Seen on a truck in Elmsford, NY.
Does the sign mean:
- If you get hit by a rock that my tire throws, don’t sue me (cause if it does, does the sign really work? Doesn’t his knowledge of the danger increase the chances of getting sued?) or
- If someone on the side of the road throws an object (what sort of object?) it’s not his fault?
- Don’t drive too close (if it meant that, why not just say, ‘don’t drive too close’?)
Is this a big problem for this particular truck or for all trucks?
The whole thing feels almost existential.
Truckers, feel free to let me know.
[So, here’s what people think: Trucks are more likely than some vehicles to throw back items they run over (one reader was almost killed by a shovel). This driver works for a company that would rather fight than settle. So, the sign is a double warning–don’t drive close (to all trucks, not just this one) AND if you ignore the sign, don’t bother calling us. Oh. Actually, this isn’t true. See below.]
Mike Hapner knows the answer! The word that should be in italics is road.
Last chance to sign up for the June 15 seminar in NYC. Thanks.
Just went to buy some advance Amex tickets at Ticketmaster. This is the screen that comes up. I’m not IT guy, but what’s powering their computer… gerbils?
It’s hard to imagine how many customers, cash in hand, walk away when confronted with this screen. Wouldn’t it make sense to figure out a way to get back to me later?
People will be incredibly patient if you set expectations and keep your promises.
I got a form thank you note from a clothing store in the mail yesterday. It’s pretty clear every customer gets one.
I think that’s a little like writing a thank you note on the back of a check when you get it for your bar mitzvah.
For most people, a thank you is a thank you when it’s real, personal and honest. Hard to do when you sell stuff all day long to total strangers, though. I’m not sure that a non-thank you is really worth the effort. Sure, be kind. Be grateful. But don’t send a facsimile of a personal note when that’s not what it is.
Coupons are a surprisingly subtle invention. Now that anyone can offer them (because now anyone can have a store), it’s worth a second to think about what they’re for.
First benefit to the marketer is that coupons allow you to offer different prices to different people.
There’s a reason that most coupons are not trivially easy to find or redeem. By trading effort for a discount, the marketer says, "if you care about price, I’ll sell it to you cheaper, but you have to prove it." Hence the original idea behind Priceline. It was intentionally awkward to use so that the airlines could be confident that only the fare-obsessed would use it.
"Outlet" malls are just coupons in disguise. There’s a reason that Armani doesn’t have an outlet store on Fifth Ave. in NY. The drive is your way of proving you’re serious about price.
The second benefit is that they provide the shopper with a totem. Paper coupons are best, but even digital codes work. With something tangible in hand, the shopper feels as though they have the power to go make an exchange. It’s not just about trading money for the object or service. It’s about trading in this thing I have in my hand (or pasted onto my clipboard). If I don’t buy the thing, I’ve just lost the value of my totem. Now the purchase isn’t just about spending money… it’s about realizing the value of a thing I possess–or losing it forever.
Which leads to the third benefit: a coupon can mean now. Give me a coupon and I am forced to make a decision. Will I buy the service or product before the coupon expires or gets lost, or should I forfeit this thing of value?
Three benefits from one tool–and two caveats.
The first: don’t do a coupon unless you can execute properly. It needs to be big enough matter. It needs to avoid alienating the middleman (retailer) if that’s not you. And it can’t destroy the product and what it stands for. No coupons for high-end plastic surgeons, please. Why? Because those that don’t want to use the coupon might see it, and its very existence means the surgeon is no longer who you thought they were. No coupons for Tiffany’s either.
The second: if you make the use of the coupon a hassle, you’ve blown it. Barbeques Galore lured me in with a 10% off coupon. Yes, I’m a cheapskate, but it was the totem that got me to go do something I’d been meaning to do anyway. It took me two minutes to find the item I was replacing. I handed them the coupon, picked out some overpriced accessories and stood as they wrote up the whole thing.
The clerk handed me the receipt, and I asked, "Where’s the discount? It seems to be missing." The manager walked over and said that the coupon wasn’t valid because the grill was on sale.
Well, sure, that’s their privilege, but:
They didn’t tell me, I had to ask
The coupon said no such thing
They didn’t even apply the coupon to the non-on-sale other stuff.
No budging on their part, I finished my transaction and went home.
So, the smart marketer used the coupon properly. The short-term minded sales ops team decided that they could boost profits by alienating the very people the marketer lured in. One more reason that the marketer needs to be responsible for the whole chain.
The best thing about coupons in the post-newspaper insert era is that they are trivially easy to test and practically free to distribute.
