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What’s Wrong With Cluetrain?

January 24th, 2005 by Bob Bly

It?s this?.

By proclaiming that ?markets are conversations,? and that talking with customers is the ultimate marketing methodology, Cluetrain ignores this important truism from Rene Descartes:

?To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.?

That?s where we direct marketers have it all over the Cluetrain crowd.

We aren?t guided just by what people say they want or will do; we primarily pay attention to what they actually do ? in other words, what they buy.

You can determine what your prospects will buy based on your own test mailing ? or by studying the successful control mailings of your competitors in the same category.

Because those control mailings are working, they tell you the appeals that are causing customers to open their wallets ? those marketing approaches that are making money right now.

Actions speak louder than words, and what people actually buy is infinitely more important than what they say they will buy.

Which do YOU think is a more accurate indicator of what your market wants ? a ?conversation? or a purchase?


This entry was posted on Monday, January 24th, 2005 at 2:09 pm and is filed under Direct Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

34 responses about “What’s Wrong With Cluetrain?”

  1. Michael D. Pollock said:

    Hi Bob. Thanks for stimulating the debate. My first intuition is to question the question itself. Can you tell me why it has to be an either/or issue? Can it be both?

    Would you agree that different people have different ways of buying? Some respond to a direct marketing approach. Some don’t. Some will engage in a conversation of sorts, whether it be via the company via website, a customer service rep, a sales rep, a blog, FAQs, etc. Some will converse with other people about the product. i.e. word of mouth, buzz, referrals, etc.

    Looking forward to your response – Michael

  2. Danny Thompson said:

    There’s no denying that DM is valuable in its ability to quantify which practices are better at converting sales. And yet, one of the core ideas I’ve seen involved in DM is etablishing credibility. I’ve seen it countless times in sales letters I’ve received (like the ones I receive every now and then from AWAI). Hi, I’m [NAME] and I’m [JUST LIKE YOU].

    No, blogging isn’t a very effective sales tool in and of itself. And I’d agree that anyone who says it is going to directly generate sales is…trying to sell you something (likely a book on how “you too can use blogs to add to your bottom line”).

    But that does that inherently mean that they are completely useless as a marketing tool? As a place to interact with customers? A place to ask customers for feedback or offer help, to test concepts, to create a forum for open discussion that generates true, expreiential credibility?

    Markets are conversasions because customers talk. Where is the harm in participating in those conversations–or starting them? It’s more P.R. than sales, true–but P.R. has a place in marketing, too, wouldn’t you say?

  3. Gerold Braun said:

    The clue is, that direct-marketing IS conversation (or should be to be successfull). It doesn’t need cluetrain improvement.
    The cluetrain people say: change your attitude while writing website-copy and e-mails. Write like directmarketers do.

  4. John said:

    Clutrain is quoted – “markets are converstations.” Take this as a rhetorical standpoint, in counterdistinction to “let’s market the hell out of them.” Direct marketing works. I know because my credit card type was once a result of that; my 68 year old neighbour has crap in her living room as a result of it.

    As people become more empowered, they are less influenced by direct persuasion – either the wrods from blogs or from DM. People’s experience counts, and the quality of relationships matter . Direct persuasion / propaganda has always worked, and will continue to; it seems to me it successfully exploits a lack of relational self reliance. Youre right, I think Cluetrain is wrong to signal the dawn of a new era for humankind. People will always like to be told, even geek hippies! New technology is giving a new means for people to empower themselves through relationship if they want.

  5. Jim Logan said:

    While I’m not intimate with Clutrain, I think what your customer purchases is a more accurate indicator of what your market wants. Ultimately, what a customer purchases is the greatest indication of their interest – interest to the compelling point of making a purchase.

    Have you ever had a series of great meetings with a prospect that never resulted in a purchase? We all have.

    Conversations are worthwhile, they provide great insight into markets however, until you ask someone to purchase you never surface true objections or support for your offering.

  6. Susan Getgood said:

    IMO it is most definitely not an either/or proposition. Blogs are a new way of communicating and building community. To the extent that this sort of marketing approach would work for your product or service, you should consider how a blog might fit in with your marketing strategy. NOT replace the other elements that you might use, but supplement it.

