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Making content meaningful to users


At a trade show, you can almost always tell whether you're talking to an engineer, marketing, or sales person. (Yes, I'm stereotyping and generalizing to make a point). The engineer (that would be me) just starts telling you all the cool things the system does, rattling off the technical details as if you cared, let alone understood. The marketing person's speech is peppered with buzzwords that make the product as compelling as a tax form.

But the skilled and ethical sales person, now they know that a potential user doesn't care about you as much as he cares about what this means for him. The good sales person knows you don't care about technical details or even features. You care about what those features mean to you. The good sales person knows it isn't even about benefits, but about the benefits you care about. (And this applies to teachers/authors as well as people trying to sell something. After all, as teachers we're trying to sell learners on why they should pay attention and flex a few neurons on the material...)

So the simplest solution when you want to get someone excited (or better yet--passionate) about what you do is... ask. Find out what they do, need, and want, and map what you offer into something meaningfully relevant for that person. And if you can't come up with one, then you're either working for the wrong cause (i.e. a product or service that sucks for pretty much everyone), OR what you have is simply not a good fit for this particular person or company, and you tell them that. I'm enormously impressed when a sales person refers me to a competitor, for example.

But what if you don't have that luxury? What if you're not at the trade show or on the sales floor or anywhere where you can have a one-on-one conversation? How can you make what you have seem personally relevant?

A lot's being written (and developed) around the notion of personalization today, and not everyone thinks it's a useful strategy. But there are some fairly simple ways to tailor a message in a way that makes it more relevant, and sometimes with surprisingly good results.

I worked as the programmer on an interactive marketing compaign for a large car company, and the model we wanted to use was The Good Salesperson. In other words, we wanted a system where the user/customer could walk up, answer a bunch of questions, and using a combination of artificial intelligence and a large content database, the system would deliver to the user a highly customized experience that matched what a Good Salesperson would have done... by asking questions and providing tailored answers. (sheesh, that last sentence came dangerously close to marketing-speak)

Just one problem--no budget. We didn't have the time or money to build that. So we did the least we could get away with; something we thought would have almost no effect, but turned out to be astonishingly effective! We saw some research (sorry, I can't dig it up right now... I just moved last week and I'm an organizational disaster), that suggested that even the most subtle shift in framing or positioning the way you offer information about your product can make a very large difference in the user's perception of how this relates to them personally.

So here's what we did:

* When the user walked up to the system, they had to answer just a single question--
What's most important to you in a car?

* Based on that one answer, we changed only the headline/title of the screens that followed.

For example, if the person said, "I care about safety more than I care about maintenance costs", then on the screen that talks about the engineering of the car, the headline would say something like, "Engineered with your safety in mind..." or something like that. And we might throw in a gratuitous picture of a kid in a car seat. (Yeah, I know that's manipulative, but it wasn't untrue.)

The main point of the system, though, was that 99% of the content was the same for every user. We didn't have custom-tailored screens other than the banner at the top. But it turned out that by orienting the content--the same content everyone saw--to something meaningful for that individual, the information became more relevant.

Of course you don't want to do this dishonestly--as it would be if we said something like, "Your safety is our MOST IMPORTANT GOAL", and then if you chose "Resale value" we said, "Maintaining your resale value is our MOST IMPORTANT GOAL". But by putting a personally-tailored headline over non-custom content, we were able to connect the content to the user's individual desires. Honest, but personalized.
And according to the client, it was a huge success! People spent much more time on each screen then in the previously uncustomized version.

As teachers we use this same principle--at the beginning of class, for example, when I ask the students to introduce themselves, I try to learn as much as I can about their background and interest in the subject. Then if that person asks a question, I try to tailor my answer toward what it means to them personally, or better yet -- I try to get them to make the connection based on my answer, by asking them to tell me how that relates to what they're doing.

So how do we do this in a book? Not that well, but we try. First, we make sure that we talk to as many potential readers as we can, to at least find out what the top two or three goals are for the majority of readers. Then we try to weave those in to the content. But we also try to include sections in each chapter where we talk about the same content from multiple perspectives, so that if the first way we frame it isn't the one that motivates you, perhaps one of the other ways will be closer to matching your personal interest and goals.

The real point is this:
When it comes to your features and even benefits, one-size-does-not-fit-all. Try to find ways to connect what you do/have to what each individual finds personally meaningful. The good news is that it can take only the tiniest, subtlest shift in how you frame the information to help someone make that connection.

