Merchants, Start Facing the Demon Today
BY Jason Ciment | January 4, 2002
What is one of the most painful challenges causing online merchants to face sleepless nights evening after evening? One word: monetization.
How do sites take a user who has finally deigned to visit, make enough money to pay for the expenses incurred in bringing the user there, and have a little bit left over to pay the investors who financed those marketing efforts?
Besides selling the main products of the site to the 1 percent of people who actually convert, merchants are trying hapless methods of driving incremental revenue from the other 99 percent of visitors. These efforts include notorious "interruption marketing vehicles," such as banner ads and the evermore annoying pop-ups and pop-unders (sometimes even two to a page) that appear when you enter a site, leave it, or both.
The rapid decline of advertising brokers caused by the plummeting of banner ad rates is a direct result of the lack of success experienced by marketers using these techniques. Banner ad prices are falling faster than you can say "Internet stock recovery," as few marketers have figured out how to make money using these vehicles.
Some more sophisticated marketers who have read books such as "Permission Marketing" by Seth Godin and "Permission-Based E-Mail Marketing That Works!" by Kim MacPherson use a more intuitive and less obtrusive form of contact. Opt-in email offers and email newsletters are being employed to increase the chances of extracting some revenues from site traffic. Even this more functionally intelligent monetization technique suffers from a very dangerous and peculiar ailment — what I call the geometric inverse paradox of permission (GIPP).
In short, GIPP states that the more times you contact your users, the more risk you take of aggravating them and losing their trust.
Here's another big secret of the GIPP principle. If you are tainted because you contact your prospects too often or if they get turned off by just smelling your sales pitch, you risk more than losing their trust. You might suffer the fate of becoming "white noise."
Like people living near busy streets who over time learn how to tune out the noisy garbage trucks making their early morning pickups, your users will eventually fail to "see" your attempts to contact them by email. Short of unsubscribing from your list, they might just chuck your emails right into that very accessible "deleted items" folder. Worse, they might even toss you into their junk mail extraction script so your emails are tossed into that folder automatically.
The first step, then, in avoiding the pitfalls of GIPP is finding the balance that keeps you in good favor with your users. A very useful technique for finding the balance is to send out a survey that reaches them immediately after they opt in to your first offer or after they complete their first order. A few tips for that survey are:
Another way of avoiding the pitiful white noise trap affecting so many online merchants and content providers is to use a free news-feed service, such as Moreover, to provide your users with relevant newsworthy items on a weekly or monthly basis. You can also hire ghostwriters to put together relevant content newsletters and insert targeted email offers (not just ubiquitous sponsorships or blatantly obvious, yet sometimes irrelevant, sales pitches). Again, use the survey results to determine what your users want to read about once they've bought from your site.
In the most recent issue (#189) of his excellent newsletter, Associate Programs, Allan Gardyne says that you should expect to write at least "5, 10, 15, or 50 articles on the chosen theme of your site" to get good search engine placement as well as to gain credibility in your chosen subject area. Obviously, the same articles that appear on your Web site should be used in direct email communications to your users.
I hope you have success implementing these two ideas to keep you relevant, desirable, and far away from the disastrous "unsubscribing" demon of doom.
Jason Ciment is CEO of MagMall, which he founded 1997. He designed, programmed, and developed the fully interactive java and perl-based magazine subscription Web site that has more than 10,000 individual and corporate partners. He has also worked with manufacturing companies such as Liz Claiborne and Jones New York to maintain quality standards and prompt order fulfillment.
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