Conversation marketing hacks

Merilee Kern

Nobody starts out automatically caring about your products or services. They care about how you can make a difference in their lives. No matter the context, all relationships begin with a “handshake moment,” whether literally or figuratively — those first few introductory moments that reveal a great deal about the character of the person standing before you. Why should company interactions with current and prospective customers or clients be any different?

Content marketing has been a crucial ingredient impelling the evolution of traditional marketing into today’s more personalized approach, bridging the gap between cookie-cutter TV, radio and print mass marketing to highly customized digital and social media-driven communications. Even so, today’s more personalized digital communications have plenty of challenges, all too often falling on deaf ears and blind eyes.

Be yourself

How can brands make and maintain meaningful connections and create lifetime value with customers in ways that will set them apart in a noisy, increasingly jaded and discriminating marketplace? Kevin Lund, CEO of content marketing firm T3 Custom, says the key is to simply “speak human.”

In his book, “Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human,” Lund explores key principles that are critical for driving the more evolved conversation marketing approach, which can help companies amplify results on multiple fronts.

According to Lund, “companies must stop talking at their customers and, instead, connect with them by simply speaking human. And, it’s far beyond that initial handshake moment — it’s through a constant stream of congenial engagements with each individual consumer, or the marketplace at large, based on trust and performance.”

Here are a few of Lund’s tactical strategies that can help companies become more engaging and relevant with customers and the marketplace at large:

Earn attention – Don’t deliver clichéd, boring content that’s written for robots — search engines or otherwise. Instead, speak human by engaging your audience with eye-level language in order to gain their attention and set your brand apart. Earning attention starts with asking yourself what you and your company are passionate about and conveying that genuinely in that all-important handshake moment — online or otherwise.

Pick your party – Part of learning how to talk to your audience and engage them in any form of conversation is deciding where to talk to them in the first place. This means doing the footwork to learn where your potential customers gather, and meeting them on their own ground. Easily available research tools can help you join the right conversation at the right time and in the right place with consistency.

Stop talking – Knowing when to stop talking is as important as knowing what to say and when to say it. It’s the only way to truly get a sense of what your audience (or your potential customer) is thinking in reaction to what you’ve offered, and whether to stay the course in your strategy or tweak it on-the-fly.

Monitor online response to your blog posts or use various tools to learn which of your resources are drawing attention. Are people engaged? Are they adding to the conversation? What should you do if the feedback is bad? Don’t consider a negative response or lack of response necessarily a failure. Instead, see it as an opportunity to adjust and perhaps find ways to better meet your audience’s needs.

Ditch the checklist – Before every takeoff, airline crews verbally work through an extensive checklist. In the ebb and flow of conversation marketing, adherence to a certain protocol can pose limitations. One problem with simply sticking to a checklist is that a content marketing strategy will never evolve with the times or differentiate itself in any way from what everyone else is doing.

Successful marketers endeavor to open new horizons. They take a step back and ask bigger questions about themselves and their companies’ ultimate goals, as well as what sort of new challenges their audience or customers might face over time.  

Merilee Kern is a branding consultant and a consumer product, service and travel trendspotter.