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« June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »

Marketing convention

Marketerspin Jeff Cerny sent in this photo of a bunch of marketers at a convention.

Fear of a small enemy

Most big organizations operate out of fear as much as they do out of a desire for growth. And a new fear is spreading through the marketing department: fear of the little guy.

Forever and ever, the masses were king. People were disconnected, so annoying three or six or even 10% of your audience wasn't such a big deal.

Now, though, that lone disgruntled customer can make an awful lot of noise on her blog.

While some organizations are trying to flip the funnel and give a megaphone to their happiest customers (leveraging their positive word of mouth) more are obsessed with silencing the dissenters.

Just as asymmetrical warfare has turned our geopolitical system upside down, the same thing is happening in the marketing world. While it's tempting to spend all your time stamping out the little enemies, the architecture of the system favors a strategy of embracing and leveraging your happy constituents instead.

PS Jeff Jarvis has a different take here. Of course, I think it's pretty obvious you must do both. Your enemies, though small in number, can really hurt you now.

PPS So, I wrote this, then read Jarvis, then a minute later, heard from Tom. Go figure.

[reposted due to Typepad's crash yesterday]

Plop plop fizz fizz... doubling sales

Alka Seltzer (made with baking soda) doubled their sales in just one day. How? By putting two "plops" into the commercial... before that, people only took one. It put Mary Wells on the map as a marketer.

Heinz did the same thing when a squeeze bottle replaced a glass bottle for ketchup.

The car radio and DVD player increased car mileage for families.

Laptop computers dramatically increased the time people spend doing work.

(The internet dramatically decreased it, so we're even).

Comments (and commentful) double or triple the number of times some individuals visit individual blog posts.

20% of the people in Georgia drink Coca Cola for breakfast.

Sarbox tripled the amount of time accountants and lawyers spend with public companies.

And I'll finish my list with another baking-soda-related remedy that doesn't work either: Buying a box for your fridge.

Archetypes: Cinderella and Superman

Kurt Andersen did almost an hour on Superman last week... and I found myself driving slower to hear it all. A&E did a special on the history of him as well... though he's hardly underexposed (except for the underwear part).

And today on Fifth Ave., women were falling all over themselves to spend $300 instead of $500 for $14 worth of fabric and a few cleverly applied cuts and stitches.

The Superman archetype drives sales of everything from SUVs to compensation consultants and personal trainers. And the entire multi-billion dollar fashion and cosmetic industries are driven by Cinderella.

The genius of Siegel and Shuster (who invented Superman and sold him for a few hundred bucks to DC) was in taking the stuff that was already in the water supply and turning it into the seeds of a "new media" empire.

Lowering standards

Nice riff from Andy: You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know.

What should Digg do?

I've been thinking a lot about Digg and the other social news services.

Start here:
they have far more readers than writers.

I don't have access to the data, but I'm betting ten or twenty times as many people read the Digg list as post to it.

Which is just fine.

Second: there's no way they will ever make a profit from their readers. That's because
a. more and more will find the hotlists in places other than their site
and
b. people reading the hotlist are unlikely to be swayed by an ad.

Think about reading the Billboard charts or the Amazon bestseller list. That's a very goal-directed activity, and the goal isn't necessarily to find something that's NOT a bestseller. People skip the ads on the bestseller page, but read the ads in the classified section.

But that's just fine too.

The reason?

Third: the Diggers, the posters, the surfers... these are very highly-leveraged people. Call them the Legion of Super Surfers. Okay, bad acronym, maybe not. Call them the league of the leading edge.

The leading edge has always been important. Now, though, since they have a megaphone, since Digg and the others are amplifying their movements, they are far, far more important than ever before.

And that's Digg's asset. They have aggregated the league.

So what now?

Get permission.

Get permission to fead the League tidbits about the future. The reason they are Diggers is that they like being first, they like discovering cool stuff and then sharing it. So organize that process and monetize it.

Here's what I would do (two alternatives)

1. Say to every Digger: here's our FirstLook RSS feed (or sign up by email). Every two days, we send you a link to an article, a new product, a political idea--whatever topic you tell us you love.

Then, go to the teeming masses of marketers out there and invite them to nominate their new ideas, their new posts, their new sites to your editor. The editor picks the ones that are good enough, that make the cut. Figure three or ten or a hundred a day, depending on the demand. Once demand goes up, charge $20 just to submit one, so the editor can hire a squadron of assistants.

