I’ve been writing on AllBusiness for many months about how the current status quo of advertising is under siege and how technology is helping to bring on the winds of change. Today, I’m going to extend that conversation to talk about how I believe we must change the core of how American businesses are currently run in order to survive and thrive.
I was lucky enough to attend the “Conversation 3.0: Action on the Power of Influence Marketing” Digital Immersion Lab event at MRM Seattle last week. Attendees were given access to have one-on-one conversations with representatives from LinkedIn, Facebook, Radian6, and Federated Media.
The big take away from the event is that media today has to be earned—it’s how you get people to care about your product or service. Once you earn the trust and true interest of your customer, the paybacks are huge:
- 75% of online users are engaged in social behaviors (Forrester Research)
- 15.20% of unique visitors come via shared links aka referrals from trusted sources (Meteor Solutions)
- Loyal fans will convert on your site 1.5 – 4 times more often (Razorfish)
- 88% of links followed by 14 – 24 year olds are sent directly from friends (Microsoft)—which is much faster and more effective than search today.
“Influence Marketing” or “Conversational Marketing” requires conversations with your customers that are:
- On-going—instead of the revolving door of ad campaigns that do little to ensure long-term brand loyalty or retention
- Two-way—push marketing no longer works, you must listen and respond to what your customers are saying
- Authentic—relationships are built on trust and transparency
The first two points above can be attached to pretty tangible calls-to-action. However, the third point is one item that can’t be implemented easily without shaking up how business is structured and run.
Synonyms of the word authentic include “genuine”, “trustworthy”, and “true”. My argument is very simple; you can’t instruct anyone to make a conversation “authentic”. Real authenticity has to come from the heart—it cannot be taught or bought. No well written employee handbook or brand style guide will help your business navigate through this gauntlet. Only by truly understanding, internalizing and having solid investment your business’ brand can anyone have an authentic conversation with your customers.
Basically, if we are increasingly more reliant on building long-term genuine relationships with our customers, we’re also more reliant on building long-term genuine relationships with our employees, vendors, and agency partners. There is simply no way around this fact.
“Authenticity” is our biggest opportunity and it’s also our most challenging; demanding a fundamental change of how many businesses are run today. Through this change, we can evolve our companies through long-term investments in all people involved with our business from customer all the way through to vendors. Creating these authentic conversational relationships from the top-down is a vital change of corporate status quo that will help us to recover from this economy and stave off future turbulence for decades to come.