Archive for September, 2009

Technorati: The most unresponsive company of 2009, so far – kdbm6q4y8x

September 28, 2009 |  by  |  Word-of-Mouth Marketing  |  No Comments


The above cryptic post has been up for a while. A word of explanation and a lesson to be learned:

I have been trying for a month to get this blog indexed by Technorati, the search engine that specializes in blogs. The procedure is pretty simple. When you give them your blog address — in this case — they give you a little piece of code that is 10 numbers and digits long, which you can see at the top of this post. You publish that on your website, which tells them that this is your site.

Well, that little piece of code has been sitting there for about a month. Technorati claims that it goes out and finds that code on your blog within about an hour. When I keep checking, I get various kinds of error messages which they ask you to report back to them. I've done that several times over the last month, receiving an automated response to my e-mail but never a reply or resolution.

So I went to their support forum. There are dozens upon dozens of complaints about the inability to claim blogs. Most of these are unresolved and unanswered. A wider Google search (what, do you think I'd use Technorati?) reveals widespread complaints about their unresponsiveness chronicled on dozens of websites.

Apparently, their unresponsiveness is both broad and deep, across many different issues, for a long period of time. These complaints stretch over the last couple of years. They are punctuated by occasional responses from Technorati claiming that they are rectifying one kind of technical problem or another, but never, apparently, resolving the issue.

Responsive, customer oriented companies actively monitor the web for these kinds of posts. They respond quickly to complaints, especially from authors and bloggers like me. Especially when the post might give voice to the many many other people out there who are also dissatisfied but not leaving complaints on their forum. let's see how long it takes them to spot this post and respond to me. Don't hold your breath.

I nominate them for Most Unresponsive Company of 2009.

Their slogan should be:

Technorati: Taking Web 2.0 to a new level of unresponsiveness

Oh, the lesson: You don't have to work hard at making people hopping mad. Just ignore them. It's easy.

Knowledge Blindness and Expert Blindness

September 12, 2009 |  by  |  Word-of-Mouth Marketing  |  1 Comment

Expert Blindness, and Knowledge Blindness:

A person once gave driving directions to someone who he knew was a first-time visitor to his town. “Drive down to the corner where the bank used to be, and make a right.”

An expert knows everything about an area except one thing: What it’s like to know nothing.

Knowledge Blindness” —and its extreme form “Expert Blindness” — refer to the things that people who are knowledgeable can’t see because they can’t experience what it’s like not to know: such as what words beginners don’t understand, how difficult a task is to do or learn, distinctions that non-experts can’t discriminate and appreciate, and implications  that are dependent on advanced knowledge.

It bears repeating: Knowledgeable people can’t see what it’s like to know nothing.

Knowledge blindness is the tendency to not be able to see the details, complexity, ambiguity and difficulty of  someone not familiar with an area. When something is familiar, it is automatic. The details and examples that built the concept drop out. It is now an abstraction. If you use that abstraction with a beginner, he/she won’t know what you’re talking about. So, experts can talk with each other directly in sweeping abstractions, without the specifics that the abstractions group, while non-experts have no idea what they’re talking about. To communicate with beginners, you nee to start with concrete specifics and real-world examples, then group them into abstractions. That’s why I started with the driving directions example above.

In marketers, this is extremely prevalent in product descriptions. Remember all the times you tried to follow assembly instructions or a product manual and it was gibberish? People do not realize that new customers do not understand even the most rudimentary terminology.

In my marketing consulting practice, knowledge blindness is why most of my clients come to me, although most don’t realize it. When I explain it, it seems to come as a pleasant shock. Pleasant because it’s great to be reminded how expert you are, but it’s a bit of a shock to realize that you can’t go back to experience things through the eyes of your prospects and customers. If you’ve invented the product or service, or been through the steps of its development, you have never actually experienced seeing it for the first time in its current, finished (for now) form.

This is particularly true in finding the decision blocks that are so central to my approach to marketing. You literally can’t see what people are getting stuck on: their vague, unarticulated qualms, worries about things that don’t exist, confusions, etc. Sometimes the customers themselves can’t tell you. You need an outside person who knows the customer decision making process to go through the process of learning about your product, and spotting the probably sticking points, then verifying it by fixing and testing.

If you keep wondering why people don’t get the “obvious,” especially in areas where you are an expert, you’ve got knowledge/expert blindness.

What are some of your favorite examples of Knowledge or Expert Blindness? Add them in the comments section below.

Current Examples to be added to:

Although they have made enormous strides, Apple still doesn’t get how hard it is for people to switch from Windows.


Update and Report: 6/26/11

I’ve been using the concept of  knowledge blindness as long as I can remember. So, I was knowledge-blind to its importance. Many people tell me that once they hear the concept of knowledge blindness, they start spotting it in themselves and others several times a day, and find themselves talking about it often. If you practice spotting knowledge blindness in yourself and others, your writing will improve, you’ll spot massive omissions in your persuasion materials, you’ll see competitive opportunities everywhere and your vision will improve.

