Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.
August 26th, 2007
Looking through the headlines today, I ran across an article that reminded me how blessed those of us who live in Western democracies are to have systems of government that allow citizens to share information. Whether it be instructional, humorous, entertaining, critical, or complimentary, the right to create and disseminate thought and opinion is a blessing we, or at least I, take for granted.
Conversely, citizens of China would not be able to have blog sites like Michelle Malkin’s or Michael Moore’s. Even for blogs of a non-political nature, China has tight restrictions on the content and distribution of blogs within its borders. Among other things, it is unlawful for Chinese bloggers to maintain anonymity, which has created international backlash from some of the world’s most prominent technology firms and media watchdogs.
Regardless of the various opinions on the effectiveness of blogging, most of us can agree that we’ve been blessed with systems of government that allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to collaborate and communicate without the fear of authoritative reprisal. To that end, I’m more thankful upon reflection as I exercise my freedom by publishing this message. You should be too.
August 18th, 2007
I just ran across an article that I have to share, the Last Dance of the Web Bologna. What is Web bologna you might ask? According to Dan Century, the name given for the witty young man who wrote this article, it’s “superfluous and garish web design elements that marketing departments love, but the average customer will ultimately loathe.”
Like spam, Web bologna is a different type of intellectually insulting processed product that we get served up on occasion whether we ask for it or not. But instead of coming through email it comes at us from the pages of web sites.
Now in Dan’s definition of Web bologna, he says that “marketing departments love” it. I’m not sure what marketing departments he’s talking about, but I can guarantee that this marketing department is top on the list of bologna loathers. As a matter of fact, I’ve recently vented my disgust of a newer evolution of Web bologna (the “Site Pal”) on this blog.
I think a key principle of life that applies to this topic is that just because something can be done, does not mean it should be done…e.g. if one can belch one’s name, that does not mean that it’s a good idea to do so when meeting potential customers.
So aside from just being plain cheesy, what’s so bad about bologna? It’s bad because it exists on the opposite side of the spectrum from good usability—the design principles that have been researched and proven to facilitate visitors to your site becoming customers. In other words, bologna takes away from the whole purpose for a business to have Web site. As a side note, to learn all you need to know about usability, pick up a copy of Steve Krug’s classic book, Don’t Make Me Think.
I encourage you to take a read through Dan’s humorous article. While much of the bologna Dan mentions in his article is extreme and from the past Internet era, the same misguided mindset of “this looks cool, we should put it on our Web page” still exists today with newer technology and tactics.
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).
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.
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.