SEO

Conversational Marketing: Let the Conversations Begin

I recently attended the Conversational Marketing Summit on September 11th and 12th; and since then, I have been blogging about the subject; highlighting how important it is for marketers to embrace this practice of having conversations. My background has always been in direct marketing in some fashion (SEO, Paid Search, Display Advertising, etc); so the only conversations I ever participated in with my target consumer group were usually one way; and contained language like buy now, free, click here and limited time offer. It wasn’t until the rise of social networking and the concept evolution of social media that I realized I must change my thinking paradigm. I now understand that two-way conversations are much more effective than one-way conversations; even though they are more difficult to measure.

So what is Conversational Marketing?

The term ‘Conversational Marketing’ was coined shortly after the release of the ClueTrain Manifesto in 1999, which basically stated that ‘All Markets Are Conversations’. However, it’s not really that new of an idea. It piggy backs off the concept of Relationship Marketing; whereby marketers first build strong relationships with their consumers instead of just focusing on one time transactions; and then forget they even exist.

Conversational marketing is really about participating in conversations that are going on about your product in various channels such as blogs, forums, review sites and wikis. It’s also about taking the conversations offline in the form of roundtable discussions and/or townhall events; where you invite a group of users/consumers to a location and have real-life, authentic conversations with them.

It’s pretty much a fact that most consumers, and I would say most people in general, respond much better in a conversation where they have a voice than they do to hostile in-your-face marketing propaganda in the form of a banner ad that screams BUY NOW, FREE, CLICK HERE or LIMITED TIME OFFER.

The advent of social media has brought a new dynamic into play. It has changed the way people interact with each other; search for information and more importantly, it influences their purchasing behavior. In the form of online communities, where there are thousands of conversations going on simultaneously, consumers now have a forum to share their thoughts, passions, experiences and opinions. And guess what? They demand to be heard. Conversational marketing is not only a way to give your side of the story, but it poses an even greater opportunity to listen to the voice of your customer and then react.

Conversational Marketing is not Social Media Marketing

…and I am not entirely sure what social media marketing really is, anyway. Wikipedia’s definition is extremely vague. Nonetheless, driving traffic to your site from social media is definitely a strategy that you should also embrace but it is far from conversational marketing. Creating multiple usernames and submitting your own content to Digg and company; and stumbling your own content has nothing really at all to do with conversations either.

The benefits of conversational marketing

Conversational marketing is not easy. It takes a lot of time, effort, resources, and it’s difficult to measure. However, the benefits clearly outweigh the challenges because:

    * your product will become personal and have an authentic voice
    * your company will not be perceived as just another corporation that only cares about profit
    * you will be happy to report increased retention and/or repeat sales
    * you will create loyal brand ambassadors
    * you will have instant access to feedback about your product/service
    * you will have the opportunity to react in real time
    * Credibility

We have come to a time in history where consumers are now in control, but not total control! Marketers now have the opportunity to participate in these online conversations. Not doing so is like not hiring a lawyer when you are on trial for a serious offense. Your voice and expertise about your products and services will NEVER be heard if you don’t participate. And, these conversations will continue with or without you.

Michael Brito is a Senior Marketing Manager at Yahoo! and also authors Britopian, an online marketing blog, where he writes frequently about SEO, Social Media and Integrated Marketing Strategies.

 Conversational Marketing: Let the Conversations Begin
Michael Brito is a Senior Vice President of Social Business Strategy at Edelman Digital. He is responsible for helping clients operationalize their content strategy and community management practices. You can find him writing in his social business blog or on Twitter