If there’s one skill a marketer needs to adopt in 2020 and beyond, it’s curiosity. Curious marketers ask questions, want to learn and walk in their customers shoes. In the words of Seth Godin (marketing marvel) “If you are not curious, you are not going to learn.”
That said, HBR research showed that only about 24% of employees said they felt curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work. Could it be that cultures aren’t embracing curiosity? They should!
The same research showed that a one-unit increase in curiosity (for instance, a score of 6 rather than 5 on a 7-point scale) was associated with 34% greater creativity. If you want to innovate, you need curious people in your team.
It’s A Great Time To Be In B2B Marketing
I personally feel there is no better time to be in B2B marketing than now. Technology is allowing us to piece together intelligence, make informed decisions about our investments and personalise messages with laser focused targeting.
Quite simply – it’s cool.
I can honestly say that during my 20 years in corporate B2B marketing roles, I rarely spoke to customers directly. That was very much the role of sales.
A marketer’s job involved generating demand, qualifying leads and producing content that helped accelerate and close pipeline. Sales was (and in many cases, still is) the primary customer of marketing.
However, the value in customer conversations is priceless to a marketer and it’s wasn’t until I started Tribal that I fully understood this.
The digital interactions and the ability to turn that information into something meaningful and relevant for our customers is genuinely exciting – in a geeky kind of way.
What Is Curiosity?
Well, according to the dictionary…
the desire to learn or know about anything, inquisitiveness.
…or as my husband would describe it – nosey. I’ll take that. If you’re asking questions, then you’re inquisitive. You want to learn. You want to improve either yourself or what you’re working on.
How Curiosity Gives You An Advantage As A Marketer
There are several ways that I believe curiosity can set you apart from your industry peers.
By far the biggest advantage of curiosity (especially in technically complex industries) is the ability to dismantle complex messages and then pack them back up in a way that your mum can understand it. Only then have you truly understood what you’re talking about.
I get that not every marketer can go visit customers so in the absence of that, go read case studies. Curious marketers will unpick the story to really understand what was driving the initial problem.
Customers don’t often wake up and say “Today, I’m going to buy a cloud storage subscription – let me check out my options”.
Often there is a driving issue – a mistake, an event, a cause – that triggered the initial search. Marketers, find out what that is and focus your awareness content at it.
As a curious marketer you will find the answer to whatever question you have been asked. You will search. You will consult with others. You will ask online. You will do what it takes.
Curious marketers are good at learning fast, consuming information and recognising that they don’t know everything, but they know where to turn to for advice.
For this reason, you will find that curious marketers will invest time in building and nurturing their social networks. They value relationships as they know this will keep them efficient.
They won’t say “That’s Social Selling and I’m not in sales”. They’ll embrace the behaviours of their direct internal customer in an effort to walk in their shoes, which ties into the next point.
Curious marketers will empathise with their colleagues. They’ll know enough to understand their role, where it fits into the wider purpose of the business and be able to build trust across layers within the organisation.
They will want to learn about how the company works, even if it’s not their job. They’ll want to understand their impact on the rest of the business. They’ll look out for opportunities to improve processes, communication and ultimately results.
Understanding the wider context of the business gives them a better understanding of the value they can ultimately bring.
Communication is a key skill for marketers. We’re expected to communicate in a variety of ways – presentations, visually and written to name a few.
Because curious marketers like to dig deep and make sure they understand the message properly, they’ll take time digest information and restructure it in a way that makes logical sense. They’ll format it in a way that is memorable for others.
Storytelling is such a huge skill and one that is becoming increasingly important to brands. The more you encourage employees to tell stories, the wider your authentic message will reach on platforms like social media. Storytelling starts in marketing.
I believe that employees need to be able to tell the brand story but most importantly, articulate their role within that story and how they contribute. That is the start of advocacy and that is another blog post!
How To Become More Curious
There is no magic spell to becoming more curious but there are things that you can do to inspire curiosity. According to this HubSpot article (I’m a HubSpot fan and a sucker for cat pictures), the recommend the following:
Ask every question. Don’t be afraid to ask a question – chances are most people in the room are thinking the same thing. Go on. Be brave.
Consume content that's outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes it’s fun to challenge ourselves. I’m learning so much about volcanoes, the Victorian era and the Titanic as a result of my kids. Embrace learning where you can.
Listen without judgment. Try not to interrupt people when they’re talking. Just focus on listening. It will help you conjure up your next set of questions.
Embrace the unexpected. Someone once said to me “the opportunities are all around – it’s up to you whether you choose to take them or not”. By embracing unexpected situations you may just discover something better than what you were hoping for.
Try not to dwell on the past. If you’re caught in the “should have, could have, would have” scenario then you’re trapped in a place that’s going to close your ability to see the opportunities. Recognise this and take action.
Gamify learning. My kids get DoJo points (don’t ask me what they are) but their learning is gamified. Consider challenging your team to share their learning with others. Demonstrate what forever learning looks like by showcasing people who do it well.
Change your perspective on a situation. This goes back to walking in your customers shoes. Think like them. What really is the issue that your solution solves and avoid falling into the techy speak trap.
I don’t have all the answers – far from it. I’m still learning! But I have learned that curiosity is making me a better marketer every day because I’m building my knowledge, confidence and understanding of my industry.
As a result, I want to test things, try stuff, fail miserably and embrace that. As I said at the beginning, there is no better time to be in B2B marketing. We have so much opportunity to learn, get close to our business and our customers that it’s too good an opportunity to miss – so open your eyes.