Category Archives: Marketing

Photo by Tim & Selena Middleton

Readers, leads and customers

I hate spending ten bucks going to a movie only to find out all the good scenes were in the preview. Even worse is when the preview looked like a completely different movie then the one I’m watching.

I doesn’t cost me anything but time to follow a link online, but after a while I’m just as frustrated when I click a link and what I get is nothing like what I expected.

I understand why Hollywood does it. By the time I figure out the preview was a lie I’ve already paid for the ticket. That doesn’t work online if I have to actually read the article before I decide if I want to buy something.

Continue reading Readers, leads and customers

Remember Your First Time?

No, not that. I mean your first time reading your favorite marketing blog. It wasn’t your favorite at the time, but something made you stick around. Do you remember what it was?

Odds are, that day was nothing special to the blog’s author. Just another day, just another post. They didn’t know you’d be coming by for the first time today.

But there was something good there, something worth seeing. Something worth coming back for.

A reporter was talking to Joe DiMaggio after a late-season game, after the Yankees were already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. DiMaggio had made a spectacular running catch. The reporter asked why he would risk an injury in a game that didn’t matter. DiMaggio told him:

There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best.

Most people don’t see your site for the first time just as you’re starting a launch. They show up in the middle of the launch … or before it starts … or after it’s over.

What will they see?

Do you love your customers?

Forget the money for a second. They’re all broke, just divorced or downsized, moved back in with Mom and Dad. But you get up each morning looking forward to seeing them, talking to them, spending time with them.

Oh, and selling them stuff. Stuff that you know they’re going to totally dig, because you totally dig it. And they love you right back for selling it to them.

Who wants to be that guy?

But you’re not. “That guy” — the sleazeball that’s always pimping the latest multi-level marketing crap at parties — doesn’t really love his customers. He loves their money.

You love them for what they are. You’re one of them. Except that you’re good at something most of them aren’t. Maybe you write music. Or you’re a painter. Or you’re just really good at finding great new restaurants. So you do it for them.

“Do what you love … yadda yadda … heard it all before.”

Close, but not quite. Maybe you heard it from Brian Clark:

Do what you love and don’t worry about the consequences.

Or you saw the Venn diagram everyone uses to tell you what to do with your life:

But maybe you also heard that you have to always put the reader first. To start from what your customers need and give it to them.

But all of this advice is missing something important.

Who are your customers?

Who do you want to spend your day with?

If you love building and painting choppers, you’ll probably spend lots of time with bikers. You like grooming Pomeranians? You’ll be with little old ladies and gay men.

Is that who you want to spend your day with? Every day?

Because once you’ve picked your niche, once you’ve picked who you’re going to follow, that’s who you’re going to spend your working life with.

Pick them on purpose

Contrary to every other piece of advice I’ve seen on this, I’m telling you to pick your customers first. Don’t start from your interests and look for a market. And definitely don’t pick a market just because it’s a market.

Look for people you like. People you’re willing to spend time with. Lots of time. Too much time.

If you don’t love spending time with these people, it’ll show. You may get by for a while, finding the intersection between what they want and what you want to give.

But if you love them, you’ll be willing to follow them where they want to go.

Have you done all the marketing you can? Are you sure?

Has every person in the world who could possibly benefit from your product already bought it? Wait, let’s back up to an easier test. Has each one of them even heard of your product? If not, what have you done today to make sure that they hear of it?

Have you identified each potential user of your application? Not just a general description of the type of user, I mean personally identifying information. Do you have their email address? Why not? How do you plan to get it?

How many people have seen your sales pitch and not bought? What are their email addresses? How many of them would have benefited from your product? Why didn’t they buy it? How do you know?

What can you change in your sales pitch to convert more of those views into sales? How do you know?

What can you change in your product to increase the population of people who would benefit? How do you know?

This isn’t black and white, where things either work or they don’t. This is the squishy grey area filled with actual people, who may buy (or not buy) for reasons that they don’t understand themselves. If you think getting this “right” (think about why I put that in quotes) is faster or easier than building your product, then you don’t even know how much you don’t know.

Naked cynicism

Sales is a tricky thing. If you’ve got a good product that you really believe in, you can make a fortune just by convincing people that you’re right.

But sometimes, it’s just a “good” product. Nothing wrong with it, but not so different from lots of others on the market. So why should people by your product instead of someone else’s?

