69 posts categorized "Weblogs"

July 14, 2006

Receptionists

I got a gift certificate for a massage... went to the spa/place to collect it, and the harried receptionist looked up at me and said, "Are you here for a haircut?"

Oh.

Just about every organization has a receptionist. Sometimes, he or she is merely a guardian, a patrol designed to keep the riffraff in the lobby.

Other times, though, a receptionist can change the entire tone of an interaction. If you've got someone answering your phone, greeting your clients--who have traveled a thousand miles to visit your office--or otherwise dealing with the outside world, I think it's time to do some simple cost/benefit analysis.

If the receptionist greets just 100 people a day, that's 20,000 people a year. Is it worth a dollar per interaction to transform all of those interactions into something spectacular? In other words, instead of hiring the cheapest person, or sticking with the existing person because it's easier, what if you invested in a truly remarkable experience?

July 13, 2006

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.

July 11, 2006

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.

July 10, 2006

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.

July 08, 2006

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.

July 03, 2006

Who sets your agenda?

In the States, today is one of those weird pre-holiday days.

Many people aren't working. Some are half working. For most people, their work agenda for today was set by the calendar or their boss.

Weekends are stressful for a lot of people who love their work, because the agenda gets reset, reset by family, not by an internal to-do list or a boss.

And at work, where does your list come from? Do you answer emails by date received, by urgency, by sender? Who decides that? Which blogs do you read, which tasks do you do?

It's fascinating to watch someone who has made a shift from a big company to solo work, or the other way around. The biggest challenge, by far, is one of agenda. What do I do now? What do I do next?

What tends to get done is what's urgent, not important--you've heard that before.

I think, though, that with the new tools and new leverage available to us, the decisions get even more important. Should NBC invest money in free online YouTube content or another show for the 9 pm Thursday slot? That's an agenda question first and foremost. Should you go on another sales call or improve the materials you've got so the next call will go better? Back to agenda.

Because we do it every day, we tend to take it for granted. We assume our agenda is exactly the right one, and we tweak it, we don't overhaul it.

What if, on Wednesday, you overhauled it?

June 30, 2006

So, what's wrong with small business?

Erik Severin points us to Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? The essence, I think, is that entrepreneurs think big thoughts and do big things, while small business owners settle, working their way through the day to day.

The distinction I've always made is that an entrepreneur is trying to make money while she sleeps, and does it with someone else's money! That she builds a business bigger than herself, that scales for a long time, that is about processes and markets. A small businessperson, on the other hand, is largely a freelancer with support, someone who understands the natural size of her business and wants to enjoy the craft of doing it every day.

The more I see both, the happier it appears that small business people are. They often make more money, take fewer risks, sleep better and build something for the ages, something they believe in and can polish and be proud of.

Growth for growth's sake makes less sense every day.

PS please don't read this as anti-entrepreneur! I'm one, and proud of it. I think I was boosting the small business side more than I was tearing down the entrepreneur side...

Four things to remember

1. Ryan points us to Hello hello? XM's Wrong Number Fiasco - Orbitcast.com. Always check the phone number and url on anything you print. Have a friend dial it, just to be sure.

2. If you have an apartment, get tenant's insurance.

3. If you ride a bike, wear a helmet

and

4. Don't put anything about a customer or a boss in an email or on a blog that you don't want the world to see.

Enjoy your weekend.

June 29, 2006

Nine things marketers ought to know about salespeople (and two bonuses)

Continuing in the series:

  1. Selling is hard. Harder than you may ever realize. So, if I seem stressed, cut me some slack.
  2. Selling is personal. When I make a promise, I have to keep it. If you force me to break that promise (by changing processes, features or a rollout schedule) I will never forgive you.
  3. Selling is interpersonal. I am not moving bits, I'm trying to change people's minds, one person at a time. So, no, I can't tell you when the sale will close. No one knows, especially the prospect.
  4. I love selling. I particularly love selling great stuff, well marketed. Don't let me down. Don't ask me to sell lousy stuff.
  5. I'm extremely focused on the reward half of the equation. Salespeople love to keep score, and that's how I keep score. So don't change the rules in the middle, please.
  6. I have no earthly idea what really works. I don't know if it's lunch or that powerpoint or the Christmas card I sent last year. But you know what? You have no clue what works either. I'll keep experimenting if you will.
  7. There is no comparison, NONE, between an inbound call (one that you created with marketing) and a cold call (one that you instructed me to create with a phone book.) Your job is to make it so I never need to make a cold call.
  8. Usually, customers lie when they turn me down. They make up reasons. But every once in a while, I actually learn something in the field. Ask!
  9. I know you'd like to get rid of me and just take orders on the web. But that's always going to be the low-hanging fruit. The game-changing sales, at least for now, come from real people interacting with real people.
  10. (a bonus, switching points of view for a moment): I know that selling is hard and unpredictable. But if you're going to be in sales, you've got to be prepared to measure and predict and plan. You need to give me sales reports and call lists and summaries. It does neither of us any good to keep your day a secret. If you don't plan and organize, I can't do my job of marketing.
  11. (and bonus number two): The two worst pieces of feedback you can give me (because neither is really actionable or especially effective): a. lower the price and b. make our product just like our competitors.

June 27, 2006

Black, white and grey

When I was growing up, most marketers wore a white hat.

White hat marketers have jingles. They buy TV commercials. They tell the truth about what they sell and how they sell it. They offer a money-back guarantee and honor it. They belong to the better business bureau and to the Lion's Club. White hat marketers donate money to charity because it's the right thing to do. They build long-term relationships with people and with organizations. They belong to associations. They go to trade shows and have big booths staffed with struggling models, often in bathing suits. They offer a free bonus--and clearly state what you have to do to earn it. They have a sales force that sticks around.

Lately, there have been a bunch of black hat marketers in our lives. One firm offered to put my new book on the bestseller lists--not by selling more, but by manipulating the system. Many websites manipulate the search engines to rank higher. Companies are organized around spamming people. Firms hire squads of clickers in the developing world to boost their income or to punish their competitors. They say they are giving away something but are really harvesting names. There are rings of people who trade links to influence their Alexa rankings. Squadrons of fraudsters work the eBay universe, just barely staying a step ahead of the system.

