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If It’s A Pain In the Ass, People Won’t Do It And You’ll Lose Money

Great snippet from the NYTimes here–one that illustrates THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. PART. OF. PRODUCT. DESIGN.


Flurry, a mobile-software analytics company, estimates that 65 percent of all revenue generated in the App Store — roughly $2 billion — has come from free games that charge for extra goods. Peter Farago, vice president for marketing at Flurry, said that was partly because Apple had made it easy for people to buy goods within apps and charge them to a credit card on file with Apple.In contrast, Google has said that its app store, the Android Market, has generated little revenue. Mr. Farago said that was because making payments in the Android Market was more difficult.


The Google Car Will Be the Biggest Mashup Ever

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

If Google can create a car that chauffeurs you around safely, then I think it’s safe to assume that they will tap into Google Maps—along with their traffic stats—to optimize your drive.


What if Google could then get all local, state and federal governments to create and provide access to traffic light systems?

Isn’t it conceivable that Google could totally optimize the world’s driving, reducing congestion, saving gas, time, wear and tear on cars???

They’re applying the Google Optimizer philosophy to driving.

I’m in!

Actually, I walk to work, but would welcome a world with fewer cars, creating less gas, fewer accidents, and people in cars less.


Someone Splice Skype’s DNA With Visual Thesaurus For The Ultimate IM UX

Someone Splice Skype’s DNA With Visual Thesaurus For The Ultimate IM UX

So IM was a great tool.

It no longer is.

Why? Primarily because we’ve all adapted to the concept of asynchronous communication, and we’re ready–we expect!– for a better, easier, more intuitive, more effective tool. What do I mean?

The problem:  The Skype UX lays out communication in linear fashion–even though human conversation isn’t! Here’s a little illustration to remind you:

Tell me you haven’t had this IM experience: your typing fast on the initial thread and then someone veers off–so you follow. Then someone comes back to the initial thread before you’ve even finished typing a response to their tangent. Then you press ‘Enter’ on the tangent thread and the IM UX shows the response next to a non-corresponding line. Now your work has exponentially increased. Add another thread and you’re focused entirely on the screen above–double checking previous IMs to ensure your on target. At this point the UI is not making it easier–it’s making it harder. Fail.

The solution

Now, imagine this: a branching IM a la Visual Thesaurus.

What if each comment or line had an imaginary box around it–and that box could be dragged around and anchored anywhere on a screen; and from each node could grow a conversation?

I would pay for that that!



Twitter the Tool Rocks, Twitter the Product Name Doesn’t

I’m a big fan of Twitter. Really, I think it’s bonafide communication infrastructure—on par with the phone, tv, fax… Sometimes I say it’s RSS on steroids, your own personal multi-media channel… I have a lot of emphatics for it ( I just made that word up!).

But you know what would really help me out? If Twitter was named something else.

Most of the time when I’m trying to explain it, it really feels like I’m trying to defend it. The word ‘twitter’ just has so many negative connotations: insignificance, small, ephemeral, light, transitory, fleeting…

So Twitter product guys, what’s with the name?

I think with a name like Burst—or a utilitarian acronym—adoption rates could have been even faster. “Facebook”, “email”, “internet”, “SMS”… these are all much better names because they’re descriptive or utilitarian—not self-deprecating.

Product naming isn’t for the birds.


Someone Let Me Text A Personal Coupon To My Dad!

Here’s a radical mobile/coupon idea: let me text a coupon that I create to anyone.

Maybe call it MePon.

For example, I know my Dad never splurges for good coffee. I would occasionally get a kick out of texting him my own Starbuck’s coupon–basically a $2 voucher that he can redeem at Starbucks for some bold Cafe Americano (my favorite).

It would have to be a totally open platform–perhaps just a connection between me (my phone) and my bank account–and to a lesser degree, brands and establishments.

For example, perhaps I could text him this: “Dad, it’s raining today–a good day for some steamy espresso. No cookies though! STBCKS-173846”

That code would allocate $2 from my bank account to a specific vendor–in this case Starbucks. Upon redemption, the money would be withdrawn from my account and passed to Starbucks. Every user needs a unique code–and every establishment. Not too hard, right?

Here’s some icing for this cake: Every brand should look out for those VIPs who are couponing–or meponing–a lot and reward them with status (mayorship?) or redeemable points (my own free drinks?).

