co-learning is better than marketing

Work is learning, and learning is the work. Marketing, for the most part, is about learning. What’s interesting is that ” … the content developed by most marketing departments is used in less than 7 percent of all buying decisions”, according to McKinsey, as cited in The Hypersocial Organization. So it’s not about the content. It’s all about the human connections.

As the Cluetrain Manifesto (1999) began with its first of 95 theses, “Markets are conversations”. Cluetrain continued with thesis #11 — “People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.” We learn best from each other in trusted relationships.

“I’m going to call learning with other players in the extended enterprise co-learning. If I were an instructional designer in a moribund training department, I’d polish up my resume and head over to marketing. Co-learning can differentiate services, increase product usage, strengthen customer relationships, and reduce the cost of hand-holding. It’s cheaper and more useful than advertising.” — Jay Cross (2012)

The best way to understand our markets in the network era is by learning together. If markets are conversations, then the quality of our conversations will affect our value exchanges. Much of our learning is through conversations with others. Without conversations there are no social transactions. Without conversations, there are no relationships.

Our markets will learn with or without us. But when we learn with and from our customers, marketing and learning become the same. This is often lost in one-way broadcast marketing messages that are not directly connected to customer service or even product development, even if they are on ‘social media’. Marketing and learning must be connected to the entire company as well as the whole value network.

Some companies focus on selling a product. It’s just a sales funnel. More advanced firms use consultative selling focused on understanding the client’s needs. But in today’s networked world, sales are much more complex than that. A sale is an emergent property of the network’s relationships. Clients inform the company and the company informs clients. Sales are a result of relationships. Taking a leadership position by helping make the entire network smarter becomes the way to influence purchasing. First connect, then make the sale only when the client is ready. Good marketing is treating everyone as co-learners. Marketing without learning is just noise.




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