Category Archives: Internet Marketing

The best customer feedback EVER.

I’m sure Anna wont mind me just posting her entire email:

Hi Natalie,

this is Anna with ForeSoft.

First of all let me congratulate you on your 1 year anniversary! You are really doing a great job girls!

In support of my words here is our current results after publishing a new version of BUGtrack site.

Our trial conversion rate really increased, as expected, we can’t tell anything about subscriptions yet, but I guess it’s just the matter of time (we think the math won’t let us down and it will increase proportionally to trials order).

Anyway, we’ve really met our expectations despite the mess with the financial crisis and stuff, so I would like to thank you.

Our results:

Order of free trial has ALMOST TRIPLED (capslock was my doing because I’m so excited – Nat)

This is what we’ve got after 1 month of redesign.

Thank you, girls!


When Technology Just Makes Things Worse

I was at my doctor the other day and as I was leaving (perhaps because she knows a lot about my business), she asked if I would be happy to receive test results via text.

At first I said ‘yes’, then quickly realised my default ‘go technology’ line totally didn’t work in this particular situation.

Subsequent surveys have confirmed my reservations. Who wants to receive a text saying ‘u hav cancr – frm ur dr’? And even IF the text simply said ‘call us’ you’d freak. The fact of the matter is, that there are some things in life that will ALWAYS need the human touch.

On the other side, my surgeon texted me the other night to say ‘hope u r feeling ok’. I thought it was a bit weird, but super cool, especially because his magical hands did leave me feeling ok.

In summary, I am all for doctors spending large on technology, but I think the technology they should be spending on should be the equipment they use to save lives, not social media and bulk texting.

And also, for all you who care. 4 days after surgery:

  • Mum is applying for a job at NASA – the liquidated meals she has whipped up will change the lives of the astronauts who need them
  • I have had only one emergency – after leaving hospital I fainted in the car and had my poor mother screeching over to the side of the road and carrying me onto the back seat. It is a truely weird feeling to have your eyes open and not be able to see.
  • Going to hospital is scary. Having anesthetic is fun. You get injected, you get high, you lose an hour of life.
  • I think I lost about 5 kilos during this experience, through being unable to eat and the sheer weight of the monstrous teeth Manish extracted
  • My advice is, if you can afford it, get health insurance. Private hospitals are like resorts, they are worth every penny

That’s it from ‘Fat Face’

Geurilla Marketing, Dog Style

I was wandering the streets at lunch, when I came across a pink petition signing extravaganza.

The petition was to get lighting in official dog walking parks in Wellington (did you know currently NONE of our official dog walking parks has lighting at night or on dark winter days?). I vaguely recognised the brand that covered the stand where we were encouraged to sign the petition as Pet Angels.

Pet Angels is soon to be a major competitor of mine, when Verity and I start a company called to fulfill our desire to be constantly surrounded by cute puppies without the 17 year commitment. (FYI, our prices will be very competitive, as we are not planning on actually charging at all for our dog sitting services).

However, despite the fact that we now HATE Pet Angels because they will be a competitor, we LOVE the way they Guerrilla market themselves. How clever to cotton onto one issue and make it their own. And be out on the streets as a major dog advocate, getting all these dog lovers onside, then slipping them a brochure.

Pure genius.

I was talking this morning about the joys of becoming ‘the guy’ on a particular issue in terms of marketing. If you find an issue you care passionately about AND that just happens to be relevant to your business, start creating a fuss. The media will soon catch on and you will be the expert in the area. Then you simply squeeze in a word about your company, and voila! everyone knows about it.

I like it how the traditionally boring world of pet services has caught onto this! Good luck an I wish you all the best for when Verity and I launch :)

Keeping it Simple

There seems to be quite a flurry of good business ideas being directed towards me in the past few days. One thing they ALL have in common is exponential growth. This is not exponential growth in customers, but in the size of the idea.

One sentence that I find myself regularly repeating is “There are 6 billion people on this planet. You do not need to appeal to ALL of them”

Yes, if you have a great idea, people WILL get excited about it, they will tell you how it applies in many situations and how much an extra feature would help them.

