Catering to Beginners, Enthusiasts and Geeks
by Marcia Yudkin
Recently I had occasion to
review several dozen web sites in one industry -
camera stores. I found this eye-opening, as an
unfortunate pattern emerged that I believe holds
not only on the Internet but also in paper-based
marketing materials, and applies to many
professions. First, some background.
Most of us, particularly those who regularly
deal with a wide swath of the public, know how
to adjust our conversation according to the
experience level of our audience. If someone
asks to see a particular camera, a retailer
explains it differently depending on whether the
person seems to know as much as he about cameras
or next to nothing. An oncologist explains the
same case of cancer differently to the patient
than to the patient's doctor.
On paper and on the web, however, we tend to
orient our promotional material to just one kind
of audience and only one level of
sophistication. If we do this strategically,
great. If we make a conscious choice to target
one audience rather than another because the
former accounts for higher profits, terrific.
But that's not what I saw at the camera store
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For beginners, people who don't know much about
a product or service, it's a huge mistake to
lead with detailed product information. Too much
"APS 505 AiAF f/2.8 2x" overwhelms
when I'm wondering whether a digital, 35mm or
disposable point-and-shoot camera would fit my
Beginners need helpful
guidance that takes their goal as the starting
point. Questions and answers and products
recommended for specific purposes may work best
for this audience so long as the descriptions
use laypersons' vocabulary.
Enthusiasts, people who love
spending money on their hobby, respond well when
invited to adventure farther or deeper and meet
new challenges in pursuit of their favorite
pastime. Activities such as clinics and outings
for wildlife photography, sports shots or
photojournalism capture the imagination of this
group - and get them to spend more money. Since
this segment loves exchanging tips and sharing
their passion, an online discussion group and an
email newsletter containing picture-taking
techniques would earn their devotion to a web
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Finally we get to the geeks, the experts, the
pros, who usually have a rough idea of what they
want and might be narrowing down the field to
one or two models or manufacturers. They're the
ones that all that "APS 505 AiAF f/2.8
2x" speaks to. I doubt very much they
represent the majority of camera buyers, or that
they bring a merchant the greatest profit, since
they're probably skilled comparison shoppers.
Nearly all the sites I looked at mainly appealed
to geeks. And I think this was unintentional,
due to the camera store owners belonging to this
Don't pick out one audience only unless that's
your strategic choice. By combining approaches
on your web site, or on a brochure or sales
sheet, you can lasso all levels of customers -
beginners, enthusiasts and geeks.
Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.
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