I'm plateauing

Hi everyone,

More used to development work than marketing so I’m looking for some friendly advice. I have a site that offers free business profiles to small business owners. Members can connect w/each other, private message, upload youTube vids, pics, and more to their ‘page’.

On short notice I could implement a system that allows members to accumulate points for various activities like referring friends, logging in daily, participating in a poll, etc. I can then give privileges to members who accrue set amount of points like being able to write articles or place a banner for free.

I can also allow them to place a limited size AdSense ad on their profile and enable a reciprocal link exchange but here’s the problem… I don’t know how to keep people interested and willing to regularly participate in promoting their ‘profile’.

I realize some of the above features I mentioned would help but I almost want to have a system for regularly pulling people in before I do those things. I have about 1300 members and can get them to sign in with a mass email of some cannibalized promotional message but no real knowledge of getting something substantial going.

Just looking for a brainstorming session if anyone would like to chime in. Thanks for any input.

which attitude are you referring to? I don’t see anywhere where I haven’t been helpful to you? I’ve given you valid advice that you continue to ignore and you haven’t given me one reason why you’re not following it, so I asked a couple of closed questions that may be the reason why you can’t follow my advice.

I don’t want to go too far back to basics, but what you experience is a gap between management perception of what the customer needs/wants and the customer expectation of the service provided. The only person to help you overcome this gap is your customer. And if you don’t know how to ask your customer so that you gain valuable insight*, you need to consult the services of a marketing research company.

Marketing is about two-way communication, between you and your customers, not one-way as you do with the type of email newsletters you’ve already sent around.

  • a poll won’t provide you with valuable insight.

So, I ask you once again, why can’t you ask your existing customers?

I can’t help but feeling this thread is going in circles.
I can therefore not see it going anywhere.


I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m not ignoring your advice. BTW… I don’t have ‘customers’ I have members with free accounts. They range from car dealers to the flaky chick from San Francisco selling ‘dream catchers’.

Unless they want to pay for premium advertising the services are all free.

Then ask suggestions first, pick the best ones, and create a poll for that later?
I really think creating a poll just for your options is kind of narrow. If you only suggest adding features A,B and C, but all members are “screaming” for option X, they’re plain out of luck.

Hi ScallioXTX… I’m kind of in favor of giving them options because I can offer up things that I know I can add relatively easily AND give them the impression they are making the decision. Kind of like giving a child the option between a candy bar or a lollipop rather than asking them ‘what they want’ in a candy store with hundreds of things to choose from… ya know?

I’m also nervous about spending half my life creating specialized features for a small number of people, there are only 1300 members.

I have a lot of things that I could add to the site but I also believe that all the features available now are not even close to being utilized. This is what I’ve been trying to convey.

I have given you my input, which you continue to refuse, so I’m still left wondering why? I’m a professional marketing person, I basically make a living from giving such advice, advice I’ve given you for free here, and you yourself have admitted that you don’t know much about marketing, so I’m just stunned as how you can totally ignore my advice, even trying to attack me for giving you this advice and then wondering why you don’t even consider implementing it?

Actually, I’m not that much surprised. I’ve seen this a couple of times with technology companies. They think they know what their customers want, then built it (that’s the management perception/customer expectation gap I mentioned above, really typical for technology companies). If their customers don’t buy it, they think it’s either because of price (they don’t value it enough/costs are too high), customers don’t know about it (they then think it’s marketings job to tell them), or they need to improve upon their product but are limited by their own abilities to do so, so they focus on that rather than on what the customer actually wants/needs - see that, it’s a downward spiral, investing or better wasting money/time into something that makes no difference to the customer only to be left wondering “why” again.

Once again, I can’t tell you what your current and potential customers want/need - you’ve got to ask them - that’s marketing.

Please, by all means, if you want to make this successful, hire somebody that actually knows marketing and give them the power to change something - I know you’re reluctant with both things. However, if you want to continue as you’ve done so far, by all means do it and I put you on my ignore list and unsubscribe from this thread.

The “problem” with a poll is that people can only vote for an addition you suggested. In my opinion it would be better to give them a plain text field so they can type whatever they wish added to the website. Might give you a lot more work to read through all the suggestions, but you might just end up with some great ideas you hadn’t thought of yourself.
Or combine the both; a poll with an “other …” option where people can give their own opinion.

Perhaps it’s just a cultural divide but the condescending tone is simply not necessary. I’ve been a member of this site for 9 years and I have 210 posts so it should be evident that I don’t make a habit of coming on here with erroneous questions looking for attention.

I understand there are a lot of people who come on here and ask how they can get a million hits a month or make a million dollars a year but I’m not one of them. Maybe when I ask a question you can give me the benefit of the doubt? I ask questions to help provoke (my) thought?

