Online Marketing Strategies – EverEffect

A Site for Sore I

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on October 25, 2007

“No, honey, the kids and I were thinking more about something with a salty breeze than the Bonneville Salt Flats.” My wife smiled, and sent me back to the computer in search of the perfect, affordable vacation getaway for our cabin-feverish, landlocked family.

“(We) offer luxurious, oceanfront vacation rentals; great rates online!” the ad copy virtually screamed at me.

The bait was meant to tempt, and I was hooked. I bit on the lure like an aggressive brook trout, and was reeled into a hospitality company’s website that ended up being, well … less than hospitable. Here are seven reasons why:

  1. Landed on the Home Page, which scrolled on forever. The company absolutely had to feature all fifteen locations, 350 properties, and eight resorts that they manage, complete with text and photos. Didn’t they?
  2. Prominently featured were locations in Arizona. I may be wrong, but there is no oceanfront property – luxurious or otherwise – in Phoenix or Tucson. Maybe these folks went to the Lex Luthor School of Real Estate. Otisburg … Otisburg?
  3. The site was designed to appeal to a number of target audiences, including Travel Agents, Real Estate Agents, Owner Agents, Time Share Owners, Vacationers (Families and Singles), and Current Clients.
  4. I was lured to the site to check out great deals on vacation rentals, not evaluate investment opportunities.
  5. View Our Video. Okay. But instead of letting me view their promotional video from the site, the company insisted that I pay to own their advertisement on DVD. Only $15.95, including S&H. If I’m interested enough to learn more about their properties, don’t make me shell out real dollars American for the privilege! Let me see it for FREE. Maybe I’ll even Forward to a Friend or six …
  6. Visitors are asked to Add to Cart before receiving any information on pricing. I’m thinking they have some real (cart) abandonment issues.
  7. The company has a number of Catalogs. None are available for download. Why make visitors order a catalog and then send via snail mail? Most, like me, would want to see the information immediately rather than wait days or weeks to receive it.

To recap: I was enticed to the site under false pretenses; there was an overwhelming amount of content, and a huge amount of it was irrelevant to me personally; the content that I was interested in was hard to find, and the company wanted me to wait to receive it, or worse, pay them to get it.

This fish got away. How many other visitors does this site fail to catch (convert)?

Does your website keep the promises your online campaigns make? If not, you could overly frustrate someone by creating an experience that is a site for a sore I!

Mind Your P’s

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on September 19, 2007

By now, everyone on the planet is aware that a substantial price drop has rubbed some of the shine off of Apple’s iPhone. In my July 25 post, I wrote that if the iPhone failed, it would not be because it is a convergence device (as Al Ries contends), but because of flaws in 1-3 of the 4 Ps.

I’m going to revisit what I considered the iPhone’s potential drawbacks with updated commentary.

  1. “The Product does not live up to its hype, or it is not substantially different than other Smart Phones.”

    A beautiful, breakthrough device, the iPhone has a major drawback: it cannot run on AT&T’s fastest cellular data network, which means it is far slower than offerings from competitors Verizon and Sprint. Worse, initial models cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks.

    The speed issue is a huge competitive disadvantage, and a clear barrier to switching phones.

    Not insuring that the phone can operate at maximum capability is something like selling a Triple Crown winner for dog food – pennies on the pound – instead of raking in millions on stud fees.

  2. “The Price is too steep (up to $599 is a little pricey for a unique fixer-upper).”

    Shortly after the $200 price cut, Steve Jobs wrote, “We can’t wait to get this revolutionary product into the hands of even more customers this holiday season.”

    The iPhone was priced too high from the start. Other cell phones usually come cheap or for free because carriers have long subsidized the cost when customers sign up for their services.

    Charging extra for things like Ring Tones created bad buzz as well.

  3. Placement becomes an issue due to the exclusivity deal with AT&T.”

    There is a double-whammy here. Unless you’re in an area where AT&T (nee Cingular) has excellent coverage, an iPhone purchase is somewhat moot. Further, many Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, or other customers will not immediately switch because they are loathe to eat the remaining balances on long-term contracts with their existing providers. Thus, exclusivity becomes a self-inflicted wound to sales by limiting the potential customer base.

  4. “No one can argue with how Promotion has been handled.”

    No one could argue with the pre-launch pub, but Apple has botched their post-price cut PR blitz. The high price, greed gamble, has backfired. Media reports no longer hype how cool the phone is. All the talk now is about “sluggish sales” or the phone’s other potential shortcomings. And, while Steve Jobs’ response to early adoption anger was fairly honest (we want to sell more iPhones), the manner in which he did it has left Apple vulnerable to stepped up assertions of corporate arrogance.

Any product or service – no matter how cool – will ultimately fail when the strategic or tactical approach to the Four Ps is flawed. In the case of the iPhone, gaps in geographical coverage and speed (customer solution), high initial price (customer cost), AT&T Exclusivity (lack of convenience), and poor post-launch PR (communication) bode ill unless immediately addressed. The iPhone can still become the monster success almost everyone envisioned prior to its introduction, but not until Apple realizes that it must do a better job of considering customer need before its own.

iCulpa is iBad

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on September 11, 2007

Monday’s announcement by Apple® that it has sold its one millionth iPhone ™ is good news and bad news. The good news is that they sold their one millionth iPhone. The bad news is they now have their one millionth angry early adopter!

