Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assumptions About Links & Comments

With all due respect to Jonathan Morrow at Copyblogger, his Why No One Links to Your Best Posts (And What to Do About It) is more than misleading, it's based on assumptions that could cost you.

In the article, he discusses the reason why your "best post" has no links &/or comments ~ even when you've emailed "all of the top bloggers in your niche, pointing them to the post". He states that content is not king and that the problem, your problem, is one of cronyism. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; and you don't know enough of the cool kids. His solution, then, is to give you a short list of ways to butter-up popular, powerful, bloggers.

But I'm not buying it ~ at least not completely. And neither should you.

It's not just because the things he suggests on his How to Make Friends with Popular Bloggers list are rather Internet circa 1999, with its "guest post" idea (very "free article service"). It's not just that a majority of the list's actions are down-right bribe-tastic, with its "Volunteer to 'vote' for any posts that they’re pushing on social media sites like Digg, and StumbleUpon" and "Join their private membership program (like Teaching Sells) and make lots of smart posts in the forums". (Both of which set my teeth on edge.) It's because I take issue with his whole take on what is important in blogging and writing in general.

If you are blogging to connect to & communicate with Big Name Bloggers, then perhaps the 'desperation suck-up to appease the popularity gods' Morrow suggests will work. ("The key is finding ways that you can be genuinely useful to them. Make yourself relevant and then use that opportunity to start building a relationship." Arg! I hate such insincerity, myself. And it's too much like those high school games of trying to make the cheerleading squad or just to get to hang with them; I never did that. There's an entirely long post on this whole subject.)

But blogging is done for many other reasons than to be a "cool blogger" or a pundit. Some of us, many of us, blog for those other reasons.

We blog to connect with current customers/clients &/or potential customers/clients. We blog to connect to readers & researchers who have an interest in our topic. We blog to increase conversation about an issue ~ even if that conversation occurs around the dinner table or as pillow talk. We blog to take reader interest and turn it into a concern and then an action via voting & activism, and supporting organizations and issues with memberships and donations (which is rather like connection with customers &/or potential customers, really; but still bears mentioning).

While getting linkage at cool kid sites is welcome, such linkage, as noted (second part of post), may not not really mean anything for those goals. But the absence of such linkage &/or commenting does not mean failure or that no one is reading your "best post".

Morrow's post forgets about such valuable things as The Long Tail & the silent visitor (reader).

I am a huge fan of quality information being available for the if & when of a searcher, no matter how long after that post has been published. It may not make you cool to anyone other than that searcher, but I think that searcher is important. That's you reaching your audience. The value of such a "long tail" has been discussed over and over again by many people, so I'll let you check that out for yourself & move on to the often overlooked importance of the silent visitor.

Contrary to what people will tell you, not everyone has a blog. And yet the blogless have incredible power of their own. They do have purchasing power & potential for other action (activism, word of mouth influence on others, etc.) Getting caught up in who is powerful &/or basing it on popularity (links in, page views, comments) isn't necessarily reflective of

Case in point: My mom.
She doesn't blog. Not having a blog, she's no user ID and that can (& does) intimidate her even more from the technical point of view; but really, she is too polite to even consider posting a comment at a "weblog of a person she doesn't know." However, this doesn't mean my mom is irrelevant in any sense to the blogger, large or small.

She talks everyday, on the phone, chatting with friends, mentioning who & what she was reading and passing along blog names like she once gossiped about the neighbors across the street who kept weird hours and never spoke to anyone in the neighborhood. And she emails. Yes, she is the one who forwards all those goofy & annoying email jokes and stuff (in her circle, she's cool for passing them along!); but she also sends links to those in her circle. And because she is respected by her peers & family (not to mention cool from the aforementioned email forwards), we all read what she has taken the time to send us. Mostly. (Or suffer the guilt of ignoring her.)

My mom & others like her may not cause your site stats to increase wildly; but she probably has brought you a few new fans &/or sales ~ and without her regular visits and emails, your traffic & sales could decrease.
Case in point: My dad.
He still has his homepage set to Yahoo! for news and has RSS feeds plugged in from "everywhere". But he has no blog and doesn't post comments.

