Archive for June, 2008
After reading The problem with ‘conversational marketing’ I was inspired to express my views on the importance of conversation and the evolution of marketing.
Let’s be clear, the real problem with conversational marketing (other than the God awful term itself) is the ‘marketing’, not the conversation. The human problem with many traditional marketing practices is that they are exploitative in nature, selling/hyping goods and services in the market that are of dubious value, and only benefit those doing the selling. Of course this is not the case with the majority of marketing or marketers, but the extent to which a few bad intentioned actors can create a stereotype that is harmful to an entire group of people is quite stunning.
The gist of the article is correct that product and experience are the most important aspects of the business by providing goods and services to the market that create profits and satisfaction. I wrote about this after our awesome SxSW panel earlier this year in a post called The Golden Rules of Marketing. If you are more interested in the importance of great products as the first step to great marketing, listen to the podcast of the Self Replicating Awesomness session.
My problem is with the article’s dismissal of the importance of conversation over messaging to create understanding. It demonstrates how badly a few buzzword spewing charlatans can hurt the efforts towards transformation across an industry (communications in this case).
As I have demonstrated in unplanned exchanges in numerous workshops I have facilitated over the past year, it is very easy for people to mean the same thing, use different words to describe it and have an argument resulting from their different viewpoints. Conversation in this case, creates understanding, bridging cultures and differences in the use of language – something that a simple published statement or headline (aka message) can not do if no one is able to be engaged, listening and responding.
When those of us who understand what is happening say the words ‘listen and respond’, we are not limiting ourselves to the words we say back to someone after listening. We are talking about what we DO as a result of HEARING them as well as what we say. By listening, and truly hearing what is said, we are also showing that we are paying attention – it speaks volumes about the true intentions of our actions in the market place.
The post’s author sees the biggest proof of the failure of conversational marketing in a 2007 study from 9 months prior to their post:
According to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, Dell was at the bottom of the pack in 2007 and actually lost 5 percentage points from the previous year
The author is correct in noting that it is much more difficult to provide a product that meets the market’s needs/expectations then it is to talk with them. Duh! The point isn’t so much that they are talking together, but what they do as a result. To expect conversations between representatives of a company and the market to turn around the culture and operational systems of that company within a matter of hours or days is of course impractical. These things take time. We are all human, people misunderstand, and of course, people make new mistakes which need to be understood and corrected all the time.
The article goes on to further state:
As such, companies should invest first and foremost in making sure that they do a good job of providing consumers with the products and services they want and need.
But of course, in order to understand what products they want, the companies need to listen to them FIRST, deliver the goods, listen to them again, change, deliver the goods again with improvements and so on. This quote shows how backwards the thinking is – companies need to do more up front to understand the needs of the market (traditionally thought of as research, which is of course a form of a conversation) before they invest in producing the goods.
The post goes on to say:
I would also point out what may seem counterintuitive to conversationalists – the fact that sometimes silence is the best indicator of consumer satisfaction.
Apparently, the author – Drama 2.0 – hasn’t read one of Kathy Sierra’s best blog posts called Be Brave or Go Home, which explains why customer silence is not golden if your company lives in the zone of mediocrity. Nor have they read Ken Blanchards book called Raving Fans, nor do they understand the importance and impact of Word of Mouth.
The thing is, that if I buy a computer from Dell (and I am a Mac guy, so the chances are slim), I hope I don’t have to talk to Richard Binhammer about a problem, but he hopes I talk to him about how much I love it. Either way, because I know that they are listening, as humans do to one another, I know that he will help to fix any problems. I know that their intentions are to serve us with better products and that sometimes shit happens. If the intention is made clear that they are not a faceless corporation here to take my money and harm me by selling me bad products/services, I would rather buy from them then anyone else.
This is our philosophy at The Conversation Group, and the main purpose we came together as an agency – to help more companies embrace the spirit of conversation with markets and to move beyond marketing by discovering, engaging and serving their markets in a more respectful and effective way.
Thanks to Rebecca Caroe from Creative Agency Secrets who pointed out this article called The problem with ‘conversational marketing’. (disclosure: two of the subjects of that post, Richard Binhammer and Shel Israel are friends) This is something I was writing about last summer in the post entitled, Stop the Insanity, Don’t Call it Conversational Marketing, and more recently in response to a Doc Searls post (keep getting better Doc, we’re with you) called Clues vs. Trains.
Chris Heuer stepped in for his friend Giovanni Gallucci to discuss social media and social networking at the San Francisco PRSA. Hear Chris’ comments from the presentation, “Buzz Generation, Guerilla Marketing and Branding via Social Media and Social Networking” here.
The discussion around social media at this point in time is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the breadth and depth of change that is being created in organizations of all sizes around the world. While some like Steve Rubel will argue that this emphasis is a passing fad and social media is merely another channel that will be thought of eventually as media, I disagree. By looking at this era in such a short sighted way, you miss what Doc Searls talks about as the ‘greater significance ’ of this transformative technology.
