Grok was from Mars. There was no doubt whatever about
that. His arrival was duly noted and registered by the
various authorities at NASA and the governmental agencies
associated with Immigration and Naturalization. This must
be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of
the story I am going to relate.
e-commerce guru Ebenezer Marketer followed news of The
Grok's arrival. He read the Martian decided to hook up
with Future Now, a consultancy passionately advocating the
application of traditional offline sales techniques to the
wild, wooly and entirely new frontiers of commerce on The
Internet. "Traditional sales techniques?
Bah-humbug!" Marketer blathered as he proceeded to
overwhelm his staff with demands to devise many new and
improved forms of e-mail, banner advertising and
newsletter campaigns, and to research the latest
bleeding-edge technological innovations.
December day, one of E. Marketer's clients called on him.
Tiny Tom? What can I do for you?" Marketer continued
at his calculations, paying little real attention to his
me for bothering you, Sir Guru, but the wife freshly made
these Christmas cookies. The family's quite amazed with
our Stick Shoppe being on The Internet and all. To think
our sticks, canes, walking supports and umbrellas can now
be available to anyone anywhere." Then his voice
trailed off, “Even though it’s nearly paupered us so
Marketer waved a casual hand at Tiny Tom, ignoring his
last comment and indicating where he might place the plate
of cookies. "And so they should be amazed! And
imagine how much more amazed they'll be when we add this
new layer of technology to your website." He turned
to his computer, called up a program and demonstrated an
animation of an umbrella that opened and pirouetted on the
screen. "This is just a small part of what we have in
mind for your online 3-D store. Next best thing to being
there, Tom," he said with the certainty of an
astronomer predicting the sun will rise.
… yes. That would certainly be … novel. Can't say as
I've seen anything like it."
Tom hesitated, "But that's going to cost,
Tom. That's what these savvy online shoppers crave. Sure,
it's going to cost something up front. But you'll recover
that and more in no time
when the profits start rolling in like never
before. You'll see."
it's about those profits, now that you mention it. I don't
think we've turned one yet. Sales just don't seem to be
what they ought to be, and I keep getting the feeling I
ought to be selling these folks, helping them along …
like I'd do in my real store. And with my current closing
ratios, I can't see how I'm going to manage paying for
this 'new layer of technology'. There's little enough now,
I'm not even sure I'll be able to bring home a Christmas
turkey for the missus."
Tom. Traffic is the key. And the more cool stuff you show
people, the more traffic you’ll get, don’t you see?
That’s why you’re lucky to have an expert like me
helping you. Besides, you can't 'sell' people on the web
… you've got to lure them." He dragged out the word
'lure' as if he were trolling for dupes. "I'll have
the design boys work up that 3-D store concept, and we'll
have it on the site by end of the week. Then you can sit
back, put your feet up and watch the money roll in."
Marketer cut short any further discussion by clapping Tiny
Tom on the shoulder and escorting him out the door. As he
returned to his calculations of click-through rates, he
shook his head and muttered again, "Sales techniques?
night, E. Marketer climbed into bed with a mug of warm
milk and the latest issue of The Annals of Advertising,
which contained an article on targeting banner ads so they
reached the right eyeballs. During a passage about
incorporating Flash, he drifted off to sleep.
Marketer woke suddenly to find a short, green creature
with five eyeballs tapping him on the arm.
dude!" His smile reached all the way out to where his
ears would have been if he had any.
Marketer blinked. "I know you from somewhere."
He blinked and looked again. "You're that Grok thing
just now I'm the Spirit of Commerce Past. I've got some
cool stuff to show you." The Spirit held out his
got a busy day tomorrow. Call my secretary and schedule an
appointment, would you? Maybe we can do lunch." E.
Marketer rolled over dismissively.
The Spirit sounded irreverently cheerful. "The fun's
just starting, Ebbie. Let's go." The Spirit took E.
Marketer's arm and led him into an ethereal mist.
are we?" E. Marketer pinched himself to make certain
he was awake.
are in the past, Eb. I'm here to show you what commerce
has always been about." And with that, the Spirit
escorted E. Marketer through a history of sales. They
witnessed the early practice of barter, the specialization
of vendors, the emergence of a money economy. The Spirit
toured E. Marketer through the development of centralized
markets, then retail stores, road shows, door-to-door
sales, direct mail and telemarketing. The Spirit pointed
out the various technological advances along the way that
aided seller-buyer communications, from smoke signals and
lights to the telegraph, telephone, television, fax and
finally, the personal computer.
now and then, the Spirit stopped so E. Marketer could
overhear conversations. He listened to customers asking
lots of questions that salespeople happily answered. He
saw the smiles on the faces of buyers as they left with
parcels in hand, feeling confident of their purchases.
