Entrepreneur

A quick lesson on the value of marketing

No incentive

My dentist is finally online. After a year of getting emails and phone calls from her receptionist asking me to come in for a cleaning, I now get them through a service provider.

That’s a big step up, considering that many medical professional eschew technology. But her service provider, Demandforce, isn’t doing her any favors. Consider this excerpt from the email that I received in the screenshot above.

The email correctly calls out the work I need to have done, but then goes on to tell me I’m not getting a deal. Apparently, Demandforce offers the ability for my dentist to include a deal to get me back in the door, but she chose not to. Even better, my NO INCENTIVE expires on 10/23/2012. (I suppose it’s theoretically possible that Demandforce knows how much I hate deals and decided to call that out for me. But it’s unlikely.)

This just looks ridiculous. If there’s no incentive, the system should be set up to suppress the incentive portion of the template when generating the email.

Although this is an extreme example of marketing cluelessness, I see lesser examples all the time.

Many of the problems that Silicon Valley is trying to solve are not exclusively technology problem. They’re often problems that involve marketing, consumer psychology, and incentive structure. Products need to be thought of in a more holistic way than “did I just accomplish the technical task?”

One of my favorite examples of consumer psychology in action is promotion codes. Having a promotion code triggers a sense of getting a great deal. Companies regularly run promotions to drive traffic. Some use promo codes to help identify the source of a lead. For example, if you use the promo code “duke” right now in the GoPago app, you’ll get $10 off your next meal.

That’s great for people who have the code, but many people don’t have a code. As a result, the promo code field is one of the biggest barriers to order completion. People see the field and think, “Gee, I don’t have a code. I’m missing out.”

I was talking to someone who ran online marketing for a large cell phone carrier. They noticed this problem, but took an unconventional approach to fixing it. Instead of getting rid of the promo code field, they flooded the Web with easily Googleable promo codes.

As a result, conversions went up. People felt a sense of accomplishment because they thought they were gaming the system. And the discount was small enough that it wasn’t meaningful from the carrier’s perspective when weighed against the value of a new customer.

This attention to consumer pyschology is important whether you’re building for your own product or building for someone else as a service provider.

In Demandforce’s case, I think they’re doing a disservice to my dentist. I know enough about how this stuff works that I blame Demandforce. To others, my dentist looks silly.

One of the things Silicon Valley is known for is turning things into software. I’d love to see marketing expertise turned into software.


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