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    Applying the Cluetrain Manifesto to One-to-One Web Marketing

    The Web has allowed companies to publish information at an incredible savings over older print methods. It also allows customers to search for information on corporate Web sites without interacting with anyone.

    While this can be good for the initial review to see if a company sells products of interest to the person looking for specific products, it doesn't necessarily help the company qualify the prospects or record them in a database where a salesperson can follow-up and close the sale.

    This is because most corporate Web sites are designed to stop most interaction with their employees. They seem to feel that if a prospect is interested enough in buying their products, they will figure out a way to search out and contact a salesperson who can take their order.

    Unfortunately, in this competitive economy, companies with this attitude are seeing their Web site drive customers away instead of capturing sales.

    And they wonder why their Web site isn't producing a return on its investment!

    The solution is the same one successful salespeople have used for years-conversing with prospects! By engaging in a conversation we have the greatest likelihood of learning about each person's needs and how our products can help them.

    The Cluetrain Manifesto advocates that corporate Web sites should do what salespeople do - engage in meaningful conversation with individuals.

    Benefits of Internet Conversations

    There are several ways to have conversations with people on the Internet. The technology you use is not as important as how well you engage the other person on a one-to-one basis.

    By conversing with an individual you accomplish several things:

    • Show that person you regard them as special
    • Learn which benefits they feel are important
    • Determine which personality group they belong to regarding your type of product

    There are many other benefits of conversing with prospects, customers, stockholders, and employees, but these are the "top level" reasons.

    The Cluetrain Manifesto points out 95 reasons to add this person-to-person sales technique to your Web marketing site.

    However, the Cluetrain Manifesto doesn't explain exactly why conversation aids in the selling process.

    Conversation => Community

    Great salespeople interact with people in several ways. First, they converse with prospects. High-quality prospects are invited to participate with customers at events such as golf outings, customer-only conferences, and other activities designed to create a sense of community.

    It is at these community events that prospects become reassured that other customers are like themselves - they work for companies like theirs, have some of the same needs, and, therefore, are reassured that the product being considered will work for them, too.

    Why does community work well in the selling process? Because prospects want to gather with people like them. It also works because they trust similar people in the community recommending the product being considered.

    Even when a vendor is unbiased and helpful, the vendor doesn't use their own product the same ways that customers do.

    Making The Manifesto Meaningful

    With all this talk about conversation, just how do we make the Cluetrain Manifesto work for us?

    Step One - Web Personalization
    The first thing is to upgrade your corporate Web site so it converses with your visitors. Today, it's easy to add personalization to a site that asks a few questions and personalizes content based on an individual's answers.

    Personalization products such as GuestTrack and Broadvision can make it easier than other approaches.

    While Broadvision is well-suited for Fortune 1000 companies, GuestTrack is appropriate for most other companies.

    By adding Web personalization your Web site can converse with people in many of the ways described in the Cluetrain Manifesto, as well as one-to-one Web marketing books.

    Step Two - E-Mail Personalization
    A trend that is catching on quickly is to use e-mail newsletters and special e-mail promotional messages to increase the frequency of contact and bring people back to a Web site.

    This works because e-mail reaches people without them taking any special action. Also, personalized e-mail delivers the most appropriate message to each person, increasing the likelihood that they will take action based on what's said in the e-mail.

    E-mail products like GT/Mail and UnityMail use a profile database and a set of rules to determine which pieces of text to include in each person's message.

    Step Three - E-Mail Discussion Lists
    Sending personal e-mails and responding to the e-mails people send back is one way to converse with people. Another way to use personalized e-mail is to publish an e-mail newsletter that includes a "letters to the editor" section of comments from customers. By having the system use profile data to select which articles and customer comments to include in each individual e-mail, a sense of community can be cultivated in your subscribers. While this isn't the same interactive community as, say, online chat, it does allow a company to improve the efficiency of communicating with the community of customers and prospects.

    Of course, the most open form of conversation on the Internet are the 75,000 e-mail discussion lists. It isn't as controllable as the more moderated or edited forms of communication, which is the focus of the Cluetrain Manifesto, but for many companies it's wise to walk before they run to completely open, unmoderated conversation.


    Whether you only implement Step One, or you use all the steps outlined here, it's clear that the Cluetrain Manifesto will lead to increased communications with the wide range of people who make up a company's community.
    Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons, and has consulted with companies on strategic marketing for 20 years.

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