A Rose By Any Other Name

The excellent thread on the Google IPO in the Forums got me looking at that very long SEC Submission. Despite the expensive lawyers, they seemed to have missed an important point, or perhaps it’s rather an exclamation mark. Their competitor isn’t Yahoo, it’s Yahoo!. Of course, that isn’t Google’s problem. I raise it here because it’s a fundamental problem that so many companies just don’t get. It causes them so much trouble and reduces their effectiveness in this Internet world.

The problem was that when Yahoo! tried to acquire its trademark, others had already trademarked Yahoo. If you check it out with the US Trademarks office you will find among others the following Yahoo trademarks:

EBSCO Industries has the trademark Yahoo for: Knives, namely hunting knives, hunting and fishing protective eyeglasses, and other sporting goods.

OLD TOWN CANOE CO. has the trademark Yahoo for: human propelled watercraft; namely, kayaks and canoes

Yahoo is also a trademark for barbecue sauce. At least this one has now been acquired by Yahoo! I wonder how that fits into the master plan!

With enough money and energy, you can do anything. So by now, we all know what Yahoo means, exclamation mark or not. However there is a better way. If you find someone else already “owns” the name as a trademark, then perhaps you should continue to look for another name.

The most ludicrous example of name choosing was done by one of the biggest global consultancy groups. PwC ConsultingTM, a business of PricewaterhouseCoopers, decided they wanted to change their name to give some distance between the consulting and accounting divisions. So what did they come up with? Monday. Yes, I’m not joking. Can you imagine the confusion that can create? They should have realized when they tried to gain it as a trademark. They succeeded but for very precisely defined trade uses. Imagine how difficult is the task of trying to get visibility for your company name on the Internet with that name. You can study more on this crazy endeavour in one of the SMM Newsletters, For More Sales Call Your Company MONDAY. Luckily shortly after this name was adopted, IBM bought the company and the mistake was buried.

For a more detailed analysis of the Yahoo! name, see SWOT That Company Name.
POW! – Surprise Or Entertainment

… The Devil Made Me Do It!

Today I issued the SMM April Newsletter. It isn’t what I intended to write about. It’s been a stimulating month with many intriguing ideas floating about. However the idea I had during the early part of the month was bumped by two events that occurred within 24 hours. After that I just had to switch to another idea.

The SMM Newsletters push out many ideas on how to make more selling-effective websites. As I am in contact with potential clients, I find many value what they find in the newsletters. Yet one of these had a new website developed very recently and there it is in FRAMES. How could they? Well they put their faith in their website designer.

Within 24 hours of that, I was working with an internal web designer from one of my clients. I had already set out the ground rules for the website development including no frames. Given a technical problem, the designer suggested that perhaps frames would provide the easiest solution. He knew I would be opposed, but gave as justification that one of the largest website design companies locally seemed to work mostly in frames.

This coincidence triggered another thought when I noticed it is almost 40 years since Ralph Nader wrote his critical book on the automobile industry and the hazardous vehicles they were producing. I could see parallels between attractive automobiles and attractive websites. I could also see a divide between website owners and website designers. The owners are often old enough to remember Ralph Nader and what he tried to do. The much younger designers may only see Ralph Nader as another presidential hopeful in the USA. So with a little tongue in cheek, I’ve issued the latest Newsletter, “Is Your Website ‘Unsafe At Any Speed’ “.

The pace of technology – is it too fast for you?

In thinking about the theme of my next newsletter, I got to thinking about the pace at which technology grows. Why do we get higher versions of any software? So many were happy with Windows 98. On it goes, Windows ME, Windows 2000 and now Windows XP. Then I noticed a recent article that was a great illustration of my thought. Apparently Microsoft is unhappy about the rate of corporate acceptance of Windows XP. Well surprise, surprise!

