Great moral, yet traditional businesses have had to learn
it over and over again. Now, with so many ďfirst moversĒ
biting the dust, I think itís time for those of us in
this brave new world of e-commerce to finally absorb the
lesson those other businesses, following in the footsteps
of that cocky rabbit, had to swallow.
seem to value being really fast and getting there first,
even though neither one guarantees long-term success.
In an article that had me clapping, Jim Collins writes,
recently met with the CEO of a hot Internet company
who described his concept for competing on the Web:
"It's a big land rush," he explained.
"It's all about being the first to build critical
mass and create a brand name." Then, in a bizarre
twist, he admitted that his company's Web site didn't
work all that well and that customers might be
disappointed by their early experiences. Ö His
strategy hinged on one simplistic idea: be there fast,
be there first, and you win.1
think of Internet time as a kind of speed-of-light game;
if you can't get it together in the next 15 minutes
(better to have got it together yesterday), you are dead
in the water. Someone else will get there first, faster.
So, the illogic goes, someone else will win. If you think
youíre lost because somebody got there first, wouldnít
you love to hear me say, ďIt ain't soĒ? Well, "It
fast and first is all too often its own liability.
There are lots of others out there, biding their time,
learning from your mistakes, and making plans to do the
job even better. You know how to recognize the pioneers,
donít you? Theyíre the ones with all the arrows in
their backs. Collins's article is full of great examples
from the archives of business history. VisiCalc, the first
computer spreadsheet, lost out to Lotus, which lost out to
Excel Ö and the company that developed VisiCalc doesn't
even exist anymore. The first PCís came from Sol, and
Altair and a dozen other names now long-forgotten. The
first portable computers came from companies like Osborne
Computer (also extinct). Apple had one of the first
handheld personal computers (the now ubiquitous Personal
Digital Assistant), but who remembers the Newton? Today,
everyone calls them "palm pilots" the way they
call tissues "Kleenex" (in case youíve been
visiting me on Mars, Palm Pilotô is 3Com's PDA).
wasn't first in the computer market (remember Univac?).
Boeing wasn't first in commercial aviation (remember De
Haviland's Comet?) And Hewlett-Packard's Personal Computer
Group took 17 years to top the PC market. Are you getting
the idea? "It doesn't really matter who gets there
first, so long as you figure out a way to produce a better
solution, doggedly persist in bringing that solution to
the world, and continually improve," concludes
to naysayers, the "land rush" in e-commerce
isn't all that different, despite our concept of Internet
time in the world of clicking. The bottom line is the
same: customers wonít accept lengthy downloads,
confusing sites, hidden charges, obnoxious policies or
lousy service. How is it possible so many dot-coms missed
that, and still do? Yes, there is one important difference
thanks to the Internet: it puts the customer in the
driver's seat even more than before. Your customers have
an unprecedented range of choices available to them. Your
competitors are just a click away. If you donít
listen to what your customers value and want, then deliver
brilliantly, being first to market will only mean being
first to fail. To succeed out there, you need learn
from everybody and work at being best.
on. Dare to be different. Dare to be the tortoise.
See you at the finish line!
"Being the best beats being first." Jim Collins,
CNBC and The Wall Street Journal.Business on MSNBC.com. <http://www.msnbc.com/news/449953.asp>
Halloween Redux - Myths That Scare Away Sales
them the equivalent of urban legends, old wives' tales or
plain-and-simple myths -- the e-waves abound with utterly
erroneous pronouncements on the nature of Internet
commerce. But theyíre presented with the voice of
authority and often, mistakenly, are awarded further
credibility by the cold, hard fact that dot-coms are going
belly up at a rapid rate.
real truth, when it comes to the problems in e-commerce
these days and the myths that surround them, is that
websites are doing a terrible job of selling. Sure,
they are trying to sell, but they are not
performing the systematic activities an expert human
salesperson would in the real world. To put it bluntly,
most e-commerce sites actually discourage sales.
