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 Adland Digest FREE Edition #538
  Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Information Your Business Needs RIGHT NOW

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OH!  OH!  OH!  Me TOO!  Me Too!

In August of 2005, Alex Tew coded a Million Dollar Web Page with a very unique spin as a way to pay his University Tuition.  Turns out he had no idea what kind of a gold mine this page was going to be.  It wound up being the first Pixel-Ad website in existence and grossing its final 1000 pixels reportedly sold on eBay for $152,000.00. 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Computer Science students developed a new type Search Engine called Backrub that based results on popularity instead of just meta tags and keyword density.  Today, Backrub is now called what we know as Google and it is the most formidable and intuitive search engine out there bar-none reaching into previously untapped areas such as Public Transit, Satellite Mapping, and Localized Directories. 

Labor Day 1995 Pierre Omidyar launched AuctionWeb, the auction site which we would later know as online auction giant eBay.com and it's child payment processor site Paypal.com. 

To date, thousands of copies of websites claiming to be better than Paypal, the Google Killer, the Next Generation of eBay, the NEW MySpace, and so on and so forth.  To demonstrate a point about duplicating an already successful website, I'm going to use an older analogy. 

Let me take you back to the days of Cassette Tapes like the Audio Cassette, VHS, and Beta tapes. 

Like the original websites mentioned above, the original recording was always the best quality.  Every copy made from the original degrades in quality.  Eventually you're left with something that is completely unrecognizable as the original, nowhere NEAR its quality, and something no one would pay a dime for.  When visitors start flocking to a website because it has something new and exciting, that website sets a standard and builds trusting relationships with them first.  Once this relationship has been solidified, they're hard pressed to go anywhere else for the same service even IF it is the same or slightly better.  It would have to be a very good reason for them to leave. 

For example, I frequently visit Future Shop's website.  For our my readers in the USA you'd know it as circuit city.  Now the question is why would I visit a site who sells electronics I know nothing about when I can visit circuitcity.com for reliable reviews, information, and pricing?  Plus, I can order the product online, pay for it, and then pick it up locally to avoid the hassles of going through a checkout line.  With the other website, I'd have to wait for shipping time, worry if the website is legit and if I'm going to lose my investment through fraud, learn their ordering process so I can get the correct product and then if the product is defective, I have nowhere to take it.  If the both websites had identical pricing, heck, even if the site I was unfamiliar with had pricing that was 100's less than circuit city I would STILL go to circuitcity.com.  I'm buying into quality and reputation, not price. 

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Yet there are those who believe they are the creators of the next generation of these online giants.  Fact is that these giants have been around for years and have more R&D funding than you could ever imagine, deeper pockets, and high-priced marketing companies on contract.  Still, the terms Google Killer, the Next MySpace, Better than eBay or Better than MSN Messenger continue to spring up all over the web.  All extremely big claims against extremely big competition and an even taller order to fill. 

That's not to say that going up against industry giants will result in a loss, there have been exceptions to this rule.  The owner of Wal-Mart for example started when names like K-Mart, Zellers, Sears, etc had already been key players in the Department Store Industry.  Saturn Motors came onto the scene when other car companies had already been in business since the early century.  Heck, even Google itself clobbered Yahoo! and Alta Vista, two of the premier search engines at the time to be crowned as the King of Search Engines several years later.  It's definitely possible but highly unlikely.  What I am saying is that chances are if you go up against these giants the odds are stacked against you and you should expect a very long and difficult uphill battle. 

The best way to compete against them is not to copy exactly what they do but to find a different angle to access a smaller section of their customers at a time.  Slowly build a niche market out of smaller, more accessible, and neglected markets.  Avoid attacking these companies head on unless you really do have something different and revolutionary that no one has ever seen before.  Remember, not once did Wal-Mart or Saturn directly name and slam their major competitors during their rise to power because they were well aware that they were dealing with the heavyweights of the industry. 

Michael Dela Cruz, Adland Digest Pro

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Theme Marketing: Copywriting Technique #127
Copyright 2007 by Marcia Yudkin

One of the best-designed sales pieces I've received in years was a come-on for an MIT conference. Every panel implemented the metaphor of a deck of cards in both design and text. Bullets in the form of hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs and subheads like "This session provides you with all the aces you need" carried through the unified theme. After spending so much time exploring this piece, I figured the conference sessions would have something to teach me too, and I signed up.

Another marketing piece, from CM Communications, Inc. of Boston, landed in my files because of its clever use of a tailoring theme. Headed "Getting the Right Fit," the three-panel brochure used a tape measure to illustrate subheads like "Don't Hem Yourself In," "Look for a Versatile Outfit," "Button Down Costs" and "S, M or L?"

Well-executed themes get results in marketing because they reach beyond features and benefits to engage emotions as well as the intellect. In addition, they provide unity between words and graphics and thus become more memorable. Sometimes they involve a creative format too.

Cindy Marshall, of Jefferson, South Dakota, used the theme of a police suspect file in a promo piece for Media Concepts, in nearby Sioux City, Iowa. The manila file, complete with a real-looking coffee stain, opens to fingerprints, Polaroid crime-scene items and a profile including "caught guiding unsuspecting clients in specifying advertising goals" and "known to be armed with state-of-the- art equipment."

To select an effective theme, stay away from any you've already seen implemented in your industry. Play an old parlor game to spur your imagination: If your product, service or business were a fruit, which one would it be? If it were a song, which one would it be? If it were a communication medium, which one would it be? How about a feature of the landscape, a type of weather, a dessert, a bank transaction?

Or, think about some general categories of phenomena that provide rich sources for themes: Nature; Technology; Hobbies; Relationships; Mythology; Popular Culture; Occupations; Common Problems. Sometimes a pun, such as in "A Hire Authority" for an employment firm, supplies an interesting metaphor you can build upon. Once you choose a tentative concept, brainstorm related ideas, such as for "shoot-out": holster; OK Corral; bad guys; sheriff; Wild West; trigger-happy.

For maximum effect, a theme should be unexpected, such as "Setting Sail for Internet Profits" and yet sufficiently familiar so that visual elements like anchors and rudders and textual references to "catching the wind" and "calm seas" make instant sense. The theme should always be more concrete, picturable and commonplace than what you're selling. Otherwise you will have created an unnecessary mystery instead of a compelling sales piece.

As with any marketing idea, test it out with people similar to your prospects to make sure it provokes a laugh or a nod instead of a "Huh?"

About the Author

Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, Persuading on Paper and Web Site Marketing Makeover, and a seven-time Webby Awards judge. She teaches a 6-week course on no-hype copywriting for business owners and marketers; complete details: http://www.yudkin.com/copycourse.htm

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Bells And Whistles - Does Your Site Really Need Them?
Copyright 2007 by Tim Whiston

Current graphics technology is awesome, and I love a good video game. But market testing has proven websites that go overboard with graphic design and special effects actually convert far fewer sales than sites with clean, attractive layouts that do not interfere with the most important element - the content!

I hate it when I come to a site looking for a product or service and I can't get past the streaming video intro. I also hate it when a fat audio file loads on every page I navigate, or when the flash elements and high-tech animations make it hard to find the order button.

Believe it or not I'm saying this as a professional web designer. And guess what?

According to multiple independent studies the average Internet consumer agrees with me!

It's a fact - sites with too many bells and whistles will actually drive your customers away before they have a chance to soak up your offer or at least subscribe to your opt-in list. As a rule, I don't even recommend flash as a viable media for direct response marketing.

Look at some of the most productive retail sites in any niche and you'll find clean, appealing graphics. But these visual creatives will not overshadow the most important element of all... the site's content!

Unless you are marketing a video game, a movie, or sophisticated animation software/design service, it's the content that generates sales and not the bells and whistles that turn your site into a digital carnival.

Don't get me wrong, both audio and video elements can have a tremendous impact on your conversions; but not if these features are presented in place of quality sales copy and plenty of solid consumer information.

High-tech design solutions should be applied in a way that compliments your content. Your marketing message should never be upstaged by visual theatrics or dazzling sound effects unless you're in the business of selling such effects to site owners who don't know any better.

Regardless of how far technology advances it is highly unlikely the average consumer will ever stop demanding quality content prior to his or her purchase of your product or service. So lead with your message and let the special effects blend in and compliment your content delivery.

Keep the balance between graphic design and strong copy, and your visitors will be far more likely to stick around and give you the chance to close the deal.

About the Author

Tim Whiston is a full-time web marketer. Have a look at his Website Design Service and Web Design Portfolio to find powerful and cost-effective solutions for your business. Also be sure to check out his Internet Marketing Course for more great content.

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