Good marketing beats good product development every time. Just look at Microsoft. That’s what you’re competing against. Even with a better product, you have to have better marketing to win. And good marketing is measured by one thing: Is it effective?

Is there a line between strong advocacy and manipulation? Between creative license and deceit? How long do you have to be in the business before you stop caring, and just go for naked cynicism?

That’s why characterizing your prospect as a ruggedly independent thinker — immune to “herd think” — is a very powerful selling technique indeed.

If you can position your prospect as a renegade, and your product as a symbol of that individualism, it can form a powerful buying motive.

Just be sure and let your prospect know there are other people who feel the same way.

Update: Looks like someone agrees. Scion’s current ad campaign tagline is “United by Individuality.” Okay then.

When newspapers are gone, will you miss newsstands?

Marketing guru Seth Godin asked the question today, “When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?” Before getting into the various sections and showing how the web covers each of those areas better, he offers this opinion:

Woodpulp, printing presses, typesetting machines, delivery trucks, those stands on the street and the newsstand… I think we’re okay without them.

But are we?

The presses and trucks — the machinery of creating and delivering the paper — are transparent to most people. But the newsstand is a user interface. Any UI designer will tell you that the interface influences the type of interaction you have with the underlying system. What type of interaction do you have with a newsstand?

Newsstand in web terms

First, the newsstand serves as a “portal” to divergent news sources. It provides a rough snapshot of what the different publishers think is worth reading about today, all in one place. No matter what your interest, you can go to the newsstand and know that it’s represented there.

Then there are the cases where someone discovers an interest while at the newsstand. The user who knows what she is there for, but sees the same screaming headline in 144 pt type on three different papers and decides she wants to see what’s happened in the world. Or the user who wants to read something, but doesn’t know what until he browses. This second type of user is very common in airports.

The newsstand also serves as a feed reader, always showing the most recent issue of periodicals and dailies, with older issues sometimes available behind the counter. Just as there are people who don’t know or care about RSS readers, there are people who have been reading magazines for years who don’t track when the new issues will be out. They just check the stand every day or so until they see something new they want to read.

Don’t make me think

Both of these functions, the portal and feed reader analogues, are zero maintenance for the users. At most they might ask the proprietor to start carrying a new title. But the mechanics of delivery, storage, display, are all handled for them. With no subscription, no ongoing cost, and the incremental cost entirely under the user’s control.

So Seth is right, we probably won’t miss the newspapers. But will we miss the newsstands?

How To Tell When You’re Being Lied To

Stay up some night and watch the late-night infomercials. Odds are you’ll see one for a real estate selling “system” with some variation of the pitch, “Do what I tell you on the tapes and you’ll be rich.” But the only people making money are the ones selling the tapes. No one ever gets rich actually following the advice on the tapes.

It doesn’t matter what the tapes are about: real estate, home cleaning products, debt consolidation. They’re all a scam, because the real money is in selling the system, not in using the system.

The new wrinkle in this is that the scammers have gone “meta”. The system they’re selling now is the infomercial. Instead of claiming their system will tell you how to sell real estate, they claim their system will tell you how to make your own infomercial. Which can be about real estate, or it can be about … well, making more infomercials. And making them on the web. See, it’s different!

You would think that eventually someone has to get something of value out of the whole arrangement. With the real estate scam someone allegedly gets a house out of it. But with the new racket the only thing that ever comes out of it is a “business” of selling more ads for the system.

If you’re too young to know about it, they have a name for this arrangement: Ponzi Scheme. The only people who make money are the people who know that’s what they’re doing.

So here’s how to tell when you’re being lied to. If what you’re doing is a Ponzi Scheme, are you the one doing it on purpose? If not, then you’re being lied to.

How To Stop Turning Down Work

It’s your sixth birthday and your grandfather has just handed you a ridiculously heavy package the size of a shoebox. You open it up to see that yes, it is a shoebox. A shoebox full of pennies.

“I’ve been dropping all my pennies in there each night since you were born,” he says. “I planned to give it to you when it’s full, and it’s getting close. There’s probably more than $200 in there. All you have to do is count them out into stacks of fifty and roll them in those little paper sleeves.” This was before the automatic coin counters appeared in grocery stores.

Your six-year-old mind reels at this windfall. You count and wrap until your hands are cramped. You beg you mother to take you to the bank to turn the pennies into “real money,” then straight to the toy store to get Frogger for your Atari. (Any similarities to the author’s life are purely coincidental.)

