69 posts categorized "Weblogs"

March 31, 2006

When did the Beatles

Beatlesrunning_1 ...become THE Beatles?

I was looking through a day by day biography of the group last night, and it quickly became clear that the image that we have of the four youngsters running away from their screaming fans didn't happen overnight.

At the beginning, they were playing two or three clubs a day, dives, making a few pounds if they were lucky. Not for a month or two, but for years and years.

As they got more traction, the thing you notice is how often they showed up on the radio. They were constantly on one radio show or another, or one multi-billed concert or another. The marketing picture probably looked like this:

Picture_2 Outbound marketing in every possible direction. Auditions for record labels, rejections, pitches to media outlets, concerts on spec, concerts for anyone who would show up. This is classic marketing, stuff that's easy to forget when we listen to the Shea Stadium concert or see the flickr guys on the cover of Newsweek. It's easy to imagine that suddenly, everyone knows you, wants you and makes it easy for you.

The next stage was brief but essential. That's when people started noticing them, started showing up, started screaming. At this moment, the Beatles didn't stop marketing. They didn't stop doing radio shows at the BBC or flying all night to play a concert in Denver (empty seats) or Kansas. During the transition stage, in fact, the Beatles and their management really poured it on.

One of the most misunderstood and misused phrases in marketing (okay, in business) is Malcolm Gladwell's, "the tipping point." The Beatles didn't tip. Nothing magical happened. Instead, gradually, they shifted from being the chasers into being the chased.
These were the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and the Beatles on tour and the Beatles making wigs and the Beatles making movies and pioneering music videos. It was the Beatles in a frenzy, not sure what was going to come next, but pretty sure that it could all disappear in a heartbeat.

Many organizations reach this stage and stop. They harvest. They take profits and remind themselves that they are geniuses, all powerful and immune to the laws of boredom.

Only by pushing through this stage and by using their newfound power to create the last stage of their career did the Beatles actually become the Beatles.

When we rewrite history (and we do it every day) it's easy to imagine that Starbucks and JetBlue and all the other poster children for new successes just got blessed. It's almost never the case, though. It's just that it's easier to think of them as winners.

March 29, 2006

Going to meetings

A lot of people get paid to go to meetings.

Not to haul lumber or polish steel or clean sewers. Nope, we get paid to go to meetings. Sales calls, presentations, and strategy sessions.

There's been an awful lot written about how to be a better salesperson, or how to give a presentation worthy of your audience's attention.

I want to take a few paragraphs to talk about your obligations at being in the audience.

When a sales rep shows up for a scheduled meeting, it seems to me that you're not doing her a favor. You agreed to the meeting. You're getting paid to be there. You might as well get as much out of it as you can, right?

I mean, if you were a volunteer, or if you're at home, it's a little different. But here you are at work, not pounding bricks with a sledgehammer... you've got the Evian and the air conditioning and hey, it's your job to go to this meeting.

So go!

Make it work.

Same thing with that 30 minute Powerpoint that the head of the division is showing to twenty of you. Or that seminar you're scheduled to go to tomorrow.

Here are a few tips, tips that are based on one assumption: if you do a better job in the audience, the person speaking will do a better job. You'll learn more, get more, accomplish more, today and the next time she comes back as well.

So, here goes:

When you meet the sales rep in the lobby, have a few interesting questions ready. Offer her a glass of water. Be on time. Act like you're glad she's there. Even if you're not, acting that way will get her to do a better job, and that's your job, right?

When you go to the presentation in the auditorium, don't sit in the back row. It doesn't matter if you don't feel like sitting in the front row, you should. The presenter will do a better job. And if you're tired, work hard at smiling and making contact. The presenter will do better, especially if he's particularly boring and nervous.

Don't bring a bag of Fritos. Don't sit back. Don't close your eyes.

Do bring snacks for your guest. Do lean forward. Do smile at attempts at humor. Laugh, even.

When the sales rep is giving you the specs on the steel pipes or the consulting services, challenge him. Ask hard questions. Figure out what he knows. If it's worth you having him come over, it's worth discovering what he knows.

When the sales call is over, tell the truth. Don't say, "we'll get back to you," unless you intend to. If you're going to meet with your boss on Friday, tell him. If it's not your decision, tell him.


