Archive for Marketing

Jun
16

Marketing Use to Be Fueled By Go-Getters

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I was going through a few marketing studies the other day and can’t help but feel shocked, maybe awed… honestly not sure what I feel.

One study, that was conducted by Adometry (might know them as Click Forensics… not really sure why they changed their name), disclosed that marketers complained quite a bit about the tools at their disposal. And that “lack” of proper tools keeps companies from advertising….

Are you serious? I would be pleased as punch (if punch could be pleased) if marketers nowadays understood the basics of online marketing and would be even more happy if they used A/B testing or at the minimum refreshed their ads.

I can’t help the feeling that tools are just another scapegoat. It reminds me of an out-of-shape guy who decides he is going to start working out and take care of himself. Does he start with the basics like eat healthy and do some standard non-assisted exercises like I don’t know walk/jog or push-ups or some such? Does he build habits through repetition? No, he finds a really expensive home workout machine, puts it together, and allows it to gather dust in the corner of the garage.

Personally, I enjoy the number crunching side of marketing. The only tool I use extensively is a spreadsheet. I have my templates with my own set of metrics ready to go. For myself, being close to the data and spending the extra time with the numbers gives me a chance to reflect on how I can take this data and make it useful in a business sense.

If you absolutely need a tool to aid you on your marketing struggle, make it yourself. And when you update it with cool improvements, white label the old one and sell it.

Categories : Marketing
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The titles suck.

That actually makes me feel much better. Thank you. Now, off you go!

Oooo I see you want an explanation. Well, why not. I think by now we know that there is simply way too much information on the Internet. Type in any topic into Google or Bing and you are bound to get thousands of possible sources. In many cases millions.

People don’t have time to read through all of these. So they have to skim, a skill invented the day the first newspaper was printed. What is the deciding factor between all of these items and which one ends up being read? The title.

Would you read an article titled:

Housewife Cooks Fish for Family Dinner

or….

Knife Wielding Female Carves Ichthyoid Victim Up for Supper, Grisly Display is Nightly Ritual

Titles are big things. Treat them accordingly.

Categories : Marketing
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Feb
04

Tech Specs: What is the Answer?

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Yesterday we discussed the problems associated with tech specs and web hosting. The main problem with tech specs in web hosting is the vast bulk of the customer has little to no knowledge of anything found in the technical specifications and has no desire to learn them.

When we talked about the difficulty of selling Web Host plans, including the difficulties in defining the true value of a Web Host plan that actually represents a non-tangible, unfinished Web site, we concluded that test driving a Web Host plan is all but impossible.

Since I teased everyone as to why I say test driving is difficult; saying I will explain later I might as well explain why I think it is a problem. First off, there is a problem with compatibilities. Let’s say someone started with a host who offers ColdFusion and so they programmed there in ColdFusion then decided to switch to a cheaper host. Well, the inclusion of ColdFusion normally means a higher cost so chances are good the lower cost plan does not have CF and therefore when they port it over, it doesn’t work. They have to start over again or find yet another host only this time (more savvy) find a host that offers CF. Or maybe someone has a site that is ready to go, uses WordPress, so fairly standard for any Unix based host. They go to move it and are hassled with a variety of problems they don’t know how to solve, which also includes the modules they might have used and importing database information.

These problems add up and only compound frustrations with finding a web host, whereas with a car you get the keys and go. Web hosting; not so much.

You can’t just drop your old Web site off and hop into a new one and drive the new Web Host plan out of the lot. It may take a day of effort to get it up and running or a week (if things really get screwy) and while these problems are going on, the site is losing customers, traffic, maybe even links and SEO rankings. Even if the web developer was smart and used a secondary domain name, put in a back up database got everything working, figured they like the web host so swapped the DNS records over and got it running as the primary site, problems can still occur making you wonder is choosing a new host worth the hassle? Therefore not a true test drive.

So there are two ways to get around a lot of these problems, however both require effort. There are no silver bullets in this industry, what I present is merely a logical path based on the facts at hand. In order to implement them, you also need to figure out a way around some of the problems each answer gives.

