It’s a bit of a no brainer really, but in tough times businesses that specialise in providing their customer with low cost products tend to do better than others. I had this thought when I was reading an article about Zenni Optical. It’s a company that sells eyeglasses starting at $6.95. Add $4.95 for shipping to the US and you have the cheapest pair of prescription glasses you can get anywhere.
So, how does Zenni Optical manage to keep their prices so low? Well, reading from the article I learnt that they produce and ship their glasses all the way from China. Yes, the shipping cost and time it takes to deliver is certainly more than getting it locally, but they can drive the cost of production right down. And how do they keep their costs so low? Well, the website links customers directly to the manufacturer. There are no middle men in the process, which means that any overheads are immediately minimised. All cost savings are passed on to the customers and voila, you have a lean process that places Zenni Optical right up there with the cheapest suppliers of prescription specs around.
They also ship internationally. I might even consider getting myself a pair!
Great post on Seth Godin‘s blog entitled “Firsts and Never” talks about firsts and great and exciting, never being harder to accept and how revolutions change everything. There are a couple of great thoughts in there, particularly how the Internet is changing the way we transact with companies, the way we talk to each other and the way we perceive value. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the business of selling ballet shoes or the cheapest car insurance on the block, being first is important, but moving the goalpost by innovating and coming up with something new i much more valuable .. both to you and to the rest of the world.
There’s a lot that has been written on the web about the benefits of using Social Media to engage more closely with customers. There are many benefits to doing this, but it also presents a number of challenges in how to direct the conversation and how to avoid negative perceptions like lack of control or message dilution. It’s interesting to start seeing people address these issues to and here are a couple of articles that might help in this regard.
The great thing about these sites is that they offer easy access to companies to meet their target demographic. Regardless whether you’re a mainstream player like CocaCola or a niche market like a small company selling hgh spray, social networks put you in touch with the people who matter most to your business: your customers.
Have you considered using Twitter for your business? If it’s something you’re thinking about, you should check out Chris Brogan‘s post entitled 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business. It’s a distillation of his thoughts and ideas and provides a summary on what to expect and anticipate if you decide to go down this route. Here are some of the more poignant ideas:
- Talk to people about THEIR interests, too. I know this doesn’t sell more widgets, but it shows us you’re human.
- Tweet about other people’s stuff. Again, doesn’t directly impact your business, but makes us feel like you’re not “that guy.”
- You don’t have to read every tweet
- Twitter gives businesses a glimpse at what status messaging can do for an organization. Remember presence in the 1990s?
- Twitter gives your critics a forum, but that means you can study them.
As you can imagine, there are more of these down at the actual post (45 more actually), and they provide some great discussion pointers if you’re organisation is looking to move into this space. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in Government, promoting a Medicare supplement or just running a single-person business, understanding the medium you’re trying to use if paramount and if you don’t do this, you’re running the danger of just wasting your time.
So head down to the blog and read: 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business
Excellent article on WSJ about marketing in a Web 2.0 World. It’s a distillation of conversations the researchers had with a number of key people involved in leveraging the new social tools available on the Web. Here’s what they recommend:
- Don’t just talk at consumers – Work with them through the marketing process – The new paradigm is all about engagement. The audience isn’t passive any more, involve them in your process, from idea generation all the way to product feedback.
- Give consumers a reason to participate – Motivate consumers, an incentive (not necessarily monetary can go a long way). And make sure there are no barriers to their participation, things like a toll free where they can speak to someone can go a long way
- Listen to, and join, the conversation outside your site – Keep an ear open for conversations around the Web, and participate wherever word springs up about your company.
- Resist the temptation to sell, sell, sell – Don’t forget, you’re trying to build a relationship here. Forget short-term wins and you can build a long-lasting loyalty.
- Don’t control, let it go – This is a hard one for most executives. Solicit feedback wherever you can. Negative comments can help you grow and improve even though your initial reaction may be purge.
- Find a ‘marketing technopologist.’ – That’s a person who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction. These people are worth their weight in gold.
- Embrace experimentation – New ideas are generated all the time; some die some flourish. You need to participate wherever you can to be part of this growing ecosystem and reap the rewards.
There’s some great stuff in there, some of which isn’t immediately intuive. The article has a number of cases and real-life examples, so head off and read the full article