Lot's of talk in the blogosphere about "conversations" (sorry for any possible embolisms this post may cause). I've got a real problem with this term. Everyone knows what it means literally, some people understand what it metaphorically refers to... but I'm not looking forward to companies that put this in to practice, for two reasons:
- There is too much *directed* communication already taking place out there.
- We all deal with too many companies in a given day to begin with, who has the time to pay attention to anything more?
If, as a business, I want to engage you and have a discussion... or, even if I just want to convey a message to you, it assumes that you care about me (the business). As the second point above indicates, most of us interact with hundreds of companies in a given day, we don't have time for, nor do most of us care about, interacting with even a fraction of those companies.
For the businesses that are thinking of finding better ways at engaging consumers, before you do, consider the following...
Malcolm Gladwell gave a talk recently (mp3 available) at PopTech, where he spoke about Human Nature (partial transcript):
Asking people to think about what they want causes them to change their opinion of what they want. In fact, it screws up their ability to recognize what they want. This problem in Psychology is called the Peril of Introspection Problem - a lot of the research has been done by a guy named Tim Wilson at UVA and he once did this very simple experiment called, the Poster Test. And the poster test is that you've got a bunch of posters in the room and you bring some college students in and you say "pick any poster you want, take it home." They do that. The second group is brought in and you say, "pick any poster you want, tell me why you want it, and then go home"
A couple months pass and he calls up the students and says, that poster you got a couple of months back, do you like it? And the kids in the first group, who didn't have to explain their choice all still liked their poster. And the kids in the second group, who did have to explain, now hate their poster. And not only that, the kids who had to explain their poster picked a VERY different kind of poster than the kids who didn't have to explain their poster. So, making people explain what they want change their preference and changes their preference in a negative way. It causes them causes them to gravitate towards something that they actually weren't interested in the first place.
Now, there’s one little detail on this. There were two kinds of posters; there were these impressionist prints and then there were these photos of kittens hanging on bars that said, "Hang In There Baby!" And the students who were asked to explain their preference, overwhelmingly chose the kitten and the ones who weren't asked to explain their choice, overwhelmingly chose the impressionist poster. Now - and they were happy with their choice, obviously - who could be happy with a kitten on their wall after 3 months.
Now why is that? Why when you ask someone to explain their preference do they gravitate towards the least sophisticated of the offering? Because it's a language problem, right? You're someone, you know that in your head you prefer the impressionist, but now you have to come up with a reason for your choice. And you don't really have the language of why you like the impressionist photo. What you do have the language of which to say is, well, I do like the kitten cause I had a kitten when I was growing up. So, forcing you to explain something when you don't necessarily have the vocabulary and the tools to explain your preference, automatically shifts you towards the most conservative and the least sophisticated choice.
There you go - you don't want to talk to me. If you ask me to explain something, I'm likely to give you the wrong answer!
There are some companies who get this... I'm sure most of you are familiar with the software maker Intuit (TurboTax, QuickBooks). They have a program in place called "Follow Me Home". The program, in a nutshell, sends Intuit software developers to the businesses and homes of real customers to watch them using the software – this helps the developers understand the real world needs of the end users and teaches the developers how people use the software.
No marketing. No conversation. No Communication. Just an interest in their customers and the real world use of their products. I'm sure this isn't flawless, but it is a heck of a lot better than dragging people in for a focus group.
Even for Intuit, if they truly loved doing taxes (for example), they wouldn't need to watch their customers use the software. They'd know instinctively what people wanted... they'd be able to intuit what their customers wanted... just like their name implies... (sorry, had to use that, it was too good to pass up).
To me, the smartest "conversation" is the one that NEVER takes place. And it doesn't need to take place because we share a connection.
We Connect. We Communicate (as required). And We Repeat (as long as it feels good for both of us).
And that is what it is all about: Connect. Communicate. Repeat. But only as long as it feels good for us to do so.
Actually, taking it one step further: We Connect. We Communicate. We Repeat. We Evangelize (if we really love the feeling).
I don't think people are looking for more conversation or communication, they're looking for more Compassion. We're looking for people who care about us and our wants, needs, and desires.
Jane, recently married, was having lunch with a friend and explaining why she married Bill instead of Bob. "Bob is Mr. Everything." Jane said. "He's handsome, well educated, extremely intelligent, clever, and has a very successful career. In fact, when I was with Bob I felt like I was with the most wonderful person in the world."
"Then why did you marry Bill?" Her friend asked.
Jane replied, "Because when I'm with Bill, I feel like I'm the most wonderful person in the wonderful world."
OBVIOUS POINT: We are naturally attracted to those who make us feel good about ourselves.
Want success? Be more like Bill.
Someone please tell me, is there anyone out there who wants to spend more time interacting with a business? Does anyone have an example of a business that they look forward to interacting with?
Maybe I'm a tightass, as I said in the comment on Hugh's post. Maybe I'm missing something? Please tell me!