For the Week of September 16, 2002
If you're going to be a retailer, you have to think like a retailer. Retailers, like magazine editors, think months ahead.
It's past time to think about Christmas. You should have been doing this around Memorial Day, frankly. But here goes.
Some trends for this year's Christmas stockings are obvious. Not just low prices, but low priced goods that don't look schlocky and don't feel like they're low in price. I'm talking merchandise that has a real purpose in peoples' lives.
One way you can figure this out is by looking at your own stuff. Check family and friends for inexpensive gifts they still use five years later. Manual ice cream makers for the kitchen, easy-care evergreen plants like rosemary, and electrical devices you can plug into your 12-volt car plug (formerly called the cigarette lighter) work for me. (We especially like our Igloo cooler.)
Next, figure out which of these products work for your audience, and which you can get in sufficient bulk to put them on sale 60-day net. Place those orders now, and start preparing your effort at moving, not just that merchandise, but up-sells from it. (If you can only find them at retail, if you're not a store but a publication, try and get some affiliate marketing arrangements going and prepare to launch your Christmas shopping section.)
Sales strategy is important. If you've learned anything from this newsletter, it's that your Internet sales strategy includes more than just your Web site. Your primary sales asset is your list, not just quantity but quality. When you have something important to offer, what's your conversion ratio on it? If that ratio is too low, perhaps your list is too big and your marketing effort too unfocused.
Oh, and about that list. How do you handle responses? Do you have a process whereby a person will check all incoming e-mails, delete the spam, answer the easy questions and forward the tough ones on to someone who can not only answer them intelligently but immediately? Do you measure how quickly correspondents get a personal response to a personal note? That, in a nutshell, is the real "barrier to entry" in e-mail marketing. How many e-mail marketers have cleared it? Very, very few. If you clear it, if you make your e-mail anticipated and respond immediately to valid personal queries, you're ahead of 99% of your competitors.
How can you find your audience? Find out which editorial sites appeal to your target. Let your own fingers do the walking, but also ask your audience the question, and listen to their response. When you identify these sites, contact their managers and propose something creative, perhaps something that a few years ago would have been called "affiliate marketing" but should more properly be called "partnership marketing." You've got to find a way toward a higher share of mind within your defined target. If your site doesn't have it find someone whose does, and pay them what they're worth.
Oh, and if your audience includes people who want to understand the role of technology in their lives, I've got a deal to offer you.
SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)
Attention Aussies! I'm trying to arrange a "book promotion" tour for February or March down under, promoting my new book "Moore's Lore: Stories That Let You See The Future." Drop me a note if you can help.
Corante is finally ready to launch my "Moore's Lore" blog . GlobalPOV has taken a piece I wrote on identity cards and why Americans won't take 'em. Marketingprofs has taken an occasional column similar to work formerly done at ClickZ. But I'd love more work, and I'm waiting for your e-mail .
My other books include "Boom, Bust & Beyond: The Best of Dana Blankenhorn," , "The Time Mirror," and "Living on the Internet" . I still write for Boardwatch, Boardroom and BtoB . I still produce I-Strategy for Adventive
I'd like more readers, so tell your friends, clients, partners, and Congressperson about a-clue.com. You have my permission to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know .
Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...
Your list is your most important asset. But what happens when someone forgets who you are and you get on a "spam" blacklist? Your asset becomes worthless.
Need a-clue on how to avoid that? Get your list audited, and managed professionally, by the fine folks at Whitehat , part of the American Computer Group , a long-term leader in database services for direct marketers.
When your list is truly opt-in, not only do you become a white hat yourself, but your e-mails are read, even anticipated, by your audience. That means higher conversions and more money in your pocket.
If you're serious about Internet Commerce, you need Whitehat Interactive . Get it today.
Takes on the News
The Next Big Thing: Isaac
Interop was a complete bust and Key3Media, which produces the show, is circling the bowl, losing money and facing delisting . I stayed one day and got home in time for the kids' soccer practice (the one press event cancelled at the last minute due to lack of sponsorship).
What will it take to bring the excitement back? So long as the industry is threatening kids with jail for using the new standard PC peripherals (Internet access and CD burners) parents aren't buying, and there's no reason anyone else should. The cost of Windows and Microsoft Office means you can't get prices any lower than they are in that space.
Instead it's time for a whole new direction. It's time for Isaac.
Isaac is a Linux box designed first as a home server. It connects to your network (wired or wireless), providing a stable firewall, anti-viral software, optional cyber-censor and home networking interface for under $400. It includes interfaces for 802.11 local or wide-area networking, or it can connect easily with a data network running through your electrical system.
