Another Zebra Criterion

In a previous post, I described the idea of the ultimate segmentation of your prospects into single individuals and compared it with narrowing down from all animals to only zebras.  Well, I was wrong: zebras are NOT the only animal that

1) are mammals,

2) walk on 4 legs,

3) have stripes, and

4) look like a horse:


This is an Okapi, photographed during our visit to Disney World Animal Kingdom last week.  So to keep the zebra metaphor going, we need a 5th criterion:

5) black and white (like pandas and skunks and magpies).


The Funniest Comic Strip I Know

Basic Instructions is a comic panel produced 2 or 3 times a week by a fellow named Scott Meyer.  I think it is often laugh-out-loud funny.  I go there once a week or so.

Basic Instructions sample - sometimes this image does not load.  Hit Refresh or use the link at the end of this post.

It gets moderate traffic – about 30 people out of every million surfers visit it on an average day.  That’s about a fifth of the number that go to and five times as many as visit  It ranks as about the 50,000th most popular site on the Web.  (You can find web traffic stats at

Scott is the type of blogger who gets enough traffic to warrant selling ad space on his site.  I don’t know if he makes enough to feed himself or even make it worthwhile to arrange for the advertising, because selling ads online is not like radio or TV or print – number of viewers alone does not determine the rate.  Instead, it’s the number of clickers, so it depends on the quality of the ad, how well matched it is to the audience of that site, its position on the page, etc.

But is does make some money, and that’s freaky.  I mean, there are 49,999 more popular options out there, and he still makes money. 

Clicking on Basic Instructions will open the site a new window.

Google’s Ranking Algorithm Revealed!

The landing page that this post linked to has been removed.  It was an April Fool joke.

Disney World & Terrorists

I probably should have made a post last week to explain my absence, but the reason I haven’t blogged for a while is because my wife, daughter and I spent last week in Kissimmee, Florida.  We spent 3 full days at Disney parks and had a wonderful time.  What does this have to do with marketing?  Well, during the trip two different organizations made me do things that confused me.  But the very different ways they explained why they were inconveniencing me showed that one knows how to treat customers (how customers are treated = one very powerful part of marketing) and the other doesn’t.

The first curious thing was going through security after we landed at Orlando.  Yes, after we landed.  After we had been through security prior to getting on the flight, after flying all the way to Florida without blowing anything up, and after getting off the plane and entering Orlando International Airport.

And it was the full-on security, too: shoes off, laptops out, etc.  And then we had to claim our checked luggage from the carousel, and put them through security!  It took us 2 hours to go from touch down to curbside.  Why?  What damage could we do after having been on the flight?  I asked, and was (gruffly) given a very terse response – something about “contraband.” 

I really tried to figure it out – perhaps they are checking for something in Orlando that other airports don’t, like Australia screens for food items.  But what kind of contraband could they be looking for?  Drugs?  X-ray wouldn’t catch those.  Weapons?  Would have been caught at departure. 

Doubtless there is an excellent reason for why they do this, but a simple sign explaining it, or a scripted response to travelers’ questions, could have removed the bad taste that all those fresh arrivals to the “happiest place on earth” get in their first 120 minutes.

The other experience was the fingerprint scan when you enter a Disney property.  (Hold the hue and cry about Big Brother – that’s for another day.)  I already have a ticket with my name printed on it, why do they need to check who I am?  Well, they don’t want one person going in for the morning and then handing the ticket off to another for the afternoon, see?  OK, so, isn’t the easy solution to that problem to make them show ID and make sure it matches the name on the ticket?  But then, the person has to search out their ID, if they even remembered to bring it.  And what if there is some sort of language issue, or conflicting spellings or something?  It turns out that the finger scan method is actually Disney using technology to make visitors’ lives easier.  Once that was explained to me my suspicions turned to gratitude.  It will be a long time before I’m grateful to Orlando International Airport.

Marketing to Zebras

I promised to explain what I meant when I used the word “zebras” in this earlier post.  The idea is that just as zebras are pretty unique animals, so are your customers.  Imagine describing zebras to someone who has never seen one, and how you need to have all the characteristics included before you finally narrow it down:

“They’re mammals.”

“You mean like whales and bats and kangaroos?”

Zebra Diagram

“Yes, but they walk on 4 legs.”

“Toads? Sloths? Alligators?”

“Yeah, but they have stripes”

“Oh, like tigers and coral snakes and hornets!”

“Except they look like a horse.”

“Like donkeys and Great Danes and seahorses?”