But you'll never know unless you ask.

Posted by Kathy on January 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Cognitive bandwidth is like dial-up


A couple days ago I got an email from Steve Krug, author of the wonderful web usability book Don't Make Me Think, which is in my Top Ten Computer Books list on Bookpool.com.Dontmakemethink

I thought about how our books could have been named just the opposite of his--DO Make Me Think, since much of our approach is about how to get learners to process new information more deeply. In other words, we work hard to make people think.

But then I realized that both his book and our approach could have been named:

Don't make me think about the wrong things.

I can't speak for Steve, but my interpretation of his message is something like:

When someone comes to your vintage vinyl store, they want to think ONLY about the records.

They do not want to think about whether that picture over there is the thing they're supposed to click. They do not want to think about where they are on your site, how they got there, and how the hell they get back to where they wanted to be. Worst of all (for the store, anyway), they do not want to think about whether your website actually is an online vinyl store.

If I'm digging for just the right record for my perfect remix, that's what my brain wants to focus on. I want your site to stay in character, and not take me out of the digging-for-vinyl experience by forcing me to think about your user interface. I want to be in flow, just as I would in, say, a real bricks and mortar record store, where the experience is intuitive.

Cognitive bandwidth is precious.

We try to reflect this in our learning books in two main ways:

1) Use a strict 80/20 approach with the material.
Rather than taking a topic, making a chapter out of it, and doing it to death, we try to focus on just the part that gives you the power you need to be creative, and leave off everything else. Because we assume you're not reading our book as an intellectual exercise or to skim every possible factoid about the topic. We assume you actually want to do something.

2) Don't use an example that comes with cognitive overhead.
We had a Java course at Sun where one of the early exercises was on the looping constructs of the language. But the exercise itself was a task that, among other things, involved converting newtons to kilograms. The scenario was some kind of package shipping system, or something like that.
Of course what happened is that when the students got to that exercise, they focused their brain on the whole newton-to-kilogram thing, and struggled with understanding the shipping domain. In other words, they were thinking about the wrong things. All we wanted them to do at that point in the course was understand the basics of looping. But the exercise added so much cognitive overhead that looping was the last thing they were thinking about. [Disclaimer: we don't always succeed at this... I've authored more than one chapter where I forgot the point. But we're trying. Hard.]

When someone has trouble applying knowledge, it's usually because they really never had knowledge. They had information, and that's not the same thing. You can get information just through listening or reading, but knowledge requires thinking... thinking about the RIGHT things.

Our advice to our authors, teachers, and web/software developers is this:

Figure out what you really want users to think about. This is almost always the cool thing they want to do (pick the right record, learn how loops work, etc.). Do whatever it takes to keep them from having to think about anything else!

Imagine your users all have thought bubbles over their heads that say, "Don't make me think about the wrong thing!" If a user has a confused look, it should be because she's struggling with whether the sea foam green bustier really works with the neon pink skirt (it doesn't), or whether the iPod Shuffle is better than therapy (it is).

Posted by Kathy on January 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Giving a damn about customers...

That's a true story. It happened to me, at Sun. While sitting in the hospital early on a Monday morning, waiting for my CAT scan (after a donkey kick to the head that sent me there unconscious the night before), I called in to explain why I wouldn't be showing up at the customer's site that day. I was told, "there's nobody in all of Sun's education division that can do this now, and we can't reschedule that customer's enterprise Java course for at least three months." Long Pause. "OK, I'll be there. But tell them I'll be late. Oh, and you better warn them I look like... well, I hope they aren't squeamish."

The customer's employees were horrified when they saw me--both shocked and incredibly grateful that I had actually done this.

And of course my mangers at Sun were deeply appreciative. Or so I imagined. Fast forward to my annual performance review a couple months later when I get my "Meets Expectations" rating.

I asked the obvious question, "So if [rattle off my list of do-anything-for-the-customer examples, of which the donkey incident which was just one] only MEETS expectations, then what the hell does it take to EXCEED expectations?" For dramatic effect I added, "Because I have to tell you, another year like this and I'll be dead." I was only partly exaggerating.

The manager's answer sums up the problem nicely, "There's a quota for the eval ratings and, uh, we gave 'Exceed' to Fred because he had a higher number of 'on-platform' hours. His work accounted for more direct revenue."

