I just finished a book you are going to love: “Join the Conversation: How to Engage Marketing-Weary Consumers with the Power of Community, Dialogue, and Partnership” by Joseph Jaffe.

You can probably tell from my blog that I love new models in business, communication and especially customer relationships. This book echoes these themes. It’s a wake-up call from the old style of marketing and one-way communication (from company to customers).

Jaffe has come from the ad agency world (where I started my career, too) and realizes the decline of old-style marketing effectiveness. He recognizes the radical transformation in consumers today in how they want to live, buy and engage. Jaffe says, “In a new marketing world, where conversation trumps communication, there is no hegemony, only partnership.” I love this–a company doesn’t own its customers or dictate terms anymore, it’s a whole new world and it’s a lot more flexible.

He also says, “Marketing must evolve.” Jaffe suggests it is time to find out where your customers are talking and engaging, and join in. He points out the road can be tricky but offers good ideas and advice. You’ll find he cites examples of brands doing this successfully and those doing the exact opposite–failing to be relevant to their customers.

I especially like two acronyms he uses. First, RUE: relevance, utility and entertainment, to describe the foundation for communication. Second, EPIC: experience, permission, involvement, conversation. (If you read this blog regularly you know these are some of my favorite words.)

Just yesterday I was sitting with the owner of a car repair chain and I recommended this book to him. He wanted to know where marketing was headed and I said it’s all about the customer experience–no more one-size-fits-all communication, and a shift towards putting resources and effort in growing customer relationships. He wrote it all down. He’s been taking steps in this direction and it’s been paying off.

If you want to read a good articulation of where marketing and customer relationship management is heading–pick up this book.