Markets are Conversations. First said by the authors of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” in 1999, this is really a truth that goes back to the barter marketplaces of old, to the trading pits of the CBOE, to today’s electronic marketplaces. But if markets are truly conversations, who’s doing the talking, and what are they all talking about?
Markets exists to facilitate the exchange of value between buyers and sellers. Value is measured in the amount of currency, whether traditional fiat currencies or new-fangled electronic ones, that the buyer is willing to exchange for the goods or services that they buyer is offering. So, it’s pretty clear that buyers and sellers are doing at least some of the talking, and they must be talking about value, whether that is in the form of price, features and benefits, or other tangible and intangible things that can be exchanged.
If that were the end of our story, it would be a relatively short one, though still complex and multi-layer. The problem is, like kids at the dinner table, there are quite a few others who want to butt-in and have their say too. I call them “Interlopers”. Interlopers may be distributors or resellers who come between buyers and sellers mostly in the role of facilitation, ie market makers, or they may be be advisors and consultants and others, who we can call as a group market helpers, and a whole slew of others like reviewers and even celebrities, who economist would generically call “agents”. This wide variety of interlopers are not shy, most of them love to talk, and talk a lot, to both buyers and sellers.
So now, when we add in a 3 participant, our conversations look something like this:
But what do interlopers talk about with buyers? Primarily, they talk about recommendations. For example, they might recommend a seller, a product, a price range, a set of competitors to consider. And as many of these recommendations carry a lot of weight in buyer’s decisions, this is CLEARLY a very important part of the Market Conversations that happen.
Buyers then, realize the importance of interlopers and love to talk to them also. Because their to get a recommendation, they must stand out to the Interlopers. So, when these two get together, they talk about STATUS. So our simple model of the Market Conversation now looks like this:
But there still a bit more to add. Because each of these three groups also talk to each other. When buyers talk to each other they talk about EXPERIENCE. When sellers talk to each other they talk about market SIGNALS and when interlopers talk to each other, they talk about a mish mash of market GOSSIP.
Now our Conversation Market Model looks like this, three participants; buyers, sellers and interlopers, three primary topics of conversation: Value, status and recommendation, and three side topics, EXPERIENCE, SIGNALS and GOSSIP
Think about the market you play in. How would you describe the buyers, the sellers and the interlopers. Simply by understanding what topic you are talking about when, you can accelerate your go to market success. BUT by gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamic and noisy nature of these conversations, with the cacophony of voices, topics and objectives, you can harness the power of conversation to better shape, influence and gain from the markets you are part of, regardless of whether you are a buyer, a seller or an influencer.