Monday, December 03, 2007

Wii And Marketing


One of my favorite hobbies is to go into stores and be insulted by clueless sales staff.

It used to offend me… until I realized all the really good marketing lessons inherent in every face-to-face encounter with anyone selling anything. (One of the coolest taxi rides I ever took was in Vegas, many moons ago, when the driver spent twenty minutes trying to pimp out his personal line-up of hookers. He used every salesman’s trick possible — including take-aways, upsells, cross-sells, urgency, guarantees and special offers. I actually took notes.) (And no, I didn’t become a customer. Shame on you for thinking so ill of me.)

For online marketers, the offline sales encounter might not seem relevant, but it is.

Your ad is your salesman, and your ordering process is your checkout experience.

All the things that can go wrong in the store, can and do go wrong in the online virtual sale process.

Quick example: I’ve been hot to get a Nintendo Wii gaming console since, oh, about five minutes after the product was announced last year. (I’ve been a gamer longer than you, and I don’t care how old you are. Back in the seventies, I hung out with the guys who ran the Stanford University Artificial Intellegence lab, and dated a proto-geek lady who created gaming software for Atari… so I was bopping around the very first online games, and got to sample arcade prototypes you’ve never seen.) (Plus, I have friends who created some of the first interactive gaming experiences by networking multiple computers inside a single house from different rooms, using early Doom versions.) (So there.)

The Wii is definitely aimed at guys like me.

Decades of anti-ergonomic mousing and typing have ruined my wrists, and I have no interest whatsoever in learning the “language” of another multi-buttoned/toggle-switched controller.

Naw. Give me realistic action like the Wii. And, heck, I hear the bowling game just rocks. (Though you don’t get to shoot people.)

However, for some reason known only to them, Nintendo has never come close to producing enough Wii’s to fill demand. Here in Reno, Wii’s last approximately sixteen seconds after being uncrated… and even the largest retailers can’t tell you when another batch is due in.

The people I know who own one got them on eBay… at four times the list price.

I want one. But I’ll be damned if I’ll bid against extortionists, or get up at dawn to fight teenagers at the local Game Stop to get it.

Still, I persevere. It’s a hobby, and I’ll miss all the exploring and hunting when I finally score a unit.

In fact, I really enjoy going into various different gaming joints and seeing what happens when I ask about buying a Wii.

Most common response: A rude snort of laughter and a long look of pity.

I’m amazed at how similar the staffs at different stores react. They seem to enjoy crushing my spirit by explaining, ever so patiently (because I must be brain-damaged or something), that if I want a Wii, I’ve got to come to the store every day when it opens, and hope they got some in the night before.

And stop bothering them.

Seriously. That’s the line I’ve been given a dozen times in the past few months.

Even if the owner is in the store, it’s the same story. I’m barely worth dealing with, if I’m so friggin’ dumb to have to ask about the availability of a Wii, which EVERYONE knows is almost impossible to get.

Now, consider this: Often, while I’m hanging out enjoying their anti-sales pitch, they will interupt our interaction to deal with a younger (and obviously smarter and more hip) customer who is trading in a game, or who wants to talk about the intricacies of the latest release.

The store is paying all it’s primo attention to the demographic it THINKS is where the money is: Younger gamers.

And yet, there I stand, ignored, with a fat wad of moolah burning a hole in my pocket. I’m gonna buy a TON of new games with my Wii, and load that sucker up with every option available.

And dude — when I find a game store operator who appreciates what I bring to the table, I will be fiercely loyal, and spread the word. Cuz I know a LOT of other geezers who love games… who would dearly love to find a store that respects them.

On the other hand, I am never setting foot inside the joints that disrespect me ever again. Freaks.

Hey — I have all the sympathy in the world for the modern store owner. The workforce available out there is clueless about selling, and has an attitude problem that would give King Louis XIV a run for the Arrogant Prick Award.

But here’s the thing: You don’t have to become a grovelling, obsequious slave to be a good salesman.

Just understand the basics, and it will change your life: Figure out what the customers wants, and help him get it. (Advanced lesson: Give him what he wants first… you can then sell him what he needs, later — after you’ve gained his trust, and he is open to hearing about the options he hadn’t considered before. Allow his inner process of “self-selling” to unwind naturally, without you getting in his face like a know-it-all.)

You don’t even need to be polite. I’ve encountered some KILLER salesmen lately — of both sexes — who didn’t smile, interrupted me, and even turned and walked off suddenly. However, they walked off because they had a brainstorm about my problem, and they quickly returned with answers and/or product that clearly proved they had listened very carefully, and actually cared about finding the best solution (not just the most expensive one).