Flash forward to today. Someone offers you a box of pennies. All you have to do is count them by hand. You might still take it, but it’s not going to be such an obvious choice. How long will it take? What could I be doing instead?

Thinking small

For the mid-career freelancer, this is the calculation that dooms you to punching a clock. You could build that website for the local restaurant, but they want you to keep it up-to-date with their specials. You’re not interested in doing maintenance, and they can’t afford to keep paying your development rate. So you don’t take the work.

You just turned down a lucrative contract because you’re thinking like an employee. No, you don’t have a boss, but you still think that any hour you’re not working is an hour you’re not getting paid. To break this mindset, you need to start delegating. You need people working for you.

You’re making it as a freelancer because you solve people’s problems. When someone wants a site and ongoing support, they have two problems. You can solve the first by building the site, and the second by finding a qualified support person. There are plenty of online resources for finding contract technical workers. Don’t make your client go to these sites and try to evaluate people, do it for them.

Thinking big

Instead of selling a Content Management System that will allow a small business owner to update his own site, offer a one-stop service, where your employees will keep the site updated for a monthly fee. Do this enough times and your “passive income” could exceed your new development work.

But even if you don’t take a cut of the support fees, having the capability means you can bid on a whole new type of contract: the large kind.

How many Danny DeVitos does the world need?

Seth Godin is absolutely brilliant at questioning the assumptions and “conventional wisdom” that we all rely on when promoting our products or services. He doesn’t offer step-by-step recipes “Guaranteed to triple your sales!” In fact he rarely talks about specific numbers at all.

And if his recent post Thinking about Danny Devito is representative, then it’s a good thing he doesn’t. Because he completely missed the point that “a few” is a whole different thing than “one.”

If you haven’t read it — and you really should, it’s only 152 words — the point is that there are a lot more people competing for the George Clooney-type roles than there are competing for the Danny DeVito-type roles. Seth phrases this pseudo-mathematically:

(number of people resembling George Clooney)/(jobs for people resembling George Clooney) is a much bigger number than the ratio available to Danny. For the math challenged: Because everyone in Hollywood is trying to be George, there are a lot more opportunities for the few Dannys willing to show up.

Since his breakout role in Taxi in the early 80s, DeVito has 76 acting credits. During that time he’s also had: 33 producing credits, 13 directing, 6 soundtracks, and 76 appearances as himself. It’s fair to say he’s prolific. And as long as he’s able to maintain his pace, he will remain the first choice for anyone who wants someone resembling Danny DeVito.

Think about that phrase, “resembling Danny DeVito.” Then consider this chestnut about the career of a movie star:

  1. Who’s Brad Pitt?
  2. Get me Brad Pitt.
  3. Get me a Brad Pitt type.
  4. Get me a younger Brad Pitt.
  5. Who’s Brad Pitt?

Now try to come up with a list of actors who you would describe as “a Danny DeVito type.” Or “a younger Danny DeVito.” I’ll wait …

Yeah, I can’t come up with any, either. So it seems that, for now, the important formula is (jobs Danny is able to take)/(jobs for people resembling Danny). And for now that ratio seems to be “one.” And “one” is really not at all close to “a few”.

How using people in your ads increases sales

We’ve all seen the light beer commercials with young, impossibly attractive people guzzling a product that, by all rights, should be making them fat and unhealthy. The obvious question is, “Do they think we’re really that stupid? That we think if we drink their beer we’ll become supermodels?”

Good question. But it gets the real thinking backwards.

When you show people using the product, you’re helping the prospect visualize themselves using it. Make it seem familiar and safe, instead of new and unknown.

But since you can’t put each viewer into their own personalized version of the ad (yet), you have to use a stand-in. If you show someone that the viewer would like to be, it increases their desire to want to recreate that image.

So you don’t want the prospect thinking, “If I use that product, I will become that cool, attractive person in the ad.” You want them thinking, “Because I am cool and attractive, I can see myself using that product.”

It’s the same thinking that leads to cliques and fads:

  • I’m not cool because I wear Air Jordans. I wear Jordans because I’m cool.
  • I’m not tough because I play rugby. I play rugby because I’m tough.
  • I’m not a redneck because I drive a truck. I drive a truck because I’m a redneck.

You don’t want your prospect to think your product will make them more attractive. You want to help them confirm what they already believe about themselves.