The Decision Matrix: The Steps in the Decision Process by Adopter Type


The idea is to get your customers to the next stages of the decision process, using the messages below in the right order, from the right sources. So, if you are going after early adopters, read across the early adopter row and get people word of mouth in the order prescribed.


  Deciding to decide [What he/she wants to hear in regular type.] [Examples in italics.] Weighing Information Trial Implemention Expanding Commitment
Innovator Wants to be outstanding.
Wants to hear how ‘far out’ the product is.
It’s so new and unusual, no one’s even heard of it or tried it. It works on a totally new principle. Most people wouldn’t even understand it.
There is little information to gather. He will have to investigate the product first hand.
It’s so far out that there is nothing to compare it to. It’s in a different class.
Wants to be among the first to try.
It is so new that no one has tried it yet. You would be the first.
Wants to be the pioneer who will lead the way for other people.
Now that you’ve tried it successfully, you can help others learn about it.
Wants to push the envelope to the limits.
Have you tried the wild new things it might be used for?
Early adopter Driven by excellence.
Concerned more about possibilities than actualities.
Think of the potential. If this product really worked in your situation, it would change your life or give you a competitive edge.
Looking not as much for ‘hard’ information than for a vision of what might be.
Here’s how I envision using the product. The other products are more ordinary. This one has possibilities.
Doesn’t care that it hasn’t been used in his situation, just that it may be applicable.
This product doesn’t work all the time. But when it does, wow!
Knows there will be problems, wants to know what they are, and how they can be handled.
Here is how to get the most out of it and minimize the problems.
Wants a major advantage for being at the beginning of the curve.
Here are the additional possibilities that will give you a competitive edge.
Middle Majority Wants to be competent. Concerned with practicalities. This has been tried and really works in situations like yours, in your industry, etc. Wants comparisons about how it’s working out in situations similar to his own. Here is the practical information about how this is working out in the real world. Wants to verify that it will work in his situation without investing too much time and trouble.





The bugs have been worked out and it is highly predictable.
Wants to know that there is an easy way out if it doesn’t work out. Training, support and guarantees are in place and reliable. Wants to know usage is getting pretty standard. It is rapidly becoming the standard in our industry
Late Adopter Wants to reduce risk. Promise a good deal on a tried and true product. It has become virtually a commodity and this product can get you better price, delivery, service, training, etc. Wants to ‘shop around’ and get the proven product with the best deal.





I’ve checked out the pricing and service etc. and it seems to be the best product.
Trial tends to be not for product excellence, but centers around the support system.





Check out how wonderful they are to deal with, everyone can fix your problems, etc.
Wants complete support for rolling out full usage of the product.





They’ll come in and do it all for you.
Wants to use what everyone else is using, in the way that they are using it.





Everybody is using it for everything.
Laggard Wants to be completely safe.
Wants reassurance that it is a safe product where nothing will go wrong.
You’ll get in trouble if you aren’t using this.
Wants to find the loopholes, problems, negatives, etc. If he doesn’t find some, will keep looking.

Here are the risks and how to render them harmless.

Basically won’t try anything new. Needs reassurance that the product is the standard product used in his industry, situation, etc.
Try it, everyone else has and likes it.
Implements only when he has to.
Adopt this product, or else.
Wants reassurance that he is using it in the standard way.
That’s the way we all use it.

Live Books

September 7, 2009 |  by  |  Word-of-Mouth Marketing  |  No Comments

 A "live book" is a book posted on my web site that allows visitors to ask questions, make comments, or even make a contribution to the book (by giving their own example, for instance). By making a comment, your are giving me permission to include it in the book, in whole or in part, as-is or modified, with with or without attribution (at my discretion, although all requests for anonymity will be honored).

Each blog post is dropped into the appropriate book in the right place. You can subscribe to the blog as an RSS feed or as an email subscription, so that you can follow along as I write each book. 

The Calf-Path

September 6, 2009 |  by  |  Word-of-Mouth Marketing  |  No Comments
One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale:

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er hill and glade
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out
And dodged and turned and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And thus, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed this zigzag calf about
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.
For men are prone to go it blind,
Along the calf-paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun,
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.
They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move.
But how the wise old wood gods laugh,
Who saw that first primeval calf!
Edited from a poem by Sam Walter Foss, 1895

Quoted in The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: How to Trigger Exponential Sales Through Runaway Word of Mouth By George Silverman, AMACOM. This book will keep you off the crooked road of conventional marketing and set you on the straight and narrow path to greatly increased sales with less marketing expenditure.

Please copy and give to a friend or colleague. It’s an example of one of the secrets of word-of-mouth marketing: Give people something valuable that’s an example of your product or service or your quality, or your good taste, with your name on it. You can get an electronic copy of the poem at . It will also be an interesting experiment to see how much this obscure poem gets passed around. (Another secret of WOM Marketing: Appeal to the fun of participating in a beneficial experiment.)