Missing The Point

“No, no, no! You don’t understand how radio works! I simply fade my voice out like this and cue the organist…”
-Firesign Theater

Shame on you, webmasters of Corporate America. Shame on you in your blinding rush to catch the Wold Wide Web wave. You’ve missed the boat. You should be strapped down and forced to watch your own home pages re- load over a 300 baud modem again and again.

What are you missing? The same thing your predecessors missed when they combined radio spots with magazine spreads and called it television advertising. You’re missing the point.

The point of television was that you could show things to people they couldn’t otherwise see. The point of the WWW is that you can get information from people you can’t communicate with.

Why would you spend a bundle of your hard fought for marketing budget on a telemarketing campaign to call people, read a script and then hang up? Don’t you want to know what they have to say? What they think? What they want to buy?

Oh sure, the Web is a marketer’s dream come true if all you want to do is publish product information. Yes, your cost of global distribution gets as close to nil as possible. Yes there are lots of people who would rather read your product specs on-line than have to deal with an under educated, over paid sales rep. But the Web offers such a wonderful opportunity for gathering information. Use it!

So, before you throw another re-purposed brochure up on your Web site; before you scan in another annual report because it’s already been approved by the corporate communications office; before you record another worthless, “Hi there! I’m the CEO of this outfit and we’re pleased as punch that you’re here!,” think about using the Web as an information gathering tool. Start by watching the people who took the time to do it well.

Check out Blackbox and see how they ask users to rate the value of expanding their Web site. They want to know if their users would prefer:

More Product Information
More Reference Information
Expanded Ordering Capability
Enhanced Support Facilities

Take a tip from Apple Computer that doesn’t ask how fast your modem is, but whether you feltthe throughput was fast enough.
Go to your computer, log on and study the Ragu Pizza Sauce site, “Mama’s Cucina”, a brilliant piece of Web architecture. Users are invited to participate; write stories, list restaurants, share recipes. Then you should admire, with tears of admiration in your eyes, the questionnaire with almost fifty detailed shopping, eating, and consuming questions.

Fifty questions? How could they expect people to bother? “The response has been overwhelming,” says Alicia Rockmore, Ragu’s Associate Brand Manager. Tom Cunniff, of the Cunniff Consulting Group in New York who worked with Ms. Rockmore is “still amazed at the number of people who take the time to fill in the form. After working 16 years in traditional mass advertising, it’s gratifying to learn that if you charm people and show a little respect, you can begin to build real relationships between a brand and its customers.”

The World Wide Web is a two-way street. GO BOTH WAYS. People are more interested in themselves than anything else. A wise marketing manager is more interested in clients and prospects than anything else. The WWW is the perfect place for the two of you to get together!

As Michael Schrage of the MIT Media Lab put it, “The real value is in the interaction … real interactivity isn’t about giving people more content to choose from, it’s about letting people create their own content.”

In other words; make your Web site their Web site. Ask people to reveal themselves and they will.

Try to keep in mind that your WWW site is not a corporate brochure, it’s a customer experience. Kristin Zhivago, editor of the Marketing Technology Newsletter created the water analogy for the Web:

If your delivery medium was water, broadcasting would be
like using a big hose to spray a crowd of prospects, hoping
some of them will enjoy getting wet. Narrowcasting…is like
using a smaller hose and only aiming it at people who have
already expressed an interest in getting wet. Cybercasting
(marketing on-line) is the act of creating a pond of water
in cyberspace… and inviting them to come for a swim.

The key here is to figure out how to get them to come, how to get them to stay, how to get them to come back, and how to get them to buy your product, service or point of view.
The rules are simple:

1. Treat your Web site like any other event – market it.
If they don’t know it’s there, they won’t come.
2. Concentrate on them. Know your audience and show
them what they want to see, not what you want to show
them.
3. Solicit their input. Those wonderful people you want to
become your customers are sitting at a keyboard, able
to respond. Ask them for their opinion!

Then be darned sure you are ready, willing, and able to give them what they ask for.

After all, the WWW is a two-way street. They can easily walk the other way.