Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human

Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632651389
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 10/01/2018
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,199,994
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Kevin Lund is an award-winning content-marketing pioneer and internationally lauded lecturer. As the founder of T3 Custom, he has deep expertise building out digital marketing strategies and print content across various platforms, such as web/mobile/tablet sites, social media campaigns, magazines, newsletters, and live events. For nearly 18 years, category leaders like TD Ameritrade, HSBC, Forbes, Nasdaq, and BlackRock have relied on Kevin to develop content-marketing solutions that bridge marketing needs with today's rich information needs. Delivering B2B, B2C, B2B2C, and institutional strategies, he is passionate about helping firms use branded conversation to tell their stories and drive behavior differently. Based in Seattle, Washington, Kevin consults with and has written for the Content Marketing Institute.

Read an Excerpt


Earn Attention

Blah blah blah....

That's the sound most consumers hear when companies market their products. Today, consumers expect — no, demand — more from businesses than mere slogans and stale advertising campaigns. Even so, most companies struggle to effectively communicate even the most essential messages in order to differentiate their brand in a crowded, confusing marketplace.

How Do You Earn Attention?

The easy answer is to do the opposite of what most everyone else is doing. That means don't deliver clichéd, boring content, written only for robots (search engines). It's unsustainable for you and your brand as well as frustratingly futile for the audience you're trying to reach. The answer is to speak human, engaging your audience, gaining their attention, and setting your brand apart.

Take off your own marketing hat for a moment. As modern consumers, we've begun to turn a deaf ear to traditional advertising messages, which continue to inundate our mailboxes and in-boxes, and interrupt our favorite radio and TV shows. In the same way, we've revolted against digital "spam" by installing ad and popup blocking apps, registering our cell phones on the do-not-call list, "cutting the cable," and using other uncluttering technologies to rid our days of unwanted advertising messages.

In the wake of this consumer rebellion, companies are left scrambling for effective solutions, ultimately turning to content marketing to help them make and maintain meaningful connections with their customers. However, like many marketing innovations incubated to solve problems, content marketing is at risk of quickly losing its poignancy and purpose in both application and adoption.

Early adopters of content marketing understood it as a disciplined approach to communicating with target audiences. Fast and fair-weather "followers" considered the content marketing methodology a fresh, new, clever term for the old approach of traditional, one-way "broadcast" media that simply used "more words." Not only have they missed the point of the innovation, they have also completely missed the opportunity to tell a simple, human story intended to educate, inform, and even entertain customers.

The result: These marketers fail to fully capture mind — and market — share because their message neither resonates, nor "sticks" with existing or emerging customers. And so, the time has come for brands to move beyond "content" for content's sake and toward a deeper level of engagement through "conversation," not just swaths of more content.

Differentiation Is Key

There are two ways to differentiate yourself from the failing marketers — with the words you say and how you say them. The words and visuals you choose to create your content, when combined with your well-thought-out brand personality, will have a monumental impact on the success of your content marketing strategy. Together they work to create a memorable experience for your customers.

How? By going a step beyond the nuts and bolts of content marketing and embracing the need to create a heart-felt, real, two-way interaction in which both parties are invested. It's time to return to a time when selling was done among friends, neighbors, community, and family members. They weren't considered "audiences" then, but instead, a diner whose order the waitress knew by heart or a customer whom the barber knew wanted "a little off the sides and a fresh shave" before they sat in the chair. These were the days when "marketers" were part of customers, everyday lives, when they knew the audience as "individuals."

It's the original premise behind content marketing — in which 26 percent of today's annual marketing budgets are being spent to educate an audience rather than sell them. The conundrum is this approach falls short in connecting with consumers and creating a one-on-one dialogue, becoming a traffic-driver rather than a true marketing device. Today, companies need to re- imagine their approach in a way that earns their customers' attention and makes a real connection.

How? By communicating conversationally rather than talking at them like a politician giving a speech. You know it as a conversation — an immersive, two-way communication involving a healthy exchange of information. In content marketing, information delivered through conversation equals success.

We're all aware a business is largely driven by its customers and flourishes only when the brand can deliver what is promised. Consumers are bombarded with a wide range of options from which to choose. And because the average person already sees 3,000 messages every day from well-established brands, it's essential your shout-out is relevant, engaging, and memorable.

Your Handshake Moment

The first part of a new conversation between two people typically involves the handshake. A "handshake moment" in conversation marketing kicks off a new relationship between a brand and a prospect or customer.

