Listening more effectively, not just more

So how did you spend silly season? One of the many odd headlines that caught my eye was the decision by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to spend a day driving a cab incognito around central Oslo, listening to the day-to-day concerns of his electorate.

The stunt certainly raised Mr Stoltenberg’s profile, but what interested me was his direct connection with the voters who shared their unvarnished opinions in the taxi confessional box.

Facebook is another example of a brand using crowdsourcing to gather valuable insight. Facebook’s Bug Bounty program rewards hackers for bringing website errors to the attention of the Facebook team. However, the limits of this were exposed when hacker Khalil Shreateh resorted to editing Mark Zuckerberg’s profile to flag a security glitch this ‘listening’ programme had failed to acknowledge. 

Crowdsourcing is more than a marketing buzz word – it’s a way of communicating with stakeholders, whether they are your customers or not. Primarily adopted in the realms of B2C, new technology and societal behaviours have opened up ways of listening to clients in the B2B sphere too. 

Indeed, with a tendency to engage with fewer, higher-value clients than in B2C, there are great opportunities in B2B to connect with networks of influencers. But B2B organistions need to be careful not to mistake listening more, with listening more effectively

The line between seeking genuine insight and mere interactivity presents a delicate challenge. The consequences of ineffective or ersatz ‘listening’ can be worse than not listening at all. In this case, in practice the hacking community wasn’t really listened to, and they retaliated at the expense of Facebook’s reputation.

Listening alone is not a sure-fire way to success – as the famous Henry Ford quote attests: “if I had asked my customers what they’d wanted, they would have said a faster horse". The real skill comes in adding value to the information gathered and using new insights to create and lead new markets and drive customers in a genuinely new direction.