Several years ago, I setup a Website for a local nonprofit organization that I helped. I registered three domain names for it: the main one, with two alternatives. The first ended with .org (as did one of the alternates). I also registered the .com version of their main domain name in case someone typed .com out of habit or error. All three pointed to their website.
Then the email solicitations started rolling in. Apparently, there are a number of companies who monitor expiring domain names for one of potential value. Upon seeing that the .com version was available and that I had already registered the .org counterpart, they thought that I might be interested in it, offering to help me buy the exact domain name that I had allowed to lapse. They suggested that I allow them to help me snatch up this great domain name before someone else did, thereby pushing the cost up.
I have to respect their business model that monitored expiring domain names, identified owners of existing domain names with a different extension, and contacted registered the owners via email. Yet why didn’t they take one more step to eliminate contacting the prior owners who had purposely let the domain name expire?
Given the relatively inexpensive nature of email, it’s not a big deal. However, I am much more an admirer of an elegant marketing campaign over a brute force one. After all, it is the marketers that cut corners and execute their craft badly that make it harder for everyone else to be respected and trusted.
Bad marketing might produce results, but it pulls the industry down. Good marketing produces better results and elevates the industry.
Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night.
When you hear the phrase “new and improved,” what is your first thought?
Being the slightly cynical person that I am, my initial reaction is that someone is trying to dupe me with a marketing tactic. I suspect that nothing substantive has been changed, but lacking anything substantial to proclaim, they fall back on trumpeting that their product is “new and improved.” It must be that some people are sucked into this ruse or else why would marketing folks persist in perpetuating such a ploy?
Although “new and improved” sometimes seems to only apply to the packaging, that phrases still produces fear and trepidation in me when referring to products that I use. I worry that “new and improved” actually means “we’ve-changed-this-just-enough-so-that-you’ll-no-longer-like-it.” Unfortunately, personal experience backs up that concern as being a realistic one.
The logic behind “new and improved” probably assumes that existing users will continue to buy it—even if the packaging has changed so much that only the brand name is recognizable. The bonus kicks in from people who never used it, but are predisposed to try anything new, as well as those who didn’t like it before, but will give it a fresh look. Therefore, I guess we are stuck with “new and improved” products.
Still, “new and improved” does nothing for me; I’ll take “tried and true” any day.
Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night.
There’s a certain brand of wool socks that I like. Okay, I really, really like them. I’m wearing a pair right now. I wanted to try a different style, but the local outlets didn’t carry it.
Though I prefer to buy online and bypass the “experience” of going to a store, sometimes I want to check the product in person before making a commitment. You can’t do that in cyberspace.
So I ordered one pair for my tactile evaluation. For some reason I expected free shipping. This was not to be. To unite me and my $13 socks there was a $7 shipping charge. There were no other options.
I placed my order on Friday. Saturday my socks arrived courtesy of FedEx Saturday delivery. Really? It wasn’t like this was a sock emergency. Three-day ground would have been fine, even parcel post would have been acceptable.
I took time to communicate my frustration with the manufacturer, because, well, I’m a bit passionate about their socks and when you care about something, you take time to share concerns. The rep understood my complaint and agreed, saying other customers told her the same thing. She planned to bring this up at their management meeting later that week.
Two months later I placed an order for more socks. There’s still only one shipping option and it’s still $7. Really?
Television providers have packages for various programming levels: basic, deluxe, and premium or by theme: movies, sports, music, and Spanish. This can be frustrating for consumers who may end up buying an entire package just to watch one channel or perhaps even one show.
Why is this? Why can’t we just buy the channels we want a la carte?
Although there’s a historical reason for this, there’s no longer any technical justification for bundling entertainment channels into packages.
With all service providers, every channel is present on the feed (be it cable, fiber optic, or satellite). When the feed reaches our houses, the items we don’t pay for are blocked.
When cable TV first came on the scene, it was analog and electronic devises were inserted to filter out various parts of the feed people weren’t paying for. These filters were imprecise and couldn’t be finely tuned to individual channels but did work okay for groups of adjacent channels. This resulted in the birth of channel packages.
Now we have digital and individual channels can be turned on and off at each house’s receiver. There’s no longer a technical reason to package channels and sell them as a group.
However, cable and satellite TV providers are used to the revenue provided by selling packages and not anxious to change that. Plus it’s easier to track and bill half a dozen packages for each subscriber, rather than hundreds of individual channels.
If entertainment providers were truly focused on their customers, they would allow for individual channel selection, letting us pick and pay for only the channels we want to watch.
The website Kickstarter is a funding platform to help creative people finance their projects.
I’ve been wondering if Kickstarter might be a viable vehicle to help me self-publish a couple of books I’m pursuing. I’ve also experienced Kickstarter from the other side: providing financial support on two projects.
The first was for a friend, a most talented musician, who wants to take his recording career to the next level. He raised most of the funds himself and then turned to Kickstarter for the final ten grand. He got off to a great start and then donations reached a plateau, with things looking iffy as the 30-day funding window began to close. But a last minute surge put him over the top. He will soon leave for Nashville to record his next album.
More recently I jumped on board a project to help an author who is using Kickstarter as a litmus test to show there is interest for his upcoming book. His goal was more ambitious: 40k. He has a large following of readers and a great social media platform. He didn’t need 30 days to reach his goal; he didn’t even need one; it took about 3 hours. (Presently he is at five times his goal and still has 26 days remaining.)