Ok, I’m on a roll: If you integrate check-in apps or perhaps NFC, you could theoretically buy a specific person a drink at a bar… without knowing their name or username–ripe for generation Y; or you could spot tip good service…

Does this exist already? It should!


Four Marketing Principles I Learned From My Kids

Having kids is like being on Jeopardy for, like, 20 years: they give you the answers, you just have to figure out the questions they’re asking!

And they’ve taught me a lot about marketing. Here’s their insight:

Positioning matters. Ask a 4 year old girl if she wants a pony tail = no! Ask the same girl if she wants ‘super-high, flowing pony hair’ and you’ve got a pretty excited kid standing in line at your feet.

Make it special–novelty matters. If you’re having trouble feeding your kids the same ol’ thing just try cutting things into funky shapes. I keep cookie cutters handy–makes turning a pedestrian pancake into a butterfly easy. All of a sudden they wanna get some. With marketing, every so often, just change course. Keeps clients and prospects on their toes.

Slow down–be sincere. Ever try to read a book on fast forward? My kids called me out on that on the quick. It really made me think: life is about the here and now–if you’re not gonna do it right, don’t do it at all. Your audience isn’t schooled in your products like you are, so slow down a bit–let folks d i g e s t…

Too many choices is counter productive. Kids love choices–and if you stay disciplined, you can get your kids to do a lot of things if you avoid overdoing it. Same with clients, colleagues, direct reports. A or B? that’s a 15-minute decision. A, B, C, Ca, T, R or Z? That’s a black hole.

Get the core stuff right and nothing else matters. Kids love constant change–but they really just want you to love them in a straight-forward and consistent way. Your clients and prospects too: give them something really good and be consistent. Everything else is distracting and confusing.


Would You Rather Spend $1 A Month Or $9.99 A Year?

Good points on Mark Suster’s blog,, on pricing.

He’s talking to Gregg Spiridellis from JibJab about pricing:

How did you determine the right price points for your product?

Like many companies they experimented with many pricing models. The first did a “purchase credits” model like iStockphoto where you then burn down the credits you bought. They realized for them this was dumb because people didn’t want to use up their credits so viral adoption wasn’t happening quickly enough. They switched to a flat rate model and sharing went up immediately.  They tried lots of price points – $13.99, $9.99 per year – and nothing was amazing. When they increased price from $9.99 to $12 conversion went up!

Gregg says at $9.99 there was no frame of reference for the value.  At $12 / year he was able to frame users with the thought, “Am I getting a dollar of value per month from JibJab? Sure, of course I am. Sign me up.” Awesome. Counter-intuitive. The kind of thing you only learn by doing and testing. My key take away – frame of reference in pricing is important.

The concept of pricing with a frame of reference is a heady one. It doesn’t have to be based on a calendar, but you’ve got to look for something important to the customer and contextualize it for them. Kudos to folks who iterate like this.

Should Marketers Be Product Agnostic?

Here’s a good question: is marketing more effective when the marketer is punch drunk in love with his product or when he is indifferent?

I can kind of take both sides since I’ve been in both positions, but I think I’ll come down on the side of the being product agnostic. Here’s two reasons:

  • When you’re a little distant, you’re more likely to see the product as consumers see it. And it’s always better to sell to a consumer’s needs than rave about how robust your product is.
  • Too many ingredients spoil the dish.  If you’re totally immersed with a product’s details, you’re inevitably going to stitch them into your pitches and your collateral. And once you go down that path, we’ll it’s pretty much over.

You know, it makes me think of surgeons. Isn’t it the case that surgeon’s can’t practice on their own family members? Well, I think that applies here. As a marketer, you’re at your best when you can stand back, your best tools in hand, and assess your problems with a cool mind free of personal interference.

What’s the takeaway? Well, if you’re running a shop where your product folks are your marketing folks, well, you might want to split some duties.

What do you folks think?


So I’m not sure .if I totally believe this.  There is truth in that marketing skills are tangible and can be applied to any content or domain–probably with good effect; however, I have to acknowledge the obvious: deep passion makes for brilliant and convincing messaging, and deep product knowledge makes for nuanced messaging and cogent differentiation.

Software Updates As Marketing?

Frankly, I can’t wait for updates to my iPhone apps to show up on my App Store app.  That goes for software updates on my MacBook, Firefox plugin updates, updates to my favorite code editor BBEdit or any Adobe product I have installed on my work PC.

