Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Markets Are Conversations

Stumbled on to something about a month ago from the Cluetrain Manifesto that still has my brain buzzing.

"All markets are conversations".

Think about it.

Before the media-industrial complex took over, the first markets were filled with talk.

For centuries, the conversations included far more than discussions over products and services.

Throw in news from the Crusades. Gossip about the king. Opinion on the weather and the harvest. Intrigue over the priest and the neighbour's wife. Heated debate over politics and religion.

Merchants in pre-Marconi and printing press markets had little else going for them other than word-of-mouth. Before newspaper, radio and TV, merchants relied on the power of conversations that others were having. As the Cluetrain authors put it, "Buyers spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations".

Reputation meant everything. It was the only thing you had.

All that changed when conversation became a one-way street, dominated by the multi-billion dollar marketing and advertising industry. And with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, it's easy to look back and see how one-size-fits-all products that rolled off mass-production lines, required messages to suit the masses.

But that was then.

I am sure you have noticed, the 21st century is not for neat, tidy organized minds.

On any given day, people share 830 million items on Facebook, upload 6.1 million photos to Flickr, add 2.1 million minutes of video to YouTube and send 65 million tweets. According to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.

It’s messy as hell out there.

Ever since freedom and control shifted back to the consumer.

Looking up a phone number for my dentist the other day and the first website to appear is one that includes no fewer than nine consumer ratings describing her practice. Booking a trip? You can join the conversation on Trip Advisor. Need to make a diaper change when you're lugging an infant through Times Square? Charmin now has an iPhone app that rates and grades clean washrooms.

Yes, markets are conversations.

Now, more than ever.

As Seth Godin explains, "Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not". But, does that mean all business conversations should be viewed as marketing opportunities?

If conversations are more about listening than talking, who do you see as doing a good job of it in the social media world?

How is your brand doing in terms of engaging in the conversation?

Are you getting with the new program?

Or still stuck in the old?

“A great brand taps into emotions. Emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions. A brand reaches out with a powerful connecting experience. It’s an emotional connecting point that transcends the product”

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If you are curious to know more about his moderately bent philosophy that drives it all, Gair's book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

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