"Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping" by Paco Underhill
Paco Underhill’s “Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping” was first published 11 years ago and everything in it still rings true today. Let me tell you who this book is for: anyone who is in charge of or needs to think about creating a space where human interactions take place. The title byline, “The Science of Shopping”, is a bit misleading as it isn’t strictly about the sale of merchandise, but the dispensing of services, the exchange of information, a location where human beings go to in order to experience or facilitate a transaction, be it online or in-the-real-world.
This book is a mandatory read for retailers, hospitality industry folks, people who dispense services from their own locations, or even people in charge of setting up tradeshow/convention booths. When creating these spaces, too often the business is interested in what they want to get out of what will happen in the space: money getting handed over and getting the “customer” in and out of the space as quickly as possible so that more transactions can take place, thus maximizing the efficiency of their investment. Underhill’s approach is to invest in the space so that the “customer” gets maximum benefit from the experience.
In our free-market system there is one rule that is still paramount: the customer is always right. At your trade show, you might think that your primary purpose is to tell as many people possible about new feature X in your product but if the people who come to your booth are interested in finding support for your legacy system you will serve them best by answering their needs as quickly and comprehensively as possible _then_ you can ask for their permission to be shown a demo for your new feature. If you have set up your booth/retail space/etc. to execute your needs (your new product, your promotion, etc.) you will fail.
It seems like common sense but Underhill has filled his book with countless examples of common sense failures that may not have been so obvious when the company/organization first set up their environment. From gas station chains to newsstands to the Gap to banks in Brazil – Underhill looks at the products, the services, the companies, the customers, and the environment to figure out what works, what doesn’t and why. Almost all the examples are remarkable although by the end of the book I was a little “oversold” on Underhill’s company, Envirosell, which he mentions far too often.
So what is it with the “updated and revised” edition? Underhill attempted to address some of the complaints that he was lambasted with back in 1999. Unfortunately I don’t think he responded very well to the complaints that primarily focused on his assessment of online shopping. I think we get it, online shopping is not ideal and very well might never be for a wide variety of products and services – you can’t taste, smell, or feel via the web and thus, the experience is a poor one compared to the possibilities of going into a retail store or service boutique. Underhill can’t seem to let go of this and it’s detrimental to his book. The brick and mortar facets of a company need to integrate well with online access and services, it’s that simple – we don’t need to hear any more about why online stinks compared to a real-world experience.
The rest of the book is fantastic, however, so do not let Underhill’s “Internet” chapter interfere with your enjoyment of it or miss out on an opportunity to learn a lot from someone who has mastered identifying and correcting problems with transactional environments.
It’s not that I agree with everything Gladwell comes up with, I particularly had some issues with Outliers, but I don’t read Gladwell to subscribe to a worldview, I read his work to become more informed and entertained at the same time. Is there a business application for every chapter of every book of his? Absolutely not, but I enjoy how his writing jogs my mind and that’s the point.
Let’s be clear that What the Dog Saw and other adventures is not new territory for Gladwell, it’s a republishing of “the best” of his New Yorker essays from 1996 to 2008. We’re avid New Yorker readers but there were several pieces in the collection that we had missed and felt fortunate to have a chance to read them, including “The Ketchup Conundrum” (why is there a market for dozens of mustards but only 1 or 2 ketchups?), “Million Dollar Murray” (why problems like homelessness should be solved and not just “managed”), and “The Art of Failure” (why some people choke and others panic and the difference between the two). It was also great to get reacquainted with pieces like “What the Dog Saw” (a profile of dog-whisperer Cesar Millan), “Something Borrowed” (what is plagiarism), and “The Talent Myth” (are smart people overrated and how smart are they anyway?).
With excellent profiling and background research, Gladwell gets defining quotes from his subjects, from FBI serial killer profilers to Enron executives. Gladwell excites the reader by artfully wending a path to points of realization – Eureka moments founded on fact and interview. Perhaps What the Dog Saw is best as an introduction to Gladwell’s style, with no essay much longer than 20 pages, if you aren’t engaged with a particular subject you know that it will end soon and you’ll be on to something else. If you are still leery of jumping in, keep your eyes peeled for another Gladwell essay in an upcoming issue of the New Yorker. They frequently place excerpts, if not the entire piece, on the New Yorker website.