Regardless if a project is funded quickly or takes a while is not the point. The point is Kickstarter is a viable way for people to support artistic projects they believe in and the creative people behind them who dare to dream big.
When these projects are complete, I will receive a CD and a book (plus some other rewards), along with the knowledge that I helped two creative people advance their careers. And that gives me a real kick.
It recently became time to replace our 24-year old furnace. As the installer wrapped up his work, he began teaching about the critical aspects of carbon monoxide detection. I had placed our lone detector where the furnace and water heater were located; detecting the poisonous gas at its source, I had reasoned, was the ideal solution. Apparently, not so; there should be one in each bedroom.
A few weeks later, I had purchased and installed two new units of the brand he recommended. Content that we were now safe (at least from carbon monoxide poisoning), I sat down to read that manual of my new devices.
Aside from helpful information about detection, harmful levels, and appropriate responses to an alarm, I was dismayed to learn that I should replace the unit after seven years. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
I read on and became further agitated. After seven years, the unit will emit a warning beep every 30 seconds, alerting me to replace it.
On the part of the manufacturer, that is a smart move. Not only will they have an opportunity to sell me replacement products in a few years, but they also limit their liability by effectively removing aging units from use.
It is also shortsighted. When a unit starts beeping, few people will immediately jump in their car and buy a replacement. No, they will unplug it to stop the annoying beeping.
Even more confounding is the realization that my units, being installed at the same time, will start beeping at the same time, and will be unplugged at the same time.
I recently upgraded some software and paid an extra ten bucks for the installation CD. This makes restoration much easier when it becomes necessary. But for instant gratification, I downloaded the software so that I could begin using it immediately, while waiting for the disk to arrive. (It took 29 days, but that is a different story — or perhaps two.)
When the software arrived, I was dismayed at the packaging: what a waste of resources, what excess. The cost to produce the package surely exceeded the cost to produce the CD. Just send me the CD in a functional case. I don’t need a case within a box within another box within a sleeve (which was placed in another box for shipping).
Although the packaging was impressive and professional in appearance, it was also unnecessary and served no useful function. True, all software that is sold retail is similarly packaged, but this is a throwback to when a manual came with the software, thereby requiring a box. Over time, as the manual slimmed down and then became non-existent, but the box size remained unchanged while the packaging became more substantial.
Software can easily be packaged like movie DVDs or better yet, like music CDs. Doing so would cut production costs, reduce waste, save retail shelf space, and make shipping easier and cheaper.
Of course, it would also give me one less thing to rant about.
This blog, the “Musings of Peter DeHaan,” is about nothing, but covers everything. It is essentially a sharing of my stream of conscience. While this blog will continue unabated, I have started another blog, one with a stated purpose and goal.
It is a business blog, called “From the Publishers Desk,” and shares my tips and commentary about advertising and marketing. If this topic is of interest, I encourage you to check it out. Just like this blog, you can sign up to be notified via email of new posts or subscribe to a list feed.
[In 2013, the name of the blog changed to “The Book Blog,” and the focus became book publishing. All old posts were saved in the archive section.]
In Steve Martin’s 1979 movie, “The Jerk,” one scene shows protagonist Navin (Martin) gleefully proclaiming “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!”
For some reason, I recall that line each year when the phone book is delivered. Back in the day when I ran Yellow Page ads, I would, with an equal amount of excitement, quickly turn to see my ads.
Later, my focus became checking the listing for my residence in the white pages. But it wasn’t the same. Even that practice has waned in recent years. Now, half the phone books I receive are immediately discarded without their contents even being considered.
This year, however, that urge to review my listing re-emerged. To my surprise, this year’s installment contains no residential section, just a business listing section and the yellow pages. On the cover, there’s an unobtrusive instruction to go to their Web site for residential listings.
That seems strange. They need people to use their book to give value to the advertisements that appear in it, yet they give people one more reason to not use it. True, the residential white pages generate very little revenue and are an expense, so for the short-term, it seems like a no-brainer to eliminate them. But for the long term, they are doing themselves harm.
Yesterday was April Fool’s Day and I was subjected to nary a foolish prank. I think that might be a first.
When I worked in an office environment — the kind with other people around — someone would always try to prank me, providing a momentary pause, before reality and common sense resumed control.
When I retreated to the confines of a solo office, the pranks would arrive via email in the form of a clever, too-good-to-be-true press release. They would often have a humorous aspect to them as well, giving me reason to chuckle or smile — or sometimes groan.
I was not so fortunate this year. What press releases I did receive on day one of April were of the serious and on-the-level variety.
One year, someone kept sending me emails, building up the anticipation for a big announcement on April first. I assumed it was merely a well-planned joke that would be sprung on April Fool’s Day. Alas, it was not. It was a real announcement.
Hence the first rule of press releases — never time one to occur on April Fool’s Day. You don’t want your carefully edited news item to be summarily discarded into the recycle bin of Tom Foolery.
The meanest April Fool’s joke I ever witnessed was a co-worker calling his mother, informing her that he and his wife were expecting; it would be the first grandchild. Her initial excitement was dashed however, when her son exclaimed, “April Fool’s.”
I’m sure he won’t try that one again — or will he?