How exactly do you listen to the market?
Watch this video, in which I count the ways.....
It's a simple concept but takes a while (and several examples) to really absorb this idea. So please be patient with yourself.
Here's one simple way I noticed very early on to listen to the market, which helped me figure out which services to offer (the market told me) and how to talk about those services so they would say, "That's exactly what I need."
Here's how it works:
When you say your elevator pitch, whether on the phone or in a real live strategic networking situation, say something relatively general -- maybe even a little vague -- and let your listener fill in the blanks.
For example, I say, "I help creative professionals get better clients with bigger budgets."
Then I shut up.
I stop talking and I tolerate what may be an awkward silence in order to encourage the other person to use their imagination to fill the vacuum of the vagueness that I left with their need and their language.
It's a little magical, but they will literally tell you exactly what they need because that's what's on their mind.
In other words, if you let them fill in the gaps, they will tell you what they're looking for.
That's one simple way to listen to the market. There are many more in the video above.
Read the transcript of the video...
Today, I want to talk a little bit about the idea of ‘listening to the market.’ This is something that I've been talking about, actually, for a very long time, without getting too specific about it, and the more I talk about it, lately, people are asking me, “What do you mean, ‘listen to the market’? And how, exactly, do you listen to the market?”
That's me, actually, listening to the market, when I get asked that question, to say all right, it's time to turn that into content.
So, that's your first tip. When someone says: “What do you mean by that? What are you talking about?”—as it relates to your business, of course—that is content.
I am turning this idea of listening to the market into a bunch of content, and even this video is going to be part of that content, of course. So, I thought I would break it down. That's actually, very often, my process. I’ll take an idea and then, little by little, I just keep deepening it, keep adding to it, keep improving it.
I want to point to that, also, as a way to create content; because I find that often, people take an idea and then they do it, and then they put it out there, and then they move on to the next idea. You can do that, but it's kind of a waste of an idea.
I want you to always be thinking about ways that you can add and update and improve and deepen your content ideas, and change them and add different examples—because that way, you'll get more mileage with them.
So, that's what I'm doing with this idea of listening to the market.
The way I used to talk about it, actually, was I used to say that, ‘everything flows from the market.’ I still think about it that way. But, it's easier to think about it in terms of listening to the market, because that's something you can do. I submit to you that, if you listen to the market, what you don't have to do, as a result, is rack your brain.
That's what I find people doing most of the time—racking your brain for "What am I going to talk about? How am I going to say it? What's the best way to say it?"
This idea, basically, means that you can stop racking your brain.
Instead, open your ears to gear your attention outward—that’s another way that I think about it—and listen to what the market is telling you.
Usually, the market is smarter than you are. I have always found that the market is smarter than I am, if I am willing to listen to it.
But the trick is that it requires interaction. You can't be hiding behind anything. It really does require that you interact. Listening requires interaction.
I've broken it down into three different types of listening:
- One is listening for a niche, or for your niche, or more than one—because I do like to sometimes put them in the plural. (And if you're not sure how to find your niche, check out the Pick a Niche Kit.)
- The second one is listening for your “marketing content”—which is different from your “content marketing.” Your marketing content is the language you use to describe what you do, and for whom, and how you do it. It's what's on your website, for example, but not on your blog.
- Third, your blog, if you have one, or your LinkedIn profile—the articles that you publish to your LinkedIn profile—is your content marketing. So that's the third piece—how do you listen for content for your content marketing.
Just as a reminder, content marketing is one of the three marketing tools in the Simplest Marketing Plan. The other two are “targeted outreach” and “strategic networking.” (And actually, more and more people are, little by little, going back out into the world. It's true! At the moment, it's happening. I am getting stories of people doing strategic networking in person and in real time. So that's a choice, obviously.)
Listening for the Niche
But, coming back to the first one, listening for the niche ... . The story that I always tell about myself is, my niche, as y'all know because you're in it, is creative professionals. People marketing, what I consider to be or what you consider to be, creative services.
But I didn't come up with that myself. I listened to the market. I looked around, 33+ years ago, at all the people I knew who were creative people, and they were very disorganized; they weren't promoting themselves. I saw the need and so I just tried to offer my help.
That's actually something I said recently that someone quoted, so I'll say it again: “Self promotion is not about pitching your ideas or yourself to anyone. It's about offering to help the people who need your help.”
If you just reframe it in your mind that way, it might be a little bit easier to do.
So, that's what I did kind of naturally, kind of unconsciously. At the very beginning, I just looked around. What do the people I know seem to need and what would they be willing to pay for it? At the time, it was $15 an hour I was charging; a little bit more, now. But, that is how my market found me.
I really think, if you listen to the market, your niche—your market—will find you. It might take time, but it's more organic that way. And, it works better that way than you trying to force yourself onto a particular market.
So just be listening for: What market is out there, that I have access to, that needs my help, and then be offering your help to them.
Another version of this, as another example, is Holly Morris, a copywriter who some of you may know. She is and was positioning herself as a copywriter for travel and tourism. Then, when the pandemic hit, that wasn't working so well. But a subset of that market actually started finding her—that was the vacation rental area of the travel and tourism world. So, she just started to get a couple clients, a couple referrals, and helping them and serving their needs.
