Today's column in iMedia is all about what Conversational Marketing isn't. I'm sure I'll hear from all the companies that belong to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association about how they're different, but truth be told, I don't see too many WOMMA members working with a bottom-up approach. Most of the stuff I've seen allows marketers to continue to sit in their ivory towers while paid agents (PR agencies, incentivized brand advocates, etc.) do the work of connecting with the market on their behalf. This ain't right. The best folks to talk about a product or service are the people who developed it, or who are in the trenches everyday improving, selling and living it. People want to talk to the guy who designed the drivetrain for the Ford Mustang, not some PR hack or agency schmuck who is a few degrees of separation from the authentic story.
It was as I feared - a bunch of companies rushed into the space with the top-down approach, and they'll likely screw it up for the rest of us. Maybe we'll re-learn one of the big lessons of the dot com boom and have to go through a period of "Conversational Marketing doesn't work" before we can pick up the pieces and popularize the model that does work. I hope not. I hope that companies start listening now and realizing that some tough and unpopular choices are going to have to be made.