time Interaction Management

RTIM is about being responsive to customer contact – when a customer asks for something, the business is able to respond immediately, typically by looking up what current message/offer they decide to present to that customer. The business essentially waits for engagement by the customer.

Proactive Listening

Brands need to hear everything that is going on with a customer and understand their needs, problems and desires. Reaching out to the customer with help or an offer before the customer contacts the business themselves is essential. As businesses re-equip themselves to handle the customer-driven marketplace, being able to proactively listen to customer activity on all channels is going to be a key capability in the toolkit of a digital marketer.