For the longest time I didn’t think too much about Facebook Ads. It doesn’t take much to realize that they have amazing reach, but I had heard some discouraging numbers (and continue to hear actually) and didn’t think they were too relevant to B2B – which is often my concern.

Granted, CPC advertising isn’t what I do everyday, but I try to keep my head in the advertising game since it’s central to the products I build – and it helps keep Argyle going.

Recently I had a few minutes to ponder FB ads, and realized that they make perfect sense if you think about them like ads on TV. Here’s a quick run-down on why they are similar:

  • The ads have little to do with the medium
  • The audience is often passively engaged in the subject content
  • The ads see little direct interaction (hence the discouraging numbers)

And here is why those are good things:

  • The ads can be relevant to the viewers interests – FB targeting is fantastic
  • The audience often doesn’t have a real purpose, so they can be distracted by ads more easily
  • Lower interaction – yes, but awareness is valuable. That’s hard to measure, but most likely occuring

So even though I have heard a number of anecdotal stories of low performance campaigns for FB ads, I think the targeting and audience that it has is compelling. As a tool to bring awareness to a very specific audience when their mind isn’t busy working too hard on other things, it excels.

I’m a convert, Facebook is definitely a powerhouse mass media advertising platform, and I want to be there more than ever.

Netflix - Cost vs Value
I’ve worked on product pricing more times than I’d like to recall. It’s a tricky business, you have to balance value, cost, perception, competitors, market factors, marketing, and many other considerations. In short, it’s a pain, and it’s not easy.

But pricing is very important to your business. It can not only give you an edge in the market, but it can also help define who you are in the minds of your customers.

But most importantly, Pricing helps to define value in the eyes of your customers

Don’t get me wrong, you can’t dictate value. But pricing specific add-ons, features, or services at a premium can have a very real impact on how people perceive the worth of those items.

Netflix’s most recent move to price streaming separate from DVD-at-home was smart (see their blog post). It was clear that they were leaving a lot of money on the table. It’s also clear that they felt that they were undervaluing their DVD-at-home service.

(Side note, being a long time Netflix customer, I always thought they were undervaluing streaming. Their blog post reveals that their internal view was actually flipped from mine; they saw the DVD as an add-on to a streaming service.)

Pricing changes aren’t something new to Netflix, their world is moving fast and they’ve had to shift things around a few times to keep prices in line. And this recent change will probably be followed by a few more.

Now bring into the mix that fact that Amazon has started to get more seriously into the streaming movie market. Now we can expect some fierce battles shaking out in this arena – there’s a lot of money to be made in movies at home.

So this brings me back to where I started – with pricing establishing value. This move is strategic in that it allows Netflix to clearly look at their streaming service as it’s own viable product with distinct profits and costs.

This will allow them to better measure, manage, and grow their streaming offering as the market heats. In the end, we can only hope that that will provide more value for all of us.

I’m a firm believer that you have to enjoy what you do. I do what I can to help keep that going at Argyle, but I’d like to think that I can have a bit more reach than that.

That’s why I love it when Josh inserts a bit of humor into our app. Many of our users have commented on some of the funny error messages we throw from time to time.

We’re not afraid to let people know right away that we have a sense of humor, it’s even in our Getting Started tool:

He is cute -_-

That’s why I was quite happy to see this tweet today from James Avery over at Adzerk:

It’s always nice when I know we made some one chuckle while they were work.

Btw, if you are wondering what made him giggle, here’s the little guy we inserted when you have a bit of a problem with your password:

That error is inconceivable!!

And don’t worry, these aren’t all the little easter eggs, we’re always on the lookout for more ways to amaze and amuse.

Help by Dimitri N.

help by Dimitri N.

“Turn ‘GAS COCK KNOB’ to PILOT index on gas flow regulator.” I’m sorry, what? This is actually one of the more decipherable lines within the owner manual for my water heater.

Earlier this week I had the misfortune of coming home to a flooding garage. It turns out my water heater was leaking. As part of the repair I turned off the gas and water for safety. I was at the point of turning it all back on and was befuddled by the help I was provided. It clearly wasn’t written for a layman.

Who needs your help?

