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The five step brand lifecycle

Who is Brad Pitt? [insert your brand/name here]

Get me Brad Pitt!

Get me someone like Brad PItt, but cheaper!

Get me a newer version of Brad Pitt!

Who is Brad Pitt?

[original source unknown–though readers have suggested Mary Astor, Kirk Douglas, Jack Elam and of course, Ricardo Montalban!].

[Leon adds a few more:

– I wonder what happened to Brad Pitt.

– Get Brad Pitt back.

– Get me someone like Brad Pitt, who was around the same time as Brad Pitt. ]

Of course, it’s hard to tell where you are when it’s about you.

Silly Traffic

This is a truth of the Internet: When traffic comes to your site without focused intent, it bounces.

75% of all unfocused visitors leave within three seconds.

Any site, anywhere, anytime. 75% bounce rate within three seconds.

By unfocused, I mean people who visit via Digg or Stumbleupon or even a typical Google search. If your site is spammy or clearly selling something, the number is certainly higher. If you’re getting traffic because you have a clever domain name, it might be even higher. I don’t know of many examples where it is lower.

It’s good for your ego, that’s certain. You can brag about hits if you can get away with it, or pageviews or visits. But the bounce rate is still that scary 75%.

So, what should you do about silly traffic?

The tempting thing to do is to obsess over it. If you could just convert 10% of the bouncers, you’d be increasing your conversion rate by almost a third! (7.5% is about a third of the 25% who don’t bounce). There’s a million things you can do to focus on this, and almost none of them will show you much improvement.

One other thing you can do is get hooked on the traffic, focus on building your top line number. Keep working on sensational controversies or clever images, robust controversies or other link bait that keeps the silly traffic coming back

I think it’s more productive to worry about two other things instead.
1. Engage your existing users far more deeply. Increase their participation, their devotion, their interconnection and their value.
2. Turn those existing users into ambassadors, charged with the idea of bring you traffic that is focused, traffic with intent.

“I’m just looking,” is no fun for most retailers. Yet they continue to pay high rent for high-traffic locations, and invest time and money in window displays. Very few retailers lament all the traffic that walks by the front door without ever walking in. A long time ago, they realized that the shoppers with focused intent are far more valuable. Smart retailers work hard to get focused people to walk in the door and to keep the riff raff walking on down the sidewalk.

Your website can do the same thing. In fact, you might want to make it more likely that bouncers bounce, not less, but only if those changes increase the results you get from the visitors you truly care about.

First, do no harm

The best way to keep your bank from getting robbed is to not open a bank.

Sometimes, in our zeal to avoid loss at all costs, we focus too hard on the false positives (that guy might be a robber) and not enough on the false negatives (we just turned away a good prospect).

I just discovered that my gmail spam filter has been blocking orders from Google checkout! Astonishing.

I have also heard from two people who applied to my internship and never got the note I sent announcing that we’d completed our hiring cycle. (I hope to report more on the intern program in a month or two). Stopping spam is a worthless endeavor when you also stop non-spam.

Tolerating some noise and shoplifting and cranky customers is part of the deal. Better to be too open than too closed, I think.


Are you better at what you do than you were a month or two ago?

A lot better?

How did you get better? What did you read or try? Did you fail at something and learn from it? Does that mindless stuff you do at work when the boss isn’t looking (or all those meetings you go to are all those emails you answer) make you better or just pass the time?

If you got better faster, would that be a good thing? How could you make that happen?

A lot of questions so early in the morning, but the truth is that marketing rewards improvement. It didn’t used to. It used to reward stability. Corn Flakes are Corn Flakes.

You’re right!

You probably get feedback from customers. Sometimes you even get letters.

Occasionally (unfortunately), it’s negative.

Two weeks ago, I left my car at (an expensive) parking garage in midtown New York. When I got back four hours later, I discovered that they had left the engine running the entire time. That, combined with the $30 fee and the nasty attitude of the attendant led me to write a letter to the management company.

The response: it was my fault. When I dropped off the car, I should have taught the attendant how to turn off my Prius.

What’s the point of a letter like that? Why bother taking the time? It’s not even worth the stamp. Does the writer expect me to say, “Oh, great point! Sorry to have bothered you. I’m an idiot! In fact, I’m so stupid, I’ll go out of my way to park there again next time…”

It’s pretty simple. The only productive response to a critical letter or piece of a feedback from a customer is, “You’re right…”

You’re right, I can see that you are annoyed.
You’re right, that is frustrating.
You’re right, with the expectations you had, it’s totally understandable to feel the way you do.
You’re right, and we’re really sorry that you feel that way.

Every one of these statements is true, each one is something you are willing to put into writing. It validates the writer, thanks them for sharing the frustration and gives you a foundation for an actual dialogue.

But isn’t this pandering? I don’t think so. The writer is right. They are frustrated. His opinion is his opinion, and if you don’t value it, you’re shutting down something useful.

How about, ‘you’re right, it’s reasonable to expect that we would have turned off your Prius. We’ll post a note for all our attendants so they pay better attention in the future.’ A note like this makes the customer happy and it makes your garage work better.

Someone wrote to me last week, complaining that the handwritten inscription in a book I had signed for his colleague wasn’t warm enough. I responded that he was right to be frustrated, and that if his expectations had been so high, I should either have lowered them or exceeded them. Of course he was right… with expectations like that, it’s not surprising that he was disappointed.

Arguing with a customer who takes the time to write to you does two things: it keeps them from ever writing again and it costs you (at least) one customer. Perhaps that’s your goal. Just take a moment before you launch an unhappy former customer into the world.

Henry Ford and the source of our fear

Henry Ford left us much more than cars and the highway system we built for them. He changed the world’s expectations for work. While Ford gets credit for “inventing the assembly line,” his great insight was that he understood the power of productivity.

Ford was a pioneer in highly leveraged, repetitive work, done by relatively untrained workers. A farmer, with little training, could walk into Ford’s factory and become extraordinarily productive in a day or two.   

This is the cornerstone of our way of life. The backbone of our economy is not brain surgeons and master violinists. It’s in fairly average people doing fairly average work.

The focus on productivity wouldn’t be relevant to this discussion except for the second thing Ford did. He decided to pay his workers based on productivity, not replacement value.  This was an astonishing breakthrough. When Ford announced the $5 day (more than double the typical salary paid for this level of skill), more than 10,000 people applied for work at Ford the very next day.

Instead of paying people the lowest amount he’d need to find enough competent workers to fill the plant, he paid them more than he needed to because his systems made them so productive. He challenged his workers to be more productive so that they’d get paid more.

It meant that nearly every factory worker at Ford was dramatically overpaid!   When there’s a line out the door of people waiting to take your job, weird things happen to your head. The combination of repetitive factory work plus high pay for standardized performance led to a very obedient factory floor. People were conditioned to do as they were told, and traded autonomy and craftsmanship for high pay and stability.

All of a sudden, we got used to being paid based on our output . We came, over time, to expect to get paid more and more, regardless of how long the line of people eager to take our job was. If productivity went up, profits went up. And the productive workers expected (and got) higher pay, even if there were plenty of replacement workers, eager to work for less.

This is the central conceit of our economy. People in productive industries get paid a lot even though they could likely be replaced by someone else working for less money.

This is why we’re insecure.

Obedience works fine on the well-organized, standardized factory floor. But what happens when we start using our heads, not our hands, when our collars change from blue to white?

(Excerpted from Free Prize Inside)

Sometimes, the best part of buying something…

is the buying part.

I watched some shoppers leave a clothing store in NY the other day. They seemed wan and a little sad. The same shoppers, when they were waiting in line at the cash register, seemed thrilled. Fast heartbeats, lips trembling in anticipation…

The (stupid) diet

My friend Chris told me about a diet he used to use to lose weight. He would eat what he wanted five days a week and fast two days a week.

No, that doesn’t work.

The parallel to marketing seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

George Clooney is not normal

You can’t hire that guy because he’s not as good looking as George. And you can’t believe that speaker because he doesn’t present as well as George. And that guy? He’s short. Short? Well, shorter than George. And you can’t trust him to make good decisions because his skin is much darker than George’s.

You can’t date her because she’s not as good looking as Jennifer (whichever Jennifer you want to set as the standard). And her? Well, she stutters, and Jennifer doesn’t. And Jennifer herself, of course, is not nearly as smart as George.

Jennifer and George may be extraordinarily good looking movie stars, but you don’t get to work with them. By buying into a standard of expectation for what’s normal (or great or very good or trustworthy) we shortchange ourselves every single day.

Organizations (bosses and teachers and colleagues and buyers and sellers) that manage to get past the George expectation have a spectacular advantage. They’re willing to take great ideas and great attitude and great effort wherever they can find it, regardless of what it looks like.

I was talking to someone at the Federal Reserve this week. He explained that in our electronic age, his relationships often start on the phone or by email. And they usually go extremely well, moving things quickly toward a happy conclusion. Sometimes, though, these folks meet him in person… and realize that he doesn’t look a bit like George (he’s black). Understanding that people are judging you—looking for a shortcut in the story they tell themselves—is the first step in telling them a different, better story.

Even better, over time, once it becomes clear that George isn’t so normal after all, we won’t have to worry so much about that story.

The Pope is coming

Whether you run a hotel or a retail store or a parts supply store, things change when you find out the Pope is coming for a visit.

The fresh flowers get delivered, the beds are made a little tighter and your best staff are waiting out front. Everything is a little bit cleaner and shinier. Maybe, a few staff bring in their kids to sing a song or two.

The thing is, everyone enjoys this extra work. It’s fun to stretch a bit. It doesn’t feel quite as much like work when you’re doing something special.

You probably guessed the punchline: The Pope isn’t coming to your place of business this trip. He won’t be reading your blog or calling your customer service line either. Sorry for the confusion. Go ahead and rent out that room or give away that table you were saving.

But since it’s so much fun, why not do it for someone who isn’t the Pope? Like your next customer?