Boagworld Podcast S05E07

Web & Digital Advice

Digital and web advice from Headscape and the addled brain of Paul Boag... tell me more

Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Thursday, 28th February, 2013

It’s all about me

This week on Boagworld, its all about me… oh yes and Jeffrey Zeldman. We cover choice paralysis, 10 commandments of web design and the evils of email.

Season 5:
The estimated time to read this article is 59 minutes
Play

Paul Boag:
So, this week’s show is going to be the shortest podcast ever recorded by the Boagworld team. Goodbye.

Marcus Lillington:
I think that people will probably find that quite refreshing, being the shortest podcast. We do seem to going on quite a lot lately.

Paul Boag:
Yes, we do. We are both just insanely busy but more importantly than that the heating in the barn is broken.

Marcus Lillington
Paul looks like something off a children’s television program, he really does.

Paul Boag:
I’m wearing, what do you even describe this as?

Marcus Lillington
Andy Pandy, that’s what it…

Paul Boag:
Andy Pandy?

Marcus Lillington
Actually, no one will know who that is.

Paul Boag:
No, that dates you horribly. I am wearing a sleeping bag romper suit…

Marcus Lillington
Exactly

Paul Boag:
Is probably the best way of putting it but I’m warm.

Marcus Lillington
Those words coming out of your mouth just sound wrong. [chuckles]

Paul Boag:
What, sleeping bag romping suit?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah. You’re warm, I’m bloody not.

Paul Boag:
No, you’re sitting there cupping coffee in both hands to keep your hands warm while my hands are gone. They are just completely …

Marcus Lillington
Yes, tough to type though I would think.

Paul Boag:
No you have holes. Otherwise – well, what do you think I’ve been doing all morning sitting in this thing, just staring at my keyboard!?

Marcus Lillington
The barn heating is broken by the way…

Paul Boag:
That’s what I’ve just said, I started saying that.

Marcus Lillington
Did you say that? Okay, I wasn’t listening.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, well otherwise none of the previous bit would have made any sense. I would have just seemed like a strange weirdo.

Marcus Lillington
It’s being fixed today.

Paul Boag:
Why did we come in and decide to podcast today when we could have come in tomorrow when it was warm?

Marcus Lillington
Because people said it’s being fixed on Tuesday. Okay, I’ll go in on Tuesday then. No more thinking than that…

Paul Boag:
Yes without actually considering when on Tuesday it was going to be fixed.

Marcus Lillington
Yes, which was silly of us but never mind; we are here now.

Paul Boag:
But we do have our normal four wonderful blog posts to entertain and amuse. Well mainly entertain actually, well, not even entertain…

Marcus Lillington
Wonderful. They are super wonderful this week, aren’t they?

Paul Boag:
They are super wonderful this week because two of them are mine. Well this is the trouble; I’ve been so busy, I’m writing – am I allowed to say what I’m writing?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, you’re writing a review.

Paul Boag:
Yeah so I’m writing a – am I allowed to say who for?

Marcus Lillington
I don’t know.

Paul Boag:
Okay. So I’m writing an expert review. But normally an expert review we leave a couple of days for but this is quite an important job, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah yeah.

Paul Boag:
So we’ve left four days for it and I’m like five thousand words into it and not even halfway through yet. It’s boring even me; I pity whoever has got to read it at the end. And so the result is I’ve just been insanely busy so the idea of reading through blog posts was just too much for me so I picked two blog posts of my own.

Marcus Lillington
Well it’s all golden content.

Paul Boag:
Oh, is that what it is? I haven’t just picked stuff I already know about.

Marcus Lillington
No, all of it. It’s all gold, the whole lot.

Paul Boag:
Oh it is actually. Yeah absolutely it’s good stuff, you know I haven’t kind of just picked crap.

Marcus Lillington
Well I suppose you must have written the old good post over the years….

Paul Boag:
I’ve written a lot of good posts I’ll have you know.

Marcus Lillington
Have you? Have you? Really? Yes, okay.

Paul Boag:
I have. Well if you write the number I do…

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, it’s just percentages, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, monkey keyboard, Shakespeare.

Marcus Lillington
Shakespeare, there you go.

Paul Boag:
So that about sums it up.

Marcus Lillington
Volume, that’s how you work; volume.

Paul Boag:
Volume yes, quantity over quality. So but amongst all of that we also have post from Jeremy Keith but writing about a presentation that he heard Jeffrey Zeldman give which is a good one.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, that’ll be good.

Paul Boag:
And you’ve got a good one as well from the Happy Cog website. So that’s good.

Marcus Lillington
Yes I have, it’s about sales.

Paul Boag:
Yay your favorite subject.

Marcus Lillington
The thing that no one talks about, apparently, except me.

Paul Boag:
Yes, except you. You talk about it for years. But we’ll come onto that later because you don’t need to feel quite as smug as you currently are feeling over this because you’re not as cool as you think you are.

Marcus Lillington
Me?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, says the man in the jump romper suit.

Marcus Lillington
I was going to say “cool”, I don’t think I’m cool.

Paul Boag:
Anyway shall we start off talking about choice paralysis.

Marcus Lillington
Let’s do that.

How to stop choice paralysis

Woman shopping in a supermarket

Choice Paralysis is a well know problem in retail but seemingly unrecognised online.

Paul Boag:
So, I’ve got a question, Marcus. Is the phrase ‘choice paralysis’ a commonly used one or is it just a me thing?

Marcus Lillington
It’s a thing.

Paul Boag:
It’s a real thing isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington
You didn’t invent it.

Paul Boag:
No, I didn’t think – well so I was writing this expert review and one of the points that I was trying to make was that they have these huge long lists of stuff. And unsurprisingly I thought I started writing, you know, you are going to create choice paralysis. It’s for a charity website and you go into the donation section and there is this massive long list of different ways you can donate and you just go “pffttt, I give up.”

Marcus Lillington
I’d love to give you some money but I can’t…

Paul Boag:
There’s too many choices here. So what I did is I wanted to – I didn’t want to get into explaining too much about what choice paralysis is so I thought I’ll just link to it; there will be a Wikipedia articular or something on it. So, I Google choice paralysis and my post comes up as number one in Google on choice paralysis.

Marcus Lillington
Number two.

Paul Boag:
Oh is it number two?

Marcus Lillington
Analysis paralysis which means the same thing but Wikipedia is number one. If you put quotes around choice paralysis.

Paul Boag:
Ahh, perhaps that’s what I didn’t do. So I was amazed how highly I rank on that, so then I started worrying that it was just a made up word that no one uses. And that’s how I was ranked because, you’re right, the only thing above me is analysis…

Marcus Lillington
Analysis paralysis which is, well I guess it’s the same thing. No it’s not the same thing; no they are different. I’m making it up, that’s a completely different thing. Choice paralysis is basically about, I mean yeah there will be stuff in here about supermarkets don’t – deliberately don’t put too many different varieties of stuff.