He says that if it's a good article, he feels no need to post a comment. It's complete, addresses his questions & concerns, and as far as the author goes, he thinks it's 'nuff said and won't bother with a comment or email. He does, however, relay the information to family & friends, including recommending sites & stories for others to follow.

If it's a bad article or post...

He'll get good and worked up. But like yesterday's Letter To The Editor, he finds himself not making the effort to write his full argument in light of other more pressing and practical things. (And he won't bother with a partial, lame argument.) He does, however, perform more than the occasional live heated debate with the paraphrased, and not present, author.

Would you dismiss his passion & interest simply because he's blogless & therefore cannot link to you & has not commented?

Case in point: My sister.
She's a high powered corporate attorney at a huge world-wide corp ~ the names of which I cannot drop because of implications she'd not wish. This precisely illustrates why she cannot, will not, blog or comment. As for making a user ID, she finds that "silly & time consuming". However, she reads quite a bit of news online. And she does a huge amount of shopping online.

That's not only for convenience, but due to her wide circle of similarly financially endowed, privacy requiring, friends, who, for the same reasons, email one another about the latest sale, best baby find, and coolest scrap memory book making sites & tools en route to China, London, and Ohio. She, and her friends, read and buy online quite a bit; but no one is publicly talking.

You'd be a fool to ignore their buying power & influence.
Case in point: adult content visitors.
When it comes to the mature side of things, those of us in the adult industry know we are blogging for and to a huge population which will not out itself. For every comment posted I receive at least double the emails (more like five-to-one, but I've never really calculated the numbers); but still, most people do not declare their private desires in public places. Don't let the number of sex bloggers fool you; far more of we humans are having sex (& even talking about it) than are blogging & commenting. The interest in and popularity of sex blogs alone doesn't prove that; increase in population itself does.

Would you dismiss such silent traffic? If you do, you dismiss the majority of your visitors.
Dismissing silent readers such as these are a mistake. Hell, just as not everyone clicks links on blog sidebars or in blog posts, there are those who don't even read blogs or online at all. Yet the silent visitors who do may be the very people carrying on your organization's name, your product, your service, your mission, via word of mouth. Real mouths to real ears.

Silent readers may be your vital connection to real world people, purchases, votes and other actions which help your bottom line, no matter how you define the success or action taken.

And they have to matter just as much as those cool kids, the Big Bloggers.

Sometimes we spend too much time focused on the statistics, rankings, links in, comments and other things we can see ~ simply because we can see them. I'm not saying these things are meaningless; but neither are the actions we cannot track, like the silent reader.

Sometimes we have to operate without such stats & tracking ~ not driving blind, but using our common sense. Throughout the history of communication, there have been undocumented, untrackable, unseen & not heard, results of communication. People who listened & said nothing but then went to others and gossiped and whispered behind backs, carrying on the news. People who listened & said nothing, but then directed another based on that information. Just because we cannot count them, doesn't mean they don't matter.

Morrow's entire article on courting big name bloggers does not consider, for even a moment, the worth of all the silent visitors.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sex Worker How-Tos

In Reality Check: Dealing With Assholes, Radical Vixen answers the question, "How do you deal with asshole clients?" It's for phone sex operators; but there's gold for any business owner ~ working on the phone or not.

In Rant: Strip clubs are for customers, not dancers, the SEXhobbyist gives a reminder just who the business is for. Along with clues for strippers, there are reminders for bedraggled business owners to recall that they may run the business, but if it's to be profitable, it must be focused on the customers.

Last, but certainly not least, Emilie gives safety advice on Anonymous Blogging for Sex Workers. A must read for anyone working with on the Internet. (Via Courtesan Connection.)

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Should You Really Make Fun Of Your Customer?

Just caught another one of those Domino's pizza commercials ~ from the "what are you gonna do in 30 minutes?" campaign. In this one, a guy makes a poster of the delivery guy with a unicorn, to which the delivery guy says, "Nice unicorn." In another, a trio of guys practices lame Brooklyn accents ~ which the delivery guy even pronounces are lame accents. In another, a guy has burned off his eyebrows and draws them in with magic markers... Huh? How? But mostly...


Domino's, are you really going to continue to mock your customers? Do you think potential customers want to become the lame, the stupid and the mocked?