It's a slippery slope. Is it okay to vote for your site a million times in an online poll? What about encouraging your readers to vote for you a million times? Digital systems have so much leverage that sooner or later, a line gets crossed.

I worry that it's inevitable that black and white are mixing. That brands we trust send out spam, but call it a legitimate use of their privacy policy. That they hide the results of this test or that ruling because the law permits it. I worry that their webteam is under so much pressure to deliver results that just a little black hat SEO feels just fine. It's easy to shade your accounting and even easier to lie about your online presence.

Online, where a bit is a bit, where no one knows you're a dog, where a big company looks just like someone in their garage... sometimes the people who succeed the most are the ones acting the way we'd least like them to. I wonder what happens next.

June 26, 2006

Ten things programmers might want to know about marketers

In my travels, the group that wants to know the most about marketing, and seems to know the most about marketing (except, of course, for marketers) is engineers. Software engineers and programmers, to be specific.

Why? I think it's because online marketing is particularly interesting and often allied with programming techniques. That and the fact that programmers toil long and hard and get bitter pretty quickly when some marketing dork screws up their efforts.

So, if there are ten things I'd tell you, Professor Engineer Software person, it would be this:

  1. Marketing is not rational. Programming is. Works the same way every time. Marketing doesn't, almost in a Heisenbergian way. If it worked before, it probably won't work again.
  2. Marketing is even more difficult to schedule than bug fixes. Marketing expenses are easily timed, of course, but the results are not. That's because there's a human at each end of the equation.
  3. Most marketers have no clue whatsoever what to do. So we do unoriginal things, or stall, or make promises we can't keep.
  4. Just because Sergey is both a brilliant programmer and a brilliant marketer doesn't mean that all brilliant programmers are good at marketing.
  5. People often prefer things that are inelegant, arcane or even broken. Except when they don't.
  6. Truly brilliant coding is hard to quantify, demand or predict. Same is true with marketing.
  7. There is no number seven.
  8. Unlike mediocre programmers, mediocre marketers occasionally get lucky. When they do, they end up with a success they can brag about for a generation. But that doesn't mean they know how to do it again.
  9. Just because some marketers are dorks doesn't mean your marketer is a dork. Some programmers aren't so great either. Be patient.
  10. Without marketing, all your great coding is worthless. Push your marketer to be brave and bold and remarkable. Do it every day. Your code is worth it.

June 21, 2006

Talking to the future

Mark Hurst makes it easy for you to talk to yourself by email... tomorrow. Good Experience - Introducing Gootodo, a bit-literate todo list.

And Brandon points us to the free app oh, don't forget....that lets you text message yourself (or a buddy) at some date in the future.

[PS I wrote this at 4:30, but arranged to have it posted near midnight. Just because I could.]

June 15, 2006

Maybe you don't want traffic so badly?

My previous post on traffic for your blog placed tongue in cheeck and described more than fifty ways you should change your blog if you want traffic.

But what good is traffic if it gives you laryngitis?

For most bloggers, the point of blogging is to find your voice, to share your ideas, to let the world hear what you have to say.

But if you need to conform, to fit in, to follow the rules, you may very well find that you've lost the reason you had for blogging in the first place.

And the delicious irony is that those that conform often don't get more traffic. They often get less. Because following all the checklists can make you boring.

Safe is risky.

June 14, 2006

Do customers have responsibilities?

Yesterday on the plane, a couple spent the entire flight badmouthing the JetBlue staff. I mean significant profanity and personal attacks. They should have had the cops waiting at the runway, imho.

What fascinated me was that this couple didn't seem to mind that their beef was trivial (they didn't get to sit together in row 10, as they hoped. They could either sit together in row 20 or sit separately) but that they were willing and able to go nuclear with total aplomb.

It struck me that this would have been inconceivable for sober people just ten years ago.

Would it be okay for JetBlue to blacklist this couple? To say, "you guys totally crossed the line, you can't fly with us any more?"

As consumers gain more power and anonymity starts to disappear, I think this might happen a lot. And not just on airplanes. What happens to the person who builds the "I hate McDonald's blog" and spends his life ranking on them? Does she end up banned from the fast food she loves to hate?

June 12, 2006

Do people care?

In response to my post about Nisus and fear, Charles Jolley writes that most people don't care.

Actually, I think it' s more accurate to say that most people don't care enough.

The enough is critical.

People didn't used to care enough about coffee, or gas mileage or ski bindings or Darfur. The challenge of marketing is to get people to care enough... because deep down, most people care. Just not high enough on their (your) priority list of life problems.

The death of the sales call?

I wonder if the sales call has a lot of life left in it.

Before you faint, let me get my terms straight: I think a sales call is a meeting (in person or on the phone) when a salesperson endeavors to sell something to a prospect, and where the prospect is doing the salesperson some sort of service by being there.

Today, though, with streamlined organizations, there are plenty of people who no longer have the time to politely listen to a sales call in order to not offend a b2b salesperson.

And with so many shopping options available, I'm not sure many consumers have the time or desire either.

Instead, I think we're seeing the rise of the buying call.

I have a problem. I'm willing to talk to a buyperson (okay, bad neologism) to help me solve it.

My factory needs to be more efficient. I want to buy a solution. I call a salesperson.

My publishing company needs to grow. I'm eager to have a meeting with an author who will show me a new book that will help me do that.

What changes more than the words is the posture. If you ever find yourself in a meeting, arms folded, barely paying attention, waiting for the salesperson to leave, the right question to ask yourself is, "Why did you bother wasting your time by going?" If you're going to go to a meeting with a salesperson, the new expectation is that you'll come armed with questions, eager to learn what you need, ready to buy the moment you find the right solution.

An unprepared salesperson should be shown the door. What about an unprepared or unmotivated buyer?

When a salesperson gets asked, "Hey, are you trying to sell me something," the best answer may be, "I sure am, and if you're not here to buy something, we should both be somewhere else..."

