“Markets are conversations”, possibly one of the most referenced points of the seminal book, The Cluetrain Manifesto.
The book, first published in 1999 lays out 95 theses which are considered by the authors as the founding principles for any organisation looking to operate on the internet. Fast forward 20 years and “Markets are Conversations” is now more relevant than ever to organisations wanting to adopt a successful communications strategy
Here is an excerpt detailing what “markets are conversations” is really getting at:
“The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone”….Market leaders were men and women whose hands were worn by the work they did. Their work was their life, and their brands were the names they were known by: Miller, Weaver, Hunter, Skinner, Farmer”.
Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They 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”.
The need for a worthwhile conversation
Technology has accelerated the basics of a market as a conversation through the introduction of new channels and has helped construct and connect vast networked communities to trade and communicate.
Strategy before Tactics
I’m not saying every organisation should be adopting a content approach – indeed recent insights from a Buzzsumo article on Content Trends for 2018 suggested some key highlights that many organisations are perhaps churning the wheel of content with no monitoring, management or measurement model in place. Here are some insights:
- Based on a sample of 100 million posts published in 2017, social sharing of content has been cut in half since 2015
- The volume of content published continues to increase and new topic areas get rapidly saturated with content
- In this world of content saturation and falling social shares, the big winners are sites that have built a strong reputation for original authoritative content
Every organisation needs to take a step back, pause and assess what tactics are being used to meet the objectives of their business.
Tactics are easily replicated but a strategy is not. It should be unique plan of action in the context of what your organisation aims to deliver and should not be replicated or copied from another organisation.
Does a content approach for your business make sense to what you are looking to achieve for your local client base? How is it being monitored and measured when it comes to moving the business forward? What SMART objectives have been set to assess what/what doesn’t work?
This view of serving a community chimes in very well with a recent post by Mark Masters, founder of content marketing consultancy. The ID Group who mentioned in a recent blog post “..having a clear path to what you are producing and the audience it is targeted at. Once you have this firmly in place, you can then focus on the tactics”
Start small but at least start with your audience
So what would happen if your organisation decided to stop, switch off and suspend their content marketing activity for a few days…
Would anyone really notice? Would it impact your business objectives?
I’m guessing for many organisations such a drastic step has not been taken, especially if the content approach is built on the needs of the organisation rather than the audience? And it seems this is a key sticking point for many organisations, the challenge of creating valuable content?
A recent study by Valuable Content surveyed their newsletter community and wider social networks to identify the main challenges faced, you can read the full story here: http://www.valuablecontent.co.uk/blog/content-marketing-challenges-research-2018)
Source: Valuable Content: Content Marketing Challenges
The main challenges identified from the survey was around the themes of creating content that was seen as valuable and understanding what your audience wants in the first place.
Meeting the needs of your audience
We are all operating in markets and we all depend on conversations to create a demand and need for our products and services.
With the explosion in technology in particular the acceleration in digital marketing analytics data, it has seen the dilution of barriers to enter for organisations but significantly, it has seen a disconnect between the organisation and their audience.
However to find innovation and a stimulus for hope in resurrecting markets are conversations, it’s the smaller organisations that truly offer some great examples as to how they are building relationships with their audiences to support their content initiative
Gordon Fong, Founder of Kimcell Ltd a business that specialises in Information Technology with a focus on the people side of business and in turn have carved out a niche focusing on specific markets. Through the 18 year history of the business, Gordon has used his time to build a community of like minded business people, suppliers, customers and peers so much so that Gordon spends a lot of his time using social media to promote the Southbourne area and what it has to offer.
Re-addressing Tactics to support Strategy
However it was becoming clear getting your voice heard at a crowded event conference was getting tough.
Although plenty of qualitiative insights through informal discussions were being generated, Gordon decided to make use of these valuable insights. He realised much of the feedback from customers attending conferences were around Social Media, how ot use the channels effectively as well as fears and threats.
Gordon set about setting up a mini tour of the UK providing a training session on Social media and answering the questions, pain points and worries he has had been collating.
This initative saw Gordon tie his events to the October European Cyber Security Month in collaboration with other businesses and Bournemouth University. Taking the initative of listening to customers, The European Cyber Security Month is based on answering audience concerns around all things cyber security
What it’s meant for Gordon and his business is his marketing strategy is centred around the needs, concerns and views of his audience. This drives the context of what he markets. He wasn’t afraid to adjust his marketing mix to position it more around the needs of his audience and building a closer connection
Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone…
And the lesson to take from Gordon’s approach is by creating an event that brought him closer to his audience, meant he initiated an approach to meet the needs of his audience.
Could your organisation take a similar approach?
What are the burning issues of your audience that your organisation could be answering better?
There are plenty of channels you can start to use to really understand better what your audience needs and how you could be adapting your communications strategy to better meet their needs:
- Customer Service – Tap into your customer service team – what are the common questions, concerns and challenges that seem to be on the agenda every day? Your customer service team should be able to paint a picture of common pain points
- Speak to your audience – The best insights will come from speaking to your audience directly. Consider segmenting your customer base down into current customers, loyal customers and customers that no longer buy or engage from you and map out commonalities or specific differences from the types of customer segments.
- Dig into analytics – Your analytics platforms can provide you with quantitative insights as to how and what your audience navigates to and from across your digital channels.
- Site Search – What users search for on your website
- Behaviour Flow – The route users take when navigating through your site
- Site Content – The most popular content viewed and where users both land on your site and exit
- Goals – If you have created goal reporting – look into success measures or not
- Speak to Sales – Your sales team should have a mountain of insights and useful content as to the common issues they face when speaking to clients and potential clients. Ask them what are the most common questions they need to address from clients before they move into the actual sale? Could there be an opportunity here to convert the same questions being asked over and over again into useful content?
By really getting to understand your audience needs through the art of conversation, you can better understand their needs and how your organisation can support their key problems and challenges. Not only that but it’s an opportunity to re-address the tactics you are using, not being afraid to adapt and differentiate your proposition away from your competitors, because, they are probably don’t realise, “markets are conversations”.