Well, first of all, it's your job. Second, it's more likely he'll try hard for you the next time you need him to.

If someone flies across the country to see you, offer to call her a cab to get back to the airport. If you can, put it on your account. It makes a huge difference.

When you treat your vendors the way you'd like your vendors treated, it comes back to you. It pays off. It gets you better information, better attention, better prices. You're a professional at your desk. You should be a professional at a meeting, too.

March 26, 2006

Real creativity

Where does it come from? What is it?

Well, if you're disheartened by my previous post about licensing your idea, here's the punchline: Real business creativity comes from boundaries.

Inventing something cool that can't be implemented isn't creative. It's mostly a waste.

I think that inventing the unimplementable is a fine hobby, but it's also a bit of a crutch. Yes, of course we need big visions and big ideas, but not at the expense of the stuff you can actually pull off.

So, let's get specific:

If you've decided you want to create a breakthrough in your area of expertise (say Ajax coding), then either be prepared to launch and run it when you're done, or have a clear licensing strategy in mind, one where you're not the first person in history to pull it off.

If you've decided to invent a great idea for a book, better be ready to write it too, and either find a publisher or publish it yourself. There's no market for book ideas.

If you want to do creative ads, it helps to have clients willing to run them.

These constraints are the best part of being creative, as far as I'm concerned. I couldn't imagine writing Superman comics. The rules are too vague. There are too many choices. In non-profits and organizations and even in politics, the rules are pretty obvious (sometimes they're too obvious). So the real creativity comes in navigating those rules in a way that creates a breakthrough.

One of my favorite triumphs of all time happened on my first day of work at my first real job, 1984, Cambridge, MA. No voice mail in those days. I was employee #30. I walked in and there was a plastic carousel, about 18 inches in diameter, with 40 slots in it. Like thin slices of pizza, but 4 inches deep. Each slot had a sticker with a name typed on it. Not in any order, particularly.

Every day, when you went into work, you had to spin the carousel around and around until you saw your name, and then grab whatever pink slips had your phone messages on them.

Now, there are 100 better ways to do this system. Faster and easier. But 99 of them required getting a new carousel or device.

Instead, I grabbed a paper clip and put it on my slot. I could find my slot in a heartbeat now.

Within a day, the carousel was covered with flags and widgets and more. Problem solved.

See the rules. Keep most of them. Break one or two. But break them, don't bend them. (thanks to Curt for various inspirations).

Q. How do I license this great idea?

A. Well, it depends.

It's a classic story: basement inventor dreams up an idea, a product, a concept for a movie or even a new slogan for a company. He's sure, certain, positive, that the idea, in the right hands, has huge legs. And it's the idea that matters, right?

"This fishing lure is dramatically better than what's out there."
"This swoosh logo is really dramatic."
"This promotion for a bar in town will make them a huge amount of money."
"If I could just get Mark Burnett to listen to this idea for a Survivor sequel..."

And most of the time, you're right. Your better UI/software/concept would make more money in the right hands.

This disconnect drives people, especially engineers, crazy. The processes of improvement and ideation demand that you take things that aren't so good and make them better. If someone has go to market power or even better, sales and influence power, then why wouldn't they want to improve?

The problem is this: 99% of the time, they don't.

It's not that they're stupid. It's just that they're not organized to turn your big idea into something that actually works.

They don't have someone on staff who will get promoted for finding you.
They don't have a team on staff who can develop your idea and get it out the door.

There are exceptions (book publishers, for example, are good at publishing new books). But most of the time, that's not the business they are in. They are in the business of doing their job, and their job rarely includes taking the time (and the risk) of hunting for new big ideas outside the organization.

First, there's the huge problem of NDAs and being accused of stealing stuff. If you want me to keep something a secret, and you won't tell me the secret before I sign a piece of paper, my risk is huge. On the other hand, if you tell me an idea (almost always non-protected) before I sign the paper, why sign it? Big paradox.

Second, there's the problem of what it's worth. What is the basic idea behind Star Trek or Mission: Impossible worth? Would a different two-paragraph treatment really have made the difference between success or failure? The producers of those shows would tell you it was the 10,000 little things that happened after the original idea that made the difference between success and failure.

In other words, it's how you tell it.