Isaac has no screen or keyboard. You access it through the other PCs in the home. But Isaac opens lots of possibilities and applications:
- Home Security - Buy some sensors, turn on the local 802.11 network, and program Isaac to call the police if there's a break-in. The whole kit costs $200, with no monthly fees, and you can do it all yourself.
- Home comfort - Interface Isaac with your heating and lighting systems to cool your home before you get there and turn on lights randomly when you're out at night. The total cost is about $150.
- Home Entertainment - Interface Isaac with your TiVo and choose the shows you'll watch tonight from work. Costs just under $100.
- Home Calendar - Remind kids of their chores, remember to take your medicine, and keep everyone on track. The software runs on Isaac for just $50, from sites like Download.Com.
The best thing about Isaac, however, is the optional voice interface. Train Isaac to your voiceprint, create some standard commands, put some microphones and speakers on the home network, and the whole family can talk with Isaac. Come up with a brainstorm? Tell Isaac. Need to remember a doctor's appointment. Tell Isaac. Forget your homework? Tell Isaac all about it.
Isaac, the invisible robot, is not sold in stores yet. It is not available anywhere. But all the technology needed to create Isaac - both hardware and software - exists today, and it's all very cheap. What we need, simply, is a little entrepreneurial will, and we can get this economy rolling again. Think of it as Moore's Law in action.
When Is A War Won?
History records that World War II ended in 1945, when Hitler's Germany and the Japanese Empire surrendered.
That's a lie, and if anyone in the Bush Administration believes that, they're believing a very large lie indeed. In fact World War II did end in 1945, but only for the Soviet Union. Starting in 1945 the USSR began the systematic rape and pillage of the land its armies had overrun. It destroyed democratic elements and created an empire whose power rested on its army and secret police.
The U.S. and its allies had a different strategy. We had the Marshall Plan. MacArthur kept the Japanese Emperor on his throne and created a new constitution, which is still followed. Democracy was re-built from the ground up in both nations. The people were helped to their feet and given liberty. When the time came for our troops to leave the people of those nations re-built their lives on a democratic, capitalist, liberty-loving model.
It's vital we remember that history when looking at Afghanistan, and a possible war with Iraq. President Bush loudly proclaims he's not into "nation-building," deriding it as an ignorant, impossible, Clintonian exercise.
Yet that's the only way in which wars are truly won. The North occupied the Confederacy for a decade after the U.S. Civil War, but that struggle didn't really begin to end until a century later, with the Civil Rights movement, and in many ways it's only now beginning to fade. Before his assassination Abraham Lincoln had called for a kinder, more benign ending. He was generations ahead of his time, because when the lesson was finally applied, 80 years after Lincoln's death, it worked.
What does all this have to do with the Internet? Plenty. Because the Internet is a tool of liberty. It is based on liberty, on people's willingness (as well as their ability) to read, write and speak unhindered by internal or external censor. Without liberty, the Internet perishes.
There are tyrants, and mini-tyrants, who have used our liberty to strike at free people. That is a truth of September 11. But the answer is not to foreclose liberty. That will give our enemies the final victory, leaving free people with no choice between religious tyranny and fascism. The answer lies in allowing hearts and minds to be changed, it lies in giving away the tools of liberty, as this newsletter has been given to you, so that free people will themselves defy the tyrants, exposing them, condemning them, and eliminating them from their midst.
The Greatest Generation didn't become that way by just Winning the War. Its greatness came from Winning the Peace. And if this generation ignores that lesson, it will lose the war, and with it the world.
So one war at a time, please. If Afghanistan is merely occupied, it is not won.
Proven Value, One Year On
I had no intention of spending even a moment on September 11, let alone the "war" following it.
But a rather lengthy story in the Sunday New York Times about the victims of September 11 caught my eye, and I couldn't let the moment pass without comment.
Read the story carefully. Notice the sub-text that flows through it, like a thread. It's the Internet. Not the Internet of e-commerce, or the Internet of the copyright wars, but the real Internet, the Internet I have known for nearly 20 years. What this Internet does is bring people together, across boundaries of time and space, in ways people have never been brought together before.
That's what the victims who haven't chosen to isolate themselves from the phony grief or negative stereotypes of their fellow Americans have found. Without this medium, thousands of additional victims might be giving in to despair, or may have already done so. But through this medium, they've found kindred spirits, and they've found hope or (at least the hope of hope).
Here's an important Clue. The In, in the word Internet? It's short for Intimate.
Clued-in is the fact that 30 accredited colleges now offer all online degree programs , up from just 12 a year ago. The number of online degree programs is growing smartly, which most people don't know. The fact most people don't know this, and the press dismisses it, is Clueless.
Clueless is Citibank , for hiring an outfit to find the e-mail addresses of its credit card customers and then sending them mail crooks on the list could use to commit identity theft of its own customers.
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