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Working the system, step by step

Eric Tapley sent me this neat site: About the Vintage Red Cross Calendar Builder.

He’s got the ideavirus working for him, the long tail, and his website is clear and obvious and quick.

There’s a story, the word is easy to spread… boy, I hope this works. I think the secret is not that he’s got a centralized web site, but that he’ll end up with hundreds of chapters with thousands of members all working in coordination.

A high-profile competition

…for a very good cause.Moocover3

Microsoft has generously donated advertising on the home page of MSN to promote The Big Moo.

This is one of the five most visited webpages on Earth, and it’s quite a thing for them to donate us an ad.

As you know, the Big Moo is a book written by 33 people, with 100% of the royalties going to charity. You can find out more about the book and charities here.

If you can create the best ad (according the the specs, available in this PDF: Download MSNadspec.pdf) we’ll run your ad and promote you as the designer.

I’ll also point to three runners-up from my blog and will encourage my co-authors to do so as well.

SO, you do an ad on spec, and if it’s great, you get publicity far and wide, leading, perhaps to not just good feelings around holiday time but plenty of new business, and maybe a shot at being on Oprah, if that’s your business. Amateurs are welcome to apply.

The objectives:
1. To generate clickthrough to the Amazon page for the Big Moo (this Amazon link).
2. To generate sales of the book at that page.
3. There is no number 3.

The deadline for the contest is a week from today, so if you’re going to do it, do it right now so you can submit your entry on time. (12/12 at noon EST. Send a link to your hosted ad to: seth@sethgodin.com)

Every penny we earn goes to charity. You get all the kudos. Microsoft does the right thing. We sell a lot of books. Happy holidays! And thanks.

Out of the corner of your eye

There’s no such thing as coincidence.

Of course, the human mind, in its neverending quest to create meaning, invents coincidences all the time.

Weird example:

I’m a big fan of modern art, but I admit that I had never heard of April Gornick.

Tom Cohen, a board member at Squidoo, knows April.

Today, I did a search for a gas station near my house that would put snow tires on my wife’s car. Typed in my town and the word GAS into google.

Guess what the seventh match was?

The art of April Gornick.

Of course, I never would have noticed this if Tom and I hadn’t been discussing April the week before. My point, and I do have one, is that search makes it far more likely that you notice something that you weren’t expecting. Bookstores are great at situational selling, at exploiting the proximity effect to help you discover something you didn’t think you were looking for. Amazon isn’t nearly as good at that (though they’re trying.)

I think it’s inevitable that Google will start featuring thumbnail photos in adwords–it will dramatically increase the chance that a surfer’s subconscious will pick out a tiny detail that leads to a click.

Missing a simple truth

At the end of the day, people are in a hurry to leave the garage.

If you design a parking garage that’s harder to get into and easier to leave, it’ll work better. stark raving calm � Round and Round; Or, How Not to Design a Parking Garage.

Architecture, again.

The needle, the vise… and the baby rattle

Most ventures that want to grow do some sort of marketing. And that marketing can be divided into two things that work. And one that doesn’t.

The needle uses simple physics to work. Apply pressure to a tiny, carefully selected area and you’re going to get penetration. That’s why a 92 pound nurse can give you a flu shot… the tiny surface area of the tip of the needle has no trouble slipping into your skin.

Permission marketing is about the needle. The right person, the right message, the right moment. Anticipated, personal and relevant messages that get through to the person you need to reach.

The needle doesn’t happen all at once. You need to have the right combination of reputation, product and prospect.

The vise uses a different principle of physics to work, but it works as well. The vise is about providing increasing amounts of pressure over the entire area. And because of the nature of a screw, you can create huge amounts of pressure over time without overexerting yourself. Get your hand stuck in a vise and you’ll see what I mean.

The vise approach works, for example, with Starbucks, or with the local doctor’s office or in grassroots politics. Show up often enough, be in enough places, engender enough support from one individual after another, and sooner or later, your investment in spreading the word pays off.

What doesn’t work? What doesn’t work is the annoying baby rattle.

Babies will occasionally get quite energetic in using a rattle to get attention. But then they get bored and move on to other techniques. Sooner or later, they come back to the rattle, frustrated that nothing seems to work.

Most marketers, and just about all struggling marketers, are rattlers. They try some gimmick or technique or product, focus on it for a little while, then lose interest and move on. After a while, out of frustration, they come back to re-try, just to prove to themselves that they’re doing everything they can to get the word out.

"Hey!" the blogger says, "I build a blog just like that Dummies book says, but it’s not paying off. Let’s do a podcast instead." And then on to the next thing.

The best marketers, of course, use the needle and the vise at the same time. They don’t assault, they don’t demand, instead they earn attention. And they apply their marketing pressure so consistently and in such a measured and relentless way that sooner or later, they profit from it.

One commercial website I know is spending millions tightening their vise. Unfortunately, the offer and the site design is so confused (and unappealing) that it’s unlikely they can make the system pay. If they figured out where to apply the pressure, what offer would appeal, how to reach the right person in the right way… their leverage would triple.

The ironic thing is that ad agencies have been backed into a corner and mostly do rattling. It’s the high-cost, high-profile, high-risk part of marketing, and the kind that rarely works. What a shame that some of the smartest people in our field aren’t allowed (by their clients and by their industry’s structure) to get behind the scenes and change the product, the strategy and the approach instead of just annoying more people with ever louder junk.

a beautiful thing

Found via a Squidoo beta tester.

I share it here without prejudicial comment. Have fun. Prosper.

Amazon Mechanical Turk – Welcome.

(amended: I thought this was a joke. I was wrong. Is that worse than thinking something is serious when it’s really a joke?)

Don’t change, sue

I continue to be puzzled by the car industry’s ongoing fight against better mileage (Bennington Banner – Headlines.) Imagine how moribund the computer industry would be if processors never got faster. You’d only buy a new computer when your old one got too dusty.

If mileage requirements went up, people wouldn’t buy FEWER cars. They’d buy more cars, more often. Yes, there’s no question that short-sighted consumers are regularly seduced by low initial prices or big car styling and buy a car that costs them a lot more in the long run. But if mileage standards go up, those cars cease to be an option. What happens instead is that there’s movement, always a car a little better as they march to the standard, which gives you a reason to upgrade.

The result would be a race to make better and better cars (and to buy cars that are cheaper and cheaper to operate.) If the cars are cheaper to run, then, over time, people will actually be willing to pay more for them, won’t they?

If I were a big company CEO facing such an incredible level of uncertainty about the key input to my product (the price of gas), why wouldn’t this be a great way to simultaneously level the playing field (ten years from now, which is plenty of time to get ready).

It’s like the cigarette companies. Think about how much they would have pocketed in profits if they had supported a ban on advertising ten years ago. Billions and billions of dollars…

In the face of change, reactionary stuck companies don’t look to marketing or innovation. They sue.

real good for free

Not one, but two unsolicited commendations in a row.

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