The proximity effect

Booksclutter019Imagine a book publisher being upset because her company’s books were being shelved right next to competitive books on the same topic…

In fact, books sell far better at bookstores than they do at trade shows or supermarkets or pubs. That’s not news to you, I hope.

What about blogs? Blogs are far more read now than they were a few years ago when there were just a few blogs to choose from. And people visiting technorati are far more likely to read and discover a blog than someone who stumbles onto a blog link on, say, eBay.

And tuna? Tuna sells best in the fish store, lying next to the other, lesser fish, on ice.

Too often we’re beaten down by comparison shoppers and companies issuing RFPs and commodity buyers who won’t take the time to hear our story. Too often, frustrated marketers believe that they’d do better if they just didn’t have any competition.

In fact, the proximity effect can work in your favor. It usually does if your product or service is special. The proximity effect gives the consumer confidence. It creates a category where no category existed before. It lets you sell the difference, as opposed to the whole thing.

At a bar, you don’t have to sell vodka. You should have to sell why your vodka tells a better story than the other guy’s vodka.

Online, this effect is profound. Search engines add value when they present a collection of choices… because your proximity to the "competition" for your reader’s attention benefits both of you.