Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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Real Relationships

[Editor’s Note: This is a continuation on themes begun with “Insignificantly Interesting” and “The Sniper Effect”.]

Last time we talked I finished with the idea that “in an effort to create stuff that appealed to everyone we were left with a world full of junk.” I’ve talked about it in terms of advertising in the past, but this is much bigger. We’re surrounded by a bunch of design-by-committee junk. The business world is trying so hard to appeal to everyone that they’re creating stuff that appeals to no one.

So where’s the opportunity here? It’s in the niches. I began to hint at this last time, but the beauty of a niche is that you don’t need, nor should you try, to appeal to everyone. You need to know your audience, speak to them and know what the hell you’re talking about (or be real good at faking it).

When you’re talking to a small group of people, your ability to earn trust and influence increases. It takes less water to fill a 10 ounce glass than a 20. What that trust and influence equals up to is a relationship, and that’s the end game all these marketers, advertisers and everyone else are gunning for. John Hagel explains it like this:

First we are moving from a world of relatively scarce shelf-space to relatively scarce attention. Second costs of production and physical distribution are significantly declining on a global scale and customer acquisition and retention costs are rising. At the risk of over-simplification, value creation is shifting from business driven by economies of scale in production to businesses driven by economies of scope in customer relationships. Layer in a third factor at work — the systematic and significant decline in interaction costs that make it easer for customers to identify vendors, find information about them, negotiate with them, monitor their performance and switch from one vendor to another if they are not satisfied with performance.

That, to me, is all about brand experience. Every touch point needs to thought through and manned with someone prepared to wow a customer and if you can’t do it, someone else can. Like me. I have the ability to email every commenter on this site. With a small audience, it’s possible to initiate that personal contact that makes people feel special. How can Coke compete with that?

I think that is the bottom line. Maybe it’s not fame/stardom that people are looking for, but it’s hard to deny that people want to feel special. I know what makes my readers tick. I know what videos Loren’s into, what kind of posts will elicit a sarcastic reaction from Jeff and the kind of links Chartreuse likes to read. Sure it doesn’t scale, but for $10-a-month hosting fees, it doesn’t need to. I can figure that out later, influence will always be a valuable commodity.

Feeling special is just a kind of attention, those three people I singled out are just one of the many who have left comments around here lately an made me feel special. It’s a two way street, you see. “Rather than just focusing on how to get attention, vendors might also want to consider how they can help their customers receive attention that is important to them and not just from the vendor, but from others that matter to the customers,” Hagel says. Those links and callouts are a small example of a larger idea: These are real relationships. “A small audience of super-committed fans can be worth more, in economic terms, than a massive audience of casual viewers and readers.” That’s big.

August 28, 2006