If you think your idea is worth a lot, and the producer of the product (whether it's a widget or a business process) points out how many choices she has and how little the original idea is worth--you guys are stuck.

True story: I helped invent the first fax board for the Mac. Pitched it to a dozen companies. No one nibbled. Apple launched it soon after seeing ours, and the product quickly became a low-profit commodity. I'm confident that if we had created a substantial organization and built a marketing aura and system around the product, it would have worked. The idea itself... nah.

Just because you're a good cook doesn't mean you should run a restaurant. And a restaurant that succeeds rarely does because they have special recipes. All the recipes in the world are free online. That's not what makes a restaurant (or a business, for that matter) work.

March 23, 2006

Q: How can we get our company funded

A: Don't.

I'm frequently asked (by friends, and sometimes, aggressive strangers) to help them find someone to fund their company. Often, but not always, these people are happy to hear the following answer.

1. If you fund your company, even a little, you've just sold it. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but one day. That's because rational investors are funding your company in the expectation that you are going to sell it and make them a profit. (sure there are exceptions, but not many). So, if you don't expect that your company will be easy to sell for a big profit, or you don't ever want to sell your company, it's not a smart idea to raise money for it.

2. Most companies are not appropriate sites for VC money. That's because they're freelance ventures, not entrepreneurial ones. A freelance venture is one where you work to get paid. An entrepreneurial one is where you can make money while you sleep. Meaning that you work really really hard and you scale and suddenly you own real estate or media properties or technology or a system or a brand that people pay for without you actually doing any incremental work yourself.

3. One friend ran a very successful specialty school. He decided he wanted to start a division that would sell books about his system. The numbers on the publishing side were terrific (on the spreadsheet). The investors wanted 40% of the existing business in order to put up sufficient money to recapitalize everything and bring big company thinking etc. etc. I pointed out that this would not only ruin my friend's life, but probably cripple the economics of both businesses.

The alternative (which might work for you as well) is not to fund the business. It's to fund the project. That's how they fund movies. You don't get a piece of the studio. You get a piece of Rocky XIV.

If you've got something that works and you're ready to go to the next level, consider funding the expansion with the payoff being a scaling piece of the project. Maybe 100% of the proceeds until the investment is repaid, then 25% after that, forever. Once that project pays off, you'll be able to fund the next project, probably on even better terms. And on and on, with each project having, if you choose, different investors and different payout streams.

4. The real lesson is this: if you absolutely need a lot of money to do a particular business and the terms you'll need to accept to get that money are unacceptable, find a new business. Nothing wrong with that. The market might be trying to tell you something.

March 22, 2006

Q: What do you think of my brochure

A: The thing you must remember about just about every corporate or organizational brochure is this:
People won't read it.

I didn't say it wasn't important. I just said it wasn't going to get read.

People will consider its heft. They might glance at the photos. They will certainly notice the layout. And, if you're lucky, they'll read a few captions or testimonials.

At its best, a brochure is begging for someone to judge you. It says, "assume that because we could hire really good printers and photographers and designers and writers, we are talented [surgeons, real estate developers, whatever]" And more often than not, people do just that.

At its worst, a brochure solves a prospect's problem (the problem of: what should I do about this opportunity?) by giving them an easy way to say "no." "No," she thinks, "I don't need to talk with you... I've reviewed the brochure."

So, the strategies of your brochure might be:

  • overinvest in paper and design. Spend twice or even ten times more than you planned. If you can't afford to do that, don't have a brochure. Especially if your competition does.
  • use less copy. Half as much.
  • use testimonials. With photos. Short captions. It's hard to have too many of the good ones.
  • make it funny enough or interesting enough or, hey, remarkable enough that people will want to show it to their friends.
  • show, don't tell. Don't say you have a tranquil setting... I won't believe you.
  • and most important, make sure you leave several obvious things out... so that people need to talk to you.

first in a possible series of Q&A. Send along a question... no promises, though!

March 15, 2006

Three things I learned in Mexico City today

1. There are tons of ads featuring blonde women. Yet I didn't see any (blonde women). What happens when you create role models that are so out of touch/out of reach?

2. The air hurts. It hurts my eyes and my nose. Just a little, but all the time. What happens when your town has air like this?

