Tom & BookTom Wanek, author of the Mar­ket­ing Beyond Adver­tis­ing blog and for­mer e-commerce entre­pre­neur has just pub­lished his lat­est book: Cur­ren­cies That Buy Credibility

As a fel­low Wiz­ard of Ads part­ner, I had the good for­tune of see­ing him develop the mate­r­ial for this book over the last few years and of strong-arming him into an inter­view on his incred­i­bly orig­i­nal approach to Sig­nal­ing The­ory and marketing.

The tran­scribed Ques­tion and Answers are below:

Q: First, let me say how much I love the 6 Cur­ren­cies frame­work for think­ing about cred­i­bil­ity builders.  And in think­ing about your frame­work, it occurred to me that the indis­pens­able ele­ment in all the cur­ren­cies – the com­mon thread – is the idea of vul­ner­a­bil­ity.  You’re cred­i­bil­ity is directly tied to how vul­ner­a­ble you make your­self by your will­ing­ness to place one or more of those 6 cur­ren­cies on the line.

Have I gone off on the deep end here, or is vul­ner­a­bil­ity really the key ele­ment behind the cur­ren­cies – the idea that you have to make your­self vul­ner­a­ble before a cyn­i­cal audi­ence will take you seriously?

TOM: [Laughs] No, you haven’t skipped off the deep end just yet.

Vul­ner­a­bil­ity is cer­tainly another way to look at it. In the book, I dis­cuss resources that you can risk or spend to pur­chase cred­i­bil­ity. And obvi­ously vul­ner­a­bil­ity is an inher­ent part of risk.

Jeff, you’ll also appre­ci­ate that my inspi­ra­tion for the six cur­ren­cies comes from Sig­nal­ing The­ory – which observes how ani­mals com­mu­ni­cate using bizarre behav­iors and phys­i­cal traits. Biol­o­gists com­monly refer to the “cost” of send­ing a par­tic­u­lar sig­nal.  And in many cases, this requires that ani­mals place them­selves in vul­ner­a­ble situations.

Q: Would you draw a par­al­lel between this and a post by Michele Miller on Mar­ket­ing to Women?  Michele said that although women WANT con­nec­tion, the way to allow con­nec­tion to develop is to PROVIDE women with con­trol.  In other words, give her con­trol by mak­ing your­self VULNERABLE to her, and then she’ll form a CONNECTION.   Do you see that mes­sage as being par­al­lel to Cur­ren­cies that Buy Credibility?

TOM: Yes, Michele is rec­om­mend­ing that busi­ness own­ers invest the cur­rency of Power and Con­trol. And her rec­om­men­da­tion is spot on.

It seems that most busi­ness own­ers want to con­trol the cus­tomer rela­tion­ship. But this con­trol­ling behav­ior breeds the habit­ual corporate-speak of hype and chest-thumping clichés that con­sumers have come to loathe and reject.

In the book, I pro­vide two case stud­ies that demon­strate how com­pa­nies boost their cred­i­bil­ity and authen­tic­ity by invest­ing Power and Con­trol into their cus­tomer relationships.

Q: Although every­thing in mar­ket­ing is aston­ish­ingly con­text depen­dent, if I admit that going into this, can I ask you a non-contextual ques­tion?  What cur­ren­cies seem to work bet­ter than oth­ers?  When it comes down to brass tacks and you’re employ­ing these strate­gies on behalf of your clients, are there some tech­niques or cur­ren­cies that are your “go to” stuff?  Or do you use them all about the same?

TOM: Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the more you risk, the more believ­able your mes­sage becomes.

But as you know, con­sumers do not make deci­sions in iso­la­tion. Rather, they com­pare the dif­fer­ences between their avail­able options.

For these prin­ci­ples to truly work, your cred­i­bil­ity invest­ment must rein­force your mes­sage. And you won’t be able to pur­chase cred­i­bil­ity unless you stay true to your­self.  In other words, if your busi­ness can’t sup­port what you’re sig­nal­ing, then don’t send that par­tic­u­lar sig­nal. Redi­rect your resources.

Q: Are there some cur­ren­cies that are over-used? Are there some that are under-used?  If so, might there be an advan­tage to “cor­ner­ing” the mar­ket on their use?

TOM: No, I believe all cur­ren­cies are under­used.

That said, we do see mate­r­ial wealth invested most fre­quently in the form of war­ranties and guar­an­tees, but this does not mean the other cur­ren­cies are any less effec­tive. Again, con­text is everything.

Thanks so much, Tom.  I can’t wait to get my hands on the book.