June 06, 2006

Authenticity

Craig Miller points us to: Hansen's Clothing.

I believe in Duane. I'm not sure exactly why I do, but I do. Maybe because it feels like he wasn't following a manual when he built this store. Maybe it's because his dad was named Elmore.

June 05, 2006

Fifteen minutes?

Picture_79 Just went to buy some advance Amex tickets at Ticketmaster. This is the screen that comes up. I'm not IT guy, but what's powering their computer... gerbils?

It's hard to imagine how many customers, cash in hand, walk away when confronted with this screen. Wouldn't it make sense to figure out a way to get back to me later?

People will be incredibly patient if you set expectations and keep your promises.

June 04, 2006

The 84th problem

It really is about walking in someone else's shoes: 83 Problems.

The thing about coupons

Coupons are a surprisingly subtle invention. Now that anyone can offer them (because now anyone can have a store), it's worth a second to think about what they're for.

First benefit to the marketer is that coupons allow you to offer different prices to different people.

There's a reason that most coupons are not trivially easy to find or redeem. By trading effort for a discount, the marketer says, "if you care about price, I'll sell it to you cheaper, but you have to prove it." Hence the original idea behind Priceline. It was intentionally awkward to use so that the airlines could be confident that only the fare-obsessed would use it.

"Outlet" malls are just coupons in disguise. There's a reason that Armani doesn't have an outlet store on Fifth Ave. in NY. The drive is your way of proving you're serious about price.

The second benefit is that they provide the shopper with a totem. Paper coupons are best, but even digital codes work. With something tangible in hand, the shopper feels as though they have the power to go make an exchange. It's not just about trading money for the object or service. It's about trading in this thing I have in my hand (or pasted onto my clipboard). If I don't buy the thing, I've just lost the value of my totem. Now the purchase isn't just about spending money... it's about realizing the value of a thing I possess--or losing it forever.

Which leads to the third benefit: a coupon can mean now. Give me a coupon and I am forced to make a decision. Will I buy the service or product before the coupon expires or gets lost, or should I forfeit this thing of value?

Three benefits from one tool--and two caveats.

The first: don't do a coupon unless you can execute properly. It needs to be big enough matter. It needs to avoid alienating the middleman (retailer) if that's not you. And it can't destroy the product and what it stands for. No coupons for high-end plastic surgeons, please. Why? Because those that don't want to use the coupon might see it, and its very existence means the surgeon is no longer who you thought they were. No coupons for Tiffany's either.

The second: if you make the use of the coupon a hassle, you've blown it. Barbeques Galore lured me in with a 10% off coupon. Yes, I'm a cheapskate, but it was the totem that got me to go do something I'd been meaning to do anyway. It took me two minutes to find the item I was replacing. I handed them the coupon, picked out some overpriced accessories and stood as they wrote up the whole thing.

The clerk handed me the receipt, and I asked, "Where's the discount? It seems to be missing." The manager walked over and said that the coupon wasn't valid because the grill was on sale.

Well, sure, that's their privilege, but:
They didn't tell me, I had to ask
The coupon said no such thing
They didn't even apply the coupon to the non-on-sale other stuff.

No budging on their part, I finished my transaction and went home.

So, the smart marketer used the coupon properly. The short-term minded sales ops team decided that they could boost profits by alienating the very people the marketer lured in. One more reason that the marketer needs to be responsible for the whole chain.

The best thing about coupons in the post-newspaper insert era is that they are trivially easy to test and practically free to distribute.

PS Bryan Murley points out the other key benefit of coupons... they make it easy to track the media. That's why newspapers embraced them early on. Proof! Now, of course, they make it easy for you to see what's working and what's not. Thanks, Bryan.

June 03, 2006

How to get traffic for your blog

My friend Fred, a talented blogger, asked me for advice the other day. Here's a partial answer, with a few apologies to Swift: (and when you're done with this list, feel free to read my post about shark attacks).

  1. Use lists.
  2. Be topical... write posts that need to be read right now.
  3. Learn enough to become the expert in your field.
  4. Break news.
  5. Be timeless... write posts that will be readable in a year.
  6. Be among the first with a great blog on your topic, then encourage others to blog on the same topic.
  7. Share your expertise generously so people recognize it and depend on you.
  8. Announce news.
  9. Write short, pithy posts.
  10. Encourage your readers to help you manipulate the technorati top blog list.
  11. Don't write about your cat, your boyfriend or your kids.
  12. Write long, definitive posts.
  13. Write about your kids.
  14. Be snarky. Write nearly libelous things about fellow bloggers, daring them to respond (with links back to you) on their blog.
  15. Be sycophantic. Share linklove and expect some back.
  16. Include polls, meters and other eye candy.
  17. Tag your posts. Use del.ico.us.
  18. Coin a term or two.
  19. Do email interviews with the well-known.
  20. Answer your email.
  21. Use photos. Salacious ones are best.
  22. Be anonymous.
  23. Encourage your readers to digg your posts. (and to use furl and reddit). Do it with every post.
  24. Post your photos on flickr.
  25. Encourage your readers to subscribe by RSS.
  26. Start at the beginning and take your readers through a months-long education.
  27. Include comments so your blog becomes a virtual water cooler that feeds itself.
  28. Assume that every day is the beginning, because you always have new readers.
  29. Highlight your best posts on your Squidoo lens.
  30. Point to useful but little-known resources.
  31. Write about stuff that appeals to the majority of current blog readers--like gadgets and web 2.0.
  32. Write about Google.
  33. Have relevant ads that are even better than your content.
  34. Don't include comments, people will cross post their responses.
  35. Write posts that each include dozens of trackbacks to dozens of blog posts so that people will notice you.
  36. Run no ads.
  37. Keep tweaking your template to make it include every conceivable bell or whistle.
  38. Write about blogging.
  39. Digest the good ideas of other people, all day, every day.
  40. Invent a whole new kind of art or interaction.
  41. Post on weekdays, because there are more readers.
  42. Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don't bore your readers.
  43. Post on weekends, because there are fewer new posts.
  44. Don't interrupt your writing with a lot of links.
  45. Dress your blog (fonts and design) as well as you would dress yourself for a meeting with a stranger.
  46. Edit yourself. Ruthlessly.
  47. Don't promote yourself and your business or your books or your projects at the expense of the reader's attention.
  48. Be patient.
  49. Give credit to those that inspired, it makes your writing more useful.
  50. Ping technorati. Or have someone smarter than me tell you how to do it automatically.
  51. Write about only one thing, in ever-deepening detail, so you become definitive.
  52. Write in English.
  53. Better, write in Chinese.
  54. Write about obscure stuff that appeals to an obsessed minority.
  55. Don't be boring.
  56. Write stuff that people want to read and share.

