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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Focus – The Next Goal For The Web

Twelve years ago Mario Morino said, “The web changes everything.” I have remembered that every time I noticed the web changed something. What does it fully mean?

Three problems which the internet largely solves are time, distance, and addressable audience.

Time, because internet communications are both instantaneous and asynchronous.

Asynchronous means every participant in a communication does not have to be present at the same time. I can read an email or watch a video when I want to, which can improve impact of the message.

Another assault on time is that through hyperlinks we can provide a complete education, as quickly as the user wants it. No longer are we limited by the constraints of other appointments, energy, and availability. I don’t teach, people learn. My job is to make their learning as easy as possible. Hyperlinks allow user-based, custom learning.

Distance is solved because the internet allows us to interact with people anywhere. FedEx has built a business extending the illusion of “close” created by the internet browser.

Addressable audience means that for the first time, we have the technical capability to communicate with almost anyone, more easily than ever before.

Even though these three problems are largely solved, people are still building communication plans making these three problems the foundations of their work. Why? Perhaps they don’t know what comes after solving those problems.

What comes next is earning “focus.”
Just because you can contact everyone, everywhere, immediately, does not mean you are making a difference. To make a difference requires getting your partner’s focus. That is the next challenge of using the internet.

We have to earn the focus of the audience.

From push to pull.

From broadcast to conversation.

This weekend, I saw an advertisement on The Food Network. It was 30 seconds of “How To Make Mango Salsa.” I put my book down and watched attentively…because I was interested. I go to Baja Fresh for their mango salsa. I wanted to see how it was made. At the end I learned that the ad was sponsored by Garnier. I was appreciative of their commercial and resolved to look at Garnier the next time I needed shampoo.

Now I already knew what Garnier made. Sarah Jessica Parker from “Sex in the City” explained that last year. I had a low level cultural awareness, but no focus. Now I had focus.

Earlier this year I worked with a team from a global software company to figure out how they could take advantage of open source. They wanted to define their “open source business model.” They are not an open source software company, and have no plans in that direction, but their customers are interested in open source.

We realized that these customers build applications and utilities that work on our platform. And that these programs might be useful for other customers. And that the people who wrote those programs would be flattered to get some recognition from outside their company for the excellence of their work. Creating more utility for our platform could build customer loyalty, and might be useful for attracting new customers.

We saw the opportunity to create a space on the internet where our customers could share their custom programs.

Featuring our customers, the creators, gives them a place to see themselves featured on the internet, and shows newcomers that we are a tribe of heroes.

Instead of spending our time begging for appointments, negotiating for sales, we can also use the internet to spend time making our customers famous, honoring their achievements, and making everyone we touch feel better about being part of our tribe.

Creating focus is different from hammering the traditional “qualify, present, and close.” That is better done on the internet, at the customer’s pace. Our primary job is increasing their understanding the benefit we offer. Which starts by catching their focus.