Consider your company's story and the way your company should introduce itself to the world. Are you only selling a product or service, or are you making a difference in peoples' lives? Ask yourself what your company is passionate about. Now, ask your colleagues what they believe your company is passionate about. It's not products and services. You aren't passionate about a product or service; you're passionate about what your product or service will do to make the lives of your customers better. The most successful companies aren't successful because they spout their attributes — as business thought leader Simon Sinek states in his well-known TED talk: "It's not about the what [i.e., what you do], it's about the why [i.e., why you do it]."

In essence, it's a return to speaking human. The seemingly lost art from a time when a handshake meant something — a real, defining moment of human experience backed up by honesty, trust, and performance. Specifically, this simple philosophy provides the road map to achieving the coveted handshake moment, one that a company can have with the person on the other side of the screen to start a relationship and is built primarily by trust and performance.

Every handshake moment is a touch point with your brand that says, "Hey, nice to meet you" or, in the case of existing customers, "Welcome back. I've got something I want to share with you." During these moments, your audience should feel as if you're talking to them as an individual, not a cog, in every piece of content you put out there. You never know when someone is going to stumble onto you for the first time, so it's a good idea to think of each piece of content as a way to make a good impression.

Up until now, businesses have struggled with linear, low-level, or one-way communication. It's a purely human phenomenon at the core of every conflict or stalemate, from the ones experienced at home, at work, and in communities. In the focus on transmitting information, human beings often lose sight of the critical need for feedback, response, and an actual "human" exchange of emotions or ideas.

Today's social networking channels may superficially reach customers with results while in reality they are often only perpetuating linear, low-level communication. For example, say you're on Twitter and Facebook and you're tweeting and posting five times a day, apparently growing your fan and follower base like clockwork with your strategic ad buy. Even so, your zealous, disciplined approach doesn't mean you're actually doing so effectively. Who, exactly, are all those followers, friends, and fans? Are you really speaking human, developing a connection, or telling an authentic story? Or are you simply tweeting and posting just to check it off your task list, and your followers are re-tweeting or "liking" you for the exact same reason? If that's the case, then they're not really followers — and they're far from friends!

Speaking human is more than opening a communication channel for the channel's sake or using social media because someone at a seminar told you that you should. The all-important handshake moment is where people get a glimpse of the real you for the first time, and because that is the case, what do they find? Will they be greeted by a jargon-filled sales pitch? A catchy slogan? A classic press or media kit? Or, instead, will they find a genuine person, someone they might want to reach out to and shake hands with in real life? If you're not asking these questions, let alone answering them satisfactorily, chances are your content is simply traditional advertising disguised as "substance" wearing a new suit.

Social media etiquette insists we do not sell ourselves but, rather, share ourselves. We must learn to read the signals telling us when to drop the jargon, cut the BS, and instead talk, authentically and truthfully, to those we hope might buy our product or service. Yes, we sell things, and so we must provide essential information about policies, performance, and the like, but good content marketing is also about providing information and education. We shouldn't have to sell ourselves.

Finding Your Brand Personality

It's easy for people to know what you do. But do they know who you are? People typically size each other up within the first few seconds of meeting. They ask, "Can I trust this person?" and "Do I relate to them?" While doing so, they look for visual and audible cues — how others are dressed, their body language, what they say and how they say it — all with the goal of making a connection. It's in this moment that you have the opportunity to begin to share your brand voice.

In conversation marketing, your company's "voice" and "tone" shoulder the burden of answering potential customers' questions:

"Who are you?" "Can you be trusted?" "Can I relate to you?"

Your Voice

This is your brand's content personality and style, like a signature look for a car manufacturer or a fashion designer. If you're into those things, you just know the difference between a Porsche and a Honda, or a Coach handbag from a Louis Vuitton. Your choice of words and how you use them will dictate whether the prospective customer reading or hearing them will connect with you and your brand because you stand out.

Forget about what they need from you. First, they need to like you. The goal of creating the right voice is to connect with them by speaking in colorful, yet plain English, and getting them to act right now. To do so, you may have to step out of the corporate conventional wisdom vortex and speak in a voice that is more cocktail conversation than boardroom meeting.

Today's consumer is not looking for the voice of an Oxford professor. They're looking for a personality they can relate to, a voice that's familiar —"one of us." Someone with whom they can really connect. For new clients, your first tweet could become your handshake moment. Each tweet, Facebook entry, and blog post should be crafted with a human voice, not a robotic one.

Your Tone

Once you determine your brand voice, you must establish your brand's tone, also called the tone of voice in some circles. If voice is your content personality and style, tone is your attitude. A designer's style is her voice, her fall line is her tone. Typically, the tone of social media is peer-to-peer; after all, you're talking to a friend. It's warm, fun, interesting, and inspiring. Avoid talking down to your audience. And dump the bankspeak. Everything should be as clear as if you were talking to a friend — comfortable, interesting, engaging. We listen to our friends, but we mute the commercials.

