I recently read a great post by Mike Stopforth on the fallacy of digital marketing. His basic premise was that as we create new channels for advertising we tend to try and reinvent the fundamental principles of communication. As he points out, this is really pretty silly. Mike argues, correctly, that the principles remain the same regardless of the channel employed.

This got me thinking about something fairly similar. It’s always bugged me how so few marketers in general have never physically sold a product to someone; they’ve never been sales people. I know marketing and sales are supposed to be so fundamentally different that it doesn’t matter, but I don’t buy that. Marketers seldom experience that one-on-one discussion with customers which is so vital to a successful sale. I believe this may have something to do with why both new and traditional marketer’s inherently misunderstand community principles. They’ve never been on the front-line in the trenches. Essentially, it’s been a one way conversation until now and their adverts have never spoken back to them. Social principles have changed this.

I spent a few years in sales and I learned some incredibly valuable lessons along the way. Some were taught to me, and others I learned the hard way. There’s really nothing quite like commission based remuneration as an incentive to fail fast and learn from your sales mistakes. That being said, while there are many techniques employed in sales the one that becomes fairly obvious very quickly is trust. You cannot sell to someone who doesn’t trust you.

There’s only one way to gain someone’s trust and that’s to talk to him or her. Have them talk back to you. Listen carefully to their questions, understand what they’re asking and answer as best you can. Don’t be shy to say you don’t know, but find out and follow up. Give them daily feedback on an order, even if you have nothing to report to them. Never lie. Most customers are excited to be buying your product; it’s your job to be more excited and knowledgeable about the product than they are.

It’s principles like this that few marketers really understand and I think they’re the poorer for it. I also think it’s why “community” is such a misunderstood or misused concept. As with any relationship, communities revolve around trust. As a marketer how do you get your customers to trust you? Do you really understand your client, if you’ve never actually spoken to any of them, or worse you don’t listen when they do speak to you? Ultimately your client isn’t just some archetype on a mood board, they’re real people with real problems you are there to solve. To build trust, your customers want to know that get them and you can’t do that through a billboard.