conversation, art of conversation, problem conversation, issues conversation

Conversation as a marketing tactic

At the weekend I was teaching a class on The Art of Conversation and it was such an enlightening experience.

Firstly, the topic intrigued me because I wondered who wanted to learn – and I soon found out that the group was a complete mix of people.  Some wanted improved networking for work and some wanted to make new friends and others who found it hard to keep a conversation going. 

Marketers and sales folks all use conversation in our daily work.  Step back and take a read of the insights below and challenge yourself to improve or work out solutions to these situations.

How Conversations are Structured

Conversations are unique – but they are all underpinned with a framework which can be easily learned. The 4 Fs which give ideas about how to ask initial easy questions around four themed topics.

Because I like to balance teaching theory with practice we spent time face-to-face with each other trying out the techniques – a bit like speed dating!  Then we moved into practicing “branching” which is when the topic of conversation can move to adjacent topics. 

As a tutor, I delight in the unique learning experience every class has and so the second day began with feedback from overnight practice of “The Conversation Game”.   The students had chatted with parents, relatives, people at the bus stop and supermarket.  Each was a special and individual insight into their new confidence gained by practicing the framework.

Our final task was to learn how to disagree.  This is difficult because many think an argument is not a conversation.  I think learning how to respectfully disagree is an art form and a useful skill to balance with listening and really hearing the message in a conversation.

What our conversations lack

In researching the topic I asked the crowd what they thought was lacking in good conversation and the top picks were:

  • balance in exchanges – time speaking
  • listening deeply
  • ensuring the next topic is related to the previous one
  • bringing in spectators to the dialogue
  • interpreting body language successfully
  • don’t propose a hypothesis – ask a question
  • know how to conclude a conversation graciously
  • listening to understand, rather than listening to respond

Some good insights on conversations [forgive me if I don’t attribute]

Dialogue is like a good game of ping pong or a satisfying volley. Full of questions, quick 2 sentence exchanges, more questions. Good conversation is Not about serving aces, or hogging the ball (pontificating). That’s boring for both players as well as anyone watching.

In Howard’s End E.M.Forster has that great phrase ‘only connect’ which can be read many ways, but the art of conversation (rather than the art of debate) is about connecting and listening, and making your contribution to a conversation relevant to those of others. It is about connecting with their point of view or description or anecdote, being appreciative of what someone is sharing with you and listening, even if you don’t agree, and even committing it to memory – even if only as an exercise in concentration.

In the Steve Martin film, LA Story, he’s at a trendy dinner party and says to the woman next to him, “I hear you’ve just finished your masters in conversation”. She says “Yes” and then just sits there.

Reframing can be helpful or follow up questions to check what they really mean. In a group of more than two, take care that it doesn’t become a spectator sport for the rest. Ask the third person if they can describe a similar experience to draw them in.

Indicate that you are committed to spending some time in this conversation and talk about random stuff. Never ask a woman what her husband does for a living or show other gender discriminating assumptions. Ask a lot of ‘what made you..’ ‘how did you manage to..’.  Ask for opinions and advice from the field of strength of your conversation partner. Go a bit crazy and don’t be predictable. Make the person feel accepted and belonging, not patronised or alienated.

Conversational Challenges

Some of my correspondents play games during their conversations – especially if they think the dialogue is not balanced

Sometimes I have even stopped mid sentence just to see if they noticed and they don’t they simply use to gap to jump in as that’s all they were waiting for. I see this a lot at work and especially in meetings. If I call them out on it gently we laugh and it resets the exchange. Most don’t even know they do it.

Others presented situations which are worthy of our thoughts and so put your insights in the comments.

I particularly notice that many men do not ask open questions, and if they do, they are significantly less likely to actually listen to the answers. Of course #notallmen, but there is a strong correlation. They often just expect to be interviewed about how brilliant they are, and the idea of putting in effort to develop a conversation seems alien to them. I honestly think that there are plenty of men out there to whom it has never occurred that this might be a specific responsibility to be shared equally.

Here’s a problem that I don’t know how to solve: providing honest feedback has about zero if not less than zero benefit to the person providing the feedback. And so most feedback is dishonest – either superficial or irrelevant or in what may be the most misleading and useless cases, inaccurate. What to do?

Podcast marketing

What are the key essentials for promoting and marketing a podcast to grow listeners so you can improve monetisation?  This article runs through some of the fundamentals and also asks some important questions so you can find out if a podcast is the right marketing tactic for your brand.

Brand suitability for podcast marketing

Here are some simple questions for you to review before deciding to start a podcast.

Microphone for podcast: Photo credit Neil Godding on Unsplash

  • Who is the target audience?
  • Are they are already listening to podcasts?
  • What does your brand want to get out of the podcast (leads, brand awareness, thought leadership etc)
  • Which channels to market do you already use?
  • What headcount / analytics are in each of the existing channels?
  • What will success look like?