“And they have to have ALL those qualities”

“Now I get it!”

There is only one animal that matches all those criteria.  My point is that the days of mass marketing to a demographic are over.  You can no longer target “afluent 29 – 44 year-old males,” or “Small to Medium Sized Businesses.”  You have to market to, “43 year-old Moncton bankers who play hockey and like old single-malt scotch and craft beer and are married to a marathon runner, who have 2 daughters, aged 6 and 4, and drive a ’99 Saab.”  Hey wait a minute, there’s only one person in the world that matches that description!*  That’s the whole thang – you have to market to that one person

Now, you’ll probably want to have more than one customer, so you’ll have to market to a lot of other singular people too.  But each marketing interaction must be between you and that one person.  It’s no longer about one-way, one-to-many, broadcasting.  Now it’s two-way, one-to-one conversations.


* It’s my friend Greg. 


PowerPoint vs. Karaoke


Random Karaoke ShotI am not the first person to proclaim that PowerPoint is a scourge upon the land.  I see similarities between the effect Karaoke machines have had on live entertainment in pubs, and what PowerPoint has done to the art of presenting. Recorded instrumentals and back-up vocals, CRT-displayed lyrics, and liquor combine to make people think they are delivering quality music to a crowd when they are actually inflicting pain.  Similarly, the ability to display text on a wall makes people think they are communicating with a crowd when they are actually reducing the amount of meaningful data that gets conveyed.  We will not consider the spin-off benefit of it being a non-medicinal sleep aid.


Of course, it’s not Microsoft’s fault.  Just like the NRA’s assertion that guns don’t kill people, PowerPoint doesn’t bore people – people bore people.  But having guns lying around increases the probability people will get killed, and using PowerPoint almost always increases the chance that people will be bored.  As a tool, it is grossly misused.


If you are presenting to a group, and you put lots of text up on the wall and proceed to read it aloud, you are actually slowing the transmission of that information, because they can read faster than you can talk.  If you want to convey ideas that are best communicated in writing, then send an email.  If you want to make sure they all understand it, or want to see how it affects the group, then call a meeting by all means.  But tell them your message, do not read it to them. 


Where proper PowerPoint usage comes in is in backing your speech with images that are “worth a thousand words.”  They might be photographs of what you are talking about – it is easier to show people what a new car model looks like than to describe it.  They could be stunning visuals that convey emotion like a firefighter carrying a child from a burning building, or a victorious athlete.  They could be informative like charts and graphs.  (But keep these simple if you use them!)  Or they could be single words, or short phrases, that punch up or highlight segments of your spoken presentation.


Please join the crusade to make boring presentations a thing of the past!


So the Scopes Monkey Trial Settled Things, Right?


Holy crap-a-moley.  I just heard about a film called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.  It stars Ben Stein, and is an attack on the scientific community (which it refers to almost exclusively as “Darwinists”) and its repression of believers in Intelligent Design (ID).


Expelled Header


This film is trying to galvanize the mostly-religious right, and their idea that God created everything, the same way Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 did for the political left, and their belief that George Bush is a boob.  (Full disclosure:  I am a political conservative, and wholeheartedly believe in evolution and Bush’s total boobicity.)


Despite not being a fan of Bush, I didn’t care for Fahrenheit 9/11.  Most people who saw it, whether they agree with Moore or not, would acknowledge that he “spun” facts and words to his make his points.  Even so, you at least felt that most of his research was accurate, if possibly misrepresented.  For instance, in one montage I recall, he derides Bush for spending some large percentage of his first 100 days in office vacationing.  I don’t recall the exact figures, but I do remember that at the time I did some math and found that that was the normal amount of time everybody spends “vacationing,” once you include weekends as vacation time.  So the fact that W spent that many days vacationing was true, but the context was misleading.


Expelled appears to play fast and loose with the facts in a way even Moore wouldn’t dare.  Google the movie title for some examples of its errors or see them in this Scientific American review.  They are lying to people in order to get them to believe there is a giant conspiracy to conceal the truth about ID.  Normally this wouldn’t bother me – I don’t care if other people believe we evolved, were created, or emerged from the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


What bothers me about this is that Ben Stein says in the trailer that he distrusts Darwinists because they’re so defensive.  He asks, if they’re so scientifically open to free exchanges of ideas, why do they work so hard to quash the whole ID theory?  Why is their propaganda machine working so hard to promote evolution?  Why are they ruining the careers of ID proponents?  Why are they fighting in the courts about teaching evolution in schools?  Why are they making feature-length films touting their principles?  Oh wait.  They’re not doing that last one.  You are, Ben.


