How To Get My Money
This document is now mostly obsolete; a much-improved version appeared on the
IBM DeveloperWorks site, and
a reprint of that is available over in my opinions
I discuss how it is that you can market things to me over the Internet, and
have some hope of getting me to part with my money. I discuss both what will
work and what will not, and give examples. I originally wrote this years ago.
Now I'm not alone; for more material along similar lines, if a bit buzzword-heavy,
check out "the clue train".
This is a work in progress; not everything is done yet. The idea of it being
done is a little silly, even. Last modified December 14th, 1999. Don't let the
absence of a prohibition here make you think something is okay or desirable;
I may just not have run into a particular kind of rudeness yet. Similarly, don't
assume something isn't okay, just because I don't mention it. Above
all else, think. You want my money? Put some effort into finding
out what I want, and providing it.
- Don't Bother Me
- Don't contact me. If I need to be in touch with you, I will find
you. I have at my disposal millions of dollars worth of publically
available search engines. People will tell me about your product. In short,
the chances are fairly high that I don't care, or that I already know. If
I want notification, I'll ask for it explicitly. If it is necessary that I
be contacted, be absolutely sure that your contact is short, relevant, and
to the point. Tell me if my car will explode; don't take the opportunity to
tell me about your new dealership.
- Play By the Rules
- Use appropriate venues. Post a single announcement to an appropriate newsgroup, preferably an announcement
or commercial newsgroup. If you post multiple times, I'll assume
you're a crackpot. If you post to a non-commercial group, I'll
assume you're rude.
Email (From you)
- No Junk Mail
- If I didn't ask for it, don't send it. No, I don't want to know. I'll find
out when I want to spend my time looking it up. Sending me "announcements"
I have not asked for is theft; you are stealing my computing resources and
- No Tired Stories
- Don't give me the lie about "this is a one time mailing" - I get
most of them at least three times. Don't claim you'll remove my address if
I ask you to. I have more than ten billion valid email addresses; I am not
about to waste my time sending you a list. It is not my job to support
the costs of your market research.
- Listen to Me
- If I tell you that I am no longer interested, stop. Do
not send me "just one more announcement". Do not leave me on the
list based on my "evident past interest". Leave me alone.
I'll let you know when I want more information.
- No Trickery
- Do not assume I want to be on a mailing list just because I express some
interest. Do not give me a little tiny checkbox to hit if I don't want mail.
Assume that I do not want to be on a mailing list; rest assured I'll
tell you otherwise if I need to. Better, make sure you ask and I answer -
use a pair of boxes, with neither checked, and make sure I check one before
you accept the form data. Then I'll have made a conscious choice.
- Don't Make it Worse
- Do not sell my name or address to other people. I have gotten more junk
mail in my postal box from my ill-advised decision to register a certain product
than I have from anything else I've ever done, including getting married.
- Offer me Choices
- Don't just have the list of "addresses we email". Let me ask for
patch announcements relating to only one of your products, if that's all I
want. Distinguish between "patch announcements", "new version
announcements", and "news about other products". Maybe I'll
want them all; maybe I won't. Let me choose. I'm more likely to decide
to buy an upgrade if I like the way you've supported the current version,
and I'm much less likely to if you've spammed me.
- No Fake Trust
- When I tell you your policy bothers me, don't say "but it's certified".
If it is, the organization "certifying" you has done you a disservice.
My experience with such organizations has led me to believe that, if you were
trustworthy, you wouldn't be "certified", because you wouldn't need
Email (From me)
- Accept Support Questions
- Do not autorespond saying you don't take email support questions. If you
aren't taking email support questions, you aren't ready to be on the internet
at all, please go away until you're in the current decade. Email support is
cheaper and more convenient, both for me and for you, than phone support.
Snail mail is unacceptable for the vast majority of problems.
