Archive for category The Conversation Group
Very excited to make this other announcement today that I am going to be joining a bunch of my friends and colleagues at the local co-working offices of Citizen Space!
When we first secured our offices for BrainJams/Social Media Club in the LookSmart building, we very much wanted that to be a co-working space, but the facilities management policies didn’t allow for it to be a full co-working space. Instead we sub-leased desks to Stowe Boyd, Greg Narain, Ujogo, My Currency, The Conversation Group and a few other friends. It was like co-working, but not…
Fast forward to today and I am really happy to be a part of a real co-working space where I can spend my time in a multi-disciplinary environment, hanging with friends, putting on some more community events/salons and generally doing what I love, helping people out. It is a real stroke of luck that this weekend I saw Tara Hunt tweet about the openings just as I had decided to move on from The Conversation Group – serendipity works in mysterious ways, and this time, in a very awesome way too!
Funny thing is that all my offices in San Francisco have been on 2nd Street, a few blocks apart from each other. I am looking forward to hanging out with Tara, Hillary, Ivan and all the other co-working folks and hopefully also contributing to the broader co-working community. See you there really soon!
Starting The Conversation Group with Ted Shelton and Giovanni Rodriguez in the early summer of 2007 will probably be one of my fondest company foundings of my life. I have learned a great deal and grown in ways I never imagined and I am grateful for having this opportunity.
The story behind this decision is quite simple really, I have a lot of other opportunities I want to pursue right now and it is time to move on and pursue them (or rather one of them in particular that is quite exciting). I have been really fortunate to work with some great people at TCG – I would say I am going to miss them, but I expect to still see them quite a bit so I won’t. Over the next month or so, we will be transitioning slowly but I needed to make this announcement now so I can start working on the other opportunities in earnest.
What am I doing next? Well, it won’t be stealthy too long, but I am not prepared to share that yet. I will have some more to share tomorrow morning and if things work out, more to share later in the week.
During Web 2.0 Expo I was fortunate to snag a few minutes with Clay Shirky, the author of “Here Comes Everybody” at the Blogtropl.us Blogger Lounge hosted by The Conversation Group. One of the main issues I wanted to discuss with him was in this world where everyone participates, how do we get more people collaborating together to focus our energies for combined outcomes. Further, what do we do about the world of ‘hostile forks’ where people are working on the same problems but unable to work together due to personality or other conflicts. We also got into the central premise of his book, which he concisely describes here in this video… definitely worth the 10 minutes to watch it/listen to it.
PS – if things work out as we hope, we will be seeing you again for the Bloggers Lounge during the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo’s in NYC, Boston and Germany…
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.
At San Francisco’s Web 2.0 Expo, April 22-25, 2008, Chris Heuer conducted interviews as a host of the Blogtropolus blogger lounge. A list of the interviews Chris conducted can be found below this video of Chris’ interview with Clay Shirky:
Ian Bell, Something Simpler System
Ross Mayfield, Socialtext
Marc Meyer, BuzzLogic
Brady Forrest, Web 2.0 Expo ++
Daily Web 2.0 Expo Wrap with Rafe Needleman
Greg Goldfarb, Ribbit
I don’t ever recall seeing an advisory board announcement getting any attention, but when it is one of social media’s finest and wisest joining a great new company, I guess people notice. Yesterday Utterz announced that Chris Brogan agreed to join their Board of Advisors, which is fantastic news for everyone involved (including me since they are a client of mine at The Conversation Group).
Chris pointed out on his own blog how the ease of use and wide availability of Utterz was so important and cool “I love that the barrier to entry of using a social communication
platform is pressing 2 on their cell phone. Do you have a “2″ on your
cell phone? Yes? You’re in.”
Chris has been an active user of the service since the early days of its launch, helping other people learn to get more out of the service by using Utterz to teach, as he did here with his Utter about “5 tips for Utterz Users“. In fact, Chris introduced me to Utterz and we have a photo (on Utterz) that captured the moment down at BlogWorld Expo.
Mashable also covered the news with some a bonus prize of an interview they did with Michael Bayer, CEO of Utterz a short time ago.
Once again, it is speaking season, or rather, it’s conference season and I am grateful to be speaking in a few different cities here stateside (still looking for some European opportunities so I might be able to give my wife a working honeymoon – just kidding honey, no work on the honey moon
Thanks to my good friend, and fellow “air-man” Shel Israel, I am on a panel tomorrow talking about Blogging’s impact on the corporation at Frost & Sullivan’s Sales and Marketing MindXchange. I will be in Phoenix for two days, Monday and Tuesday Jan 14 & 15 but unfortunately no time to meet any of my friends from Social Media Club Phoenix…
On Monday February 4 I will be joining my brothers in arms at the Customer Service is the New Marketing conference. During lunch I will be one of several people (including good friends Jeremiah Owyang and Deborah Schultz) leading workshops on how companies can build closer relationships with their customers. My workshop will be based on how to move beyond the transaction to satisfaction – using knowledge to empower customers and turning customer support from a cost into an investment across the customer experience lifecycle. In short, I will be walking folks through my methodology for marketing after the sale – how to better educate customers so they get the most enjoyment and satisfaction from a company’s products or services.
