by Gary Beach

Still Clueless

Sep 30, 20082 mins

When CIOs don't engage customers, companies lose

Is corporate marketing more art or science?

In this age of downloads, uploads, white papers, green papers, IM and an addiction to leads, marketing mostly marches to the beat of scientific metrics. But I would argue that marketing in the 21st century is not a science. Nor is it an art.

It is a conversation among and between your company’s customers and prospects. You’d better be part of it. You’d also better be deploying technology to make those conversations happen.

Who promulgated this “conversation” theory? Surely the folks at Facebook, LinkedIn, Google or MySpace, right? Wrong! It was four guys—Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger—who in 2000 published The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.

The book takes readers through 95 ways they can engage with their customers and prospects, largely through the Internet. It places the onus on the CIO for making those conversations happen successfully—by using powerful technology that a firm deploys to reach out to the customers in the ether.

But sadly, the overwhelming majority of CIOs are not part of those customer conversations. When we asked CIOs, “With whom do you meet regularly?” only 9 percent said, “Customers.”

Twenty-eight years ago, a McGraw-Hill magazine published an article advising marketers on how to get people to do what they want them to do. The bias was in favor of corporate marketing departments controlling the conversation—and economic activity—with customers. Now, the customer is in control. And while many companies continue to rely on metrics to determine marketing success, such as the number of times their white paper was downloaded, determining the content of subsequent conversations about such material is the surest path.

Marketing in the 21st century is now all about how customers get companies to do what they want them to do. Powerful social networking tools allow you to find out how you can work better for your customers. Hop over to and buy a copy of The Cluetrain Manifesto. It remains the seminal book written on the power of social networking. Even more important, get out and see more customers!