I have no interest in arguing with you and I’m certainly not mad. I value your input if you still want to give it.

Hi c2uk, thanks for responding. When I made the site I installed the ability to join groups and have discussions, connect w/others, etc so I perhaps naively believed that once people became members they would utilize those and the other features available to them. The thought was that members would take the reigns and add content, communicate, and tie their profiles in with their blogs, facebook, twitter, squidoo accounts, etc and the site would grow from within.

It seems that once someone creates a profile they stop by once in a while and futz with their logo or add a link but generally don’t do much else. In essence, they don’t even utilize all the tools available to them so I think maybe they are suffering from the same thing as me… making their ‘site’ then not being aware how to really drum up traffic to get people to view/use the site.

I’m thinking that allowing people to actively participate in adding content to the site and not just their profiles and having a way to get other members (including me) to appropriately promote the content with twitter, facebook, etc just to get something going?

I’m not opposed to getting feedback from members but I want to be careful of what I post on an open forum so I’m weighing my words. I’ll just have to ask you to read between the lines on that.

I do however have some decent, generic templates that I edit and use for newsletters and there IS communication between staff (me and one other person) and the members.

In my original post I wrote about adding a points system where members could earn points through various activities on the site and get privileges for set amount of pts like writing for the site or getting ad space for certain periods of time, allow them to add google adsense, etc.

I’ve sent out newsletters encouraging members to promote their ‘profile URL’ in email signatures, social networking sites, link directories, among other things.

So having said that would maybe posting a poll and giving a set of options to members on what they’d most like to see/use be a good starting point? I could send out a newsletter asking people to participate in a poll and give them options to things I could add relatively quickly?

I do understand very clearly. Let’s just change gears and say I have NO members and I offer all the features I described above.

sorry, you clearly don’t understand what I’m saying - you shouldn’t ask yourself those questions, you need to get the answers for these questions from your current members.

I have to agree with what’s been said already. If your business was un-established and had no users I could totally understand you asking for advice (because you have no-one to refer too and no-one who will be affected by changes at this stage) but what you seem to have failed to comprehend is that you’re asking us (people who don’t use your service and have no knowledge of your specific audience) for advice on how to improve your services in preference to the actual people who use it, who will be affected by any changes you make and gave enough energy into setting up an account (so they obviously think there’s potential in what you do). What you need to be doing is approaching YOUR audience and asking them what THEY want from the service they signed up for. :slight_smile:

PS: I would be as frustrated as c2uk if you replied like that to me as well. Making statements about “what if I had no users” is obsolete because the fact is you DO have users and it seems pretty apparent you’re doing everything you can to avoid asking them what would make them be more inclined to use your tools more often. ASK your members (those thousands of people who signed up for your service you talked about), not yourself, and not people who don’t use what your offering.

you’ve got 1300 members already, why not ask them? that’s what marketing is about, finding out about their needs, and the benefits they’re seeking. but this isn’t possible without some knowledge, i.e. market research, and for that you ask the people, i.e. your target audience, themselves.

I really don’t think the attitude is necessary is it? I think what I’m asking is very legitimate. <snip/>

you do have members, and not asking them would be stupid.

if you don’t have members, then you’d have to first describe me your target audience much better than “small businesses” - and don’t forget to include their needs and the benefits they’re seeking in this description.

Normally, people who start a venture like this, either know a lot about their target audience, i.e. their needs and the benefits they’re seeking plus a couple of demographic/psychographic attributes, because they are practically themselves part of that group, or use market research to learn a lot about them - and since you’ve already got members, that’s where market research would start - and if you don’t know anything about market research, then you consult someone who knows about this (hint, I know a lot about market research).

you said you didn’t have a clue about marketing but you don’t take the advice from somebody who got a clue - mind you I’ve got a marketing degree and relevant experience.

So really, what’s your problem? Are you afraid of asking them? Don’t you know how to ask them? Or are those 1300 members you said you have just imaginary or little kids?

I’ve already asked myself all of those questions, that’s why I’m HERE looking for some answers.

As I said, you need to ask your members what else you can do to benefit them. Start getting them involved and that you care about their needs. You can create a discussion topic and send out an email to all those members, asking them to join in.

If you’re not going this route, then you should ask yourself what’s the point of this site for those members and why should they spend their valuable time on it in the first place? This is about:

value = benefits/cost

also, why should they spent any time there as opposed to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter? Which is about:

opportunity costs

what you have developed is very generic and sounds basically just another LinkedIn. So, you need to develop your competitive advantage - if you can’t think of this yourself, then by all means ask those that are already member of your site.

Off Topic:

P.S. why did you link to my profile?