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Still Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?

  |  March 31, 2006   |  Comments

A new book persuasively posits that customers are less inclined to respond like Pavlov's dogs than like finicky felines.

Since e-commerce was in its infancy, the Eisenberg brothers (Bryan and Jeffrey) have been beacons of a rare sanity that took way too long to permeate mainstream marketing practice. Their outlook on e-commerce marketing could be rather flippantly summarized as: It's not the clicks. It's the conversions.

ClickZ's readers have long been familiar with Bryan's hundreds of columns for this publication, and many are aware of his and Jeffrey's New York Times Best Seller, "Call to Action."

In their forthcoming book, "Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?" (subtitled "Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing"), the Eisenbergs apply many of the Web site design principles discussed in "Call to Action" to the much broader marketing landscape -- without leaving interactive marketing behind for a moment.

"Are you waiting for your customers to respond the way they used to?" ask Bryan and Jeff, almost rhetorically. "Customers today behave more like cats than Pavlov's pooch... Cats are aloof, indifferent and self-indulgent... Cats are solitary and act in ways that benefit themselves."

What to Do About "It's About the Customer"

The book's premise is deceptively simple: the marketing model as we've always known it is breaking down. No surprise there. Customers call the shots, not advertisers or marketers. We know that, too.

Where "Cat" differs is it address very tangibly the customer-centric strategies marketers can adopt to tackle marketing in a customer-centric era. The book addresses branding, word of mouth, consumer-generated media, the friction between marketing and sales, metrics, analysis, ROI (define), AIDA, and the Eisenbergs' favorite topics: persuasion architecture and the creation of personas to aid the marketing process.

The chapters on creating personas, wireframing, and generally mapping and creating persuasion architecture will doubtless be familiar to readers of Bryan's column. Marketers seriously interesting in executing these concepts will find it more than convenient to have the information available in book form. The tome also contains extensive information on analysis, optimization, and marketing accountability, taking concepts such as AIDA and Six Sigma into account.

Another concept familiar to long-time ClickZ readers is the creation of personas. In "Cat," the authors cleverly differentiate between "personalization" and "persona-lization."

Bryan and Jeff mix business wisdom and strategy with plenty of I've-been-there-too anecdotes from the consumer perspective about bad persuasion, woeful customer service, lacking information, and difficult buying processes. Marketers are consumers, too. It's hard not to empathize with Jeff's attempt to find a La-Z-Boy sofa on the company Web site to no avail, only to find himself a few days later driving past a nearby La-Z-Boy retail store that the site told him nothing about. That one's particularly sobering among all the sobering facts and figures in the book; 41 percent of shoppers get their information from stores, 38 percent from Web sites.

There are the telephone reps who intone, "I hope I was able to answer your questions today," after you posed only one query -- which they were unable to answer.

Branding, when you're trying to sell to cats, is more about what you do than what you say, claims the book. "The experience has become the brand," say the authors, "it's about experience... theirs."

Not only will this book help make better marketers, it will also provide assurance to marketers who feel alone and adrift in a confusing, challenging new world.

Baby steps are not only permitted, but encouraged. Persuasion architecture, the authors argue convincingly, "is a methodology that, even when applied in smaller, less-than-ideal pieces, will still improve any persuasive system. Tackling these principles one at a time is a reasonable place to start."

"Please do try this at home," urge Bryan and Jeff. "The only wrong response to this book is no response at all."

"Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," with a forward by Yahoo VP of brand marketing Murray Gaylord, publishes on June 13. The book will include a DVD containing filmed interviews with the authors and guest experts, as well as the entire text in PDF format.

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Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca was previously VP, U.S. operations of Econsultancy, an independent source of advice and insight on digital marketing and e-commerce. Earlier, she held executive marketing and communications positions at strategic e-services companies, including Siegel & Gale, and has worked in the same capacity for global entertainment and media companies, including Universal Television & Networks Group (formerly USA Networks International) and Bertelsmann's RTL Television. As a journalist, she's written on media for numerous publications, including "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal." Rebecca spent five years as Variety's Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Rebecca also taught at New York University's Center for Publishing, where she also served on the Electronic Publishing Advisory Group. Rebecca, author of "The Truth About Search Engine Optimization," was ClickZ's editor-in-chief for over seven years.

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