But while your idea is growing ever bigger, your prospects of success are shrinking just as quickly. Rowan’s diagram explains this phenomenon nicely:

Rowan’s diagram

There are MANY downsides to having 6 Billion people on this planet. One of the few upsides is that you can have a super focused, simple and targeted product that 99.9999% of people have absolutely no use for, and your target market will still be multi-thousands or millions of people.

I know it’s scary and adding new target audiences feels intuitively like a safe way to play it, but the reality of the situation is that the more you DILUTE your idea and spread the appeal, the less that your main and most profitable market will like it.

When you have that target market eating out of the palm of your hand, that is the time to start looking at how to attract a different group of people. If you are unsure of whether your idea is enough to get your initial group knocking down your door, then maybe it is the idea and not the size of the market that needs analysis…?

Market Research – The Old Fashioned Way

Last night I headed along to a market research session with two of my most outspoken friends, to offer feedback on a branding and marketing strategy in return for wine and freebies (note: If you do market research, you will be surprised at how much people will do for a free glass of wine)

The product was targeted at females and is a hot hair conditioning treatment… Which is all I’ll say because although we weren’t sworn to secrecy, it feels way more exclusive when I’m one of a small group who knows about it. However, here we are ‘testing’ the product:

Market research

Market research is a very interesting thing. These guys did a good job of getting a range of people, with a range of values and finances. They even let me go even though my hair has never been fortunate enough to be treated to a hot conditioning anything. I did feel like maybe this set me outside the target market, but I think I managed to come up with an alternative marketing strategy that would entice me to make a purchase (I have a cold and anything hot on my head sounded like heaven last night). Lessons we learned (other than Verity is allergic to vege crisps):

People who care about ethics need a LOT of convincing before they believe you

As Marie-Claire pointed out, we use RIDICULOUS amounts of products that quite literally harm others. While there were still a few eye rolls when the topic was approached,it became apparent that most of us do care, and most of us are rather cynical about modern marketing. If you are using cotton in your product, you have a responsibility to know WHERE it is sourced, WHO it is sourced from and HOW MUCH money they get in return for their labour. You also need to know what chemicals are used in the process, because we are not OK with you polluting any river, even if it’s not in our backyard.

And unless you stick a BIG MASSIVE label on the outside packaging specifying every single potential sin you could have committed and how you didn’t commit it, we WILL assume you are a bad guy. One person even commented she wont buy any cosmetics unless they are from an Organic retailer because otherwise she just DOESN’T know, another person pointed out that people are happy to come and spend $1,200 a pop at the shop she works at because they cannot live with the idea of purchasing clothes that have caused misery or harm.

It’s fashionable to be clean, green and human/animal friendly

Our wide rage of situations and finances did not stop us from having one nearly unified voice on what we expect from luxury products. We are sick of being pummeled with chemicals, we are happy to pay more to ensure the bunnies were not tortured and we just can’t feel comfortable with the idea that our beauty products produced through exploitation.

This is quite true. Maybe in 5 years there will be another fashionable issue (because I’m pretty sure a lot of people knew this stuff was happening years ago but didn’t have quite the same passion about putting a stop to it). But either way, you’ve still got a good few years to get on this particular train, so why not jump on the first carriage and get a headstart?

Girls care about their appearance

I think I am not very feminine, as I didn’t even know half the things people were talking about and clearly missed out on beauty school somewhere (I blame my equally non-fussed school friends). But other women DO care. They sit there with stunning gorgeous hair and complain about how they wish it was shiny. Crazy but true, so they are certainly willing to pay for this stuff (as I suppose the large cosmetic companies figured out a few years before me)… But they want to know it will WORK – they are sick of failure.

Non-constrcutive criticism.

I just arrived back to find the office all a flutter about someone pulling apart one of our websites ( and the design work we did.

Having worked in startups and design for a while, I am well used to getting criticised for the work we do – I am yet to find one designer who is universally loved and I would much prefer to be loved by some and hated by some than ignored by all…

So I take it as compliment really, but have been asked for comment, so here goes:

“Oh! and FYI… this is an example of exactly what not to do designwise…
Check out:

God Awful! When Web2.0 design goes bad! Cutesy bubbles, shadows, pink and HUGE type (cos we’re all blind). This is an example of design not being applicable to their market. And there’s no relationship between their site design and the product design.”