June 02, 2006

Marketing pothole (#3 of 3): What will the boss think

This is the biggest one, and the reason for the whole series.

I now believe that almost all marketing decisions are first and foremost made without the marketplace in mind.

That's a pretty bold statement, but here goes.

I think that most marketers, most of the time, make their marketing decisions based on what they think the committee, or their boss, or their family or their friends or the blog readers with email will say.

When I speak to groups, the folks who are stuck, or who are not finding the growth they are hoping for, rarely say, "we don't know how to get the market to respond." Instead, they say, "my boss or the factory or the committee or the design folks or the CFO won't..."

Now, of course most of this is whining. Most of this is nonsense. It's not everyone else's fault. But that's not my point. My point is that if you market intending to please those people, you only have yourself to blame.

Great marketing pleases everyone on the team, sooner or later. But at the beginning, great marketing pleases almost no one. At the beginning, great marketing is counter-intuitive, non-obvious, challenging and apparently risky. Of course your friends, shareholders, stakeholders and bosses won't like it. But they're not doing the marketing, you are.

May 31, 2006

Marketing pothole (#2 of 3): I'm too busy

I can count on one hand the number of marketers I know who get to do "Marketing" every day. (with a capital M).

Accountants do accounting all the time. Salespeople spent a lot of time selling. But marketers, it seems, have a long list of things they do (budgets, coupons, projections, photo shoots, bizdev meetings, meet and greets, etc.) that is technically marketing--cause I think everything an organization does is marketing--but is hardly in the sweet spot.

Think about the giant marketing successes of our time. From Disney to CAA to Boston Consulting Group... from Ronald Reagan to the Mormon Church to Habitat for Humanity... in every case, these organizations won big time because of a kernel of an idea, a marketing insight that they built upon.

There are more than 50,000 restaurants in New York City. Perhaps 200 of them are marketing success stories. Yet at the other 49,800 restaurants, the owners spend very little time working on their breakout idea, and tons of time doing stuff that feels a lot more important.

Once an organization is up and running, it's almost impossible to carve out the time to find the marketing vision that will make all the difference. Are you too busy working to make any money?

Raveling

In case you haven't been keeping up:

Emily graduates from art school. She builds a myspace page, builds a blog (Inside A Black Apple) and starts selling her art on etsy.com.

I was trying to figure out Etsy, sorting the paintings by "times viewed" and was completely stunned by the fact that some paintings have 500 times as many views as others. And not because of the price, or, apparently, any obvious difference in quality.

Instead, you'll notice that certain artists (like Emily) have hundreds of views. By  my calcuation, she's sold more than twenty thousand dollars worth of paintings so far. (she's sold over 400 works of art, at 10 or 50 or more dollars a pop).

This isn't a post about blogging or myspace or even etsy. Instead, it should be proof to you that the whole thing is raveling (which means the same as unraveling, in case you were curious). That all the systems that kept all the processes in place and leveraged mature industries and experienced players are slowly (or quickly) filtering to the masses. Faster than you thought it would happen.

May 26, 2006

Do apostrophe's matter?

Apostrophe You bet they do.

You might not care a bit about an apostrophe that modify's the word incorrectly, but lot's of people care. They care because it is an instantaneous method for determining whether the person writing is facile with the language and/or cares about doing things correctly.

Now that first impressions are as quick as a few letters in a blog post title (sic!) or a sign in a window, every character matters.

May 23, 2006

In search of better

Every day, in almost every office of almost every organization, people are going to get together to make something better.

Making things better is a natural impulse, especially if you want to grow.

Unfortunately, better is not always the right strategy. Better is not always superior to different.

When you make something that works a little better, you're playing the same game, just keeping up with the status quo. When you make something different, on the other hand, you're trying to change the game.

The next time your engineers or customer service people want to initiate a project to make something better, challenge them to make something different instead.

May 21, 2006

478 Pete

"More case studies," they say. Okay, here's one:

Pete was in a business that's a real commodity. Moving and storage. Mostly local. Anyone with a truck and some strong men can get in. It's about price, mostly, plus service and ethics, I guess.

The thing is, most people don't hire a mover very often. And when they do, they do it with fear and loathing, not excitement. The only thing that can happen is something bad.

So what did Pete do? He built a Purple Cow, one with a real story.

Pete works for Metro North. He sold tickets at the train station in my town. Which means (pre credit card machine) that every single commuter knew him.

Pete got a phone number with a local exchange (478). Only people in town can get that exchange. They're coveted.

And then he hired some nice guys. Not guys who had to be trained to be nice, but nice guys.

So, you see the trucks. The paint job is neat and clean. The firm's name (478 PETE) is the phone number is the story is the guarantee. Of course Pete's not going to rip you off. He'd have to quit his great job at Metro-North to hide from you. Of course he's local, he's even got the exchange!

Bingo. Pete's set for life.

Now, what usually happens at this point is that people say one of two things, "Sure, that was obvious," and "sure, it worked for him... but what about my particular unique one-and-only situation..."

Well, it's not that obvious. And yes, if Pete can make local moving and storage into a goldmine, odds are you can reinvent your gig as well. None of it would have worked if he had run a standard moving company... the product (the men and the man) is the marketing.

