You’re Thinking Like A Marketer, Not A Customer

If you’re running a site to promote something (a product, an event, a way-of-life), and you’re doing so not simply out of the goodness of your heart,* but for financial gain, chances are you’re doing it totally wrong.

And if you are doing it wrong (and you probably are, trust me), then you’re losing money, losing audience, and losing sight of what makes your product/event/philosophy remarkable.

Nine times out of ten, the big problem is that you’re thinking from the point of view of a Marketer rather than as a customer. It’s nothing new to say this, of course, but I wonder if you could recognize it when you see it.

This is one of the biggest signs, and it turns people away before they’ve even had time to figure out where they are:
A homepage that screams “Buy This Now!,” instead of posing a polite, quiet, “How can I help you find what you’re looking for?” or even, “Hi! How are you today? Please feel free to take a look around and let me know if you have any questions.”
There’s a reason that brick-and-mortar salespeople** and cashiers and waitstaff and receptionists and pretty much everyone else use polite language like that above. They are there to serve you and assist you in paying for what you want to buy, not shove the Bison Burger Special down your throat.

Consider this bit of analogy:
It is raining. Hard. You don’t have an umbrella, but need to walk another twenty blocks down Fifth Avenue to get to your job interview. Crossing 36th Street, you glimpse a rack of umbrellas inside a store you’ve never shopped in before, a place called Jerry’s Stuff On Fifth. Sweet. Salvation. You open the door. *Ringaling!* You step inside, casually scanning the room from side to side to locate the rack of umbrellas you had noticed through the window, as you shake off a little of the rainwater and try to calm your breath. Without warning, you are ambushed by sales associates on either side, yelling and arm-waving and shoving Plastic Thermoses in front of your face.

“$9.95! Two for $15!!! Tell A Friend!!! Buy Now! Buy Now! $9.95! Two for $15! Only today! Special Special!”

You try to speak: “But...but...I just want an um—”

“Thermos Special! Buy Today! $9.95! Two for $15!”
If you don’t go running back out into the thunderstorm after enduring that, then I’ll eat my shorts. (Oh wait, I already did that.)

Make sense yet?

Here’s a translation of my little allegory:
Rain = Google

Umbrella = Search Query

Jerry’s Stuff On Fifth = Your Website

Plastic Thermoses Salespeople Of Doom = Bullshit Links and Flashing Banners and Fancy Rollovers and Embedded Commercials and BUY NOW MOTHERFUCKER Buttons that have absolutely, positively, NOTHING to do with what your customers want because you haven’t even bothered to ask them.
Any questions?


*Of course, even people doing stuff out of the goodness of their hearts routinely make the same mistakes. But the stakes are frequently higher when money gets involved, and for some reason, folks working for-profit tend to approach things with a much higher dose of ego, self-deception, and propensity for outright lying and other unethical behaviors that basically define “Marketers.” (Sub-note: marketers are not intrinsically evil. Marketers (capital M) are.) Go Back Up

**I am aware that a lot of salespeople are assholes. These are not the ones I am referring to. Have you stopped to think that your site acts like the very worst of the worst Timeshare salespeople? Go Back Up