Conversation Marketing: The Conversation is the Thing

Christine Fife

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Marketing Is Dead, Long Live Conversation

What do you do when your profession starts to be viewed this way?

I’m not sure when “marketing” became a 4-letter word for so many people, but in my recent experience more and more people think of “marketing” as sleazy. This sucks if you’re a marketing professional, which I am, but I don’t advocate any marketing practices that people associate with the dirty-word sense of marketing.

I had several great conversations over the past couple of weeks with Ooga Labs‘ people. Very interesting company. They are:

… a group of software engineers and designers developing several consumer Internet businesses at the same time. We come up with the ideas ourselves, and once a company finds its product/market fit, we might raise outside capital for it. We like to build digital consumer services that have a chance to touch tens of millions of users and make the world a little better than it was.

They have several cool properties already (PlacePop, MedPedia and WonderHill) and are about to launch a new one soon. I’ll leave it to them to announce what their new property is, but I’ll add my 2 cents–it’s going to be very cool.

Anyway… After meeting with them, I doubt they’ll mind my putting these words in their mouth–they probably define marketing in the 4-letter word sense. I can’t blame them. There is a lot of reasons why marketing has gained this reputation, even though there are a lot of great things that marketing professionals have done to positively increase their customer view of them.

What do you do when your profession starts to be viewed this way? What all do people with this view see as “marketing”? Do they realize that marketing is more than advertising? Many don’t. Many think that marketing is trickery–a plot to get people to buy stuff they don’t want or need. Unfortunately, there are companies that operate that way. But we marketing professionals have a choice. You can step up and say, “Marketing (as a 4-letter word) is dead. The conversation, the customer and audience engagement, the honest interaction, the straight-forward information, and the genuine listening and caring about what people need and want is King. Long live the conversation!”

As a marketer, to adopt this mind set and make it effective as an approach for your company/clients it may mean going back to your business and marketing plans. You may need to alter, adapt or amend your brand identity and certainly you’ll need to embrace some new technologies to allow your customers to freely communicate with you (2-directional conversation). You’ll need to release some control over your message and embrace what your audiences say, both good and bad, and face them head on.

The best advice I can give you is to jump in and start listening to the marketing industries market conversation. There you’ll find out the disappointing news of diminishing Return on Investments for many activities, but also the incredible upside of emerging tactics. As a starting place here is my Twitter Marketing Conversation List. Check it out. You don’t need to spend oodles of time participating if you don’t want to, but listening to what people are talking about, sharing and exchanging of ideas will jump start you into a new way of approaching your profession.

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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.