Unfortunately, instead of solving that real and
fundamental problem, most e-businesses prefer to hide
behind myths. .And those myths get in the way of even
looking for, much less finding, solutions that work even
though there are solutions that work, and work really
like to encourage you to opt-out on some of these myths.
So let's play True-or-False. If you've been paying
attention to the stuff Iíve been saying lately, I'll bet
you'll get 'em all right!
can't actually sell on our website, we can only hope
customers will buy."
Of course, it is true you can't sell anything if your
website isn't focused on sales. If all you are about is
marketing, it isn't surprising you aren't doing much
selling. But that isn't to say sales can't happen. Amazon
sells like crazy. Build your site to sell, and sales will
come. Don't think that just improving your site's
usability or customer experience is going to take you all
the way. You've got to do that, of course, but to maximize
current as well as repeat sales, youíve actually got to
employ the art and science of selling.
we increase traffic to our site, we'll increase our
Increase traffic and youíll get more visitors Ö maybe.
If you are driving them to a dead end, consider yourself
lucky if your closing ratio continues to tread water. No
amount of marketing is going to boost your closing ratio
if your site doesn't sell your customers. And the more
people you drive to a bad shopping experience with you,
the more people you lose forever (along with everyone in
their address books).
don't want to be sold."
People love to buy, and they come to your site primed with
a "propensity to buy." They want to be sold.
They just don't want to be pushed. And they don't want to
have to figure out confusing graphical interfaces or cope
with a site that forces them to navigate around forever or
wait ages for pages to load. They donít want to be
smacked with hidden charges or absurd shipping costs. They
donít want their private information shared. Is that
complicated? So, wanna disprove this myth? Redesign your
website so it leads your customers through a delightful sales
process just as an expert salesperson would in the
real world, and watch your sales explode.
want to be entertained, so we need to invest in lots of
fancy design gizmos."
Shoppers want to shop; ultimately they want to buy. Cute
and clever is not on their shopping list. Neither is slow.
Thatís not just a Grokian opinion; it is supported by
every single shopper survey ever done. Why website
developers donít read that essential information is
beyond me, and sales figures suffer as a direct result.
Most shoppers out there do not want to be distracted by
flashing this and pirouetting that, however novel and
inspired you or your developers might find it. When it
comes to sales, it's only designers and programmers who
get excited by this stuff. Customers arenít even
neutral; they donít want it. (Can you say Boo.com?)
picture is worth a thousand words."
There is a power in the word to take hold of your
customer's imagination and place him or her firmly into
the ambiance you are trying to create and sell that no
picture can accomplish. When you look at a picture, you
stay outside it; you put yourself right inside the images
created by great words. Words excite the emotions in a
very singular way. And that is one of your biggest sales
tasks: to speak to the needs your customers feel.
the way, a picture that takes forever to download is far
more likely to encourage your customers to bail rather
than buy. In which case, even a thousand great words won't
bring 'em back!
simply gotta have a search engine."
More often than not, an in-site search engine is a bad
idea and a big waste of money. Hard research has proved it
can be twice as bad as not having one at all! Instead of
thinking more technology is going to save you, think how
to shape the design of your site through a well-designed
series of links, so it effectively can lead your customers
to what they are looking for. Improving your Information
Architecture will help your sales much more than a search
name developers, designers, programmers and marketers
understand how the Internet works, so we need to do it
Falso!!! The big names have taken millions of dollars to
build some of the worst sites. They may look cool, but
they canít sell to save their lives, literally. Graphic
designers understand graphic design. Programmers
understand programming. Marketers understand marketing.
They do not understand sales! So how can they design,
program or market for sales? They canít. The only way
you should "do it" is in the way that makes your
customers happy and gets them buying. Only then will you
get the Internet working for you. Remember that other
myth, the one that said the Internet has changed
everything? How much red ink do you need before you toss
that out with the others? Online, just like offline, the
customer is still the same wonderful and quirky human she
always was, and she rules.
idea? Good. So dump those myths in the trash where they
belong, get out there and start selling!