Whether you’re running a blog, an e-commerce site, or anything in between, your website is an expense. If that site isn’t generating revenue, you’re essentially throwing the money you spend and the time you invest down the drain.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Seth Godin reveals the secret to a profitable website in The Big Red Fez — using two metaphors and an abundance of examples.
Your Website is a Pachinko Machine
There’s a game in Japan called Pachinko. It’s like a pinball machine, but instead of having only one ball at a time there are a ton of balls. If you get enough balls in the right place, you win.
Of course you can’t get all of the balls to go where you want them to. You’re just trying to get enough.
You should think of your website the same way, Godin says.
Imagine your website is the Pachinko machine and the visitors to your site are the Pachinko balls. Your goal is to get as many balls as you can into the right place. That is, you want as many visitors as possible to do what you want them to — whether that be an email signup or a purchase.
You won’t get all of your visitors to do what you want, and that’s okay. You just need to get enough. You need the right percentage of visitors to take the desired action.
Once you get your percentage right, you can open the floodgates of traffic — through AdWords, guest blogging, or whatever other marketing strategy you use. You will then have what Godin calls a “perpetual motion machine of money.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
The question then is: “How do I get more people to do what I want?”
The Monkey in the Big Red Fez
Godin’s second metaphor is a monkey. (I’m not sure why he’s wearing a big red fez; that’s just how Godin describes him.) He says:
One of the best ways to remind yourself about what’s really going on is to think of a monkey in a big red fez. Now, imagine that the monkey is in some sort of bizarre psychological experiment in which the researcher is trying to train the monkey to climb a ladder and jump into a vat of lime Jell-O.
The best way to motivate the monkey, of course, is to use a banana. Whenever the monkey walks into a new situation, all it wants to know is, “Where’s the banana?” If the banana isn’t easy to see, easy to get and obvious, the monkey is going to lose interest. But if you can make it clear to the monkey what’s in it for him, odds are he’ll do what you want.
The point is: your visitors are like the monkey in the big red fez. That’s not to make any comment on their intellectual prowess, it’s just that their attention is divided. Most likely your website is not the most important thing on their minds. So you can’t assume that your visitor is devoting 100% of their attention on what you’re trying to say or do with your site.
You have to make it abundantly clear on every single page of your site what it is that you want your visitor to do (think “banana”). Give people too many options and they get confused, give up, and go to your competitor’s site. Make your steps too complicated and, again, they give up and go to your competitor.
The way to get your visitors to do what you want is to make it obvious and easy for them to take that action.
Those are the two main ideas: Pachinko and the monkey with the big red fez. The rest of the book is filled with examples of websites that get it right and websites that get it wrong.
If you want to make your website profitable and quit wasting your time and money, it’s crucial to understand the common pitfalls explained in these examples.
Figure out what you’re doing right, figure out what you’re doing wrong, and make more money.