May 19, 2006

Lessons Learned from Trader Joe’s

I was talking with a colleague today about the magic of Trader’s. Here’s how they make billions:

1.    they target a consumer that cares a great deal about what they buy at the supermarket. As a result, their customers are more loyal, and more important, are willing to drive farther to get there. This means they can have smaller, lower-rent locations (and fewer of them) which drives up sales per square foot and profits.

2.    These customers are big mouths. They sneeze. When they serve something from Trader’s they brag about, they tell the story of the store. This drives down advertising costs.

3.    Most of what they sell is private label. Now that they have scale, they are able to negotiate great prices from their suppliers, and more important, encourage/force their suppliers to make unique items, or organic foods, or foods of higher quality for the money. All of this is a virtuous cycle. The key mantra is that Trader’s finds foods for its customers, NOT customers for its foods.

I think these three steps are viable for a wide range of businesses and sectors. One example to stretch your thinking: the TED conference. It’s in a remote location, one that’s probably a bit cheaper than some. People who care are happy to shlep. And they love to talk about it. And because the audience is so focused, the speakers come for free, further enhancing the cycle. If it works for supermarkets and high-end business conferences, where else does it work?

May 15, 2006

The rush to quality

I just passed a house for sale. The sign out front was from a mass market realtor, but from their higher end "estates" division. A fancier sign, a fancier name.

It wasn't, however, a fancier house.

In one industry after another, premium brands (Tiffany) are becoming the standard. Why list a house with a regular realtor? Why buy jewelry from a regular store? Why wear regular clothes? As brands learn how profitable it is to go from Class to Mass (Wolfgang Puck and Armani come to mind), consumers are being trained to abhor not the cheap but the middling.

Zales for your anniversary anyone?

May 14, 2006

Different kinds of traffic

So, here's your choice:
You can have a billboard in Times Square (seen by 2 million people a day), or you can be the keynote speaker at the Allen & Co. annual millionaire media mogul retreat, listened to by about 150 people for an hour.

A no brainer? I hope so.

Of course, it's not just the demographics. I think it's the quality of the interaction.

Picture_57 Here's a comparison between two hot properties (MySpace and Facebook) and Amazon.

Should Jeff Bezos be in mourning? After all, MySpace is killing Amazon in traffic.

Of course, this is all irrelevant. Not surprising, but irrelevant. It's not surprising because it's just human nature to measure a simple metric, and to want to improve it. It's human nature to believe that the more people get exposed to your idea, the better you're going to do. It's human nature to want to 'win', however you define winning.

The problem here is that Amazon users visit to buy stuff, and MySpace users visit to flirt.

Last time I checked, flirting was a fairly unprofitable activity.

There's a long list of high-traffic sites (beginning with theglobe.com and extending to hotmail and many others) that couldn't monetize. They were stuck because the bait that got them the traffic had no room for a reasonable hook. You could use a TV like model and interrupt with irrelevant ads, but it doesn't work so well.

All a long, long way to say something simple:
Whatever your website, I think you want better traffic, not more traffic.

You want to figure out why the right people will come, not build a sideshow that attracts exactly the wrong people.

At trade shows, there's always a few booths with magicians, fire-eaters or bikini-clad models. And post-show, there's no evidence at all to indicate that the noisy attractions did very much to improve the actual metrics of the booth.

So, maybe it doesn't matter how your site does compared to a site in a different category. What matters, I think, is how your site does compared to last week or last month, and what's happening to your conversion.

Top 1%

Alex Krupp points us to this neat post from Jackie & Ben: Church of the Customer Blog: The 1% Rule: Charting citizen participation.

The upshot is that for many organizations, the top 1% do 80% more of the contributing. The fascinating Wikipedia example (fascinating for me, anyway) points out that after about three and a half years, Wikipedia had just 15,000 contributors. But 4,000 or so of them did almost all the work.

Often, it's easy to imagine that big companies like Hallmark and British Airlines and Coke are selling lots and lots to everyone. In fact, a tiny slice may very well be the difference between success and failure.

May 13, 2006

How (some) people think about money

Listening to Car Talk over the last few weeks, I've heard a similar refrain. Something like, "my car is paid off so I'm ready to buy a new one." Today, it was, "We need to decide which car to sell--my husband's or mine, because we need a minivan. But mine is paid off and his isn't."

Of course,
a. when making the decision to buy a new car, it's irrelevant that your old car is paid off. Just because you've finally paid it off doesn't mean you should automatically go into debt again.
b. and debt is fungible, so you can sell either car and pay off whichever debt you need to.

American consumers have persuaded themselves that buying something is one thing, going into debt something totally different.

May 11, 2006

High leverage five minute task for today

Picture_51 "Can you show me all our error pages?"

That's what you might ask your web team.

If you have one that looks like this, perhaps you could fix it. Usually, it takes just a few more words of text, or some clear navigation instructions, or a little kindness even.

Five minutes, you'll be done. Worth a shot.

May 09, 2006

The Long Trail

(not a typo).

Want to guess what these musical acts have in common?

The Rolling Stones
The Eagles
Elton John
U2
Paul McCartney

They each made more than $50 million last year, according to Forbes. They accounted for 40% of the top 10 acts.  The long trail is what happened.

Same with products like Quicken, websites like eBay and chefs like Wolfgang Puck.

We're so busy celebrating the hit of the moment that we forget that the real profit often comes from the long trail.

It's easy to persuade yourself to shortchange the design of a product, or your investment in its engineering, or to manipulate the launch to maximize the short-term box office appeal of opening weekend. But the long trail proves you wrong.

The web compounds long trail thinking. A website might spike with short term traffic hits, but a great website builds on its traffic, rises in its search rankings and continues to bring in traffic, year after year.

The long trail explains why so many unprofitable movies turn a profit when the DVD comes out. The Shawshank Redemption got seven Academy Award nominations when it was released, but disappointed at the box office. Now, after more than 1.3 million reviews at NetFlix, it is one of the most enduring DVD hits ever.

The long trail is a reminder to invest like your product might just be around in ten years.

May 08, 2006

But the focus group loved it

John writes in and wants to know why I don't think much of focus groups.

