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Marketing Without Stress?

Active Listening as the Foundation for Successful Projects

Mayara Araújo

Mayara Araújo

— Account Manager

Category: Digital Experiences

Reading time 8 Minutes

Publish date: 26.02.2024

Marketing Without Stress?

Think about the purchases you’ve made where you needed to interact directly with a customer service or salesperson.

Were your experiences with these companies always the same? Or did some of them provide you with so much confidence during the purchase and use of that product/service that gave you the wish of buying from that company again?

In addition to a product or service that meets our expectations, we seek for this feeling of comfort:

Illustration of a cycle of ghosts, each doing its job: there was a problem, I went looking for a solution, I got what I wanted, I paid and went on with my life. And the cycle loops again
Illustration by João Diegues

And check how important is good communication: when we are customers, we often get tired of being poorly served by companies. But what about in our professional environment?

At work, we understand the need to deliver not only the product/service but also communication that aligns with good service and empathy. This dedication is for all audiences: clients, curious individuals, investors, suppliers, and coworkers at various hierarchical levels.

But when dealing with others, can we truly communicate clearly?

It is quite common for people to feel uncomfortable when they need to interact with the marketing department or agency, for example. Often, the stress itself is not with the material delivered, but with the exhaustion of actually being listened to and served. Complaints are almost always the same: ‘They don’t understand me’ or ‘That’s not what I asked for.’

The frustration is even greater when the client has already seen previous work from that team, recognizes the team’s competence, felt confident in initial conversations (by email, in meetings, in person, and perhaps even recommendations from trusted individuals), and when the time comes… something feels off. 🥲

What happened?

What feels like missing in a marketing team that causes this uncomfortable experience and how to avoid such situations?

Illustration of a little ghost afraid of a bigger, angrier ghost
Illustration by João Diegues

The Challenge of Marketing: being listed and served as well

Active listening is a skill honed and acquired with the aim of better understanding the speaker. It is a constant exercise in areas of creative creation and project development.

To ensure greater efficiency and also to produce successful projects, the teams of marketing, creative, content, and web development analyze and practice their active listening through the analysis and elaboration of a series of processes and questions so that the desired final result to the client is achieved with some ease and accuracy.

When starting a new project, it is important for marketing professionals to:

Illustration of a live question mark
Identify and anticipate possible doubts and issues that often only arise when the production of that piece has already begun;
Illustration of a little ghost piling up materials for use
Analyze and provide information about the necessary materials for that production to whatever needs to be done;
Illustration of a confused and thoughtful little ghost
Study both within and outside the received content and absorb information about the client, competitors, and the field;
Illustration of a little ghost holding a treasure map
Inquire about expectations and limitations;
Illustration of two blocks, one shaped like a watch and the other like money
Align deadlines and budgets;

The detail that often goes unnoticed is that active listening is not simply having one side of the table with eyes and ears attentive to the client, repeating back everything that has been said, like a parrot. Active listening (and the creation of successful projects) is about connection and exchanges.

The Other Side of the Coin

A study conducted in 2012 by Harvard analyzed data from over 100 work teams and concluded that teams with a culture of active listening are more likely to resolve conflicts effectively. Once united, these teams tend to resolve conflicts strategically and constructively, negotiating and collaborating with each other. There were also fewer cases of destructive conflicts such as aggression and “withdrawal” (the famous “now it’s in your hands”).

But do clients sometimes expect the magic to happen only on the marketing team’s side? They ask for CREATIVE, INNOVATIVE materials that speak to the client, that are different… But what exactly do they mean by that? Could the client come up with a proposal based on their own words?

And when the client needs to inquire or understand specific situations that align with the project’s quality and health, is there a more efficient way for us to be understood and thus get our answers?

The client is also responsible when it comes to active listening!

HubSpot, an American company that develops and markets software products for marketing, in an international study conducted in 2022 with over 1,000 marketing professionals, sought to understand how active listening is impacting this area.

