April 05, 2010

Servicing Small Businesses Marketing small businesses has always been a challenge. Small business owners often don’t know much about marketing, want it to go away and have parochial tastes. They frequently change their minds. And most want world-class creative and account service for $1.98. Agencies have reluctantly approached and serviced this market segment that can often yield remarkable creative latitude sometimes offset by mercurial client behavior. David Gash wants to own this market with his crowd sourced service called Prova; Swedish for “to try”. David, an LA-based web designer and serial entrepreneur, wants to put the science of advertising into marketing for small businesses. His concept is simple and arguably brilliant. He takes a piecework approach, assuming the little guys want specific items to achieve specific objectives within specific time frames. The underlying premise is that small business owners act viscerally; they know it when they see it. David and his team do not vet any participants. Prova is capitalism in its simplest raw form. So he’s organized a competitive auction where business owners post their needs (e.g. a logo, a website, a flyer, business cards, a small space print ad) and kids, students, freelancers and small agencies create ads on spec to meet these needs. This approach has evolved since the site first went live on Halloween in 2008. To date, most of the projects have been design oriented. The work is open and transparent to everybody and the client picks his favorite. Clients frequently comment on the first few submissions and give clues to inform subsequent executions. This has encouraged later submissions and stimulated competitive juices on the part of participating designers. There is an option to do a private round hidden from the growing community. A typical fee ranges from $250 to $600 and attracts competitive creative contributions from the US, Sydney, London, Prague, Sofia, Tel Aviv, Costa Rica, Mumbai and all the places known for outsourcing. Clients pay a $39 listing fee and pay the bid price upfront. So far, no one has failed to pick a winner and there have been no litigious customers. The recession and the visibility for work on site seem to have offset inhibitions about doing work on spec. In theory the site provides options to create web, audio and video ads and marketing tools, but the majority of projects, so far, have been logo designs and traditional print jobs. This is a great way for small clients to get daily needs met. Its unorthodox but so are they. It does not give them a comprehensive marketing strategy, a positioning or an approach to growing their businesses. It does give them what they immediately want, the way the want it at a price they’re willing to pay. Maybe there’s a lesson for the big guys in this way of thinking
Lessons for Advertisers from Gaming Humans love games. Games give us valuable clues about how customers think, act, solve problems, process data and assess value. Games are a fingerprint and a barometer of our culture. Marketers will increasingly need to draw upon the principles of gaming in order to understand, enable and communicate with a population that has integrated gaming conventions into their consciousness and consuming behavior. Games are a vital component of learning in our culture. From the military, to UPS to big business, games are used extensively for training, orientation and skill improvement. Almost everyone plays some form of online games. Gaming is the number one online activity regardless of demographic. Gaming culture has a keen influence on customer segments and our popular aesthetic. Consider these how gaming conventions suggest insights into consumer wants and needs. Persona Selection. Many games require players to create or select a persona or build an avatar. These doppelgangers project hopes, dreams and self-images of the people who choose them. Some reflect their current state of mind or self-assessment, others project fantasies and still others are random idiosyncratic choices. All give us clues about how to engage them. Level Setting. Players decide which level to start the game; in effect which level of skill or competence they feel. They are telling us where they are at and how they want to be engaged. Constant Choice. Consumers expect the freedom to pause, restart, and find alternative paths to the same goal. Self-directed activity is the norm everywhere except for traditional advertising where we still try to force-feed messages to audiences by interrupting consumers while they are doing something they like. Giving consumers choices increases rather than decreases attention to and engagement with commercial messages. Rewards. Players are motivated by rewards and rankings. At each stage, games reward performance, congratulate players and incent them to keep playing. Small incentives recognize individual achievements. Leader boards publicly display successful outcomes and set expectations for what it takes to win. Public recognition motivates a healthy segment of the market and establishes widely accepted norms. The challenge for advertisers and marketers is to find a way, without masquerading, to play along. Gamers need the flexibility to attack the problem their way. This has profound UI-UX implications and it validates the need to create a smorgasbord of commercial content that consumers can access according to their personal preferences and timetables.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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