Fourth Person? Fifth Person? Grammatical Person and Marketing

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This may not be an accurate comparison, but I was thinking about web-based marketing today and came up with a thought. I’ve often spoken about weaknesses with websites that are simply ‘yard signs’. I’m reading Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers and it speaks to the same issue. I found I’m as guilty as the next guy – having built quite a few sites that didn’t allow much interaction. I just finished reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. The style of writing that Salinger uses is entertaining because it’s so conversational.

When we look at grammatical person, writers can write about I, we, you, or they. This is known as “First”, “Second” and “Third” person respectively. My supposition is that marketing isn’t too much different. Often, we come across web sites that are written in First, Second, or Third Person points of view. But, just like reading a book, those points of view are fairly limited. It’s the author speaking to you, the reader. There’s no opportunity for you to ask questions or give feedback.

The opportunity for digital and database marketing is that their is a plausible “Fourth” or “Fifth” person. That is, Fourth Person may be allowing the reader to interact with the writer. This could be comments to blogs, or it could be web-based forums, robust internal search, feedback forms, etc. This allows two-way communication, a much richer experience.

“Fifth Person” takes it another step further. What about allowing readers to speak to other readers. What if you allowed your customers to blog about you through your website? Risky? Sure, if you don’t listen to them. When you don’t solicit feedback from your customers and make changes based on that feedback, you need not worry. The feedback and the customers won’t last long!

I would challenge organizations to ensure that their marketing efforts employ all of the above:

  1. Talk about yourselves. (We)
  2. Talk to your prospects. (You)
  3. Talk about your customers (They)
  4. Allow your customers to talk to you (Hey)
  5. Allow your customers/prospects to talk to each other (Me).

Comments welcome.

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