How to capitalize on your competitor’s mistakes

As you may have heard, the world’s largest gaming exposition E3 is currently on. Microsoft’s new console Xbox One was announced with some unpopular features. Namely, potentially paying a fee to play used games, jumping through hoops to lend a game to friends, strict digital rights management, and a requirement to be online to play the games you already own. These are added costs and inconveniences for their customers who gain… nothing.

Needless to say, the fans took their undeserved punishment poorly. But Sony (and the upcoming Playstation 4 console) was listening. Question: how do you generate word of mouth after your competitor made a bad call?

With a smile:

A sense of humour gets you a long way. Making angry fans laugh turns that attention positively to you, and they respect you for it. When that sense of humour comes from a multi-billion dollar company during the biggest showcase of the year… well, that deserves over 2.1 million views in less than half a day.

Generating word of mouth is not hard, but sometimes it does require you to drop the corporate shield and talk to your customers as a person.

Email Subscriptions: The Barack Obama Method

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I recently decided to unsubscribe from Barack Obama’s email list. Originally, I opted in cause I liked seeing Barack Obama’s name in my inbox, but not enough of the emails were really relevant to me. When I clicked unsubscribe in the email, I got to the image above.

It’s not a secret that your company’s most valuable asset is permission and attention, often via email opt-ins. Why then, do so many smart internet marketers let unhappy subscribers opt-out of their list without at least trying to give them more reasons to stay?

President Obama (or his team) does four things here to resell me on the benefits of staying in the email list:

1. The headline is a quote. Obviously, they did some research and came up with the most common reason for unsubscribing. It spoke to me, as if in my own voice, and therefore caught my attention.

2. The body copy. Giving me reasons to “stick around”. Oh, what was that? The President wants my help to fight for important issues? Can’t say no to that. The lesson here is to show your subscribers again the value of your emails and make them feel important.

3. The fewer or no emails box. Note that this page isn’t trying to trick you into staying subscribed. You can still unsubscribe in a couple of clicks. But by giving them reasons to stay, and making the commitment to do so minimal (fewer emails), they’re much more likely to keep listening to you.

4. The Michelle Obama video. While considering whether or not to stay, Mrs. Obama is talking direct to the viewer about what the Administration has achieved, and what more there is to do (that needs your help!). Again, reinforcing the benefits of staying. Plus it’s harder to say no when someone is talking to you.

So take a look or your “unsubscribe page” and ask yourself…

“Why should my readers stay?”.

The Future Of eBooks

I’ve got 57 ebooks on my Kindle, and in my opinion, that’s 57 wasted opportunities. Publishers seem to think the ebooks are just books without paper, so they don’t add anything to it to make it an irresistible proposition. Like, why not link to relevant online articles, Youtube videos, iTunes pages, websites and blog posts? Books are no longer isolated experiences. If you write a book, you obviously have a story to tell and a message to spread. So why not have a comments section to see what other people think of it?

Recently, I came across an eBook published by Valve Corporation called “Portal 2 – The Final Hours“. It is a glimpse at what eBooks should be.

Inside are links to websites, the previous work of Valve employees, fan-made videos on Youtube, iTunes link of music that inspired their work, multiple panoramas of their offices, user polls, interactive elements, a comments section on the last page, and much, much more.

The links of course add more dimension and value to your eBook, so your customers are more likely to buy from you again. But they are also upsell opportunities. “Oh, so you like this song we used? Here’s a link so you can get it for you iTunes” (speaking of songs, why not create a soundtrack for e-novels? Have music play during intense moments of a story. Seems like it’ll make the book way more awesome.) “Loved the book? Here’s some of the other books we’ve written that will interest you”.

Another thing I like is the comments section. Though it would’ve been better if there had been a comments section (perhaps even a instant messaging program) at the bottom of every page. Wouldn’t you like to know what like-minded people think of what you have just read? It creates a dialogue between your customers with your book as the topic.

My favourite element of Final Hours though, is that half-way through the book they have an opt-in box. Enter your email and get more news on future editions of this ebook and its sequels. Why would I enter my email? Well I just spent my hard-earned cash to buy your book, and I’ve already finished half of your work. I’m obviously a fan, so of COURSE I want to hear more about your stuff. As Seth Godin says, it’s about finding products for your customers, not to find customers for you products. It still surprises me how no major publishers take advantage of the permission and attention readers regularly give them. It’s an asset waiting to be used.

Not once in my 57 eBooks did anyone actually take full advantage of the digital medium and the power of the internet to offer me more value (and leverage more value from me to them as well). People tried to make internet video just like TV, and book publishers are still unaware that ebooks are a completely different medium.

In my eyes, the potential of eBooks to add value, make positive change, and revolutionise the publishing industry is largely untapped.

Your move.

Bars should have best-seller drinks list

Best-seller lists have been a staple in the many industries, used to great success… but I have yet to see one at a bar or a club. Not having one is a mistake. 

The lists in general are great for a number of reasons:

1. They act as a filter. In a cluttered marketplace, most of what’s out there is invisible and only act to frustrate the patrons (us). Having a best-seller list distills the products down to the most (currently) trendy and important. Of course, each bar should have it’s own list; the sports bar tribe will have vastly different tastes than the gay bar regulars. 

