Our most recent recruit and Head of Customer Engagement, Matt Garisch, opens up the conversation between brand and customer.
Conversational marketing – yet another marketing buzzword to throw around the B2B marketing universe. But what does it mean? Well, the truth is like many grandiose marketing pedigrees bandied around today, like account-based marketing, influencer marketing, and (one of my favourite catch-alls) CX, it isn’t a new concept, but rather a different way of thinking about how you engage with your target audience.
I feel I have an insight into this connected conversation world, both from a marketing standpoint and from the rather more unusual perspective of living with a shrink – the master of connected conversations. Or at least she thinks she is!
Valuing the human element
Starting a conversation in a room full of people you don’t actually know is one of the hardest things to do. Even harder to engineer and create ‘genuine’ interest with one another. I’m not talking about interest in the product, but in the person. A conversation completely hinges on two parties being engaged in the here and now. With that in mind I wondered, can a machine do this? Is a kick-ass ABM program and tech stack alone strong enough to deliver this for you? In a word, no! Just this week I picked up on this very honest LinkedIn post by Nikki Nixon, reiterating that the biggest challenge with any form of marketing is that we’ve forgotten that we are trying to connect with an actual human being. Customer personas, detailed interests, and company information alone do not make for a good conversation.
How odd then, that when we try to utilise something that we as people do every day, it often fails. It’s now far too easy to get lost in the data, with people becoming just lines on a spreadsheet.
This is where marketing evangelists would potentially say that sales and marketing alignment comes in to play, as salespeople are adept at creating conversations. I disagree. Part of the problem is the ability to truly listen.
‘True listening requires the setting aside of one’s self’
M Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author, The Road Less Travelled
Listening is the step before the use of customer data, marketing tools, content, and CX – and contextualises it into something meaningful.
Admittedly conversational marketing has been around for a fair bit. The resurgence brought forward by chatbot vendors like Drift. However, they were not the first people to start the conversation. In fact, the rise in a more real-time and personal way of engaging with your audience has been seen as the key for a long time. In 2015, the Gartner report predicted the rise in a more real-time and personal way of engaging with audiences, stating that by 2018, organisations that excel at personalised customer integration online will outsell slow to act rivals by more than 30%. Now more than ever digital experiences, understanding our customers, and engaging with them on their terms and at the right times, is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s expected!
My aim is to see this blog as the start of a connected conversation with you. And next time you think about your marketing plan, strategy, or product launch, try putting the types of conversations you want at the heart of your thought process, and see if you get a different result.
As a parting thought, I would like to share a couple of points on the subject of conversation from Celeste Headlee, TEDx speaker and radio broadcaster:
- Be present – in a marketing context, it has to be real-time and personal.
- Go with the flow – conversations, like customer journeys, are not in the shape of a funnel or a straight line, but more like a DNA Helix.
- Don’t equate your experience with theirs – all experiences are individual. Unless they actively ask, they don’t care about the great work you did for someone else.
- Conversations are not promotion opportunities – in your experience have you ever enjoyed an evening out with someone who only talked about how great they are as a human being, how amazing their business is, and how freaking awesome their life is?
- Forget the details – people buy people, then they buy value, everything else is irrelevant.