Paul Boag:
Well that was the famous experiment that was done where they did – I’ve got the exact figures actually because I think I mention it in the article. So choice paralysis is the principle that there’s too much choice, you’re overwhelmed, you don’t pick anything. So there is a classic experiment, a supermarket study where only 3% of shoppers purchase jam when confronted with 24 varieties while 30% purchase when they were only given six varieties. And, you know, that’s choice paralysis in a nutshell; reduce the amount of choice somebody has got, they are more likely to make a purchase.

And in actual fact, third in the list on the Google search is the Paradox of Choice which is a video on TED, an excellent video, definitely worth checking out that talks about how choice is actually crippling western society.

For more information on choice paralysis I highly recommend watching Barry Schwartz talk at TED about the Paradox of Choice.

Marcus Lillington
Wow, that’s a big statement.

Paul Boag:
Well, I might have made that a bigger statement than it probably was in the video because it was a long time ago that I watched it, but it is good so check that out as well, but anyway…

Marcus Lillington
No you can’t just leave that floating.

Paul Boag:
Why?

Marcus Lillington
Because, well give me an example.

Paul Boag:
Well I just gave you an example, with the shopping market.

Marcus Lillington
Give me another example.

Paul Boag:
A list of choice, ways to donate on a website. How many flipping examples do you want man?

Marcus Lillington
I meant, I meant Barry Schwartz who gave the TED talk, you can’t remember can you?

Paul Boag:
Well that’s what I said, I can’t remember, I watched it ages ago. I was just very honest about that. I just remember it was good and I think it might have inspired me to write my choice paralysis post and now I rate higher than him because I am just a better human being. Barry you suck, whoever you are. No actually its really good, check it out.
So, anyway, so I came up number one on Google for an article I had written…

Marcus Lillington
This is very a ‘yay Paul’ podcast isn’t it? I’m number one…

Paul Boag:
But this is what I said. This is – yeah see now, look, before we did this show when I said oh I’m a bit worried Marcus about doing two posts of mine, you were like “No do it Paul, do it Paul, it’ll be fine, it’s okay, it’s not a problem, you write lots of great stuff, we ought to cover it on the show.” When we get on the freaking show you start telling me I am egocentric a man; make up your mind.

Marcus Lillington
I didn’t say that.

Paul Boag:
You were implying it.

Marcus Lillington
You dreamt that.

Paul Boag:
It was a me-centric show.

Marcus Lillington
That wasn’t me; I haven’t said anything about this.

Paul Boag:

At the moment my brain is so cold that I actually am unsure now.

Marcus Lillington
What are you talking about, Paul? I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.

Paul Boag:
Stop messing with my mind. So anyway, this article I wrote in August 2010, if you haven’t read it, seriously yeah all joking aside, it is a good article, it is worth reading. And I think whether you, really it doesn’t matter, kind of when you think about choice paralysis because of that supermarket example, you do immediately think about e-commerce. But it applies on all kinds of sites, we’ve already said it applies to donations on a charity site but it even applies to other scenarios. Any situation where you are giving the user a lot of options to choose between, there is a danger that they will be faced with choice paralysis.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I think there is so many – so much of the time you come across with too many options within one category or too many ways to customize stuff. You know, where you can change the color or you can mess with this or that or whatever. With e-commerce sites, another really famous example is overwhelming selection of special offers where there is like, ‘everything is on special offer.’ It’s like the DHS sale, isn’t it, where they are always selling aren’t they; they are having a sale.

Marcus Lillington
That’s where you have that feeling that you are missing out. Well, if I go for this then there has got to be a better offer.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, it’s like when you go shopping and inevitably you see the thing you want, the very first shop you go into but you have wonder round 20 or 30 other shops just to make sure, don’t you.

Marcus Lillington
Or if you are lazy like me you go ‘oh bollocks I’ll just have it anyway.’ And sometimes that’s a blessing to be like me.

Paul Boag:
It is, yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington
Because yeah, I remember the first house I ever bought, it was the first one we saw and we must have seen 30 others before we said…

Paul Boag:
Exactly the same happened to us.

Marcus Lillington
It’s like, what?! But we are only young, we didn’t know any better.

Paul Boag:
That’s exactly what, yeah. So, well the second time walked into it, yeah this will do.

Marcus Lillington
Totally. House we’re living in now, we didn’t look at any others.

Paul Boag:
So how do you deal with this problem of choice paralysis? Well first you’ve got to make sure there is a clear difference….oh God. Why am I a podcaster?!

Marcus Lillington
I don’t know because you can’t talk.

Paul Boag:
I can’t speak, I can’t write.

Marcus Lillington
Maybe you need to move out of Wurzel land then you would be able to talk.

Paul Boag:
I could be – could do, even. Not be. See, this is the problem. So first thing to do is differentiate between your different choices and computer manufacturers suffer from this problem so badly. When you’re buying a computer making a decision can be hard when the only difference between a model is a technical specification. I had this recently actually. I went and bought a laptop and it’s like, in the article I say most people don’t know the difference between 2 Gig or 4 Gig of memory or whatever but actually more – that number seems small now, don’t they? 2Gig and 4Gig.

But I mean recently I went in to buy a laptop and had different graphics cards. There is no comparison; no way of comparing them whatsoever and the choice was just overwhelming and crippling.

Marcus Lillington
Well there is just a – the expensive – you really should be having the expensive one because otherwise you will be six months behind as you walk out of the shop door.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I know.

Marcus Lillington
Which is actually I don’t know the case anymore with computers; that used to be the case didn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Well it depends on what you are buying it for; it’s still the case with gaming.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah I suppose yeah, which I…

Paul Boag:
But you don’t game very much?

Marcus Lillington
Not really, no.

Paul Boag:
Not that type of game anyway.

Marcus Lillington
But the thing we are recording on, which is a MacBook Air, nearly three years old, I’m running Logic Pro on this, it’s not plugged in, there’s no, you know…

Paul Boag:
No, no.

Marcus Lillington
That was unheard of from anything a few years ago. It – basically I’ve got loads of other programs running, this is a tangent, but I’m just hugely impressed with it. Apple have almost made it too good.

Paul Boag:
Well actually Apple is the example of the kind of exception to the rule, you know. If you go to, say, the Dell website you want to put needles through your eyes quite quickly because the choice is just overwhelming. Well Apple, for a long time, they are not so good now it has to be said but for a long term had really clear differentiation between their products. In fact they even…

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, well they’ve got a problem now, haven’t they? The Air is too good, as I have just been saying. That’s the, I bet that’s an issue for them.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely I mean it used to be – when I wrote this, well, no they did not have the Air in it, back in 2010, but their website – they had this section called “Which Mac is right for you?” and it’s brilliant, it’s absolutely great what they had on the website. I haven’t looked more recently but they had a MacBook, you know, which they refer to. They don’t refer to specs they just say it’s our most affordable Notebook.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah. They don’t make that one anymore.

