The Passion Conversation

Love your customers? Engage them passionately? Heady stuff, wouldn’t you say? Especially when it’s advice coming from your typical marketing firm. But this is Brains on Fire and they ain’t typical. This advice is directly from their new book: The Passion Conversation.

Right click to see the word of mouth marketing  book

My good friend John Moore is one of the co-authors of the book and he asked if I would participate  in a Virtual Book Tour for The Passion Conversation. It’s a deep dive into the emotions of word-of-mouth marketing, most likely deeper than you are accustomed to from the slate of social media books on the market.

After I read the book, I fired these questions off to John:

Can any business be made talkable, or is a business just naturally talkable? Are there some businesses that just are not worthy of conversation? How do you know?

John Moore: I contend nearly every business category is talkable. However, for some business categories it’s much more difficult to get talked about. Academics have noted that brands used in public are inherently more talkable than those used in private. Seeing someone walking down the street holding (and thus, visually showing) a Starbucks cup is more likely to spark a conversation than toilet paper you use in the guest bathroom of a friend’s house.

However, toilet paper can be talkable. Charmin has for years made toilet paper talkable through its now-classic pop-up restrooms dealio in Times Square during the Holidays and through its “Sit or Squat” clean restroom finder mobile app.

How can we find what’s talkable about our business?

John Moore: One place we recommend in the book is to learn (or in some cases, relearn) the Founder’s Story of how and why the business you work for began. Almost always there is a story to be found that that shows how the company founder set out to make meaning in the lives of customers rather than to start a business that just makes money. We have a whole “Passion Exploration” exercise in the book where we walk you through the importance of learning the “Founder’s Story.”

You do a great job of defining and explaining the different types of conversations. Now that we understand, how do we use that knowledge to start conversations for our business?

John Moore: A Functional conversation about brands is one that’s factual, nuts & bolts stuff. Usually this conversation starter is best to spark with current customers so they can explain to their friends how a product/service works.

When someone showcases his or her uniqueness to others visually and publicly, that’s a Social word of mouth conversation starter. We see this happen all the time online through social media with friends who socially signal their uniqueness by publicly checking in at swanky restaurants and sharing their latest vacation adventures with status updates. This also happens offline in the real world. Think about people carrying around their reusable Whole Foods shopping bag. That simple act socially signals to people that they are a Whole Foods shopper and that association conveys something to people, which can lead to a word of mouth conversation.

People engage in emotional conversations about brands because they spark strong emotions ranging from love & hate to shock & awe to giggles & glares. Brands that invoke strong emotions are more likely to spark word of mouth conversations.

You talk about loving your customers and customers loving you. Does this naturally occur, or can you just decide to start loving your customers?

John Moore: In order for a business to have customers fall in love with the business, the business must first fall in love with its customers. A business can’t just turn on the love switch. That’s convenient love and not unfailing love. In the book we quote a well-known bible verse from 1 Corinthians that talks about how love is patient, kind, not boastful or proud, is always hopeful, and endures through good times and bad. This is love you can’t fake.

It comes down to building a company culture that is focused on showing love to its customers. Building and living a company’s culture doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch. It takes time, patience, care, and over-the-top respect for customers. Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, and Zappos have all built company cultures around loving their customers in unfailing ways.

I’ve also heard you speak about baking word of mouth into the business. Are we really just talking about business building here?

John Moore: Yes and no. We are talking about baking remarkability into how a business does business not just one day… but every day. Seth Godin in PURPLE COW said it best, “Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service. Not just slapping on the marketing function as a last-minute add-on, but also understanding from the outset that if your offering itself isn’t remarkable, then it’s invisible — no matter how much you spend on well-crafted advertising.

In the Heroes in Recovery case study you quote someone from the company saying they were not trying to make everyone their customer, just trying to get everyone interested in what they are advocating.  What’s the benefit to that? Why should a business start a conversation that does not lead to business?

John Moore: Marketers today refer to this as “content marketing” or in the old days, a “soft sell” approach. The Heroes in Recovery story shows how by breaking the stigma of addiction being about anonymity to being courageously open about your sobriety journey, it positions the Foundations Recovery Network (FRN) as having a distinctive approach. This distinctiveness will cause people to want to learn more and in doing so, they may choose to recommend FRN to someone they know or perhaps they may choose to help themselves by attending an FRN facility.

And finally a little question just for fun. John and I are both grads of Baylor University….

Do you believe the Baylor Bears can win the NCAA Football national championship?

If the Bears can go undefeated then they might end up in the championship. That’s a lot to ask given how competitive the Big 12 is. As a Baylor grad (class of ’92), I’ve endured nearly two decades worth of un-competitiveness. I ain’t about to think about winning national championships, I’m just happy Baylor is able to field a highly competitive team. These are truly heady times for Baylor athletics.

You may also be interested in:
Inspiring Word of Mouth with the Passion Conversation (podcast)

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Take a deeper dive into word of mouth and  The Passion Conversation this week with:

Tuesday: Denise Lee Yohn
Wednesday: Mack Collier
Thursday: Jackie Huba
Friday: Paul Williams

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2 comments
BrandAutopsy
BrandAutopsy

Jay... thanks for highlighting the book. Your question about why should a business start a conversation that doesn't directly lead to sales is worth digging more into. There are so many ways to get a brand enough of the right awareness in order to get into a person's consideration set. To me, it really boils down to if a business has confidence it has developed a distinctive product/service then greater awareness through starting a "passion conversation" will only help to make sales happen.

JayEhret
JayEhret moderator

@BrandAutopsy John, I also think that customers get weary of being sold all the time. A business should be passionate about something other than just making money.

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