Monthly Archives: April 2012
It’s so easy when you’re designing a website or crafting a marketing campaign:
“I know, let’s publish every customer retweet on our website!”
“I know, let’s offer an instant messaging service so customer can chat online!”
“I know, let’s start a Twitter account and answer customer questions in real time!”
In the heat of the moment, these ideas always feel right, and always make sense. After all, they’re exactly the sort of features you’d like to see if you were a customer.
But in the cold light of the average working day it’s often hard to sustain your energy levels and focus, and those promises you’ve made can fall by the wayside.
And few things are more toxic for a relationship than forgotten promises.
So, if you plan to offer a service to your customers, whether online or offline, make sure first you can keep that promise, not just today but forever. It’s better to be upfront and honest about what you can and cannot do, than to promise the earth and let your customers down.
Groupon, briefly the darling of Wall Street, is in trouble. After IPO’ing in November 2011 at $20 a share, the stock briefly rocketed to $31, before beginning its depressing descent back to a bubble-bursting $11. Yesterday’s trading saw the price close at $11.85 after a 6.5% day rally.
So what’s the problem with Groupon?
Like many rapidly-adopted online services it’s built on a solid premiss (people like bargains) but has struggled to consistently and repeatedly deliver this promise over time. The web is filled with horror stories of failed Groupon offers, sellers overtrading and losing their livelihoods, and substandard service delivery. In March, Groupon was given three months to improve its UK operation by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading after committing numerous breaches of consumer protection rules.
But, despite all the challenges, the biggest issue for Groupon and the many other similar discount and cashback sites across the web is that they haven’t yet delivered a user-loved “pull” mechanism to create a self-sustaining revenue stream. Its marketing plan appears fatally flawed.
Groupon generates the vast majority of its sales from email-initiated offers. The customer receives a daily email, spots a deal they like, and visits Groupon to buy. This transaction can only happen if the customer agrees to receive pushed messages from Groupon. This is a classic form of “push” marketing.
Groupon also has a “pull” mechanism in the USA called Groupon Now which promises to draw users to its offers based on their day-to-day activities, for example by letting them see the nearest offers based on their current location. But Groupon Now has failed to take off. It seems that people really can’t be bothered to be bothered with seeing discounts all of the time. We want value, but we want it on our terms, and few people are prepared to trawl through pages of irrelevance to find the one deal that might appeal.
And, therein lies the root of the problem. If all you have are “push” mechanisms, you know your business is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. With every push, you know you risk losing some of your users, and it’s never possible to continually enhance the appeal of your offers or the depth of your discount.
The lesson: Until you can find an effective, self-sustaining way to “pull” your users to your offering, your company value may continue to slide inexorably towards its true value. And even one of those mega-Groupon discount offers may fail to attract investors to your stock when this shortcoming becomes apparent.
Copyblogger.com recently ran a competition with MarketingExperiments inviting people to submit email subject line ideas to help them promote a conference.
First up, their approach is really clever because it engaged the community with their message at very little cost or effort. Entries were made through the comments section of a blog post which included the necessary legal link to the contest’s terms & conditions. I can think of few simpler ways to run an online competition.
Secondly, they received nearly 500 suggestions for their email subject line. What better way to source a huge number of great ideas to help promote the conference?
But most importantly, they learned a lot from their customers about what they think is most appealing about the conference. By crowdsourcing the entries for the competition, Copyblogger not only gave its readers an irresistible reason to participate in the online conversation, they were also conducting free research amongst high value blog visitors that might help them refine their offering.
The winning entry is a peach too. Experienced writer Christine Parizo picked up the first prize with her subject line suggestion:
“Do your landing pages pass this test?”
That’s a brilliant, tight bit of copy. The offering is clearly laid out so the reader immediately knows this is something to do with landing page testing. And, by playing on the reader’s potential fear of not having optimal landing pages or failing the test, this subject line is almost guaranteed to elicit an immediate response.
But it’s the word “this” that strikes me as really clever. Sonia Simone of Copyblogger explained that they received another nearly identical entry which read “Do your landing pages pass the test?” Using “the” instead of “this” results in the loss of much of the immediacy and specificity of Christine’s entry.
So, lots of great lessons here from Copyblogger’s approach. In summary, here are three things we can learn from this example:
Online competitions needn’t be complicated to administer. Simply collecting entries via blog comments can suffice as long as the T&Cs are in place.
Crowdsourcing suggestions about your product can give you instant access to a wealth of customer feedback that can help improve your offering.
Sometimes it’s the finest details that can make the biggest difference, as proved by Christine’s clever use of “this” instead of “the”.
Recently a conference speaker from a huge national company concluded their talk by saying:
“We surveyed our customers and not one of them had an original or useful idea about how to improve our service.That’s when we realised that we have far better experts in-house and shouldn’t rely on help from the outside.”
I was flabbergasted.
If when asking your customers you fail to uncover any meaningful ways to improve your offering you are either (1) perfect in every way or (2) dangerously deluded.
And, given the famously bad service provided by the conference speaker’s company, I think staying delusional probably features quite high on their mission statement.
Sure, the public don’t always know exactly what they want. As Henry Ford famously said, if he’d asked people what they wanted they’d have said “a faster horse”. But even a seemingly unhelpful answer like this would have told Henry that people wanted something to get them to where they wanted to be more speedily.
You are not your customer. You can never see your business through your customers eyes. But you must insist on continuously listening intently to all the clues they give while digging beneath the surface for the crucial insights they can bring forth.
As I fear my fellow conference speaker may soon learn, the day you are truly unable to learn anything new from listening to your customers is the day your business starts to die.