Paul Boag:
No, then they had their MacBook Pro “our most advanced Notebook.” Then they had their MacBook Air for the thinnest, lightest Notebook and IMac and so on. And each of them have clearly differentiated, right?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So that’s the key; if you’ve got to have lots of options because the immediate response is we will reduce the number of options, right, which is – you want to be able to do in most situations but you can’t – it’s not that black and white. You can’t just say, oh I just need to remove a load of options. Sometimes it’s – all you need to do is really clearly differentiate between the options that you’ve got.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So, but that doesn’t just apply to just computers or products, it can apply to navigation as well which you do a lot of UI work so you know.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, absolutely.

Paul Boag:
You know if you have a top level sections and you’re not quite sure what the difference is between the two. I mean the example I give is with firebox.com where they have two top level sections, one called technology and one called Geek. And the two are quite close and you are not sure what’s in what and what the difference is between those two sections.

Marcus Lillington
Do you reckon anyone ever clicks on those? I don’t.

Paul Boag:
I do onto Geek all the time but…

Marcus Lillington
I suppose you’re just – yeah you want to be shown stuff so yeah you would. I just think any shopping site people just search.

Paul Boag:
No, because I don’t think they always know because firebox is a really kind of gift oriented site and you are looking for a gift for someone and you know someone is kind of geeky so you click on the geek section; show me all the geeky products.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
But anyway I mean but that’s, okay, that could equally be a content driven site where you have two sections that are, you know, that are too similar. Another thing you could do about choice paralysis is something that we did on Wiltshire Farm Foods which is you got a big long list of different products or different sections or whatever else but you can’t remove them for whatever reason; there is some reason why not. So what we did with Wiltshire Farm Foods is we just hid the less popular ones so you have like an expandable list. So you make it very clear to people what is the most important ones, what are the ones that you should be paying attention to.

So I mean it’s the old laws of simplicity, if you can’t remove it hide it and if you can’t hide it shrink it, link to show notes to the laws of simplicity. And then, of course, the other thing you can do is you can make suggestions about what people should be looking at, what’s most appropriate to them and I guess that’s what Amazon does really, instead of just kind of vomiting you onto their website and say find whatever you want, you know, it does actually provide some recommendations about what is most appropriate to you and what is not.

Another thing worth mentioning it, or the last thing really worth mentioning, is always setting good defaults makes a big difference as well in avoiding choice paralysis. So this is something we do a lot on donation websites, you know, how much to give, oh I don’t know, you know. Do I give ten pounds or twenty pounds or five pounds; what’s the kind of normal thing? It’s like when you do whip round, isn’t it, at work for somebody who is leaving. Sort of how much do you put down?

Marcus Lillington
I love it when it comes to me first because I deliberately put a large amount in just to annoy everyone else.

Paul Boag:
Yeah exactly, but that’s – if you are first you are setting the default.

Marcus Lillington
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
So you can kind of set defaults for all users. And often I think we become obsessed with edge cases where we worry about, well what if somebody doesn’t want to give a pre-defined amount of money? You know what do we – well we better just have a box that people can type in whatever they want. But actually you are better off providing guidance because otherwise the minority are kind of dictating what happens to the majority and that’s just dumb. And so, yeah, setting good defaults is another thing, all of these I go into a lot more detail in the post so it’s definitely worth checking out.

And I think the kind of key message with all of this is really that we like to think of ourselves as kind of hypological volcans that kind of just pick whatever the most rational and sensible decision is, but actually we don’t do that at all. We tend to, especially when we are faced with…

Marcus Lillington
We’re sheep.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, partly that and partly when we are faced with like so many different options, we fall back on our subconscious, relying on gut reactions and emotional decision making.

And this could often leave the user feeling uncertain and out of control and that’s where they get this kind of paralysis where they don’t do anything. But, anyway check out the article, it’s a great article and hopefully you can learn something out of it and it is great despite the fact that I wrote it…

Marcus Lillington
It’s great, great, great, great because I want to say it again.

Paul Boag:
It’s great, it’s fantastic. If I was Vitaly I would say it was smashing so I will have to say that with our third article which is part. But before we get onto that, let’s look at the Ten Commandments of web design.

10 Commandments of Web Design

Jeffrey Zeldman

Jeffrey Zeldman gives an excellent presentation at An Event Apart outlining some fundamental principles of web design.

Alright, so our next up is a post by Jeremy Keith where he kind of outlines a talk by Jeffrey Zeldman that he gave at An Event Apart in Atlanta. And it’s only just been published, it’s a new post from it, Jeremy. And I don’t know what it was about this because it’s nothing that’s like mind blowing in it, but on the other hand, I don’t know, it’s just…

Marcus Lillington
Because Jeffrey said it?

Paul Boag:
Jeffrey, no, no I’m not like that at all. There was something about it that just struck a refreshing chord with me.

Marcus Lillington
Well he is a great speaker, thinker.

Paul Boag:
He is a great speaker and also he’s got that, because he’s got that standing within the industry, he’s got nothing to prove so he can say what the hell he likes really. And I think that’s what makes his stuff refreshing often.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, he’s irreverent.

Paul Boag:
Yeah so he’s done Ten Commandments of Web Design that Jeremy has kindly kind of outlined for us on his blog post. And I thought, let’s – it would be quite nice to talk through this list. He talks about, ‘Thou Shalt Entertain,’ which – what a great start just there. How, you know, he talks about how we spend so much time worrying about accessibility, usability, performance and all that good stuff but actually we should be entertaining as well and that’s a really important part. And he gives some examples of how they’ve – different people have done that. He talks about Panic software that’s got beautiful icons that are entertaining and how their corporate philosophy and mission statement is interesting, you know, and engaging unlike so many of them.

He talks about the illustrations that are used on A List Apart and some 404 error pages and all kinds of different examples where you can be entertaining.

Marcus Lillington
The GNU bars, that’s making me laugh.

Paul Boag:
What’s that, I haven’t read that bit?

Marcus Lillington
GNU bars are fiber bars that help you go to the bathroom. And this could have been the worst website assignment ever. But they worked hard to get the joy of going to the bathroom in there; they even have a GNU letter, et cetera. But, anyway, yeah that made me giggle.

Paul Boag:
Oh, no. That’s terrible. So I mean things like – I just love stuff like that. I mean it’s getting the balance isn’t it, all the time? You see – it’s like there are two camps in the world of web design; there is the kind of gimmicky, fun, flash – big F and little f there, websites that are all froth and no substance and then there is the kind of camp that I guess that most of us that are listening to the show fall into which is the accessibility, usability, all far too serious intense kind of group. And actually, Jeremy is rightly saying – not Jeremy, Jeffrey is rightly saying that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Second one is ‘Thou Shall Taste Everything, including your assumptions,’ which I like, is a nice addition to it. So he is talking a little bit about kind of testing, both mobile testing, but all kinds of different testings really, which is really good.

