Is there a prize if I guess how it works?

The DHL van pulled onto the driveway…and finally, it was here! After 6 months of waiting…repeated delays…this was actually it. I bounded down the stairs like I was 5 again, and Santa had muddled his dates.

Sooo excited.

See, back in May I ordered this brand new gizmo: a tablet you can write on. A substitute for paper – it recognises your handwriting, digitises it, then drops it into a file you can edit on a PC.

Fantastic! For someone like me, who writes everything in long hand, this thing could save up to half a day every week. (No wonder I’d wet my pants…)

So I grabbed it from the delivery guy. Tore it open, with both hands shaking…all of a jelly quiver. And I’ve got to tell you…

The box was absolutely AMAZING! A gorgeous design. All elegant and touchy-feely, the sort of box that yells out “You made a smart decision, matey!”

Unfortunately…that’s where the care and attention screeches to a halt.

The tablet itself? Yeah, it looks nice. But the instructions only tell you how to switch it on and off. You’ve got to guess the rest. So I’m thinking maybe there’s a prize if you can crack the code?

So, this thing wot I’d pinned all my hopes on…that could give me 2-3 extra days every month…might be the lifesaver it’s cracked up to be. And might not.

I’ll never know. Because it’s not intuitive, in a “dive in and work it out” kinda way.

Still – at least there’s a lesson here: beware style over substance!

Think. They put all their effort into designing the box. They were happy to leave customers hanging…one delay after another…while they ummed and ahhed over colours and textures and other branding crap.

But all the while, I didn’t give a hoot about the box.

If they’d asked, I’d have told them: just send me a working tablet! As long as it’s got instructions, you can mail it in a mouldy cowpat for all I care. But no. They stuck to their guns, desperate to give me that “Wow!” factor. And not worried about the “Oh shit!” factor that I got a few seconds later.

It’s a classic mistake that’ll never die, this: “Style 10, Substance Nil.” So I’ve got to ask…are you doing this in your business? Like saying…

…”Never mind fixing our service, let’s find a nice pic for the website”

…”To hell with customer research, let’s talk about brand values”

…”Never mind follow-up emails, let’s get followers on Facebook”

It’s doing the fun stuff. The stare-up-your-own-butt stuff. Instead of doing the nuts and bolts that give you a real business.

Look, hopefully you’re not doing this. But if you are, I’m begging you – quit goofing around, like playing at business in a Wendy House. And start giving your customers what they actually want. (Ideally, in less than 6 months…with some sodding instructions!)

Anyway, that’s my rant over. But you get the idea – build a sturdy ship before you start picking out the deckchairs:)

Meet the Author

James Daniel

You might not know who James is...but you've probably read his copy. Through high street clients like Hidden Hearing, or big gun marketers like Jonathan Jay and Chris Cardell. His words are out there, pulling in new business every month. What else? Well his books, Do You Talk Like That at Home? and Direct Mail 101 will help you squeeze out more sales. Oh yeah - and his next book Before You JFDI will help you plan your next campaign. Get on the list for a free advance copy here.

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