I countered with, "But Fred (not his real name) hates customers; he shows open disdain for them when they ask a question. And because I'm on the Quality Reveiw Board, and have to field all the customer complaints, I know that YOU know this is no secret to the customers. They leave his courses vowing never to take a Sun course again."

"That's not the point," the manager says. "This is simply about numbers. My hands are tied."

(Within 24 hours, someone had posted a Dilbert cartoon on my cubicle where Dilbert had donated a kidney to their biggest customer, and still got a "Meets Expectations.")

From a systems thinking perspective, it's no great leap to say that while Fred might have been responsible for more revenue that year, his "I hate customers" attitude was responsible for a devastatingly low customer-retention rate. The next time those customers took an advanced Java course, it sure wasn't from Sun. (And we actually had numbers to prove this.)

Meanwhile, the management of that company I walked into with my smashed face never forgot what I did, and they saw that as a reflection of the value Sun put on meeting their customer commitments, no matter what. We continued to do business with them almost non-stop from that first week. I set the tone for their relationship with Sun. (Not that I recommend the whole donkey-kick thing as a viable strategy...)

I guess I have two points:

1) If you're a manager, for the love of god PLEASE make taking care of the customers a top value. Customers are living, breathing people--not just Six Sigma stats.
2) Never, ever let your head be in striking range of a donkey.

Posted by Kathy on January 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Book Review: Malcolm Gladwell's Blink

RATING: (3 out of 5 Brains)

Well, as a huge fan of Gladwell's last book, The Tipping Point, I was excited last week to finally get my hands on his new effort: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. This time around Gladwell's basic thesis is that often snap judgements (what he calls "thin slicing") can be more accurate than well researched, careful analysis. Gladwell uses many examples (most are interesting) to demonstrate this behavior such as determining when art is faked, sizing up car buyers, picking presidential candidates and determining the characteristics of a person by observing their living space. This has always been Gladwell's talent: taking just-under-the-radar topics and bringing them into the public's view through great journalism and storytelling.

Gladwell is also careful to examine the flipside of this phenomenon: the times when "thin slicing" misleads us or gives us the wrong results. For instance, he presents examples where the mind works based on biases that don't necessarily enter the realm of conscious thought, but are nevertheless there (age, race, height, and so on).

It's a great topic and Gladwell sets it up with some wonderful examples, but then the book begins to have problems. First, the book is a little too anecdotal. Anyone who has ever had a 200-level psych class knows that what looks like cause and effect may be accounted for by an independent variable that wasn't considered (e.g., concluding cancer rates are higher in some area of the country because of pollution, when in fact the area has higher smoking rates as well). Given this, I found that too often conclusions are made on basic handwaving, or that important aspects of studies are not mentioned. For instance, Gladwell describes a study were observers are asked to determine certain characteristics (such as truthfulness, consciensciousness, etc.) of students by observing their dorm rooms; but, never does he mention how exactly one would determine these characteristics of individuals in a scientific manner for comparison. Such omissions leave the reader a little less than convinced.

Nevertheless, even with this flaw the first third of the book supports the thesis and makes for the usual entertaining reading; but things derail from there. The examples start to seem more peripheral: a rogue commander beating the conventional forces in a war game exercise, an artist known as Kenna who apparently should have made it big but didn't (why this example is interesting I've yet to figure out), and some rehash about coke vs pepsi from one of his older articles.

By the end of the book the whole thing derails into examples that just don't seem appropriate for the topic. Sure a study of why Pepsi always does better than Coke in blind tastes tests is interesting (and you can read his article on this without buying the book on Gladwell's web site), but does a study of "sips" vs "whole-can drinking" — people prefer sweet for sips (Pepsi) — really say something about unconscious rapid cognition?

One of Gladwell's greatest strengths is in recognizing interesting things, and then bringing them into conscious awareness so we actually realize these things are happening (whether it be tipping points or rapid cognition). I think he's partly achieved that in this book, but it doesn't come together the way the Tipping Point does. One gets the idea that this topic may have been better handled in an article rather than a full blown book.

Posted by Eric Freeman on January 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Teaching and advertising

Teacher, meet ad guy. Ad guy, meet teacher. You two could learn a LOT from each other in this braver, grimmer, faster, more authentic world. But I can sum up my feelings as:

Teachers need to get better at motivation.

Advertisers need to get better at...caring and honesty. (Not to mention things like REAL retention and recall--something teachers know a little something about...)

