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People don’t read in a predictable, orderly way.

People don’t read in a predictable, orderly way.
That is number ten in a list of fifteen called ‘Powerful Psychological Secrets of Direct Mail.’  Sounds interesting huh!  Anyways why I am bringing up number ten here?  Because it is the first one that I read.

The actual paragraph says, “People seldom read in a linear fashion, beginning to end.  They skip around, try to find meaning quickly, and usually don’t read closely unless they are interested.”

Why did I go directly to this one part of the list?  It was in the middle of the page, but it does not jump out any more than any of the others.  The others are not significantly more or less interesting or valuable.  I randomly stopped on this one, and it happened to describe exactly what I was doing.

So apparently randomly reading portions of papers and emails is closer to the norm than I thought.

Two battling lemonade stands

There are two lemonade stands.  The first has a couple kids giving you some warm lemon koolaid and charge you a buck for it.  The second stand is much better.

The other stand is different. The lemonade is free, but there’s a big tip jar. When you pull up, the owner of the stand beams as only a proud eleven year old girl can beam. She takes her time and reaches into a pail filled with ice and lemons. She pulls out a lemon. Slices it. Then she squeezes it with a clever little hand juicer.

You will have to check out the article at Seth Godin’s blog, “The lesson from two lemonaid stands

One stand focuses on a real quality product, while the other goes for a quantity.  Considering how much time I spent with my kool-aid stands when I was a kid, it’s interesting to think about what if this was the business model.  My friend and I were very good at driving quantity, but looking back on it we could have done more.

Even if we didn’t adopt the free/tipped model, there were certainly improvements that could have been made.  It is weird to think about just how many things were done wrong in our many campaigns.  For example, why were we advertising our low price and then lowering it?  Does anybody really care if your koolaid is twenty cents or ten cents?  If they are going to stop, then they will stop.

Oh well, it doesn’t do any good to point out flaws in a 9 year old’s business plan from years ago.  Kids are trying to make some money, not get a masters in marketing.  Something about the innocence of the whole thing really does help to sell a lot of that sugary water.

Why you need a podcast

Podcasting has been around for a couple of years now, and it is still growing. If you don’t have a podcast of your own yet, don’t worry: there is still room for growth. Right now the people who already have a podcast have a leg up, but with some determination and a little direction you can not only catch up, but shoot past the incumbents.

You can create a podcast about pretty much anything and get it listed through iTunes for free. Your users have a few other options for downloading as well. They could get the episodes automatically from a number of other programs or manually from your web site.

Choosing a niche topic could be a hurdle. If you are doing it for your business or website, you most likely already have a topic that could be expanded upon. If you want to do one for fun, make sure you choose something that will last. I can’t tell you how many times I have subscribed to a new podcast only to be waiting months for another episode before sadly giving up on what could have been a great series.

If you are not sure why you would want to have a podcast, let me tell you why you NEED a podcast.

Become a recognized expert in the topic

Anyone can start a website or a blog about a topic, but that doesn’t make them an expert. Anybody with enough money or credit can open up a business, regardless of if they actually care about what they are selling or doing. Adding a podcast screams passion for your business, your hobby, and your niche.

If you take the time to make a podcast, you develop a reputation and a voice for your industry. If you know what you are talking about and do a decent production job, then you could easily be THE voice of your industry. When somebody needs to know about buying purple elephant guns, who are they going to turn to: the person with a minuscule website that instructs users to stop into the store but hasn’t been updated since 2003, or the person who has a one hundred page site with 89 separate audio reviews about different purple elephant guns?

I’m going to give my business to the person who keeps their information current, demonstrating a passion for their industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re painting houses, cooking, or manufacturing rubber chickens – if you are passionate, it will show. Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert yet, pick something you love and go for it. You will gain more experience and knowledge the more you podcast, and eventually you will be guru of your topic.

Minimal costs to produce and deliver

Do you know how much it costs to make a podcast? The answer can vary, but you could have one up today basically for free. You can make a podcast with the cheap plastic microphone that comes with your computer. It will sound like a cheap plastic microphone that comes with your computer, but you can do it.

You can grab a microphone for around twenty five bucks that will sound okay, or you can go all out! The sky is the limit. However, studio grade equipment might be a waste for a podcast recorded in a high traffic area with inherent background noise. The most expensive equipment won’t always give you a better sound.

Bandwidth is cheap. Storage on the internet is cheap. Domain names are cheap. Recording software is cheap. A decent headset and microphone is cheap.

If you already have a website, it’s simply a matter of getting a microphone and installing some free software.