Alert the marketers that have something worth of distribution. Let the others down easy. Now, let the ones that qualify bid against each other. High bidder gets first billing, top five bidders make the list.

Alert the 500 or the 5,000 or the 50,000 Diggers that signed up. They see a list of things that might be tomorrow's big news. They digg the ones they love. Marketers save millions and months. Digg makes a fair profit and becomes a key powerbroker in the launch of the new. Diggers who choose to get to see a commercial glimpse of tomorrow (the same way reporters choose to look at press releases from the right media outlets).

2. The other alternative could happen tomorrow. Build a Squidoo lens or a blog for Legion members. Figure out how to assemble a thousand or even 200 like-minded diggers. Have them sign up and give you their email address. Use the RSS feed of the lens to keep your members up to date. Now, instead of finding readers for your "ads", you find ads for your readers. Every day or two, your post goes out to your members. Every day or two, you make a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand dollars from someone who had a story worthy of being distributed.

Obviously, neither approach works if you sell out. Neither approach works the minute you stop representing the interests of the League. Take a lot from Zenith or Quasar to push some lame device and you fail.

It's pretty clear to me that this is the moment to build an asset like this one, one that could last for a long, long time (maybe even five years!).

When the web comes apart

The web used to be a collection of sites, loosely linked. Domain was king.

Google blew up the web. The web became a collection of pages, more tightly linked, and you could find any page you needed.

Reddit and Digg and Delicious atomize the web. No need to read blogs any more. Instead, let others do it for you, and these (and the many other) social news services surface the most interesting, the hottest, the most controversial posts for you.

This satisfies a basic human need... to do what others are doing, to read what others are reading. It reorganizes the scattered threads of discourse, creating a few (instead of a million or a billion) reading lists.

Of course, there will be a million imitators and improvers. And then another generation to synthesize them (a la popurls). It's not the end, just another beginning.

Not the first sale, the second

Kathy Sierra frequently has thoughtful things to say, and in this post about the nod, she talks about the look one user gives another when marketing is done right.

Which got me thinking about the real point of marketing. It's not to sell something to person A. Instead, at least right now, it's to get person A to encourage person B to buy/do something. That's often viewed as a nice after effect, a bonus or an extra. I think, though, that it might be the entire point of the exercise.

Was your vote in the last election based on one hundred interactions with friends, colleagues and respected media voices, or was it based on what you learned from tv commercials and junk mail?

The trend to "best available"

Most customers choose between "good enough" and "best available"

My guess is that before the consumer culture took hold, good enough was the order of the day. Without a lot of lists, rankings, options and varieties, good enough would have to do.

Good enough was the core of a lot of markets... from accounting firms to flour and sugar.

Between human nature and spoiled baby boomers, best available appears to be taking over.

Zales jewelry stores misunderstood this. They saw the growth of Tiffany's as an indication that consumers wanted to spend a lot for jewelry, so they relentlessly upgraded pricing and selection. They failed in their attempt to grow market share and profits, fired the CEO and retrenched. Why? Because expensive Zales jewelry is neither good enough nor the best available. It was in a horrible middle ground.

Customers who seek out good enough can be satisfied, which is good, but rarely upgrade, which, for the marketer, is not so good. Marketers who try to be best available have an ongoing competition problem, though, because best available is a hard position to sustain.

Which now, in our era of the $12,000 cell phone, leads us to a new position: "best available (within reason)." What never ceases to amaze me is how extravagant consumers are willing to be when they define "within reason." Maybe a $300 nylon messenger bag is within reason. Maybe a $400 million CEO paycheck is within reason. We keep redefining reasonable all the way to the bank.

Hard sell at the farmer's market

New guy was there, taking Michael's place. He had these little amazing eggplants with him, and he wasn't prepared to let anyone walk away from the stand without one.

Each person who walked up to buy lettuce or raspberries heard, in detail, about the eggplants. And a huge number of people bought.

I did. They were delicious.

Most people are afraid of eggplant. They won't buy it. They need to be sold it.

And after they're sold, they're often glad they were sold.

In our permission marketing world, sometimes it's easy to forget how important selling is. Not because people are so stupid that they need to be sold something. Not because selling is obsolete because you can just search for what you want and then buy it. No, because selling overcomes fear. Fear of closing, fear of commitment, fear of blanching or sauteeing or just plain fear of buying something.

Salespeople who sell properly sell stuff people wish they would have bought in the first place. It's a huge service... I'm pretty sure we need more good salespeople, not less.

« June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »