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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Why should I buy your product?

July 28th, 2007

This is a real email I just sent to a company today. It struck me, that the challenges I faced as a prospective customer with them are typical shortfalls that companies of all sizes make in their messaging. Read through this letter to see if yours shoes start pinching. Company names and identifying terms have been changed to protect the innocent (me).

Hi,

My company has been using <a competitor’s software> but are in the process of exploring other alternatives. <Your company> was recommended to me…I’ve been poking around your site and forum for the last half hour but I’m having a hard time finding specific info on what makes <your company> different and better than <your specific competitors>. So far I’ve seen a lot of great features, but everything sounds pretty much the same as the aforementioned competitors.

I’m not suggesting that <your company> is the same, based on the referral I’m optimistic that you are better. I just asking if you can articulate to me the reasons why? Can you have one of your sales people contact me with this info?

I strongly suggest too, for your own marketing benefit, that you make a clear statement on your frontage answering the question “What features-benefits make <your company> totally unique and the best choice.”

You do have a generic value proposition stated that states: “We offer more flexibility, security, help, value, choices, stability, features and support. Get more with <our company>”….and that you’re technical
jargon> with more features than any other application in it’s [sic] class” This entire statement could be easily used by any of your competitors on their website…it would do you great benefit to call out the specific features and their benefits that are unique only to <your company>.

One last suggestion…your site is very feature heavy, I suggest you associate a clear benefit statement with each technical feature you list. The prominent feature button on your front page leads to your features page which lists a lot of technical features including multiple references to your “Hybrid X Core”.

Frankly, none of this means anything to me.

I am technically savvy on this topic so I understand much of what your saying but it really doesn’t mean much to me in terms of why I should go with <your company> … I covet finding out what the unique benefit that such features as the “Hybrid X Core” bring to me.

Please know, I am a legitimate prospect and all the above is intended as constructive advice. I suspect that I am a typical prospect for your product and I’m certain you could improve your sales conversion rate with more specific “why” info prominently displayed.

I’m looking forward to hearing from your sales dept.

Media Advertising is Struggling. What’s the Fix? Please Chime In!

July 22nd, 2007

As market-savvy corporations continue to adapt their marketing strategies to address consumer tendencies, traditional advertising outlets are feeling the crunch. Why? The answer is two fold: 1) today’s consumers are more likely than ever to base their purchasing decisions on peer reference rather than advertising and 2) access to alternative media via the internet has reduced the influence and control long held by newspapers, television networks, and radio stations. Hence, the appeal traditional media outlets once held has been mitigated and the writing is on the wall for change in their advertising sales departments.

So, thinking about the future from a media outlet, what is the answer? With so many options available via the Internet, which provide current and plausibly accurate information, I’m not sure that a paid subscription is the way to go. I know that I would never pay for a subscription to a newspaper site as I can access the same information on Google News for free. And with the advertising model, think back to how many banner ads you’ve clicked on … and on top of that, how many banner ads have actually led you to a purchase. I know for most folks, that number is minuscule if it exists at all.

To conclude, I’m hoping to solicit some honest and candid discussion on this topic. I’ve read several blogs and articles on this topic, and I have yet to find an adequate answer for the dilemma facing the major media outlets. Is their future dim? Or is there a solution that will drive the financial solvency of television and radio broadcasters and hard copy newspapers. As I have a genuine interest in this topic, please let me know your thoughts … especially if you work in the mass-media industry.

Guerrilla Marketing Redux

June 27th, 2007

Recently I found myself isolated from the digital world for a couple hours, courtesy of Idaho Power. After a brief period of anxiety, I picked up an old book I hadn’t looked at in many years—Guerrilla Marketing Weapons by Jay Conrad Levinson.

My first observation was how antiquated some of the strategies are. 1990 does not seem that long ago but from a business and marketing perspective it’s a world apart in many ways. Regardless of the era, I question some of the council he provides in his promotion of advertising as “affordable” and a “necessity”. The author was an advertising guy in a bygone era…can’t blame him for pushing his industry.

While some of the info was off base (should I really consider promoting my business through matchbook advertising?) most of the “weapons” are still spot on. One point the author made that really resonated with me was under the heading, Identity:

A word to strike from your marketing vocabulary is image. An image is a facade, something phony…prospects come in…and learn that the company is not, indeed, what it held itself out to be in the first place. Instead, it is different—not bad, but different.. This makes the prospect unconsciously feel ripped off…because you communicated an image that had little basis in reality, only in hope. A far better
i word than image is identity. An identity is automatically honest.

This timeless insight is the essence of the social revolution that New Media / Web 2.0 have brought to bear in the last 15 years and in fact it’s the catalyst that established RisingLine.

In the past, many companies could trick enough people (mainly through advertising and gimmicks) to keep a sustainable level of demand generation to feed their habit. In the New Media world, consumers have the power to cut through the phony facade of images and create their own expose of each company. We see it well established already on such outlets as Amazon’s star ratings and user reviews and are seeing it trickle down to even small businesses through the
local business rating systems of SuperPages.com and Google. It’s at an accelerate pace now that social media will continue to drive out the fakes and increase quality across the board.

It’s ironic that this sage advice is given in a book promoting advertising and gimmicks. I believe the important take away is that more than ever, prominence should be given to building real quality into your product or service and developing a marketing plan to empower your customer evangelists who will be the authenticators and communicators for your marketing message. While advertising and marketing “weapons” may plan a part, their role has been significantly depreciated in today’s business environment.

As a post script, I notice that on the Guerrilla Marketing website Guerrilla Marketing, New Edition is being promoted as an updated version including “strategies for the Internet.”

The Mac is Back: Apple’s customers make it a major player again

June 4th, 2007

Mac ads


Apple’s current ad campaign

For those of you who know me best, you’re already familiar with my incessant evangelism regarding Apple’s Macintosh. For those of you who don’t know me that well, just keep reading this blog. But for all my biased chest-beating, even the most anti-Apple critic has to acknowledge the recent strides the Mac has made in the marketplace. First off, Apple increased its earnings 88% last quarter, the company’s stock/equity portfolio is higher than it’s ever been, and well known icons within the PC industry are in the process of making “the switch.”

So how does Apple leverage their success? Simply buy understanding the consumer and building stylistic products suited to their needs. Steve Jobs and his engineers and marketers strive toward building and communicating value to those who believe there has to be more to computing than blue screens, random shut-downs, and indistinguishable error messages. Not to mention, Apple has developed a reputation for taking care of its customers, providing the industry’s highest standard in design, all the while building quality products that put the competition to shame.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Apple is successfully de-commoditizing itself within the computing market by establishing itself as a leader in consumer satisfaction. It’s one thing for a company to claim it’s good at pleasing customers, it’s another thing when the customers are saying it themselves. While Dell is struggling to right itself by opening low-price channels through Wal-Mart, Apple is creating the undercurrent for a consumer revolution that will only help to break the Microsoft hegemony within the market.

In conclusion, Apple has proven that organizations are able to operate with substantial margins within a commoditized industry. If your business is struggling to find it self within a competitive, dog-eat-dog market, remember to follow Apple’s example in focusing on your customer’s needs. After all, customers are the most selfish people on the planet; they only care about what your product, service, or brand means to them. Apple understands this principal, as do most profitable businesses.

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