At the “Integration Panel” at last week’s Online Impact 2010 I mentioned that I use several Twitter accounts and other panelists raised the concern that this could become unmanageable – I’d like to explain the strategy a bit more completely here.
I’ve had the @tomdog account the longest and started the other 3 accounts within the last 6 months or so. What I noticed with my followers is that if I began twittering about a specific interest I had for an extended period of time, I would lose followers. I’m a busy fellow with many interests. I run a company that provides emarketing strategy and services that include Google AdWords management, search engine optimization, custom content development, and video production among many other categories. I also write 5-7 articles about television and entertainment every week. People who started following me because they read my tweets about some SEO strategy were unfollowing me when I started tweeting about why it was a bad idea to give Jay Leno a prime time show.
With applications like TweetDeck managing 4 accounts is easy, so don’t let that keep you from creating more handles that are particular to distinct activities you engage in.
Let’s look at another really good reason why a business owner should have a separate Twitter handle for their business. Unless a business owner has no interest, desire, or plans to expand their business beyond a sole proprietorship with an employee of 1, then it would be foolish not to reserve that handle. My co-panelist, Christine Pilch, said that at the very least, in order to protect your company name, you should get that handle reserved, registered, and under your control before somebody else gets it.
Twitter Rule #1 for Businesses: Secure the Twitter handle that best identifies your company.
If you have multiple employees who understand your company’s mission, somebody helping you with marketing, or even a marketing department, you should build a Twitter strategy so that multiple people can help manage this effort thus preventing the pressure building up exclusively on yourself. In the Q&A I mentioned that Twitter has already been beta testing a “contributor” feature so that multiple authorized agents can contribute tweets to an account – here is the blog post at Twitter explaining the “contributor” feature. There are also services like CoTweet that provide even richer functionality for teams who are co-managing a brand in Twitter.
Why is this important? Because I’m convinced that the first lawsuit against an individual who has helped build a brand using their “personal” Twitter account by their employer will be upon us at any moment. Let’s say you are working at company XYZ Inc. and you are helping drive traffic to the company’s website, blogpost, shopping cart, etc. by twittering about it using your personal handle because the company hasn’t created one. You build up an audience of followers and the tweets from your account become a measurable source of web traffic, brand interest, or even revenue. When you decide to leave that job, your employer might say, “you can leave but not with that Twitter account – that list of followers is ours, those tweets were about our company and they were done on company time, that’s our intellectual property”.
Twitter Rule #1 for Employees: Don’t tweet about the company you work at unless they have their own, active, Twitter account.
Employers: do not put your employees in the above situation. The tools are there for employees to contribute to a Twitter account to build your brand. If you are a sole proprietor and you are twittering about your business in your personal account, you could be putting yourself in the same situation as above if you decide to sell your business – your Twitter account and follower list could be considered an company asset by the entity seeking to buy you out. It’s fine if you want to make your Twitter account a bargaining chip but if you do sell it as part of your company, are you ready to start from scratch on Twitter again?
Twitter Rule #2 for Businesses: Tweet regularly to the business Twitter account. At the very least, tweet links to your blog posts, news articles, and press releases from the account to show that it is active and a source of information about your business.
To protect yourself and your business, do the basics and create a Twitter business account that you post to regularly, whether manually at Twitter.com or using TweetDeck, or using CoTweet or the upcoming “contributor” function on Twitter. Retweet (RT) the @XYZInc tweets in your personal account and build that separate list of followers. Does that mean you should never twitter about business in your “personal” account – absolutely not. I see it all the time but what helps is to reference the business account in your tweets, for example, from your personal account: “I created a new customer service policy at @XYZInc that is going to put us ahead of the competition http://bit.ly/65iJ” and then at the @XYZInc account: “Our new customer service policy goes into effect today, 2 free hours of support/month: http://bit.ly/65iJ”.
Doing a little bit of planning, creating a policy on who should tweet, the tone of the tweets, how often they should tweet, and what tools and accounts should be used can prevent a lot of conflict later as people move on or take on other roles within an organization or the organization itself goes through changes. Don’t be afraid of multiple accounts!
Last year I spoke about Facebook as a legitimate tool for business and this time the organizers have tapped me for an “Intro to LinkedIn”. My primary points of discussion will be:
1. Getting Started With LinkedIn – getting that profile to 100% completion
2. Finding and importing your contacts to build your network
3. Integrating LinkedIn with your personal brand
That should go fairly quickly – then I just want to answer questions because that’s the point: anyone can go online and search for “LinkedIn tips” and get just about the same information. I’m there to answer questions on the fly and otherwise interact with people in person, rather than through blog post comments.
