Conversation Marketing: The Conversation is the Thing

Christine Fife

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Doing Nothing vs. Risking Mistakes: Which Would You Choose

I once heard Jeremiah Owyang say that if you aren’t making some mistakes, you aren’t doing social media right. Wise words. In fact, I would extend that even further to include that if you are not doing any marketing communications activities, you’re making the ultimate mistake.

Companies are often concerned about doing or saying the wrong thing that will turn off a potential customer, especially start-up companies. They fear committing to words, venturing into campaigns, taking media and social opportunities by the horns and spending precious funding the wrong way. Building a company and developing new products isn’t easy and it’s understandable to want to mitigate risks. But consider this, some of the greatest companies who have developed market busting products succeeded because they weren’t afraid to jump into the deep end and take some risks.

For all the successes, however, there are hundreds that failed. I wonder if companies like Google or Facebook would be the dominating companies in their markets if they had been started by entrepreneurs who already had long careers in technology or had been launched as the next in a line of products by a long-established company. Maybe their success is due to the fact that their founders were not only brilliant visionaries, but they were also young, un-business-jaded and didn’t know any better than to take crazy communication risks to draw in their audience.

Today, a marketing plan isn’t only about advertising, messaging, lead generation, etc. Today, marketing plans need to include a plan for accepting what your audience may say about you and having the guts to respond and acknowledge your fans and those who don’t like you. If you haven’t read Personality Not Included by Rohit Bhargava (2008), get to it. Bhargava covers the benefits of showing personality, humanity and having a soul for your business. The concept of a good company culture is nice, but if you keep it all internal and present a boring, automated, humorless, fearful face to customers and prospects than your likely to confuse or loose your audience.

Succeeding in communicating to your audiences, in fact, succeeding in business, will include making mistakes. It isn’t the making of the mistakes that are the problem, it’s how you deal with them. Whether your mistake is a product that flops or an ad campaign that turns out to offend, don’t be afraid to try them. And you don’t need to run blind. Do your homework. Research your market spaces, profile your target audiences, test messaging and gather new product feedback, and then use that information to make the best choices you can that have the highest potential for getting great returns. Get outside your comfort zone. Be daring. Base your marketing plans on solid information and then commit to great ideas and stand behind them whether their great or flops. Admitting you made a mistake when you do only highlights the human quality of your company.

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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.