Tupperware and conversations

I don’t necessarily disagree as strongly as Dave Rogers does about the concept of markets are conversations. I do think his points are good, especially the most recent one about a salesperson using a situation to turn a supposed customer service interaction into a sales opportunity:

I have a fair amount of heartburn with a situation like this, because I think it’s fundamentally dishonest on its face. This sales person makes a call on a customer who has made a decision not to deal with the sales person’s company. The pretext is that the sales person wishes to understand how the customer arrived at his or her (negative) decision, with the intent that they will be able to use that information to improve their sales force. It seems to me that since about half of such calls are converted to sales, that’s a false pretext and one that is used, mainly, to reopen the “conversation.”

Think about it, the sales person wants something from someone else, essentially “for free,” and at the same time is making an effort to sell them something. Sounds like a pretty asymmetric “conversation,” if you ask me.

I don’t particularly care if marketers want to have ‘conversations’ or not with their clients. If everyone benefits, more power to them. But I do want to know that when I’m talking to a person, whether directly or through writing, they view the discussion as a discussion, not as a marketing opportunity.

In the last year I’ve come to feel I can’t continue reading several of what used to be favorite sites because I no longer trust that what they’re writing isn’t related to some ‘business opportunity’. It’s not that the webloggers are writing about business per se; nothing wrong with that. I have a few friends who have businesses related in some way to weblogging, and I wish them nothing but success. It’s when I feel that the words are measured, calculated, even goal oriented and the goal is to get me to ‘buy’ into something. It seems that much of the writing lately is staged to lead to some “Aha!” moment, when the weblogger rolls out this new invention, or that new company, or new partnership. Like Dave’s customer, the only value I then add to the discussion is if I’m buying or not.

Some would say that writing to persuade is selling; when we write about politics or feminism or a certain kind of technology, we’re doing so as ‘marketers’. But there is a difference between writing about something you’re passionate about, solely because you are passionate about it, and doing so to create a ‘market’.

I have become distrustful and disillusioned–made more so by jumping on the bait, joining the discussion, and then ultimately finding out that what I took to be an open exchange, isn’t. Oh, I realize that not every discussion is capable of sustaining all threads at equal weight–that’s just noise. But any true conversation should be open to disagreement as much as agreement; new voices, as well as old. Most importantly, true conversation isn’t steered in calculated steps, to a pre-planned outcome. This latter is where markets are NOT conversations, because marketing is about selling no matter how you package it.

It’s difficult to refrain from responding when someone writes something interesting. Lately, I have come to care less about doing so, primarily because I think to myself, “What’s the use? The end result of the interaction will be the same regardless of my input.” It goes back to Dave’s salesman, and the only two possible outcomes from his interaction with the client: a new sale or not. I am disappointed, because I have really come to enjoy cross-weblog and cross-comment discussions.

There is nothing wrong with marketing. I happen to respect it as a field, and am impressed when I see excellent uses and campaigns. I see nothing wrong with being an evangelist for a company or product, or to write a weblog for a company. But I don’t want to innocently join in with others, only to find out I’m at the equivalent of an online Tupperware party; being thrown the verbal equivalent of a container full of water; being laughed at when I grab at it.

I’ve come closer to quitting this weblog for good this last month then I ever have in the past. Every day, I find myself pulling away from it–the marketing, the lists, the cliques, the games, the personal hurts when I’ve assumed a greater degree of friendship with those online then really exists–bumping nose against the reality. Even now, the only thing that’s kept me here, in this environment, are the people I know, know deep in my soul, write for the joy, the comradery, and a delight in the very act. Even if what they write about is marketing.

I am still feeling very tired today, so I imagine this comes across as maudlin, and I as a blogging equivalent to a luddite. Maybe today is a good day to just code.

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