A couple of weeks ago an article on LinkedIn piqued my interest. In ‘Is Trust the New Currency?’, Microsoft’s Geoffrey Colon tears into the marketing and advertising industry’s current obsession with content and storytelling.

As someone who takes creating content and ‘telling stories’ pretty seriously, it was a pretty damning indictment of my whole marketing strategy.

According to Geoffrey:

Content is simply one of many mediums to convey the real currency in which we all aspire to obtain: TRUST.

The crux of the article is based around the idea that companies have become so focused on creating content and storytelling that they’ve stopped listening to their customers.

Just about every marketer worth their salt will be working to some kind of content strategy today.

Whilst there’s no doubting the benefits of great content (sorry Geoff, but I’m not chucking away the marketing plan just yet!), those companies that only communicate outwards (storytelling) and not inwards (listening) will never fully obtain their customers’ trust.

Geoffrey again:

Trust is built on listening, talking, listening again. It’s also built on admitting where your weaknesses are as much as your strengths.

At this point, you may be catching on to the pager analogy and the fact that one-way communication is only ever going to last so long before people want to be able to respond and get their own opinion across.

It’s a fairly crude analogy, but something the world’s biggest brands are waking up to. The idea of listening (and really listening, not just providing lip service) can be vital to ensure you stay ahead of the competition.

Whether developing great products, providing awesome services or creating the next Facebook, if you’re not focusing on what your customer (client, partner, user) wants then eventually you’ll be left behind. 

At SaleCycle, we’re trying our best to incorporate the voice of our customer by asking our customers what we do well and even more importantly, what we don’t.

It’s then the job of our product team to act on the less positive feedback and ensure we’re focusing our efforts in the direction our clients need and want us to (no pressure guys).

Focus is everything in great businesses, and there is no doubting the importance that customers can have in helping a company to find that focus.

I’ll leave you with three brands that have embraced this and put the customer at the heart of their product and service.

BT & social listening

British Telecom was the official communications services provider at the London 2012 Olympics tasked with making it ‘the most connected Games ever’.

Having constructed the world’s largest high density WiFi network with nearly 1,000 access points, BT monitored live customer feedback on Twitter to quickly respond to any breakages and despatch service teams straight to problem areas as customers declared them.

Whilst ‘negative’ feedback on Twitter can often be viewed as purely that, BT were able to turn it on its head and make the customer a core part of how it improved its service and connected London 2012 to the world.

LEGO & customer ideas

Jurassic Park LEGO

Now the world’s biggest brand, a big part of LEGO’s dramatic upturn was reconnecting with its huge fan base by putting them at the heart of product development.

As well as hiring a number of fans as designers, they created the LEGO Ideas Platform allows fans to propose their own ideas for new products.

If an idea receives support from 10,000 members of the online community, the company reviews the concept with a chance the design will be translated into a real LEGO product (the Jurassic Park set is already on my Christmas list, make it happen guys!).

DEWALT & customer testing

Power tools company DEWALT has the strapline ‘guaranteed tough’, taking great pride in making products capable of handling any job.

They acknowledge that there’s nobody better than their own customers to actually test whether a product is ready for the market and so send new products to a set of customer advocates that are told to do what they can to ‘break it, before we sell it’.

The result is fully road-tested products they can sell with confidence knowing they have the seal of approval from the most important people of all, their customers.