3. The best restaurant I have visited in forever: Aguila y Sol. If you come here, please go. You can thank me later.

and a bonus: nice people. Everywhere I went.

March 14, 2006

"I don't feel like playing tonight"

How much do you care about authenticity?

Years ago, Bill Evans walked off stage at a jazz club... and the audience applauded. Why? Even though they weren't going to hear the jazz great and his group that night (even though they'd paid, hired the sitter, etc.) they were applauding how real he was. If the artist didn't want to play, that was fine with them.

Reading an auction catalog tonight, I just discovered that Gene Roddenberry designed the phaser to be a profitable children's toy first, a Star Trek prop second. And the only reason the
Klingons had a ship is that the Enterprise model kit sold so well... They even let the model company, AMT, build the prop so that they could be sure the model sold in stores would be the same. Does that make you think anything less of Roddenberry's universe?

Jackson Pollock painted what he wanted and died young. Andy Warhol painted what would sell... and died rich.

If I write a book or a blog post or design a web page that's designed to spread first and inform second, do you care about my intent? It's pretty obvious that most of the online video stuff that's running wild online was designed to do just that--run wild. And MySpace is a traffic triumph. Not because the pages are what you or I might design, but because they were intentionally built for that sneezing teen and post-teen cohort.

When David Chase built the Sopranos, he wanted to tell a great story first, and get rich second. It was authentic in its first goal, and he accomplished his second. But when you eat at the fifth or sixth restaurant opened by a celebrity mega-chef, it's pretty clear that the goals are reversed. Does that make the meal worse?

Is it okay to set out to serve a predictable, reliable, impersonal meal in a restaurant that costs $100 a seat?

I thought of these countless rhetorical questions when the waiter came over and said, "Sangrias for the table? They're really good tonight!"

Are they? Are they better than on other nights? Or is this part of the script, designed to easily improve profit per seat by 30%... By selling us on the smell of authenticity, the fact that the sangrias might in fact be special, it makes it more fun to eat there (for some). I noticed on the way out that the specials were painted on the mirror over the bar... I had a fantastic time in the restaurant, because the company and the conversation were terrific. But I couldn't help feeling like I was a little cheated because nothing felt real.

Authentic It's that bell curve thing again. Those of us on the left, call us the authentic fringe, value intent, sometimes even more than we care about the results. The middle, the masses, they want both, that blissful combination of authenticity (even if it's well faked, or especially if it's well faked) and popularity. Call them the "smells authentic" masses. And there on the right is the factory fringe, the people who don't want even a whiff of authenticity... it reminds them of risk and inconsistency. [click on the picture to make it readable].

Like Rogers' product adoption lifecycle, products can move along this curve. Starbucks used to be just one place, way out on the fringe... Howard, the founder, got yelled at by his father-in-law for being a nutcase about coffee. And then, it moved to the right. Same thing for Emeril and Bobby Flay.

Of course, I'm letting my Authentic Fringe biases show here. The reason that the popular restaurants are so popular is because people like them!

March 13, 2006

The noisy tragedy of the blog commons

Blogs are different than most other forms of media in one key respect: they stretch.

TV and radio confront the reality that there are only 24 hours in a day. They can't put on more content, because there's no down time.

Magazines and newspapers have to pay for paper, and that means ads, but there are only a finite number of people willing to pay. So the length finds a  natural limit.

Billboards confront zoning realities.

Junk mail is gated by response rates.

But blogs... you can easily post 100 times a day. With a team, it might be a thousand.

This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that in many cases, volume leads to traffic. Take a look at the top 10 blogs and you'll notice that many of them post dozens of times a day.

Just like the marketers of Oreo (now in 19 flavors of cookies) we're dealing with clutter by making more clutter.

RSS fatigue is already setting in. While multiple posts get you more traffic, they also make it easy to lose loyal readers.

Without friction, without a gate on the clutter, we clearly face a commons problem. Here, though, instead of people taking too much of a shared physical good because they have nothing to lose, the problem is surplus. By writing too much, too often, we're trouncing on the attention of the commons.

Thanks to Jouvenot for inspiring this the thought, but what should we do about it?

I think the answer is subtle and simple: over time, as blogs reach the mass market, the number of new readers coming in is going to go down, and the percentage of loyal readers will increase. The loyal readers are going to matter more.

