Thought Leadership Studio Podcast Episodes:

5 Steps to Market Insight

Episode Twelve: An introduction to Audience Attunement and a Challenge to the Data-Targeting Paradigm

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#innovation, #insight, #marketing, #marketingstrategy, #marketlistening, #marketresearch, #nlp, #persuasion, #strategicthoughtleadership, #thoughtleadership, #thoughtleadershipmodel

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What will this do for you?

  • Learn a method of gaining marketplace insight that enables marketing breakthroughs.
  • Contrast the prevalent data-targeting model with an alternative, more ecological model of Audience Attunement.
  • Learn to discover your audience's higher values and relevant mental models.
  • Learn where to find the audience thinking data that contains actionable insights.
  • Discover and capitalize on opportunities for positive, high-level persuasion.

Challenging Big Data Norms

Like Pythons in the Everglades.

When you step back and look at a larger system, you see how the integrity of the internet is disrupted by invasive marketing like when an invasive species collapses a natural ecosystem.

It's the end user customers who pay the rent for the companies who pay the rent for the advertisers. And there is substantial research showing those end user customers don't like being followed around the web or having their data harvested. It's far more ecological to serve the end customer with helpful thought leadership that empowers them to get more value and make smarter decisions.

Prevalent Paradigms Can Be Quickly Replaced When Something Better Comes Along

Yes, I know Google and Facebook (I refuse to call it Meta) have gotten rich from the data-targeting model. That doesn't mean it is the best possible way to do it. It's just the way that has been prevalent so far. Some horse traders were rich before cars were invented. Fossil-fuel powered cars have had a more than a century of dominance but they, too, are about to be largely replaced: This time by electric cars. We value the planet we live on so can't keep polluting it to the same degree.

Similarly, we value the mental health of the world and can't keep polluting it either. We are already seeing a huge pushback against privacy-invasive ads that pollute the "shared mind" of the internet.

It seems simple once you contrast being targeted like an animal being hunted, versus being respectfully listened to. Which feels better?

ListeningIt's about the relationship. Snooping on someone close to you shows trust is missing. The law of giving and receiving says you get more when you give more and what we need to give more of to our prospects is what they say they value: respect for their privacy.

So being an effective marketer is largely about respect, with the profits that come from long term customer relationships following that. Psychologists say in relationships, respect may be more crucial than love. In customer relationships, too, respect them or they'll leave you. Spying isn't respectful.

Fortunately, there is a better way of gathering marketing intelligence: Audience Attunement.

Audience Attunement is a method of gaining insight into a market segment's wants and needs. Because it deals with higher level thinking like values, it can even help predict what people would love but cannot yet articulate for themselves.

It is also helps provide an answer to "what content" for inbound content marketing and PR campaigns.

These five steps give the basics. Imagine them at scale.

1. Shift the Focus from Data Targeting to Audience Listening


This table contrasts the two:

Data TargetingAudience Listening
PerspectiveTop Down Outside-In
DirectionPush with InterruptionsRespond to Pull for Learning
Prospects' AttentionInvoluntaryVoluntary
Intention for ProspectsTargetServe and Lead
InformationPast Behaviors and DemographicsInsight into Higher Level Thinking
Expectation for ProspectRepeat PatternsGrow to New Learning
Level of InfluenceBehavioralHigher Level- Values and Mental Models
CreativityLow- Past behavior expected to repeatHigh - Co-developing a creative vision


2. Discover Open Conversations About Your Product/Service Online.

Once you have shifted your mindset from studying people as data to empathically discovering what they value and how they percieve what you do, the next question is: where to find this information.

Where do people converse most openly and genuinely about what you do or sell?

Not typically on the website or blog post. Those are what the writer wants to be perceived as thinking. It isn't the same as what they really think.

You will better find that in the comments. Or, in places like Reddit that are full of open, relaxed conversations.

This is where we can really gain audience insights. The best places are often the comments threads of polarizing blog posts or news articles that generate emotional responses. There people reveal what's behind the scenes. If people feel their values are being stepped on, they will let you know what is important to them. And they will also reveal their mental models: how they see a product or service being used, for example...what it's for.... or, what its role is in their lives.

How do you find these authentic conversations? Unfortunately, doing a standard DuckDuckGo, Bing, or Google search for keywords about your industry will usually produce mostly noise.

At Thaut, we use our own software that searches within places like Reddit and Disqus (a blog comment thread plug-in) to quickly get to these conversations. We save the ones richest with insights for analysis... minus any personal information like peoples' real names, which don't matter for this purpose. (We can help you with this, too: check out our Thought Leadership Support Services.)

You can best approximate this by searching within Reddit or adding "comments" to your keywords in a search engine. Then, scan the comments threads rather than the main body text for this revealing "back-and-forth". Find dialogue where emotion comes out. That's where real insights will be revealed. Copy-paste the most helpful ones into a Word doc for analysis.

3. Parse These Open Conversations for Unmet Values: What is Important?

Open ConversationsOnce we have these dialogues, then we want to parse them first for values that are connected to the topic, product, or service. What is important about a vacuum cleaner? That it is convenient? Effective?

Values are feeling words.

Some possible values are "confidence", "security", "convenience", "ease".

The most helpful values you find might be ones that are not yet connected to your product or service.

Then your Thought Leadership Position can be about connecting an important value to what you sell so people perceive it in a completely new way.

Our client Digital Echo sells web accessibility services: they help companies make their websites easier to use by people with disabilities. Their customers used to see this as a technical service and sent them to their IT department. We helped them develop a thought leadership position that connected their service to a company's stance on diversity and inclusion. After all, companies certainly need to include people with disabilities as part of their diversity and inclusion. And more people typically encounter a company through their web presence than any other way. This moved our client's sales path to receptive HR departments and, in the words of their founder "transformed" their sales process.

Values of Marketers

When doing our Audience Attunement research on marketers for a client who services them, we found interesting and encouraging results. Along with the expected values "success", "creativity" and "results", we also found "mutual respect" and "integrity".

For marketers in the Data Targeting model, those last 2 are values that could potentially be better satisfied with a new model centered on Audience Attunement such as I am proposing here.

4. Extract Prevalent Mental Models About Your Segment in the Proper Format.

Respectful analysis of open coversationsA mental model is another term for "belief system" or, in short, "belief". A belief always has an if-then statement behind it: it's an expression of a relationship between two things.

You want to get the mental model (AKA belief) in this "if-then" format, for various reasons largely beyond the scope of this podcast summary.

A mental model some marketers hold about big data we could upgrade to better satisfy the values of integrity and mutual respect: "Using privacy-invasive customer data to target them is necessary for effective marketing."

A new mental model that supports Audience Attunement could be: "Invasive advertising actually generates resentment while it’s the marketing that respects the viewpoint of the end user and leads to helpful new thinking that builds sustainable profits."

5. Look for Market Misalignments as Opportunities

An important value that is constricted by a dysfunctional mental model = opportunity for Strategic Thought Leadership.

As we see with the examples of Digital Echo and the marketers, we can help them get more values fulfillment with a new mental model that can form the basis of a powerful Strategic Thought Leadership marketing and PR campaign.



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Written by Chris McNeil, Strategic Thought Leadership NLP Coach and Consultant, Founder of Thaut, host of Thought Leadership Studio podcast, and Creator of the Thaut Process of Strategic Thought Leadership.

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