He’s got, ‘Thou Shall Iterate’ which I love and I think I would love to be doing more of that. He talks about how on a list of part they iterated a lot before coming up with their final design. And in last week’s show, didn’t we, we talked about how Google endlessly iterated to come up with the way that they do things. But you don’t get to do that a lot with client work which is a shame. I’d love to do more iteration and testing and iteration and testing. We do do that, we do a lot of it, but not to the extent that I would love to.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah budgets get in the way usually on that one.

Paul Boag:
Yeah…

Marcus Lillington
Not just budgets, its people’s expectations on when something needs to be delivered, time scales. We don’t get to just fiddle about and just keep trying this and iterating that.

Paul Boag:
But I do do that with – I do that more on site on Boagworld. I have been fiddling with stuff over the weekend on my site and that kind of constant iteration. But he is talking about design iteration as well, when before you even launch a product, going over and over it which is really good.

Next one is good ‘Thou Shalt Ship.’ And this first line on this is great. I don’t know whether this is Jeremy’s, he is recounting it back or whether it’s Jeffrey said this. He said “good is the enemy of great.” Fair enough, good enough, it’s not good enough, but “great is the enemy of shipping,” which is so true how you kind of obsess over things endlessly and eventually you have got to go get it out of the door. Jeremy talked about how he used to work at a company that had a perfectionist as the president which – and about how in some ways that’s a good thing and in some ways it’s not. And you never end up shipping stuff and it’s just great. That I am a huge believer in, okay, enough is enough, let’s get it out there.

Marcus Lillington
There is a balance between points 3 and 4, ‘thou shalt iterate’ and ‘thou shalt ship’ because endless iteration can…

Paul Boag:
Never ship.

Marcus Lillington
You are looking for greatness which means you’ll never get it out of the door. So, this is all rubbish. I’m joking.

Paul Boag:
Well no it’s not. It’s – yeah I know you are – it kind of perfectly sums up the paradox thing that we have of knowing where to draw the line and I think that, to some degree, only comes with experience. You know, you’ve got to do it too far in either direction, haven’t you; iterate too much or ship too early before you find that sweet spot in the middle.

‘Engage thy community’ is number five and he uses instagram as a great example of that where they changed their terms of service. They didn’t communicate that very well. But he gives some other examples as well which is great.

‘Love thy User as Thyself,’ which is a great one unless of course you hate yourself in which case don’t follow that advice. Remember the content and he gets into content first and the idea of focusing always on the content. So he gives a great example of asking, you know, instead of asking “where should we put the side bar?” ask the question, do we need a side bar? Does the content dictate having a side bar, those kinds of things, which is great.

‘Ignore workflow at thy peril,’ another really good one and again he gives some examples of that. I am not going to go into all of these in massive detail because I want you to read the post.

‘Thou Shall Prioritize;’ pretty self explanatory really. But so many clients fail to do this, you know, the amount of effort that you put getting a client just to say this thing is more important than that.

Marcus Lillington
That is what we spend the majority of projects, the first part of the research part of a project or the consulting part of a project is about prioritization.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. ‘To Thy Own Self Be True,’ which is great. He gives an example of oh the old hay dot net site, “have hay, need hay.” You know and the site has changed but it’s still about hay. And it’s too often – I have seen this especially with startups a lot where they launch a website about one thing and then they pivot and suddenly they are about something else and no matter how shit that is.

And about how just sticking with your vision, you know, who it is you are reaching, what is you are about and staying consistent with that. And I think we’ve made that mistake over the years of maybe wondering a little bit way with Boagworld down different avenues of becoming too much stuff just for website owners or too much stuff just for designers, where we’ve always been a podcast for those that design, develop and run websites on a daily basis and we need to stick with that.

And then this eleventh one, just as a bonus, which is ‘Think for yourself, don’t be a lemming’, which is a great ending to anything isn’t it really?

Marcus Lillington
Very wise – wise worms.

Paul Boag:
Wise words and – but on those wise worms we shall move on.

How To Use Email To Alienate Your Users

Smashing Magazine post about unsolicited email

I rant about the evils of unsolicited email over at Smashing Magazine.

I’m loving the fact that every time we have a break between sections Marcus is just going oh it’s flipping freezing, oh I can’t feel my feet, moan, moan, moan, moan.

Marcus Lillington
My feet are gone, they’re just horrible. I don’t like it.

Paul Boag:
We can go back downstairs soon.

Marcus Lillington
Good.

Paul Boag:
Oh no we’ve got two more posts; we’re only half way.

Marcus Lillington
I know, get on with it.

Paul Boag:
Let’s slow down because I am toasty warm.

Marcus Lillington
Yes, in your romper suit.

Paul Boag:
Romper suit. Anyway next post is a post I wrote for Smashing Magazine and is just a no holds barred rant, right, about email. But not in the way you think, right. I’m not talking about spam, right, because actually truth is I don’t really care much about spam anymore. Got good spam filters; they work well, they get rid of the penis enlargement emails. I don’t get that kind of spam anymore.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah still get a few but I am actually quite attached to some of the spam I have been getting over the years. I get some stuff for kind of industrial piping, things like that.

Paul Boag:
Yes, yeah yeah I get that one as well. In fact I had one today or yesterday something like that.

Marcus Lillington
And I’ve been getting them for years and I’d miss them if they went.

Paul Boag:
So, no, I’m not talking about that kind of spam.

Marcus Lillington
I know.

Paul Boag:
What I am talking about is email marketing. So it’s the…

Marcus Lillington
Which kind of is spam.

Paul Boag:
Well it is and it isn’t; it’s a bit more cunning than that.

Marcus Lillington
Targeted spam.

Paul Boag:
There’s two types of it, right?

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag:
There is the ‘you signed up for this application 23 years ago and when you did you accidently didn’t uncheck the box that says…’ so in theory they do have permission to email me, right? But I have long since forgotten or cared about them really; so there is that type of that one. And then there is this new trend, right, of email marketing in the guise of notifications, right. So I sign up for some web service or whatever and by default it sends you notifications every 24 hours giving you a round up of everything that’s happened on this new app that you long since stopped caring about.

So those are the kind of two things and I guess that is my point with writing this kind of post is that we all say we hate spam, right. And yet I actually think we are all responsible for creating it and we don’t realize it and we go what we are doing isn’t spam. We find justifications in our minds. But done right email marketing can be good and it can be good for the subscriber as well as ourselves.

So, it’s about getting the balance. I think a big part of it for me is that email communication really should be about a dialogue rather than a monologue. And good email marketing doesn’t just benefit the sender it also provides real benefit to the user as well. But there is so much – so many problems that get in the way of it that email marketing has almost become this dirty word that you shouldn’t – that the nice people don’t approve of. You wouldn’t bring email marketing home to meet the mother, you know, it’s that kind of thing.