Of course, in an excellent book, “The Customer-Centered Enterprise, How IBM and Other World-class Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results by Putting Customers First”, Microsoft was rated at the Product-Driven end of the scale rather than the Customer-Centric end of the scale. Isn’t that just the truth? Microsoft is a company that is driven by the capabilities of the technology? .. and if you’re employed by Microsoft, spend most of your time with people employed by Microsoft, eat, drink, breathe Microsoft, it’s tough to not be product-driven. Customer-centric is really tough. How can you get into the mindset of a customer? What do customers really want?

It’s not just Microsoft. Just think how often you have some device that works perfectly fine and it’s upgraded. The upgrade features are minimal but in the best case, one or two are nice to have. So upgrade follows upgrade. Then they stop supporting the older versions so you have to upgrade. You may think it’s all a clever marketing plot to get more money out of you. However in a Permission Marketing world that’s somewhat dumb. If you irritate the customers, you leave the door open for some competitor to sneak in.

My own guess is that many companies aren’t really manipulative. They’re so product driven that they go at the pace that technology allows, not at the pace that customers are looking for new benefits. If only they were more customer-centric,then they would undoubtedly have better product development and more profitable sales growth.

IMC 2004 – Footnote – the most memorable quotation

One of the most memorable items for me from IMC 2004 will be a quotation. There are very few quotations that will pass the test of time. Some seem good at the time but are forgotten. One for me that is never far from my thoughts is one by Peter Drucker. “Help is defined by the recipient.” That’s about 50 years old but I still find situations where it is very appropriate.

I heard a quotation for the very first time at IMC 2004 and it struck me as a phrase that will persist. Christine Perfetti, User Interface Engineering, mentioned it in her session. I believe it’s Jared Spool of UIE who coined it. “The Back Button Is The Button Of Death”. Several members of the audience immediately showed this was a phrase they knew well. For me, it was a revelation.

Just 8 words but what a message is conveyed. “The Back Button Is The Button Of Death”. Yet it’s something that anybody with a slight familiarity with computers may well not even think about. You are exploring a website and suddenly you end up on a web page that is not where you wish to be. So you right click your mouse to find the Back option or click on the Back Arrow at the top of the screen. You hardly think about it. For you it was at most a minor irritation. For a computer newby, it could indeed be the Button of Death.

Navigating a website should be natural. A clear path should be visible and apparent. Asking visitors to use the Back button is an admission of defeat: there is always an easier way.

Well yes and no. What about PDF files? If a site has a link to a PDF file, then this may be a path where the Back Button is the only way back. Usually it can be a real challenge to find the best way to do this. With the philosophy that the Back Button is the Button of Death, clearly PDF files in websites must be avoided.

Given the speed of change in this Internet world, it is highly unlikely that in 50 years, Jared Spool’s quotation will still be valid. However it is certainly a quotation that I will be using often in the next few years.

IMC 2004 – Mitch Joel's Pizza Test for Websites

Mitch Joel of TwistImage, Montreal, was one of the many exciting speakers at IMC 2004. However we learned of his pizza test for websites in a workshop on Usability that he was cohosting. He was encouraging the audience to get real people to check out a company’s website. Offer them a piece of pizza to encourage them to take part and then watch how they interact with the website, he suggested.

Sounds like a plan, eh! However it really sparked a whole series of related thoughts in my mind. Usually in market research studies, it is regarded as questionable practice to offer inducements for people to take part since this may influence their reactions. My mind wandered on to muse about websites that would perhaps exude attractive smells to keep people’s interest. In turn, this lead me to think about the degree of commitment that a website visitor might have in the website. Should this in some way have a bearing on how we do Usability tests of websites?

If someone is keenly interested in the subject of a website, then they may be willing to work harder to search out information they are looking for. If someone is rapidly surfing a number of websites, then different Usability criteria may apply. So who should you have in mind as you think through the Usability issues around a website? Should it be the highly committed individual who will work hard to find information? Or should it be the low commitment individual who will click to another website if it is proving difficult to find what they are looking for?

