Archive for October, 2009
Every time I travel to another city for another conference, the need for deep, broad, real, systemic change in our approach to marketing becomes more and more clear. This weekend at IzeaFest was no exception. Having the IzeaFest advertisers together with their bloggers along with social media professionals, SEO experts, affiliate marketers and some big brands was a real eye opener on many levels. Mostly though, what I saw was a lot of people trying to figure out how to do the right thing and a small few who were just focused on the money.
As more people come to realize that we are all in this market WITH one another instead of AGAINST one another, the tolerance for traditional advertising, publc relations and automated customer support phone systems will eventually reach zero. We have already lost our tolerance for not being able to get an answer from the company representatives assigned with that task, how much more efficiency can be squeezed in pursuit of profits over brand prosperity?
Marketing is not real.
Its what we design to seem real, to seem believable, to create a sense of desire, to tap into a need, to increase awareness, to communicate value propositions, to drive a call to action, to create a sense of comfort and familiarity with the brand and to create a sense of urgency. But let’s be honest, its carefully crafted, tested, refined and carefully controlled as its being deployed. It’s not real, and often times, its not really nice or considerate either.
Or as David Weinberger has infamously said, “Somewhere along the way, markets, what we did WITH each other, became marketing… what we do TO one another.”
Or as the Cluetrain Manifesto so brilliantly stated “Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.” But the best ads are the ones that transcend the chains of its innately false nature, to either really be genuine or too fake it so well as to seemingly create no doubt.
There is a very serious need for us to fully return to an emphasis on markets and get away from marketing altogether. Once and for all.
But where does it begin?
I had thought this was very clear over five (5) years ago in the time leading up to the first BarCamp. Going beyond interactive marketing, required genuine ENGAGEMENT. Or as I saw so clearly at that BarCamp in the summer of 2005, participation is marketing. But it’s more then participating, it’s contributing value, it’s respecting market participants, it’s having integrity and embracing transparency.
Since then, all segments of the communications industry has struggled with defining it, as the competing qualitative and quantitative camps argue about what is really most important with it. Engagement is dialog. Engagement is empathetic. Engagement is human. Engagement is mutually beneficial. Engagement can be measured by how it feels. Engagement can be measured by how the new philosophy starts to shift the bottom line.
Serve the Market
If markets are conversations as the Cluetrain posits, then what are executives supposed to do about it? The more we converse with each other, and the more we do so openly, leaving a trail of thoughts on our experiences and insights upon which others may stumble, the greater the importance of serving the market for mutual benefit.
This realization came to me during Community 2.0 in 2006 when Craig Newmark remarked that “all organizations used to be community service organizations”. It’s what was lost as we focused on scaling our ability to create profit during the industrial era and as profit above all else was so enthusiastically pursued without concern by just a few too many ‘leaders’. Then modern marketing evolved in certain corners of the profession with the goal of separating as much money as possible from as many customers as possible.
Of course, this wasn’t everyone, its just a few bad apples, but they certainly make the rest of the barrel full look unattractive.
Over time, the focus shifted for many companies to serving the stock market and the shareholder as opposed to serving the market itself. Research shifted to finding ways to tug at heart strings and wanting to be hip with trendsetters. Market researchers put people into “fish bowls” to observe their behaviour under fake conditions measuring their responses as if they were real and pure.
In short, and putting it bluntly, the science of marketing has for too long been focused on manipulation, not value creation.
The shift away from traditional marketing is finally gaining steam as a few brave souls lift their heads from our economic situation to once again think more optimistically instead of defensively. As the pilot projects of competitors become long running programs even though we never seemingly have enough B2B case studies, the increase in activity across multiple sectors is clearly evident. It is also seemingly proof enough for many in what Geoffrey Moore would call the early majority phase of adoption in “Crossing the Chasm“.
Serving the market requires you to have real relationships with the people within that market, just as you did if you were trading in the original souqs. Your reputation both preceded and followed you… everywhere. It requires the development of trust, that only comes with time and experience and that can never be created competely in a 30 second commercial.