    Right now I am working with two very different clients. For one, I believe a blog will be an excellent way to reach out into a community of shared interests and ultimately drive sales. For the other, although I think long-term a blog may be an interesting addition to the marketing mix, right now there are other tactics that will be more productive to get leads. For me, the tactics/tools I use ALWAYS depend on the marketing strategy.

    I have lots and lots on when and why blogs makes sense over at my own blog Marketing Roadmaps, so rather than go on about it here, please feel free to check out the posts there and tell me what you think.

  7. Bruce DeBoer said:

    Cluetrain and thinking like it is one dimensional. Please don’t ignore people like Peter Druker, Michael Porter and others who take a broad view of business strategy integration. Marketing is a conversations is accurate yet remedial.

    Blogs are great for what they do but they are tools like countless other marketing tools. Choose the ones that work best with your business and marketing strategy

    Now … what was the question?

  8. Doc Searls said:

    Which do YOU think is a more accurate indicator of what your market wants – a “conversation” or a purchase?

    That’s a false choice, a misrepresentation of what we wrote in The Cluetrain Manifesto, and a gloss over how direct marketing works. Because with DM you’re not just talking about purchases. You’re talking about the 5 purchases in a hundred (if you’re lucky) that come out of a direct marketing campaign. Those purchases may give a good indication of “what a market wants,” but it also forces 95% of your potential customers to throw away or ignore something they probably didn’t ask for and certainly don’t want.

    Good to read commenters (above) who understand that this isn’t an either/or issue. Also for getting that “markets are conversations” is about the nature of markets, not the techiques of marketing.

    To Bruce DeBoer (comment 7): It’s quite possible that I never would have said “Markets are conversations” if I hadn’t read Peter Drucker, who remains one of my heroes.

    Go read what we wrote.

  9. TonyD said:

    As I filter cluetrain through my own experience, it’s not just about selling, it’s about passionate selling. Cluetrain applied to sales isn’t just about what to sell and how to sell it, it’s about transforming the act of selling.

    Take a look a the Hughtrain. As much as it’s about being effective in advertising, its also about making advertising a business we can stomach being in. I’m willing to bet you see the same thing in DM. The campaigns that are worth pushing aren’t just a carbon copy of what the competition is pushing. It’s not just about campaigns that work, it’s about campaigns that work and kick ass.

  10. Diego from metacool said:

    “Direct Marketing” should really be called “Direct Selling”. Marketing is the process of determining what a person needs and then developing an offering to meet that need. Sales is the process of convincing that person to buy your offering. As such, “Direct Marketing” is a misleading phrase. Hugh’s assertion that markets are about conversations where you learn what people want and show what you can give them… well that sounds like marketing to me.

  11. AdPulp said:
    Marketing Greater Than Or Equal To Selling
    “By proclaiming that ‘markets are conversations,’ and that talking with customers is the ultimate marketing methodology, Cluetrain ignores this important truism from Rene Descartes: ‘To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rat…

  12. Marketing Roadmaps said:
    More PR, Marketing and Blogging links/references
    Ok, gentle readers, I do have a more substantive post on the way about the ongoing debates at Bob Bly’s weblog about direct marketing versus weblogs, and the similarly polemicized blogging versus journalism debate that is happening in various forums

  13. Anonymous said:
  14. Bruce DeBoer said:

    Doc, (ref. 8)
    I saw your comment and went back to reread. My thought: “maybe I missed something”. On second read I could see a depth of influences. There are many good insights. Maybe it was the format but many of those insights were hammered to death.

    Still, overal, the Manifesto reminds me of earlier overly excited web preachers that helped inflate a bubble that got me laid off in 2001, hence my comment about fundamental strategy.

    Marketers often tend to take a slice of that strategy, play with it, fill it with buzz words, create meaningful insights but fail to reintegrate the meaning.

    I maintain that the really bright CEO’s practice what you preaching. Ultimately, it’s easier said than done profitably.

    I’m not afraid to be wrong, what do you think?

    BTW – I like the read though and will recommend it.

  15. Aileen Cassidy said:

    Knowing the history of purchases seems to be a reliable indicator of future purchases. However, I do know one thing is certain: I discard all marketing materials received in my mail without reading them, period. I refuse all telemarketing attempts without exception. There is simply too much of this material clogging up my mailbox and too little peaceful time at hime to have it invaded by strangers. And everyone I kow feels the same way. So how come these methods are so aggressively pursued? Do they really improve sales? I am curious.

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