How can you try to understand how that low commitment individual might surf? One intriguing toy was the Google Slide Viewer . This would take you through a slide-show of the websites for any keyword phrase. You could set the speed of the slide show and it really was very instructive. However, although the introductory page is still there, the Slide Viewer has not been operative for a number of weeks. If it does return, you may find the results instructive in suggesting how a low-commitment individual might surf.

Even without that demo, we can still try to grapple with this issue. It is quite clear that if someone is keenly interested in the website then they should have zero difficulty in finding the information they want. That is a minimum requirement for Usability of a website.

However suppose initially someone has low commitment to your website. They are equally interested in your website or perhaps one of the competitive websites. If that person does happen to land on any web page of the website, ideally you want to keep them on the website and help them move towards the moment of decision. Even though they start off with a low commitment to the website, the information they receive may turn them into visitors of high interest. Such a person clearly is the biggest challenge as the target audience for any website. Nevertheless it is the right person to have in mind as the key individual for whom the website is designed. If the website works for them, then it will usually work even more effectively for anyone with a high commitment to the website.

Related: Bell Canada Website Usability

IMC 2004 – A website is a website is a website.

Helicoptering the IMC 2004, one impression that hit me was the different perspectives of the speakers and the majority of the audience members. The speakers are accustomed to dealing with websites of 1000’s of pages. Many members of the audience were business owners dealing with websites with less than 50 pages.

Any website is complex and different people will see different aspects as being important. It’s almost like those 6 blind men touching different parts of the elephant and trying to describe what they’re feeling. (It’s a tree trunk. It’s a wall. It’s a hose. etc.) My mental picture of this assembly is of 12 blind men. 6 of them are around a huge African elephant and trying to explain to the others what they perceive. The other 6 are grouped around a sleek antelope and trying to explain what they perceive. Clearly the confusion may be even greater than if a website was always the same entity.

A natural question then becomes, “What can either group of 6 blind men learn from the other group?” To use a technical term, what are the scaleable features that apply to both. Scaleable is defined as follows, “A scaleable system is capable of growing through additions of modular increments, without necessitating major modification to the original system.”

My own view is that one of the most important scaleable features is one that the antelope group will more easily recognize than the elephant group. This was illustrated by a fascinating question and response that was raised about an IBM website.

The most scaleable feature for me is created by something that is both a strength and a weakness of the Internet. This is the hyperlink. It is so easy to create another web page and give a hyperlink to that web page from your starting web page. Not surprisingly, if a website is being constructed by a committee the easiest resolution of a conflict is to add more hyperlinks so that everyone is somewhat satisfied.

The discussion at one Search Engine Optimization session at the IMC 2004 got on to why IBM has a problem getting good SE rankings for some of its desired keywords. You can illustrate this by a search for – notebook computers. I’ve just done a Google search and the first IBM page that comes up for Thinkpad is #75. An IBM representative acknowledged they had a problem in coordinating the efforts of different work groups working on different web pages. They had realized this and were now working on methods to overcome this problem.

So what is the most scaleable feature? My vote goes for, “Focus, focus, focus”. What is the competitive advantage you’re offering to your potential customer in your target niche? The antelope group relates to this almost instinctively. The elephant group may only see it when they run into problems caused by their lack of focus.

IMC 2004 – Customer-centric is not just being Customer-focused

Customer-centric and 1-to-1 marketing are becoming the preferred descriptions for websites that are designed for today’s market place. Both terms were widely used in different sessions throughout the 3 days of IMC 2004. However as I tried to get that “helicopter vision” of what the phrase Customer-centric really means to this crowd, I see it isn’t what I mean.

Customer-centric is now often used to mean a rifle-shot approach to contact customers rather than the shotgun approach of traditional marketing. The phrase Customer-focused could work equally well for most marketers. However Customer-centric means something radically different from Customer-focused.

