Have you heard about the power of positive listening?

Relatively early in my career, I was introduced to a line of thinking that has proven extremely helpful in my professional life.

The concept came from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, originator of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” and although he was seen as controversial by some, these words rang true for me when I first heard them and continue to do so today:

“Be interesting, be enthusiastic … and don’t talk too much.”

The part that especially resonated was “don’t talk too much.” The other advice is useful, too, but as communicators and communications consultants (and personally, as an introvert), I deeply believe we can find tremendous power in being better listeners.

This is doubly true in a content-driven marketing world where successfully engaging with customer and prospects requires listening to ensure we are serving the content that is most relevant and will be most engaging to them.

What’s more, the 9th Annual Content Marketing Survey, an annual study of B2B content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs reports the following among its key findings:

9 in 10 of the “most successful” B2B content marketers prioritize their audience’s informational needs over the sales/promotional message, compared to just 56% of the “least successful” respondents.

What does this signify? To me, it’s clear. When it comes to content marketing, the most successful are those who are taking the time to listen to their customers and prospects in order to develop and serve them the content that is of the most interest and will be of the most help. This is the power of positive listening, validated.

Listening requires restraint and patience. Restraint can be difficult. Particularly, when you’re also trying to be interesting and enthusiastic. Our clients face numerous and complex marketing obstacles, and we may find ourselves eager to jump in with input before the problem has even been completely defined. Yet, my experience has shown me time and again that we ultimately deliver the best input, advice and solutions by doing one thing very well, first:

Just listen.

I have learned that it is essential to hear and understand what is important to clients and to the target audiences they want to influence. Approach engagements with the mind of a researcher. Don’t be mute, of course, but explore questions and see and hear what comes back. Then, listen to your own thoughts and try to gauge how stakeholder audiences would understand your initial ideas.

An early lesson in the power of listening came when I was an account exec working on an over-the-counter cold remedy. We had a huge meeting to present a host of new advertising campaign concepts. At the end of the presentation, the senior client in the room took a moment, took a deep breath and uttered these unforgettable words:

“There’s something missing here. I’m not sure what it is, but you’ll be much happier when you find it.”

Our senior account person listened carefully. He didn’t try to counter, he didn’t say ‘yes, but,’ he didn’t try to ask questions. He listened and understood. The client felt there was more work to be done creatively, but needed time to gather his thoughts and perspective, and our senior account person, listened and knew that this was not the moment to resolve the questions. He waited. He conferred separately with the client after the meeting, and our next presentation was much more successful, leading to the production of a new brand campaign.

Research actually plays a key role in this process, particularly at Lumentus; from client briefings and interviews to competitive assessments and external feedback that allow us to create a comprehensive marketplace snapshot. Through this listening and exploration, we can identify business drivers and insights that inform smart marketing solutions. By listening, we’re not merely reacting; we’re understanding, solving and in the best case, anticipating, so that our strategies and tactics help resolve issues now and into the future.

Do you believe in the power of positive listening? Have you witnessed it in your work life? I’m wondering how many stories are out there that help demonstrate the ROI on listening? I’d love to hear them!