Blogs with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay, that's a long way of saying "making every word count") will use attention more efficiently and ought to win.

In the meantime, though, I don't see the world getting any quieter.

Small addendum:
some have rightly pointed out that filters and tagging mean that the commons benefits from as much noise as possible... that each blogger blogs all she wants, and the good stuff gets dugg or tagged and the rest disappears.

I have no real argument with that, except that it begs the question of who's looking through the chaff for the wheat. If someone has a blog where every single riff is a good one, you can bet that the eager beaver taggers are going to be there, waiting for the good stuff. If, on the other hand, you have a one in a thousand hit rate, the odds of your good stuff being found are small indeed. I think what I'm suggesting (not proposing... I'm not asking you to post less!) is that if you want to have a larger voice, it may pay be to be your own filter.

March 09, 2006

Most people don't really care about price

Of course, you've heard the objection. "It just costs too much."

Today's Times reports that 411 accounts for more than a billion calls a year--at just one provider. That's more than a billion dollars a year being spent for a service that is truly a commodity--you want the number, here it is, bye.

And yet, Easy411 provides precisely the same service to callers for half the price. Why doesn't everyone use them? Because it's not just the price. It's the hassle and the set up and the "I didn't get around to it" nature of saving a few bucks.

Example 2: check out the parking lot at Costco. Lots of $40,000 or more cars and SUVs in the lot, people who wasted a few shekels worth of gas to drive out of their way to invest an hour of time to save a dollar on a big jar of pickles. These are the same people who will spend an extra $100 on an airplane ticket to save a few minutes in getting home after a meeting.

My point, and I do have one, is that price is a signal, a story, a situational decision that is never absolute. It's just part of what goes into making a decision, no matter what we're buying.

March 08, 2006

"It can't be helped"

Peter Payne writes in his newsletter from Japan:

Time and time again I've noticed the power the
opinions of gaijin have to effect change in Japan, whether it's asking to have
a non-smoking section added to a restaurant or pointing out that the restroom
was not as clean as it could be (things Japanese would say "it can't be
helped" about). Just today, while going to lunch, we spotted a young woman
driving with her 4-year-old daughter who was standing up in the front seat.
The idea of child carseats are still somewhat alien to Japan, a country that
only passed its first carseat law in 1999, and children playing inside moving
cars is something I've seen all to often. When we stopped at a light I went
into "seigi no mikata" (champion of justice) mode, got out of the car, and
publicly reprimanded the mother, telling to put her damn child in a seat belt,
at the very least. She immediately complied, embarrassed at being lectured
while people in the surrounding cars looked on.


Of course, it's not just Japan and it's not just car seats. There are countless things in your products and services that are there because it can't be helped. As soon as you open yourself to interactions with the market (real interactions, not deniable forms) you discover that a lot of stuff can be helped.

March 07, 2006

Facts that feel right

For a fact to spread, it needs to have the right structure and match our worldview. This hysterically funny site makes it obvious: Gullible.info.

March 06, 2006

Is there a first mover advantage?

Some conventional wisdom says that you need to be first to win. People will point to eBay and Microsoft and Starbucks and the William Morris Agency and say, "if it's a natural monopoly or a market where switching costs are high, the first person in, wins."

This argument has been amplified lately by the high cost of building a name for yourself (it would cost just too much to build a brand bigger than Starbucks in a post-TV world) as well as the network effects of things like eBay and Hotmail.

Skeptics scream foul. They point out that not one of the examples I gave above was actually the first mover. There were plenty of others that came first, and, they argue, the fast follower won by learning from the mistakes of the innovator. They argue that innovation is overrated and low costs and good service are the key.

I think both sides are wrong (and right) and the mistake is caused by the erroneous belief that there's a market.

There isn't a market.

There are a million markets. Markets of one, or markets of small groups, or markets of cohorts that communicate.

If you're an eBay user, my guess is that eBay was the first auction site you used. If you use Windows, my guess is that you never used CPM. And if you are a Starbucks junkie, my guess is that you don't live near a Peets.

What happens: the market often belongs to the first person who brings you the right story on the right day.

Yes, you must be first (and right) in that market or this market.
But that doesn't mean you have to be first (and right) in the universe.

