Conversation Marketing: The Conversation is the Thing

Christine Fife

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Lights. Camera. Converse!

Even if you’re the hottest, most outgoing guy in the world who sweats charm and has one of those perfect laughs that both men and women are ok with, making conversation does not just happen. It may seem so when you’re sitting with friends or family because you know them and have things in common so topics are readily at hand.

Or perhaps you don’t spend much time with family because conversation feels awkward because you don’t have things in common. The same is often the case in a business situation. It may turn out you have things personally in common with a business contact, but when you’re meeting for the first time you won’t know this off the bat. Or if your addressing a large audience you don’t have the opportunity to address everyone on an individual level.

As a child you learned, through family interactions and school situations, how to behave and what you were interested in, and you were subsequently drawn to others who wanted to talk about common interests. Unfortunately, in the business world, you can’t simply rely on having the common interest of your products or even your industry to make conversations lively and ignite engagement from your audiences. Many of the audiences you need to reach (particularly potential customers) come to the market conversation because they have a need or want and not because they want to discuss your product or the industry. This conversation is very different in nature than the conversation you would have with an industry analyst or reporter or engineer within your industry and this distinction should not be taken lightly.

Though most people learned how to “make” conversation by doing it—as an after affect of learning how to speak and interact with other people—make no mistake, it is a skill and has many outside influences and factors. And as with most things in business, as opposed to your personal life, it should be planned out and not done off the cuff. Conversation coaching is a best practice to consider and being done by many companies today, particularly with the growth of social media and the expansion of the number of employees who are now becoming spokespeople (whether officially or unofficially) for their companies.

Conversation Coaching

Conversation coaching can include a variety of techniques and exercises to build skills and develop comfort levels with different types of situations. Coaching activities might also include role playing, media/interview preparation techniques and active listening exercises. Re-evaluating the corporate messaging and understanding it from the perspective of how it helps people/companies fulfill their wants/needs is of key importance. It will also, undoubtedly, cover identifying what type of audience an individual is part of and what that means in terms of directing the conversation you have with them.

Conversation coaching will often include preparation materials for one-on-one conversations. When possible, it’s always best to know as much as you can about the person you’re going to meet with, so you can make the conversation personable. This is particularly important in influencer relations. At the very least you want to know as much as you can about the influencers work focus, the outlets for their work, their audience, their specialty/focus, what they feel about your company/competitors and any possible connections between you/your company and the influencer. Come prepared to have a conversation on a topic of mutual interest, not give a pitch. Share how your product/company approach might be shaping the industry/mutual interest and inquire on their opinion. See where this is going? (I digress.)

Who In the Company Needs Conversation Coaching?

Everyone. Certainly the company executives and management teams and anyone with an outward-facing role in the company such as the sales and marketing teams, but in today’s business climate, everyone in the company should have some level of conversation coaching because everyone in the company represents your company.

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More Stories By Christine Fife

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.