A properly run focus group is great. The purpose? To help you focus.

Not to find out if an idea is any good. Not to get the data you need to sell your boss on an idea.

No!

Focus groups are very bad at that. Groupthink is a problem, for one. Second, you've got a weird cross section of largely self-selected people, the kind of people willing to sit in a room with bad lighting to make a few bucks.

What focus groups can do for you is give you a visceral, personal, unscientific reaction to little brainstorms. They can help you push something farther and farther to see what grabs people. But the goal isn't to do a vote or a census. Any time your focus group results include percentages, you've wasted an afternoon.

May 05, 2006

CRM is dead

It might be more than just semantics. Disney Destinations Marketing has a new department:

Customer Managed Relationships

Here's the quote from them that Tim shared with me, "CMR is our version of CRM - just a slight nuance regarding our philosophy that our guests invite us into their lives and ultimately manage our presence/relationship with them."

May 03, 2006

Winning by telling the truth

Authentic storytelling, the lie that works best. Steve Strucely points us to: Nearly All Sodas Sales to Schools to End - Yahoo! News. What do the distributors get? Well, for starters, they make more money on a bottle of water than a Coke. Second, and far better, is they earn the goodwill and trust of an entire generation.

May 02, 2006

Indispensable

Michael Dell could leave tomorrow and his company would do just fine.

Lee Raymond, retiring from ExxonMobil with $400 million, won't affect the company much at all by leaving. (They might not even notice the missing cash...)

If Jeff Jarvis quit, though, all his readers and clients would notice. Immediately. He's indispensable.

Before Tom Peters wrote The Brand Called You with Alan Webber at Fast Company, the idea that a single person would be much more than a convenient public face was considered a little nutty. Successful companies were big companies, big companies had assets and people were cogs.

Sure, there were the Lee Iacoccas and Victor Kiams and Frank Perdues, but generally, successful marketing and entrepreneurship was defined as building an enterprise bigger than you, an organization which made money while you slept, a company where you were, ahem, dispensable.

Five years later, it seems to have sort of snuck up on us. Now, there are tens of thousands of people out there where being "that" person is the career, is the business, is the next job. Not just micropreneurs and freelancers... but employees and experts and programmers as well.

What would it take to make yourself indispensable? Do you even want to be?

May 01, 2006

Please go away (angry)

If you've got more than one person in your organization, you probably have a policy or two.

And those policies have certainly made someone angry. Now what?

Yesterday, I ran into one of those policies at the cell phone store. Try as I might, I couldn't get the clerk or his manager to see how ridiculous the policy was, or get them to show any ability to work with me on it.

So, the company gave me the following choices:
a. admit that you are wrong and we are right and do business with us on our terms no matter how much it annoys you.

b. decide that compromising your principles or the way you want to do business isn't worth it, decide that we are pathetic morons and leave angry.

Why would you only give your team these two options when dealing with prospects and customers?

The obvious answer is a lot more flexibility in the front line. But of course, that's tricky and expensive and sometimes impossible. I think, though, that there's an easier piece of first aid that every organization ought to install. It costs very little and it gives you another chance.

Give the team one more form. And here are the instructions:

When a customer is really upset about a policy or a procedure or something we did, and the only alternative appears to be telling them to go away angry, pull out this form. Explain (only if it's true) that you are disappointed that they're upset. Explain (if it's true) that you agree that the policy is stupid and doesn't make sense in their case.

Then, working as a team, write up the situation. Work WITH them, egging them on. Get all the details on this form, let them explain to you and to themselves what the problem is. Get their contact info.

When you're done, thank them for helping you (it's true, they are helping you!), then fax the form to the CEOs direct fax number.

No, the person won't get satisfied that minute. But they won't leave angry, either.

That and you just might get rid of a few policies and save a few customers.

April 28, 2006

The Customer is Always Right

Stewpolicies Greg writes in and wants to know if that's really true. What if the customer is an amnesiac, a jerk, a difficult blowhard badmouther? What if the customer is the sort that wears his LL Bean khakis for a year and then sends them back?

In our ultracompetitive markets, how can you possibly have a chance in the face of enormous consumer power?

The answer might surprise you. It's the unwritten rule 3 on Stew Leonard's famous granite rock:

If the customer is wrong, they're not your customer any more.

In other words, if it's not worth making the customer right, fire her.

Successful organizations (and I include churches and political parties on the list) fire the 1% of their constituents that cause 95% of the pain.

Fire them?

Fire them. Politely decline to do business with them. Refer them to your arch competitors. Take them off the mailing list. Don't make promises you can't keep, don't be rude, just move on.

If you've got something worth paying for, you gain power when you refuse to offer it to every single person who is willing to pay you.

In 1988, my book packaging company had about six weeks worth of payroll in the bank. Yet we fired our biggest customer, someone who accounted for more than half our revenue. I still believe it was the right thing to do. We ended up happier and more successful, making up the business in a few months time.

If you treat a customer like he's wrong, he's going to leave, and probably tell a bunch of other people. Before you take that route, be direct, straightforward, polite and firm, and decline to sell to them.

So yes, the customer is always right. And if they're not, then one way or the other, they're not your customer any more.

April 25, 2006

Why are you afraid of process?

Is it because it gets in the way of intuition?

I spend a lot of time railing against organizations and teams that fall in love with process at the expense of innovation. This is not a post about that.

It's about the opposite.

Our culture embraces the intuitive craftsman. We don't talk about Harlequin Romances or artists who paint by number. Heroism is about writing a novel or making a sale based on what's deep inside of you... not by following a prescribed pattern.

The plant manager who is proud of his seat-of-the-pants inventory management system, the bizdev guy who cherishes his network, the physician who relies on her diagnostic skills--these are all examples of intuitive craftspeople. Intuition, the sum total of our skill and our training, is the mark of someone to be reckoned with.

Process, on the other hand, appears to be for Dummies.

So we bristle when we're asked for our weekly goals sheets, or when the boss wants us to use a database or when the insurance company requires docs to follow data-driven guidelines. We pass up the tenth novel by a successful author... because the process has become too transparent.

