The authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto developed a list of 95 theses, which reveal the value of engaging in the online marketplace. Unlike Martin Luther’s infamous theses, which sparked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Cluetrain’s list is loaded with fluff to reach 95 key points. I’ve boiled down what I believe are the 45 key theses and provided a brief explanation of each below.
1. Markets are conversations.
People talk: they spread information and generate buzz. It’s increasingly important to become part of the conversation.
2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
Everyone is different. People have their own attitudes, beliefs and opinions. It’s easy to clump people together by market segments based on general demographic information, but it’s not effective.
3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
Communication is most effective when it is genuine. Word choice and tone do matter.
4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
It’s obvious when people are not being genuine. It’s important not to force anything and to be completely natural.
5. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
Two heads are mostly always better than one. Connecting with people with different perspectives and backgrounds can be a powerful thing.
6. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
Information sharing is making people more knowledgeable about the world around them. People become more open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.
7. 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.
The Internet is flooded with information that is available at our fingertips. Consumers will seek experts online that can provide useful information in a matter of seconds.
8. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
Consumers jump online to find and share information. Everything is public knowledge. Hiding information can only hurt you. Transparency is the key to success.
9. What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.
Employees no longer just communicate internally – they’re connecting externally and communicating with the outside world.
10. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
Consumers have grown tired of strategic marketing jargon and promotional messaging. Companies need to begin communicating like real people.
11. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
The online space is diverse and highly fragmented.
12. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
Just as in life, a first impression gone wrong can be detrimental in the long run. Prepare adequately, but don’t appear rehearsed.
13. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
People talk. People gossip. Being online doesn’t make anyone any less vulnerable.
14. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
Companies don’t run themselves. People do. Employees should get out from behind the curtain and display their human characteristics.
15. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
Companies need to be real. Sugar coating is not allowed. Consumers have the capacity to forget and forgive if they are treated respectfully.
16. Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
Companies succeed by positioning a product or service that fills a void in a consumer’s life.
17. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.
Companies, just like people, will become hampered when the focus is continually on the negatives. Employees need to have strong faith in their efforts.
18. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
The continuous introduction of new products and services along with ever-changing prices are threats to any business. Companies should value their customers and give them incentives for their unwavering commitment.
19. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
People want to work with people who take the time to invest in them. Companies should take the time to get to know their customer’s viewpoints and pain points.
20. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
Companies need to show empathy. Customers will develop trusting relationships if they believe they genuinely care about them and the places they call home.
21. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
Organizations should focus on the overall mission and goals and less on the corporate culture.
22. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.
Communicate with people about things they care about. Show empathy. Show interest.
23. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
Communications and information-sharing is key both on and offline.
24. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
Companies need to focus on the positives and continually strive to improve their companies. Focusing on the competition can only hamper the company in the long-term.
25. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
Employees are invested in their organizations and care about the broader mission and overall goals. As a result, they communicate regularly and spread information with coworkers.
26. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.
Employees will submit useful information to management when they know they are safe in doing so.
27. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.
Companies can garner insightful information from their employees when Intranet sites welcome ongoing feedback.
28. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
The organization chart is no longer relevant in today’s business environment. Employees at all levels now have access to information that was once privileged.
29. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
Teamwork and collaboration is becoming more important. The ability to think outside the box and show insightful, strategic vision is highly valued. Who’s at the top doesn’t matter as much.
30. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.
In today’s age, companies need to engage with consumers and become a part of the conversation to stay afloat.
31. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.
With increased exposure, consumers are becoming skeptical of the information available on the Internet and are losing faith in organizations they once trusted.
32. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
Internet resources have enabled consumers to become experts. Many believe they have the credibility and insights needed to speak directly to and engage with corporate executives.
33. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
Consumers are no longer relying on television to get information. Companies need to learn where to find their customers and how to grab their attention.
34. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you’re not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.
It’s important to fully understand your target audience. It’s necessary to get in their heads and know what they want and need. This is the only way to be sure you’re communicating the right messages and speaking the right language.
35. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—what’s that got to do with us?
Consumers just don’t care. They would never take a press release to the beach and read it for pleasure. Companies need to talk in normal terms and tell them why they should care. They should give them something to care about.
36. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
People enjoy building and creating online tools and information. This gives them purpose and they have a better sense of understanding.
37. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
Consumers are bombarded with nearly 17,000 messages every single day. The market is saturated and they’re overwhelmed. Consumers have become desensitized and have a tough time recalling the source of the message they just received.
38. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
People enjoy learning and seeking out new information. Don’t be a broken record.
39. We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
Consumers have valuable insights that should be taken into consideration. A company’s biggest asset is its customer base. This is where some of the best ideas are born.
40. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to.
People seek information from credible sources. If companies do not make themselves available to provide information and answer questions, they run the risk of having inaccurate information in the marketplace.
41. We have better things to do than worry about whether you’ll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
Life is short and people are busy. There is a lot of competition in the marketplace and someone else who will gladly welcome a customer’s business.
42. We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.
The consumers hold the cards. A brand may be relevant one day and gone the next.
43. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we’ve been seeing.
Consumers are entertaining themselves for hours on end without the help of corporate America. User-generated content is making this more true every day particularly on social media platforms.
44. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
The Internet is a valuable place to obtain information. Companies need to take the time to become well-versed in the online space to stay up to speed with the rest of the world.
45. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.
People are continuously sharing information. If you’re not part of the mix, you’ll be forgotten.