In 1999, a collective of marketers published a book called "The Cluetrain Manifesto." Intriguing title, but I don't know what it means. Maybe if I had read the book, I'd get it.
I have read a good many books about the revolution that's taking place in marketing. It's a fascinating subject. So I was checking out "Engage" by Brian Solis when I noticed he referred to "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and specifically, one of its authors, Doc Searls.
No way! I once worked for Doc, sort of. I worked for an agency he founded. During that brief spell (I never stayed put for long), Doc had his name on the door, but not a hand in the pot.
Anyway, I had to check into the book. When I did, I found its entire contents offered online for free. I'm thinking... "A book about the internet's effect on marketing from 1999? Should I bother?" Then I notice it's subtitle:
Markets are conversations.
Talk is cheap.
Silence is fatal.
Impressive. I'm yakking daily, online and off, about the very same thing. Apparently, it's not a breaking story.
The book kicks off with a chapter called "95 theses." And before the list is presented it says this:
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.
Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.
But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about "listening to customers." They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.
While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.
Then comes the theses. I'm not going to give you all 95. I'm not really going to give you any. Instead, I'm going to synthesize what these prophetic authors said in a short list of reasons why...
No one is listening to you.
- People don't listen to companies. They listen to people.
- Markets are conversations and you're not adding anything to them.
- When you do pipe up you sound like a corporation.
- Your voice sounds of mission statements and brochure-speak.
- You're pitching and putting on dog-and-pony shows.
- You've confused the web for traditional media and creating commercials.
- You're taking yourself way too seriously. (Seriously, lighten up.)
- You haven't created a community.
- You can't resist the urge to control the conversation.
- You refuse to grant access to your plans, knowledge and best thinkers.
- You think your most important audience is Wall Street.
- You're advertising to a society that's grown immune to it.,
- You want us to pay, but we want you to pay attention. (Love that.)
- Your CEO is too busy for the customer.
- You're not giving your customers any real reason to be loyal.
- You think the customer needs you when it's really the other way around.
Harsh, eh? Sometimes, the truth hurts. It's late 2012. If some of the ideas on this list touched a nerve, get a cluetrain, turkey.