Advertising (in its conventional, old-school form) may indeed be dying. Meanwhile teachers/instructors are struggling more than ever to get learners to pay attention and learn. But I believe both groups could improve their results if they took a lesson from the other. Advertisers need to care, and be honest--something teachers can be quite proud of. Teachers, on the other hand, need to work on their motivation--the domain that advertisers have (or had) down.

Advertisers have 30 seconds in which to convince someone that this [insert any lame product] will lead to more sex. And the weird part is how damn effective they've actually been at this, especially in the days when everybody read the same limited number of magazines and watched the same three TV networks.

Teachers, on the other hand, have been providing inspiration and changing the lives of kids. Almost any adult today can think back to at least one teacher who really made a difference in their life. Why? Because the teacher cared, and cared enough to be honest. They were authentic.

But teachers are finding themselves less effective today, when the competition for attention has become much more fierce, and the signal to noise ratio makes it harder than ever to get anything to stick. Students of all ages today would simply rather be doing something else than sitting in class learning... what exactly?

If I'm teaching, I want to remember that I need to offer "meaningful benefits". And by meaningful benefits, I don't mean, "...if you do this, then the enterprise component will stay synchronized with the underlying persistent store..." No, if an advertiser rewrote that, he might say, "Because if you do this with the enterprise component, you'll be a frickin' hero and... have more sex." Or, "because if you DON'T do this, you'll lose your job and nobody has sex with losers..."

What can I learn from that? I can take the motivation to its logical conclusion, then take one step back, and let the learner make the leap. So instead of, "... then the enterprise component will stay stay synchronized with the underlying persistent store..." I might say, "if you don't do it this way, you could be a victim of the dreaded Lost Update problem and... that means you could lose the entire record of Suzy's last Victoria's Secret purchase." Then I let them make the one final leap to, "the boss screams at me, it shows up on my performance eval, I don't get that raise, and that means... less sex." (And yes, there's a reason I said "Victoria's Secret" and not "lose the entire record of Bill's Office Supplies purchase...". It's almost biologically impossible to not have at least some tiny chemical reaction to the phrase "Victoria's Secret" that simply doesn't happen when you're talking about pencils and staplers. And remember, it's that chemical reaction that leads to attention and memory. It's that chemical reaction that tells the brain that this is important! Pay attention and record!

And what can advertisers learn from teachers? To be honest. To find out what really IS good for people. No, not to find out, to care. Then they use their powers of motivation... for good. To help people learn faster, become more effective, make better choices. Yes I really AM that naive and optimistic. But if the Cluetrain predictions are true, and I believe they are, and advertising is no longer going to work, then advertisers are going to have a lot more time on their hands. And they can use that time to, say, start a blog that teaches someone why they really should buy this product, and how this product really can make their life better.

Most importantly, if the product is crap, or it can't really do what they're claiming, I hope advertisers will do what teachers do...be honest. Care.

So, when someone asks me how to become a better instructor, I often tell them to study up a little on what advertisers are doing. When someone in marketing wants to do a better job, I tell them to learn a thing or two about learning.

Posted by Kathy on January 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Creating playful users...

If you're a game developer, the things you're building are all aboutplay. But what if your product or service isn't inherently playful?
Brains love play. Find a way to bring more play (or at least a sense of playfulness) into someone's life, and you might just end up with a fan.
Brains evolved to play, and apparently the bigger the brain, the more likely it is to play. Play turns the brain on.

So, OK, but what if the product itself is for an utterly non-playful task? You can still bring a sense of playfulness into the mix. One extremely difficult CAD program I heard about created a game to teach people how to use the software. To "get to the next level", you had to learn more of the tools.

Steve Zehngut, from Zeek Interactive started his company in the mid-90's by specializing in building interactive games for business, designed either for marketing, training, or both. One really cool game was designed to teach people about photocopiers (I think it was for Toshiba), and you (the player) were being attacked by your office mates who were throwing wads of paper at you. You had to figure out which copier to hide behind and use as a weapon. The best weapon, of course, was the machine that fired staples, but... you had to know your copier models in order to pick the most effective "weapon".

I was very disappointed that I wasn't able to attend the Serious Games Summit last October.

But playfulness doesn't have to mean games.

Helping people feel just a little more playful, especially if it's connected to their work, or with anything they do that's more typically associated with words like painful, tedious, boring, stressful (as opposed to words like "fun"), doesn't have to mean giving them a game. Even something as simple as making your documentation more compelling (and even a little whimsical), can make a huge difference.