The results indicated that companies using active listening in their marketing efforts are 30% more likely to achieve their goals. Here, the research specifically focused on marketing professionals, but what would be the impact if we analyzed the efficiency of active listening without specifying a department?

A Step Beyond Listening Carefully

Illustration of a little ghost with stilts
Illustration by João Diegues

The client also has a contribution to make things happen. For a project to be efficiently executed, everyone must do their part.

Often, instead of pleasant, clear, and project-focused communication, we deal with cases where there is an overflow of information and the feeling that the other party expects you to “do your job.” There’s also the classic move of starting to CC higher-ups in emails, adopting a posture of “professional urgency,” and forcing things to be done now. 😬

So, I think it’s worth reflecting: is the client’s job to demand or ensure that professionals create products/services with a result as initially desired? Is our focus to achieve a project that meets with the brand’s objectives, or do we just want to make it clear that we’ve done our part in demanding results?

So, what’s the right answer? It’s necessary to practice active listening even when you’re responsible for sending the message (and not for understanding it).

How Can I Contribute to Active Listening When I’m the Client?

List the topics that would guide you as if this were the first time you see the project. Also, bring your professional vision about the company, especially if your conversation is with a second party. Examples:

  • “Here at company X, we only use neutral language.”
  • “Our main competitor uses the color pink, so we avoid using pink in our designs as much as possible.”

Positive and negative references help creators select their best ideas. It also contributes on aligning expectations. So, you can still question what worked or not. Behind every marketing and communication campaign, there are dozens of possible proposals. Knowing what resonated with you or the target audience can be the starting point for the new concept. Examples:

  • “In the past, we really liked the engagement we had, and here’s the material from the last two years where we loved the X idea. What can we do now to keep our audience engaged?”
  • “Our materials sometimes have a very institutional look because we follow the brand’s colors a lot. What else can we do that doesn’t exclude who the company is but brings a new vibe?
  • “Negative examples: “we want something innovative!” or “we want to see options of what is possible.”

Understand the processes. After all, the way you work will not be the same as others do. It is extremely vital to understand what will happen next without having to wait on the other end. I have seen projects delayed because one person waited for an email response while the other said, “How would I know that your email was important? You never called me!” when this agreement (calling one so the other understands they must reply to their received emails) was never made.

  • Were there doubts? Ask. There are always new ways to do the basics. 🙂 For example: “how can I send videos to you? What information is extremely important for the start of activities and what have changes in the next five business days without affecting the project’s health?”

  • Know when it’s necessary to inform the other side about your internal processes that might interfere with theirs: when approval depends on a more extensive process, if there are holidays, bridging days, vacations, events where you or the team won’t be available to progress with the project, etc.

Know how to identify real emergencies. The internet age has undoubtedly brought many good things, but also a terrible feeling of anxiety and false urgencies. Is it okay if they don’t respond to your WhatsApp in two hours? What about an email? How the perceptions of the team you work with and the project’s progress are affected by your responses? And if it’s a real urgent or emergency, did you explain why? Before it becomes urgent, has this point already been considered by all of the people involved?

Remember: there is always a person on the other side of the screen. 🙂Empathy is necessary in any good communication. When I read a harsh email, I think: how did we get to this point? Instead of ‘’why did he/she speak to me like that?”.

In general, marketing and communication areas are often associated with two ideas:

  • They create the unexpected, impress, and have brilliant insights; or
  • It’s stressful to be a client in a creative project.

But stress-free marketing is possible when all involved are willing to actively listen and work together to avoid the pitfalls of the corporate world.

It’s not just about marketing teams understanding their clients, but also recognizing the responsibility in building a safe environment, with active and conscious collaboration from both sides.

The ability to listen and be heard is an exercise we need to constantly commit to it. This, in my perception, is what will turn the process of creating and executing projects into a smooth and rewarding experience.

Mayara Araújo

Mayara Araújo

— Account Manager

Let's play together?