There are so many versions of these attacks that it's getting very difficult to believe that there's any affection left in the mocking ~ if there ever really was any affection to begin with.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Midsleeper's Wet Dream Becomes Marketing Nightmare

'Everyone' is talking about Woolworths pulling the Lolita bed; The Marketing Whore is someone, so she'll talk about it too.

The Lolita Midsleeper beds were designed for six-year-old girls and this unfortunate name ('Lolita', not 'Midsleeper' which I find dreadful ~ but I'm not British, so what do I know) has resulted in upsetting parents.

The main complaint seems to be that the name 'Lolita' on a bed implies that the youth which sleeps upon it is of little virtue ~ or will be perceived as such by others. This due to, in case you didn't know, "Lolita", the 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, in which the narrator becomes sexually obsessed and then sexually involved with his 12-year-old stepdaughter when she seduces him. The icing on the cake is Lolita is not a virgin at that time either.

While the beds of ill repute were shown on the Woolworths' site, they were not an actual Woolworths product; this apparently caused part of the confusion in the handling of the complaints, as one of the upset parents received the following reply from Woolworths:
- they say they will 'pass my letter onto the buying dept' but also state
"Our aim is to attract a broad customer base of all ages and we make every effort to stock items, which appeal to the whole family. However, we also have to respond to customer demands and follow current trends. "
That one customer service kid hadn't heard of the book, or the two films, is a bit surprising... But it only gets worse as eventually that complaint, or another like it, was passed along and higher-ups confessed:
"What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either," a spokesman told newspapers.

"We had to look it up on (online encyclopaedia) Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."
It seems to me that someone should have known... I mean eBay and plenty of other sites actually forbid the word 'Lolita' from appearing in listings & profiles (at least for specific categories) and also police word combinations and content, just in case it would appear that you are trying to market to and profit from pedophiles.

Anyway, the product's been pulled and the world is safe from tramp-making beds.

The bad news is that selling Bratz dolls and thongs to little girls is just fine. As a culture we've decided that marketing to and profiting from turning girls (and boys) into sexually active preteens is fine and dandy. Not only do parents buy into it, they actually buy this stuff.

I just don't get that.

The good news is that there finally is a marketing horror story to put in textbooks ~ even if it's not based on literal translation.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Changing Signs Of The Times Charm & Disarm

I didn't just post this because we had such a giggle spotting it on the road that we turned the car around to snap the pic, but rather to illustrate that there is something very charming and in fact disarming when we see the people in business.

I've noticed this in my business too. When sites are too corporate, too serious ~laced-up & polished to the point that personality and humanity are absent ~ the interest wanes. I do believe that in the age of the Internet, with its user driven content and blogging, that credibility suffers too.

The formality that once translated to 'good business sense' and trust has shifted to a transparency that not only lets consumers see inside, but like Michael Keaton in Gung Ho, lets consumers know it's fun too. We want to have some sense that the culture is less rigid and more able to deal with and reflect our own cultural 'Casual Friday' changes.

A sign like this reminds us that there are folks employed there, just doing their job, and maybe even having some fun while they do it too. And that means more to folks driving down the street than some ad in the Yellow Pages, or even a slick skyscraper ad at the big boy websites. And what do they see or sense when they do arrive there?

What sort of things can you do to charm and disarm, to let folks know that there are real people working to create/sell/deliver your product &/or services?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Can I Get An Amen?

Editorial: Porn prosecution is a waste of time:
Some citizens of Staunton may not like an adult video store. But it is a legal business.

Staunton Prosecutor Raymond Robertson is wasting time and taxpayers' money pursuing obscenity charges against an adult video store.

Obscenity cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Landmark court cases have made the definition of obscenity exceptionally -- and appropriately -- narrow.

To be considered criminally obscene, material must meet several tests, including a lack of any "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."

In addition, it must be found to violate contemporary community standards.

The best approach, then, to the opening of After Hours Video in Staunton would have been to leave it alone. If it manages to stay in business, then it obviously isn't violating community standards.
Let me repeat this gem: "If it manages to stay in business, then it obviously isn't violating community standards."

As Steven Colbert would say, let the free market speak.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Website Marketing Tips, Anyone?