I don’t need you to have a great personality when I know what I want, but I’m having trouble finding it.

I just need you to do your friggin’ job.

Have you figured out what the lesson for online marketers is here, yet?

Think about the time, energy, money and will to live you put into finding a prospect on the Web. Think about how carefully you write the copy, how precise you are with the process of moving him through your sales funnel.

Are you SURE you’re not offending good prospects, even unintentionally?

Are you sending people off to your competition, because you put up too many obstacles to helping them get what they want?

Are you stinking up the sales process… because you don’t have exactly what they thought they would get from you… and you don’t offer them ANOTHER path to take, to stay in your world?

Imagine how easily any of those game store non-salesmen could have snagged my loyalty and money. “Those Wii’s are hard to find, aren’t they. We do get them, but the manufacturer is way behind on production, and we can’t tell you exactly when another shipment will come in. How about if I take down your name, and call you when I know a shipment will be coming in? In fact, if you like, I’ll set one aside for you. Because of demand, I can’t set it aside for very long, but I’ll keep it on my desk until you have a chance to get down here after work or on your break…”

Et cetera.

And then, before I leave, why not offer me a quick lesson on the Wii floor model… so I’ll have a head-start when I fire up my own unit at home. And then offer me a deal on after-market options or games. And then…

These are the basics, people.

Know your demographics. I’m not gonna get up at dawn and freeze outside a store waiting for the doors to open, so I might get the chance to beat down a twelve-year-old kid and grab one of the few Wii’s that came in.

I WILL, however, pay a premium for the dignity of getting a little special treatment.

Look — I’m all for democracy. But in sales, it’s always a good idea to create an option for people who want to give you more money. It’s called First Class Service, and while the concept may piss off socialists, it’s a great way to do business when you’re in it for the sake of creating wealth.

Many online marketers I consult with have never even considered a “platinum level” of service… or even thought about raising their prices to see what the market will bear. They are often astonished at how many people are willing to pay more for insider service and priviliges.

Wait. Make that “always astonished” at this. Because every single market out there has a certain number of people who put more value on thier time than on the money in their wallet.

I, for example, am extremely willing to pay extra to save time. That hour spent shuttling back and forth to the game store would cost me a small fortune in lost productive time. Even shelling out more for a Wii, if I can save time acquiring it, would be an overall bargain. (Not the four-times-cost demanded on eBay auctions, of course… but certainly much more than retail.)

And there are a lot of busy, successful people out there seeking the same deal.

(Want another example? Southwest Airlines — which has built its reputation on low fares — has just introduced a slightly higher ticket price for people who want to automatically be among the first to board. If money’s an issue, no one’s forcing you to pay this extra fee. But if you’re in a situation where getting a seat close to the front, or on an aisle, or being assured you’ll find space for your carry-on… and you can’t count on having the time or luxury of checking in early enough to get an “A” on your boarding pass (as most business travelers ride), then this small fee is a drop-dead bargain.

It’s made Southwest an option for hard-core biz travelers again.)

Think about how your online “salesman” comes across to prospects. They’re looking for help, for advice, for direction and also for bargains and insider deals. If you stop caring about anyone but immediate buyers, then you’re like the store operator who refuses to deal with anyone not willing to spend untold hours playing a stupid game of waiting and guessing and hoping in order to get what they want.

Buying something shouldn’t be a hostile act between pissed-off customer and aggressively-apathetic sales person.

It really can be a pleasant capitalistic experience of using money to acquire goods and services. With the opportunity to leverage your hard-earned money to save time and gain insider privileges.

I mean, geez Louise.

We’re all in this together, you know.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

P.S. One more thing.

You know how experienced shopkeepers diffuse an angry customer or prospect?

They listen to the complaint.

That’s it. Listen, acknowledge the legitimacy of their right to complain, and decide rationally and fairly how to proceed.

People get angry when they feel they’ve been insulted, or that they aren’t being heard.

As the owner, you can still toss the real bums out on their ear. But only after you’ve made absolutely sure the anger isn’t coming from real abuse or a real problem.

I’m a calm, Zen kinda guy. I actually enjoy all kinds of experiences in the selling process, including bad ones (cuz I can write about them).

Still, occassionally even I get righteously outraged. You cannot assume anything about a sales encounter gone sour until you get all the facts straight.

Same online. If you’re not flipping a decent percentage, you need to find out why.

Too many sales people today think it’s all about them.

That’s just dumb, and wrong, and evil.

However, it’s also wonderful for all the marketers out there — both online and offline — who see the opportunity to fill the void with better salesmanship and smarter processes.

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