Friday, May 17, 2013

Contact Fuss - How to Promote Your Products

One of the most important parts of business is the interface between company, customer, and press. Together, they form a triangle of communication, and there should always be a line connecting each of the vertices. Companies tell the press about their products, the press tells the people about what's new and exciting, and the people tell the companies what they love and, yes, what they don't love.

But there are too many companies that have cut themselves off from the outside world -- either intentionally or unintentionally.

The Importance of Contact

Sorry I'm going to pick on you guys, but MicroVolts is a perfect example. Today they put out a press release about a new expansion to their MicroVolts game (it's all about pirates). The press release had no contact information to speak of other than "go to our Website". Already, a tragic mistake. Press people do not have time to root around your Web site looking for contact information.

Violation #1. The job of the press release is to open a line of communication with members of the press and allow them to contact you if they have any questions.

But, I bite and go to the Web site. I want more info on the game, so before I contact the company directly, I check out the page they've set up for the game. No screenshots, no video, no details, no specs, no character models, nothing. Just the same old marketing jazz that we've all been immune to since 1985.

Violation #2. The job of the Web site is to be as informative as possible. By hiding the details of your game -- afraid that you might turn away someone who would otherwise download your game client -- you are losing way more people who are cautious and unwilling to blindly try out your game. Always provide all the information to your customers so they can make informed decisions. When you hide things, it makes it look like you have something to hide.

But, I'm holding out hope for this company. That's the kind of guy I am. There's a big 'ole "contact us" button at the top of the screen. That page displays a form (annoying, when compared to a simple e-mail address) and I go to click on the first field. Ploop! Pop-up. "I'm sorry, you must join our Web site to contact us."

Violations #3 - #1872. Are you OUT OF YOUR MINDS! For the love of James Lipton, people, think about what you're doing. You're saying that we only want to hear from the people who have already paid us. That's the exact opposite of what you should be trying to do. You want to hear from all the people who HAVE MONEY YOU DON'T OWN YET!

You want to hear from everybody who took the time out of their day to find you -- you doofuses.

Why Communication Breaks Down

This crap is not unique to MicroVolts. I see dozens and dozens of companies withholding their contact information. Here are the two justifications they make when I finally get to ask them about it:

  • Spammers will send their stupid e-mails to our account and then someone will have to waste time cleaning out their inbox.
  • We need to get all of the money we can because we're a small indie house / we're a large multi-national corporation and we don't answer to anyone just give us your money and shut up.

Yes, spammers are going to send you e-mails. Excuse me while I hunt down a violin. You don't have to shovel gravel or erect a house or pour concrete for a living -- you're sitting at a computer. Muster up some stones and press the delete button. Spam is incredibly annoying and the people who send it are the lowest and most despicable among us. However, each of them only consumes about one second of your day. You have some time to spare. Just delete the e-mails!!! After all, they're all addressed from Anna and they all have something to do with enlarging my penis.

More importantly, holding your contact information hostage because you need money or you've got plenty of cash is a poor business model all the way around. As to the latter, it's impossible to explain to some idiot VP in a corner office somewhere that he's too elitist to understand why his policy sucks, so anonymously send this article to his inbox.

Solving the Problem

Every press release you send out needs to have:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • e-mail
  • phone
  • city
  • and the name/title of a human being attached to it.

Any other forms of communication, including (but not limited to) your:

  • Web address
  • Tumblr link
  • iTunes link
  • Google Play link
  • GOG link
  • Steam store link
  • Press kit download link

should all be in there too. You want as many avenues leading back to you as is humanly possible.

And when you look at your Web site, you should spend some time pretending that you're a customer who needs help or a reporter who wants information and figure out if your Web site fails to service these people. And if it does, fix it.

The ability of your company to maintain clear and open channels of communication is essential to your business' survival. The two are inextricably linked.

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