Am I normal? I bet I am–especially for my demographic.  Dare I say generation?

What going on here?

I think it’s deep and psychological–I think it means I’m deeply smitten with the apps and tools I’ve come to use, rely on and love! Who doesn’t love new features or better performance?  I think what’s happening is that I feel like I’m getting value for free.

The question that I really want to know is: are there savvy marketers on the other end of these relationships?  Are they coordinating the release intervals? Are they wordsmithing the release notes? Are they making sure that I know I just didn’t make a one-time purchase but rather engaged in a relationship with a product–and a product management team.  I think so.

Here’s a different way to think about it:  I buy.  I use.  They improve (update).  I use more.  I appreciate more. They improve. I get psychologically locked in. I tell my friends and colleagues to use–maybe family too. They improve. I use. I start to get interested in news about future releases–I anticipate them!

That’s a great little song and dance.

Be Patient About Monetization and Ignore the Naysayers

Dave Morgan over at OnlinSpin said something that hits home.

Be patient about monetization…. Monetization efforts should be patient and not rushed. Google, Facebook, Craigslist and many others have proven that monetization will always catch up for the best services.

When I was trying to sell my local restaurant guide (because I was moving–not because I was abandoning the concept) my first prospect looked immediately past a great model and great metrics showing consistent growth in traffic and subscriber adoption (restaurants paying for hosted menus) and did a back-of-the-envelope calculation to determine what the financial payoff for his firm would be.  He wasn’t impressed.

That’s funny because I was immediately not impressed too!

It obviously didn’t work out but I learned something:  most people are not conceptual. Here I was trying to invent a new local model that would be sustainable (in fact, the site could really be focused on other things aside from restaurants)–knowing that money would follow when the model and supporting technology were improved.  He was all dollars and cents.

What’s the moral of the story? There’s conceptual folks and there’s folks that focus on minutiae. Granted, both are needed to run a successful business, but if you’re the visionary type who wants to try new things,  get used to folks wrinkling their brows at you.

Just wink back at them and get on with it!

Web 4.0? Content Not Technology

Folks, did I miss Web 3.0? If I did I’m sure it was technology focused. Well, I’ve had enough of technology advancements–when are we going to get better content!? Specifically, when are we going to get really good local content? For years, I’ve been assailing my friends–and pretty much anyone who would listen–on the issues in the local space (that there’s no good local content) and my wild ideas about how to solve it (given lots of capital). So what are the local issues?

  1. Local vendors are not all represented! And sometimes even if they’re on the web it might be impossible to find them.
  2. The quality of their sites is wildly variable–‘Is this a great business with a terrible site or a terrible business that has a terrible site?’
  3. The innumerable Silicon Valley solutions for local search are really annoyting. See Yahoo’s local listing for an example.

Let me back up for a sec.

While I’ve been in corporate marketing and product development for a bunch of years, my side passion is local. I just love the dynamics at play in the local space: hundreds of scrappy entrepreneurs with their sleeves rolled up trying to make a buck in a finite market, finicky consumers trying to get the best services and/or products, the lack of marketing sophistication… it’s really chaotic but lots of fun–and great stories. All this local appreciation probably stemmed from my short life as a reporter/photographer at a community weekly way back in the 90s. It was great fun to be out and about on a daily basis looking for great little stories.  But I digress… Let me get back to my main thread.

So what are the solutions to these local problems?

  1. Provide each small businss with a free web designer, copywriter and marketer.
  2. Since that won’t happen how about intermediaries that can aggregate, organize, improve and present the local scence in a very focused way–that is until owners get more time and money to do it themselves.

Well, if you agree that this makes sense then check out I built this about 4 years ago to see what if.  What if I organized one type of hyper-local content and made it easy to find and easy to navigate? Would it work? Would it attract users? Would content providers participate?

The answer is yes. took off like crazy–to the point that I was receiving unsolicited kudos from all types of foodies. Restaurant owners were willing to pay a ‘subscription’ fee to post their menus. Local business–those that sat in between restaurants–found the site compelling to advertise on.  That’s when it dawned on me: my personal vision for Web 4.0 was a good idea AND it had a great rev. model:

  1. Aggregate local content and charge a subscription fee.
  2. Charge advertisers to be seen alongside the content
  3. Charge for premium access.

That’s diversified! It’s a model built to last.

So that was a quick and dirty intro into a pretty interesting topic. I’ll be writing more. Let me know what you think?