by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume IV, No. II
For the Week of January 10, 2000

This Week's Clue: How to Make a Million

This Week's Clue: How to Make a Million

SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)

The Bitter Christmas Truth

I Told You So

Customer Service

Clued-in, Clueless

Next week I'll be in LA, joining 11 of my fellow wizards in the "Billion Dollar Internet Strategy Setting Summit and Custom Marketing Makeover Process" near the LA Airport.

Entrepreneurs will bring their Internet dreams to us and we'll tell them how to succeed. I'll be concentrating on helping the customers research their dreams and network successfully using the online medium. That means I'll be talking about my favorite search engines , about the importance of building your own portal, on netiquette, on building passion, and on giving before you expect to receive.

These are among the most basic Clues I can offer, and I'll be concentrating on helping people implement them. They've got the ideas, the passion, and the follow through, while I offer some experience, basic wisdom and enthusiasm. 

This week I want to add to my stack of basic Clues with some lessons learned in 1999. I'm giving these Clues clever catchphrases and names so you'll remember them and make them part of your working business vocabulary. (It's an old memory trick, and here's another. When you meet someone, say the name several times and visualize that name on top of some caricatured feature. Grow their nose, squint their eyes, put it in their hairline - whatever works best. Now when you meet them again, bring back the picture, and the name should be right on it.)

  If you follow these Clues you will make money, maybe not in this start-up but in the next or the next. Most of this industry's big players succeeded only on their third, fourth, or fifth try. Experience is the best teacher. So fail now, and learn from it. Build your own stack of Clues. That's the surest path to riches. 

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

I have begun my adventure at Voxcap.Com, discussing how next year's elections might impact the future of the Internet. I had two features in a recent special section of the Chicago Tribune  as well.

I write daily for ClickZ, and appear on TechEdge Radio. I write monthly columns for  NetMarketing, Boardwatch, and  Intellectual Capital. Once every other month I'm in CLEC Magazine. The lead item here is also the Monday e-commerce column of Andover.News. You can still buy my book . Subscription instructions are at the bottom of each issue.

Remember that it's still journalism that keeps the Clues coming. Give me a call at 404-373-7634. (Yes, I do some commercial writing.) Now back to the show...

Takes on the News

The Bitter Christmas Truth

The bitter truth about the Christmas season is that even the best sites had problems, and people who hate malls are just forgiving. None of the purchases I made came without a hitch. Amazon.Com waited a week to tell us the Color Gameboy John wanted wouldn't make it, and by then it was out of stock everywhere. Send.Com gave us a great dinner, but on further review we paid one-third more than we should have, and if you don't use those coupons in a month they're worthless. The High Museum site said specifically the Rockwell exhibit tickets would be mailed if the order came in over a week from our visit. There was no e-mail to confirm the order, but thankfully the tickets were at will call. (We already nailed Staples and eToys in previous issues of a-clue.com - enough about them.)

The point here is not to nail anyone. But the great eChristmas was far from trouble free, even for the best of us, a fact you can expect to see reflected in lots of financial statements (those that aren't lying) over the next few weeks. Lessons are being learned here, but Wall Street is notoriously impatient. So expect lots of false headlines about "consolidation," and expect every merchant in the world to join the e-line rush by next Christmas.

I Told You So

Some basic Clues were proven out in the news over the last week. Rather than crowing, I'd just like to re-emphasize the lessons.

The first lesson is that every "problem" is really an opportunity. One "problem" we mentioned last week was college cheating enabled by the Internet. Here's a solution - plagiarism.org , a site that helps teachers tell when someone is using a purchased term paper.

The second lesson is that no one likes a bully. Thus, eToys was right to give up its domain name fight with eToy.Com after "winning" . The move helps it cut its losses, but it's a fight that never should have happened. When a lawyer tells you that you have to sue, consider getting another lawyer.

The third lesson is that spam is a risk you don't want to run. Why do sites like send.com, kbtoys.com, and mp3.com think that because I bought from them once, they have a right to spam me? Spam is not a legal question, it's something that doesn't work. All these sites have taken a big hit in my estimation, and the longer they keep spamming (and spam is in the eye of the beholder), the bigger the hit will be.

Customer Service

Why are Amazon.Com and Earthlink winners while Toys R Us and the Bellheads keep losing?

The reason is their attitude toward customer service. When you contact the winners with a problem, they see it as an opportunity to make you happy. They know your happiness will in time redound to their benefit, but they don't force the issue. Losers see customer service as a cost, and when they finally satisfy you they expect an up-sell immediately.

In the brick-and-mortar world big companies can dominate by buying the best locations, then advertising their great customer service without actually delivering. We don't really expect great service from firms like Home Depot and CVS, but they're convenient or their prices are low so we take less. That won't work on the Web, and the analysts who claim it will have no Clue whatsoever.

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Venture Frogs , a venture capitalist that got much more than $1 million in "bang" from its Charity Frogs effort to donate $1 million to the American Red Cross. The company put a link on the Red Cross site marked "Ribbit" and donates $1 for each click through April 1. The frogs formerly founded LinkExchange, selling it to Microsoft for $265 million. Goodwill is vital for getting above the din among VC firms, and this builds it fast.

Clueless is CNN.Com for failing to monitor or even participate in the forums on their own site. When someone brings in a "fact" you have a producer check it out and if necessary refute it. When you don't do that, you're letting someone else hijack your brand, and their lies become your lies.

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