The Conversation Company: The world is full of paradoxes

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During the last two weeks we had the ‘official’ launch of the Dutch version of ‘The Conversation Company’. Thank you all for the warm reactions and great feedback, I really enjoyed the ride :-). To give everybody the opportunity to understand the key messages from my new book, I will write a series of 6 blog posts summarizing the core of my new book. Today, you can read the introduction and in the next two weeks, we will share the rest.

Looking forward to hear your thoughts and experiences as well. Feel free to start a discussion (a conversation) in the comment section of our blog. In case you would like to write a review of the book on your personal blog, please let me know. We’ll be happy to send you a review copy of ‘The Conversation Company’.

Your company has a HUGE amount of unused conversation potential
Every company is trying to change. Every marketing manager wants to adapt its strategy to the modern consumer. The problem, however, is that most are doing this from a tactical point of view. Seven out of ten companies who have adjusted their marketing strategy to reflect the expectations of the new consumer regard these changes from a purely tactical perspective.4 They have what we call a „checklist mentality‟. They have heard that you need a Facebook page – and so they create a Facebook page. Check, done that! Twitter is becoming increasingly popular? Check, done that! Mobile apps are cool? Okay, I suppose we‟d better do that as well… This is all very good, and possibly well intended, but its purpose is tactical rather than strategic. For example, a company of this kind will set up a new Twitter account for each of its events. But they don‟t always do the necessary follow-up. In other words, they are making repeat investments in followers who are then left to their own devices after the event. Perhaps investments are occasionally made to win new fans for the company‟s Facebook page. However, new content of interest is only posted on this page during campaigns. And the rest of the time? Little or nothing at all. Not really the best way to create satisfied fans, is it? These actions fail, because they are not framed within the context of a specific vision. They are just opportunistic, tactical pin pricks.

I am convinced that all companies have a huge amount of unused conversation potential. We are doing great things, but are not fully integrating them. We organize cool campaigns, but feel to mbe real consumer centric in all our actions.

We have a challenge for you. Try and look at your own company purely from the perspective of unused conversation potential. If you look carefully, you will find potential that is not being used in almost every corner of your organisation. But by thinking and acting differently, you can put that potential to very good use. What is at stake is the creation of new and more impactful conversations about who you are, what you do and what you sell.

The most important conversation starter with consumers is their experience of your company. The impression made by your products and services is the most important reason for talking about you and your organisation. In addition, customers can ask questions about your company via both online and offline channels. If you respond cleverly, these questions can lead to successful conversations. Companies can also encourage consumers to talk about them through the careful composition of their content.

High-impact content leads to conversion and new customers
The basis of these three conversation starters (customer experience, conversations and content) is to be found in the interaction between different people (staff, customers, opinion makers, etc.). Taken together, these aspects frequently exhibit a great deal of unused conversation potential. The paradox of business: we all love positive conversations, but we make decisions that block them.

When I talk to managers about the importance of conversations in supporting their business growth, most of them agree with me. If we discuss the unused conversation potential, they get a clear view on the huge opportunities for their companies. However, most managers take decisions that block the conversation potential instead of boosting it.
Thanks to my first book, „The Conversation Manager‟, I have had the luxury of being able to brainstorm with more than 100 companies about the impact of contemporary consumers on their businesses. The conclusion is that most companies are full of the strangest paradoxes. And each and every one of these paradoxes results in the further underuse of conversation potential. Here are the most important of these paradoxes:

  • Almost every company thinks that word-of-mouth advertising is important, but they make no effort to manage it. There is a (mistaken) perception that companies can do little to influence consumer conversations.
  • The companies communicate impersonally, while their customers are demanding a more human approach.
  • The customer wants just one thing: to be treated in a manner that makes him happy. Companies seem more concerned with processes, structures and budgets.
  • One of the global trends in the business world is a growing requirement for good service. Many companies see customer service as a budget post on which savings can and should be made.
  • Customers want to help companies, to be their friends. The companies do not think that „just‟ a few hundred fans are worth investing in.
  • The companies spend a small fortune on advertising in which they essentially make promises. The modern consumer wants proof, not promises; wants action, not just communication.
  • Consumers talk to each other, and often have interesting and relevant things to say. Companies make little effort to track down these comments and even less effort to take account of them.
  • Consumers now have relatively sophisticated technology at their disposal. Many companies are still working with outdated technology. Indeed, Peter Hinssen has described „a job‟ as „the eight hours a day when you work with ageing technology.‟35
  • Staff are often proud of their companies and would like to talk about them, but are forbidden to do so by their employers.

But the biggest paradox of all is this: we keep on saying every day that satisfied customers and satisfied staff are important, but our actions do little or nothing to reflect these words.

This is the fundamental cause of unused conversation potential. During a presentation to 100 European marketeers, I asked two simple questions:

  1. 1 Who thinks that satisfied customers are important?‟ 100 hands shot up into the air, accompanied by 100 baffled looks that anyone could ask such a stupidly obvious question.
  2. 2 Who dares to say that they do absolutely everything possible to make their customers satisfied?‟ Just three hands remained aloft…

Enough said.

The Conversation Company breaks the paradox
Your task will not be easy. The path leading to the optimisation of your conversation potential is strewn with paradoxes. These are obstacles that you must learn to avoid. This first blog about ‘The Conversation Company’ makes clear that today‟s consumer wants more from companies than just a creative Facebook page or an occasional response to a tweet. Today‟s consumer wants a company that is open and receptive to his opinion, a company that puts the customer first.

In other words, a Conversation Company is not a company full of Twittering employees. Our story is not just a social media story. The Conversation Company really puts the customer in a central position. By eliminating the paradoxes we have mentioned, you will maximise your conversation potential. This will lead to a constant stream of positive conversations about your organisation. These conversations will lay the foundations for your future growth.

In fact, ‘The Conversation Company’ is a metaphor for the most consumer centric organisation you can imagine, using the power of the people as a positive lever and thankfully accepting social media as an ideal business partner.Tomorrow you will read about the heart of the Conversation Company: company culture.

Please let me know what you think. Have you seen the same paradoxes in your company or among your clients. Did I miss certain paradoxes?