Talk, don’t sell, to readers

In a recent teleseminar with authors Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Rich Sloan and Debbie Weil, the moderator introduced the idea that companies today “aren’t selling to your customers – you’re talking to them.”

 The point of this fascinating (and free) discussion was this: Companies no longer can afford to market to the masses, viewing everyone who lives and breathes as prospects. Instead, as Rich Sloan said, companies must “create dialogue, move away from the idea of selling, have there be a relationship in place where there are all sorts of contextual opportunities for people to learn.”  

Seth Godin’s basic reply: You’re right. If you’re a marketer, your job isn’t about creating a jingle. It’s about education.  This discussion brought me back to my last post and Mike Klein’s quote from George Bernard Shaw:  “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  

Companies that have been writing Web, brochure, e-letter and annual report copy aimed at pushing out their messages regardless of who’s reading it or how they’re reacting are going to find themselves ignored, if they aren’t already.

I’ve worked in non-profits most of my life, organizations filled with people who are passionate about what they do – and rightly so. Trouble is, just because they’re passionate about a cause doesn’t mean everyone else is. And just because they have something to say doesn’t mean people will listen, especially if they’re using a writing style that’s not educational or interesting.  

If you’re not telling authentic, well-written stories, you’re wasting your time. Communication is not taking place.  





2 thoughts on “Talk, don’t sell, to readers

  1. Cindy,
    I think this may be the real benefit of social networking presence for organizations – the ability to have an exchange with their constituents. To really hear what they have to say and get feedback, correct misperceptions and engage people.

  2. I agree. Are the non-profits you’re familiar with taking this step? If not, what’s stopping them? If they are, what made them comfortable with the decision? And as a writer, I’d love to know who’s doing the writing — is it a PR person, a professional writer, or a CEO or similar position?

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