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The Value of Authenticity: Listening to Customers

The Value of Authenticity: Listening to Customers

One often-overlooked nugget in business and marketing acumen is “Shut up and listen.”

No, it’s not a core financial concept that you’ll learn in Economics 1001; rather it is a choice, and an important one that too many companies seem to whiff entirely.



In 2007, I was a budding journalist at Freedom Communications. My first mistake was thinking that my job wasn’t centralized in sales and marketing. Face it: if your articles don’t sell or add value to newspapers, there’s no sense in being there.

Once I realized my professional livelihood was tangibly connected to reader demand, I quickly shifted focus from legible sleeping pills to faster, stickier microstories that people wanted to talk (and debate) about.

“Skip the fluff, they’ll see through it. Think bigger; ask more questions. What do they really want?”

Our conduit to the community lifeline earned sizeable praise, including the most annual awards in the newspaper’s history. The secret sauce wasn’t secret at all — stop focusing on yourself, listen to what your audience wants, and do your best to give it to them. We did, and reaped the rewards.

Let’s apply that to digital marketing.

AIDA is an acronym that stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action, and is widely used in marketing and advertising to describe steps or stages from when a consumer first becomes aware of a product or brand through trying a product or making a purchase. It’s a process rooted in mindfulness and sincerity, best supplemented by people who give a damn.



  • We see an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 ads (in some form) every single day

    • The brand name on your friend’s shirt

    • The logo on your energy drink

    • The conveniently placed products in your favorite TV show

  • People consume goods for of a variety of reasons, and it’s your job to target your product on those values. Examples include:

    • Emotion

    • Price

    • Location

  • When people choose to act, a “purchase” isn’t necessarily your only end goal in the digital world. Instead, consider:

    • Email signups

    • Social likes / shares

    • Surveys / feedback

    • Data aggregation


This complex ecosystem boils down to a simple question: “What do your customers want, and how can I give it to them?”



Good marketing offers value in exchange for attention. Marketing is not an abusive relationship — pressuring people to purchase is manipulative. Instead, listen to your customers. They’ll tell you what they want (sometimes with brutal honesty). Don’t pander in return. Show your audience and customer base respect, and reward them with reasons to stay loyal. Simple concept, but underutilized all too often.

This feedback loop, along with creative minds on your team to construct solutions to get there, will make your business and product decidedly better overall.

I cut my teeth on hardcore eCommerce at Delta Apparel. Our team managed the online presences of several diverse brands, each with their own positioning and strategy. So when we were challenged with lofty sales goals, it made sense for me to connect the dots between one of our value brands and value-minded shoppers.

Not rocket science — Brand X was selling inexpensive licensed clothing. A popular deal site wanted good deals. By connecting the two, we made both parties quite happy by emptying out a warehouse worth of overstock. It became a cornerstone for digital sales strategy; we crafted entire campaigns around it moving forward. There were logistics to consider and margins were not always handsomely profitable, but at its core, it was about the consumer and what they wanted.

“Shut up and listen.”

Affording the opportunity to listen, to dare against odds and take audience feedback to heart, can seem like a risky endeavor. But at day’s end, everyone works to serve customers. Taking extra moments to listen and learn is the greatest luxury we (as service providers) can ask for.

Remember: customers spend a large chunk of their lives listening to marketers. Don’t forget to return the favor.