Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Can Web Sites Sell Anything to Writers? Part 2, Step 1: Think Cheap

Following up on yesterday's post about what will not help anybody market anything to writers like me...

...Here's what you should do to market your web site, business, product, etc., to writers--Step 1 is to build trust by thinking cheap

If we use the Internet at all, we’re here either for free entertainment or to earn money—not to spend money. I see a lot of advice (some of which I’ve actually written, from material supplied by customers) about building web sites with a “landing page” that basically says to the visitor “Here’s what we’re selling. Buy it now.” People who have more faith in humankind than I think I had at age three apparently do buy some things from that kind of sites. I don’t. That type of site has no entertainment value; if I visit it at all, I’m doing research, which means I’m there to earn money not spend it. So the chance that I’d ever buy anything from that sort of site is very near zero

I’m writing this as an almost literally starving writer. Last winter I announced that I was going to stop bothering about buying food, altogether, because I wasn’t earning enough money online or in real life to live on and I didn’t intend to be an able-bodied welfare bum. I still don’t. I announced the Ultimate Hunger Strike. Well, of course, before I ran out of surplus fat to metabolize, summer came along. I happen to live in an orchard. A poor year for most of the things that grow in the orchard still means that prime-quality low-calorie food literally shoves itself toward me. I ate fresh juicy fruit and veg, even sold raspberries, and generally had enough money to buy the high-protein food to go with the fruit and veg in town.

Not that having money guaranteed that I’d be well fed all summer. The glyphosate problem in the United States has moved a lot of things that I used to eat and enjoy into the “poison” list for me. By eating glyphosate-poisoned food, like the rice chips a friend shared with me last week—the list of ingredients consisted of “rice, oil, salt” but evidently some glyphosate-poisoned rice got into the mix—I lose the ability to absorb nutrients from food and could literally starve to death by overeating. Currently the protein products I trust consist of three specific flavors of ice cream (I’ve always liked Ben & Jerry’s flavors, but unfortunately they’ve moved off the safe list), six specific brands of nut products, and three specific brands of chicken products. During the past year Armour stopped distributing its chicken product that I could eat, the locally owned supermarket and the loathsome Food Lion chain store got into price wars that have kept the Gwaltney chicken off the shelf at the locally owned store that offers the better price, I’ve not budgeted time to walk nine miles to Wal-Mart and buy the chicken or ice cream I can use there, and Dollar Store prices on chicken and ice cream have often been higher than I’ve been willing to pay. I’m writing this after two full weeks when, as a result of these factors, all the protein foods I’ve consumed have been peanut products. I like peanuts, but I think I’m getting close to an overdose here.

Currently my part of the world is enjoying the “Indian Summer” effect, a final week or so of really mild weather before the cold season begins, and since the first cold nights were mild this year a few things are still blooming and bearing. This will end soon. Unless a lot of you readers start buying things or paying me for writing jobs, the Ultimate Hunger Strike will occur as planned. I won’t have electricity at home, either, so cold will accelerate the effects of hunger. I enjoy living as I suspect only people of Irish descent can do; I’m in no hurry to join the people I’ve loved in the afterlife, but unless people really need me in this life (and say so in a meaningful way, by which I mean US$100 or more) I will. The prospect of becoming a martyr for self-employment-as-opposed-to-welfare-cheating doesn't thrill me; nor does it scare me. I'm ready to go either way, as God (working through you) may lead. I'm an active, healthy widow in my early fifties; I've had a good, rich, full life of integrity with very little guilt and very few regrets.

But even if I were Warren Buffett’s widow, maybe more so then than now…as a knitter, e.g., I enjoy luxury yarn and I even enjoy looking at printed pictures of yarn and things knitted with yarn, but I’m not going to buy yarn off a flashy-looking “landing page.” No way. If I’ve become familiar with a brand of yarn in real life, then I might consider ordering it directly from the manufacturer online. Even then that slick “landing page” would put me off. If the web site is trying to build a slick “funnel” down which visitors tumble straight into spending more money than they had rationally planned to spend, and if that doesn’t tell me the yarn is probably not good enough that people would make a rational decision to buy it, it tells me that somebody is greedy or desperate. That kind of web site may make it less likely that I’d buy the yarn if I were earning good money and had made a rational decision to go out and spend a hundred dollars or so just to support a knitting friend.

Instead of the “funnel” model, consider the mail-order catalogue model. Keep it printable. I’m not going to click through dozens of pictures to look for a color that’s not in a local store. Life is too short. Eyes tire easily, and on a computer screen pictures tire my quirky astigmatic eyes more than text does. If you list all the colors available for yarn types A, B, C, or for shoe types or car seat covers or whatever, on one page, with small images side by side that can be used to mix and match the colors, so that I can (if I’m really interested) print out the list to use for designing and shopping and so on, then the yarn (or whatever) at your web site has a chance to compete with what’s on the shelf at Michaels (or wherever). The less time, energy, and memory you spend on big splashy pictures that fill a full-size computer screen with one color, the more you have for nice useful thumbnails that line up on one sheet of 8-1/2x11” paper, and the better I’m pleased.

Always remember that, while I'm reading what you have to say about your product online, I'm likely to be using an old, cheap, small, low-memory device. Some web sites tell me the browser this laptop uses is as low-memory as they expect a mobile phone device to be. Well, that's good! That's...a little more memory than you want to use up, actually, if you want me to check out your site, because some other time I might be using a mobile phone (though it won't be mine). I might be using that vintage 1995 computer that uses Opera that regular readers remember as The Sickly Snail (from its operating speed), which has even less memory available to you than a mobile phone. You need to borrow a computer with Opera, circa 1995, and make sure it will load your web site in three seconds or less. That means you can post plenty of text, but pictures can be up to 100 pixels in either direction if a page contains only one picture, thumbnails only if it contains more.

You never know how low on money, or on available operating memory, we are. You build trust with the kind of people who go online as writers by keeping your site accessible to people who are lower on both than you might have imagined was even possible. You can offer expensive products--writers have good times and bad times--but you can never, never afford to stop thinking cheap. 

We word-nerd (and computer-geek) types have a habit of watching the bottom line. If you spend a lot of money on flashy advertising, that suggests that your product isn't good enough to sell itself by word of mouth. If we had ever spent a lot of money on the latest, fastest gadget that could open a flashy site (as opposed to checking it out from a public-access computer, which is almost certainly not new or fast either), we've probably sold it by now...and we trust and respect you less if you expect us to spend more than the rock-bottom, frugal-fanatic investment.

(Since it's available only Kindle, and Kindle cost me a lot of wasted time and eyestrain recently, I probably never will read this one...but the title makes my point nicely. So, on consideration, does the probability that I'll never actually read this "book." If the writer wanted me to read it, the writer would get it into an eye-friendly printed form.)

Extreme Frugality! Save More And Spend Less: Money Saving Tips And Tricks You Wish You Knew ((Frugal Living, Frugal Tips) Book 1) by [Marchant, Kristina]