So, I wanted to go through some of the problems with email marketing in this post which I have done. First one is that ‘why am I getting this email; scenario? You know, I am presuming that some level of consent has been given and I hope the people know better than to send emails completely unsolicited. But that term unsolicited can be interpreted in many ways and I think we often stray into grey areas without realizing it. So this ‘why am I getting this email?’ is an important example of this.

So, for example, I get an email from a company called Star Doc, right, and I bought an app from Star Doc once years ago, back in, I would have thought back in…

Marcus Lillington
A different lifetime.

Paul Boag:
Seriously I’m talking about back in the days where I used to use the wheezy wig editor in Dreamweaver, that kind of length of time ago. And they saw me purchasing that as permission to send me an email, right? And not just one email, an email probably every three or four months, right. And I didn’t opt out of it but I don’t remember opting in either and it’s that why am I getting this email, I don’t remember opting in for this so why am I getting it. So that’s one thing. Then there is the notifications that I mentioned earlier and this really is getting up my nose majorly. Twitter is a great example of this recently. Twitter started emailing people with a summary of their twitter stream.

Marcus Lillington
True. That’s an instant delete, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Right. Did I sign up for that? No, because it didn’t exist when I signed up for that. They just added it in and they could have sent me an email saying “hey we want to offer this new thing if you want it, click here,” right. Fine with that, but instead they just signed me for these notifications without my permission, right. So there is that but it gets worse in the Twitter story and that brings me onto my next thing of ‘I just want to freaking unsubscribe,’ right.

Enabling users to unsubscribe to an email update should go without saying, you know, otherwise if I can’t unsubscribe to it what ultimately can I do? I can delete it every time but more likely I am going to, out of pure vindictiveness and pissed offness, I am going to mark it as spam and that ultimately could get the people who are sending it, banned.

However, just because you’ve got an unsubscribe option don’t think that means you are not going to alienate people, right. Take for example that Twitter screen email, that’s got an unsubscribe option, they are good, they are nice people. Bugger they are, little shits, right. I click on the subscribe option and what does it do? It says log in to unsubscribe. You know my email address, you know who I am, why do I have to log in for this, just unsubscribe me for it. Now that in itself, I could possible at a push excuse, right, because they just haven’t thought it through. Because what they haven’t considered is perhaps I don’t know my log in details because I have multiple twitter accounts. I set up – one particular one I remember setting up was for the Highland Fling in about 2009, right.

And I wanted people to be able to submit questions to me so I created a Twitter account specially for that, used it for the one thing then just abandoned it. Now I am getting emails every week telling me what activity I’ve got on that Twitter screen which is none, right. But I don’t know the username anymore, I don’t know the login details, I don’t even have the same email address so they can’t reset the password and that happens countless times, right. So you got to make it easy, unsubscribing should be as easy as clicking a link, that’s it; none of that confirmation thing. That’s the other thing they do, you go to a page and they go, oh are you sure you want to do this? Yes, I frigging clicked on the link; of course I want to do it.

And then they make me click another button, right. Oh do you want to unsubscribe to just this or everything now? Just do it. Do it.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, I mean I don’t bother unsubscribing for things because I am so cynical I think that I am signing up for things when I unsubscribe so I don’t. I just delete them, delete.

Paul Boag:
But then that gets really painful, if you are getting like – because I sign up for lots of things, I’m getting – I probably get…

Marcus Lillington
I would believe Twitter for example but then I still just delete them because I get the ‘You might want to…’

Paul Boag:
Yeah because it feels quicker.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, exactly. Boom done, it’s gone. They send you all sorts of crap Twitter, you might want to be friends with so and so, or these people who you follow are saying this. I know that…

Paul Boag:
Because I read it on Twitter.

Marcus Lillington
Yes. Anyway

Paul Boag:
Right, another one is this isn’t what I signed up for, right. When people do intentionally subscribe they have certain expectations, right. And meeting those expectations is really important so – and keeping a consistent tone across all these digital channels through which you communicate.

So for example, when people sign up to my newsletter, they expect web design related news. That is what I have told them that they will get and that’s what I have to deliver. If I start pushing my web design services instead they are going to feel lied to and are going to be – get alienated. And this is such an important thing to do but so often it doesn’t happen and for example if I sign up, I found a great example, a Circuit City email, alright. Circuit City don’t exist anymore so it’s fine to slag them off, although that didn’t stop me slagging off Twitter.

Marcus Lillington
It’s so big it’s okay.

Paul Boag:
And they sent this – they send out emails or used to send out emails that were basically red hot deals and shopping stuff. People don’t subscribe to be sold at, they subscribe to get something of value, do you know what I mean? So if all you are going to do is just sell at people, you are wasting your time, I think.

Marcus Lillington
If you went to a marketing conference though and said this to them, probably eight out of ten people, nine out of ten people will go yeah yeah yeah but that’s not how it is.

Paul Boag:
Yeah and that’s the truth. They are correct, the truth is that in terms of statistics it’s like direct mail, right. You know 2%, 1%, maybe even less people respond and buy something but that pays for it and makes you a profit. But what they don’t consider at these marketing conferences and what really hacks me off is the damage that they are doing to their brand at the same time.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, and yes I can feel myself going for a rant. It’s about that old fashioned word kind of politeness.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
That’s what we are talking about here and it’s like – well if you are a tough marketer then you are just out to get the best figures and sell this product blah blah blah, but yeah like you say there is no consideration for maybe that person that bought that thing last year would buy this thing next year and the year after if you treated them with some respect. But you are losing them every time.

Paul Boag:
Yeah and that I think is part of the problem with – you know I am a great fan of metrics, right, that whenever we set up a project one of the first things we do is set measurable success criteria. But you have to be careful with that that you’re measuring – that you don’t become so obsessed with those figures that you lose the broader perspective, right. And a marketeer is a great example of that, it is all about the bottom-line, it’s all about how many sales that you can secure. But you can be damaging other metrics like customer satisfaction…

Marcus Lillington
Which you can’t measure very easily.

Paul Boag:
Which is hard to measure, yeah absolutely. So you’ve got to be really, really careful. It’s interesting so there was a much better example of news that is done right and actually giving something of value to the subscriber rather than just selling them, it’s the RSPCA, they do a great newsletter. Well their newsletter mixes kind of news and issues and advice and all these kinds of good stuff alongside calls to action to donate and that kind of thing. And it’s a much more healthy mix, much much better.
And then the other thing is which is really reflective of what you were just saying is that you obviously don’t care about me, kind of thing. The great – I’ve found this brilliant one from PollDaddy. It’s a PollDaddy email where it’s got, ‘Hi unknown, welcome to the PollDaddy monthly newsletter.’

Marcus Lillington
So just don’t – if you can’t get somebody’s name don’t send it at all.

