This past Thursday, B-to-B Online hosted a virtual trade show with ON24 called “Digital Edge“. I assume it will be up in archive form shortly (and you can download his slides, or watch the talk again), but as of today it is not there yet.
I toured the exhibit hall a bit but I was certainly glad to catch the keynote address by David Meerman Scott. A number of his points really resonated with the approaches I’ve been thinking about and trying to put into practice around online simulations, to give viewers a more engaging view of products and product lines.
He described how he would like to see the shift away from ‘product-oriented web sites’ (and materials, presumably), to what he called “buyer persona” focused approaches. Rather than sticking a company’s products or brand in front of web site visitors and treating them as a faceless mass, he advocates trying to focus on, and relate to the different types of people who are visiting the site, and what problems your company is solving for that/those personae. In that vein, he offered the following questions/insights (that I can remember!):
- What does your product/business look like for that person?
- Who are they and what information can you provide for them that they need/want?
- Name him or her, and develop a strategy for each persona
- What are their problems, likes, etc.
From an engineering perspective, I feel strains of a ‘use case’ approach — identifying who is coming to the site, for what reason(s), and trying to orient the materials to accomodate these personalities.
He followed the overall description of persona with a few questions we need to be asking when we develop our sites (and by extension, most types of distributed materials):
- What do you want your buyer persona’s to believe about your business or product?
- How are you generating attention? He spent a lot of time talking about “earning” or “publishing” your way in with great content, blogs, videos, white papers, etc., instead of or in addition to traditional means to get attention (advertising, media contacts, etc.).
- What vocabulary is your buyer persona using? It is critical to speak to them in their own vocabulary (it seems from his blog that he is on the war path against gobbledygook [I never thought I’d actually have to spell out that word!], which is very refreshing)
- No coercion, just meaningful content.
A lot of these points go directly to the message I want to craft with the term “simulation-based product marketing” (though I am still developing the ideas to an extent, and thinking about how they all fit together, for an upcoming white paper).
Going back to the bulleted list on top, for I would massage the question a bit ”what does your product/business look like for that person?” into “what does your product look like in the hands of, or typical situations, faced by that person?” This blends into point #1, which is using virtual product demos (a.k.a. simulations) to demonstrate to your visitors what they should believe about your product.
For example, I was looking for a smart phone recently. When I looked at RIM’s web site, I saw some beautiful graphics and videos about the latest BlackBerry and their product line, but what was remarkably absent was what I really wanted to find out–what does it look like when I receive or send emails, how easy is it to navigate the screens, etc., thing I wanted to do, not hope they’ve filmed someone else (who I don’t really relate to–another great point by David, using real people, customers, etc. instead of the typical models shots we see) do it.
I believe that using simulations in advertising/marketing is an extremely strong way to influence what the buyer persona believes about your product. This is what I have advocated in the many years developing marketing materials to manufacturers. Create scenarios that involve the visitor to demonstrate the unique and/or compelling features of the product–show that the user ’saves the day’ because he or she has the XYZ, implying (or letting visitors infer) thank goodness they didn’t buy the competitor’s ABC because then they’d really be up the creek.
In my domain, equipment simulation, the last point (point #4) about ‘no coercion’ really struck home with me because of my frustration when I hear manufacturers asking ‘how about we create a game to get peoples’ attention?’ I argue that people who are looking for information about products, or are looking to engage with products, or need to develop a concrete set of skills, do not need to be entertained to be engaged, rather, one should create compelling interactive content around the product (my tie-in with the “simulation-based product marketing” I have been consumed with for the past several months).
A bit out of order, but it emphasizes his point about point #3, creating great content. Essentially, if you create great content, content that is relevant to what the visitors want to do, you’ve earned your way to attention, and people will want to come back. We created training scenarios for Fire Engineering’s web site, the premier training producers in the Fire Service. They’re not video games, rather, they are instructional materials that have animated graphics, simulating emergency incidents, but under an instructor’s control. Not only they receive a significant number of visits per month, but they have an astounding return rate.
It’s no surprise that we’ve also been taking these concepts and applying them to marketing products, under the umbrella of “simulation-based product marketing”, and “virtual product marketing”–with astonishing results.
Thank you, David, for an insightful and meaningful talk!