6/03/2005

The "Value Proposition" and Web Marketing

I first started marketing on the web in 1996 when the multilevel marketing long distance reseller company that I founded needed an efficient way to communicate information to our representatives (and to the public) about "what was happening". At the time, we had produced 8,000 reps marketing long distance services, some of them making over $20,000 a month, and if the service provider that invested in my company hadn't mismanaged their finances and gone upside-down, it would most likely still be around today. (Hey, i did all the database programming in FoxPro 2.6, which, at the time, in all it's 16-bit glory, was the greatest thing since sliced bread!).

So, by Internet standards, I could be regarded as an "old-timer". But the marketing proposition techniques I learned and used then haven't changed at all. Oh, the landscape has changed, to be sure. But not "what turns people on" -- because that's human nature. I've never failed at a web marketing venture, and my standards are high. They are, in order of importance, most important first: 1) provide a bona-fide service, 2) Have FUN doing it, and 3) Make money at it! If you keep these standards in mind, and don't mess up the order of importance, YOU CANNOT FAIL.

There are really three principles in web-site marketing for business owners:

1) Your "Value Proposition" -- What's your unique selling proposition? What benefits do you offer that differentiate your business? What features or services do you offer that build value while giving you a definitive edge over the competition? Distilling your unique value proposition and communicating it quickly and clearly on your Web site is the cornerstone of profitable e-commerce Web design.

2) Your "Target Audience" -- Understanding your market -- and defining the needs of your target demographic -- is a critical component of any business enterprise. Online, you design for your target audience. Articulate meaningful benefits and orient your style and content to the context of your customers' immediate needs and desires. At our developer site, eggheadcafe.com, my partner Robbe Morris and I work constantly to analyze, re-think, and test various business elements based on well-established principles of traffic patterns, user interest, and revenues. If we try something and it is not working, we put our egoes in our back pockets and TRASH IT, fast. And, we make notes about why we think it didn't work. But, we are not afraid to try something new, even if it takes many hours of preparation and programming.

3) "Task Analysis" -- Achieving a Defined Objective. Once your value proposition is being communicated effectively to your target customer, you need a clear, focused sales process. You must analyze the components of your sales channels, provide the necessary educational steps and requisite product information, and design a Web site that optimizes action while eliminating distraction. In other words, provide a logical, sequential story that makes it easy for customers to buy from you. Customers should feel confident and secure when they arrive at that buying decision, even if it is as simple as staying on your site to view some new information, which provides you the opportunity for more ad views and potential click-thrus.

In the case of an Information site that achieve revenue production through contextual or sponsored advertising, it becomes even more important to study the market and your customers and be in a position to perform what I call "deep analysis".

Recently at eggheadcafe.com we decided to promote our messageboard forums, which are already heavily trafficked, by offering a monthly award that is shared among the "top posters". It's another experiment that I expect will work very well, becoming a win-win proposition for our visitors, members, and us, the site owner-operators. Hope you'll visit and contribute!

Recently I took some comment-poster heat from readers of my eggheadcafe.com articles about Remote Scripting technologies, which had a sarcastic tone about what I call the "AJAX clone" promoters. One poster even accused me of attempting to start a flame war. Bottom line is, it violates my standards. One should never have to justify one's annoyance at people who, having no real stake in the evolution of a technology or technique, misappropriate it, give it a new name and act "as if" they invented it, and then proceed to hype it for gain. This is an example of the comment-poster heat, which, to me, is almost incomprehensible! :

"I stumble on your articles every now and then. It seems you like always take a very arrogant tone. I am glad that you understand the code and can boil it down to the real underlying technologies. Usally the articles are decent. This one however went over the top. If you don''t want comments like this then don''t start the flame war Hamburger boy. Yes I am an anonymous coward. Attack the technology don''t sneer. Remote Scripting can be knocked down by itself."

"It seems you like always take a very arrogant tone". -- I've written over 200 short articles on eggheadcafe.com alone. How many of these have "a very arrogant tone"?
"Attack the technology don't sneer" -- I wasn't attacking the technology. I was WRITING ABOUT IT, with examples!
"Remote Scripting can be knocked down by itself" -- I was PROMOTING Remote Scripting, dude!