Marketing Lessons from Non-Marketing TED Talks: How to Have Constructive Conversations

What’s in this article:

  • Another chapter in PostFunnel’s TED Talk lessons for marketers
  • Here we dig into the key pieces of advice Julia Dhar has for conversationalists everywhere, and think about how they apply to the marketing world

As a world champion debater, Julia Dhar is never one to shy away from in-depth conversations.

As Dhar explains in her recent TED Talk, it’s these conversations that are the most constructive. From personal relationships to global relations, Dhar shows how constructive conversation essentially makes the world go round.



As marketers, constructive conversation — with your colleagues, your supervisors, and your customers — is crucial for achieving your goals. Internally, it allows for the transfer of ideas throughout the company, strengthening the organization’s collective knowledge. With customers, better conversations mean a better understanding of how to serve them — and the ability to do so across the board.

Here, we’ll look at the key pieces of advice Dhar has for conversationalists everywhere, and think about how they apply to the marketing world.

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Make Every Engagement Purposeful

One theme Dhar revisits throughout her Talk is the idea that conversations can’t be constructive if they lack purpose.

In such cases, at least one party is going to be lost going into the engagement. In turn, they’re not going to get nearly as much out of the conversation as they should.

As marketers, you need to go into every conversation and engagement you have with a sense of purpose.

When engaging with your customers for any purpose, you need to have a clear idea of the information to be communicated — and how to make this happen.

Overall, you should know how to:

  • Deliver the most important and relevant information for the moment
  • Elicit and collect the necessary information from the customers
  • Enable the customer to use what they’ve learned to make progress in their journey

It’s also important to recognize when your customers are telling us something you need to know — and how to dig deeper with them. From service or support tickets to social media comment threads, to off-the-cuff remarks, each conversation provides us an opportunity to learn more about your customers, and to deliver more value to them in turn.

The same goes for internal conversations, as well. Taking a more intentional approach to communicating and engaging with your team members will ensure everyone stays on the same page at all times.

(In contrast, a lack of focus — during meetings, training sessions, or one-off encounters — can derail a conversation before it even gets started. In turn, your team won’t be able to be all that productive moving forward.)

Understanding the value of your conversations — and communicating this value to all involved parties — is essential to making the most out of your engagements. Keep everyone on the same page, and you’ll all be able to move forward together.

Curiosity Over Clash

Every time two or more people engage in conversation, there’s a chance of “clash” occurring.

While Dhar certainly has experience with clash as a world-renowned debater, she acknowledges that it can happen anywhere — even in less intense situations.

The key to avoiding clash?

Choose curiosity.

As Dhar explains, focusing on the “curiosity conversation” allows us to “understand the other person’s perspective, to see what’s on their side of the fence”. Instead of reinforcing our viewpoint over and over, we should allow our counterparts to tell their side of the story — and focus on absorbing everything they have to say.

This, again, applies to us as marketers.

Now, it goes without saying that clashing with your customers isn’t the best strategy for engagement.

But, in the so-called “Age of Skepticism” — in which 71% of consumers don’t trust brands to fulfill their promises — such clashes are becoming more and more likely just as a matter of course.

Though you can’t control the way your customers approach conversations and brand engagements, you can control your approach to the situation.

Again, it’s all about staying curious. When engaging with your customers, you should always be looking to learn more about:

  • Their overarching goals
  • Their experiences with your brand
  • The hangups and challenges they’ve faced along their path to success

Sometimes, the “clash” may not come from the customer, per se, but from the information they provide.

Even if — or especially if — your findings don’t align with your previous understandings, you need to stay curious and remain open to the new information being volunteered. Failing to acknowledge and dig into this new information will hinder your team from getting the most they can out of their customer engagements.

(Quick note: Being more attentive to your customers’ comments and concerns is an effective way to build trust — and to allay their skepticism of your brand.)

Choosing curiosity over clash is also necessary for improving internal communication, as well.

To be sure, workplace disagreements aren’t exactly uncommon: According to a report from CCP Global, 85% of employees experience interpersonal conflicts at some point on the job.

Obviously, the more disagreements your team encounters, the harder it will be to create synergy throughout your organization.

As mentioned earlier, the best way to avoid clash is to focus on understanding where the other person is coming from. In this sense, all team members need to understand:

  • The other party’s role and purpose within the team
  • How their efforts impact the other party’s ability to do their job
  • How both parties can work together better to improve the team’s overall productivity

The more you know about your colleagues’ experiences and perspectives, the easier it becomes to have a constructive conversation that leads to better things for the team — and ultimately for your customers.

Use Objections to Make Progress

This ties into much of what we’ve said so far — but takes it a step further.

As Dhal tells her audience, one of the main goals of having constructive conversation is for our ideas to get better “through challenge and criticism”. It’s not so much that we should be avoiding clash — but rather we should be embracing it when it happens.

From a marketing perspective, this means more than just making the most out of any criticism your customers may have of your products, services, or brand as a whole.

It means actively soliciting this less-than-stellar feedback and using it as a springboard for growth. In some way or another, your customer conversations should touch on any negative or neutral experiences they’ve had with your brand — and what you can improve moving forward.

A few examples:

  • Including questions regarding disappointments, etc., within feedback surveys
  • Asking for “cons” within product review forms
  • Soliciting constructive criticism via social media post

Some areas to focus on include:

– Pre-purchase hesitations your customers had about your brand

– Friction/hangups during their initial brand experiences

– Nitpicks and less important complaints throughout their journey

– Wishes for the future

As we’ve said, you’ll then want to dig deeper into their comments to gain a more comprehensive idea of how to improve your services.

Internally, healthy conflict can actually be a catalyst for growth — and should be encouraged on a regular basis.

Note the key word there: Healthy.

Again, you aren’t looking to avoid clash, but rather to use it for constructive purposes. It’s all about working together to get to the root of a problem or disagreement — and to figure out the best way to proceed as colleagues.

A strong company culture can help keep disagreements to a minimum and allow your team members to engage in constructive conversations at all times.

Find and Focus on Your Shared Purpose

Dhar’s Talk wraps with a quick story of her asking the Prime Minister of New Zealand what it took to hold a group of differently minded politicians together during meetings.

His answer:

Take responsibility for reminding them of their shared purpose.”

Regarding the marketer-customer relationship, the shared purpose is simply to deliver the best possible value to the individual consumer.

Now, saying that is one thing.

Showing it will prove to your customers that you truly care about their success — which will go a long way toward building a trusting relationship with them.

Becoming fully customer-centric means focusing on your customer’s success above all else. Here’s how to make it happen.

This trusting relationship is what will allow constructive conversation to flow at every touchpoint.

The clearer your dedication to your customers, the more likely they’ll be to:

  • Provide information about themselves
  • Offer feedback about their experiences with your brand
  • Express their expectations for the future

Making your dedication clear can also help mitigate any negative experiences your customers may have over time. Here, your goal is to be as responsive as possible, and to truly understand your customers’ feedback to ensure they have a better experience in the future.

Looking internally, your marketing team’s purpose is still the same:

To deliver the best possible value to your customers.

It’s this common ground that will allow your team members to look past individual clashes or disagreements, and to stay focused on the “big picture”. With all other issues pushed to the sidelines, your meetings and conversations will become more constructive than ever — and will always stay centered around what’s best for your customers.

The post Marketing Lessons from Non-Marketing TED Talks: How to Have Constructive Conversations appeared first on Post Funnel.


Online enterprenuer. Lean leadership consultant.

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