Kelly at Extreme Restraints has an excellent post in her blog: Tips on a good site and it doesn't have to be an adult site.

Her number one is my number one, and most of it is sage advice. However, I do, as usual, take issue with a few points...
3. Copyright Statements

Everything you create and write on your web site warrants copyright declarations. So include it on every page AND keep it up to date.
Copyright is granted with everything you write or create, so copyright statements aren't necessary. And, stated or not, the rights only have teeth if and when you police and seek protection under the law.
9. Typos and Grammer Mistakes

Typographic mistakes will be noticed immediately. Typos are considered either due to a very novice or uncaring website owner. Typos are not made by professionals in business trying to make a living. Thus when you have typos and grammer errors on your website, visitors won’t think you take your site seriously, and they won’t either. They’ll think you’ll make all kinds of other mistakes too. Like shipping to an incorrect or mistyped address… not shipping at all, or… maybe you don’t even look at your website so …

Geez.. use a spell checker.. don’t rely on it… but use it and reread things before you post them on your site. Have someone else verify anything you put out there for the world to see.
Ironically, Kelly spelled "grammar" and 'jeez' wrong (along with a few other spelling errors in her post), and yet I'm not only still reading, but I'm posting the link and recommending it be read. If that's not taking her seriously, then what is?

But seriously, in a perfect world we'd like to be error-free ~ both in terms of creating and using/reading ~ but none of us lives in a perfect world. I can grab a book by Random House and find typos; so I'm not shocked when I find one in a website or blog.

So what I'm trying to say is, do try to avoid as many mistakes as you can; but don't sweat them too badly either. Sloppy shows, but so do the best intentions. To most people. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

6. Long Pages

There are so many example around you. Look at a new paper.. most articles are very short. Look at ads.. they’re short. Look at the most sucessful websites out there… they’re short. Most pages should be one screen with no scrolling down. I’ve done surveys and statistical analysis and read books on web usability that prove … drum roll … Of all the people who visit your web page.. only 20% of them will bother to scroll down to see the next screen full of information. Of that 20% only about 5% will scroll down for another chuck of screen. That means if you’ve got a page that is 3 screens long… then only 1 out of 100 visitors will ever see that. You are better off having a couple of pages that link together. Most successful stores do this. You’ll see an overview of a product that is 1 screen in length and a more details link (that goes to a long page of DUH! more details). Most site visitors don’t bother. But a buyer may want those more details.

So don’t waste your precious time and effort on carefully crafting really long pages. Keep it short and simple. Get your message out fast. Entice them to do something fas

Let me K.I.S.S. you… put your buy buttons at the top instead of only at the bottom.
First, I'd like to see where Kelly got those stats. Second, what were these stats for? The actions of whom do they supposedly depict? What of the stats which conclude that getting people to make the second click for more details is an aggravation, a sales turn-off? The problem with any such stats is the number of variables involved. Are these stats based on news sites? Commerce sites? What's the sampling? Demographics of the sampling? How did these people find 'you' to read 'you'? Do any of these things relate to your business? The fact is, the number of people reading 'you' is a matter of many things, such as SEO, site ranking, consumer faith, how well you've targeted your ads etc., etc., etc.

But I'm not going to refute them with stats of my own or anyone else's ~ and not because I'm lazy. It's because such stats are damn near irrelevant in my book.

Who is or isn't reading is based on many things, most important of which is why they are there reading.

In the case of Extreme Restraints, you hope it is because they are looking to purchase a bondage item. No one else really matters.

Turn it around, putting this in your control, who are you are writing for?

You are not writing for everyone, but specific someones ~ individual people, one by one. Essentially, you are writing for one person, but publishing it publicly so that they, or another like them, can read it over and over again when needed. That's your target market. Your page, your text, must meet each of their needs. Who is this person? What do they need? Are those stats about them or 'anyone'?

Going again with Extreme Restraints, the writing must fit the needs of each person shopping for bondage gear. Whether they know what they need or are researching for a future purchase; whether they have the money now or are bookmarking the item for when they do have the money; the text needs to answer all of their questions and concerns.

And if that means a 'long page', so be it.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

The World Continues To Be Unsure Of How To Use Blogs And Pudding Cups

Some of today's readings make that all too clear.

