I just watched a fantastic interview with a guy I’ve mentioned a couple times in as many days, Avinash Kaushik. The interview was done by Simon Chen who heads up the Eight Black group (Disclaimer: my company does a lot of work with Eight Black, they’re great people) over at the Blogworld expo in Las Vegas. When Simon first said he was headed over there, I kinda giggled in his general direction, even though I’ve been blogging since before they called it that.

If you head over however to Simon’s own blog, you’ll see that it has turned out to be a great collection of people really at the forefront of how companies talk to their customers, and people talk to each other. He has a range of discussions up with different practitioners, along with some video of talks he attended. I don’t have time to sit trhough them all, but invariably if Simon puts something up there is some sort of insight to be gleaned from it; of course I get to do that by having him in my office once a week.

The last 1:30 of his discussion with Avinash really struck a chord with me. His key message to corporates and CEOs who are scared of engaging with their customers via blogging was if you’re not doing it, then you’re not at the cutting edge of blogging. He talks enthusiastically about the upcoming generation (Disclaimer: I am Gen-Y, therefore predisposed to liking nice things said about me) and their disdain for traditional media (TV, radio, magazines etc.) and the messages contained therein. He says we’re not influenced by those things, and for the most part, he is right.

When I think about the sites I like, the writers I like, the people I respond to, the level of candour is always paramount to how I engage with them and how what they say resonates with me. I said in my very first post here that the second you say “We’re cool”, you’re not, and the same applies. You can’t tell someone your content or message is relevant, you can only sit it in front of them and say “I dig this, and if you give a shit about the things I give a shit about, then maybe you’ll dig it too.” The power comes in stepping away and leaving that choice in the consumer’s hands, in essentially acknowledging you are power-less to force the outcome you desire. The great thing about that though is when you do get voluntarily chosen by your customer, you have empowered them, you have engaged in the age old paradigm of “the customer is always right”, which was always about sitting your customer on a pedestal. Them choosing you brings you up to their level; whether you stay there or not depends entirely on you convincing them there is value in having you around.

Avinash concludes the short interview with the following missive, which I like so mch I have printed out and stuck on my wall: “If businesses want to convert their customers into evangelists…the only way to do it is to put yourself out there, participate in the social environment, have a blog, show your passion, contribute something of value and then you don’t have to talk about yourself, you can get your customers to go talk and spread your gospel, (they) will become your marketing machine.”

Amen to that!

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