Listen. Engage. Connect.

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One of the largest gatherings of professional marketers is about to take place.

The Canadian Marketing Association‘s 2012 CMA Summit is happening next week (May 16th – 17th, 2012 at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto, Ontario). I’m fortunate to be the chairman of the board of the directors of this association and prior to that role, I was co-chair of these national annual gatherings. Each and every year offered professional marketers from across the globe the opportunity to connect and share. This year will be no exception.

All under one roof.

During the two days, just some of the amazing speakers include:

And much, much more…

On top of that, there will be a breakfast session on May 17th where I will lead one of nine roundtable conversations. My breakfast chat is called, Digital Marketing…is your brand or agency still struggling to catch up? and there are plenty of other choices. My plan is to attend the entire two-day event. It’s another great opportunity to both catch-up with my fellow marketing professionals and to learn about the trends and movements in our industry. If you plan on being there, make sure to come over, hang out and say "hi!".

Would you like to come to this event for free?

The Canadian Marketing Association has offered up two free passes to this event to the Six Pixels of Separation community. If you would like to win one of the two passes, all you have to do is leave a comment below about your thoughts on what it takes for marketers to listen, engage and connect in today’s world. The deadline for entries will be May 14th, 2012 at 12 pm ET and the winners will be announced by 5 pm on that same day. If you win, you have to cover everything else (travel, accommodations, etc… are not included… it’s just the tickets).

I hope to see you there!

Congrats to the winners… Marc Ensign and Heather Briggs! Each will receive one guest pass to the CMA 2012 Annual Summit. Check your emails for more details.


  1. Listening, engaging and connecting. Done properly, these are the three tenets that foster meaningful relationships and influence our decisions. However, until very recently – marketers did not have the technology, know-how or channels to listen, engage and connect at scale.
    Today, with the rise of big data and social networks – seemingly endless online conversations provide real-time access to consumer insights that can shape the content marketers create to engage and connect.
    As the founder of Antelope, a social analytics company – I believe that marketers today must master social listening, to understand how their brand can best situate itself in the conversations that their consumers engaged within. Once understood, brands are enabled to engage and connect at scale. Obviously, its still early days, but this is a trend that is growing each day – which is why I’d love to attend the CMA Summit to learn from these speakers and sessions about crucial changes in our industry.

  2. It’s always been about engaging and connecting with your audience, and listening to what people are really saying they want. The nuance of how you listen and respond is where the magic happens that differentiates a good from a great campaign.
    The basics of marketing remain, the challenge with new technologies, both a blessing and a curse, is to engage in effective, unique, and appropriate ways with your target audience. Good research and being prepared will ultimately help you push the envelope since you know what that envelope contains.
    One step to being prepared is to attend events such as the CMA Summit.
    Who am I kidding? I’d just love to go.

  3. As a marketer in todays in an overly stimulated society we need to be more present then ever to our surroundings and what makes people tick. With new technologies arising every day and having the new flavour of the week come and go so fast it is imperative that we focus our energies in creating meaningful campaigns that touch the experience part of the brain and soul. We need to learn from the brands that do IT well on a daily bases and listen, engage and connect wit our consumers the way they do, through an all encompassing and making the experience in connecting and immersing into the brand.

  4. Be authentic. We as a community are getting tired of the constant attempts to please all of the people all of the time. It happens everywhere…marketing, business, family and the biggest offender, politics. Look at the reaction from Obama’s speech yesterday over his approval of gay marriage. Whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant. It’s just nice to finally hear someone in power say how they feel about an issue without there always having to be an asterisk next to the statement that either dilutes or negates it just to be sure that everyone is happy(ish). The more authentic we can be in our writing, marketing, speaking, teaching, communicating and sharing, the more connected our audience is going to feel. Of course, you aren’t going to get everyone on your side, but the ones you do will be fans for life when you create the duel lines of communication and mutual respect.

