The Low Wall
As technology becomes ever cheaper and easier to deploy, the natural filter of common sense becomes too thin to prevent individuals and businesses from launching ideas without first fully investigating them. This is evident on an almost daily basis as we're approached about various tactics and business ideas that seem to make no sense when you consider things like the marketplace, target customers and existing business model.
While the new lower barrier to entry should be exploited to test more ideas and tactics, these tests should be deployed with at least a minimal level of organization and structure for reviewing and comparing them. This is in steep contrast with throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Are you thinking through ideas as if they were to take millions to implement? If not, that’s OK, just think them through.
Full disclosure: while this is a topic we deal with commonly at Pound, this article from Fast Company finally inspired the post.
Transparency is not a choice on the web
We all know that for too long, businesses come up with complicated schemes to maximize unfair revenue out of their customers – none more than the notorious wireless providers. I personally loathe Sprint for their contract and overages tactics (but have no decent alternative).
The good news is, the web allows anyone who figures a way around those rules to spread them instantly. The link below was on Digg for only a few hours and had reached over 400 diggs when I saw it.
What does this mean to your web strategy? Simply that anything your customers aren’t happy about will be exposed. There are people waiting, watching and ready with an audience.
We deal with ad agencies every day - some tiny, some unbelievably huge. This exposes us to lots of diverse business models and even more marketing plans. Let me assure you, that there is no silver bullet that allows you to buy sustainable attention.
But, the idea is very attractive. So attractive, that too many smart business people refuse to believe it.
While we're fortunate that most of our clients are brilliant marketers, we still meet those on a daily basis who are in charge of large budgets who are simply holding onto ideas from last century. We know this when we hear things like:
- "It's a numbers game."
- "We need traffic (attention) to get our products in front of customers: the more the better."
- "How can we convince them they need our product?"
- "How much traffic does a million dollars buy? "
Apparently, these ideas are so compelling that even those who have beaten competition by avoiding this plague are still tempted. Seth summarizes it nicely:
As soon as they start using the tactics of the other guys, playing the game they play, they become them. As soon as they decide that they can buy (not earn) attention, it all changes.
No silver bullets, no shortcuts, no guarantees. There are, however, catalysts.
Good web design by example
What's missing is the overall paradigm that great websites share. Design is simply a strategy for conveying the site's information. Too often, companies use design as a crutch to prop up poor content, or they have completely separate and isolated strategies for design and content.
Less is still more, but how much "less" should be a site by site strategic decision.
What really drives a buying decision?
ZDNet quotes a recent survey that 53% of respondents spend 1-2 hours researching a product or service prior to making a purchase. 20% spend even longer. Does TV reach 73% of your target audience? Sure, but which channel and at which time. Do other traditional mediums reach almost three quarters of your audience? Probably not on a regular basis.
We all know the web is a viable advertising medium. But, the people who control the purse strings simply are not willing to take the risk – most likely because traditional is “safe.” No one gets fired for doing what others have done for years. Or, at least that’s what they think.
Why does a regular primetime commercial run (not the superbowl, think Survivor or ER) cost as much as a half million dollars, while the same companies’ entire annual budgets for online ad spends may be less than a million?
Tradition, it seems, carries a big premium.
Thanks for the link, Tom.
To grow a money tree, plant a seed
Often, we embrace and practice ideas that we find difficult to articulate clearly to others. I found someone who put their finger on a topic I strongly believe in, but sometimes struggle to get across to my clients. Here’s what Ramit Sethi says about motives behind most of business initiatives today...
This is the common pattern we find today:
1. Somebody launches something
2. He tries to make money
3. Then he tries to make it valuable and useful
In reality, this is how we should be approaching things:
1. Launch something useful
2. Nuture this value
3. The money will come
All this from a guy who writes a blog called I will teach you to be rich. I think he’s onto something. Read his posting.
Not the first, the second, or even the tenth idea.
The Snickers people come to you with their online marketing budget and give you free reign, what do you come up with? I bet it isn't this. http://www.snickerssatisfies.com/
But, I probably wouldn't be writing about the work you came up with (nor would Ad Bump). The point is, the best solution sometimes is the first idea you come up with, but if you don’t explore the fringes, you won't ever come up with homeruns like this.
Check it for a few days, you'll have the same reaction each time.
Please, do NOT let your quest for search engine rankings drive you to this. I can’t imagine how poor their conversion ratio is – regardless of how much traffic they think they are receiving.
Does your website have a voice?
Does your product have a personality that your users like and know? Emma does. I’m not talking about my favorite barista; I’m referring to the hot new email marketing self-service tool from Cold Feet Creative. No matter how you feel about email marketing, I’m sure you don’t associate a young creative looking brunette in wire frame glasses with spam, bouncebacks, privacy laws and all of the other negative aspects that pop into my mind. The idea is easy: take a highly powerful service that is usually unsexy and difficult to use, and make it easy and fun. Much more difficult is clearly and effectively communicating that idea through only a website.
Emma’s done a lot of things right on their site, not the least of which is presenting an effective message in a fun and unique way. This voice wouldn’t be appropriate for an aero defense company, but it is spot on for this lovely piece of software. All through the site (many times smaller than its competitors) Emma is discussed in a consistently playful manner. An excerpt:
The best way to get to know Emma is to see her in action. To request a tour, or to ask a few pre-tour questions like, "When does the tour begin?" or "Will there be snacks?" click below to launch our inquiry screen, which we feel rivals any inquiry screen in the hotly competitive inquiry-screen market.
This works on a lot of levels. Cold Feet is targeting smaller organizations and those who prefer The New Yorker to debating the future of open source software in emerging free markets. Do you think this would work if they were marketing the service to network administrators at large corporations (lots of solutions for those guys out there anyway)? Probably not… but, maybe. I can, however, assure you that Emma’s vocabulary is much more difficult to ignore than that of its competitors (Constant Contact, Email Labs).
That voice extends far beyond the web site. You can’t even sign up online – you have to call and introduce yourself first. Gasp! I can hear my clients now, “We built a web site to reduce the number of sales calls.” Not for this type of service. Cold Feet is differentiating itself beautifully here, and living its position of friendly, personal service. When you inquire about the product, you receive an email thanking you for your interest - claiming “Emma is flattered.” The demo is equally personal and friendly.
Emma is priced at a premium, but over the 1,000 customers who signed up in just two years seem to think she’s worth it. Instead of laying in bed at night worrying about your email campaigns… you can dream about Emma. Yes, beautiful Emma.
Does one person or group own all of the content on your site? Web sites are like heads – any more than one voice in them, and you’re going to get distracted.
Price matters, but...
A great product by a company who treats its customers like friends will always outlast a solution competing on price alone:
Wal-Mart and NetFlix team up
What do you offer that no one else can for less?