First the failed method, though maybe I should say work in progress. It hasn’t necessarily failed as yet, but it is not really gaining any traction or making anyone’s lives easier. So the first method used was categories. It was based on familiarity found in places like the car industry such as sports cars. Sports cars carry like types of features and performances. A web hosting category such as Budget would have set parameters such as less than $14.95 (when the standard was first enacted). Since then it has dropped to less than $4.95… oh how times have changed.

And that was the start of the problem. The standard for the categories were never really pinned down and agreed upon. Mainly because many of the plans various companies came out with could be identified into multiple categories. The Ford F-150 is a truck… there is no way anyone can say it’s a sedan. However, you can have a Budget/VPS/Blog Plan. How would classify it? Well in all fairness you would have to say well it fits in the Budget, VPS, and Blog categories, adding to the confusion. What should have helped to concentrate audience wants and needs into a simple grouping of plans ended up increasing the confusion. Also there was a lack of unity in the dissemination of this information. Web hosts of the day didn’t understand the need for classifications. They didn’t understand that by making the customer’s life easier it would help in increase the customer base. How much faster would the adoption of web sites been if the customer could understand basics of a plan by looking at a category standard badge of some sort, in the same manner as cars or milk or a million other products?

With the advent of tagging and tag clouds, I am going to assume that categories will continue to be a non-issue, which is a shame on many levels, but no sense it dwelling on the spilled milk… simply blame the dog and be done with it. 8-D

Now the second method for surmounting the problems of web hosting. Actually this shouldn’t come as a surprise to those I have done some consulting work for, or for those who have gone to some of the conferences at HostingCon, or read various industry pundits. Instead of selling a product that is not really a product or selling a list of features, instead sell a solution.

The main reason this will work is because there is no assembly required on the part of the customer. Your average customer can tell you with remarkable clarity what they need, regardless of whether or not they know the features. A business might say I want to be able to sell stuff. An individual might say I want to start a blog. These are wants, with a problem (obviously I can’t sell stuff right now, how do I sell stuff) and you have the solution, buy this and you can start to sell stuff. Take this package and you will be able to blog. A customer has no need to remember any extemporaneous information and no need to learn new skills and vocabularies.

Now I had said there are no silver bullets and this is still not a silver bullet. The web host still has to figure a means to show value and a means of comparison to competitors to prove worth (though this could be considered optional). It also is more based on niche markets. A company already focused on a niche can use this method far easier than a company who provides everything. Also the features for a solution still need to be worked on, but that comes from learning from your current customers; what they use, what they don’t use, etc.

So in closing, I just want to say make it easier on your potential customers. Give them the tangibility of solution based services as opposed to tech specs. Like automobiles, still list the tech specs, but do not make them center stage. On a side note, if you want to solve the blank canvas problem either offer to help them build their site, or better yet form partnerships with web designers.

Although no dogs were injured in the writing of this blog there was one cat that was plotting world domination.

Categories : Marketing
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I have often wondered why web hosting plans are sold by technical specs… computers too for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, technical specifications of a product are pretty much as detailed as it gets for buying purposes. It can tell us exactly what we need to know. However, without some form of training in web hosting or with computers, you might as well be given a list written entirely in Koine Greek.

Let’s leave that right there for now and look at one of the most successful products of all time, the car. The best part of selling a car is that the whole process can be reduced to one feature, price. A great deal of the features and even the uses for the car can be quickly learned just from looking at it. We know that trucks are used for towing, hauling, carrying payloads, etc. We know that your average smallish car will probably have great fuel economy, no leg room, and also won’t go very fast. Cars with an increased amount of curves and a sleek look will probably go really fast, go through gas like there is no tomorrow, and you will have an insatiable urge to only want the car in either red or black.

In each of these three cases, we have tech specs accompanying each vehicle. In a car lot, they are normally all located on the sticker sheet attached to the window. The difference is the spec sheets are not center stage. Even on the sheet itself the price is in larger print and in a location readily seen.

