Now that we’re thinking Win/Win, it’s time to move on to the next PPC habit: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
As a PPC manager, I’ve had several occasions where I’ve been given the reins to an account that was poorly managed. Settings in the account were haphazard, search term reports turned up low-quality clicks, ad copy didn’t match landing page copy, etc. The temptation is to condemn the actions of the previous manager and quickly “set things right.” However strong the temptation, the first step needs to be backward, as in step back and seek to understand why those decisions might have been made. Only then can you truly make the right decisions going forward.
Communication is at the heart of marketing. You have to convey a message through one of the four methods of communication: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. You have likely received several years of education in reading and writing as well as some training on speaking. But you probably haven’t received any training on listening.
As consumers we’re trained to block out advertising. We actually train ourselves to not listen. Then as marketers, we’re frustrated that people aren’t getting the message. In the context of PPC, empathic listening is most valuable in these two contexts:
Client-Vendor or Boss-Manager
If you’re managing PPC campaigns in-house you’re the manager of the campaigns and you report to a boss, whether that’s a single person, a management team, or a board of directors. For agencies, the client is who you’re communicating with and need to ensure you’re seeking to understand. In either of these relationships, there is a lot of communication. Clients & bosses have expectations. Vendors and managers have expectations. Both groups are responsible for results, so proper communication is essential. Here’s a primer on how to improve the communication in these relationships:
- Listen not with an intent to respond, but to understand. Allow for pauses after someone finishes a statement. Ponder what they’ve said. Is there emotion behind the words? Did their tone or body language match the words? Do all of this before speaking in return. It may create a few awkward pauses, but it will be worth it.
- Rephrase what they said & verbalize emotions. If your boss says “The reports for last week look terrible” then you could reply with “Yeah, our numbers were down. It seems like that is stressing you out.” This shows your boss that you understand what he’s saying and how it makes him feel.
- Be patient. At first your boss or client might think this type of response is contrived and repetitive. However, as you show a sincere desire to understand not only the what, but also the why, you’ll find them opening up.
- Don’t rush to a prescription. If you’ve ever watched an episode of the TV series House you know that they try several cures before arriving at the right one. In many instances they make the situation worse by acting on an incorrect diagnosis. As you begin communicating more effectively through empathic listening you’ll discover situations where you could quickly prescribe a solution and move on. Make sure to keep the dialogue going so that any additional information comes out. Only then can you give the correct prescription for the problem.
As a PPC manager, you’re on the advertiser side of the equation, but in life you’re often on the customer side of the equation. As an advertiser you feel a lot of pressure to convey a message. You have to do it in very limited character counts as well. So how do you put this principle to work?
- What problem do your customers have that your product/solution solves? Sure there is an obvious answer here, but look deeper. Are there related problems of which this is only part of the solution? Are there other problems you hadn’t even thought about?
- Look at your search term reports. These are windows into the minds of your customers. They searched that phrase and clicked your ad, so something resonated. What can you learn from the queries? Look especially for queries that start with question words like “how do I…” or phrases that end with a plea like “… help.” These people are typing out their thoughts into the search bar so you can gain additional insight from them.
- Talk to your customers, or the closest thing you can get. This might mean talking to customer support reps or salesman. If you have a call tracking solution that records calls, listen to a few calls to see how the customer phrases their needs (and how the rep is responding).
Empathic listening allows you to truly understand what your boss or client is trying to communicate to you. You provide the opportunity, you rephrase and acknowledge emotions, and you ask again to make sure all concerns are communicated. Now you truly understand and can seek to be understood.
Seek To Be Understood
Now that you’ve listened and truly understand you’re ready to be understood. Stephen Covey brings up the Greek concept of ethos, pathos, and logos. This is a sequence that can be followed in every situation. Ethos is personal credibility. This flows from Habits 1-3. Your boss or client knows that you are knowledgeable and have delivered great results in the past. Therefore you have the ethos as a foundation for your message.
Second is pathos, the empathic side. That’s the emotions and feelings associated with the relationship. Before you can convey your message and be understood the relationship has to have a positive balance in the Emotional Bank Account. Note that both of these steps must be taken before any information is communicated directly.
Lastly we have logos. The logic associated with the message. This is the left brain stuff that I find comes naturally to many PPC professionals. However, it’s the last part of the process. You can’t lead with this and expect to be understood as well as when the steps are in the correct order.
I think back to the most effective presentations I’ve seen at internet marketing conferences or other educational situations. The speaker is often someone you don’t know, so they need to build ethos quickly. They’ll tell about successes they’ve experienced. They’ll mention case studies. This builds their credibility. Then they move to pathos. They dig into the “Why” behind their message. They make it relevant to you. Lastly, they present the logos, the action items. If you’ve ever seen Joanna Lord give a presentation you’ve seen this in action. She wears her passion on her sleeve and you can feel it.
This is the most powerful of the interdependent habits because it lies entirely in your control. You can choose today to begin practicing your empathic listening in any and every communication you have. Then as you begin to understand and be understood your circle of influence will continue to expand.