A busy marketplace is a fairly common sight, one that we come across day in and day out. You’ve seen it a hundred, probably thousand times, in your life. But have you ever stopped to observe the hustle and bustle in one of these markets?
The long lines of multifarious shops, those vendors calling out in their varying pitches, the products they’re selling, the haggling, the negotiations, the friendly banter, the mock arguments, and the incessant cacophony of noise that masks the economies of trade.
Aloo dus ke, bhindi bara rupaiye kilo.
Arre, thoda to kum kar do, bhaiya!
Bilkul naya maal hai, madam ji.
Itna mehenga kyon dete ho, bhaiya?
No matter the heat, the sound, the dust, or the overall chaos, business is ever buzzing. It stops for nothing and it has weathered the worst storms imaginable.
Why do these markets thrive? What is it about them that makes them work?
The answer is simple: “Markets are conversations,” says David Weinberger, American Technologist and co-author of the best selling book Cluetrain.
“The first markets were markets. Not bulls, bears, or invisible hands. Not battlefields, targets, or arenas. Not demographics, eyeballs, or seats. Most of all, not consumers.
The first markets were filled with people, not abstractions or statistical aggregates; they were the places where supply met demand with a firm handshake. Buyers and sellers looked each other in the eye, met, and connected. The first markets were places for exchange, where people came to buy what others had to sell — and to talk.
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. There were often conversations about the work of hands: “Feel this knife. See how it fits your palm.” “The cotton in this shirt, where did it come from?” “Taste this apple. We won’t have them next week. If you like it you should take some today.” Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.”
But markets today have become increasingly complicated. Conversations have given way to sales pitches. Simple transactions have turned into economic exchanges and profit into returns on income. Word of mouth has gone global, for the Internet has become a bazar, where not just products but even their value is discussed. Visit Amazon, Flipkart, and you’ll see scores of opinions on the buyer’s experience of the product.
‘Marketing’ has become a concept without which companies cannot survive and there are intricate strategies behind tapping into this bazaar on the Internet. Copious amounts of advice on do’s, dont’s, best practices, and what to avoid. The target audience is extensively profiled and their activities are traced to determine what demographic they can be fit into.
But in moments when we become increasingly burdened by jargon and nomenclature and technicalities, we like to take a step back and pull ourselves together by tapping into the simple wisdom from the greatest minds of this industry.
“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” – Seth Godin
The name sounds familiar, doesn’t it? He pops in from nowhere. Says something remarkable, and disappears, typing away furiously on his blog, only to reappear with an observation that leaves us all wondering, “Now, why didn’t we think of that before?”
Who, then, is Seth Godin?
He is the also the guy behind numerous nuggets of wisdom, like the one above and these ones below:
“Try is the opposite of hiding.”
“The challenge, it turns out, isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting.”
“Don’t try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.”
Coming back to the original quote, don’t just sell for the sake of selling. Always remember the person at the other end of the business transaction – your customer. You are only in business as long as you’re making life either simple or better for him. Anything else, and you’re going to be found out eventually. But if you cater to what your audience wants, you are in the process of winning over the market.
“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me ‘A faster horse.’” – Steve Jobs
It’s impossible not to know who this guy is, unless you are from outer space or you live under a rock. The name evokes Apple, just as Apple screams Jobs. The two are inseparable from each other.
This quote is especially appealing to us because it reflects the other aspect of what we do. As marketers, it’s not just our job to give our audience what they want. It also falls on us to read the trends, decipher the signals, and predict what our audience will need in the future.
In doing so, we’re often faulted for pushing our whims and fancies on the audience and clients, when all we’re doing is making an informed and educated conjecture on what they are likely to ask for in the coming days. And it was this foresight that gave the world iPods when they were happy with walkmans, touch phones when they were happy with feature phones, and personal computers when people didn’t even know they wanted it.
“Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.” – Jonathan Perelman, Buzzfeed
Who hasn’t heard of BuzzFeed? The buzz around that feed is such that it has more than 13 million subscribers on YouTube, and its app is rapidly rising in popularity.
How did BuzzFeed become so immensely shareable? Jonathan Perelman, Vice President at BuzzFeed, in his talk at 99U, tells how.
Content matters. It’s the way you stand out as unique and different from the rest. It reflects your creativity, your perspective, and is the human face of the company. But having great content is not enough. The way you distribute your content, the way it is sold to the people, and the manner in which it is advertised also matters.
Distribution of content is the real deal. Understand the platform where it is being shared, understand the consumer, and only then can the king reign in his kingdom.
“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” – Walt Disney
Disney set out with a dream: to revolutionise cinema. And he did it with the unheard: animation. Having cartoons weave magic on screen brought with it the sense of the unreal. Something straight out of a fantasy. It is this unrealism, this wonder, symbolised by the mouse, that sold well for Disney. And no product of Disney’s forgot that.
Disney’s premise is simple: never lose sight of why you started what you started. Keeping the awe of seeing a walking, talking mouse(Mickey) in mind, Disney strove to bring the same in the reel and real world. And we would say it has worked out very well for Walt Disney, indeed.
As Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s how it works with business, too. So, we’d always advise don’t just do business. Make conversations. Understand people. Interact with them. And sell dreams.