ellipsis flag icon-blogicon-check icon-comments icon-email icon-error icon-facebook icon-follow-comment icon-googleicon-hamburger icon-imedia-blog icon-imediaicon-instagramicon-left-arrow icon-linked-in icon-linked icon-linkedin icon-multi-page-view icon-person icon-print icon-right-arrow icon-save icon-searchicon-share-arrow icon-single-page-view icon-tag icon-twitter icon-unfollow icon-upload icon-valid icon-video-play icon-views icon-website icon-youtubelogo-imedia-white logo-imedia logo-mediaWhite review-star thumbs_down thumbs_up

What Conversational Marketing is NOT

What Conversational Marketing is NOT Tom Hespos

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case, I think I'd rather the imitators keep their distance.
The word-of-mouth marketers have latched onto a term that was gaining traction in the blogosphere -- conversational marketing -- and they're trying to turn it into something that it's not. 

I don't know if it's marketing's penchant for sucking the deeper meaning out of things or what, but I think we're at such a critical stage in the marketing industry's development that I'd rather plant a stake in the ground than surrender a perfectly legitimate marketing concept to those who would corrupt it.

Where it comes from
"Conversational Marketing" was a term that entered into the lexicon on the coattails of ". To Wal-Mart, the approach to online marketing involves using a PR agency to help influence the blogosphere, rather than connecting directly with its customers.

When the opinions and pieces on the Working Families for Wal-Mart and Paid Critics websites turned out to be messages crafted by Wal-Mart's PR agency, the blogosphere and the mainstream media erupted.  Not only did Wal-Mart flagrantly violate accepted tenets of transparency, but they also executed their strategy using broadcast thinking. They used Edelman PR as an agent to spread a marketing message, taking a top-down approach rather than a bottom-up one. 

True adherents to conversational marketing would consider both lazy and disrespectful.

See for yourself what's happening to Wal-Mart as they continue to swing the broadcast hammer at the marketing nail. Perhaps if they changed their approach they might get closer to achieving their objectives.

This town ain't big enough…
So, get lost word-of-mouth marketers. While you're using broadcast thinking and paid agents to advance a marketing agenda, conversational marketing would like to distance itself from you. We'd prefer to think of word of mouth as a symptom of marketing success, and not as an objective in and of itself.

Meaningful online communication is a very human thing, and it can't be faked.

Tom Hespos is the president of Underscore Marketing and blogs at Hespos.com. .

Tom Hespos is President of New York agency Underscore Marketing. He is a frequent contributor to industry trade publications and has been writing a regular column about online marketing and advertising since March of 1998. His clients include Wyeth...

View full biography


to leave comments.

Commenter: Tom Hespos

2008, January 14

True, many small businesses have grown by organic word of mouth. But I believe that once WOM becomes an objective in and of itself, rather than just a symptom that you're doing something right, the strategies employed to reach that objective usually (not always) are disingenuous and intellectually lazy.

Commenter: Kevin Dykes

2008, January 12

I agree with a lot of what you are saying here - that major corporations and marketers have a tendency to bastardize the real communication and conveserations that buyers are now desperately seeking. But, I disagree with your idea that Word-of-Mouth marketers should should be equated to the networks of individuals that are paid to talk about a company, without any true knowledge or passionate feelings about that company.

So many small businesses have grown based on TRUE word-of-mouth, or referrals from happy customers telling their friends. We help a lot of companies foster that, but only based on real interactions, not false, paid communications. And that idea doesn't fall far from the idea of Conversation Marketing.