This story started with the cover of a DVD. The cover shows a right thing to do in marketing and a wrong thing to do in marketing. The wrong thing happens to intersect with the images on the cover to illustrate the point of the story.
You think of a good marketing idea. You commission all the work. Part of it is a Web site. Part is a product or service you sell. You ask all your friends, relatives, neighbours, and complete strangers to visit the site, buy the product, and report every little annoyance. You did. I hope you did. You forgot! You can be another example for this story.
The cover has one good thing going for it before anyone sees the cover. The movie has a good preview and a distinctive title. The title is reproduced on the cover in the same way and stands out on the shelf. The cover is distinctive to the point where you will spot it from a distance even if you have never seen the preview. The tie in to the preview makes a lot of people grab the DVD without looking further than the title.
What about the people who do not recognise the title? The rest of the cover is rubbish. The cover shows three singers and they all have their eyes shut in the stupid fashion that is praised on the amateur hours, the
reality television talent shows, but never leads to a long term career. Why does it fail to attract an audience? The viewers think the performer is signing to themselves. The same happens when we pick up the cover. We go for images of people looking at us, or, in the case of lovers, at each other.
The cover was obviously approved by a person who had her or his eyes shut at the time. That is the point of this story. You want success, you look at everything in person all the time.
Eyes open, brain closed
Eyes shut can also happen in the form where open eyes connect to a closed brain. This includes the
we always do it that way syndrome.
We always do it that way for reason x is valid because you can discus the validity of reason x. Doing it that way just because it was done that way in the past does not help anyone. The leader creates a company that does this one way. The leader leaves, dies, retires, and the remaining people continue doing it that one way because they do not know any other way and are afraid to learn. Conserving their existing market share is more important than building new markets.
Take an example. HP used to be innovators. Now innovation is just a marketing phrase at HP. When was the last time they produced a new product? When you look at the groups that define technology standards, you rarely see HP on the list until after the new idea is commonplace. HP has a history including innovative hand held calculators that, at the time, allowed everyone to own a very smart calculator for a fraction of the price of a regular calculator. The HP calculators were a little weird in some ways but it allowed HP to make the calculators with far less expensive chips than anyone else.
The HP advantage lasted only a few years then the cost of the more expensive chips fell to a point where the assembly cost exceeded the cost of parts and everyone could make a smart calculator for practically nothing. HP lost out to Casio, Sharp, and co who made a huge range of calculators to go with your watch and other accessories.
HP could have added features and developed their product the way mobile phone companies add features to their phones. The phone companies are always adding new models at the top of the price range to make up for existing models sliding down in price. The average spend by consumers stays the same. If you add up the price of your new phone, the bluetooth add on devices, the Internet access and music downloads, you are spending more than you used to pay just for a phone and a basic service. All the prices have dropped but you spend more. HP could be still leading the market from the days of the calculator.
Where would you take a stupid calculator? Add a stop watch for sports freaks and make it water resistant. Add a pulse check. Add a laser to use as a presenter, again with a timer. HP could have been in there with the first wireless mouse, a special mouse that clocks your usage and pulse then tells you when to take medication/caffeine. There are endless gimmicks HP could have added every year and grabbed the lead in a niche market. They could be out in front the way Apple is with the tired old iPhone.
The iPhone is a bad phone loaded with a bunch of gimmicks that make the iPhone popular with people who have never used a good phone. There is nothing on the iPhone that was not on a previous phone and there are a lot of features missing from the iPhone that were on the previous phones Apple copied. Apple marketed the result to people who wanted a better iPod but did not know enough about phones to demand a good phone. Combining the iPod with a basic phone worked well with people who mostly sent text messages and were suckers in waiting for tweets.
Zoom back to the innovative HP of old. In 2001 HP paid US$25 billion for Compaq. For the same price they could have acquired Nokia and developed the first computer phone. HTC and whoever supplies Apple have the market now but HP could have been there first if they continued to innovate instead of stagnate.
Innovation is a good thing and you have to look at the result in use among your customers in person, not through the eyes of a consultant or a marketing company or surveys.
Surveys are easy to fake. I was great at that when I was a kid. Perhaps I should have gone into marketing as a professional creator of surveys that show whatever you want to show. There is a lot more money there than in surveys that show what people actually want.
Marketing companies are occasionally honest but they do make more money selling a bad product because bad products require more advertising to reach revenue forecasts.
Consultants say yes because they are paid to say yes. If a consultant is in such heavy demand that they can afford to tell the truth then you probably cannot book them to look at your product. I listened to one environmental consultant talk about converting Sydney's
Urban wasteland in to productive, liveable, (endless marketing buzzwords). After question time, we chatted one on one. He found out I knew something about the topic and burst into the story of how he became the expert. Three months before he moved to a new apartment and for the first time ever in his life he had access to a patch of garden. He then decided to be en environmental consultant because it looked profitable. He put in a solid two months learning how to market himself and almost two weeks into reading stuff on the internet to quote in his presentation. He ended by asking me where he could find out what environmental experts are supposed to say and where I published my research so he could quote it. Yes, he expected to take my work and quote it as his own. No, he was not interested in repeating any of the research to get personal experience, he just wanted quick quotes he could memorise and throw into conversation.
There are consultants who are worth the money and there are those that charge $3000 per day to improve the performance of your database and, at the end of three days, hand you a photocopied sheet containing ten bullet points about generic improvements they could have given you in the first 30 seconds of day 1. The ten bullet points are transcribed from the software manufacturer's basic introduction document and are all things you tried a long time ago.
Do you drink, drive, eat, fly your own product? Do you buy your own product in a shop and listen to what the sale people say? What do people write in your Web site forums and other forums (excluding the people paid to write glorious reviews (another really profitable business))?
Watch your customers do unto your product what they normally do, not whatever is in the testing script. Try it yourself the way they do. Observe them then ask them what they saw. When your marketing writes the features and benefits list, make sure they are features people can use without seeing the instruction manual and make sure your customers do experience the benefits.