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Thursday, June 22, 2006

"I Love The Eisenbergs' New Book!": Walter Goodman, Toronto-Based Cat

The resident king of my house, Walter (pictured here), makes a lot of noises. He purrs when you go to the grocery store and get the Iams so he isn't choking back that Meow Mix junk food. He meows to go out. He meows a different way to scare imaginary critters out of corners. He even does that weird bird impression cats do when they're trying to befriend Tweety before eating him.

One thing Walter will never, ever do is bark.

So what's that got to do with your web site? In the view of Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, everything. Their new book, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, offers more than twenty short chapters of deep-seated exploration of customer motivations when they're online, through the whole process from research and purchase consideration through to interacting with your company on the site and beyond.

Too many marketers fail to study and profile their customers. They fail to understand the frame of mind the prospect is in when they first engage with your company from "driving points" like paid search clicks or word-of-mouth referrals. So, they're speaking the wrong language to the wrong people. They're expecting prospects to do things they aren't wired to do, whether that be to buy at an inappropriate time, or whether that be to buy a product they have zero interest in. Throwing good money building sites and driving traffic to pages that don't convert (for the above and other reasons) is indeed like waiting for your cat to bark. (And maybe even paying him 50 cents for every meow, and 2 bucks for each fake birdcall, while you wait.)

In this book, the Eisenbergs marry long-standing intellectual traditions and business wisdom with newer imperatives of online communication, as they cover persuasion architecture scenarios, psychographics, and other elements of research and implementation of a website redesign. In complexity, this task is a 10 out of 10, which makes it even more improbable that an author could convey the concepts in a straightforward manner. These authors somehow pull it off.

Probably even more telling than reading the book might be looking at examples of websites these authors (through their company, Future Now) have advised on or completely redesigned. Taking a multitude of priorities and a variety of potential customer profiles, and reducing this to (in the end) a single finished website, is very much a task of priority-setting in science, reducing complex goals and multiple variables to a much cleaner subset of navigational elements for the benefit of users.

For my company, the highest compliment you could pay to a related agency would be that their work related to ours in a "plug-and-play" manner. Does their effort to improve communication, usability, and ultimately, conversion rates interface well with (for example) our effort to run the most efficient and eminently measurable traffic driving campaign through a Google AdWords? Does it result in a site that is search-engine friendly, yet amenable to further development of content and easy tweaking for better placement in search results on key phrases of importance to the client's best customers? From our experience, that's what you get when you "plug in" to a site that Future Now has advised on (I'm sure they'll be happy to hear that - but they already know it, because, like my company, Page Zero, they quantify their success).

For a book that doesn't get too far past 200 pages, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark is encyclopedic. Rather than offering textbook definitions of concepts like the sales funnel, the authors offer debate and deeper explorations of basic assumptions. There are numerous engaging anecdotes and examples, but more case studies and even screenshots would have helped the material to affix more tightly to my brain cells, I admit. But all in all, I'm surprised that it was possible to convey this often complex material so accessibly. This book should be read patiently, and right through to the end. It's well worth the effort. I doubt this will be the last time I'll consult this one. I expect to re-read several chapters in short order.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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