You're a musician, and on your web site you create Make-Work-Suck-Less playlists (which you also put on iTunes, of course) for people at work. You tell them what to listen to for ever possible bad work situation. Want to kill your boss? Pick this track. About to head into yet another dull, pointless, loaded with marketing-speak buzzwords meeting? Pick this track. Encourage users to make their own making-work-suck-less playlists.

You put easter eggs in your otherwise ludicrously dull accounts receivable software, and spread hints about them on the internet. Suddenly it's a little treasure hunt cleverly disguised as a boring business task. (I know, I KNOW programmers have been fired for doing that. I came quite close, and that was for putting an easter egg into a--wait for it--GAME. My easter egg wasn't on the approved list of "features"... incredible that even when you're technically in the business of fun, "management" can be so serious).

You're a realtor and you hold feng shui workshop/parties (hoping your sellers will take the hint and whip their homes into shape...)

You're a huge rental apartment complex and you host dog parties for your tenants.

You're writing a computer programming book, and you put in puzzles, games, fun pictures, and festive examples with unusual characters.

Surprises are one of the best things you can do--psychologists claim that intermittent rewards can be more engaging than consistent rewards. Remember, surprise=delight.

I worked for a guy who ran an exclusive, foofy, insanely expensive health club. He took 100% of what should have been (back then, when Ads were King) his advertising budget, and instead put ALL of it into a monthly "member surprise" budget. Nobody ever knew what was going to happen. You'd be in an aerobics class with 100 people (it was a big place), and as you walked out, suddenly there were carts loaded up with bowls of frozen yogurt and a toppings bar. You're in the weight room when the employees start walking through handing out exclusive t-shirts, always with his logo, and always with a fun quote, that you knew would never appear on a t-shirt again. Members collected these things like rare beanie babies. The late-night exercise classes were the hardest to fill, but he would take the worst time slot and make it interesting... the 9 PM folks might walk out of class only to be handed a wine cooler or even a relaxation CD.

It always felt like a party in there! And employees fought over the chance to be the one who got to hand out the cool stuff. And there was no hierarchy in deciding who got to do that...everyone from the janitors to the office bookeeper might be "picked" to be the hero. I had never before, and never since, seen the kind of loyalty among both staff and members that I saw in that place. His attrition rate for both members and employees was less than half the industry average for health clubs at the time. (I'll have more stories about him in other posts--his name is Cliff Coker, and his father was one of the founders/inventors of the very first selectorized exercise machines (the ones with the weight stacks, as opposed to free weights), Universal Gym Equipment.)

Spend some cycles cultivating your more festive side. Think party. Think of that person you know who is so fun to be around. The one who manages to make a little adventure out of everything. If you can give your users even one moment more of that feeling, the world will be a better place. : ) [cue cheesy, sappy pollyanna music, and insert cute kid-with-puppy picture]

Hugh ("He likes us! He really likes us!") got me thinking about this with a quite lively (be sure and read all the comments) gaping void post on how Microsoft should be more playful. While that's beyond my powers of imagination, it's certainly an interesting challenge...

So, what are YOU doing to help your users be a little more playful?

Posted by Kathy on January 26, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Be brave or go home


Seth Godin says that today, "being safe is risky, and being risky is safe." And if you're out there creating something on the edge, someone's going to hate it. Probably a lot of someones. One thing we noticed from our Amazon reviews was that we get mainly five-stars and one-stars, but not much in the middle. They either love it a lot or they hate it with a passion. Whenever I start to feel bad about a scathing review, I remind myself that Don Norman said, "If someone doesn't really hate your product, it's mediocre." And mediocre is where you SO do not want to go.

Ever since we started this crazy scheme (18 months ago with the release of the the first book in the series), we've been thinking that the extremeness of our reviews was a good thing, and now someone's confirmed it. A NYTimes article looks at a professor who analyzed Amazon book rankings for, among other things, a book's "controversiality index". From the article:

"But the most telling variable is the one star rating. Professor Gronas found that books high on what he called the "controversiality index" are given almost as many one-star as five-star ratings, creating a horseshoe-shaped curve. As it turns out, these books also tend to have high sales."

You gotta be brave out there, now more than ever. That's one of the reasons we're big Tim O'Reilly fans, because he's definitely brave. He was more than willing to risk taking a chance on us when the other publishers turned us down or said they'd publish Head First if we scaled back to only 10% of what we wanted to do. That was like telling us, "You can be only 10% brain-friendly". No thanks.