2. Helps track trends. Seeing what products are selling helps both the bar staff and their customers. For the bar staff, they’ll know what’s currently hot so that they can order more of it or highlight it to increase sales. For customers, we can use the list to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s trendy. We love lists as a species since (a) we love winners and (b) we want to know what other people like us are drinking (c) It can validate our own tastes (d) If it doesn’t we can start a conversation about it to get our voices heard. Lists will serve the business owner and their customers.

3. Increases sales because of sales. What do I mean by that? From personal experience, whenever I look at bestseller lists (say for books), I often end up buying books from it even if I’m not currently in the market for a book. Why? Just to see what the fuss is about. Having the list in a bar (or any business really as long as it can drum up the buzz) will increases the “I wonder what that’s about” sales. Sales will lead a product to the list, which causes more people to buy it.

4. To start a conversation. Between customers. Between customers and non-customers. Between customers and the bar staff. “Oh, man number 3 this week is totally overrated”. “I’ve never even heard of drink number 1, what’s in it”. “Have you tried number 9, it’s the shit”. No need to tell you that people talking about products you’re selling are a good idea. 

5. There is another type of list you could use; the “Best Drinks You’ve Never Heard Of” list. If there’s a certain drink that you believe has potential, will be the most profitable, will bring the most customers to your door or will establish you as a trendsetter (your brand), then using this list will bring it in front of your customers. These customers have at the bar and have already given you, the business owner, the permission to tell them more about your stuff. It’s a waste not to use that hard-earned attention.

 

 

Why videogame retailers should now be a service

It used to be that sales at the local video game store will attract droves of customers (myself included) hoping that get that game that was always just out of my price range. 

Nowadays, sales are the only way to attract customers at all. Every time I walk past my local Electronics Boutique (EB) they’re got a 30% off deal. A two-for-one deal. A special trade-in deal. Sales are no longer an event, they’re a standard. 

There are too many (cheaper) options now. You can sit at home and download from the ever-growing Long Tail-esque Steam library. Or you can buy brand new games from ozgameshop.com for less than half the price you’ll have to pay at EB. As the digital age rolls on, the physical retail shop is looking frighteningly archaic. Just selling a fantastic AAA title isn’t enough, because it’s also available online cheaper and faster.

The point I’m trying to make is that, in its current form, video game retailers will not survive. Eventually, they’ll be overtaken by their digital counterparts. They’re beaten on price, they’re beaten on convenience and they’re beaten on product range. Two thing remains to them upon which they cannot be overtaken; live social interaction and selling physical souvenirs.

For the former, I think the retailers need to stop just being a retailer; they need to be a service. For example; have a dedicated ‘lounge’ section, complete with beanbags (not chairs because beanbags are awesome) and multiple TV and console set-ups. There’s a number of things you can do with this:

(a) Just have it as a lounge section where people can just play and hang out (sort of like a mini Mana Bar).
(b) Use it to showcase hot new titles (or unappreciated lesser known titles)
(c) Troubleshoot customers on technical issues (like Apple Geniuses) 
(d) Troubleshoot customers on in-game issues, such as getting stuck on a nasty boss battle.
(e) A try before you buy service. If the games you’re selling aren’t cheap, the customers will want to be damn well sure that it’s worth their money. If it’s not quite what they’re looking for then cross-sell and recommend something else. 

The other thing is turning physical copies of games into souvenirs and collections. You also can’t just sell games as ‘only’ games anymore.  One aspect I miss is that by downloading games (and movies and albums and books) I miss out on the chance to hoard together an impressive collection of games for my shelf. But of course, I’m not rolling in money, so I can’t justify paying double the price for just the box.

Unless there’s a really cool limited edition package. I’m talking batarangs, Master Chief helmets, a gas mask and so forth. I think all games sold from now on needs some sort of cool collectible freebie. But not every copy of a game is allowed to have the same collectible. There needs to be a Kinder Surprise of videogame collectibles (which also encourages people to buy multiple copies). Maybe include multiple versions of game cases. 

Of course, I realise that this is largely a manufacturing issue, and that these collectible games could be sold online for cheaper. Therefore, each and every store needs to create their very own set of collectibles or free bonuses available only to them and their customers. Yes, it’s hard and costly. In the long-term it’s the only way. Games have to go beyond just mere physical presence, they have to become souvenirs. 

But of course, eventually collectibles will become standard and online retailers may start including their own. Doesn’t that mean that in order to remain collection-worthy, you’ll have to up the ante on every new game release and innovate constantly?

Yes, it does. Just the way it should be.  

 

Strategic Limitation For Profit

Social Networks and indie movies teach us a valuable lesson: popularity begets popularity. Facebook and hit movies works better to more people talk about it. But what if you don’t have the budget to launch everywhere at once, or the product is the first of its category and will need time to permeate your niche?

Set limits as to who can use it.

Facebook launched first only within Harvard University where half the student population used it within a month. This simulated the “everyone uses it” attraction within that smaller market. Once it had it dominated, they expanded to Stanford, Columbia and Yale. Word spread and they went from there.

Two of the greatest sleeper hits of the decade “Slumdog Millionaire” and “King’s Speech” both had limited release, meaning that they only launched on a couple of hundred cinemas (as opposed to the typical thousands) in a specified geographic area. Once the word had spread about these movies, national release followed, then eventually the films were unleashed upon the world.

Even Google+ had a small launch, with access to the website only allowed at first through private invitations.

Having a loosely scattered customer base makes it hard to hit the Tipping Point. Start small, then dominate.