Conversation Marketing: The Conversation is the Thing

Christine Fife

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I’m always preaching to businesses to keep in mind the 5 keys of true participation when they are looking at getting into the social media/Web 2.0 options to expand their company reach and product awareness.

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Caring
  • Sharing
  • Building relationships

Lately, I’ve been talking with a number of engineers from startups who are in Alpha stages with their products, thus they don’t currently need to generate leads/awareness/purchases, etc. They’ve got great ideas for new software and some smart engineers on board. They’ve done enough market research to know there’s a market for the type of product they’re developing, enough to convince funders. But they’re still putting the marketing horse before the cart wanting to zero in on how to do lead-gen programs.

My advice to anyone in this situation is to do a solid dive into Listening first.

  1. Use online web and social media monitoring tools (many free as well as paid for options out there) and do some basic Googling and blog searching to hear what people are saying about potential competitors products. What do they like or not like about features, etc.
  2. What are experts and other industry influencers saying about the best solutions for fulfilling the need or want you expect your product to fulfill?
  3. Really dive into what people are talking about, outside of mentioning current brands, about the need or want they have.
  4. Start figuring out who the Influencers and market conversation Participants are, how that influence manifests itself and how they like to share information and receive information. What networks and online tools do they use to communicate?

This research will start to show you who to build relationships with as you work toward having a beta to show them–these are the people you’ll want to invite into your beta initially. They’ll give you the best feedback and help you generate awareness later on if your product meets there needs and you’re good to them. The optimal marketing mix that will ultimately achieve the best lead-gen results, generate the most awareness and trials of your product and sustain you for the long-run as you tweek and add to your product come out of the initial research. So start by listening and don’t forget to hear what is being said. Oh yeah, then be sure to internalize the info you deem important.

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As I drove off to college I never would have guessed I would end up here! But it’s been a fantastic journey. My career has been richly diverse giving me an advantage over marketers who are siloed into niche positions. I strive to be a true Renaissance person—I love to learn about everything and trying new things comes naturally. My career has been no different; I’ve successfully launched enterprise software and medical device development startups, improved communications processes for the regulatory department of a major financial exchange, increased client business and product development for several international exchange program companies and founded an international educational non-profit organization. My master’s degree in Integrated Marketing from Golden Gate University gave me a broad understanding of traditional marketing best-practices, but my BA in theater gave me the skills to understand how people communicate with one another and the importance of promoting a brand in a voice that is right for the audience.