Dosh Dosh writes The Smart Way to Get Traffic and Links: Creating a Prospect List for Bloggers, which is rather sound overall. A decent primer. However, I express caution over the suggest use of reciprocity:

The second reason for maintaining a prospect list is reciprocation. A lot of the cross-promotion you see online is the result of intentional reciprocation; doing something for someone because he or she did something for you.

Reciprocation is a basic aspect of culture and society. It pervades all human relationships and influences it tremendously. We may do something for someone with the hope (conscious or not) that someone may repay the favor in the future.

Cialdini’s rule of reciprocity explains:

This rule requires that one person try to repay what another person has provided. By obligating the recipient to an act of repayment in the future–the rule for reciprocation allows one individual to give something to another with the confidence that it is not being lost.

The decision to comply with someone’s request is frequently based upon the Rule of Reciprocity. Again, a possible and profitable tactic to gain probable compliance would be to give something to someone before asking for a favor in return.

Keeping a prospect list helps you to systematically record and reciprocate favors done for you, which dramatically improves the quality of the relationship you have.

This will help you to gradually turn bloggers into friends and future assets you can leverage for your business/website.

I believe that if you act as if a person 'owes you' or must 'repay' a debt, you'll not only be sorely disappointed, but aggravate others.

First and foremost you ought to be writing to and for your audience, not for a twisted case of I-owe-you ~ or in this case, You Owe Me.

Write with your audience in mind, link with your readership's interests in mind. Don't tell them about things which are unrelated to their needs and wants because you want to make the cool list or be invited to sit at the cool kids' table. Boing Boing is cool, but this blog isn't on their watch list ~ and why should it be? So no matter how often or in what context I link to them, contact them, The Marketing Whore is not going to get a post or a sidebar link.

Writing a post to get their attention (which I am not doing ~ look ma, no link!) is a waste of my time. Sending my readers, readers who are interested in marketing, is literally a time waster (a cool way to waste time, but wasting time nonetheless).

And just like those kids who bring extra pudding cups to school to try to get 'in' with the cool kids, no one falls for your clever pandering. They'll just take your pudding-cup-of-a-link and (at best) ignore you.

As a general rule we don't eat the pudding cups proffered by strangers. Take them, maybe; but eat them? No. Once we know a person, we'll take and eat their pudding cup ~ and thank them for it too. After awhile, we'll share our own pudding cups with them or even buy their other pudding products. But first we have to know them. It's no different here on the Internet. Links are like pudding cups. But consider them gifts to your readers who like you already ~ and want your pudding cups. First you must be known.

You can introduce yourself with a pudding cup (a link), an email, a comment post etc. But just as with any real world introduction, audition, job interview, etc., this doesn't mean they will like you or be willing to share their own pudding cups.

If you'd like to give a link introduction, you should read Ethical Theories of Social Networking ~ which isn't about MySpace so much as it is about proper participation in the blogging community.

Revellian's tips for how to properly link (especially with regards to key words etc.) is another good primer for giving good pudding cup. He gives the basics of keyword linking, including the 'how to' and 'why' which provides the foundation for best practices which are appreciated by other bloggers. (Which is like sharing pudding cups with your real friends, not giving them away to buy a friendship.)

Should you, dear reader, already be aware of such things I ask you to read it anyway ~ for two reasons.

One, key word linking works for both parties (the poster has those words on his/her blog as well as offers such key word weight to the blog they are sending readers too).

And two, thinking in terms of key words helps you evaluate if your linking is honestly relative to your readers &/or mission.

Consider your link text. If you find those key words irrelevant to your readership (target market), then perhaps this is not the right post for you. You could be wasting your efforts and your pudding cups.

Give your readers the pudding cups they want.

And don't forget to read When Does a Social Network Become a "Publicity Network"? for a great reminder on what social networks are (and are not).

A social networking tool becomes a publicity tool when "I speak, you speak, I reply, you reply" becomes "I speak, you listen".

