You CAN Be Too Rich

Long ago and far away, a friend who sold IT solutions to the Feds proclaimed that he always wanted to be on the trailing edge of technology. He wanted to be on the plane. He even wanted to be on the wing. But what he did not want to do was be on the bleeding edge.

When it comes to rich media, is that the bleeding edge? And is the email marketing approach the trailing edge?

Or is that a Luddite’s view? Well, that depends.

The Dilemma

The dilemma for anyone in a technical field is how and when to introduce new technology that initially only a few users can utilize. We in the marketing business, of course, face this issue when it comes to the kind of ads presented to the final user. Do we create an ad campaign that only a few have the bandwidth to appreciate?

I personally operate from different sites, with widely varying line capacity. I was at one of the slower sites (standard 28) and accessed a communication company that started their homepage with a 300KB rich media graphic.

With nothing on the screen to identify the company, I sat and watched a small graphic spin in the center of the page for what seemed like forever. When it finally displayed, it was cute and all. But it did not lend itself to the reasons that I, or anybody else, would be going there. Unless, of course, the user is looking to create that precise kind of graphic.

It was annoying. At that site, they are looking for business-to-business applications, and that may make the difference for them. I tend to be more on the consumer end, and consumers have less access to bandwidth. All of which leads me to the topic of target audiences.

Aim At The Primary Target

The value of complex rich media directly relates to the line speed of the user. Many target audiences are deep into the web, running their own sites or actually using it in their day-to-day business. They are much more likely to have the available bandwidth, and also have the pre-disposition to want to see rich media as a bleeding-edge application. This audience, as a target, seems to make a lot of sense.

On the other hand, the everyday home consumer doesn’t usually have that kind of capacity. A recent posting on one of the web marketing listservs was from a person in our business that was railing at people that are not up to date: Get a “real” computer; get a “real” ISP; get “real” line speed. That opinion spits in face of any user who buys your product. It would be nice if everyone was always completely current, but it isn’t my job to make that be the case. I only want them to buy something from me.

My Friend On The Trailing Edge

His concern was that he had to bid a fixed price to deliver a product. There was no room in the budget for experimentation; not on everyday systems. In that instance, going with a known answer that works was more profitable than developing an answer that was untried, or that exceeded the customer’s ability to use it.

As online marketers, we face some of the same issues. For most of us, everything costs something, and money is an issue. So are results an issue. Balancing the trade-off between rich media and a more mundane email newsletter, for example, is an exercise that each site must conduct for themselves. To the extent that the target audience is “bandwidth challenged,” then the more mundane approach may produce better actual results.

By the way, he made a pile of money using his trailing edge approach.

Launching New Technology

Timing on when to make the move has never occurred in one blinding flash. Color TV, CDs, VHS, Windows, and soon-to-be HDTV all came into their own, and the marketers seemed to know intuitively how and when to sell and produce the new technology. Imagine the challenge of selling CDs when no one had CD players.

What seems to happen is that the bleeding edge turns into the trailing edge over time, and in front of our noses. As the technology becomes more widespread, and is available to an ever growing segment of the population, the old bleeding edge is replaced by a new one.

As for my friend, he was always in the situation of selling systems that worked, were sort of up-to-date, and had a very low probability of failure.

Money In The Bank

Because I propose less bleeding edge answers, does that make me a Luddite? I don’t think so. But I do not place technical cuteness over the practicality of getting an ad message in front of the consumer of your information.

What is most important is results. That’s money in the bank.

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