What Your Product Messaging is Up Against

Since Apple was founded, a number of big changes have swept the technology world. Your clients live in a very different world. As a result, you market in a different environment. If you’re a technology entrepreneur, you need to be very clear on exactly how you are addressing the following:

1. Shortening Attention Windows: If you want to sell something, you need to attract and hold your prospect’s attention. As time goes on, the consumers you want to reach are awash in marketing messages, for products new and old.

In 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds. Today, it’s 8 seconds. Less than the 9 second attention span of a goldfish. 1

Considering that the ancient part of our brain, i.e. the one we share with lizards, is responsible for attention, your message is up against an increasingly tougher competitive environment. This “wetware” evolved over millennia to cope with hunting for bugs and occasionally running away from tigers. It wasn’t “designed” for viewing hundreds of ads per day or checking your email every 3 minutes.

Within each niche, it becomes increasingly important to differentiate in order to grab attention…yet most messaging looks exactly like everyone else’s.

On the web, you have a few seconds to make an impression, according to various UX experts. In person, it’s pretty much the same. That first impression comes from one phrase or sentence said to the right person at the right time, in order to make a promise. It isn’t physically linked to anything about your product, service, or widget. It doesn’t even require a product, or writing a single line of code. If you figure out what your customers want, it’s much easier to deliver it to them.

2. Global Competition for Psychographic Segments: If you are selling online, for many product types your ideal consumer can live anywhere…from Alabama to Antarctica. Geographic location tends to be less important than unfulfilled psychological needs. Location doesn’t matter as much as it used to.

Particular if you are selling software or anything online, it’s better to group people together into common unfulfilled needs. In fact, online communities have arisen naturally around this. If you look at popular niche blogs, you’ll often see an entire community of people following that company or person. They usually share one or a handful of common needs, and find it helpful to share war stories with others.

While this started in the early days of the web, as time goes on, these are becoming increasingly fragmented. Based on feedback loops, where like attracts like, it’s critical to engage with the specific niches based on their interests. It’s much easier to sell something, if it’s already something that group of people want to buy.

For example, marketing psychologist Dr. Glenn Livingston did studies showing a person searching for “guinea pig health” and “guinea pig vets” are looking for vastly different things and are at different levels in the buying cycle. Glenn explains, “When you do a marketing information segmentation, you might find that people talking about guinea pig health and guinea pig vets are actually two different kinds of people that don’t really belong in the same group. People that are talking about guinea pig health might be people who really don’t own a guinea pig yet.” 2 This distinction is critical for your success as an entrepreneur, much more so than your physical address.

Moreover, the cost of buying or reaching targeted traffic is slowing rising over time. As demand for advertising increases, the cost of reaching a particular keyword–once you know how it works–tends to increase over time. It’s similar to inflation. The “price” of acquiring the same type of prospect goes up.

The same principle holds across other sources of traffic. For example, if you’re going after “free” traffic sources, you’re up against the same dynamic. Instead of paying for the advertising, you need to spend even more time and effort to make a dent.

3. Unmet Long Tail Demand: In his ground-breaking book “The Long Tail”, former Wired editor Chris Anderson picked up on a peculiar pattern in sales across a number of industries. Because the cost of distribution has gone to (nearly) zero online, most industries have a large number of sales in a handful of products and a large number of products with a small number of sales.

Previously, the second group of products was completely ignored. Who cares if you like both Reggae and Jazz, when you should be buying the latest boy-band’s album? The focus was on the mass market. By going after what the average user wanted in a large group, businesses maximized their profits. The cost of distributing the other options was prohibitive.

Now, the opposite is true. I found a number of great albums combining Jazz and Reggae online in the late 1990s, without visiting Jamaica. In fact, the genre is called Rocksteady.

By catering to this explosion of niches, you can take advantage of the improved economics of distribution. Now you can buy Rocksteady albums online. You aren’t limited to a few massive record stores in New York City to get selection. Neither are the customers in any niche you choose.

4. The Mimicry Epidemic: The dark side of copy-paste? It’s way too easy to just copy something without actually thinking. In internet slang, copypasta means “derogatory term for forum posts which contain a direct or nearly direct copy-and-paste of memes, posts from older forum discussions, or other material, often accompanied by an attempt to pass off the contents as new and original.” 3

At some point, all of this information overload has turned off our brains. It’s not original, and it doesn’t move the ball forward–either for you or who you want to serve.

In a wonderful Facebook rant titled the mimicry epidemic4, Srinivas Rao notes: “We settle for the guarantee of a mediocre replica over taking the risk of something that could blow up in our face, or make us stand out from the crowd.”

Copying someone else means you avoid taking a risk. Without taking a risk, you won’t make an impact. You’re also much less likely to make a profit.

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