Web Marketing Revisited, 10 Years Later

By 02/12/2010August 12th, 2022No Comments

Web marketing revisited, 10 years later

Web marketing got turned on its head, spun around, and slapped a few times for good measure when The Cluetrain Manifesto ( was published in December 1999.

The Cluetrain Manifesto posited 95 theses about the way your prospects and customers think.  A change from “corporate speak” to authentic conversations.

By the way, don’t buy the book!  (Unless you’re like me and can’t read a book without highlighting all over it and taking notes in the book itself.)  You can read the entire book online at no cost at

Web marketing forecasted

Some companies got it, a lot didn’t.

Marketing executives scoffed at its claims.  Ad agency types laughed at it.  And a majority of big businesses ignored its predictions (small businesses were more likely to jump on board.) 

Could that have been the beginning of the demise of big business as we knew it at the end of the century?

Ten years later, no one is laughing anymore.

Many, if not most, of the marketing ideas forecasted by The Cluetrain Manifesto have come to fruition.

One was completely off the mark.

Some of the book gets a bit deep and existential, but the overriding idea is that markets are conversations.

In other words, your ads should be a conversation with your customer, not a pompous lecture.

Web copywriting requires conversational writing

With the idea of “ads being a conversation with your customer” as a starting point, here are 5 of the 95 points that nailed it:

# 3   Conversations among human beings sound human.  They are conducted in a human voice.

Are your ads written the way people talk, or the way ads talk?

continuing in this vein…

# 4   Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

Would your prospects describe your ads as “open, natural, uncontrived”?

# 15   In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business – the sound of mission statements and brochures – will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

I’m all for mission statements and visions and purpose statements and so on.   But have you noticed?   They’re not quite as prominent as they were 10 years ago.  As a copywriter, I’ve only been asked to craft a mission statement once.  That’s all.

# 16   Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

Folks can recognize a pitch coming from a mile away.  Tom Hopkins-style selling had its place, especially in the 80’s and 90’s.  But these days, a different approach is needed.

It’s the reason my copywriting business is flourshing (even in this recession.)  And,

# 24   Bombastic boasts – “We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of xyz” – do not constitute a position.

Advertisers often claim to have what the customer wants, such as “highest quality at the lowest prices”, but fail to offer any evidence.

Direct response copywriters (successful ones, at least) avoid these kinds of unsubstantiated claims like the plague.

Kill the clichés!  Please.

Conversational writing hits the mark

These 5 theses (and a number of others from the 95 in the book) are fundamental to my style of copywriting I call conversational writing.

It’s a style of copywriting I’ve been developing over a 24-year career in direct sales and marketing.  Today, I use it to inject life (and serious results) into the marketing efforts of my small business clients.

Advertising dead?

Oh, and which of the 95 theses was completely wrong?

# 74   We are immune to advertising.  Just forget it.

What?!?  Advertising is alive and well.  Conversational writing especially hits the mark.  And web marketing that uses conversational writing and direct response techniques kicks some serious butt.

Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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