Along the way, the Spirit pointed out dynamic examples of
the critical five steps that comprise the sales process.
returned to E. Marketer's bedroom. Crossing his arms and
tapping his toe on the carpet, he frowned at the Spirit.
"So what was all that supposed to be about?"
Eb. That's what commerce is all about." The Spirit
smiled broadly. " I know it's strange, but even after
all those years, humans still cling to their basic ways of
thinking about and doing things. They've got needs, Ebbie.
They want to buy, and they want to be sold. They like
getting nose-to-nose; they want to feel there's an
understanding human somewhere on the other end of the
exchange. They want information, persuading, reassurance.
They want to trust the dude they buy from."
Marketer looked unimpressed. "Yeah? Well, it's a
brave new world out there. The Internet has changed
everything. It's revolutionized the way we do business.
People will cope."
Grok rolled three of his five eyes. "Did you notice
something real important while I was giving you the Grand
Tour? No matter what technological advance was wowing the
folks, successful business still sold to their customers
in the same
Wake up, Ebbie. Technology is only the medium; it’s not
the message. It never was. Didn’t I just show you that?
So, can I go back to bed now? As I said, tomorrow's a busy
But I gotta warn you, the show's just getting underway, Eb.
I will be followed by yet another Spirit." And with
that, the Spirit vanished.
E. Marketer crawled back into bed and dragged the covers
over his head. It seemed he had just got to sleep when he
felt another tapping on his arm. He opened his eyes and
saw the Same creature frowning over him.
Different dude. I'm the Spirit of Commerce Present."
I suppose you're going to take me somewhere." E.
Marketer made no effort to conceal his exasperation. The
Spirit nodded without brightening his own irritated
expression. E. Marketer sighed heavily, heaved himself out
of bed and the Spirit led him once more into the ethereal
here to show you what's going on around you right now, E.
Marketer. I'm going to show you the real effects of what
you do, and what you don’t do." The Spirit led him
invisibly to many homes, where Marketer watched people
trying to make online purchases. He watched a lady quit
because she couldn't read the tiny type, a man give up
because he couldn't figure out where he was supposed to go
next. There was a man who tried to download a special
plug-in to view a particular webpage, but it crashed his
system. Some folks quit because they didn't want to give
their credit card information. Others quit because they
couldn't find what they were looking for. A whole lot of
folks quit because they just got tired of waiting for
pages to load, a bunch more bailed out because they couldn’t
get help when they needed it, and still more left because
the whole thing just didn’t feel like something they
could trust. Amazingly, most people never got past the
home page, and even when they did struggle through, nobody
seemed particularly delighted about this brave new way of
shopping. In all, the Spirit took E. Marketer to 100 homes
that night, but they witnessed only 2 completed purchases.
Spirit returned E. Marketer to his bedroom.
out of a hundred. Hoo boy. You’ve really got ‘em
concerned. Excuse me for pointing out the obvious, but
you're not just failing to convert eyeballs, you're
ticking people off. They want to shop and buy, but instead
of making it easy you're making it almost impossible. And
by the way, know what the typical closing rate is in the
offline world? Fifty out of a hundred. Customers don't
want your froo-froo, and they are not going to tolerate
your techno-myopia, your careless disregard of their basic
human needs. They'll go to your competitors' websites and
if that fails, they'll go back to the real world where
business people know how to sell in a way that makes them
feel comfortable, valued, even delighted."
Marketer began to look a little shaken. The Green Spirit
continued urgently, "Those folks don't come back. Not
only do they not come back, but they tell lots of
other folks about their crummy experience. I don't need to
tell you those folks don't even bother coming in the first
place. And how long do you think your clients are gonna
keep paying you big bucks before they get wise to the fact
their closing rates never budge?
Marketers lower lip started to tremble. “Tell me,
Spirit, is there any hope, or is it all lost?”
a lot of stuff you could be doing that would make much
better use of your clients' money. There's lots of
information about how people like being sold. As a matter
of fact, there's
even an archive that would help you
turn this situation around! I'll be happy to show you the
Marketer looked like a dog left out in the rain. The
Spirit patted him on the head. "Well, that's my bit
for the night. Another Spirit's gonna be along a little
Marketer's eyes widened and he shook his head, "I
don't think I'm going to care much for
yet another Spirit."