Marketing Basics: Conversation

In 1999 the conversation train left the station with the publication of The Cluetrain Manifesto. Like Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the Schlosskirche, the Cluetrain authors posted their 95 theses first on the Internet and then in their book. They said:

Thesis #1:Markets are conversations.”

and further,

Thesis #6: ‘The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.”


But really conversation has been part of marketing for much longer than 10 years. The Cluetrain Manifesto just identified conversation as a discipline. In fact, after branding, conversation is the oldest marketing tactic. For the purpose of small business marketing, the modern age of conversation is divided into three categories: word of mouth, social media and publicity.

Word of Mouth

Conversation between people who are independent of the product or service they are talking about. Word of mouth is often called the most powerful form of marketing, yet few businesses take the time to create a word-of-mouth marketing plan. This plan has two simple steps:

  1. Identifying your conversation spark – What do you have that’s worth talking about? Word of mouth is about being remarkable. You must give people something interesting to talk about to spark their conversation. Determine how you might earn an opinion, and then move on to the second step.
  2. Give people the opportunity to talk about you – While you cannot control word of mouth, you can accelerate its delivery. Provide your customers with reasons to talk about you and supply them with delivery mechanisms.This can be as simple as sampling, or as involved as creating a community.

Word of Mouth Resources

Books: Secrets of Word of Mouth Marketing, Creating Customer Evangelists
Online: Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Andy Sernovitz’s Damn, I wish I’d Thought of That!

Social Media

The online tools people use to share and discuss everything, including the products and services they use. These tools include social networks such as FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter; communities such as the Netflix Movie Fans Community and the Ruffdogs online community for dog lovers; blogs such as Black Mountain Cycles and Fatty Weight Loss; and video channels such as YouTube and Blip.TV.

Social media has become a religion with some marketers, yet very few know how to use it as an effective marketing tool. The answer is to first choose the medium most appropriate for your purpose, then devote time and attention to creating conversations in that channel. As use of these online tools increases each year, it becomes increasingly important that you work social media into your marketing plan.

Social Media Resources

Books: Groundswell, Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day
Online: Social Media Explorer and Soshable


The art of creating buzz through both traditional and new media channels. No, traditional media is not dead, and no, the Web is not the only way to go. Each has its strength and each can be valuable for a local business. Local publications and broadcast media still have large, concentrated audiences that can’t be found locally on the Internet. At the same time, the Web has changed the rules and you can now take your story directly to the public without a filter.

Don’t shy away from using press releases and media contacts to get free publicity. [See Cracking the PR Code] Despite their declining influence, local media are still considered credible sources of news and information. But the rules have changed. Now you can take your public relations efforts online through blogs and online news releases. You don’t have to choose one or the other. Use a mixture of both.

Publicity Resources

Books: The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Free Publicity
Online: The Press Release Site, The Publicity Hound, Web Ink Now

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting more details how to choose and use these conversation platforms for marketing, so make sure you subscribe to updates: Receive The Marketing Spot by Email or Get The Marketing Spot in a blog reader

You can have this information presented to your organization or conference:
Jay Ehret Speaks on Small Business Marketing,
including the information above, in the presentation: Fearless Marketing 2.0 – Harnessing traditional and new media tools to create conversation.



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