Paul Boag:
Yes and also remember the email is supposed to be a two-way medium and so we need to treat our email that way. I hate emails that go out with from email addresses like [email protected]

Marcus Lillington
Yeah we don’t care about you at all.

Paul Boag:
Yes and even when you write an email, write it like you are writing one human being is writing to another and maybe ask people to respond, ask for opinions, encourage comments, run the occasional poll. When I write the emails for the Boagworld emails and by the way a link in the show notes to subscribing to those, I write to one person, right, and I try and have a different person every week that I write to. So last week I wrote to Cindy, right, and I will write the whole thing like I am writing to Cindy and just try to make it as much like a normal email as I can, but anyway.

Marcus Lillington
Good idea.

Paul Boag:
And then the one other –

Marcus Lillington
I like that.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, it works really well actually. Sometimes it can be misjudged slightly because you read back through it afterwards and think no one other than Cindy is going to get this and you have to rewrite it a little bit to make it more applicable but the principle is right.

Marcus Lillington
Fair enough.

Paul Boag:
And the last thing in this that I cover in this post is at least check as well that your email is easy to read. The number of emails that I get through that because they don’t automatically download the images are totally illegible or just don’t work on my iPhone and it’s so easy to do these days. The email news that I try send out I use Mail Chimp and they even provide a tool for like dragging and dropping design elements in, it’s a WYSIWYG editor really for email and that’s responsive. And it works on every device and every email client and it’s just brilliant, I just love it. So anyway like you say, it’s funny, I conclude this by saying exactly what you said which is I just want some respect.

I just want to be treated like a human being and if you treat people with respect then you ain’t going to go far wrong. It’s the old adage of treat others as you would have them treat you really, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington
Exactly. I mean it just makes – obviously it doesn’t – well to me I think it makes business sense to treat people with respect because I think they will then become customers for life and make you loads and loads of money if that’s what you want.

Paul Boag:
And go out recommending you to other people.

Marcus Lillington
Exactly. So therefore the reverse of that is if you don’t treat me with respect I assume you are out for a fast buck and that is what your brand is all about. And surely I am not the only person that thinks this.

Paul Boag:
No but I think the problem – and this is what I was getting at right at the beginning, I think very few people think that. I think there are some that do but I think there are a lot of people that think that in theory and if you ask them do you treat your customers with respect they will say of course we do. But their actions, it’s almost like we become blind to our own actions and we don’t realize when we are tricking people into signing up for a newsletter or we kind of think well it’s alright in this occasion because what we’ll provide will be brilliant so it will be fine.

Marcus Lillington
Yes we are very worthy.

Paul Boag:
Yeah or well of course everybody wants our notifications because our notifications are for an app that is absolutely brilliant and everybody cares about more than life itself.

Marcus Lillington
Yes exactly.

Paul Boag:
So we self-delude to an extent and I think that’s the key here is to ask some of your users whether you are doing it right. And that actually on that note I would love to hear back from you guys if you have subscribed to my newsletter as to whether you feel it is too intrusive, whether you feel it’s too sales, whether you feel it’s annoying in any way.

Marcus Lillington
People just go delete, delete.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, well it’s quite interesting, I’m very chuffed, right, because in Mail Chimp they do this thing where they show your open rates and your click rates in comparison to other people within your own sector and how I have got double the open rate and double the click through rate of any – the average within the sector so that makes me feel – but even then my click through rate and open rate in my head is really low still. My open rate is like 30% or something.

Marcus Lillington
That’s probably really high because most of the time something like that comes through that I actually am interested in, probably don’t read it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah because you just don’t have the time.

Marcus Lillington
Busy and other stuff.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, yeah; so it’s interesting, it’s an interesting area and how do you really judge – oh and the other thing I keep an eye on is my unsubscribe rate, so are lots of people unsubscribing every time and it seems to be almost an identical figure every time which is really weird. Every week I send out a newsletter and eight people unsubscribe. Is it the same, do they unsubscribe, re-subscribe and then unsubscribe every week?

Marcus Lillington
Probably unsubscribe doesn’t work.

Paul Boag:
No it does because it is Mail Chimp so they obviously have to be really hot on that. So anyway that’s that closed, let’s move on to Marcus’s contribution to proceedings.

Win some, lose some

Cognition article on sales

Joe Rinaldi at Happy Cog suggests that we should all be more open about sales.

Marcus Lillington
Okay, this is a post about sales.

Paul Boag:
Actually I do need to say one thing before you do that, sorry. In the time it took me to do that last section, I had four pieces of unsolicited mail which I just thought was superb. Sorry. Sales, yay, everybody loves sales. So why are you feeling smug?

Marcus Lillington
I am not feeling smug.

Paul Boag:
Oh I could talk about this for years.

Marcus Lillington
Well I kind of have been talking about this for years. No that’s just, the only – this is Joe Rinaldi who works for Happy Cog and he has – basically he is just talking about sales and he starts it off by saying, “We work in a wonderfully open community where ideas and best practices are shared and implemented liberally, well except when it comes to sales.”

Paul Boag:
It is true.

Marcus Lillington
To a certain extent, yeah I won’t talk about our rates – oh I’ve had this conversation – but I have had this conversation before, that’s my smugness. We have talked about this kind of thing a lot in the past.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington
Although not so much lately; I suppose once you’ve covered it you’ve covered it.

Paul Boag:
But I think what I liked about his post and the reason why I don’t think you can be completely that smug. I’ve not covered this before…

Marcus Lillington
You are making up my smugness…

Paul Boag:
You should see, dear listener you should see his face. He has the smuggest face – now you just look constipated. The one thing I did like about this post was he actually put some hard and fast numbers, albeit only one number which is their win/lose rate.

Marcus Lillington
And for them it’s going to be brilliant.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, yeah; so I suppose they are not – the guy I respect most out of all of this is Dan James from silverorange who quite happily talks about….

Marcus Lillington
Yes there’s another person who talks about sales.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, he quite happily talks about how much they won their revenue over a year, what their salary is, yeah.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah and it’s like – no – because I just think it’s sensible not to go down that route because the bottom line is we’re all up against each other and we do want to win work against a competing agency, this is kind of very front of mind because I went for the second time ever, I went to a briefing where all of the agencies were invited together which is always incredibly awkward.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so you and Andy Budd from Clearleft are sitting there…

Marcus Lillington
It was okay because I know Andy quite well and that was fine. But I went to one previously with the guys from Torchbox and we’re a bit like ‘Alright’ and then there’s other people around the table looking very serious. And everyone is trying to point score and not point score at the same time, just like it’s not a pitch, just ask questions and go but anyway. So – but the point I am trying to make there is we are up against each other, even the people we know and like and get on with and meet at conferences, there is still an element of competition here. Of course there is.

Paul Boag:
Yes there is.

Marcus Lillington
So therefore you don’t want to be saying, so therefore we charge X for this and we charge X for that because sometimes that changes as well depending on how busy you are and all of that kind of thing, so.