As social media continues to make more information visible and the increasing market transparency shows us the little man behind the grand curtain working the controls isn’t all that he claims to be, the number of organizations not operating from a place of integrity will diminish. Of course there will be those that obfuscate, that wear their masks well and that pull the wool over our collective eyes, but they will hopefully be fewer in number.
Perhaps if we are successful at getting more companies to serve the market, the end of marketing as we know it won’t be as far away as it still seems today. Or perhaps, I am just overly optimistic about the level of change we can really have on this very well entrenched industry.
Let me know what you think, share your thoughts below.
Forgot about this page, but just seeing all the talk about the need for executives to take a more holistic approach to business made me look. This old static html page described the services I was offering in 1999 for my now closed consulting and software development firm called Conversal. It was a bit ahead of its time, and I really never connected with big brands to do this the way I wanted to… but of course this was also inhibited by the crash and my great time working with Palm, Inc.
I have been ahead of my time a few times too often. It seems like now with the rise of social media and the emergence of social business design, many of these ideas need to be dusted off and rewritten. For now, I will just quote it in its old entirety and add to it this weekend…
Holistic Business Strategy Consulting
Holistic – (adj) – taking
a view of the whole rather than focusing on the components;
the fundamental approach executives should take in setting strategy;
also used in holistic medicine, where a practicioner looks at
the whole body to diagnose a health problem and provide the
Don’t get us confused with some new
age group wearing purple Nike’s and bringing a bunch of crystals
into the board room though – holistic business strategy is serious
business that will revolutionize your company. The foundation
of each engagement is based on a holistic approach, looking at
the whole of your situation, not just one part of it. For example,
while engaged on a simple web site redesign project with limited
budget, we were able to discuss and radically improve the company’s
positioning strategy and corporate voice. This has lead to a clearer
and more consistent line of communications with customers and
partners that is being affirmed anecdotally and measurably.
With Holistic Business Strategy consulting, Conversal is focused
on helping you to see your entire business in an entirely different
light. While many consultants may offer
you "out of the box" thinking, it is our deeply held
belief that there is no box! Adopting this powerful belief is
the first step in making dramatic improvements in the way you
work, and most importantly, how you feel about the work you do.
This isnt some ra-ra jedi mind trick with a turn of a phrase and
a pumping of the fist. At Conversal, we firmly believe it is fundamental
to operating a successfull organization in the world of today
for you and all of your fellow team members to change your approach
and broaden your situational world view.
Conversal’s ability to contribute dramatically to your bottom
line with a Holistic Business Strategy engagements originates
from these core beliefs:
- A successfull business begins with an understanding
of the value your organization creates today and establishing
a simply understood set of brand values which define your potential
offerings and purpose for existence.
- Trust must be built between employees, managers,
partners and customers and constantly nurtured.
- Communication across all of the channels must
be in an authentic voice while remaining consistent, accurate
and most importantly, honest.
- Things don’t always have to be the way they are
today, change can happen in an instant if the situation can
be seen clearly.
- Management does not equal leadership. Leaders
earn the respect of their peers and those they lead through
courage, honesty, right action and through a genuine love for
everyone with whom they interact.
- In order to be effective, leaders need to see
the forest as well as the trees. The only path to long term
success is through a holistic understanding of your organization’s
strategy, its values and its operations.
- Technology for the sake of technology is worthless
– all key initiatives should primarily focus on value creation
for the stakeholders, which means getting them involved in the
decisionmaking process before technology is bought or developed.
- The knowledge exists within your organization
today to take you where you need to be tomorrow – you just need
to find a way to listen and respond better.
- We are now living in the knowledge economy, where
your assetts walk out the door every night, or at the end of
every shift. Ensuring this knowledge and the people employing
it constantly grow in their ability to innovate, learn new knowledge
and constantly improve must be your primary goal.
- There is no box. Whether inside or outside
of a box, people remain to focused on the box itself and what
it looks like, feels like and is. Without a box, your best assetts
will be utilized for your best benefit.
If you are curious about what a holistic business
strategy engagement might look like for your company, let’s
talk and see if we both have a good fit for our mutual success.
If you just have some ideas you would like to share on this topic,
we would be glad to hear from you as well. Regardless, we hope
these thoughts may have contributed in some small way to your
knowledge and ultimately your success.
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