Are these new publicity networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) the new press release? Think about it for a second, a press release is sent out to x journalists, news providers, etc. These new publicity networks do the same thing except in a quicker, more efficient way. In fact, Marshall over at RWW says these publicity networks are paying his rent. Naturally I am not suggesting that everyone uses these networks in a publicity-oriented manner, but it seems many of the smart marketers are doing so. As long as the people attached to your account (personal or business) understand that's the use, then it's a perfect marketing opportunity. In fact, these publicity networks may just overtake RSS in the long-term. And if you are working with a social media consultant who isn't leveraging these new publicity networks where appropriate, you need to find a new consultant.
While Allen Stern seems to contradict himself a bit in this post, if you read careful (and tread even more carefully) you'll learn a thing or two. Especially when added to the thoughts above. That community exists for them, and it may seem natural to scream, "Come take my pudding cups!" ~ but as discussed, it isn't appropriate. Or effective.

Or everyone would give away free pudding cups with purchase.

Keep your audience, your target market, in mind. Your mission is not really to sell 10,000 copies, memberships etc; it is to serve 10,000 people. How can you reach them to do this is marketing.

Always keep the concerns and needs of your audience forefront in your mind and you'll make less of an ass of yourself. And save a few pudding cups for yourself.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Stripper's Sales Secret

From Flaunting your fertility makes for big tips. The showgirl's guide to maximizing income:
if you're a woman in any service-industry job looking to maximize your tips, Miller suggests scheduling more shifts for the phase right before ovulation: "It might help to know about this so that you can exploit these effects."

Also makes me wonder why they did this study...

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

No More Cookie Cutters (Unless You're Making Cookies)

Eros has a good post on cookie cutter paysites, including the 'hot sale' of EZA Cash, which Eros trashes critically reviews. I'd say it's a great post, but there's one part which sticks in my craw:
It's not dishonest or a scam, exactly, but it's a line of work akin to direct mail advertising; sell something cheap and almost worthless for quite a bit more than it's worth, pocket profits, work like hell to find new suckers because none of your one-time customers turn into regular customers, which as every businessman knows is where the money is.
Direct mail advertising doesn't equal scam. It's a valid method of sales and marketing for legitimate products and services. Even when it is akin to a scam it's the product which makes it (and the seller) scum.

I hate it when people lump things together in the bad apple barrel. (It's ironic on a post about cookie cutters too.)

But read his post anyway, because there's other good info there.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Giving Away The Store, Part One

Giving away the store isn't all bad; in fact, it's even a lucrative business model ~ if you don't get in your own way.

At Infomercantile, Derek (who, in the interest of full-disclosure, is a 'boss') writes about one of our local free newspapers and their idiotic 'upgrade':
In early September 2007, the FM Extra further obfuscated access to their newspaper by wrapping the already difficult-to-parse PDF file inside a Macromedia-format "Flashpaper" Flash viewer. While Google and other search engines do have the ability to provide some searchability within PDFs, enclosing the PDF within a Flash viewer completely eliminates the world's ability to find the FM Extra without already knowing it exists. It is as though the FM Extra put all of their hard-copy newprint papers in an unmarked cardboard box, shoved it under a parked car somewhere in Hawley, MN, and only gave directions to people who explicitly asked where the papers went. One would think that a newspaper that places its print-copies in as many publicly-available places as possible would easily translate the same concept to the internet, but it seems to have slipped their and their webdesigners' grasps.
Not only did they put all of the papers in the box, under a parked car, only giving directions to people who ask, but access also requires a secret password or knock of some sort. This new flash viewer requires the latest version of Macromedia Flash and has officially no viewer for those of us who are Linux based (I should note here that I can view it, but it also freezes my entire Firefox experience and is thus noted as to be avoided at all costs), making all of their free papers unavailable to us.

Unavailable is contrary to their business model where the newspapers are paid for by the advertisers, advertisers who have paid the rates for the large circulation, so why remove online circulation? The purpose of FM Extra is to literally give away their product, and so their decision not to do so on the web is bad marketing (if not just good old fashioned crazy).

Unavailable isn't the only problem. Being found is also a problem. I've mentioned this before, so I'll let Derek at Infomercantile say it:
Newspapers and web-designers alike fail to realize that a large portion of website traffic comes from people who never knew the website existed before and arrive by searching for a term. Those searchers, in theory, are highly-retainable readers if their search results succeed in finding what they're looking for. The FM Extra, by hiring a web designer, spent what appears to be a significant amount of money to reduce their potential audience even further. The FM Extra might be exactly what an online visitor is looking for, but a huge amount of effort has been devoted to making sure those readers never find the FM Extra online.
Using flash means you are non-existent for many.