Paul Boag:
Sure, but there is a lot more – we could be a lot more open than we are. I am playing devil’s advocate. Not in terms of we charge this for this project and that kind of thing but in terms of how we approach sales and I suppose we are fairly open about that. And do we pitch, do we not pitch, do we do speculative work, what goes into our proposal, here is a sample of one of our proposals. Would that be so terrible to do that kind of stuff?

Marcus Lillington
I wouldn’t want to show or give an example of a proposal, no, because that’s part of – you win work on how good your proposal is.

Paul Boag:
Yeah but we also win work on the quality of our code and we share that all the time.

Marcus Lillington
Weird, isn’t it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah that’s where I’m struggling because I’ll give you another example, a real tangible – because I am going to be brutally honest over this, right.

Marcus Lillington
Okay.

Paul Boag:
I love the guys from Clearleft to bits, I love hanging out with them but yeah you are right, we are in competition with them, you know. Numerous times we have been up against them and I recently came across their new website which I absolutely love and I dropped an email to Andy on Twitter and said I really like your new website. And I sat there thinking if this was any other website I would now tweet it, right. But there was something in me that prevented me doing it and in the end I thought this is bloody stupid, I should do it. It’s a good website, why not, so I then tweeted it.

And I am glad I did and it was the right thing to do, but it – I didn’t like that part of me. I didn’t like the part of me that suddenly went all commercial and all competitive over it. And actually I even wrote to Andy as well and said you guys have been doing really well recently, you’ve been beating us and you’ve been producing some really great work and good for you.

And I almost had – I didn’t have to make myself do it because they are great guys and I really like them but it was the principle that I felt I should encourage them. I don’t want them to become my competitors, I want them to remain my friends and I know in the past I have fallen into that mindset, not just with Clearleft but with other web design agencies that I know. And I don’t want to work in an industry like that.

I want to work in a well sometimes you win them, sometimes you lose them. And we say that all the time to each other but then we – perhaps it’s just me, perhaps there’s something in me that’s dark and evil and…

Marcus Lillington
No, no, no, that’s what this post by Joe Rinaldi is called, you win some, you lose some, and he kind of starts off that way and then he goes into kind of the darker places, lost is cost and they hurt and all that kind of thing. And sometimes you know you are kind of just well this will be a result if we win this one kind of thing, and if you don’t then you go fair enough. Others you put your heart on the line and you lose those and it’s like ‘Bastards’.

But just to go back to the point you were making there, there is a definite line, when you are looking at say Clearleft’s website and you are admiring it as a piece of work, that’s cool. That’s absolutely right and you should be telling everyone how brilliant it is. But when there is a project to be won that we’re both going for then that’s a different – you’re in a different place then.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not disagreeing with you.

Marcus Lillington
But to a certain extent the bottom line is you do win some and you do lose some and you do your best and if people you know – I’d rather people we know won it than people we don’t know win it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. Well there’s the classic example, I don’t know whether I’m allowed to say this or not, but this thing you went to…

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag:
…with Andy there and there was another company there that probably don’t listen to this I hope, the two of you sat there and said I don’t care if you win but as long as they don’t, because they were a very different type of agency.

Marcus Lillington
Yes. I think probably best leave that one there. Well now that sounds awful, they were – up to a certain extent they weren’t – we know each other and to go back to the point it wasn’t so much that maybe we didn’t feel that they wouldn’t be able to do a job for these people. It was more a case of we know the kind of job that they would do and we rate that more highly.

Paul Boag:
Okay so let’s – right, so I can accept you don’t want to talk about our rates because rates are something that change and to some extent depend on the type of client you are working with, how difficult you think they are going to be and all kinds of other factors come into play, right.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, I mean yeah. In a perfect world it would be lovely if we could just go this is how much we charge for X, that’s how much we charge for Y, but most people tell you these days this is our budget and we want this and then you have to make a decision.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, so I am fine about that. Not sharing proposals, I’m purposely playing devil’s advocate here because I’m not the salesman, well I am to some degree but not like you are. Not sharing proposals and putting up examples of that because I often get examples of that. I get people saying what goes into your proposals and we talk about it, we do a workshop which you’ve participated in when we’ve talked about all the things that go into our proposals, so why wouldn’t you post that online?

Marcus Lillington
Because I think it’s because a lot of value goes into those words and a lot of experience has gone into those words et cetera, et cetera.

Paul Boag:
And that’s not true of the websites we build?

Marcus Lillington
Other people’s content, isn’t it? It’s content.

Paul Boag:
Their words, yeah, but alright with the code, right. It’s really interesting, right, okay go back to the example of the new Clearleft site. I went onto the site and I thought the design is not –

Marcus Lillington
But I wouldn’t – for example, it’s a weird one.

Paul Boag:
Let me finish the train of thought I was going to say, right. So I went onto the Clearleft site and it does certain things that I really like, okay. So I immediately dived into the code to work out how they had done it, right, because I am not like these guys downstairs, I am not coding day to day so they would have gone oh yes they did this, this and this. But I didn’t know.

So I dove in their code and had a look. They could have minified their code; they could have done all of these things to make it really quite hard for me to do that. In actual fact they had laid it all out really nicely, they had commented it, they knew people would do that and they empowered me to be able to learn from them, rip off their intellectual property you could argue, right, and reuse that. You are saying that your words are more precious than their code.

Marcus Lillington
I don’t – using…

Paul Boag:
I really am being a bugger now, I know.

Marcus Lillington
Using that example I didn’t look at the site and see any of the features or whatever, I just saw the visual design and the content.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington
So not interested in what you just said, don’t care. But I wouldn’t take their content, their words, ever ever ever and that’s what I was trying to compare to.

Paul Boag:
Okay you are trying to compare – yes, I wouldn’t, no I would feel horribly uncomfortable if somebody copied and pasted chunks out of our proposals.

Marcus Lillington
There you go, so why show it to them?

Paul Boag:
Because you could show them the structure and…

Marcus Lillington
I’ve talked in the past and given details about headings, things we cover.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you have actually. Okay. Alright, moving on then. No you’ve convinced me on that, no that’s fair enough because stealing, yeah, even with Clearleft’s code which I’d went and looked at I couldn’t just copy and paste it wholesale, it wouldn’t have worked on my website. I had to rewrite it, I learnt from it but I wasn’t plagiarizing it because it wouldn’t have been possible even if I could. And that would have been a step too far anyway, that’s what you are saying, that you are happy to explain what goes into it but you don’t want to put it in a position where they can just copy and paste it. Because it’s not like online where if somebody copies and pastes a load of our text online we will know it because it will appear in search results and those kinds of things. And you can go and say naughty boys, yes.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, can you imagine if you were going up against, say if you were a part of a competitive tender and five agencies were handing in proposals and someone had copied and pasted yours and they read yours before theirs, before they get to yours?

