When a Product Tries to Be TOO “Easy to Use”

<< Sigh. >>

Yesterday, I wanted to transfer all the photos that my daughter has on her digital camera to my hard drive, so she could email one of them to her teacher.  The camera is fairly new to her, so I had never had to do this before.

In my dream world, plugging a camera into a USB port would be the same as plugging in a flash drive — you would see a whole bunch of files, and you could pick the ones that you want to grab.  (Similar to how I wish iPods would work.)

Alas, that is not the case.  As soon as the camera is plugged in, it makes your computer go to a web site to download an application.  You CANNOT retrieve the images from the camera without doing this first.

I already feel like someone’s takin’ me for a ride.

THEN, once you’ve downloaded and installed the app, and even before you have the actual photos off the camera, Kodak asks you to log into facebook.  Did you hear me?  LOG INTO FACEBOOK!!!  I presume they think that everybody wants to share every pic they take, with the entire planet, instantly.  Well I don’t.  And neither does my daughter.

I did NOT log onto facebook, and the Kodak app was mad at me, but let me continue nonetheless.  So I accomplished my goal (eventually).

For a complete neophyte, I can see how this might be a way to help them out.  But it just smells bad.  It’s like if they gave an appendectomy to every human who walked into a hospital.  Sure, you may need one someday, but MAKING you do it isn’t the right way.

Trade Shows – Why Do We Let the Money Walk By?

I was at a Trade Show yesterday, and it was exactly like the roughly 200 other ones I’ve been at during my lifetime.  Sure, there was a lot of stuff being shown, but there was very little trade going on.  Here’s what Messrs. Merriam and Webster have to say about the practice:

Main Entry: trade show
Function: noun
Date: 1895

: a large exposition to promote awareness and sales of especially new products within an industry <a computer trade show>

Note that they’ve seen fit to include “sales” in the definition.  In my experience, very little sales or sales-related activities actually happen at trade shows.  The reasons for this are manifold, and one of the main ones is, on the surface, nonsensical:  the people usually sent to man the booths at trades shows are salespeople.

Salespeople tend to be hunters, while marketers should be gatherers (or even better, nurturers/farmers).  So a sales person would rather track a mammoth 10 km over the tundra for the 5% chance that s/he might stick a spear in some lethal manner into the beast. Marketers should prefer to stay at home and sow the field, pick the fruit, milk the goats, set the snares, collect the eggs, etc.  Both are viable survival strategies: if the marketer gathers enough protein every day to feed the family, or the salesperson kills a mammoth that feeds the family for 20 days, it’s a wash.

But what if you’re at a trade show, and there’s a HERD of mammoths walking straight up the valley?  In my experience, the salespeople are either, a) not “there” because they’re chasing some mammoth 10 km away (whether on their cell phone, or in some out-of-the-way place like the back of the booth), or b) not engaging the herd because their skills are focused on killing single mammoths; not confining, evaluating, flagging, or tracking entire herds of them.  Marketers (at least good ones) see the herd and think, “How can I pick the best ones to send my hunters after?”

The techniques that can be used to overcome these innate behavioural patterns, and actually make going to a trade show WORTH IT, are discussed in the following recorded seminar.

If you would like to hear me talk for 17 minutes about Effective Trade Show Attendance along with some pretty useless PowerPoint slides (hey – I was working for IBM – they DEMAND useless PowerPoint slides), you can watch this presentation.  You’ll have to enter your name and email, but it loads pretty quickly.

Selling Out

Over at Web 2.0h…really? today, I saw a post about a new service called Salesconx. It is an online marketplace for personal introductions. People buy and sell their friendships and business relationships for anywhere from dozens to hundreds of dollars. Let’s say that you know the VP of HR at a large company, and that that person is (inexplicably) willing to let you introduce them to random salespeople. Someone who sells employee management software might be willing to pay you $50 or $100 for you to set up a meeting with that VP.

Let’s leave the morals, ethics and viability of this concept alone for the moment – it is discussed intelligently at Web 2.0h…really. My question is, why not go to the next step? Instead of providing a forum for people to pimp out their friends, why not let people pimp out themselves?

Attention all salespeople: I’ll sit still and listen to you for 30 minutes if you pay me $100! Or you can take advantage of the weekly special and get a full hour for $175!

I’m semi-serious about this. Marketers pay a lot of money to get their message in front of the right people. BMW pays millions to try and influence only a small percentage of the total population that could realistically afford their products. Multi-tactic marketing campaigns, like the ones I’ve run for big-ticket software applications, can easily mount up to dozens or hundreds of dollars per qualified lead. If someone who had the Need, Authority, Timing, and Budget for my product offered to sit with one of my salespeople for an hour, I’d gladly pay $175 for that privilege!

As a matter of fact, marketers regularly do just that at various executive conferences hosted by the likes of Gartner. The way those events work is, Gartner invites various qualified executive decision makers to a conference where they will learn things valuable to their jobs, often actually paying for them to come. Then Gartner sells sponsorship opportunities to vendors who would like to sell stuff to these executives, and as part of the sponsorship, they promise you a certain number of private meetings with the executives. So Gartner is effectively taking the vendors’ money, then using it to bribe the executives (with a free trip to a conference at a luxury resort) to spend time with the vendors. One event Maximizer took part in, back when I worked there, cost $10,000 and got us a dozen or so private meetings. That’s significantly more than $175 per prospect.

How is that different from Salesconx? All Salesconx does it take out the Gartner middleman and replace it with some guy selling his relationships. And my scheme removes the middleman completely! Someone write up a business plan for this and I’ll split the first year revenues with ya’.