  5. Understanding “why?” Uncovering people’s motivations, concerns and desires is key to listening, engaging and connecting with customers.
    Customers engage and connect when they are convinced that marketers are listening and understanding their true needs and motivations – the reasons why they need our products and services, the reasons why their preferences are evolving and the compelling reasons why they want to continue doing business with us.
    Today’s marketer can easily listen to customers and gather feedback through social media and other technologies. However, we’re challenged to go beyond gathering information. Connecting and engaging with customers require emotional intelligence that is integrated in the product and service offer.
    I’d love to continue this conversation at the CMA Summit!

  6. Listening is the starting point in showing you care, but it doesn’t stop there.
    Making a great connection is natural when providing helpful content is the reason for the touch point, rather than simply asking for business.
    People naturally have their sales shield up. They don’t want to be sold to. They want their problems solved. When you show how you can create results, instead of simply what you do, marketing gets traction.
    Listening to your prospects and clients, face-to-face and online lets you craft a more relevant message. It helps to get inside your client’s mind to know which issue is most challenging.
    You could be trying to solve a $100K problem, while the reason their head is pounding is because of a $40M issue. If your message isn’t relevant, your business is lost with a flick of the delete key.
    Make your prospects and clients look amazing to their prospects and clients at every turn. Promote their work.
    Listen closely, target relevant problems, make customers happy.
    Hope to see you at the 2012 CMA Summit.

  7. The means to listen, engage and connect are unlimited. What it takes to be successful at it is to clearly understand the need to define your goal. It all starts when you pay attention to what your client and targeted audience are saying. Once you understand you can you can start relating to them and generate interest. To hold on to that interest, a marketer must be flexible and never take anything for granted. He must always keep in the back of his mind its goal to avoid being sidetracked. As a project evolves the strategy must align itself to its current reality.
    Anyhow, this is how I approach it.

  8. On second thought, perhaps politics is a bad example of being authentic! HA! The first thing that really came to mind was the story in Ken Robinson’s book The Element (and in his Ted speech) but I didn’t want to come across as sucking up. It was about the girl that was having trouble in school and was told she needed to be medicated but when taken for a second opinion the problem was that she was a dancer and learned by moving. That story was a game changer for me because my daughter couldn’t eat dinner sitting still. It drove us crazy until I read that story. She’s a dancer too. She still rarely eats sitting still but at least now every night is like our very own dinner theater. That’s being authentic and attracting the world to you.

  9. In my humble opinion (I say this as someone with less than 10 years under my belt working in the media/entertainment industry): marketers need to be part of the content that their target audience cares about in a relevant way without being intrusive – no one likes being sold to. Easier said than done. I think connecting social media with TV content is where it’s at and will keep growing. I’d love to attend the CMA to learn more from the amazing speakers lined up and let’s face it: to make my collegues a little jealous too!

  10. For marketers to listen, engage and connect in today’s world, they need to do three things:
    1. It’s one thing to say you have to care, but that’s easier said than done, so I’d suggest that marketers need to recognzie that a) their products/services exist to solve someone’s problem, and b) helping to solve someone else’s problem really solves marketers’ own problem (i.e. growing profit, market share, etc.) – without understanding that connection and taking the problem on as their own, there’s little incentive to really listen. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Freakanomics, it’s that people do what they’re incented to do and understanding that the market’s “problem” is marketers’ problem provides the incentive for marketers to listen and learn
    2. If you understand that the market’s “problem” is really your own, then the incentive to engage exists and it’s a matter of establishing a dialogue to better understand the nature (and implications) of the “problem” in order to provide the right solution. Take the grass/grass-seed perspective. If you’re trying to sell grass-seed, don’t talk about grass-seed, talk about the lawn – that’s the problem that the market wants to solve.
    3. To engage, establish a dialogue, and provide a solution, marketers need to connect by using platforms and channels (in-person, offline, online) that enable the dialogue to occur and the solution to be provided. Don’t dictate to the market how that dialogue should take place – offer them as many options as possible so they can connect with you in a way that’s easy and effective for them.
    In the end, it’s not about you, the marketer – it’s about them and their needs – and keeping this perspective forefront in your mind will help any marketer with these three steps.