It's pretty hard to give away the store when you can't even be found.

FM Extra assumes, in the way that makes an ass out of themselves, that folks are going to type in FM Extra ~ and goes further up their behinds to believe that the all the people that do arrive at their site are able to view the free goods via this new gift of the technology gods, Flashpaper.

Given that their target market is the senior shopper who looks for quaint local (happy) news and deals, it seems absurd to imagine they have any interest in downloading the latest version of flash. FM Extra also publishes Memories, and their pitch to advertisers is, "nobody does a better job at reaching those 40 and over than Memories Magazine." We're not exactly talking the gaming or tech-gadget crowd here, especially as these folks are, by their own admission, looking to the past, not the technological future: "Memories readers are extremely loyal, and they love to read about a past they can connect with."

Removing the ability for 100% of their content to be Googled (also seemingly incompatible with other search engine spidering etc.) is dumb enough. But to further aggravate their core audience means the advertisers aren't being served either. The advertisers have paid for placement in publications which are free and available for all, and here they go and remove these possibilities on the web. (If I had paid for any ads, I'd be livid.)

If your product is meant to be read/seen or otherwise given away for free ~ and this includes blogs and websites which exist to promote products which are paid for ~ do not put in place methods and technologies which remove the possibility.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Still Right After All These Years: Content Is King

Nearly half of Internet users' time online is now spent with content, emarket report says:
Internet users now spend nearly half of their online time visiting content, according to the Online Publishers Association's "Internet Activity Index," conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings.

Time spent with content is up 37% over 2003 levels, the OPA claimed. The Index measures time spent with e-commerce, communications, content and search.

"The index indicates that, over the past four years, the primary role of the Internet has shifted from communications to content," OPA president Pam Horan said in a statement. "[The Internet now handles] traditionally offline activities, such as getting news, finding entertainment information or checking the weather."

Which means that content isn't only king, but vital.

The article continues to say:
The association also noted that search is better than before. This lets consumers find what they are looking for more quickly. That reduces time spent on search and increases the amount of time devoted to other activities.

So although the number of searches overall has boomed, the percentage of time spent on searching is still minimal.

If content is consuming so much of Internet users' time, where does that leave search? For those marketing a retail e-commerce site, search still matters.

The American Marketing Association's "Mplanet" survey ranked the online resource consumers were most likely to use first for product information during last year's holiday season in different retail categories. Search engines (43%) and direct visits to company Web sites (29%) were the sources consumers turned to first for product information, regardless of product category.

Newer types of consumer-generated content, such as online social networks, blogs and chat rooms, were less important as a primary source for finding product information.

While I daresay that search function has improved, I still maintain that unique and decent content is the best way to be found in search results.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today's Giggle

A Porn Store Clerk Speaks: To say the least, I have run into some interesting characters in my 3 years of online smut-pandering.

Via SugarBank.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Courting Your Customers

Gongol hosts this week's Carnival of the Capitalists. Naturally, the Top 10 Ways To Trash A Brand caught my eye...

Especially these points on money:
2. Constantly cutting the advertising budget. Very easy to do. And it doesn't mean that the advertising budget shouldn't be monitored and adjusted. But if it's routinely done, especially with the rationale of saving money without considering the costs, it might hurt the brand.

6. Relying on customer loyalty cards to create customer loyalty.
Don't. Loyalty cards don't create loyal customers. What you get instead are promiscuous customers. Why? Because loyalty cards offer incentives and discounts that attract customers who want a "deal". The best loyalty cards are the ones that offer benefits and value-added services that will only be enjoyed by the most profitable customers.