The market is splintering more than even some pundits predicted in 1998 (that would be me). Which means that the idea of monolithic marketing messages to monolithic markets makes no sense. The race is now to be the first mover in the micromarkets where attention matters.

Of course, those micromarkets are leaky. People don't cooperate. They talk to each other. So pretty quickly, that splintered market coalesces into something bigger.

February 17, 2006

Bits are free

It doesn't cost anything more to deliver a thoughtful, powerful, profitable note. It just takes guts to write one.

Jonathan Cruce shares this (edited, a bit, by me):

He wrote this note to a company, via online form:

Product Model: 2461 Serial : Comments: I have a Gigaphone 2461. After my
1 year old son pressed some of the buttons on the handset and base, I
find that the phone is dialing in pulse mode.  The manual shows a
tone/pulse switch on the bottom of the base unit.  My base unit has no
tone/pulse switch.  How can I switch the phone back to tone dialing
mode??  Thanks!

Company's response via email

Dear Jonathan,
Thank you for your recent inquiry to our Consumer Sales and Service
Keep the original email attached with our response in case further
assistance is needed.
The Tone/Pulse switch is located at the bottom of the base unit.
However, if there is no switch, you may try this short procedure on your
base unit:
1.) Press and hold the [SELECT] button.
2.) The display on the base unit will display TN (Tone) or PU (Pulse).
3.) If you see PU on the display, press and hold [SELECT] again.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
VTech Communications
Consumer Sales and Service Center

* Click the following link to visit our online store for
all of your telephone and accessory needs!

* Your product may qualify for the VTech Product Protection Plan.
Click the link below for more information.

But what, Jonathan wants to know, if the letter had said:

Dear Jonathan,

I really appreciate that you purchased a VTech phone, and I'm truly sorry
that you're having this problem.  You indicated that there is no
tone/pulse switch on the bottom of your base unit as shown in the owner's

You're right! This isn't the first time we've run into this issue; it appears
that when we updated the phone model we didn't update the owner's manual.

We try hard to catch these errors, but every once in a while one gets
through.  You can switch your base between pulse and tone mode by holding
down the "Select" button for a couple of seconds.  The display on the base
unit will read "TN" if you're in tone dialing mode, and "PU" if you're in
pulse dialing mode. Just press and hold "Select" again if you need to
change between modes.

Once again, I'm sorry that our owner's manual was not updated to reflect
this change.  If there's anything else I can do for you, just let me know!

Joan Smith, VTech Customer Service Guru

By the way Jonathan, I noticed that you're using an older model 2.4 GHz
phone system.  If this is working for you, that's great!  We expect these
phones to be around for a while.  But with more and more wireless devices
using the 2.4 GHz spectrum, you may begin experiencing interference on
your line.  Unfortunately we can't do anything about that on a 2.4 GHz
system, but we have a sale coming up on the newer 5.8 GHz digital spread
spectrum phones, that will let you talk clearly up to 1/2 mile from your
house!  Go to www.vtech.com to see what's available.  Put in the code
JSVT234 and I'll give you 20% off any phone we offer!

Same amount of time to send, same incremental cost. It's easier to write if you you imagine that you are writing to a person, not a screen, I think.

February 16, 2006

What consumers want

Perhaps it's


that's what they say, anyway.

I don't think that's what it is. I think we want:

expectations exceeded

January 19, 2006

Understanding the funnel

Funnel2s I've been talking about funnels for almost ten years, but realized I hadn't blogged on this... so here goes.

Traditional marketing divides the world into two groups:

Customers are traditionally undervalued, and prospects are all treated the same.

As marketing got more sophisticated, some prospects ended up being treated a little differently than others. Someone reading Field & Stream, for example, is a more valuable prospect to a bullet company than someone reading Bass Fisherman.

Missing from this demographically-based analysis is the idea that people can change. They change their posture, their attention and their attitude. And as the knowledge they receive increases, their value as a prospect changes as well.

I think marketers always knew this, but they haven't been able to do much about it.

Until now.

The Google funnel is easily measured and if you're marketing anything to anyone, you need to understand it (this idea is so powerful it's now built in to Google's free web analytics program, Urchin).