- Postmaster Must Always Work
- Make absolutely sure that, no matter how badly everything has collapsed,
works. It is required by the RFC's, and it is the first place I will go if
I have any trouble sending email to anyone else. (Anyone else at your site,
- I Sent Email For A Reason
- Don't write back saying "thanks for your interest, send me a phone
number so a sales rep can contact you". I chose to send my request via
email (rather than calling) because email was convenient for me. If I want
a change of venue, I'll suggest it.
World Wide Web
- Readable Plain Text
- No frames. Text readable. I haven't got the time to load up the latest set
of security holes every time I want some information. Don't rely on graphics.
Pictures of text make you look like a form-over-content nut.
- Search Engine
- A search engine with a link to it labeled "search" on the front
page. It should work. It should not give me weird NT errors.
- Downloads and Files
- Downloads. Product updates, demos, patches. FAQ's. Do your best to make
sure I can answer my question or solve my problem as quickly as possible without
having to take the time of one of your agents. Don't be afraid to point to
a user-run resource page, even if not everything it says about you is good.
I'll respect your honesty.
- Good Information
- Information. Make full lists of bug fixes available. Label everything
with its size in kilobytes. Label everything with a date, so I can tell whether it's newer than my current version. Make
sure the update page lists the version of the newest patch, and
tells me how to find the version in my existing program.
- Email Connectivity
- Email addresses. Make sure I can contact, at a bare minimum, a sales person,
a technical support rep, and/or a management/policy person. Make sure you
have a contact for your web page itself, and make sure your mailer system
works. Please no submission forms; I like my mailer. Let me reiterate:
I use a program to send mail. I like it. I prefer it over using web forms.
I am more likely to take the time to drop you a line via email than I am to
fill out a web form. Also, since I originally wrote this, I noticed another
thing: About half the web forms I encounter produce some kind of "internal
error" (generally associated with Windows NT). If I send you email, and
it bounces, I have a copy of the message I spent ten minutes drafting. If
I fill out a form, I just wasted my time.
- Tell Good Stories
- Put up interesting information about your company. Publicize successes.
Talk about your involvement in the online community. Please, none of the "we've
been active since 1988" stuff, tell us how you've been involved!
Tell me your employee runs the Usenet Kook of the Month contest. Tell me about
standards committees you're active in. Tell me why I should like
- Admit Mistakes
- Don't hush your mistakes up; put a big apology up where everyone can see
it. I'd rather know that you did something wrong and understand this, than
hear rumors that you did it and not have any idea.
- Offer Value
- Don't just put up ads. Put up resources I might benefit from even if I'm
not a customer! This way, I get something for reading your web page. For instance,
this page could be seen as a kind of ad for my ISP; if you read this, and
you like it, maybe my ISP would be a good place to host your next web page,
or maybe you want one of our web consultants.
- Be Human
- This is the hard part. I want to get to a real person. I want to talk to
someone who isn't following a script. I want to talk to employees who will
occasionally say "Well, this is our policy. I don't like it very much,
and if you don't like it, here's who to talk to." The most negative customer
service experience I've had in 1999 involved "customer service"
people who were not allowed to leave the script, and who were not allowed
to put me in touch with anyone who could leave the script. I'm an ex-customer
now. Don't worry about "appearing professional" all the time. If
I pay you, you're a professional - that's what the word means. I'll be more
likely to pay you if I think you're real people.
- Never Lie
- If I write to complain about getting spammed, don't say "maybe someone
else put that address in by mistake". I use specially created unique
addresses, which are unique to each company I deal with. I know where you
got that address, and I know that you thought you could get away with spamming.
When you lie about it, and I find out, I no longer respect you or trust you
- nor should I. Don't lie. You will, eventually, get caught, and
then we will all laugh at you.
Find Out More...
One of the things I've suggested to a lot of companies is that
they provide valuable resources as a way to advertise their products.
With that in mind, if you like what you just read, you may want
to talk to me (or my company) about advertising or marketing,
web consulting, or maintaining mailing lists. For more information,
check out our corporate web page. Thanks!
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