Page 4 of 4
Voices and Conversations
In "The Cluetrain Manifesto," published in 1999, Locke and his co-authors asserted that "markets are conversations" and outlined the new market reality the Internet was creating by enabling people to have "human to human" conversations vs. the one-way stream of traditional marketing. The Internet, they argued, was enabling a new twist on the old concept of the marketplace in which people in olden times had gathered to discuss products, prices, and reputations in face-to-face encounters.
In this new marketplace, companies must change the way they speak to customers. "Authentic, engaged voice is precisely what companies desperately need today," says Locke. "Lacking that, they're sunk."
Similarly, says Godin, "In a transparent world, people avoid the deceitful. The New Marketing doesn't demand better marketing. It demands better products, better services."
The need for companies to engage in meaningful conversations is what marketing and PR practitioners everywhere are preaching, while promising to help companies facilitate these conversations.
For example, Edelman on its Web site writes:
"We build relationships for our clients with multiple stakeholders through dialogue, credible sources of information and relevant experiences...We engage micro-media-bloggers and online conversationalists-who appoint themselves leaders of a category and passionately communicate their real understanding of it."
Likewise, says Burson-Marsteller: " Digital conversations are happening right now about your business and your brand. Are you part of the conversation?"
Burson-Marsteller promises to help clients navigate "the overnight social networking phenomenon " and that its teams "understand how to package stories to reach the target audiences our clients need to engage in order to achieve their business objectives."
Similarly, marketing firm Crayon describes itself as "a strategic consultancy that helps its clients achieve positive change and impact by joining the conversation." Says Crayon:
"As a consortium of new marketing futurists, social media insiders and conversational marketing thought leaders, we help companies not only make sense of this change but actually evolve the way they engage consumers, prosumers and influencers."
Just Let Go
The advice that marketing gurus are giving to CEOs and CIOs is to give up the top-down, command-and-control modes of operating, and to listen to and engage with customers and employees.
Says Tim Walker in "Social media: Control without command" on the Hoover's Business Insight Zone:
"What's required on the part of companies is to let go of the fantasy of command: You will not 'command' the airwaves. You will not 'command' the conversations around your offerings in the marketplace. Also, you will not 'command' your employees, who can access all sorts of scary hiring-market information via LinkedIn and Jobster and Monster and Craigslist and the rest."
Giving up command-and-control is wisdom being propagated and peddled by marketing gurus everywhere. For example, Envision Solutions offers an E-book seminar aimed at the healthcare industry entitled "From Command & Control To Engage & Encourage: A New Healthcare Communications Strategy For A Social Media World."
Lois Kelly, partner in Beeline Labs, describes a talk she gave to a roomful of CEOs from all industries - including executives of Disney, Motorola, and AT&T - in which she told them:
"CEOs have a command and control mindset, but there is no control in our talk world. Customers control our brands and how they want to engage with us and talk about our products and services. This CEO mindset is in the way of how customers want to get to know their companies."
The goal, says Lois, "is helping people make sense of information through conversations. The more meaningful the conversations, the faster people are able to connect to your organization, product or service."
Not letting go, Lois warns the CEOs, can have dangerous consequences:
"Not embracing conversational marketing and letting go of some control is reckless because it puts a barrier up between you and your customers."
Antony Mayfield on the Open Minds blog describes how John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, has let go and is reaping real rewards . Says Mayfield:
"Mr. Chambers has been tearing down command and control as a way of doing things at Cisco. Why? Because 'command and control is dead,' as will the companies that cling to it over the next five to ten years, he says."
Among the major social media innovations Chambers introduced was an internal system of "global councils," an expanded network of Cisco executives that replaced the previous smaller operating committee. By expanding participation and decision making, he is able to address new multi-billion-dollar market opportunities faster and more effectively, says Chambers.
These councils, Mayfield explains, "can tackle any business need or challenge and sketch out an outline approach within a couple of days and have a business plan in place in a couple of weeks." Instead of bringing ten top leaders to bear on problems in the company, he is able draw on 50 to 500 leaders. The previous operating committee could only tackle two or three issues a year, said Chambers, adding that "I have 26 Global Council Networks at the moment, and I think it may be too few."
Chambers found that incenting leaders to cooperate cross-functionally across the company broke own barriers and resulted in successes that were not possible previously. "Behaviors changed very quickly once incentives were altered," says Mayfield.
While letting go was difficult for Chambers, Mayfield explains, empowering his people has paid off and taught him a lesson. "This was an effort of will for John personally," says Mayfield. "He had to sit on his hands and learn how not to be directive, among other things. But very quickly, Chambers says, he found that his people were "making better decisions than I could have."
Only registered users can write comments.
Please login or register.