conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Archive for the ‘Dialogue Marketing’ Category

Must Your Story Always Be About You?

with 4 comments

Content today: Your story in context.

“Here’s where we show we care about what they care about,” I said. “For sure you get to tell your story. But 75-90% of the time your eye is on what your audience cares about. With social media we take off the loud salesman jacket and relax in an easy chair, ready to talk.”

For years I’ve talked with clients about teeing up conversations rather than selling copy. It’s a matter of committing to topics and copy that meets an audience need, day after day. Only my most forward-thinking clients listened without a glaze covering their eyes.

That’s changing.

One reason is organization-specific content has become a more easily-definable task. Buying content is becoming a bit more like buying advertising—though with a few key differences. You bought advertising with parameters and metrics in place: Buy your media and Bam! Targeted eyeballs and open pocketbooks follow.

At least that’s how we told the old advertising story.

Now we see that advertising model was all about interrupting, catching attention with brand hyperbole and hypnotizing dumb viewers to buy. And pronto.

Which hasn’t really worked for years.

What my clients now see is they can stay in touch with old and new and potential customers by telling what they know in a whimsical way. Not browbeating, but inviting them to think together about a shared interest. Staying in touch means many touch points along the marketing funnel, none of which are a salesman’s pointed jab. This means knowing what customers care about, what their problems are, and naming potential solutions to those problems.Marketing funnel-20160808

Creating content will seem circuitous to the hard-boiled marketing manager in her late 50s. And it is. But it isn’t. Creating content shows leadership and care as it sweeps up the concerns of our target audience and addresses them one by one, parsing out that copy over time so that we seem like we care.

And here’s the crazy thing—by creating content, we find ourselves actually caring.

###

Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Should a Doctor Blog?

with one comment

Only if they want to grow their practice. Or connect with other physicians. Or with patients. Or provide thought-leadership.

Greg Matthews, author of Missing the Forest for the Trees, has been studying the online presence of physicians for years. He’s found that the credibility of their position and the connections within that position can translate to large and devoted followings today.

But all that was counter-intuitive in 2007.

Back when Mr. Matthews was formulating his questions about physicians online.

TwoTrack-2-10222014

Back then he was sure—we all were sure—that talking about health information online would never fly. It’s just too personal. What kind of nut would diagnose and prescribe in public/online?

Plus, well, HIPAA.

But some physicians found a way to talk with regular folks (that is, us non-experts who live on the web) about pressing topics. Diagnosis and prescribing on the web was a non-starter, but presenting topics in a way that made sense to regular people did happen. And as we all took to the web to sort our maladies, these authoritative, personal voices became trusted sources of information.

According to Mr. Matthews, today 61% of physicians access social media weekly, 5000 physicians post daily to blogs and Twitter, and 50 physicians are followed each by more than 500 other physicians.  Some physicians even feel “ethically obligated” to share on the web.GregMatthewsReport-10222014 Download Mr. Matthews PDF for more stats.

In this blog (conversation is an engine) we talk about conversation. We’ve noted how conversation is a two-way street: not just in words exchanged, but actually causing conversation partners to go and do different stuff. We leave our best conversations changed and with new resolve for the most important things facing us. It’s a sort of speech-act theory for anyone willing to take a dumb-sketch approach to life.

And even physicians and even patients can gain from this. And what they both gain is far more than mere information.

It makes me wonder what paths might open for collaborative conversations in lots of different work settings.

###

If a Customer Shouts in the Forest and No Customer Service Rep is Around to Hear it…

leave a comment »

Should she post a comment on Yelp?

Nancy Beiersdorf of Medtronic’s e-Commerce and global strategy hinted (in this SAP talk) at the medical device company’s evolution from a product company to a solutions and service company. One important ingredient in this new recipe will be hearing from the people with problems (people in need of a solution) and helping them solve those problems (that is, service).

But hearing from customers is not easy—even for other customers.

If you’ve ever used Yelp to locate a restaurant while traveling through a new city, you know to toss 30-50% of the comments as someone having (a) evil intent or (b) a bad day. Even our favorite national parks suffer from poor Yelp reviews:

terrible-yelp-04-2014-10172014

Sorting fact from fiction has been a traditional problem with hearing from the customer. Customer service must wade through long, rabbit-trail narratives to finally get to the actionable item. That is the way of human conversation—sometimes it takes a while to get to the point. All this unquantifiable blather plays havoc with our quality systems. Surely customer service will soon chart a metric like “Time to actionable issue” and pay employees accordingly.

Hearing from customers is an inherently messy business. Especially for Medtronic: where reps once talked only with cardiologists and electrophysiologists now there will be all sorts of real people on the phone (or more likely, placing orders and comments on a web site).

All this conversation cannot help but change things upstream and downstream. In particular I expect at least two results:

  1. Increasing masses of consumer-to-company interactions will train consumers over time to use certain words and press certain buttons to get what they want. Much in the same way we are conditioned by repetition to bypass our bank’s introductions to get to a real human.
  2. Corporations may grow more sensitivity toward customer voices–the very thing Ms. Beiersdorf  advocates. By that I mean conversations have a way of working backward into the machine-gears of a corporation. As solutions and service show up more clearly on the P&L sheets, people will start to pay more attention to human interaction.

