Blind sight

194/365 - Don't walkDriving to work one day last week, I found myself in one of my pet peeve situations. I was stuck behind a tractor-trailer rig, navigating through a small town. Beyond the general annoyance of not being able to see the horizon, this issue takes real meaning at stop lights. Simply put, I can’t see around or over the rig in front of me to see the traffic light. To get a full view, I would need to put at least a half block of distance between the truck and me.

Without realizing it, I’ve adopted a new decision-making process for this scenario: I look at the crosswalk signs. If they’re green/white and say “Walk,” I’m good to go; the traffic light is green. If they’re blinking, the light is green but scheduled to change soon. I need to proceed with caution. Of course, if they are solid red and say “Don’t Walk,” the traffic light is yellow or red. Time to stop.

Okay, so that’s probably no big revelation. I’ve done that for years, and probably so have you. What finally hit me last week, though, was the metaphor in this. So often I feel as if I don’t have a clear picture of what’s in front of me. I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. While that may be true on the surface, I should be able to gather a lot of data by looking around. What’s off to the side? What other signals are available to me? I may not have perfect information, but clues are everywhere.

We make decisions every day without perfect information, simply based on the conditions around us. That’s life, so we might as well get better at finding those clues.

Window shopping

I’ve spent much of my morning researching online publications and media kits. I’m working on a couple of projects that let me explore some untapped outlets, and really I do enjoy seeing what’s out there and available in areas I haven’t explored before now. The hard part is making sure I choose the right ones, and that ultimately involves a significant amount of good judgment. That means I have to get my hands around all the information I can, information that makes sense.

Believe it or not, it’s not that easy.

You’d think that an online publisher would want to demonstrate his commitment to online accessibility by providing necessary information online. Apparently, not everyone feels the same way. When I can find media kits, they don’t include rate cards. When I find rate cards, they aren’t linked to circulation demographics or spec requirements. When I find spec info, there’s no contact.

I understand wanting to have a live conversation to try to close the deal, but withholding critical information actually makes me less inclined to want to talk to someone. It seems like a sneaky way to get a foot in the door to deliver a fast-talking sales pitch. I think it would be better for everyone if all the pertinent information were available, so that live contact is based on inquiries that are already self-vetted. Kind of like window shopping before walking into a store. The store gets reasonably serious customers, and the customer knows there’s probably something inside that will interest him.

Here’s the thing. If you want to capture people’s attention–not just anyone’s attention, mind you, but the attention of your desired audience–you have to give them what they need. If you’re an online publisher, for example, show me your media kit, rate card, and how to get in touch with an advertising rep. (Not having contact info on a website is inexcusable in any scenario.) Don’t give me pieces and parts; give me everything relevant.

And oh, by the way, when you DO give me contact information, don’t simply give me a list of people who share the same title. How do I know which one to pick? Give me a clue–list territory, area of specialty, something that points me in the right direction.

Sometimes I think certain companies don’t actually want customers. These are such simple things; why are they so hard to find? All it takes is thinking like a customer.