I read the Cluetrain Manifesto when I was in my first official marketing role. I had been “doing” marketing for years before this – building marketing plans according to the rules, following branding guidelines, keeping and enforcing the exclusion space around the logo to a consistent 36 points.
But the Cluetrain was astounding not because of the challenge it presented to existing marketing – it was astounding because there was no CONTEXT in which it could brought within business practices. The conversations that we were having between the MD and the marketing department – and between the Board and the marketing department – went something like this:
Me: “we need to re-do this website”
Everyone else: “what’s a website?”
But soon, this conversation changed. It changed because the website project I was heading delivered results. We got something done and it changed the way that our employees thought about the company and it changed the way that our customers thought of our employees. And perhaps, more importantly, we measured what we did and we focused our continuous digital strategy around the outcomes that we set up-front, and refined along the way. We did this not because it was expected, but because we wanted to know what worked and what didn’t (hey, no one even really thought a website was important, so measurement was not on the agenda). But this conversation seems to be re-occurring – just replace the word “website” with the word “blog” and add water.
These days, the Cluetrain IS the context through which we conceptualise marketing innovation.
A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.
These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.
So, if we take this at face value, we would think that company or corporate blogs would be on the must-have list of every marketing director across the country (or across the world for that matter). But this is hardly the case. Why? (Check CK's blog for some ideas.) While a number of companies may use a blog to publish news, they are not really “blogging”. In fact, Mike Hickinbotham on one of the Telstra blogs has a theory:
My working theory (based on anecdotal stories) is that generally the greatest push to explore the use of social media comes from the middle versus the top end of most Australian corporations/organisations.
This, I think, is one of the secrets of marketing – and that is getting things done. You see, for years those who wanted to DO things – to make a difference in the way that we talk or engage with customers or partners or employees – knew that words and actions go together. And “getting things done” takes some effort in a large organisation. It takes a level of seniority – but you can’t be too senior. It is the role of the Business Designer that I wrote about here:
The Business Designer does not sit in a creative studio. Rather, she operates across business units — touching marketing, customer service and new product design. The BD has a finger on the pulse of finance and lives cheek-by-jowl with the legal team. There is the touch of the management consultant in the way that the BD navigates the org chart — but also the fervour of the evangelist. She may be T-shaped. She may be a green egg. But above all, she is an experienced business professional. That's right — she knows how to get things done.
But “getting things done” is not the only secret to marketing. There is one other. You have to “get emotional”. You have to tap into the emotions of the people around you – whether they are customers, bosses or the dreaded legal team. Mike says you need to “seek like-minded people out” – and he is right, because they will be on that same emotional wavelength as you – but you also need to go beyond that. You need to find the secret of the secret – the trigger that opens the flood gates.
As Clay Shirky explained about his own emotional involvement with the mini-crisis that was tagged as #AmazonFail:
When a lifetime of intellectual labor and study came up against a moment of emotional engagement, emotion won, in a rout.
And that’s the secret in action. Emotion wins everytime. Hands-down. A best-kept secret is just that – and it will do no one any favours. Isn’t it time you pulled a rabbit out of your hat?