1. Cutesy bubbles, shadows, pink

The very reason why this website was a resounding success when they launched at Oracle open world is because their product was situated in a sea of masculinity and they were pink. I love pink, but you may notice we don’t generally design with it. In this situation the design NEEDED to make an impact. Check out any web 2,0 review site, there are like a million products on the market. Colour is one (very successful) way of standing out.

As for the cute part. We are of the opinion that business people are people too. I don’t understand or adhere to the belief that anything to do with business needs to be drab and boring. If you are using a product it should be fun and easy. Whether or not you agree with that only really affects whether or not you will be a customer of ours. It will never affect how we approach our design.

2. HUGE types (because we are all blind)

Erm. Yes. We kind of are… or will be if we spend too much time squinting at small grey text on lit up screens.

We do not apologise or feel at all worried about the fact we give your eyes a break when you are at our websites. You are not viewing a painting and therefore our design is not led by form alone. Function is key to everything we do and although big fonts are now so common they are almost cliche, it doesn’t actually make them less relevant. And I don’t intend to wear glasses before my time (as I have seen many web geeks forced to do) because some designer has decided 8 point font is more important than my ability to see. SO no apologies there.

3. No relationship between product and website design

We agree on one thing, which is why we are still working with Zogix to bring the product into line. This re-design was led by the knowledge that the current product was not up to scratch – but it was more important to have a good marketing site for launch than a half-done product.

Startups = compromise, but I don’t think this was a compromise that they regret.

So, in summary…

I’m quietly stoked we got such a strong reaction – and that such a recently launched product was picked up on! I’m also stoked that the things that were ripped apart were, for the most part, the MOST successful aspects of the website, and the website chosen has been a key factor in securing us more work as a lot of people seem to disagree with Mr Reviewer.

I am NOT a teenage Girl anymore

I have been talking to the owners of about potentially working together.

This has led to a mild breakdown on my side due to it suddenly hitting me that I am not only NOT a teenage girl, but I know NOTHING about them. We have kicked into serious market research mode and spent half of Emma’s birthday Pot luck dinner quizzing people about online doll creation, avatars, sparkles and slideshows. It’s, like MySpace, totally beyond me.

Last night, post lack-of-concentration tantrum and pre freedom (which led to me wandering a beach in bare feet at all hours of the night and now having no voice), I made an internet doll.

I think I kinda got it.

Me doll

What I am beginning to understand about teenage girls (outside of this weird fascination with growing up waaay to quickly and then offsetting that with playing with dolls online), is that they are vastly different from anyone who is NOT a teenage girl.

Usability doesn’t matter so much.

I am sad to say my doll is nude because I literally didn’t know how to dress her. I didn’t understand the wizz bang widgets that kept popping out everywhere. She is lucky to have a nose because adding her face had me stumped for 10 minutes. I am wondering if teenage girls like the fact that they have to spend the first week on the site learning the site. It makes it exclusive.

Your content is NOT king. Theirs is.

Initially I was appalled at the content on some of the websites I looked at. But then I realised the people adding it were the teenage girls. This is a boy free zone, there is no one to impress, the website owners aren’t putting words in their mouths, they come up with it on their own. I believe that the freedom to ‘own’ the website and make it theirs is key to teenage girls. You just can’t control their space. Which is probably why the hideous layouts on MySpace are so popular. No corporation told those people what their site should look like.

Girls will be girls

Despite all the media messaging, social pressure and everything else that is telling girls to grow up quick, they wont. If they LIKE dolls and fashion, they will hunt down ways to get involved in them. This actually reassures me a lot. I also like how the doll websites have dolls of all sizes and colours, big noses, small noses, weird eyes, silly expressions and everything that people tell you you shouldn’t be. (Don’t use my doll as an example, I fell into the trap of wanting a petty one). Unlike work related applications, this stuff is there for fun.