Humanize your image

Listening to a passionate voice filled with inflection and emotion is so much more persuasive than text alone. Knowing there is a real person involved creates a connection for your audience. Beyond simply sharing an interest in the topic, listeners will feel like they know you, even if you don’t ever get a chance to meet them. I have bought products created or written by people who I have this connection with. I trust the person, not their companies.

Steve Jobs is a human, and Steve Jobs is also Apple. Bill Gates is a human, but Bill Gates is certainly not Microsoft. He may have started Microsoft and perhaps was at one time the company’s face but who is the human image of Microsoft now? It’s John Hodgman, the “and I’m a PC” guy from Apple’s commercials. In Job’s somewhat healthier days, he would give the keynote addresses and introduce new products and services. Steve was the spokesperson for Apple, and made Apple more than another Silicon Valley technology company. Bill Gates would have to spend a lot more to get the same results.

Talk shows are nothing without the unique personalities providing a face for them. The jokes don’t tell themselves, and text transcripts of jokes are never as good as a solid delivery.

Expand your brand

The more ways people can consume your information, the more ways you can bring in interest. I have checked out many sites due to podcasts. I found them in iTunes and now swing by the sites from time to time.

Now I’ve got them on my radar. I will know about anything new that they do.

I wouldn’t have known that they even existed if they never produced that podcast.

From all of my projects, I have found that having other people watching and interested makes doing the work seem more like fun. It’s marketing but it is not quite the same as traditional marketing where you get out there and start beating on doors.

Very Targeted Consumers

While I haven’t checked out the scene for purple elephant guns lately, there are obscure and highly targeted niches that have more listeners than current podcasters are covering. If you start downloading podcasts, it is because you are interested in the topic. Beyond that you are interested enough to seek out, subscribe, download, and invest time listening to a very specific topic.

The only reason to go through the effort (it is a minimal effort, but it does take actions on the end users part) is because you care about a given topic.

If you produce a great podcast on a popular topic, you can gain quite a following. Even a mediocre podcast in a topic with less competition can gain quite a following. Not just a following, but people who actually care.

Start Today!

It is much cheaper to keep a current customer than it is to find a new one. This is one of the first things you learn in any business or marketing class. A podcast is a great feature to help you get a larger internet footprint.

Podcasting isn’t going away. People are out there downloading them every day. Every day new ones are being recorded. If you want to start, now is the best time to do so. Grab your mike, and get going! Those purple elephant guns aren’t going to talk about themselves.

The Myth of Customer Service

Everybody gives great customer service, just ask them!
Have you noticed that a lot of employees just don’t seem to care about the customers where they work?  This attitude seems to be a growing trend.  There is one big problem here, well other than just getting bad service.

The problem is that many people think they are doing a great job and helping out their companies by being abrasive.  They try to enforce rules and take them to extremes to make sure their world stays within these boundaries.  The part that really bothers me is the amount of effort they put in to alienate the customers.

Did you know that if you want to work in Disney World or Disneyland, you actually have to take classes on being friendly?  It’s not just a 30 minute video on customer service either, you spend a couple of days where you have to learn all about the attitude they want displayed.

In casinos and restaurants, people who don’t give good customer service know it because it directly reflects the amount they are paid.  Sure they will have nights where they are stiffed a couple of tips, but overall they get a daily progress report based on the amount they go home with.  If it is consistently lower than the other workers then either you give bad customer service or they are lying about how much they are bringing in.

Once a worker in a tipped position realizes they are not providing the right attitude towards the guests, they learn to change it quick.  Or they live with a more meager income, or they quit.  A person in a tipped position must learn very quickly.  Customer service is their livelihood.

But the rest of the world doesn’t rely on tips doesn’t have such a convenient meter to gauge their performance.  There is a difference between tips and commissions, the first provides and incentive to perform great service for the customer and the second provides incentive to perform great service for the company.

Although performing great for the company can also create perverse incentives.  So much more is emphasis is placed on closing the sale.  While that is important for anybody, there needs to be a way to do it without seeing customers as wallets waiting to be emptied.

I’m not bashing salesmen here, they have to do hard work with uncertain results.  I suppose I am bashing the reward structure that they have.  More emphasis should be placed on retaining customers and making repeat sales.  In order to do that, you need to actually learn about the customer and care.

You need to care about what they want and expect.  And you need to care about what they are looking for and what kind of day they are having.  While it is not the job of the employee to be the therapist for a customer, it is their job to have empathy and try to find the best solution.

While you might not become an empathetic and customer-centric person simply by taking a day long course at Disney World, having companies care enough to set that as a high priority says a lot about them.

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