Imagine someone out there, surfing on the web. He is a prospect of your fishing bait company in that one day, he might become a customer. He's at the top of the funnel.

Now, he types "bass" into Google. Through that action, he has self-identified as a better prospect. He's moved down the funnel and become more valuable to you.

But, of course, he might have meant "bass" as in "bass guitar." Once he refines his search in that way, he's jumped out the funnel. For right now, he's not worth much.

But wait! He has refined his search by typing in "bass fishing." Now, he's worth a great deal more than he was just a moment ago. Which is why AdWords is such a good idea.

You have a choice when you run an AdWord ad. You can write copy that gets lots of clicks, or more specific copy that gets fewer, but better clicks. Traditional marketers believed that attention was free, and the more the merrier. But Google charges by the click, so new marketers realize that they are willing to pay extra for folks a bit farther down the funnel.

Now, if he's clicked on "Bass Lures for serious fishermen," our surfer's value has just increased immensely. And you've paid handsomely for borrowing his attention from Google. Now the prospect is on your site, and his value to you is quite high--and his cost is high as well.

At this point, your job is not to make a sale. Selling is just one option in a range of things you can do to further drive him down the funnel. You can engage in a dialogue (by phone or email) that takes place over time and avoids the all-or-nothing cliff of "buy now or go away forever". You can further inform or entertain, all in the service of your goal of increasing the interest, education and value of this prospect.

Now, finally, you have refined the traffic in the funnel. Everyone at the bottom is ready to buy, to engage with you, to become a customer.

Once you see the funnel, it's easy to understand how valuable your existing customers are, and easy to think about how you want to spend time and money in promoting and building your site. Most marketers are running a flat campaign. Embracing the funnel changes the way you treat people. And treating different people differently is what consumers demand.

January 16, 2006

Marketing to the majority

I_am_a_man Most marketing is focused on the biggest portion of the market, because most marketers believe that if you fill the biggest need, or market to the largest mass, the upsides are greater.

Today, in the US, it's a holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unlike most American holidays that are just rituals, not rememberances (how much time do you spend thinking about Christopher Columbus?...), this holiday is fresh enough that it's worth thinking about what it means.

Here's a crux of the matter, at least from a marketing (not moral) standpoint: if you recognize a minority group, if you treat them not as an other but as a peer, and if you solve their problem, they will notice you, do business with you and remember you.

Not "minority" in the racial sense, necessarily, but in terms of any group that feels overlooked, or disrespected, or underserved.

I live less than a mile from the home of the first black millionaire in America. Madame CJ Walker practically  invented the idea of franchising... by creating a chain of beauty salons for black women at a time when no one else could be bothered.

PRESS BRIEFING BY LARRY SPEAKES (Press Secretary for Ronald Reagan)

October 15, 1982

The Briefing Room

12:45pm EDT

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement ≠ the
Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and
have over 600 cases?


Q: Over a third of them have died. It's known as "gay plague."
(Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it's a pretty serious thing that one in
every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the
President is aware of it?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Before deciding that a market (left-handed people, Mac users, people who speak Spanish) isn't worth the effort, it might be worth a moment's reflection. Sometimes, a purple cow is just purple because it's best at serving a nascent market. And it doesn't matter if you're marketing a political campaign, a non-profit or a soap.

I feel a little trivial talking about soap and computers in the same post that I mention civil rights and AIDS. But they're all branches on one tree. It's very easy to get caught up in rationalizing on behalf of the majority--but it's not always smart, and not always fair and not always right.

January 11, 2006

Farming and hunting

Five thousand years ago, every human was a hunter. If you were hungry, you got a rock or a stick and you went hunting.

The problem was that all of the animals were either dead or really good at hiding.

Fortunately, we discovered/invented the idea of farming. Plant seeds, fertilize em, water em, watch em grow and then you harvest them.

The idea spread and it led to the birth of civilization.

Everyone got the idea... except for marketers.

Marketers still like to hunt.

What we're discovering, though, is that the good prospects are getting really good at hiding.

January 09, 2006

What to do if you don't know what to do

Start a forum.

Ajax is a brand-new suite of programming solutions. Two people independently created non-profit communities where they could post questions, offer expertise and find fellow travelers:

Ajax Camp


This approach is fast, very inexpensive and pays huge dividends.