The problem is that the people who understand jargon and complex contexts don’t need instructions. They can do this stuff in their sleep. Laymen like me need instructions. And the same is true for your application.

The people who need help on your site are lost, confused, and in need of soothing, practical, and readable advice.

Who writes your help?

There’s nothing wrong with industry jargon when used amongst others who speak it’s tongue – it’s a more succinct conversion for them. Jargon, when defined and used consistently can actually help an industry or vertical to mature as the collective group of people stand on common ground.

The problem is that it’s far too common to find help that was written within this jargon. While I’ll admit that this is the right place to introduce it, it’s not the right place to assume it’s already understood.

Simplifying help

Make help accessible to people who are new to your field or who may have been practicing in isolation. Don’t be afraid to use terms that are more common, or to provide asides that explain new concepts when they are introduced. It’s also a good idea to use alternative, friendly descriptions of objects to ensure that you are on the same page.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

If a help topic read out loud to someone once is not understandable, and executable, then it is too complex.

I rewrote that line 4 times to reduce complexity and increase clarity. Because this whole blog post is a help topic, and you have to ensure readability of all help topics.

What next?

Here’s something we did in an industry group I worked on within the email community a little while back. We asked non-industry people, like your parents or friends outside of work, to review help and informational documents that we had created.

That made sure that it was something anyone could grasp, and we weren’t writing for experts who didn’t need help.

So keep in mind your target market and write some help that is actually helpful!

Is he barfing up a hairball?!

There’s been a recent spate of articles about how Groupon is losing money, how sales are declining in their longest standing markets, or how costly new deals are to come buy. And while this is concerning on its own, I figured it was worth addressing the larger issue of why their product just isn’t that compelling.

Group buying isn’t new

Group buying isn’t a new game. Groupon may have rebranded it with social media savvy, but it’s something people have been doing for years. Here are just a few examples in case the hype has made you a bit myopic:

  • Warehouse Clubs – e.g. Costco, BJs, etc
  • Deal-a-day sites – e.g.,
  • Life insurance programs

Get it? Yea, the model makes sense, it’s a good position for consumers. It’s like unionizing consumer goods purchasing.

But Groupon took a model that worked, and broke it.

The wrong offer at the wrong time

So why is that? Well, it’s got a lot to do with the fact that frankly, their model stinks. Let me break it down like a fraction:

(People like deals * People need stuff) / Groupon has deals on stuff = Sales!

But this is how the real world works:

(People need certain things * deals motivate a % of people) / Groupon has deals on one thing at a time = Coincidental Sales

Deals come along when groupon happens to get them, but there is no relation to when I might actually want or need them. Many of these deals aren’t actually limited by time, you can use them whenever you want. But that does little to actually motivate users to buy.

So if you apply this to a huge marketing list then you’ll get huge sales at first, but the novelty wares off. People get sick of checking a site that is hardly ever useful.

Yet another Groupon photobook deal

The other side of the coin is that they are trying to win over everyone, not just a few key verticals. And it’s tough to make everyone happy with one deal.

The running joke at our office is that Groupon would be great if I needed facials and photobooks. Maybe that’s the market they want, but it isn’t me, and isn’t most people…

Groupon Personalized Deals is an attempt to fix this, but it remains be seen if they can pull off this level of deal flow and variety. I’m not holding my breath.

Why group buying works elsewhere

Let’s pick two examples from the existing models above: Costco & Woot. These two have a good thing going for them, and they are squarely in the group buying deal space.

Costco makes it work because they offer most of the items you normally buy at good prices all the time. That’s pretty simple, lots of deals, always there when you need them.

Woot is a bit closer to groupon because they are (mostly) a deal-a-day site. But they have a niche, they have a good sized customer base who they understand and they know how to sell to. They have also fanned out into more of a deal site ( This works because they have a vertical(ish) focus and they now offer more deals.

How to fix Groupon

Good question, I’m glad you asked. I may be wrong, I have been before, but I think they need to focus by offering more deals in their most profitable verticals along with offering more long-standing deals.

Groupon should be a place to find tons of deals on services, and that also has one crazy-hot deal-of-the-day, not a site that is solely focussed on that one deal.

What do you think?

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