A few people have asked me about “Conversational Marketing,” a term I used in a previous blog and in fact first used nearly 10 years ago,
in an unsuccessful attempt to redirect PR clients away from the buzz, hype and smarminess that would shape and scar the Dot Com Era’s marketing thumbprint.
Conversational Marketing is nothing new. It’s basically the concept that people respond better to lowered voices spoken in credible tones than they do to the aggressive in-your-face marketing speak as is evidences in everything from TV ads to the pap-lingo of so many website. If common sense prevailed, marketers would understand that simply conversing with customers, prospects, partners, investors and employees is more effective. People listen better and longer when you just talk to them and listen back. All too often professional marketers lose their credibility by hyperbole, hubris and amplification. It seems to me self evident that just talking with people is more effective than shouting and repeating yourself as if your audience was comprised of deaf idiots.
The problem until recently has been that conversations didn’t scale. You could use conversational marketing on phones and in meetings, at executive conferences and arguably, in focus groups. But if you wanted to reach the masses, you had to use tactics allowed by the same broadcast model that has around in Gutenberg’s time and didn’t really start deteriorating until quite recently. Over time, the number of messages directed at each of us multiplied at a cancerous rate. There was a Cold War type escalation between message senders and their targets. The more marketing messages demanded us to pay attention, the less we listened. People developed immunities to marketing messages.
The came the groundbreaking impact of social media—blogging, wikis, social software, Internet-enhanced meetings and more-to-come promises have now created the tools and the opportunity for effective massive conversational marketing. This is important because the concept of a company speaking to many and in return hearing from many is already changing things. Marketing hyperbole is just starting to ebb as marketers learn what Dan Gillmor has been saying for a while—the audience collectively knows more than the speaker does. Entities wishing to sell can get honest comment on what will motivate people to buy. Treating customers and prospects as if they were both deaf and stupid may just start waning—or at least I hope it will.