PS Bryan Murley points out the other key benefit of coupons… they make it easy to track the media. That’s why newspapers embraced them early on. Proof! Now, of course, they make it easy for you to see what’s working and what’s not. Thanks, Bryan.
Judging from the response to my last post, some of my readers are itching to find a comment field on my posts from now on. I can’t do that for you, alas, and I thought I’d tell you why.
I think comments are terrific, and they are the key attraction for some blogs and some bloggers. Not for me, though. First, I feel compelled to clarify or to answer every objection or to point out every flaw in reasoning. Second, it takes way too much of my time to even think about them, never mind curate them. And finally, and most important for you, it permanently changes the way I write. Instead of writing for everyone, I find myself writing in anticipation of the commenters. I’m already itching to rewrite my traffic post below. So, given a choice between a blog with comments or no blog at all, I think I’d have to choose the latter.
So, bloggers who like comments, blog on. Commenters, feel free. But not here. Sorry.
My friend Fred, a talented blogger, asked me for advice the other day. Here's a partial answer, with a few apologies to Swift: (and when you're done with this list, feel free to read my post about shark attacks).
- Use lists.
- Be topical… write posts that need to be read right now.
- Learn enough to become the expert in your field.
- Break news.
- Be timeless… write posts that will be readable in a year.
- Be among the first with a great blog on your topic, then encourage others to blog on the same topic.
- Share your expertise generously so people recognize it and depend on you.
- Announce news.
- Write short, pithy posts.
- Encourage your readers to help you manipulate the technorati top blog list.
- Don't write about your cat, your boyfriend or your kids.
- Write long, definitive posts.
- Write about your kids.
- Be snarky. Write nearly libelous things about fellow bloggers, daring them to respond (with links back to you) on their blog.
- Be sycophantic. Share linklove and expect some back.
- Include polls, meters and other eye candy.
- Tag your posts. Use del.ico.us.
- Coin a term or two.
- Do email interviews with the well-known.
- Answer your email.
- Use photos. Salacious ones are best.
- Be anonymous.
- Encourage your readers to digg your posts. (and to use furl and reddit). Do it with every post.
- Post your photos on flickr.
- Encourage your readers to subscribe by RSS.
- Start at the beginning and take your readers through a months-long education.
- Include comments so your blog becomes a virtual water cooler that feeds itself.
- Assume that every day is the beginning, because you always have new readers.
- Highlight your best posts on your Squidoo lens.
- Point to useful but little-known resources.
- Write about stuff that appeals to the majority of current blog readers–like gadgets and web 2.0.
- Write about Google.
- Have relevant ads that are even better than your content.
- Don't include comments, people will cross post their responses.
- Write posts that each include dozens of trackbacks to dozens of blog posts so that people will notice you.
- Run no ads.
- Keep tweaking your template to make it include every conceivable bell or whistle.
- Write about blogging.
- Digest the good ideas of other people, all day, every day.
- Invent a whole new kind of art or interaction.
- Post on weekdays, because there are more readers.
- Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don't bore your readers.
- Post on weekends, because there are fewer new posts.
- Don't interrupt your writing with a lot of links.
- Dress your blog (fonts and design) as well as you would dress yourself for a meeting with a stranger.
- Edit yourself. Ruthlessly.
- Don't promote yourself and your business or your books or your projects at the expense of the reader's attention.
- Be patient.
- Give credit to those that inspired, it makes your writing more useful.
- Ping technorati. Or have someone smarter than me tell you how to do it automatically.
- Write about only one thing, in ever-deepening detail, so you become definitive.
- Write in English.
- Better, write in Chinese.
- Write about obscure stuff that appeals to an obsessed minority.
- Don't be boring.
- Write stuff that people want to read and share.
This is the biggest one, and the reason for the whole series.
I now believe that almost all marketing decisions are first and foremost made without the marketplace in mind.
That’s a pretty bold statement, but here goes.
I think that most marketers, most of the time, make their marketing decisions based on what they think the committee, or their boss, or their family or their friends or the blog readers with email will say.
When I speak to groups, the folks who are stuck, or who are not finding the growth they are hoping for, rarely say, "we don’t know how to get the market to respond." Instead, they say, "my boss or the factory or the committee or the design folks or the CFO won’t…"
Now, of course most of this is whining. Most of this is nonsense. It’s not everyone else’s fault. But that’s not my point. My point is that if you market intending to please those people, you only have yourself to blame.
Great marketing pleases everyone on the team, sooner or later. But at the beginning, great marketing pleases almost no one. At the beginning, great marketing is counter-intuitive, non-obvious, challenging and apparently risky. Of course your friends, shareholders, stakeholders and bosses won’t like it. But they’re not doing the marketing, you are.