It’s a question of perspective. First you’ve got to realize that no two people ever see things the same. That’s true even if they’re sitting at the same side of the table. When you come to a seller and a buyer, they’re on completely opposite sides of the table. Customer-centric means trying to somehow put yourself “inside the skin” of the customer and see the situation from that perspective.

Adopting a customer-centric viewpoint is almost impossible for someone in a marketing department. They live within the company culture, and receive many communications of all types from the company to solidify their company-centric view. The potential customer has had all sorts of different impressions derived from competitors, news media, government agencies and yes, a few from the company.

Some of these impressions of the company may have been received in unexpected ways. Perhaps the customer tried to telephone the company and suffered the typical frustrations that so many companies create. Perhaps a neighbour had a bad experience with the company and is broadcasting this to everyone they know. Perhaps it’s something very much simpler. It’s now a Permission Marketing world and the customer expects to be in control. Those intrusive pop-ups on the company’s website may have a very negative impact on some customers.

For a marketing plan to be truly customer-centric, you really must try to get that perspective that a customer has. It may take an outsider to be able to play back to the company how a customer may really be seeing the company. That outside perspective on the company is the only true version of the customer-centric view of what the company is offering.

… and now for something completely different.

This week, a most amazing coincidence occurred. My brother, John Welford, in Edinburgh has worked on a Map for Brainware and he let me know that he was thinking of launching it with the name, BWMap. That stands for BrainWare Map. It is a resource used in Creative Learning and other related processes. This blog started off with the name, BWrap, so if it had still borne that name, just imagine the confusion.

I did a little Google work and suggested that BWMap was already used somewhat. Better by far to try to find a unique name. So the BrainWareMap was born. So here’s a Creative Learning resource, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Helicopter Vision on IMC 2004

IMC 2004 ran for three days last week here in Montreal. It was a valuable experience with thought-provoking speakers and a knowledgeable international audience. Sometimes such an event can trigger “new thoughts” in your mind. It certainly did for me. In some cases, these thoughts arise by applying “Helicopter Vision”.

“Helicopter Vision” is a term that I always heard was coined in Shell Oil many years back. It describes the ability to view from on high some situation and see in sharp outline the right “big picture”. From IMC 2004, there were three “thoughts” that came to me like that, which I will describe in upcoming items. The 4th item I will add thereafter is just a striking phrase that one speaker said that got me thinking.

Helicopter Vision is a very useful skill. An analogy I use for the same thing is the way an eagle flies high with extremely keen vision to spot what is really going on at ground level. It’s all part of better thinking processes. Those interested can read more in one of my papers on How To Think Better.

7th International Internet Marketing Conference – Montreal – Final Day Report

The IMC 2004 concluded today and from a straw poll of some of the participants they found it a most practical conference with excellent speakers. It was just the right size for great networking opportunities with an interesting group of international Internet marketers. OK it slipped a little on time-keeping but sometimes that was because an audience wouldn’t let a speaker go! That was made even more difficult by a format where often there were 3 sessions running in parallel. Today again covered the full array of issues associated with Internet marketing. Indeed some related to strategic issues that might have been better on the first day, since they must be tackled first for maximum effectiveness.

Two fine presentations from Mitch Joel, TwistImage, and Rupert Ravens, Nices.com, brought out in very different ways the need for a strong core identity that outshines the competition and meets the needs of clients. Another thought provoking talk was given by Jonathan Cohen, Shapiro Cohen, who is a Board Director of ICANN. He alerted the audience to the potential traps in the area of Domain Names and Trademarks, particularly in international markets. Other topics covered were Usability, Competing in Local and Global markets, Promotional Contests, Competitive Intelligence, and Hiring Vendors/Winning the Job. There were a number of innovative ideas today, perhaps the most intriguing being Pay-per-Call. This is a new service now being offered by FindWhat.com, which Rick Szatkowski described.

Congratulations on this well received Conference must go to Lennart Svanberg, who assembled this group of fine speakers, and to Robert Swick.