Customer Service / Online Marketing – One Rock at a Time

How to move mountains – eCommerce & eMarketing strategy for success!

You would have thought the commute through Los Angeles traffic is enough to bring most drivers to their knees, but observation would show you a plethora of commuters humming, singing, attentively listening and *enjoying* LA radio stations*.

This is the definition of ‘captive audience’ – a metal shell one must endure for 30-90 minutes every week day, with little to do but listen.

Captive can be far from captivating!

Whilst many people take advantage of a captive audience – talk radio soapbox, food stands at Disneyland, bar at the opera, teacher in class, loudmouth at cocktail party, popcorn at the movie – what most people tend to forget is that most captive audiences have a choice.

Choice allows people to change stations, bring their own food & drink, drop out of school or leave the room.

Choice liberates, empowers and mobilizes the consumer.

Choice means the provider of entertainment, information, consumables and / or education must understand the competitive nature of consumer capture.

Choice must drive providers to “broadcast” value, interest and relevance.

Imagine the typical scenario of a channel surfer flipping through TV channels, taking a couple of seconds to gauge their interest in a program or subject matter. A few times I’ve ended up watch Discovery Channel, Sci-Fi Channel or CNN programming just because something caught my eye on a ‘flip’.

Online, the exact same principles apply.

On arrival at your site, for a moment you have a captive audience.

Within a second or two, that audience has decided whether to stick around or move on.

Help them decide (in your favor)... provide immediate and obvious value, interest and relevance and they’ll stick around, recommend and return.

(*Note: this does not include those on their cell phones, typing on their Blackberries, playing “Bejeweled 2” on their iPhones or craning their necks to watch the video screen in the back seat)

My 8-year old son asked me one of his ‘out of the blue’ questions this week as we drove to his school in Las Vegas.

“Why are there so many gas stations?”

I put on my marketing cap and told him that more places to buy gas, gives us more choice and competition gives us lower prices. (Supply and demand theory coupled with some branding concepts.)

I felt quite proud of my response until he asked “Why is there the same gas station on two opposite sidesof the street then?”

The obvious answer was “easier for people driving in different directions.” And this is in fact the case for both gas stations and Starbucks coffee houses. They sometimes place them close together (on opposite sides of intersections) due to traffic patterns and drivers inherent laziness!

‘Nuff said, but it got me thinking about the same scenario on the Internet.

There’s no apparent ‘closeness’ of websites in cyberspace. Sites, offering similar content, similar tools, or similar products may be located on servers on the other side of the world.

Where their worlds touch are on the search results pages where their relevance (as viewed by the search engines) is seen as similar or close to the search terms used.

Whether a user clicks on one link or another isn’t affected by laziness or traffic patterns, at that point the user is solely interested in finding information that is relevant to them and their needs. Search engines have done a great job of lining up all gas stations along our side of the road and letting us stop and fill up at any one of them. So what do we choose?

Gas stations pitch brand and price. I’ll stop at a Rebel or Arco station that’s cheap, rather than a brand that is more expensive. I am price driven (gas is gas, unless someone can tell me different).

Online the title and ‘snippet’ (at least on Google) may be all the user sees and makes their ‘click decision’ on.

Brand-driven decisions can be the result of including a brand name in your web page title. Cost-driven decisions can be the result of including the words ‘cheap’, ‘low cost’ or ‘economical’. Whatever the motivation may be, you have some control over what appears by creating solid content and by following basic on-page SEO techniques.

Attracting and converting ‘traffic’ depends on providing information of interest, following SEO best-practices, writing for your audience and then being able to make conversion paths easy to find and follow to goals (fill up the tank).

Constructing titles, descriptions and logical URL links makes sense in accurately describing what people should expect when they click.

Gas stations may be just about everywhere in Vegas, but your site only exists in search results pages that fit searchers’ queries. Make sure your provide enough to get the click, then the right octane gas to fill the tank and get those users to stop by again.

The current price of gas may be falling rapidly, but your information, products, tools? Priceless.