  11. Marketers need to be proactive, not reactive, as well as not be afraid to experiment and, at times, #fail. It’s a brave new world of media we’re entering – The ones who will succeed will do so by achieving a balance of consumer feedback and return on investment!

  12. Authenticity and responsiveness!
    Consumers today are more savvy than ever before and they know when they are being pitched, so being authentic is key. And since many of them are creators on multiple platforms and not just consumers, being able to have a two-way dialogue allows you to take your authentic experience to the next level.
    @SirKenRobinson, I’ll see you next week (hopefully)!

  13. I think you have to take the time to listen, so that engagement and connection can come naturally. As a marketing professional I spend a lot of time listening for the truth. The customers truth, the clients truth, even societys truth. The more I listen through everything from social media tools to traditional tactics, the more I feel like I have the right information to connect and engage.
    When you invest in listening, it’s much easier to communicate a message that engages with people on a personal level. I think we all find the relationships in our life most rewarding when we feel heard and understood. No one likes having a one sided conversation. The more we bring this level of communication into marketing, the greater success we will have in connecting to the right customers with the right message.

  14. Thanks for the TED talk link with Sir Ken Robinson. I’d never seen this before and I laughed so hard. He is so funny and witty. I really enjoyed this!

  15. A spike in income. Rising stature in business, politics and culture. Greater comfort in going it alone domestically.
    Welcome to women’s lib, circa 2012! These facts unfold against a backdrop of increased use of social media, supportive, on-line communities and a growing emphasis on collaboration.
    Coincidence? Perhaps. Then again…
    Caring, empathy, encouraging self-expression and non-linear problem solving are innately more feminine skills. So, too, are forming more engaging connections by listening more compassionately. All critical for innovation and what propels many entrepreneurial endeavors. And feminine here doesn’t mean female. It means feeling versus thinking your way toward solutions.
    Today, companies that develop a more meaningful human purpose for their brand based on listening are better poised to hear what’s going on tomorrow.
    I look forward to attending the CMA and listening to more on the topic.

  16. Thanks so much for this fantastic opportunity!
    Today’s marketers should view Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA Animate Video @

    This video is invaluable for many reasons, but the reason that I value this video the most is its cross-disciplinary applicability. The message can be applied to education, marketing, health care, law enforcement, etc. Why? because anyone old enough to be active in any of those files could apply Sir Ken’s wisdom and suggestions to their hierarchical systems!
    From “across the pond” (Lake Ontario) in Rochester, New York. I would like nothing more to hear Sir Ken and maybe even meet him in person!!
    Respectfully submitted,

  17. Marketers need to connect to their consumers in authentic scenarios. If there’s any sort of fakeness or illegitimacy to the interaction, it just seems ingenuine and like the primary goal is to sell them something. When marketers go to where consumers are, offer value and not just a marketing pitch.

  18. While I think there needs to be a real and authentic message in marketing to engage and connect with customers, I do believe that being genuine and listening to customers has to come from beyond the marketing department. A company and their brands have to create an environment across the organization and really want to connect with consumers beyond the objective of selling their wares. They entire organization has to live it’s values and not just for the customers but also the employees. A few of these organizations come to mind – Apple, West Jet, Zappos.

  19. To succeed in this economy, marketers need to be engaged, they need to be listening and if they do both of these things, they will make great connections. Marketers need to be interactive with their social networking tools, demonstrate a social conscience and utilize data available. Data should be collected using marketing research methodologies and through social networking tools. Successful marketers need to demonstrate empathy, respect and genuine consideration for their customers. I’d love to be at the Six Pixels of Separating community conference next week, thank you CMA for the opportunity!