Blogging Before It Was Called That

The 5 seconds worth of research I just did tells me that “blog” was coined in 1998.  I certainly didn’t hear the term until much later.  But I had already been active in blog-like on-line activities.  That was two careers ago, when I was VP Marketing for a software company called Maximizer (or sometimes Multiactive or Modatech – it’s a long story).  We made Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and that class of product was just hitting its stride: Microsoft CRM and were just coming out and the industry was poised to explode.

SearchCRM Logo

So it behooved me to make myself and my company part of the discussion about CRM wherever that discussion was happening.  One such place was an online forum called SearchCRM that had just been formed.  It’s still there and still active.  I signed on to be one of the “Experts” for “Ask the CRM Experts.”

Traffic was fairly slow at first, but over the next two years I answered dozens of questions.  Some of them are still posted and can be seen here.  (I don’t know why they all aren’t there, or why these ones were chosen to survive.)

The point is that I enjoyed answering the questions, and I think that’s why I will enjoy blogging.  It’s the fun and creativity of writing and trying to communicate or persuade, but without the bothersome deadlines and content restrictions that go along with writing business stuff like, say, White Papers or ad copy. 

[UPDATE] – Yesterday the link to my posts on SearchCRM was broken.  Today it’s back, so I went and copied all my posts, which can be viewed after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Give Away My Secrets?

If my stated intent is to one day open a bar, and use the sorts of marketing techniques that I discuss in this blog to make it a success, then am I foolish to publicly state my strategies and tactics?  What is to stop the other drinking establishments in my future marketplace from copying me and rendering my competitive advantage moot?

Crescent Street, Montréal - Many Clubs, But Do They Compete?

I think I’ll be OK for two reasons:

1. Essence.  The techniques and practices one uses to market one’s business are not in and of themselves competitive advantages, because they can be easily copied and transferred.  Marketing is inherently outsource-able.  It is not part of the essence of a business – what makes that business unique. 

There are a couple of ladies we know through my 7-year old daughter’s circle of friends who sell home-made soup and baking every Friday.  Their sole (to my knowledge) form of marketing is a weekly email to their acquaintances and past customers.  It’s technically spam, but no-one on the recipient list seems to mind.  So there’s obviously nothing special or unique about their marketing – they’re using a method proven my a million Viagra resellers.  What makes them special and successful are their product and their customers, and the match they’ve made between the two.  Their clientele are busy parents who don’t have the time (or perhaps ability) to make the soups, cookies, breads and other goodies every week that these women do.  And if the customers did have the time, they would make exactly this sort of quality, healthy, basic fare for their families.  And because the customers are all already acquainted with the chefs, there is an immediate trust factor.  That recipe (get it?) can’t be duplicated.  Could better marketing make them more successful?  Sure, if they wanted that, but no competitor is going to steal any of their customers with marketing alone.

2.  Audience.  When I open my bar someday, I want it to be for someone.  I’m not sure whom yet, but there will be a definite, and finite, group of people who are very comfortable there.  Others will be welcome, of course, but they will be visitors, not permanent residents.  And my core customers will go other places, too – it will not be a monogamous relationship.  But the point is that any marketing I do will appeal to those people only.  So even if my competitors copy my brilliant marketing strategies perfectly, it won’t matter.  Their message won’t appeal to my customers (or “zebras” – more about this in a future post), just as my message won’t appeal to theirs.

Seth Made Me Do It

Seth's LogoSeth Godin, for those of you who don’t know already, is considered by many to be the pre-eminent thinker/writer/speaker/blogger about marketing in the 21st century.  I don’t know if I’d go that far, but he certainly is smart, and he certainly has marketed himself effectively.  Seth had a post today (permalink) in which he urged everyone to start having a personal on-line presence. 

And I’m re-reading The Cluetrain Manifesto, right at the part where the writer urges the reader to “have a voice.” 

And one of my colleagues thinks I’m a marketing genius and keeps telling me to start a blog. 

And, someday, I think I want to run a small bar just like the one I used to work at in Montréal.  When I do, I will want to market that venture using Web 2.0 techniques, so I figured why not start now.

So I’m going to make a real effort to craft a weekdaily post loosely around the subjects of bars and marketing.  And maybe marketing bars.  Perhaps the simple act of thinking about what to write will make me into a better marketer of my own bar when and if that day comes.