Its Their Ego, Stupid

Here’s a basic training principle for you: Enhance people’s self-esteem.

Enhance their self-esteem? Don’t they already know they hold the power of life and death over my business?

Of course they know. What they don’t know is that you respect their power. Here’s how to show them. I said “show,” not “tell.” They’ve heard how wonderful we think they are when we want their eyeballs, clicks, and, best of all, their money. Now we have to prove it.

Information is valuable, and the web rule is that it’s free, The Wall Street Journal’s policy notwithstanding. Your ROI predicament is how to find something of value to give away free so that it returns a profit to you, and there are ways to do that.

Your site must contain information that can be valuable to your visitors, whether they stumble upon it on your site or have been wise enough to let it find them through your opt-in newsletter. You do offer an opt-in newsletter, right? Larry Chase (“Don’t Just Stand There: Start Your Email Newsletter“) tells us “Offering good information is a relatively inexpensive inducement” to frequent your site.

Offering the title and the opening of a juicy info-bit on your home page or through your newsletter entices readers deeper into your site. Once they know you’re a source of regularly updated info, they’re yours. But you knew that.

Providing readers “fresh, hot” information can be time-consuming for your staff… if you assign it to somebody. Try this: Make it a contest. Staffers give the newsletter editor info-morsels they think your users would find tasty. The person who contributed the info that pulled the highest hit rate that month gets a goodie. Let your corporate culture decide what that reward is and, no, it can’t be that green, fuzzy “culture” growing at the back of the break-room refrigerator.

Another source of what’s interesting to readers is the readers. Remember all that wonderful hype about the web being so interactive? Turn that verbal compost into a healthy crop of info-bits.

Recycle what they tell you in feedback, in calls to your customer service line, in email, in your chat room. When you can identify the contributors, ask for permission to identify them in the newsletter give credit where it’s due. They’ll get a rush out of seeing their name in print, they’ll brag to their friends, and their friends will get jealous and want to contribute something worthy of getting their own names in print.

Me, too me, too me, too!

Before you know it, your newsletter has become viral. Kathleen Riley, in “What Makes It Viral?” insists that the message must be perceived as having value. What can be more valuable to someone seeking his or her 15 minutes of fame than name recognition? Hold out that carrot. Besides, acknowledging a contributor is the right thing to do.

Kathleen also defines viral marketing as “an integral part of a campaign strategy that is used to achieve objectives,” so you “craft your message or offer in a manner such that it encourages pass-along… Offer something worthy of sharing.” Useful information is just such a benefit. It also happens to build user trust.

In a finely crafted example of using the very principle we’re considering, the E-Commerce Times (ECT) offers up a web demographic factoid I think you can use, so I’m passing it along here, with a link to the article. In fact, because I’ve provided several useful links, I’m betting you’ll send this article to others, not the single articles, because the page your eyeballs are on right now has the greater value.

Welcome to my virus. (What? You thought I was altruistic?) But it’s a good virus. Pop over to the ECT to find out who is emerging as the biggest buying boom and how many there are in this demographic. Hint: When you get there, you’ll know why I (the everywoman consumer from hell) sent you.

Along with the stats about which consumers are shopping, how often they shop, and what they shop for, there’s one ECT info-chunk in there that earns play right here. If you’re wondering why you should fill online shoppers brains with more than “buy here, buy now” propaganda, the fact is that they’re getting smarter anyway. “More than 68 percent of online shoppers said that they researched products online and then made their purchases at a brick-and-mortar store. It is not too far-fetched to assume that as shoppers gain increased experience researching products on the Net, more of them will take the next step and buy online.”

From whom will they buy? From the site they trust. Why will they trust? Because you give them enough knowledge to make an informed choice. Making them smart is a smart thing to do.

And you’re smart, right? So think about next week’s topic: Knowledge is power. What does that imply you should do with the customer knowledge you gather so you can make them into better customers? That’s your homework.

Recess: If it’s later than 10 a.m., you need to take a break. Deskercise of the day: your fingers. (All of them. Not just the one you use when somebody cuts you off in traffic. If you’re my age, take two ibuprofen and wait 20 minutes.)

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