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ASTEROID IP HAS STRUCK PLANET EARTH
by  J o h n A u d e t t e

The dinosaurs had a nice run. But about 65 million years ago, theory has it, they were brought down by a large rock (an asteroid more than five miles in diameter) that crashed into the earth somewhere around Club Med in Cancun, causing an explosion 10,000 times greater than could be produced by all the nuclear weapons currently on earth. Evidently the rock changed the environment on a global scale.

Though it pales in comparison to the run of the dinosaurs (or even "Cats" for that matter), business has had a nice run since the Industrial Revolution. And no big rocks appear to be on a collision course with our modest little sphere, allowing the topless sun bunnies to lounge comfortably on the beach in Cancun. But a radical change in the
environment is underway nonetheless -- caused not by big rocks from outerspace, but by the little grains of sand that pad those sunbathing bottoms.

Silicon chips, linked together in a global network, and communicating in the standard global language of Internet Protocol (IP), are causing immense global change. And many businesses, well adapted to the old environment, are having a hard time adjusting.

You hear a lot about "getting it" or "not getting it" when people talk
about the Internet. Do you ever wonder just what that means? Well, here goes. I'm going to tell you what it means to get it -- at least in a
business context. Ready?

The customer is in charge.

Asteroid IP has flipped the world over and -- the customer is in charge (say it out loud). Those little IP packets have given the customer unprecedented power:

(1) Information is Ubiquitous
There's no place to hide on the Internet. The customer can compare
your products -- features, benefits and price -- with all of your
competitors products in a heartbeat, making the 'Net the most
competitive business environment in history.

(2) A Wide Choice Bestows Pull Power
The Internet is a pull medium. The viewer has millions of choices. The
old media are push. How many newspapers do you have to choose from in your town? How many radio stations? Television channels?

(3) Everyone is Potentially a Publisher
You provided lousy service to Bill Bob. He complained but you gave him the run-around or the brush-off. Did he persist? Nope, he simply put together a little Web site called yourcompanysucks.com and made it available to 100 million people on the Web. In the pre-IP world, it took someone like Ralph Nader to act as a catalyst for consumer advocacy. Now we're all potentially consumer advocates.

(4) Everyone Hates Obtrusive Advertising
In push media, it's hard to hide from advertising. Full-page print ads,
billboards next to the road, radio commercials, television commercials -- it's hard to avoid them. The remote control for the TV bestows some power, but it's like a pop-gun compared to the nuclear war head called the mouse.

(5) Commoditization Breeds Self-Reliant Customers
For over ten years now there has been a powerful trend in retail toward
commoditization for an ever increasing number of products. This reached a sort of climatic state with the proliferation of the retail "Big Boxes", the depersonalized, no frills warehouses offering little other than price, selection and availability. Knowing that they would receive minimum service and worthless advice at the hands of minimum wage, minimum knowledge workers in these facilities, customers have taken the initiative to inform themselves. The Internet gives these customers the opportunity to take their self-reliance to new levels.

OK, we all "get it". We're upside down and the customer is in charge. Now, what do we do with it -- so little time, so many bosses. Here are six ways that businesses can adapt to the post Asteroid IP world of the 'Net:

(1) Market Information
(2) Give, Then Take
(3) Build Community
(4) Find Ways to be Proactive
(5) Provide Great Customer Service
(6) Provide Great Selection & Great Pricing


Marketing Information
On the Internet we are increasingly casting our votes against obtrusive
advertising by refusing to click on banners. In response to this, advertisers have been developing ways to make banners more obtrusive, using devices such as blinking text, animation, even streaming video. Meanwhile Web users in focus groups have been observed literally holding up a hand to cover particularly obnoxious banners. This is similar to the way we protect ourselves from obtrusive commercials
on television by hitting the mute button or clicking to another channel.

When I watch myself using the 'Net, I find that I'm almost always in the
mode of looking for information: current news, sports news, financial
information, latest happenings at Guinness -- whatever. And when I'm
looking for information I'm not going to be distracted by a banner ad that is trying to sell me something. It's hard to distract someone when they're deep into a task, in this case a search for information. I mean, really, have you ever seen an ad in a dictionary? So instead of distracting them, why not help them? Advertise information.

Here's a fictitious real-life example:

You're in business to sell music online. So you puchase the keyword
"Mozart" at Yahoo. Good move. Now when someone searches on the word Mozart your banner appears at the top of the search results. What is the message they see on your banner? Could it be something like:

Movie Soundtrack Sale!
Save on music from the best musicals of the 90's
Click Here


Yech! You are advertising a sales message (albeit not a very targeted one) and your potential customer (who is charge) is most likely looking for information. Do they click on this banner? Not very often.

Wouldn't it be more effective to advertise information? After all, the
viewer is looking for information about Mozart -- why not offer it to him? Maybe a banner along the lines of:

"Did You Know That Mozart Never Attended School?"
Click Here for the Web's Definitive Site on Mozart,
Including a Collection of His Works


Or use rich media to build a live banner something like this:

"Do You Know What Level of Schooling Mozart Completed?"
Check One: o none o grade school o high school o college
For the Surprising Answer, Click Here


Then, after the viewer has arrived at your site, you can present him with a wealth of information about Mozart and subtly present your sales message. You will more than likely develop a customer, create sales -- and give yourself a chance to grab some beach time.

The current advertising model was developed in response to a media
environment that was severely limited in terms of space and time.
Advertisers have adapted cleverly to these limitations by concentrating
their efforts on eliciting an emotional response from the viewer. It has
worked so well that many believe that tweaking emotions is the only way to advertise, forgetting that it's simply an environmental adaptation. The post Asteroid IP environment of the Internet offers almost unlimited time and space. We now have the ability, indeed the need, to appeal to
viewers intelligence, as well as to their emotions.

There are countless other ways to market effectively on the Internet, many of them having nothing to do with banners. The point is that the essence of the Internet today is information. Market information, advertise information, provide information -- and the customers and sales will follow.

Or, another way of looking at it, now that things are upside down and the customer is in control, is that marketers need to meet customer needs -- as opposed to manufacturing them as in the past.

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