Two days later, on Wednesday February 6, I will be leading a short interactive exercise at the ALI Conference on the use of Social Media for Internal Communications. The folks at ALI put on a great event I had the pleasure of participating in during December in New York – very glad to be participating again. There are so few good professional education / conference companies out there, it is nice to be working with a good one. Social Media Club members get a $200 discount by mentioning Social Media Club when registering.
I am really excited to announce that I have been invited to do the keynote at SoCON08 on Saturday February 9 just north of Atlanta, GA. Thanks to Sherry Heyl, one of the organizers, for inviting me down after seeing my ‘closing keynote’ at Josh Hallet’s BlogOrlando. I plan to go deeper into some thoughts I have had over the last few months that extend on my “Business is Personal (again)” presentation. Interestingly, a Wired article I read recently mentioning The Conversation Group’s Peter Hirshberg addressed this same issue. In the Wired article, Clive Thomson wrote “corporations are getting humanized and humans are getting corporatized”. Let’s hope and work for more of the former rather than the latter…
Unfortunately I missed the speaker submission deadline for Danny Sullivan’s Search Marketing Expo, but Social Media Club is proud to be a media sponsor of this great new event series. The next event is being held in Santa Clara from February 26-28, and if the prior event in New York is any indicator, this is a must attend event for any digital marketer. While I am unfortunately going to be out of town, friends of Social Media Club will receive 10% off the registration using discount code SMX10SMC. If you are in Silicon Valley or able to get there, you should make time for this event.
Whew… time for some rest so I can get some more client work done in the morning and some more writing for the book done…
Tomorrow afternoon I am flying out to a very chilly Boston, MA for a couple of days of meetings with the good folks from Utterz (our new client), so I thought it might be a good time to try to meet some other Utterz users too… Chris Brogan, Simeon Margolis and hopefully a few other friends from Boston’s great Social Media Club chapter will be there, talking about how we are using Utterz and what the outlook is for Social Media/Blogging in 2008.
It’s kind of last minute (very), so it will be a pretty low key affair for a couple of drinks and maybe an informal geek dinner afterwards somewhere nearby. We will be meeting at Vox Populi on Thursday January 3 from about 6-8pm. If you are able to join us, please rsvp on the Utterz Meetup page on Upcoming, or if you don’t have an Upcoming account, you can do so here in the comments…
It’s very important that you RSVP – if the group is large instead of small, we may need to go to another nearby venue so the RSVP will give us a way to contact you
I am very happy to announce we signed an agreement between The Conversation Group and Utterz a week or so before the holidays where we will be providing Utterz with Market Relations, Marketing, Business Development and Consulting services. This is the perfect example of the types of agency services we are providing clients in the age of conversational marketing – a mix of strategy, relationship development and communications that helps an organization grow by getting closer to the markets (or more specifically, the people) they serve. Both our organizations believe we have a great opportunity to demonstrate how smart startups can effectively engage customers in the modern world.
Talking with several friends over the last few months (the blog post is still in draft), I have stressed how important it is in the modern world to really respect any company for whom you are working. Whether it is traditional PR, Advertising, Consulting, Branding or Social Media work, a true passion for a company’s products, services, employees and values is incredibly valuable in providing great service. With Utterz, I not only respect the product and the company, I am also a raving fan.
As you know from reading my blog, I have been an active Utterz user for the past 2 months since being introduced to them at BlogWorld Expo by Chris Brogan in early November. It really is the exact sort of service I was waiting for – providing an easy to use system for mobile content creation and publishing. Better still for me personally, they are at the right place in their development where some of my ideas and insights as a “Social Media Guy” can hopefully make a difference in the product development and road map. Now that I have seen a bit of what is coming, I am even more excited because they are already working on, or soon will be working on, many of the things that I really need/want as a user of the service.
In working with the some of the members of their team (Michael Bayer, Randy Corke and Simeon Margolis) over the last few weeks, I am very glad to now think of them as friends as well as colleagues – I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with them, as they truly ‘get it’, which makes our job at The Conversation Group so much easier. There are too many client opportunities out there to waste our time working with people who don’t ‘get it’. I feel truly blessed that at The Conversation Group, we have such an amazing group of clients – I am even more excited, that we get to contribute to the growth of a great company like Utterz...
BTW – this post is intended as both an announcement and a disclosure
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