At least that is what I hope.

Let there be more advocates for the customer voice.

###

Image credit via Adfreak

Why Medical Device Twitter Feeds are Boring

leave a comment »

It’s because monologue can be enforced. Dialogue cannot.

Twitter is all about the quick, personality-laden human voice. Twitter carries truncated thoughts by design—more like a human talk—one thought at a time.

Official medical device Twitter feeds are boring because the communicators behind those feeds are trussed and bound by legal and regulatory protocols. The feeds are boring because competing lawyers have police scanner-like attention for claims that fall outside of the FDA-vetted matrix. And those feeds are also boring because many of us are not in chronic pain, or worried about going through airport security with a defibrillator or insulin pump or mechanical heart valve. If we were, we might get those medical device tweets instantly on our smartphones and find them very interesting indeed.

I’m glad those tweets are boring. I hope they continue to bore many of us because we don’t need the product.

How could medical device tweets be more interesting? Clearly the human voice must be involved. When Omar Ishrak tweets (@MedtronicCEO), the tweets are at times more personal, like when his daughter runs a marathon:

 

But generally medical device tweets lack the sound of the human voice. They tend to sound like monologue-rich press releases:

 

https://twitter.com/MDT_Cardiac/status/518422795077042177

 

Some companies don’t even try:

StJudeTwitter-2-10082014

 

Ok: SJM does tweet over here: https://twitter.com/SJM_Media

Granted, medical device firms will never sass it up like DiGiorno pizza

 

But surely as we move forward into deepening inter-connections between professionals and regular humans, every company must find a way to sound human or risk not being heard.

Maybe that means special release from the legal/regulatory straightjackets for certain chatty employee/storytellers. Let them tell their stories in ways that are unique to them while continually repeating “My Opinion Only.” Can medical device firms institute official unofficial-storytellers? People who claim nothing but that they work at the place and this is what they see?

That might result in fun tweets that gather an audience and endear a company to a larger public.

The era of siloed communication is fading quickly in the rear-view mirror.

###

Neville Brody: Making Space on a Page to Think

leave a comment »

In the advertising business, it’s not in the interest of advertisers for people to think about what they’re presented with. It’s in the interest of advertisers that people choose to think in the way the advertisers intend them to. It’s a formulaic thing, where there’s only one possible outcome in advertising. That creates a space where the “right to thought” is taken away from people.

I’ve always tried to approach my work as being open-ended and with a degree of abstraction or ambiguity. This prevents it from being a monologue, because it is a dialogue. The work is only completed when a viewer has looked at it and made his or her own decision as to the full meaning of the piece.

Neville Brody

 

From Debbie Millman’s, How To Think like a Great Graphic Designer (NY: Allworth Press, 2007) 72-3

Written by kirkistan

June 20, 2014 at 5:00 am

Please Read Dave Eggers: The Circle

with 3 comments

In a world where everyone sees everything…

If you’ve ever wondered where complete transparency might lead—as I have—consider reading Dave Eggers’ excellent novel The Circle.

Don't worry--no one's watching.

Don’t worry–no one’s watching.

Mr. Eggers has created a very comfortable world (for some) of deep collaboration, where everything is provided to those lucky enough to work for the Circle. The Circle, the corporation at the center of the story, looks more than a bit like our most celebrated high-tech companies brimming with smarts, cash and outsized ambition. Think Google or Apple or what Microsoft once was—and then add in a cast of characters each with an overweening and boundary-less high EQ—and you’ve got a world that is totally supportive—as long as you move in the same direction. The novel traces the story of Mae Holland as she “zings” (tweets) and “smiles” (likes) her way from outsider to the inner circle.05212014-TheCircle-9780345807298_p0_v2_s260x420

The story gets uncomfortable at times, especially when it shows the intent behind the use of social media and the social pressures applied. Especially when you start to recognize product placement on a very, very personal level.

Mr. Eggers has me rethinking my eagerness for employees up and down the corporate ladder to use their outside voice. I’ve been advocating, among my clients and when teaching Social Media Marketing, that helping employees reveal their work to interested outsiders is a move toward a new kind of marketing that looks less like selling and more like a conversation among interested parties. I still think that is a good move, but Mr. Eggers has explored the boundaries of that notion, and it is a bit, well, totalitarian.

I will consider using The Circle as a supplemental text for my next class on Social Media marketing. Well-written and consistently engaging, Mr. Eggers’ book is well worth your time.

###

Image Credit: Kirk Livingston, just before a recitation of photography rules within a non-public spaceWatching-3-05212014

Brands: Still (Always?) Incidental to Life

with one comment

Bit of truth from Martin Weigel, Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam

We all know this, of course.

###

Via the Sell! Sell! Blog

Written by kirkistan

May 6, 2014 at 7:56 am

%d bloggers like this: