Consider this: conversation is to selling what cooking is to eating. 

Process.

Not ingredients, nor consumption. 

How, not what.

You wouldn't know it from the hype and confusion that surrounds the social media space, though. Conversation is an absolute good, an ideal that, once achieved, spins off numerous lesser benefits. It's a synonym for selling. If only our businesses talked to consumers more often, the brands would be strengthened, and the bottom-lines improved.

Well, I've had some conversations in the last week with marketers -- my consumers -- that really made my stomach churn. 

It seems that lots of them buy into a Conventional Wisdom that goes something like this:

  • Consumers have rejected the distribution methods we once used to sell stuff to them; they don't like ads, and they want to do much more talking and creating, and less of the watching, listening, or obeying that once constituted our approach of telling them why they should care about our brands
  • So we have to migrate our efforts to new, conversational media, in which we no longer sell our brands, per se, but encourage people to talk about our branding. They will propagate our marketing by their very act of being social, and our active engagement with them has a benefit that replaces our old-fashioned efforts at declaring benefits
  • This POV doesn't stop with marketing; we can't really talk about social media without reconfiguring the way our entire companies do business. So we aren't just stopping the crude selling our marketing used to deliver. We need to get everyone else in the enterprise to change what they do, too

More than a few times last week, I suggested that while this was such an uber-cool new perspective on the cosmos, didn't we have get back to selling stuff? One marketing expert told me "if you try to sell stuff, you won't."

Humm.

I asked another friend "does it make sense to tell your entire organization it has to change before you can sell something?" to which she responded "social media are transformative, so there's no other choice."

Ah.

I challenged a third contact that maybe consumers hadn't rejected the media of traditional ad distribution -- as they're behaving the same inert watching and consuming on YouTube and Twitter that they once did via broadcast TV -- but rather that they'd just given up on all the branding nonsense we'd thrown at them. They didn't like ads because we'd stopped telling them stuff that mattered.

"No, today's consumers are different," he replied.

I get it. The world is different, and marketers have to reconfigure their entire organizations, and redefine everything they themselves once did. Only then will the ultimate purpose and benefit -- sales -- emerge from their efforts. 

I'm seeing lots of cooking. Great recipes. Inventive combinations. Creative names for new dishes. 

Only have the cooks forgotten to stay focused on the ingredients, and neglected to figure out if anybody wants to eat what they're cooking?

Original Post: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/06/are-we-serving-conversation.html

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