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. No, I accept that, you’ve convinced me. What about then things like in this post he talks about a win/lose ratio, right. And he posts, doesn’t he, their win/lose…

Marcus Lillington
Would he have posted it if it was the other way round?

Paul Boag:
That’s what I was going to say. I mean because they are Happy Cog, what was it, 17 to 5 which is a really high 70-odd percent ratio.

Marcus Lillington
I mean he makes the point that anything above 50% is considered good, which it is.

Paul Boag:
Yes so – because our conversion rate would be lower than that.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah at the moment, I mean – well actually no, at the moment it isn’t. It depends – and what time do you want to take it over.

Paul Boag:
Yes, what period, so that’s a very good point as well.

Marcus Lillington
Right now it’s better than that, a lot better. If you added in the last six months it probably wouldn’t be.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
So…

Paul Boag:
Yeah, what does it mean anyway?

Marcus Lillington
I think that’s just…

Paul Boag:
Is that secretly, are you saying that secretly, are you secretly saying that that’s just showing off…

Marcus Lillington
This is just sales pitch, that is sales pitch. We are so good, you need to come to Happy Cog because look, everyone comes here because we are just so good.

Paul Boag:
Yes and we always win it.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah exactly, so I just think that’s sales pitch and it wouldn’t be in there if it was the other way around.

Paul Boag:
You cynical bastard.

Marcus Lillington
Sorry but I do.

Paul Boag:
Because even – I got to say even the examples that he picks of where things went wrong are it’s not really Happy Cog’s fault examples.

Marcus Lillington
Well sometimes you do just lose them.

Paul Boag:
But do you ever think, I’m just trying to think back at, have there ever been cases where we’ve pitched for work and we’ve lost it and we’ve lost it because we’ve been shit? Does anybody actually ever think that?

Marcus Lillington
Of course not, you wouldn’t be in business if you thought that.

Paul Boag:
No you wouldn’t be so really it’s not fair to say that their examples are salesy because…

Marcus Lillington
I think that particular example, showing those kind of figures…

Paul Boag:
It’s that number that you think is.

Marcus Lillington
…is showing off. Talking about the way you do the process, I love process, people talking about their processes, I think that’s hugely helpful. We – as part of our sales process, I don’t know, we have – I am making this up but we have the whole company sits around a table and we have half an hour brainstorming what we are going to do.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
Do you really, kind of thing, that’s really interesting for example; we don’t do that but maybe we should. And if somebody else did that and they were really successful you would think well, but that kind of thing I think is really helpful.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington
You should talk about things like that.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington
But talking about your win/lose ratio is internal. It tells you a lot internally how is it going.

Paul Boag:
I guess the only value, there is a value in that which is although they presume everything, is we have a win/lose ratio, we know what our – that’s valuable, that if you’re in it, running a company to be able to know whether you are, how many you’re winning compared to how many you are losing is a useful piece of data to have.

Marcus Lillington
I’d argue that even then, is it really? If you are winning enough work so that if everybody’s fed kind of thing then – and you are not wasting too much effort on stuff that you are losing then what does the ratio matter? Or if you lose five tiddly tiny ones and win one massive one…

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s the other thing that makes that number absolutely irrelevant, you’re right.

Marcus Lillington
It’s about actually about how much – the bottom line.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I mean there is another factor which is what we always ask which is why did we lose it? That’s a useful thing to know.

Marcus Lillington
But often it isn’t, actually often it’s…

Paul Boag:
No, often it’s vague and sometimes you think okay they are telling us one reason but the truth is we were too expensive for them.

Marcus Lillington
Or yeah – or the truth might be that actually you’re not as good as the other people or – and they’ll never tell you that.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Or the truth was well the managing director’s nephew is a web designer and they will never tell you that either.

Marcus Lillington
Exactly. We had, I mean I would say that, I hope I think I recognize this more than I used to, that basically we’ve already decided who we want to work with but we have to go out to tender. And to be fair we’ve been on the other end of that, the good end of that and I just feel so sorry for the other people that I know are receiving the same brief I have received, knowing that Headscape has already won the work. But in response to that there have been many times when you kind of know, it’s just such a good opportunity, it’s in the sectors we work in, we’ve got to go for it and you just know. And you do it all and you put a week’s worth of effort into it maybe.

Paul Boag:
It is a really interesting subject, the whole sales and how much effort you should put into it and there feels like there is a conference here, almost just dedicated or at least on a major conference have a track dedicated to business development type stuff. Because there is so many nuances to it and it is so crucial. Yet most people that set up web design agencies, I think we are probably unusual in that, most people who set up web design agencies have no sales experience, that’s not where they come from. It’s fascinating. Anyway I think we’ve kind of, that’s a good discussion mind, I like challenging you. It’s fun.

Marcus Lillington
I don’t like being challenged, I’m challenged enough outside of this room at the moment, stop challenging me.

Paul Boag:
Okay, I promise not to. Right let’s do this joke so we can get back in the warm.

Marcus Lillington
Oh yeah why did I pick up, hang on, talk more, I’ve got a funny shorter joke.

Paul Boag:
Talk more, I hate it when you just say that. What am I supposed to do? And ladies and gentlemen, okay I will tell you what you can do. I would really appreciate, it would be great to hear your comments on that conversation we just had about sales and what your approach to sales is. So go along to boagworld.com/season/5, find episode 7 and you can post your comments there. It will be much appreciated.

Marcus Lillington
Got a couple of really short ones, okay. What do you call a man with a pole through his leg?

Paul Boag:
No, I don’t know. Rodney.

Paul Boag:
Rodney. Yeah okay, get the other one over and let’s go.

Marcus Lillington
What do you call a sleepwalking nun?

Paul Boag:
No, go on.

Marcus Lillington
A roaming Catholic.

Paul Boag:
That’s not as good, I don’t like that one. Rodney was good, I liked Rodney. Okay, thank you very much for listening to this week’s show. Guys, we really need some suggestions –stop banging teeth together in a comical way. We really need some suggestions for posts otherwise look what the consequences are, we do two posts about me and I’ve got a lot of posts on my website, so people you could be suffering a lot more from me if you don’t make suggestions. So send your suggestions to [email protected] or you can post them at boagworld.com/season/5 or you can tweet them to me at @boagworld. Whatever the case, let me know because I want your suggestions on the show. Talk to you again next week, good bye.

Marcus Lillington
Bye.

Our sincere thanks to the guys at PodsInPrint for transcribing this show.

Become a web expert with our newsletter

Receive invaluable advice every three weeks and get two free video presentations for subscribing. You can unsubscribe in one click.

Blog Updates

You can follow all my posts by subscribing to my RSS feed or signing up to my email newsletter above.

Podcast Updates

Subscribe to the podcast via itunes or RSS. You can also subscribe to my quick tips via itunes and RSS too.

Social Updates

I am completely addicted to Twitter so try following me there. I also have a Facebook page which contains considerably less waffle.