If you are in the Springfield, MA area, and by that I mean from Worcester, MA to Albany, NY and from Burlington, VT to Hartford, CT, please keep your eyes open for another Online Impact later this year. It’s very inexpensive (less than $50) and the audience is intimate: you will get your questions addressed, in person, by real human beings.
Check out these great promos put together by Garvey Communications and the Communications Department:
We’ve made a video of the Berkshire Google AdWords Presentation from July 28th at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, MA. This one is about 48 minutes but we will also do a “short and sweet” conceptual version that we will share here as well.
Here are the notes we handed out at the event:
Using Google AdWords for Business, Non-Profits and Artists
After July’s excellent turnout we urge you to register now for the September 30th ‘Web Wednesday’ clinic about using Google Local Business Center to get to the top of local search results.
Google Local Business Center is a free campaign product from Google to help make local searches for businesses and services more relevant. The clinic, which will start at 10am, will explain how to register properly as well as how to tie in a Google AdWords campaign. This will be a much less complex topic than AdWords so we should be able to wrap up the clinic by 11:30am.
We will also be able to answer follow-up questions to July’s ‘Web Wednesday’ on Google AdWords. If there are additional topics you would like to see covered in this or a future clinic, please contact us.
This clinic is FREE – please let your friends know and please register now.
About 20 people showed up to our clinic on how to get started with Google AdWords yesterday which really filled up a sweltering room at the Lichtenstein Center in Pittfield. Many thanks to everyone who showed up and endured the environment. Our next clinic, which will partially be on Google Local Business Center, will happen at the end of September.
Yesterday we went about 1/2 hour longer than expected due to the plentiful, and very intelligent questions from the attendees. AdWords seems very complicated because it is so feature-rich, not necessarily because it is a complex idea or method. We did have a lot of back and forth regarding search engine optimized content and we want to reiterate that AdWords and SEO are not mutually exclusive activities.
There is huge value in creating SEO content but there is a lot of time, effort, and $$$ involved in creating this content. Once you’ve created SEO content there is a false assumption that this content will immediately crawled and propogated around the world unless you already have a huge amount of web traffic and are regularly getting indexed by the search engines. It will take time for traffic to build on your SEO assets and it will take active promotion on your part to start getting traffic. Meanwhile, you’ve built an asset that you could more fully leverage by directing paid search traffic to it.
You can quite easily create a transaction-oriented landing page for a Google AdWord out of informational SEO content on your website. As revealed in the clinic, visitors to your website that arrive via organic links are “browers” looking for information, whereas visitors to your website that arrive via an AdWord are much more likely to engage in transactive behavior even if they are visiting the same content [this is a citation from a study by EngineReady.com and outlined on Webmaster Radio on 7/28/2009].
The numbers don’t lie and since the time required in fine-tuning your content for SEO is considerable, it only makes sense to make the most of the content you’ve invested in by getting a version of it to the top of results pages via a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.
Thanks again to everyone for their interest and time – we will post a video version of the slideshow here presently.
This Tuesday we hosted the first ever Tweetup for the Berkshires at the Pittsfield Brew Works. We were a compact group but the five people attracted to the event, @ProStylus @GregDonahue @ThreadTech @theCulturedWeb @TippleTalk, all had something to contribute to the conversation about how they use Twitter, what tools they use with Twitter, and problems/issues they have with Twitter.
The number seems like a small number but the Berkshires is an area of wide-flung hamlets with a relatively small population. By contrast, at the same restaurant, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s semi-monthly meetup, which has been going on for a few years now, had six attendees, so I think we’re doing pretty good.
Of our group, we had a couple TweetDeck users who generally aren’t happy with the platform and are particularly unhappy with the most recent update. For monitoring services I related Twitter Karma, and specifically Thunder Thimble, which I covered in my http://bostonist.com/2009/07/16/bostonist_0715209_web_innovators_gr.php.
We hope to double our number at the next Berkshire Tweetup #berkshiretu which will be on Tuesday September 15th, location TBA.
This clinic: “Using Google AdWords for Business, Non-Profits, and Artists” will last about 90 minnutes and it will be held in Pittsfield, MA at 10am on Wednesday July 29 at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Ave.