The Purple Cow Level: An MMORPG Lesson in Remarkable Marketing

Case: LF1M healer for norm BM

Unless you’re a seasoned World of Warcraft player, the string of acronyms listed above probably doesn’t mean much to you. To translate, it stands for, “We are looking for one more party member to fill the role of healer for a normal-difficulty run of the Black Morass dungeon.” Yes, it means all of that. What can I say? We gamers love our shorthand.

The other night, my wife and I wrote little else into the game’s various chat channels for the better part of an hour without response. No healers were interested in joining us on our excursion.

Undeterred, I decided to mix things up with a little marketing. Instead of “LF1M healer for norm BM,” I took the time to write the following:

“Lo, there do I see my father. Lo, there do I see my mother and my sisters and my brothers. Lo, do I see the line of my people back to beginning. Lo, do they call to me. They say, looking for a healer for Black Morass!”

The cinema-savvy among you may recognize this as a quote from the movie, “13th Warrior.” Naturally, it elicited more than a few chat responses from curious and/or amused players. Seeing my tactic paying off, I followed up with two more:

“*singing* If you like my body and you think I’m sexy, come on heal for Black Morass!”

“*in echoing monster truck rally voice* TUESDAY, TUESDAY, TUESDAY… IN BLACK MORASS, MORASS, MORASS… LOOKING FOR HEALER, HEALER, HEALER…”

After more than a little laughter from my audience, my tactic managed to convince several players to log on as their healing characters and help us. We went on to a successful run of the dungeon.

Point: Remarkable Marketing

Is your marketing drawing your audience’s attention? I could have continued to produce the same monotonous, “LF1M healer for norm BM,” proclamation ad infinitum in the hopes that it would eventually pay off. Instead, I decided to do something that stood out, and it paid off.

Naturally, what draws attention will depend on the medium. Television commercials, for example, are always pushing the envelope and getting little response because users are desensitized to it. In simple text-based chat, however, I proved how a little innovation can go a long way.

Much like Seth Godin’s famous purple cow, is your marketing remarkable? Does it stand out and demand attention or fade into the noise? Are you still looking for a healer, or have you already gotten one and finished the dungeon?

P.S. Kudos if you’ve got enough marketing and gaming savvy to understand, “The Purple Cow Level,” without reference. 😉

7 Questions to Ask Your Marketing Analyst

“You don’t know what works until you test it, so test everything.”
Adam Schultz

Over the years, my marketing mentors have instilled in me the understanding that marketing is 10% creativity and 90% testing. Examined through this paradigm, marketing takes on an almost scientific nature, where every piece of data is scrutinized until the truth becomes undeniable from the weight of empirical evidence.

As you can probably guess, this involves more than a little knowledge of statistics, which may or may not be your specialty. Of course, analysis is pointless if you can’t understand it. Ask your marketing analyst these seven questions, though, and you’ll have a pretty good picture of your test results, regardless of their complexity.

  1. What do the results indicate?
    Here, you’re asking for the objective findings. The results might indicate, for example, that the first ad variation did significantly better than the second. The answer to this question should include cold, hard facts supported by statistical measurements.
  2. What conclusions would you draw?
    In contrast to the first question, here you are asking for subjective results. Over time, many marketing analysts develop a sense of what a data trend looks like. Thus, while there might be no empirically provable findings, your analyst will likely be able to offer his or her gut instinct as to what can be learned.
  3. Did the results meet with your expectations?
    Results that fall in line with expectations probably don’t require any additional scrutiny. After all, you just confirmed what you already suspected to be true. Results that fly in the face of expectations, however, often demand further questioning, especially if they go against the expectations of an experienced marketing analyst.
  4. How were these results produced?
    Assuming there is any real knowledge to glean from all the data, it’s worthwhile to question that data’s integrity. What sampling method was used? How large was the sample size? What sort of statistical comparison was performed? By asking your marketing analyst about the methods used to obtain the data, you can often get a sense of its reliability.
  5. How much do you trust the results?
    Much like the first two questions, it’s always worthwhile to switch back and forth from hard facts to gut instinct. After all, the research methods and results may sound reasonable even while your marketing analyst has shortcomings about them. Always be sure to ask his or her opinion on the data’s legitimacy.
  6. What next actions would you recommend?
    Based on the conclusions and how much trust you place on them, you probably have some ideas of how to move forward. Then again, your marketing analyst probably has some good ideas, too, especially if further testing is called for.
  7. What do you predict will happen if we take these actions?
    As the scientific method dictates, research is cyclical. Now that you’ve figured out what the data indicates, how much you trust the findings, and what you want to do with that knowledge, it’s worthwhile to speculate what those actions might produce. This feeds back into question three when you’re going over the next round of results.

Launching a Successful Website, Step Five: 3, 2, 1… Lift Off!

Every step so far has led up to this: Launching your website. Of course, the technical bits should already be taken care of, leaving only the launch itself. If your site is small, this can be as simple as turning the key and hoping for the best. More than likely, though, you’ll need to spread the word to get any attention. As with everything that came before, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Set a date. Much like a shuttle takeoff, there’s often a lot of coordination involved in launching a website. Pick a reasonable date in the near future to schedule it all. Your promotional experts may be able to advise the most strategic time based on your market (e.g., launching a football paraphernalia website just before the play-offs), or you may aim to launch as soon as possible. In any event, setting a date and sticking to it will help ensure the launch goes off without a hitch.

Submit the site to search engines. This used to mean manual submissions. Nowadays, though, it means compiling an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and MSN Live Search Webmaster Center, as well as adding it to your robots.txt file for smaller search engines. This should get the spiders indexing all of your content as quickly as possible.

Publish a press release. With today’s technology, you might think that the old-fashioned press release would have gone the way of the dodo, but it can still be a useful method for promoting a website.

Contact reviewers. Nothing can bring a new site up to speed like an endorsement from a respected professional. Just be sure your site deserves praise before soliciting reviews. Remember your manners, too; unless they’re paid, reviewers are doing you a favor, and attempting to forcibly coerce a good review could easily backfire.

Tap social media. One well-placed Digg, Twitter, or Stumble could easily get a new site off the ground. Where appropriate, spread the news of your site’s launch out in these and other social networks. As with reviewers, though, don’t force it; social networkers have a notorious hatred for overzealous self-promotion. Tread with care or you risk provoking a very damaging backlash.

Establish advertising. You might use pay-per-click services like Google AdWords, banner ad placement services like Tribal Fusion, or seek out independent advertising agreements with individual website owners. The key is to know your prospective audience and the kinds of sites they’re likely to visit.

Build inbound links. Listings in relevant directories can provide some modest traffic and the initial link juice needed for your site to rank in search engine results. Even more valuable, though, are links from websites with significant authority in your market.

Launching Ward on the Web

Most of the concept and planning work for Ward on the Web occurred early in May 2008. Thus, I decided to set June 1st, 2008 as my firm launch date. I installed the Google XML Sitemaps plugin for WordPress, submitted my sitemap to the big three search engines, and added it to my robots.txt file. I then hit up some of my blogging contacts, including Adam Schultz, Daniel Scocco, and Simon Owens, with notice of the launch. Lastly, I added social media bookmarking links to my WordPress template and submitted the site to Dmoz. As for press releases and advertising, I intentionally left them out because I don’t have the budget for them.

In my next post, I’ll address how to maintain your site’s upward momentum after launch.