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This is so simple, but it’s costing you a lot of money.

I lost the keys to my Toyota Prius (actually, someone stole my shoes when I was skiing on the snow-covered bike path, and my keys were in my shoes, but that’s another story altogether–why would someone steal my shoes?)

Anyway, I go to Google and type in "replacement key toyota prius." (here’s the search: Google Search: replacement key toyota prius.). A quick check along the ads on the side shows that the second one, (advanceautoparts.com autopartswarehouse.com) has paid a lot to offer me a solution.

I click.

It takes me NOT to the parts for my car, but to the parts for all Toyotas (even though they bought the word Prius). I enter Prius and it takes me to another menu. No keys listed here.

I do a search for "keys".

This is what I get:


So, in fact, they don’t have keys for the Prius.

There are two problems here. The first is that the company is too lazy to buy just the right keywords.

The second is that the web guys are probably not the same people as the folks who are buying the ads. If they were, the entire online buying experience would be centered around me and my need for keys, not them and their need to accurately describe the hierarchy of their store.

Let’s assume for a moment that many businesses are going to grow or disappear based on how well they find the needles in the huge haystack of web searches… and that doing that well means efficiently turning that first clickthrough into a sale. If that’s true, then this means a much more measured, more customer-centric approach to turning mild interest into completed transaction.

This isn’t technically difficult (Link: Google AdWords Support: What are keyword matching options?.) It’s also not particularly time consuming.

What’s tricky, and the reason everyone doesn’t do it, is this:

You’re probably still working under a retail mindset.

The retailer builds a store. She stocks it. She arranges the shelves. She runs ads in the local paper and waits for people to come in who are "just looking."

This is not what happens online. (and I’m talking fundraising and just about anything, not just clothes or car keys).

Online you don’t have 1 retail store. You have 50,000 retail stores.

And you know what the customer is looking for BEFORE they walk in!

So send them to the right store.

And if a store isn’t working well, close it and start over.

PS If you’re a google shareholder (I don’t trade stocks) then this is really good news for you. Why? Because once companies increase their conversion efficiency, they’ll probably be willing to pay 400% more than they pay now for the right words.

(I got the URL wrong when I first posted this. I’m humiliated. Apologies!)

The secret army of ad clickers

My friend Steve thinks there’s a bit of a house of cards over at Google.

If you’re cost per click doesn’t match your yield, perhaps it’s because there are thousands of people getting paid to click on your links…

My favorite smart 11 year old had the same question. "Why don’t they just pay people to click the links?" he wants to know.

Link: Google Search: earn rupees clicking ads.

Great moments in corporate sliminess

So, let’s say an influential US Senator accuses your database company of having, "an egregious security gap that risks making millions of Americans the unwitting victims of identity theft."

And let’s say he shows pictures of data from lofty personalities ranging from Arnold to Paris Hilton. Hey, even celebrities are at risk!

Would your response be to issue a written statement saying, "our terms of use restricitng access go beyond federal law and current industry standards."

What was that meeting like? Do the people at West really believe that consumers care one bit about "current industry standards" or even "federal law"? Did the people at West think the issue would go away?

And most important, didn’t just one person in that meeting say, "Hey, we’re people with identities too. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s announce that we’ll do the security correctly within three weeks?"

Details: The New York Times > Business > Senator Says Data Service Has Lax Rules for Security. (is that a stain on Chuck Schumer’s tie?)

The Walmart Paradox

Getting what we deserve?

The New York Times > Business > More Gloom on the Island of Lost Toy Makers points out that the toy business is crumbling. The reason: all the stores that love to sell toys are disappearing, defeated by WalMart.

Walmart wants to sell classics and heavily advertised hits. And they want to do it at close to cost. This appears to be good for consumers–get a Barbie for $12 or whatever.

The problem is that NEW toys aren’t classics and it’s hard to make the bet that new toys should be heavily advertised.

The second problem is that once you reach the level of success of a classic, selling at cost is no fun at all.

The end result is that the toy guys don’t have the guts to launch the new and the remarkable. They are boxed in, encouraged by Wall Street and management to play the Walmart game, which leads to short-term revenue and long term destitution.

These toy companies have always needed the profit from their hits to fund their next generation.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is to tell Walmart to go away. Toy companies are beginning to discover that they can’t win this game. The answer is to find a new and better and more consistently profitable way to launch the remarkable stuff.

And that’s happening. It’s happening when they sell online, or through local stores, or directly to people who care. No, this isn’t mass. This isn’t a fraction of what an endcap at Toys R Us was worth. It’s still the best deal in town. Over time, consumers will be trained that the toys they need are only available in places that aren’t Walmart.

Obviously, I think this same mantra applies to plenty of products in a similar situation. And I expect that the realists among you will tell me to get a clue, that Walmart is the market and you need to play or be irrelevant. I’m saying that playing is making you irrelevant.

The missing link

The rate of growth of blogs and bloglike places is actually going to radically increase. Why? Because of software like Photon [ daikini software ].

This is a plug in that lets someone with iPhoto instantly upload photos and captions to their blog. Which means you don’t have to go to a special blog-building site… you just point and upload. No doubt that picasa and other programs are out there doing the same.

Look forward to millions and millions of vanity sites soon.

Which leads to the same question we’ve always faced, and the one that makes so many knowledge workers nervous. "Are you saying anything worth listening to?"

When we strip away all the infrastructure and branding and organizational nonsense, it seems as though there are people who actually have something provocative or interesting or useful to say, and then there are those that want to be told what to do. The parallel publishing power of the web and blogs is making the division between these two groups ever more clear.

All Marketers...

Are they all the same?

So, here’s a glimpse at the ski rental rack at Paragon.

Lots of skis to choose from, obviously.

Except, of course, that the biggest difference is in the graphics. Skis today have a lot more in common than they have in differences. But that won’t stop the prospective customer from spending quite a few minutes trying to decide which ski to rent.

Each ski tells a story. It’s a lie about image and performance and suitability. But if that lie makes the skiing more enjoyable, gives us the confidence to try new things and do them better, then it’s not a lie after all.

People desperately want to believe stories. Even if that story is just a few drops of ink on a plastic sheet.

Something Extra


It’s entirely possible that adding caffeine to beer will be remembered as a great idea.

Possible, but unlikely.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Some people like being underdogs

Tim Manners sent me this paradoy of the Apple 1984 ad.

royal_we_1984.mov (video/quicktime Object).

Well, it’s product specific

But this is a great advertisement. Thanks, Ken:

3M Security Glass Ad (Signal vs. Noise).

All Marketers...

Piles and piles

Costco fever, this time at my local Stew Leonard’s. It’s not clear to me that the price on these socks and snacks (of course, socks and snacks, right next to each other!) is particularly good. And there’s certainly no reason to stack them up in such a huge pile.

Except there is. The reason is that the stack is lying to you, telling you a story about volume and value and urgency. This must be a great deal! They bought so many! They’ve got to clear them out! (and then, paradoxically, “They might run out soon!”)

The punchline: this works because people like us like it. It makes us feel good to buy what feels like a bargain, even if it’s not.