In most cases, we go to a car lot already knowing the type of car we want. This way we can remove about 90% of the lot from our search. The next deciding factor is price. We already know what we are looking at in terms of budget and they decrease the field even more. Lastly, we know a HANDFUL of things we want. For myself, the engine has to match the car (i.e. you will never see me drive a truck with a 4-cylinder, ain’t happening), it has to have cruise control, and lastly it has to have power windows.

After that is all done, I take each vehicle I have left for a test drive. In the end, it is further whittled down to only a small few (I love to drive so I am extremely picky with how a car handles). From that I look at maintenance costs (gas mileage, how often the make and model breaks down, cost of parts… gotta love having a smartphone and browsing the net for car problems while you are looking) and the cost of the car itself to produce a sort of value number in my head. The car with the highest value wins.

Problem with web hosting is you really can’t test drive it per se (more on this later), you can’t just look at it and know what it does (same with computers really), and lastly it is very difficult to determine value.

Equally problematic is using a feature list to prove value since the average user doesn’t know what the features mean and if we have learned anything from computer sales, the average person doesn’t want to learn about the features.

So how do you go about solving the problem of selling a product a lot of people need even though they have very little working knowledge about it?

Oh nearly forgot, the biggest hurtle of all. Web hosting provides 0 products. Instead it would be me giving someone a paint brush, some paint, and easel and saying get to it. Some of us (yes I include myself in that hehe) can build masterpieces with the tools given to us by web hosts. However, and I am going to make up a number cause I like making up statistics, 95.7% of the web hosting audience does not.

So for homework tonight, I want everyone to think about how you can go about selling a product that:

  • the majority of people need
  • that is not tangible
  • that is difficult to determine apparent value
  • that is not a finished product
  • whose features are mysterious
  • and test driving is difficult considering the amount of effort involved moving stuff (again more on that tomorrow)

Tomorrow we will go over the answers to this interesting problem. I will say this, there are currently two ways to do it and unfortunately one of them has failed thus far.

Categories : Marketing
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Oct
21

Marketing Jargon: Thinking Outside the Box

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Every time I use a CD or DVD-ROM I always think of 7th Guest. It was the first CDROM I ever remember using and the game itself was unique (at the time). The storyline was quite involved, the puzzles where devilishly hard, and horror was a much overlooked genre when it came to PC games back then. Every time when I load a disk into my drive I remember the hysterical laughter or the cutscene where the guests are at the dinner table laughing and then they change to skeletons. And now a bit of history.

When the CD-ROM came out no one really cared. Word processors, spreadsheets and other such productivity software did not need the huge capacity that CDs provided and so the drive seemed like it would be a novelty at best. On the software end of things, however things were getting out of hand. PC video games were becoming huge and gamers around the world had to constantly swap out floppies or had to spend some three or four hours installing a game that was contained on some 15-20 disks. It was irksome, one of the biggest jokes at the time centered around the King’s Quest series, they figured by the time it reached 10 it would be called King’s Quest 10 In Search of Bigger Hard Drives! The stage was set for a means for CD-ROMs to become a standard. Instead of appealing to corporate they would appeal to gamers.

This is pretty standard stuff nowadays, heck the processor and video card markets seem to revolve around game launches, but back then, this was cutting edge. Back then, no one cared about the gamer market. 7th Guest was the first game to be written only for a CD and not for disks. It became bundled with a number of drives targeted at the consumer CD-ROM user (which was non-existent at the time).

This partnership proved to be fortuitous in that the CD-ROM exploded in sales as did the 7th Guest. In fact, the 7th Guest is still one of the few games to sell in excess of 2 million copies. As far as the CD-ROM industry well we all know how successful CD-ROMs were.

Some will tell you that thinking outside the box means to tattoo company logos on peoples’ heads, but I say different. Thinking outside the box means to do something that no one else has done in a way that makes sense for your business.

7th Guest is a great example of thinking outside of the box. It did something no one else ever did before, but it also made sense. It wasn’t a gimmick, it was a tangible and meaningful partnership that provided results. When you are looking for your killer marketing idea, remember it doesn’t have to be a gimmick it can be just as simple as finding the right service or product to partner with.

Categories : Marketing
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