  20. Hi Mitch,
    Several keys come to mind which should be considered.
    Recognize that social media is about people.
    Companies need to have the right people in place, whether in marketing, communications or customer service, with appropriate skills and education on social media best practices. These people, on the front lines, are essentially the face of the company – they should be both empowered and trusted when engaging with customers. Enable people (your customers) to like your people (your employees) and thus your company.
    Spend time learning.
    Given the nature of the rapidly changing marketing and communications landscape, continuous learning is a necessity for people at all levels – so that a company’s employees are well-poised to listen, engage and connect. Marketers should regularly spend time reading social media and technology blogs and books, as well as occasionally attend conferences (such as the Art of Marketing).
    Understand that listening leads to engagement and connection.
    Marketers should start by listening to their target audience, in an effort to understand them – their needs, their nuances, their language. Engagement should start once sufficient listening has occurred. However, any marketing outreach can’t just be about the brand. The conversation must be relevant and genuine from the perspective of the customer, and it must somehow add value. Marketers that focus first on listening and have customer-centric mindset, will have a better opportunity to establish true engagement and connection.
    Be proactive and build relationships.
    Related to the point above, marketers should be proactive in building relationships – both with key influencers and other people in the target market. Relationship-building can occur by commenting on a blog, interacting on a social network, or perhaps meeting in person at an event. Investing in a relationship can truly help at a later point, perhaps when an social initiative/campaign is being launched that could benefit from engagement of key influencers.
    Provide great content.
    Whether making use of a corporate blog, or sharing information through a social network, marketers need to invest time and effort in cultivating and curating content that is relevant and provides value to existing and potential customers. Time invested in listening to customers’ needs can truly pay off here, as insights gained can feed into the content developed. By becoming a trusted resource for customers, engagement and connection with customers will be enhanced.
    Show that you care.
    Simply put, a little recognition can go a long way. If someone mentions your brand in a positive light, thank them. If someone cites an issue or concern, ask them why and do what you can to help them – in a genuine and, ideally, expedient manner. You may not always be able to please everyone, but you certainly can earn a lot of respect by showing that you care. Again this goes back to listening, which provides opportunity for engagement and connection.

  21. What does it take for Marketer’s to LISTEN, ENGAGE and CONNECT in today’s world? I think it starts with patience, persistence, authenticity, an action plan and compelling creative.
    The way marketers and brands can connect with their audience has changed. We are able to LISTEN to what our customers, or our competitors customers want. We are able through the web and social media to ENGAGE our audience in discussions, thoughts or through compelling creative and ideas. We can CONNECT to our consumers and interact with them and gain reach through gaining access to their friends.
    We have the chance today to influence our consumers and our target online, but it takes patience, persistence, an action plan and a compelling idea or creative.
    I like to use the example of BBDO’s Tropicana ‘Brighter Morning for Brighter Days” campaign. This campaign had a great life through social media. It captivated the hearts of viewers, by making them feel what it would be like to live in Nunavut, where they have no sun. They used social media as a driver, connecting to the life of these Canadians and it left us with a fantastic impression of the brand Tropicana. Tropicana added in a charity component with helping the food banks in this community.
    After this campaign finished it was interesting to see Tropicana using polls on Facebook and their Facebook fan page to ask questions like – What would make your morning a brighter one?” etc. I think they did a very good job with Listening, Engaging and connecting to their consumers through a compelling idea and creative.

  22. In order for marketers to listen, engage and connect with their audience in today’s world, they need to be genuinely interested in the object of their attention’s goals. What is it that your prospect or customer really wants to accomplish? Are you helping them attain these goals? Yes? Now you have my attention.

  23. What does it take for Marketer’s to LISTEN, ENGAGE and CONNECT in today’s world? You need to hear what is being said and be active in the process to understand what the customer is saying either by their actions or lack there of (unexpressed needs). It sounds easy, but too often we want checklists, thought provoking ideas to justify our role as marketers to aid in the discussion and although these are important to the overall process, the art of listening sets the tone and stage. As someone once said, we’re given 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason:)

  24. Well put. It’s easy to get caught up in strategy and tactics, but what we sometimes forget that true caring will facilitate connection better than any tactic you can dream up. Thank you for the simple reminder.

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