7. Spending more on price promotions than advertising.
Price promotions should be a part of any complete marketing program, but they can't replace traditional brand-building activities. Price promotions can be a dangerous game. Consumers attracted to your brand by a price promotion are just as likely to be lured away by a competitor's price promotion. What happens next week when the promotion is over and consumers are surprised to find that their beloved item now costs more? The "deal" doesn't seem like such a deal any more. As a result, you might be left with a bunch of people who feel ripped off. The trick is to find consumers who love your brand, ones who don't need be enticed to buy with promotions.
For those that worry that they have no/cannot afford Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, maybe you just don't need it:
10. Installing a CRM system and expecting that will do the trick. CRM aims to give businesses the means to provide preferred customers with "value propositions" that competitors can't match. From the consulting industry's point of view, there's the beauty of the system - it means more lucre for every management consultant in town flogging similar techniques to companies and their competitors. But the problem is that these systems are often installed without thinking of how the organization can use them to attract customers, and what internal behaviors the organization needs to change. Relationships cut both ways. The company might want a relationship with a high-spending customer; but is the customer looking for that sort of relationship? Subject an uninterested customer to new product offerings and telemarketing programs and things can get ugly. Even uglier when they get a letter from their bank telling them their credit card limit can be extended by $10,000 and another telling them their mortgage payments are still in arrears. A big part of the problem is that executives do not understood what they are implementing. They often just let software vendors dictate the terms of customer management or try to fit the strategy around the expensive technology. And what you have instead is a blunt instrument that stalks, rather than woos the customer.
And, perhaps my favorite:
4. Assuming you know what targeted customers value. A variation on the previous problem. So you know who your most profitable customers. But that's only half the story. Do you know what they value? What are the five most important attributes that see them coming back or referring other customers to you? Without the answers, all you have is a pile of data without insight.
Really, if you knew your customer, your CRM system wouldn't be a "blunt instrument that stalks, rather than woos the customer"; you wouldn't train customers to be price monkeys and sales hounds; rather you would court them as you both are.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

What's Your Frequency, Kenneth?

According to eMarketer and the Atlas Institute, two-thirds of consumers bought a product (or took another responsive action) were reached by ads across multiple portal sites before converting:
The study, conducted in the first quarter of 2007, found that US consumers were more likely to convert after viewing ads on multiple Web sites, suggesting that conversions should be attributed to a full set of impressions and/or clicks, rather than just the single one that preceded the conversion.
Nine in 10 consumers who converted were reached by placements other than the last ad seen. Also, 86.1% of ads which led to a responsive action were seen on multiple placements.

This reminded me of one of the early 'facts' of the Internet. It was said, back in the day, that a person needed to visit your site six times in order to make a purchase. (This is where the repeat visitor stat came in ~ it was vital information!) Part of the reasoning for the behavior was said to be the need to be familiar and comfortable enough with the website. Would the website be there tomorrow? After 'finding themselves there' six times, they felt more assured of the site/company's stability. Also after 'finding themselves there' six times, the consumer knows they really do want what they are offering.

Seeing ads six or more times, across six or more sites, etc would be similar. Point at it once; I'm not so sure about it (the product) or you (the company). Point at it several times; and I might be interested... And while a person who sees your ad on one site while reading an article may not have the money to buy or the time to even click right then and there, another ad at another place is a reminder later.

I didn't read/buy the whole study report and so have no idea if they have a suggested magical number, let alone if it was six, but the number part is irrelevant, really. It's not six, or 3.4, or whatever number you've heard. If you don't believe me, believe Dr. Roger Wimmer. And this isn't really earth-shattering news to most of us. We know that ad frequency and repetition is important, even if the number isn't universal. Yes, Virginia (and Kenneth), frequency is important, even on the Internet:
Results from the analyses suggest that frequency can be a powerful determinant of advertising effectiveness. Specifically, it is found that the frequency effects were significant on ad recall, attitude toward brand, and trial intention.
From Penn State's Media Effects Research Laboratory (2002).

What is most usable from all of this is to note that frequency is important. Ads seen more often and across more sites translates to more memorable ads. So while your click-through and conversion rates may not seem very great, you should consider the whole campaign's effectiveness in light of it's frequency. And you need to plan with frequency in mind. Even with a small or non-existent ad budget it is possible to increase frequency.

This includes all media, such as radio, print etc. While one doesn't expect a person to pull over to the side of the road and flip-open their cell to 'order now' just from hearing an ad spot on the radio, these ads do increase recall so it's entirely possible that when they return home they'll just type in your URL or Google your company or product name. Or click & buy from the very next ad for your product they see ~ just because you've now hit their own personal magic number.

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