69 posts categorized "Weblogs"

June 04, 2006

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?