And yet, in many cases, process is underrated.

Process is your ace in the hole when your intuition stops working.

Process is the system that doubles a plant's efficiency when you've done everything you can think of.

Take your web page (please). The intuitive marketer does her very best, and then conversion and traffic levels are established. That's all.

Replace that with a process that measures and tests and improves and repeats and changes elements hourly. Replace it with a process that's all about split testing and funnels and what works. Will a process like that invent MySpace or Flickr? Of course not. But it might very well turn your metrics from negative to positive. It might reinvent all the dynamics of your business.

What happens when a star salesperson starts tracking her calls, her time spent, her rolodex and her results? Her day isn't intuitive any longer... just the act of selling is. The result: dramatic improvements. Measuring, and measuring in public, is a piece of process that can't help but organize and leverage your intuition.

If process makes you nervous, it's probably because it threatens your reliance on intuition. Get over it. The best processes leverage your intuition and give it room to thrive.

April 22, 2006

Dial 300 for Harry

You should go mattress shopping.

I did, today.

I admit, I don't think I've ever been mattress shopping before. What an astonishing experience. If you don't believe the "storytelling" riffs in Liars, this will convert you. It's an entire room filled with virtually identical objects, varying in price by as much as 2,000%. And while you can lie down on any of them, lying down on a mattress is totally different from sleeping on one over a decade.

All you can buy is the story.

However, this isn't a post about the story. It's a post about the phone on the Sleepy's salesman's desk. Our sales guy, who was outstanding by the way, explained that all 400 stores in the chain are owned by one guy, and that the instructions are clear: if there's anything in the store, anything important, that's broken and not fixed within 72 hours (including policies, prices, inventory, whatever), his job is to pick up the phone and dial 300.

And Harry Acker, the owner, the billionaire, answers. "This is Harry." And you tell him and he fixes it.

I love that.

Even better... every once in a while, the phone rings. It's Harry. "What's up?" he asks. And if you tell him good news, he hangs up on you.

I think I'm glad I don't have Harry's job. But I was (amazingly, surprisingly, shockingly) glad I shopped there today.

April 19, 2006

Archetypes

All the marketing theory, insight and blather that I've read fails to explain some obvious phenonema. For example, why do some products seem to market themselves while others struggle? Why are some consumer behaviors so ingrained, while others disappear almost overnight?

So I think it's time to talk about Carl Jung.

Here's what the wikipedia says about Jung's theory of archetypes:
...the collective unconscious is composed of archetypes. In contrast to the objective material world, the subjective realm of archetypes can not be adequately understood through quantitative modes of research. Instead it can only begin to be revealed through an examination of the symbolic communications of the human psyche—in art, dreams, religion, myth, and the themes of human relational/behavioral patterns. Devoting his life to the task of exploring and understanding the collective unconscious, Jung discovered that certain symbolic themes exist across all cultures, all epochs, and in every individual.

Let me try out an example on you:

Food = Love

Parts of the world wrestle with hunger, famine and even starvation. Yet in many of these cultures, it is unthinkable to eat brown rice. Think about that.. for thousands of years, people ate brown rice, which is easier to prepare, more nutritious and far more efficient than white rice (more food per bushel harvested). And yet, there's something so powerful about the symbol of white rice that it is embraced by people who should (and probably do) know better.

Or take it closer to home. Four obese people in a restaurant, eating far more than they should, because they can.

Or a parent sending a child to school with a white bread bagel, even though she knows that it's not healthy--just because it's what she grew up with.

These are all irrational acts, things that we can't chalk up to ignorance or lack of access to alternatives. Instead, they play into a very complex set of beliefs that seem to cross cultures.

Why so much Spam (the luncheon meat, not the email) in Hawaii and other Pacific cultures? I don't think we can chalk it up to distribution, coupons or tv ads. Instead, I think there's a complicated relationship between an archetype and the symbols that the food represents.

I think it's interesting to explore some fundamental consumer archetypes and how marketers have tapped into them (usually accidentally). The goal isn't to explain the origins of these often irrational needs, but to realize that they are there. Gravity's causes are unknown, but we still need to factor it in to our lives. Same with archetypes. We don't have to understand them to leverage them.

April 18, 2006

Vocabulary: "Landing page"

I first started talking about landing pages in <gasp> 1991, but there's probably someone out there who can pre-date me. Sometimes when you've been riffing on an idea for so long, it's easy to believe that everyone gets it, but my mail says otherwise.

A landing page is the first page a visitor to your site sees.

Landing pages were important back in the day of email marketing, because if you included a link in your email, that was the page the permission marketee would land on if he clicked through.

Landing pages are even more important today because they are the page that someone clicking on a Google Adwords ad sees.

A landing page (in fact, every page) can only cause one of five actions:

  • Get a visitor to click (to go to another page, on your site or someone else's)
  • Get a visitor to buy
  • Get a visitor to give permission for you to follow up (by email, phone, etc.). This includes registration of course.
  • Get a visitor to tell a friend
  • (and the more subtle) Get a visitor to learn something, which could even include posting a comment or giving you some sort of feedback

I think that's the entire list of options

So, if you build a landing page, and you're going to invest time and money to get people to visit it, it makes sense to optimize that page to accomplish just one of the things above. Perhaps two, but no more.

When you review a landing page, the thing to ask yourself is, "What does the person who built this page want me to do?" If you can optimize for that, you should. If there are two versions of a landing page and one performs better than the other, use that one! This sounds obvious, but how often are you doing the test? How long does a landing page last in your shop before it gets toppled by a better one? And do you have a different landing page for every single ad, every single offer? Why not?

Landing pages are not wandering generalities. They are specific, measurable offers. You can tell if they're working or not. You can improve the metrics and make them work better. Landing pages are the new direct marketing, and everyone with a website is a direct marketer.

April 17, 2006

Q: How do we do flip?

Lots of mail from people who want to flip the funnel. The obvious beneficiaries of this sort of strategy are organizations that need traffic, that make a wide range of products or have new ones all the time, that want to grow, that doing something newsworthy and that have an idea worth spreading.

