Effective Conversational Marketing


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What is conversational marketing?

Conversational marketing is relationship marketing for the social media age. Thinking about your marketing efforts in terms of a conversation changes the approach and better integrates social media. Relationships are something that are formed, but conversations are ongoing and evolving and require both sides to participate.

How Social Media Fits In

It seems like I can’t get through a day right now without hearing somebody in the media or on the street talking about social media. I think it is great that social media has captured people’s attention, but will having more communication channels improve conversational marketing?

Only if properly integrated into the conversations between consumers and companies.

To do this, social media must be established both as part of your on-going conversational marketing programs (on-boarding, loyalty, retention, etc.) and also integrated into your ad hoc or seasonal marketing campaigns.

The Future and the Past Have Much in Common

I find myself biting my tongue when I hear people talking about how different social media is from traditional marketing. Social media is not this different, separate thing. It should be an integrated part of any relationship marketing strategy. Sure there may be nuances that you have to consider, but the same could be said for every channel for communicating with customers.

The fact is that no matter how much technology may change, and what channels of communication may be introduced, most of the old rules of marketing will always apply. Let’s look at a few of them by examining a few quick questions that businesses must ask themselves:

1. Where are you likely to find your customers?

  • If your customers spend time on social networks then you should absolutely be there.
  • If your customers are not on social networks then you should allocate your marketing dollars elsewhere.

Marketing, like any other investment should always come back to your goals and allocating your dollars where the return is the best (including any brand investment goals you may have).

2. Do you know how to leverage the strengths of each of the assets you plan to invest in?

For example:

  • Video is good for capturing the imagination
  • Twitter, Facebook, and other discussion media are great places for conversations
  • Blogs are good for sharing knowledge
  • Web sites can be used as a single-use landing spot to pay off an e-mail or banner, or as an ongoing destination (but you have to choose this goal up-front)
  • Applications are good at engaging the consumer with your brand

No one asset is likely to meet your campaign goals by itself. You have to look at each individual campaign’s goals and choose the strongest assets to combine with the rest of your conversation marketing for your purposes.

3. What is the desired customer action?

  • You must be crystal clear on what this is before beginning any work.
  • Every marketing asset that you choose to invest in should push the customer towards that desired customer action.

Here is where most online marketing and social media investments fall short. Take for example the integrated campaign that CompareTheMarket.com has embarked upon centered around a spoof on their own name (comparethemeerkat.com). They are doing radio, tv, print, online, and social around this concept but they have fallen short on #2 and #3 in one crucial way. They created videos of their hilarious television advertisements and posted them on www.comparethemeerkat.com, but they neglected to post them in a format that enables visitors to the web site to share them by e-mailing a direct link or by allowing visitors to embed them in their blog and talk about them. They also only flash the CompareTheMarket.com brand briefly in the video rather than ending the video on a clickable link something to the effect of “Would you like to compare prices instead of meerkats? click here.” If they had done these two simple things, traffic to their real web site would have been orders of magnitude higher.

Conversational Marketing Campaigns

So when you are planning the social media portion of your conversational marketing campaign, please keep in mind your marketing fundamentals:

  • What are your campaign goals?
  • What segments do your customers naturally collect into?
  • Which segments will you target for your marketing success?
  • What message content will best resonate with your target customers?
  • What timing is appropriate for the delivery of your message?
  • How will you measure the success of your campaign?
  • What do you plan to learn from this campaign?
  • How will you leverage these learnings in the future?

Conversational Marketing Programs

And when you are planning your social media programs as part of your conversational marketing programs, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do we plan to only monitor what is being said or to engage in conversations?
  • Do we plan to offer customer service via social media?
  • Where do we want to engage with customers?
  • Do we want to provide a platform for conversations?
  • If we do provide a platform, do we want to act as gatekeepers?
  • Do we want to actively engage in-person with the relevant prolific communicators or teachers?
  • Is engaging customers in conversations a required or optional activity on the part of employees?
  • Do we want to create content that can be shared off-site?

To make social media a successful part of your conversational marketing efforts, it is critical that you keep all of the above in mind. Better planning will help you be clearer in establishing your goals, creating your programs, and designing your campaigns. This clarity will ultimately allow you to improve your overall success. So, enjoy those conversations!


  1. Braden–great points in this blog! I think the role of social media conversations is more to reduce friction and impediments between buyer and seller than to “push the customer towards that desired customer action.”

    A well-planned social media campaign must carefully consider how buyers buy, and requires the ability to recognize what ensures continuation of a buying process, and what breaks it. I empathize with the idea that consumers need to be pushed, as I’ve sold that way for many years. Today, I believe that buyers will move to solve problems they’re motivated to solve–whether vendors push them or not. Successful sales organizations will adopt the view that they are collaboratively helping customers to purchase. The distinction between guiding a customer toward a sale and pushing them might seem subtle. In the physical world, significantly less energy is required to allow an object to travel on its own momentum versus using force to move it. In business, pushing can require force too–which can require large investments. What’s unclear is how much value can be achieved from that investment.

    A related article I wrote, Get Beyond 92% Hype: What Happens inside the Internet Black Box

  2. I would agree that “guide” or “lead” might be more accurate and more representative of the partnership you want to have…



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