The Cluetrain Manifesto: Book Review

January 30, 2009 at 3:47 pm 2 comments

Levine R., Locke C., Searls D. and Weinberger D. (2001). The Cluetrain Manifesto. Cambrige: Cambrige Center

The book The Cluetrain Manifesto by Levine, Locke, Searls and Weinberger, addresses important issues about the communication between companies with customers and employees. They point out that companies have forgotten the human side and had ignored not only their customers, but also their employees. Companies claim to communicate with their customers, but this communication is only a one way communication, in which companies are doing all the talking. On the other hand customers and employees have already started a two way communication thanks to the Internet. Companies need to enter and be a part of this networking conversation which is changing the way that marketing, advertising and public relations have been done before. The authors agreed that if companies refuse to join this conversation that their business will suffer. However, asking the companies to change their old ways of doing business is be very difficult, because they have been doing business in one way that had brought them not only success, but revenues as well. If they are able to change these “old ways” to run their business then they will not only have the opportunity to listen, but to innovate and improve their products or services.

The Cluetrain Manifesto connects the current conversation with the conversation that started five thousand years ago in the market place “the market place was the hub of civilization, a place to which traders returned for remote lands with exotic spices, silks, monkeys, parrots jewels-and fabulous conversations”(9). Locke states that commerce back then was a natural part of human life, but later companies started divorcing not only their workers, but their customers and “huge factories took the place of village shops; the market place moved from the center of the town and came to depend on far-flung mercantile trade” (10). However, thanks to the Internet these human conversations have started again.

Currently, customers can use blogs, social platforms and engine searches to find what they look for. As a result customers have more choices; they talk and listen to others about a product or a service. They are honest and ready to move on, while companies are stuck in their own old ways of control. They want to have complete power over what their customers consume, they don’t understand that thanks to the Internet they can shop somewhere else because customers don’t have any time or distance limitations anymore. “The Net represents cheap natural resources (data), cheap transport (the pipe itself) and most important, cheap and efficient access to global know-how” (15). Another mistake that companies are making is to think that their brand will save them. For example, a customer that needs to buy a new television has many options, one is to buy it in a store, or buy it on-line and once the customer logs on, the choices become massive. A customer can buy a Sony television that costs over one thousand dollars only because of the brand, but if the customer decides to do a price and brand research, the customer may change his/her mind when he/she finds out that there is another product with the same or better reviews than Sony and for a couple of hundred less. This is the power of the Internet, a power that now is on the hands of the customers and not big manufacturers.

Another aspect studied in this book as part of this conversation is the employees’ role in this market conversation, which is not only to be in direct contact with the customers, but being part of the conversation that their employers refuse to join. Employees want to help, they have useful ideas for their employers, but they don’t want to listen. Lock states that “the fact is, people at the bottommost tiers of the organization often have far more valuable knowledge than managers and corporate control freaks.” (19) Employers build very expensive intranets so that they have a way to say that they are listening, but the truth is that the intranet is full of human resources messages that no one wants to read because the messages are boring and since is a one way communication in which the only ones talking are the managers, no one cares. Managers need to use the intranet for conversation purposes like letting employers express their new ideas on how to improve a product or a service, and why not they are the ones that are part of the big conversation with customers. So far I haven’t heard of a customer talking to a CEO or ED. As a customer you want to talk to someone who listens to them, not someone who is going to read or re-state the company’s policies. For example, not so long ago a customer was having a problem with Comcast and he decided to talk about it on Twitter, a micro blog, a Comcast employee caught it and was able to resolve the customer’s problem. As a result now Comcast has a Twitter account where customers can talk to Comcast employee (http://twitter.com/comcastcares).

In conclusion, the power of market conversations can create product reputation by checking with others before they buy a product. This is a good example that in his market conversation the word of mouth is now global and powerful. Companies need to change their strategy manuals, they need to listen, they need to talk to their customers with a real voice and avoid the buzz phrases like “high performance system solutions” or “innovative system architecture”(105), they need to bring back the trust, they need to stop sending their public relations people to talk to the press because their employees are already talking, they need to join the conversation as humans, not as a legal entity because no one wants to talk to them, they need to add their names to the conversation, add a point of view, a sense of humor and most important, to add passion. The conversation is not only a chatting place it is also a way to coordinate distribution (175). These are not easy changes to implement, however companies must try harder to incorporate some of these ideas. They need to join the conversation because no one will stop. And with more products and services options available to customers, companies need to realize that this conversation is growing everywhere and expensive TV advertising will not do the trick anymore. They need to be a part of this conversation, before is too late.

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Disruptive Technologies and Small New Markets Video to Introduce the Book Review

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mgm5  |  February 1, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Rubi, please see Yun or Michael’s book review for examples on how to reference the book title and author at the beginning. Hats of to you for using video as an introduction. You do very well at analyzing the problems that corporations have interacting with their customers and employees. And it is obvious that you responded to the authors. What you review lacks is a concise explanation of the book. Who are these guys, if it’s a manifesto, how is it laid out, are there chapters etc.

  • […] Rubi (video intro) […]

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