And I'll respond with seven questions right back:

  • 1. How many bloggers do you have honest conversations with? (not press releases or email blasts).
  • 2. How many bloggers get your new stuff for free?
  • 3. When you send out news, is it really news? Or just fluff because you had nothing new to say?
  • 4. Are you making it easy for your happiest customers to have a blog or a podcast or a lens?
  • 5. Does your product or service work better for a user if other people start using it? (fax machines, for example, don't work so well if you're the only one who has one!)
  • 6. Do you ever intentionally launch products or services that are adored by part of your audience--and not liked one bit by the rest?
  • 7. Is there a way you can separate the idea from the thing that people actually pay for? Free ideas spread farther and faster...

If most of your answers are "no," then the problem might not be with the specifics of your tactics, but might be at the strategy you're bringing to the table. More and more, organizations are discovering that making something virusworthy is the single most important step in the work they do.

April 14, 2006

"We wish Google didn't exist"

That was the phrase that got my attention.

I was talking to an exec at a 1999 new media company... one of those anchor tenants on the web, a big content website. She said something that, in retrospect was obvious, but so shocking it made me sit up straight.

"Google doesn't help us at all. It would be great if they went away."

It's so easy to count on search, depend on search and assume for search that most people don't realize how the dynamic has changed. If you've got a portal or a big store of content, Google is, probably, not built into your DNA.

If there's no search engine and you need a recipe or a pot, you visit cooking.com and they find you the best match on their site. And it goes beyond web companies. If there's no search engine and you need to buy coffee, you go to Starbucks.com, right? Leaders in every field had no reason to invent for search... it's not good for them.

In fact, most market leaders still have web sites, not web pages. A website is a place, a sticky collection/connection of web pages with a search field. A website is a place you want people to "check back often and see what's new" and where people are either in or out.

I've gotten a bunch of invitations to feature my RSS feed on other people's sites lately. At first, it feels a little weird... my content on your site. But then, once I get past issues re endorsement etc., it makes perfect sense. Because search and RSS have exploded the web. (Tip to David Weinberger, twice in one day).

It's no longer an organic web filled with organisms or even a molecular one. It's atomic. Each page on its own, each RSS drip its own entity.

The punchline is that you can wish all you want, it's not going to make search go away.

Wishing is not much of a business strategy, and the realists among us will probably focus on three things:

  1. turn your website inside out as fast as you can. That means RSS everywhere--in and out. And it means encouraging your readers to flip the funnel.
  2. continue integrating your pages into your site, but prepared to do a better job of integrating your pages into the web.
  3. remember that every single page is now a landing page. "First time here?" is going to be answered  yes more often than not in an atomic world.

What hasn't changed is an imperative to get active, explicit permission from one-time visitors to have an ongoing dialogue. A dialogue that is anticipated, personal and relevant, and that leads to turning those strangers into friends... so that one day, they become customers.

April 06, 2006

But don't measure THIS

John Dodds responded to my post about measurement. So here's some more: There's no doubt that you should measure things that are both important and measurable. When you do, it's inevitable that what you measure improves.

Caveat #1 is not to measure things that aren't important, just because they're measurable. Business lore is rife with stories about companies that started measuring something... like defects to the last sigma... only to discover that people figured out that the best way to improve the measurement was to not make anything at all. Start measuring how long your operators stay on the phone, for example, and you'll discover plenty of operators that just hang up on long-winded callers. Measuring the right thing is essential.

But caveat #2 is even more important: the art of business and organization is in realizing that there are important things you can't measure. These ephemeral, soft things are the ones that often differentiate one organization from another, that lead to one company winning when all the metrics appear to be the same.

True story: I have a gig coming up, one that was planned a month or two ago. I went to book the tickets. First I went to Travelocity. Then, halfway through the process, decided to go straight to American to do it. Not sure why. Finished the reservation. Went to pay. Got a popup: can't do that because the ticket has already been booked.

Amazing.

I had forgotten I had already booked the ticket (That part isn't amazing. that happens all the time). No, what was amazing is that six weeks ago, I had gone through the same process, picked the same airline, the same flight times... exactly the same. Because of something you can't measure, but is important nonetheless. And smart managers know how to invest in that too.

April 05, 2006

Measure THAT

One of the secrets of the Yellow Pages was that the phone company would give you a second line when you bought a big ad.

Within days of the book coming out, you'd see and hear the phone ring. And you knew which phone it was. So when the time came to renew your Yellow Pages ad, all the sales rep had to do was glance over at the phone on the wall and the prospect would imagine that phone no longer ringing...

Aaron writes in and asks, why is it so easy for a client to spend a fortune on a brochure and to spend hours agonizing over it, and so hard for them to invest in an end to permission marketing/ideavirus system?

The answer is the same: measure this, measure that.

Once the number is on the wall, in marker, or in phone calls or dollar bills, the investment will follow.

Example: Google adwords. The price of adwords keeps going up because the cost per click pricing model forces clients to measure. As soon as they measure something and see it is working, they want more. Magazine ads don't have that effect, so companies rarely bid up the price.

Example: Indie musicians at cdbaby. They tour to make a living, and they obsessively track which gigs translate into record sales. As a result, they go back to the places and the types of venues that work, and stop going to the others.

So, my best advice is not to argue with the client about building a big kickass system. Instead, it's to argue with them about measuring. Once they start measuring, they'll be begging you for the big system.

April 04, 2006

Two things you know but don't do

1. treat different products differently
2. treat different customers differently

1. why doesn't fresh fish cost more than the same fish a day later? bowling a few cents less when it's not so crowded? movie tickets more on the day a movie debuts? why don't computers with a three-year obsolence cycle have predictable pricing that starts high and gets near cheap just before the new upgrades?

2. why do all of your customers pay the same price when they buy the same product?

There are a million reasons to keep things the way they were before it was easy to change them. And yes, we used to do things in a clumsy way, last minute discounts and early bird specials. But now that it is easy to change things all the time, have you tried?