Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why A Bigger Etsy Isn't A Better One

Early this month, my eyebrows raised a little when I read that Etsy filed paperwork for an initial public offering.  I'm not really sure what that emotion I felt was other than acknowledging a significant Main Street-Wall Street dichotomy.

The ethos of Etsy, as described by its CEO Chad Dickerson, is "at the end of every transaction, you get something real from a real person."  It's a marketplace created for the creators; a storefront to the world for people to sell what they personally have made. The site fostered deeper connections between merchants and customers, a distinction that strongly differentiated the brand from other online marketplaces.  Etsy had standards; it was not the place to go to buy a used napkin.  

However, the definition of selling "something with meaning" is a bit more obscure than it used to be.  Goods sold on Etsy used to mean they were made by hand by the seller.  That's no longer the case since Esty began allowing manufacturing partners.  This decision, perhaps well-intentioned at the time, actually signified a major shift in its purpose for existing - a signal that achieving scale is at least equally important as fostering commercial peer-to-peer connections.

Naturally, these dual-purposes are at is at odds with one another.  In order to continually grow the way Wall Street will demand it to, Etsy will need really need to generate more fees from merchants.  This can be accomplished in a combination of two ways; adding more of them or get them to sell more.  However, this is the path to eroding its brand difference.  

More troublesome, Etsy has a different problem on a micro level.  As a seller grows and becomes more successful, the less they need Etsy.  On the other hand, Etsy will need them and their large fees even more.  Eventually, the high volume sellers will scale to a point where a per transaction fee is more expensive than a percentage based fee, and that will be the time to host their storefront to someplace else.

It's never good to chase growth outside of your brand. In order to do so, marketers wrestle with and reshape exactly what their brand stands for, eventually losing the advantage they once had.  Etsy forgot that on Main Street, bigger isn't always better.  

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Real Help For Realtors

Two years ago, I sat in an interview with a couple of real estate agents and the president of their company and suggested ideas (upon request) that they could use to improve their marketing and client relations.  I offered what is really some pretty basic stuff about showing people how much they matter since it is a quintessential business build on referrals.  The result of this meeting, which happen to be a second interview for an gig they were advertising, was that they never me called back.  Not a single a word.

This cold shoulder I received left enough of an impression that I'll will never choose a Comey & Shepherd agent to represent me for any future real estate deal I make.  Even though such an exchange or lack there of has more to do with common courtesy than it does shrewd marketing, it ultimately led to an impact on their business.

Real estate agents aren't (generally) bad people.  However, I believe they aren't (generally) great marketers either (in fairness, the job combines several different necessary skill sets). 

A week ago, I received an email from an agent I've been working with on the purchase a new home.  It reads: "Dear Alex, Now's the time to be swift. I can get you on track to sell your home quickly and efficiently"
The problem I have with this email is that I currently rent and this agent knows this.  Sure, this isn't the world's first case of a overzealous marketing that leads to a customer being spammed with an irrelevant message.  However, it's a prime example of what I was preaching about two years ago - the real estate business is best conducted at a more personal level.  

Sadly, a halfhearted attempt by marketers at personalization is really worse than no attempt it at all.  When personalization flops, it signals to the customer the opposite of the intended message - how unimportant they are.
Finally, not to rail on the real estate agents but I have a couple other marketing gripes from this industry that I must get off my chest.  First, every (that's a unscientific calculation) agent I've encountered seems to be passing out business cards with a photo that's at least a decade old.  Secondly, during these times of online listings with unlimited characters, simply copying and pasting the  abbreviations and incomplete sentences that are used in print publications to the online medium demonstrates a lack of concern/awareness for the happy details.
Sweet Home! Well cared for! 1st Fl Master Suite! Open LR/DR. Gas FP! Side Porch. Hdwd Flrs! Large Equipt Galley Kit/Wood Cabnts. Spacious 2nd Flr Bdrms, WIC/Study! Large LL Rec Room! New Ovrsized Garage! Replcmnt Winds, Glass Block! roof'14
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.