I contend that the rise of Social Media is the catalyst that will ultimately transform our world of work, our economy and our entire society. It will propel us to evolve from being industrial organizations, focused on increasing throughput and efficiencies of production processes to becoming social organizations, with a true emphasis on people over processes and technologies. Surely, Steve and others who feel the same way are right in thinking that the technologies will one day be thought of as simple tools (like pencils are today). You would also be right to assume that one day, the newness of what makes this different will be worn down to the point that we refer to a lot of what is happening more broadly as simply media.
However, to de-emphasize it at this time destroys the all important context that contains the most valuable and nutritious part of the signal we are trying to send around the world. That it is time for us to return to being social with one another, to look at other people (especially those who are different from us) as our ‘friends’ and to really think about how our decisions and actions can positively or negatively affect other people. In short, our organizations and the way we operate them need to become more socially oriented, truly engaged in the market conversation.
In a recent discussion with my Social Media Playbook co-author Brian Solis , we started to bring together all these points that we have been discussing with others for the past two years. Social Media is not just about how an enterprise does its marketing, but how all the people in the enterprise talks with its market.
Yes there is an internal employee to external stakeholder communications path, but there is also a collaboration element added to this – a social sense of working together for common goals. To be really successful however requires more then proficiency with this one aspect of managing your organization. It also requires you to develop deeper expertise with your communications and collaborations process between employees; between employees and partners; and even in some cases between external stakeholders and other external stakeholders.
This includes marketing, customer support, product development, research, partner relationships, internal collaboration, information technology, and even facilities. There is no aspect of your organization that will go untouched. This is not some pie in the sky vision of a far off utopian future, this is what many people/consumers are clamoring for. Tired of being sold to ant talked at, advertising is less effective then ever before and efforts are underway to turn CRM upside down in favor of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) .
This is not to say that we are supposed to turn away from profitability, far from it. By increasing the efficiency of market interactions, there is a greater chance for profitability; for good companies to become great companies; and for bad companies to just die off. Companies need to be profitable in order to grow and flourish and continue to do good for the world – as the saying goes, you are either thriving or dying and seldom if ever just stagnant. The difference between where we are today and where we will be tomorrow can be summed up as reasonable profitability with market cultivating behaviour as opposed to exploitative profitability and predatory behaviour.
While today you can gain a competitive advantage through the proper applications of Social Media, tomorrow it will be the price of admission for every market. So the question we are trying to help you answer with The Social Media Playbook is not how do I use Social Media for Marketing or Public Relations, but rather how do you transform your company into a social organization.
To this end, I see the potential for a new position in many larger organizations – for someone to wear the hat of the Chief Social Officer. While this responsibility could be held in any of the existing C-Suite titles, in larger organizations I believe it is necessary to have one person overseeing these efforts. Their needs to be someone with the authority, leadership, vision and yes, power, in order to effect change of this magnitude, as Michael Dell did over the past several years.
Why do we need a Chief Social Officer? Because embracing social media is embracing change management; changing the way teams collaborate; improving our relationships with customers; affecting our interaction with partners; overseeing customer support; empowering sales people to be purchase support; altering our product innovation and creation processes; and ultimately, bringing us out of the industrial age, beyond the information age and into a new age of enlightenment. It requires us to break down, once and for all, the silo walls that separate groups, the moats that have created fiefdoms of power and the interpersonal bullshit that prevents us from seeing that we all want what’s best, even if we have different ideas of how to do it.
In a recent McKinsey report, they talked about The Evolving role of the CMO , and the increased demands (related to these responsibilities) being put upon the position. I believe, as the report suggested, that the CMO should be the voice of the customer across the organization. The CMO/CEO and Chief Social Officer can and should co-exist and work together to bring about organizational transformation.
This is a new world of work, where knowledge, applied with compassion, creates a sustainable economy and a more peaceful world by transforming the very heart of business.
What are you doing to make your organization more social? How are you “being the change you want to see most in the world?”
Chris participated in the ALI Social Media Summit on June 6, 2008 by co-hosting a case study with Michael Prosceno of SAP. The study, “How To Harness The Power Of Social Media Both Internally and Externally — From Product Development, To Market Intelligence, To Sales, To Communications, To Marketing, To Building Communities,” focuses on lessons learned and advice in social media.
New social media tools and techniques are changing the role of communicators and marketers in organizations across the globe — enabling you to expand your voice in the marketplace and within your organization. This is the opportunity in front of us.
This session will share the experiences of SAP and the results of the SAP Global Social Media Survey — including their lessons learned since engaging the blogosphere in 2006.
SAP is using social media both internally as well as externally – from product development, to market intelligence, to sales, to communications, to marketing, to building communities.
Leave this session with tools and tips for using social media in your own organization, including how to:
- Use social media tools across PR, HR, Blogger Relations as well as nternal communications and collaboration
- Set up and manage a blogger relations team
- Use social media tools to become engaged with your market by participating where the market participates
- Use an internal “Twitter” application called “Shout it” as well as an internal “Linkedin” social network called Harmony
- Communicate externally using Twitter Channels, blogs, public wikis, discussion forums, etc. to engage customers, business partners and even the more traditional and new media segments of the market
- Harness the power of building communities to foster your own communications or marketing role within your organization
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