RSS Puts Identification in the Hands of Your Customers

I’m listening to the Individualized-RSS podcast over at Marketing Edge podcast. The conversation is an attempt to bring the weakness of email into the strength of RSS (or verse-vica as the case maybe) – unique reader identification.

This is what I alluded to in this post from a couple months ago. There’s nothing in the technology of RSS that prevents people from identifying themselves – just by adding some identifier (another url for example) to the end of the URL string.

Any more registration isn’t necessary or even good (yes, this is a hack.)

Plus, it’s a much friendlier way to build a relationship with people. Registration (of any sort) requires people to make a commitment before they know the relationship will be useful and valuable. Not cool.

On the other hand, there are some specific situations where a locked down, personally-identifiable RSS feed actually adds value to the customer. I’m thinking of communications that needs audit-ability, a high-level of filtering, and guaranteed delivery. We’re not talking marketing communications here – we’re talking Very Serious Business and in that case, I recommend talking to Kris at Pale Groove about CastLock.

What’s the Opposite of an Edge Case?

Stowe Boyd and Eric Rice have been taking about the problems of 37Signal’s Basecamp.

I find Stowe’s the most interesting (verses Eric’s ‘nobody uses it anymore’). Stowe says Basecamp is great for small businesses, but it breaks down when small businesses collaborate – there’s no out-of-the-box way to connect accounts on a per-project basis.

“if I am working with four companies who each have a Basecamp instance, I wind up with four account/login/password combinations, and worst of all, no unified dashboard view to consolidate all my Basecamp information” – Stowe Boyd

Thankfully Jason Fried replied and talked about the value of different customers.

“Most people are not like you…. most people don’t have the problems that techies do”

As a quick aside, I think Fried misses the point of the problem by classifying it as “single sign-on” (a “techie” term if there ever was one).

Here’s the question. Do you build and revise a product for:

  1. Most people that use a product just a little bit.
  2. Few people completely immersed in the world you’ve built for them.

I opt for #2, they’re the passionate ones.

In the end, Fried’s right – Basecamp’s API is open and we can rebuild it to the way we work.

If It Weren’t For The Customers

“I believe media companies are afraid of interacting with their audiences, because they (mistakenly) believe that their audiences are made up of people just like them — resentful, mean spirited, backbiting, hostile egomaniacs with inferiority complexes who, if given the opportunity, will spout their opinions without regard or respect for anyone but themselves.” – Terry Heaton

I’m continually surprised when I encounter the Us-v-Them attitude Terry describes. I spent so much of my day building partnerships with clients, customers, and collaborations that I forget it’s still out there.

The LunchTrain

While at Sun this week, I shared an inspiring conversation with Rick Levine, co-author of Cluetrain Manifesto.

It was a nice reminder that;

  • relationships take commitments.
  • new problems require new solutions.
  • advertising dollars are better spent elsewhere.

Thanks Rick.

Share You OPML, Exposing 1% of Your Audience

According to the Feedburner widget 53,657 people are subscribed to TechCrunch.com. 746 of those people are also sharing their opml.

That’s 1.4% overlap.

If you’re running a tech startup, thanks to Share Your OPML, you now know which 746 people to talk with first.

Coincidently, I’ve talked to a bunch of ecommerce, direct-to-customer organizations over the years and 1% is the most frequent conversion rate quoted. On the one hand, it’s pretty cool that successful businesses can be built on 1%. On the other, it feels highly inefficient (99% waste).

If you’re interested, I’ve shared my feeds as well.

Where Are Your Customers Going To Be Tomorrow?

Today, perhaps a small handful of people are skimming 300+ RSS feeds on their laptops, publishing podcasts and blogs, etc. Tomorrow that number will be more. Next week that number will be more. Next year, etc.

If there’s anything I took away from a childhood in rural Wisconsin, it’s when hunting, you aim for where the deer will be, not where it is.

There are 2 questions;

  1. Where will your customers be tomorrow?
  2. What do you do when the deer have guns?

Related: Stop worrying about other people copying you.

Loving the Market – Hating the Marketer

“Dependency breeds resentment. Marketers resent consumers, because marketers are dependent on consumers.” – Dave Rogers

Dave nails a mentality that’s troubled me for years. Whether marketers and their customers or agencies and their clients. There’s an underlying resentment rampant in the ‘creative’ world – and I just don’t get it.

Part of it feels like people in a job they’d rather not be in.

Part of it feels like the marketer’s resistance to committing to themselves into their customers’ lives and perspectives, i.e. a meaningful relationship.
Too often, it feels like marketers want to throw a grenade into a crowd of customers chatting comfortably.

Speaking of chatting. I spent an hour this afternoon talking with my insurance agent. We had a great time. Laughed a bunch, crunched some numbers, made some changes. She’s one of my favorite people. We wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for insurance (she was selling, I was buying). She knows quite a bit about me, my family, and my business – she needs to. I want her to.

If I got the slightest impression she resented doing business with me, I’d be pissed.

A Use Case for Identity XML – Demographic Surveys

Stowe Boyd’s running a reader survey. I’ve followed Stowe from Get Real to /Message and thought I’d check out the survey.

Standard demographic stuff; age, gender, household income, zip code, employment status, profession, internet usage, etc. Those common questions attempting to build an anonymous picture of people without actually getting involved with them.

Reading through the questions, the myth of blogs-as-conversation fell away. Stowe doesn’t know who I am – or you are – at all.

If he did, he wouldn’t need to ask these questions – because we’ve already answered them. All of us. Somewhere – if only at the BackBeat Media survey, or in our My.Yahoo.com.

I’d don’t mind giving this info. It’s just annoying to answer the same question twice. I’d much rather just point a URL at the survey.

In the same way I’d prefer to point a URL at my current photo than upload it _again_ to another website (43things, Stikipad, Eventful, or Amazon, Technorati etc).

I’m wondering if there’s an XML specification (or something like it) for the basic identity info all these surveys (read marketers) want. For example:

<BirthYear>1974</BirthYear>
<Gender>M</Gender>
<ZIP>55418</ZIP>
<ChildrenCount>1</ChildrenCount>

I could spin a file with this info, host it, maintain it, and provide brief glimpses into for the right price (so could you).

Yes, this is the Customer as Silo idea, feels like there’s some intention economy connection as well. No, I didn’t complete the survey.