Making only incremental improvements won't work today, not with the gazillion competing products and services all fighting for attention and offering pretty much the same perceived benefits. Just keep being brave and most importantly--when you start to have doubts about how far out-there you should go, and you're imagining how the critics will burn you alive, just remember that the worst thing is being in the Zone of Mediocrity. That's what we should all be afraid of.

Creating passionate users is NOT about finding ways to make everyone like you. It's about finding ways to use your own passion to inspire passion in others, and anything with that much power is bound to piss off plenty of status-quo/who-moved-my-cheese people. Bring it on.

Posted by Kathy on January 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Touching the void...

Whoo-hoo! My favorite blogger, Hugh of Gaping Void, just added us to his blogroll and [insert giddy school girl voice] said he's a fan!
We came late to the Hughtrain, but we're having some fun now...

Posted by Kathy on January 24, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Your career may depend on your Right Brain

Can you explain to the left side of your brain (you know, the analytical, logical side) why you bought a Michael Graves designed toilet brush from Target?

Or, why candles are a $2 billion dollar annual business in the US when we've had electric lighting for going on a century?

Both speak to our preference for aesthetic, style and pleasure than to logical needs; for a shift towards meaning and purpose.

Daniel Pink uses these examples in an article coming out in the February issue of WIRED called Revenge of the Right Brain, where he lays out an interesting argument that the future is with the right side of the brain (the intuitive, artistic, holistic side). Pink says the movement of analytical, left brain jobs will continue out of the US/West over the next decade as they are replaced by right brain careers.

This reminds me of a brilliant line from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, where he writes about the US in the future:

There are only four things we do better than anyone else:



microcode (software),

and high-speed pizza delivery.

And for the most part these are right brain endeavours. But we can't even take these for granted; to some extent, low-level software coding is already moving overseas, what will be left is the overall system design and architecture. Movies too: unless Hollywood gets a little more right brained, Bollywood will be glad to eat its lunch. Even in the area of music, ClearChannel can't be good for the right-brained music eco-system.

But, this isn't a US vs the world post. Pink's point is that the future lies in right-brained careers (financial counselling vs tax preparation, software design vs coders for hire, the art of the deal vs number crunching). He makes a far more important point though: to prepare ourselves for a right brained path we need to not only have the technical skills of our craft, we also need to be able to "create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative and to come up with inventions the world didn't know it was missing."

And are we preparing ourselves as a society for this shift? Well, we only have to look as far as Kathy's post Most Classroom Education Sucks to have some pretty serious concerns; and we only have to look as far was the local Walmart to wonder if we're really moving in this direction as a society.

That said, how does a Java book enter a saturated market of 2000 other titles only to take over the category as the #1 book (I'm speaking of course of Head First Java)? Of course by taking a right brained approach to book writing. So the opportunities are out there. Are we going to sit around while left brain occupations are commoditized? Or start using our right brain as well to create some inventions the world didn't know it was missing?

Posted by Eric Freeman on January 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Creating Passionate Renters


Today when I saw this "Pets Required" sign (didn't have my camera, so I reproduced it) on the side of an aparment building in Boulder, I thought wow, that's a great way to make people feel good about having a pet. Because most landlords make you feel like they can't decide whether to rent to you or that other guy and thinking, "Hmmmm-- drug dealer or dog owner... tough call."

You know how hard it can be to find rental apartments that allow pets. And even when they do, they make you sign the extra Pets Lease and pay the extra Pets Deposit. I'm only partly ashamed to say that yes, I have in fact stretched the truth on more than one rental application, and committed more than one act of felony pet-concealment.

But this "Dogs Required" sign let's someone say, "I Rule because I have a Dog". I don't know if the apartment offers dog owners a discount, but that's what I'd do : ) Can you imagine all the things you could do to make an apartment complex not just pet-tolerable, but pet-passionate?

That got me thinking about how cool that is to take something that users/customers/renters are made to feel guilty about—a perceived liability—and turn it into an asset for that person. I just love that.

On that note, what are the ways you can do this in what you do? Can you find a way to turn something around 180 degrees like this? To take an "I suck" (or at least a "everyone in this business makes me FEEL like I suck") and turn it into an "I Rule" ?

Posted by Kathy on January 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack