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Making your customers uncomfortable

Tomorrow is the ridiculous Black Friday ritual, gaining in steam every year, in which large American retailers run big sales that start at 6 am. People line up even earlier to get in first. Kids are stampeded. Muscles are pulled. Friendships frayed. Credit cards exhausted.

Why? In an always-on internet world, why force people to do something they would ordinarily avoid?

Because they like it. It feels special. They are somehow earning the discount. The store creates discomfort and then profits from it. And the customers save money…

Southwest did the same thing to load their planes. By getting rid of boarding passes, they create a small sense of panic. People line up and push and shove to get on the plane in the mistaken belief that somehow they won’t get on.

Southwest created discomfort and then got their planes out faster. And the travelers save time…

Better is not always better, at least according to some measures.


The other day, someone pointed out to me that my blog is read by more people than 95% of all the magazines published in the US. She wanted to know why I don’t try to monetize it. "Run ads," she said. "Or find a sponsor, or maybe even charge for it!" That’s a lot of nickels, after all.

I tried to sum it up like this: Not only can’t I imagine charging for my blog, I’m practically in debt to the people who read it. I ought to pay them, not the other way around.

Every time you read something I write here, you’re giving me a gift… attention. It’s getting more precious all the time, you have more choices every day, and it’s harder and harder to find the time. I know. I’m grateful. I’m doing my best to make your attention worth it.

So, have a great Thanksgiving. And thanks.

Eye tracking rules

(some of which are made to be broken).

Tim points us to a terrific summary of lessons learned from eye tracking studies.

The highlights, in alphabetical order:

  • Ads in the top and left portions of a page will receive the most eye fixation.
  • Ads placed next to the best content are seen more often.
  • Bigger images get more attention.
  • Clean, clear faces in images attract more eye fixation.
  • Fancy formatting and fonts are ignored.
  • Formatting can draw attention.
  • Headings draw the eye.
  • Initial eye movement focuses on the upper left corner of the page.
  • Large blocks of text are avoided.
  • Lists hold reader attention longer.
  • Navigation tools work better when placed at the top of the page.
  • One-column formats perform better in eye-fixation than multi-column formats.
  • People generally scan lower portions of the page.
  • Readers ignore banners.
  • Shorter paragraphs perform better than long ones.
  • Show numbers as numerals.
  • Text ads were viewed mostly intently of all types tested.
  • Text attracts attention before graphics.
  • Type size influences viewing behavior.
  • Users initially look at the top left and upper portion of the page before moving down and to the right.
  • Users only look at a sub headline if it interests them.
  • Users spend a lot of time looking at buttons and menus.
  • White space is good.

The 7% solution

Okay, it’s a simple idea:

If you’re a real estate broker, you work in an industry where everyone used to charge the same fee: 6%. Now, though, discount brokers are turning up the heat on fees. Lots of brokers are unhappy with this.

The challenge is… what if you had to charge 7%. What if you had to charge more when everyone else was charging less?

What would you do? How could you make it worth it?

Now, just imagine what would happen if you did that at 6% or even 5%? You’d be unstoppable.

Similar idea, inspired by the crazy pricing of the Kindle: What if, when everyone else’s blog was free, you had to charge money for yours? What would you do? How would you make it worth it?

Advertising creativity is not dead

Wootad …though it might feel that way as we move pell mell toward a direct marketing, measured world.

This ad from Woot shows up if you do a Google search on the stock symbol for Google (goog).

As more and more advertisers wade online, competition will raise the bar for the steps you take to find the right people in the right frame of mind at the right moment. Some of that will require more cash, but mostly it’ll be about being smart and sometimes, funny.

Meatball Mondae, again… this time it’s about the wealthy

Rich people used to all be the same,
just different from the rest of us. Now they’re not only different from
the rest of us, but different from each other.
Rich people used
to do similar jobs, wear similar clothes, live in similar
neighborhoods, and read similar magazines. As a result, marketing to
rich people was pretty easy. No longer. As the gulf between rich and
poor continues to widen, the number of people considered rich increases
daily, and the diversity of the rich increases as well.

[By rich, I mean people with enough money to buy what you sell].

It turns
out that not only are the wealthy like us, they are us. Despite the
widening gulf between rich and poor, there are more wealthy people than ever before. In fact,
you’re probably one of them. Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske of BCG
talked about this in their book Trading Up, and the trend has only
become more pervasive.

That means there are rich NASCAR fans,
rich porn stars, rich entrepreneurs in Kenya and rich teenagers. Every
silo is discovering it can create a top tier.

You can catch up on the series by clicking here.

You won’t find me on Amazon’s new book reader

Newsweek has all the details right here.

I’ve been hyperventilating about Amazon becoming a book publisher since at least 1998. That’s the juicy part of the business… finding writers for your readers as much as you spend time finding readers for other people’s writers. A book costs about a dollar or two to print and sells for $20… Lots of room there for Amazon to integrate the process, to find long tail successes, to match hidden needs with authors needing promotion.

Kindle, the code name for their new ebook reader, gives them a platform where they can actually begin to be a publisher (though for now, they’re resorting to acting like a low-paid middleman, once again leaving short-sighted publishers to cripple a new medium).

When Amazon came to talk to me about being included on the reader a long long time ago, I said sure, but.

The but is that I wanted my books to be free and included in every reader, and my blog, too.

The beauty of real books is that they don’t require a reader, which means that millions of people are eligible members of the market. Even if you only have .0001% market share, you can still get your book read.

The challenge that my hero Jeff Bezos has is that if he’s really really lucky, he’ll sell a million of these things in a year. And that means that at $10 a book, you need to have significant market share to make an impact. The Sony reader has been out for months and it has sold, perhaps, a few thousand units.

My thought was to use it, at least for a few years, as a promotion device. Give the books for free to anyone who buys the $400 machine. (Maybe you can have 1,000 books of your choice, so there’s not a lot of ‘waste’.) You’ll sell more machines that way, that’s for sure. And the people willing to buy the device are exactly the sort of people that an author like me wants to reach. No harm, no foul, all three of us win. If there were a million of these machines out there and an author had a chance to have her next book show up automatically on all of them, few among us would say, "no thanks to that exposure."

This is a disruptive approach, the sort of thing only a market leader could pull off. It changes the world in a serious way. I wanted to be part of that.

I was unpersuasive. Sorry.

Saying goodbye

The restaurant in town closed about six months ago. For weeks, there was a sign about renovations. Then a new sign, this one promising big things. Then, of course, the "for rent" sign from the broker.

A software service I used for a while sent me a note today that read:

Please note that the service has reached end of life and is scheduled to be decommissioned on Monday, December 3rd.  Once the service has been taken down, all content will be deleted.  It is very important that you transfer your data to another service provider prior to this date to avoid data loss.

That’s it. The entire note.

One last example: someone I hired a while ago changed her mind after the first day. She never showed up again. Didn’t answer calls or email. Just vanished. Not dead, just a chicken.

It seems to me that you ought to say goodbye with the same care and attention to detail and honesty you use to say hello. You never know when you’ll be back.

The end of misogyny?

For as long as I can remember, marketers have been using misogyny to sell products, get votes and attract viewers.

It’s sort of astonishing… in my lifetime, we’ve seen the end of public (but certainly not private) attacks on people because of race or mainstream religion (fringe beliefs and sexual orientation are still fair game, apparently)… but trying to humiliate half the population because of their gender seems just fine.

That may be changing. There’s a significant backlash about John McCain’s handling of a question earlier in the week. If the questioner had used a similar epithet about a black person or someone from Poland, they would have been shown the door. At least I hope so.

And now Robert Greenwald has put together a really disturbing (NSFW) video of misogyny and pornography as broadcast on Fox News.

As Hugh Hefner demonstrated with Playboy fifty years ago, objectifying women was a shortcut to cash. And all you have to do is visit Las Vegas to see it happening in every hallway, on every billboard. What is now becoming clear is that many of the people in your market won’t stand for it any longer. One more shortcut, gone.

Great job for the right person

Yasmina at Acumen needs help, and it just might be the most important job you ever do.

Acumen Fund is hiring for a new associate who can work with them on community building, new media, and communications… this individual would join the Portfolio Strategies team which focuses on sharing knowledge and influencing how the world tackles poverty. The associate would be primarily responsible for using the internet, video, and a range of tools available for building community to share what Acumen Fund is learning about effective ways to bring critical goods and services to people living in the developing word who make less than $3 per day.  Acumen Fund wants to engage a wide range of communities in our work, and will reach out to those that care about social entrepreneurship, strategic philanthropy, and solving the problem of global poverty.

Experience building on-line communities or working in communications, media, or video would certainly be beneficial in the role; however we are also looking for someone who is a self-starter and eager to learn new skills and bring their creativity to the work.

Acumen is the single best organization I have ever worked with. The smartest, most focused, kindest people doing the most important work I can think of. I don’t run posts like this often, because, after all, it’s not a job board… but this is the real deal.