Whether you're utilizing social media or the web, people are looking for solutions to problems, cures for pain points, and, on some level, entertainment. Most new clients are not looking to be entertained by you (yet), so they should be greeted with a genuine human touch that is peerto-peer, not teacher/student, not coach/player, and not advisor/client.

Avoid dry and boring speech and deliver your message in a new and unique way. You want to present fresh messages they can't get anywhere else and they want to share. Your tone should reflect your brand voice. The following "Four Cs" are good high-level rules of thumb to use when designing your tone.

The Four Cs

Clear: Use plain, understandable language.

• Clever: Be memorable, amusing, heartfelt, and captivating. Clever isn't about humor. Instead, clever means consolidating your complex messages into "edible" content your readers will devour and share. Without cleverness, your post will be quickly forgotten.

• Concise: Lean the copy. Say in five words what you want to say in ten. Cut, then cut again.

• Consistent: Your voice and tone don't have to be the same for every audience, but it should be consistent for a particular audience, across all your channels. After all, you're not going to try to speak the same language to an aging baby boomer as you would a teenager.

Once you understand the Four Cs relevant to all content, you'll want to color the tone to your target audience specifically. For example, here's how a company might color a tone targeting millennials on Twitter.

• Smart: Not engineer smart. Authoritative and trustworthy.

• Edgy: Slightly unconventional, always tactful — avoid sex or politics.

• Witty: Clever, but not sophomoric. Think Trevor Noah, without the politics.

• Approachable: Inviting and irresistible, not intimidating.

So, What About the Content?

Now that you've figured out your personality, let's talk content. As you're planning your content strategy, consider a few things. Content that's obvious is a straight line to boring and unmemorable. Find the right angles, and don't be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. If you're trying to engage your audience, they're craving something that can be heard above those 3,000 other daily messages you're competing against. You'll have a tough time achieving this if you only write for robots. If your content sucks, it won't matter if you're on page one of the search results. You'll get a lot of hits, but it won't be shared. And content that isn't shared isn't heard. People "bounce" from trite, poorly written content because it's already everywhere.

Regularly publishing useful, memorable, and sharable content that speaks in a consistent tone should be a part of every marketer's mission statement. This cannot be overstated because you can't build a following if you have nothing to follow. Building a following requires being heard by more than those dropping in on the conversation occasionally, which means posting regularly increases the chances you'll be seen and shared.

To keep your audience engaged on social media, you must work on gaining and earning attention, as well as maintaining it. An effective mix of messages tells your audience what you do, how you do it, and even why you do it. It's not enough to slap up a few videos (glorified commercials for your brand) or announce new products. The ratio of educational, entertaining, or useful content should be at least four to five times higher than that of pure brand grandstanding. You can influence the decision-making process with endearing, enlightening, and empowering messages, drawing customers into your embrace with a compelling and authentic story, and then leaving them alone to make the choice.

We live in an incredibly media savvy world. Today's consumers can smell a snake and know when snake oil is the product being sold. Those same consumers increasingly shy away from companies whose messages focus on "the sell" while they lean in to the brands that "tell." This is the Conversation Age. This is speaking human. This is, ultimately, the handshake moment that turns lurkers, leads, prospects, and gawkers into customers.


Take a moment to think about you, your brand, and your own views of your company. How do you view your current brand personality? What would you change? What is the online culture you'd like to create or foster?

As an exercise in brainstorming, put together a list of words that describe your current brand personality and the personality you'd like to be. How far away are you from each of those traits? Think about the type of content that would begin to shift the focus to your thought leadership instead of your competition's.

Once you have a sense of where you want to be, start formalizing a content style guide around that personality. Describe the personality (witty, formal, sarcastic, friendly, straightforward, lighthearted, etc.). What are the nuances in your language that you can adopt regularly that would be found across all your content?


Excerpted from "Conversation Marketing"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kevin Lund.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Joe Pulizzi 1

Introduction 5

Part 1 Planning 25

Chapter 1 Earn Attention 27

Chapter 2 Tell a Story 41

Chapter 3 Stay Humble 61

Chapter 4 Pick Your Party 71

Part 2 Talking 85

Chapter 5 Be Relevant (on a Molecular Level) 87

Chapter 6 Open Up and Listen 103

Chapter 7 Start the Conversation 125

Part 3 Learning 145

Chapter 8 Know When to Stop Talking 147

Chapter 9 Get Your Customer Involved 169

Chapter 10 Ditch the Checklist 193

Afterword 205

Appendix A 207

Appendix B 209

Notes 213

Bibliography 219

Index 225

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