Last week, in an open letter, Apple® CEO Steve Jobs responded to customers “upset” about the company dropping the phone’s price by $200 two months after it went on sale. After explaining the company’s rationale for such a move – and in an attempt to assuage angry buyers – Jobs offered up a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store.

It reminds me of a moment in Caddyshack when Carl the Greenskeeper (Bill Murray) shares a story about his experience caddying for the Dalai Lama: “So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something for the effort?’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

Apple just stiffed their loyal, early adopters, oh, uh, there won’t be any money, and it’s beyond the company’s power to grant total consciousness. Instead, they’re offering their customers in-store or online credits. So they’ve got that goin’ for them, which is nice. Or is it?

Mr. Jobs wrote, iPhone is so far ahead of the competition, and now it will be affordable by even more customers. It benefits both Apple and every iPhone user to get as many new customers as possible in the iPhone ‘tent.’ We strongly believe the $399 price will help us do just that this holiday season.

In reality, what Apple has is a $200-million oops on their hands. I may be wrong, but I believe that people who paid the original $599 price tag could care less how many new customers will buy at the more affordable price or what a great deal others will be getting during the holidays!

Read between the Open Letter lines, and you might conclude (as I have) –

  • Betting on the power of their brand, Apple gambled on a higher-than-otherwise-justified price, and lost.
  • Apple and AT&T (their exclusive iPhone partner) must more than double average daily iPhone sales to hit their published goal of 4.5-million units sold by year-end. Their best chance to accomplish this is to slash prices and try to cash in on upcoming holiday gifting.
  • Mr. Jobs wrote that there is always change and improvement, and there is always someone who bought a product before a particular cutoff date and misses the new price or the operating system or the new whatever. The problem with this statement is that the iPhone is two months old and there is no new operating system or new whatever, just a new sense of urgency to sell more iPhones.
  • Apple’s This is life in the technology lane, we’re slashing the price, so what, get over it attitude may provide a short-term shot-in-the-arm for iPhone sales, but create a long-term hangover by reinforcing the Apple is arrogant perception held by many or damaging its brand equity by eroding trust in the company and its motives.

This pricing issue, and the Steve Jobs response to it (borderline contempt), may – deservedly so – come to be regarded as a huge blunder. As Oscar Wilde once said, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

We Owe It to Each Other

Posted in online strategies by Thomas Heed on August 31, 2007

Now – more than ever – it’s time that interactive marketing firms band together to promote the entire industry. Our biggest challenge is not each other, but growing competition from the ignorant seeking to take indecent advantage of companies seeking real solutions in the online space.

Albert Einstein once remarked, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Individuals and companies alike could achieve much more by striving to embody this idea.

What keeps me up at night?

  • A Digital Agency offering “E-Solutions” to prospects. This same agency – selling advice to others – has not revised its own site in nearly two years, and worse, it is not optimized for organic or paid Search. When this was mentioned to the owner, he responded, “I don’t care.”
  • The CEO of a PR Agency writing about Social Media, including a laundry list of popular sites, and touting MySpace as the place to be even as Facebook is poised to surpass it in use and relevance.
  • A group of web developers pushing Second (I call it After) Life on anyone who will listen, despite the fact that only one percent of marketers list such a tactic as desirable.
  • A video production company insisting that the mere presence of videos on a website enhance visitor engagement, regardless of their content, because “they’re entertaining.”
  • An article by another PR Pro touting blogs as a must do, but failing to explain the critical role they can play in driving website traffic.

The problem is that these people are selling stuff, they are not selling solutions.

The approach of such companies, to paraphrase Billy Crystal’s Fernando, seems to be, “It is much better to look good than be good, and darling, your site looks marvelous.”

This attitude makes it exponentially harder for all of us to help companies in real need.

Last week, one of my partners attended a half-day seminar on online strategies. In attendance, a couple hundred local business people eager for insight. The idea of the event sounded pretty good until the speakers started preaching about topics they had never practiced. Afterwards, my partner felt like searching for Ipecac to purge the poison he had just ingested. (Two hundred + people getting bad advice all at once should sicken us all!).

Making stuff to put on the web, especially if they’re neither aligned with corporate objectives nor tied to measurable goals, is not enough. Contrary to Woody Allen’s famous assertion, 80% of success is (not) just showing up (online). No company (client) benefits in the interactive world (wide web) without the full integration of strategy, content, and analytics.

My company recently passed on a significant opportunity. Could we have handled the project? Sure. But providing the solution would have required a significant investment in development time for us and at great expense for the other company. We knew of another firm that had a solution already in place, and at a much lower price point. We referred the prospect to that company … one of our competitors. Why? We would rather gain a prospect’s trust than lose a potential advocate for the industry as a whole.

Whenever someone manages to sell a half-baked scheme everyone bears the full brunt of its inevitable failure. When someone sells a service for the sake of their own — and not their client’s — success, they devalue our entire industry.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, seek help before you seek someone else’s business. If you do know your business, speak out. Be forceful. Be relentless. Help the uninitiated understand the power of interactive marketing. There’s enough business out there for all of us if we just work in concert. If we strive to elevate the industry as one, we shall all soar together.