69 posts categorized "Weblogs"

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.