But it didn't quite occur to her, until I pointed it out, that that is the market speaking to her. And that she should listen to it and say: All right, that's my niche, now. That's where I'm going to focus. That's who I'm going to speak to. Those are the needs I'm going to speak to. And those are the people I'm going to go looking for.
Again, it could be right in front of you and you may not just see it, quite yet. So, that's listening for a niche.
[If you're not sure how to find your niche, check out the Pick a Niche Kit.]
Listening for Marketing Content
All right, number two is listening for your marketing content. This can be confusing, but your marketing content is the language that you use to describe what you do, and for whom, and how you help them.
So again, that's the language on your website; on your LinkedIn profile, in your About section, even in your Title. That is all your marketing content.
Actually, I want to point to Chris Havilland. Chris is a copywriter and a scientist, and someone reached out to her and said: “We are short on resources.” And I pointed to that as a piece of language—as a phrase—that is her market speaking to her.
She should, basically, regurgitate that language back to the market, to that person who asked for that kind of help, and think: That's their jargon. That's the language they use. That's how you want to connect with them and that's what will resonate with them.
Always be listening for not: What do they think I do? But: What language do they use to describe their needs of what I do and how I can help them?
We had another example, actually, from Danielle Hughes, who is also in another small coaching group where she is positioning herself as a speaker and wants to get paid-speaking engagements.
Someone said to her: “You should call yourself a ‘trainer and a workshop facilitator,’ because that's the language they use—the people who are paying the money. They're the ones who have the money, so you use their language.”
I also like to use the strategy of, when you say your elevator pitch—whether it's on the phone to someone or in a real, live, strategic networking environment—you can say something relatively general, like: “I help creative professionals get better clients with bigger budgets.”
And then you shut up. Stop talking. Tolerate what may be an awkward silence. Let the other person use their imagination and fill the vacuum of the vagueness that you left with their need and their language—which is you listening to the market—and they will tell you exactly what they need.
I actually noticed this very early on. I would just say, “I help artists get organized,” and someone would say, “Oh, does that mean you will go through our piles of papers with us?” And I said, “Yes, that's exactly what that means.”
Let them fill in the gaps and tell you what they're looking for. That's a way to listen to the market.
Here’s another example. When you get a ‘No,’ when you get rejected, when the proposal you submitted does not win, the best thing to do, always, is to ask not: Why didn't you choose me? But, Who did you choose? What decision did you make and why did you make that decision?
This particular client did that, and you won't always get a response, but you certainly won't get one if you don't ask. When she did this, she got some information that was more important than the value of the project would have been to her.
There is a tremendous amount of value in the feedback. And the feedback was: Because this other company that we chose said they were going to do this, this and this. And, they were specific with the actual language in an email message.
The thing that was so interesting was that this client of mine did offer ‘this, this and this’; she just didn't say it the way they recognized it. So, she basically took that language and integrated it into her next proposal and her future proposals.
So don't be discouraged or disappointed when you don't get something. Or, try to minimize it. Do the “five-minute pity party,” as we like to say; as Dierdre Rienzo likes to call it. And then, reframe it and think about: How am I going to use this information to improve and get this kind of client, or this client, next time?
And now, number three: listening for content marketing or content ideas.
I used my first book as an example of, again, me, not really even knowing I was listening to the market, or that that was the best thing to do.
What happened was, I said to my therapist, one day: “Why aren't they asking me to write a book?” ‘They’ being this publishing company that I had a relationship with. And she said: “Have you asked them?” And I said, “No.” So I did. And they said: “Well, that's a really good idea. Here's who you need to talk to.”
When I talked to that person, she said, “We've done market research, and the book they want is ‘Self Promotion Online.’ ” This was the year 2000. And I thought, ‘Well, I know a little bit about self promotion. I don't know anything about online, but I can learn it. How big could it be? Right? How important could the online part be?’ Little did we know.
But that was the book I wrote. I'm a little afraid, actually, at this point to go back and read it. I know some people here actually have it. I do have a copy. It's way out of date, of course, but at the time, it was what it needed to be. And so, that was an example of me listening to the market for my topic.
I don't even need to have the topic. And, maybe you don't either, when it comes to articles or books, or anything like that.
The other example that I've been using is from Conrad Winter. Some of you who were with us last month for the September Office Hours, just one short month ago, heard him present the first 10 minutes of a presentation that he gave, in person, this past Tuesday in Nashville, at a conference. It went really well, apparently. And they loved it and they thought it was very practical.
And the topic was not his idea. It was given to him. At first, he didn't like it and didn't think he would be able to do it. But he did, and he did it really well. The topic was “writing killer content in an hour or less.” That's what they asked him for.
And now, every time I mention it, someone says: “Can I see that? That sounds really interesting.”
So again, that's listening to the market. When you hear a good idea, think: Oh, maybe I could use that idea.
And if you're just getting started, check out my 7-step guide to marketing for creatives.