Nothing lasts forever, particularly in the world of media, marketing and advertising. In a realm where you always have to be on your toes, and ready for the next big shift, it’s not always easy to stay on top. Sometimes, what you need to keep up with the changes isn’t always to go with the flow, but to stay ahead of the tide.
Nobody knows this better than Tom Martin, advertising guru and social media trailblazer. Tom’s big breakthrough in advertising began with a big party and the desire to change a major misconception, and led to a major development in successful media outreach. Today, Tom knows that great marketing is all about building a community, starting conversations and having a little bit of fun with it along the way.
Of all the Tom Martins you’ll find on LinkedIn, and there are many, the founder of Converse Digital stands out the most. You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but Tom’s 30 year journey through advertising has been, for the most part, far off the beaten path.
After working in advertising for several years in his early career, Tom kickstarted an agency in New Orleans with little more than a dream and a few stable, promising clients. All of that was washed away in an instant when hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005. Tom’s business and his clients disappeared with the flood waters, and he found himself rebuilding from the ground up.
While working with an established ad agency in New Orleans, Tom saw an opportunity to test the waters with the freshly-emerging social media platform, Twitter. Social media had only just begun to take off, and Tom could already feel it was going to be huge for marketing.
So, while everyone else in his field was still busy running print ad campaigns and focusing on the old standbys, Tom decided to conduct an experiment. He wanted to bring a little love to his hometown and had the idea to shed some new light on the well-known and beloved tradition of Mardi Gras.
The Mardi Gras celebration holds a special place in the hearts of NOLA residents, and brings their rich culture and history to life. The big problem Tom had was the widely held perception of the festival, and the “Girls Gone Wild”-esque reputation it had garnered. Knowing the other, true side of Mardi Gras, Tom took to Twitter to change the world’s perspective. He provided live updates as he experienced the festivities with his family, revealing the true nature of the family friendly fun he deeply cherished.
The results of the social media experiment were an abounding success. Before he knew it, Tom had become a thought leader and sought-after speaker within the social media sphere. After all, he was one of the few people experimenting with the marketing potential of these new social platforms. He could sense the buzz coming from the community he’d discovered, and decided to dive in.
Tom founded Converse Digital on the idea of understanding and helping others, because he knew marketing and advertising could do so much more than sell products. He wanted to help other individuals and companies create communities and build relationships with their consumers.
These days, Tom and the team at Converse Digital practice what they like to call “conversational marketing.” Through social media, email and content, the crew at Converse Digital specialize in turning conversations into customers.
During an interview with Pinchforth, Tom reflected on what made his Mardi Gras experiment, and the similar sponsored events that came afterward, so effective. Never once did he tell his audience what to believe. He didn’t sell the experience or try to convince anyone to change their perspective, he simply showed the world what Mardi Gras looked like through his eyes.
The reason Tom’s original quest, and many subsequent ones, proved so successful is because he knows how to start a conversation. By reaching out to the Twitter community with a fresh take and personal experience, he prompted a discussion. Showing Mardi Gras through a new lens prompted even people who’d been before to rethink what they thought they knew.
Tom believes strongly in the idea of stimulating and nurturing conversation as a way to attract and convert customers. It’s what he helps his clients do. Engaging in those conversations is the best way to build trust and, ultimately, convince the person on the other side to become a loyal customer or buyer.
Conversation around a brand can’t only happen between the consumer and the company. In order for conversations to truly inspire, you’ve got to have a community of consumers in the chat room. The brand must essentially function as a tool to bring community members together, sparking a discussion and nurturing connection built on common interests or passions.
This type of “campfire marketing” ultimately inspires an emotional response in consumers. By facilitating meaningful relationships, a brand all but guarantees a long term relationship with those customers. Even if competitors slash their prices, those loyal consumers will never leave the brand that nurtured their deeply personal experience.
True human connection is bigger than any brand. Even when a brand facilitates togetherness, what is most powerful is the community built around it. That community, Tom says, is a company’s greatest resource.
As a business owner or marketer, the smartest thing you can do is to listen to your consumers. Most of the time, marketers are wrong about what people really want and how they think. By pausing and listening to the feedback, your audience will bring the ideas to you.
“Build a community,” Tom says. If you have a good community, you’ll never run out of product enhancement ideas, loyalty ideas or marketing ideas. You’ll have a non stop flow of ideation coming your way.”
We asked Tom to pass along some advice for professionals in the marketing field, and he was quick to offer advice that perfectly fits our evolving world. While it seems as though everything has changed, nothing is different at the end of the day. Even when everything feels up-ended, our jobs are still to build relationships, not just sell something. What’s changed is the medium and the tools and tactics available to us, which is nothing new. Learning how to translate a message from print to Twitter is eerily similar to media transitions of the past.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re learning or trying out new methods and media trends. Tom urges his peers to stay cool and collected. Just take everything you’ve been doing and adapt it for the new channel. Understand the dynamics of the communication medium, and while you don’t want to change your message, you do have to build it differently fundamentally to fit and find the community (psst, this is where Converse Digital comes in). Build new content for your new media.
To wrap up his interview, Tom offered one last piece of advice and encouragement. He notes that, while many people consider the rapid virtualization a bad thing, it actually carries a huge promise of opportunity. Small and mid sized companies who have never considered the idea of international expansion can now swing for the fences and grow their consumer base especially those in commercial services. Anyone can sell globally, because we can just hop on Zoom to collaborate or conversate, and people are now comfortable with it.
Overall, Tom has shown us that embracing change and adapting to a new medium doesn’t have to be scary. Even when you feel like you’ve been flattened, you might just find a community that’s ready to lift you up, make you better and start the conversation about what’s next.
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