Listening as a Powerful High-touch Marketing Strategy for Your Social Impact Business


In this blog series, we’ve covered different dimensions around high-touch marketing, the kind of marketing that you do in-person, face-to-face, one-on-one.

We’ve talked about different ways to prepare your own messaging to communicate effectively and ways to understand who your target market is so that you can approach your marketing efforts from the standpoint of the people who will buy from you.

And then, we’ve explored different ways to create meaningful connections and different ways to connect with people.

In our last blog, we looked at how you can get support to get unstuck, how you don’t always have to know the answer to everything. And there are different ways you can tap into the community around you to help you get to where you want to go.

And this blog, we’re going to take a look at the power of listening and understand how this applies to solving social issues.

The Pandemic’s Impact

The last year of the pandemic has touched everyone and every corner of the globe that I’ve spoken with; everyone’s been impacted in one way or another.

In many circumstances, this has led to isolation and reduced face-to-face contact with the people you normally encounter every day. For people in vulnerable communities, that effect can be magnified significantly, leaving people even more isolated, especially when they don’t have the resources to survive comfortably or the support network to get the assistance they need.

In my own hometown of Columbus, Ohio, I’ve noticed there’s a huge shift. Personally, I’ve had my second vaccine shot, and our offices are opening back up. The summer weather is rolling in, and people are outside in larger and larger numbers. And in the latest news, the latest guidance is that we can go out without masks and concrete gate indoors – if we’ve been vaccinated – in a safe manner.

For an introvert like me, part of that feels anxious about having to confront people again and have conversations that I have not had.

We’ve restarted our work program with Wild Tiger Tees, and we’re working with the youth experiencing homelessness.

I noticed running one of these sessions that some of the natural skills I had developed in the past for running an effective work session have evaporated. And I realized I had some social skills I needed to relearn to be effective at what we’re doing.

But speaking with the youth, it reminded me of one thing that was clear. We’ve all experienced some level of discomfort in the last year, a difficulty that has pushed us into something different.

And now we’re at a transition point where we’re returning back to the world that we previously knew. I am certain in a few years, we’ll have forgotten this pause that we’ve had in our life away from everything else, as we get caught up in the routines of our life, again. But I can’t help but see some natural similarities in what it felt like when I returned to the US after living abroad in the UK for nine years.

I had never heard of the term reverse culture shock. But upon returning to the US and especially living in a new community here in Columbus, Ohio, that I did not grow up in, coming back to the US was difficult for me because I had adapted to a different culture and a different style of living over in London.

My friends were largely from an aspect community, and we had a shared bond and a connection. There were things identified with about who I am as a person. Coming back to the US all of a sudden, some of these things I identified with dropped away, and I had to rediscover who I was. And even how to relate to people in my community.

Over time, I’ve realized that this was all just the natural story. I was telling myself about who I was – thoughts that were going around in my head. And this is something that each of us does. We create stories about who we are, what our problems are in life, what our passions are. And we repeat these stories to ourselves again and again, and again.

Rethink who you are

Genuinely, in life, we gather a lot of evidence to support these stories that we’ve built up. And when there’s a huge change in our life, sometimes that radically challenges us and forces us to rethink who we are. In those moments, it’s very easy to develop new ideas of who we are and new stories. And it’s difficult to return to old stories after you’ve made a change. And this can really magnify any conflict that you’re experiencing or natural challenges that you’re facing in life.

Now, why am I sharing this with you in a month when we’re exploring high-touch marketing?

It’s because one of the greatest gifts that we can give another person is that of our attention.

Deep Listening and Attention Build Genuine Connection

When we listen deeply to somebody else, it provides an atmosphere where they can express themselves and rebalance and express their truth, whatever that truth is in that moment.

When we’re creating an impact in that community, the greatest impact you’ll ever make, and the ones that you’ll remember are the ones that when you make a connection with somebody and you give them that time and attention, and you listen to them deeply.

And when I say listen deeply, I mean without judgment and giving space in between words, without looking for a quick response to what somebody is saying.

If somebody is sharing a story, give them silence and space. If they finish their sentence, wait for a little bit to see if there’s more given uncomfortable pause to see if something else comes through that.

When you’re actively listening, it means not thinking about how you’re going to respond or what you’re going to say next.

You’re just there to really give space for the other person to express what’s on their mind.

How to Actually Listen

Elisabeth Sperling of Wise Humanity would often share this instruction when explaining to people how to listen.

She would say,

“We’re going to be silent and not even respond while you’re talking. And when you’re done, the only thing we’re going to say is to tell us more. We’re going to be quiet and just listen. Only after somebody is done talking, do you start reflecting back on what you heard, and only after you reflected back, do it gauge further with a conversation.”

Now I’ve discovered when you do this, it’s very important that you don’t do this in a mechanical way, make it natural, but really give that intention of just giving the person space and give them the gift of your full attention.

It’s Not About You

Well, listening is a very powerful tool in the social impact work that you’re making. It’s also a huge compliment to high-touch marketing. Because at the end of the day, when you’re connecting with somebody else, you have to remember, it’s not about you.

You can share your message and what you’re working on, but then make it about the other person, give them your full attention, understand their story, and understand what they’re struggling with.

When somebody can express what they’re struggling with, and they’re heard, more good will come of that than trying to interject what you’re offering or what you’re trying to get from the universe.

Whenever you’re trying to get something, you almost always are going to leave disappointed. But when you’re showing up from the standpoint of “how can I contribute to this situation” and really letting another person express what their need is in the world, then a greater contribution can come from that.

And quite often, what you get from that will be unexpected but also much more impactful than getting what you thought you needed in the beginning.

This is an easy skill that you can practice in countless situations many times a day. Give it a shot.


Next time you show up and somebody is talking, give them the gift of your full attention. Not sitting there thinking about what you’re going to do next, how will you respond. But just listening to what they’re saying. Giving them some extra space to articulate that.

If they’re working through something more complex, just have them tell you more and practice this without trying to get anything in return to show up as this is your gift to the world, your contribution to somebody else, and see what magic unfolds.

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