It's interesting. Throughout our lives parents, teachers, and loved ones have tried to teach us the value of being a good listener. In fact you might have heard of cute little rules as the 80/20 - you should be speaking 20% of the time and listening 80% of the other. This is all well in good, however, it's not so useful if you're not listening to the right people. Now think about your marketing team. Who are you listening to? Your boss (of course), but who else? Who else is going to help you understand how to kick ass in your digital organization?
Listen with two ears
Let's get one thing straight before continuing on this train of thought. You should NEVER tune the people you work with out. You're a team, an organization, a unit - you live together and die together by the sword. This is why GREAT organizations craft mission statements. Anyway. Useful information might come from the most unexpected places so don't limit yourself.
With that in mind there are two particular functions that I am always sure to listen extra carefully to:
1) Engineering - the people who build the product
2) Sales - the people who are selling the product
Your engineering ear
You're a talented marketer right? You consider yourself "in-tune" with the digital world. You read Techcrunch, Mashabale, etc. (ahh a true guru! right…) Pop question. Can you code? If not, I would highly recommend teaching yourself some basic HTML and CSS. Not because you want to be the greatest Marketing/Developer hybrid to roam the land, but because you SHOULD have an idea of how things work. Before I learned the basics, it was difficult to communicate with engineers - their brains work differently. During college, I sucked at comp sci. In fact I had smarter people do my projects for me because the stuff was so baffling. My brain just didn't work like that. However, I picked up a book and spent a couple months (note I said months and NOT years) teaching myself. It gave me insight to the world engineer’s travel in day-in and day-out.
Armed with this knowledge, every time you have a grandiose idea about a microsite, app, campaign, or anything that you know is going to tap the always-limited developer resources run your plan by them. It's tough, and for many folks it takes a lesson in humility. Face it though - in your organization these guys are the builders. Without them you have nothing to market. I've found that you can learn a ton from their experiences, and many times I have restructured my plan because I was way off. Ask them what you're missing, are you on track, do you think this execution would be more effective? Be conscious of their time. Put on your engineering ear and make sure their feedback is finding it's way into your plan. Not only is it valuable insight, but also you're building your case for whatever it is you are trying to do. You don't have to take everything as gospel, but I guarantee their feedback will be insanely valuable.
Your sales ear
This should be blatantly obvious. The role of marketing is to drive revenue and help the organization smash business milestones to smithereens. Who knows the customer the best? The people who are on the front lines. One place to start is by asking your sales people if you can sit in on their sales calls. Hearing the voice of the customer is unbelievably eye opening. It helps your shape your message, learn the language and jargon customers use to describe their pain-points. Once you've got a handle on this get in the habit of running things by your sales team. This is one of the key ways you can start to build a "closed-loop" Sales and Marketing organization. Too many times marketers just want to go off and do their own thing (think Alice in Wonderland). This is why many people in organizations say, "yes we have a marketing department, but I have no idea what they do."
I know, I know. It sounds too simple. That's because it is. Before you embark on that next brilliant marketing venture, stop. Put your hands on your head.
Are your ears warm? That's because they should be burning with Sales and Engineering goodness.