It was the first time in my life I’ve signed up for a user account and faced the fact I am too old to have my date of birth recognised. It was the first time I have played with dolls for years. And despite my embarrassment at admitting this, it was actually quite a hoot. I suspect this will become the new office fad.

Blogging Etiquette

How many people respond personally to comments they get on their blog?

One person who is super good at replying by email is Rowan Simpson, who not only replies, but totally smashes open the myth that YOU are too busy to reply personally (Rowan was one of Trade Me’s Founders and has invested a good chunk of his money and time after the sale into other businesses as well as a growing family) – if he’s not too busy to blat out an email, I guarantee you aren’t either.

I always rave to people I know about how cool it is that he took the time out of his day to respond, especially because I already feel like I get a massive amount out of just reading his blog, so I just thought that it may be a good idea to tell the whole world.

Rowan, I apologise if you now get inundated with comments from my millions of readers who want to test out my email theory ;)

It did however, get me thinking about how blogs can be a tad impersonal and it’s always nice to send a quick email as well sometimes to let people know you’re not just doing it to boost your readership or to backlink to your blog etc etc. It’s just good etiquette.

Please, please integrate your marketing strategy

Big companies ALWAYS shock me with how useless they are. Big companies pay a fortune for someone to come up with a marketing strategy, but forget to analyse who they are before hand. This results in me seeing massive banners, tv ads and sponsorships everywhere proclaiming one thing, then interacting with the actual company and experiencing just the opposite.

Take my favorite large company Vodafone for example. If you NEVER met anyone from vodafone, you would be under the belief that Vodafone was full of hip young things who are so clever and cool that while they are out skateboarding and surfing and at dance parties, they come up with super cool ways to help you make the most of now.

When you walk into a Vodafone outlet however, you come face to face with some angry young person who clearly doesn’t give two hoots about how you make use of your time because they wont even bother to look at you for the first half an hour (I was actually wondering today if a Vodafone store would be a good place to catch up with friends – all this space to sit in and you are invisible to the people actually working there).

And aside from the girls they dress in tiny little dresses at various events (and I’m only including them because I suspect the boys love them), you could hardly call the people you come into contact with as ‘cool’. I’m fairly certain none of them have EVER been surfing and the seeming inability to hold a conversation makes me think they don’t have many friends to practice on. This may seem really rude, but my take on the Vodafone marketing speel is that it relies on being the ‘cool’ company. Therefore it actually is important to have fun, approachable people in their shops – I have nothing against uncool people, but they simply don’t belong with Vodafone – this is the image they have built.

I don’t want to be accused of using ironic in the wrong sense like our friend Alanis Morrisette, but it does strike me as ironic that Vodafone shops are so full of high-tech gadgets and information about 3G and wireless internet and clever things you can do with technology these days, while in the middle of it all two bored looking people struggle to write your problem down in one of those tiny notebooks you use to write your spelling words in at school. Once again, using glass on your table tops and minimalist branding only gets you so far in convincing your customers that you are at the cutting edge of technology. When you are faced with a problem management tool that is not only decades only and inefficient, but surpassed by basically every low-tech company around, suddenly those big modern, open spaces just look as empty as the promises Vodafone makes about who they are.

My point is. Vodafone clearly doesn’t care (what are we going to do? Switch to Telecom?) But you should. If you can’t live up to what your marketing says about you, rethink your marketing strategy.

Once you have established who you are, EVERY INTERACTION ANYONE HAS with your company should reinforce that. Want to be seen as fun? Well have fun with your customers, chat with them, discuss awesome ideas you have for what you’re helping them with. Want to be seen as professional? Make sure no one within your company is ever rude to your customers and deliver everything on time. Want to be seen as cool? Hire people who are unique, have quirky clothing and interests and the ability to chat casually with random passers by.

Vodafone has the pleasure of my rant because they do this to me time and time again, but you do see it everywhere. While words CAN convince people about what you are for a while, eventually people will see through them and you’d better either have a monopoly on your market or ensure what’s behind them holds true. Otherwise, your customers WILL leave you, and they probably wont even bother telling you why. So don’t just go to a branding company and get them to decide who you are (not that any half decent one should let you do that). Put in the ground work, think about what makes you different and never swerve off that path.