These are all questions worthy of a full day workshop.  Now, assuming you have robust answers to each of them, let’s dig into the tactics suitable for marketing a podcast.

Podcast marketing tactics

  1. Cross-promote through all existing channels controlled by the brand
  2. Select guests who have a large audience on the understanding they will cross-promote
  3. Add listeners by adding podcast into existing marketing tactics e.g. record a live episode at a trade show / a conference stage
  4. Get other podcasters to do a mutual episode with each broadcasting the same episode to their feeds
  5. Record in video and audio so you can use YouTube as a distribution channel
  6. Advertise
  7. Use clips and short video as content for social sharing
  8. Run campaigns which include the podcast e.g. contests where you have to listen to find out how to enter
  9. Use the podcast shownotes on your website and blog as SEO

Plus take a look at all the Quora questions I’ve answered and articles I’ve written about podcasting.

Customer Reviews – a reality check

The New Zealand Commerce Commission is investigating online retailers who they claim have manipulated customer reviews and testimonials in

“…conduct that was liable to mislead consumers by creating artificially positive impressions…”

NZ Commerce Commission website

What actions constitute “misleading consumers”?

Read more

Is Guest Posting Dead?

In 2014, Matt Cutts, former head of the Web Spam team at Google, wrote the following:

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”

Ever since the state of guest blogging has been debated heatedly. Indeed, guest blogs with low-quality content have truly been dead for decades.

On the other hand, high-quality blogging is an effective strategy to create backlinks, and drive traffic to your website. Even Cutts eventually published a correction, and said: “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.)”

So, the question is, how can we create quality guest blogs every time?

Here, we have outlined three easy and effective strategies to create guest posts that are sure to attract links, and bring in traffic:

The Robin Hood Technique

The Robin Hood technique, as suggested by SEO Gold Coast, is a quick and effective way to write guest posts with good quality content. This technique involves recreating great content from popular blogs and offering them to platforms with a low ranking, and less credibility and traffic.

Keep in mind, however, that this does not mean plagiarizing the content – instead, you must only take inspiration from the blog to recreate ideas for your own post.

The following steps can be undertaken for this technique:

Ahref’s Content Explorer Tool contains one billion pages and can be used to find blogs you can write a guest post for

Ahref’s Content Explorer Tool

Source: ahrefs

  1. Enter a keyword corresponding to your chosen topic to find similar articles
  2. Check the “one article per domain” box to find unique blogs related to your keyword
  3. Sort the results according to Language, Shares, Domain Rating, Organic Traffic, and Number of Words to truly find a customized blog post idea

Note the importance of Domain Rating (DR) that showcases the popularity level of a backlink, based on a scale of 1-100.

While it is tempting to only work with high DR blogs, low DR blogs are also worth investing your time and energy in, as they usually have a niche following and are bound to grow.

What’s more, low DR blogs usually receive fewer pitches and have less strict editorial standards – thereby making it easier to get featured or published.

Finally, you can move on to step 4:

4. Read the content of your chosen blog piece, and recreate it by adding a unique spin to it –  conclude by pitching it to low or high DR blogs through email outreach

Splintering Content

Another effective way of guest posting is by splintering or breaking existing blogs into shorter, but authoritative posts.

The point of splintering content is to dive deep into a topic that you have already researched before, as it is easier to recreate, revise, or rewrite.

After writing detailed individual posts, you can then pitch the pieces to online magazines and platforms that would publish it as guest posts, whilst still re-directing the reader to your original blog post – thereby creating quality backlinks.

The Perspective Technique

A small change in perspective can lead to a completely new, and unique piece of writing.

The trick here is to use a previously written blog post and turn it into multiple guest posts by simply tweaking your overall perspective.

For instance, if your previous blog post was on the “The Future of Link Building” – you can now write on a variety of topics by changing your viewpoint, such as:

  • Future of link building for small business
  • Future of link building for E-commerce
  • Future of link building for startups, and so on

Effective Guest Posting

The techniques outlined here are a good way to get you started. Keep in mind, however, that once you start pitching your guest posts, you may be faced with some problems.

For instance, editors and bloggers may routinely reject your pitch, negotiations may take months, or the link to your article may be taken down suddenly and without prior notice.

To address this concern here is what you can do:

  • Focus on creating good quality content for your blogs
  • Pitch to multiple blogs at the same time
  • Include links to your other guest posts to generate more traffic
  • Keep exploring and writing for new platforms and sites

In short, by following the techniques outlined above, you can defy Matt Cutt’s claim that guest posts are dead. Indeed, guest posts are thriving and can be used to generate traffic and brand awareness for your business in the long run.