“Meat and potatoes” or the lack of focus
A few years ago I had a client – a real estate agency. Their business started developing really well and over the five years we worked together, they went through several stages, turning from a small agency into a big market player. The website of the agency played a huge role in this success because towards the end of the 1990s there were still just few agencies with own websites, while theirs was realizing several deals a month.
The fast expansion of the business, however, changed the way they looked at every single investment – including the website. They decided that the website, which presented the apartments for sale, should offer something more, something outside the box – that no other real estate website has ever come up with and shown.
One day they asked me whether we could upgrade the website a little bit further by adding information about the currency exchange rates, the weather in all cities around the world, a catalogue with useful links to websites offering news, fun, horoscopes, online stores, and so on. The icing on the cake was a search engine where people may look for anything they have not found on their website.
The logic of this move was as unbelievable as the idea itself. They said we should teach people to enter their website regularly because they can find all kind of information there – from the weather forecast to the daily horoscope, and instead of visiting other search engines and web portals, they will come to a real estate agency’s website, which offers everything in one place, while if they cannot find what they are looking for – there will be a search engine, too.
Along with the traffic attracted by the horoscopes and flash games, the agency would score more real estate deals, too. According to them, if a current traffic of about 100 visitors a day led to the website selling about 3 apartments a month, with a higher traffic of about 1,000 visitors a day, the number of apartments sold will surge to 30. It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Why it did not work and why it never will
I refused to get involved in this nonsense. The company, which took up the website maintenance later realized all the dreams of the owner, while the apartment offers were left somewhere out there among the horoscopes. Naturally, a normal person will not enter a real estate agency’s website to read their horoscope or see the weather in Juliaca, Peru. The sales dropped because the sale offers remained invisible among the tons of other “useful” information.
Among many managers, this idea is known as the “Meat and potatoes” principle. When you go to a restaurant and order chicken and potatoes but they tell you that they offer only chicken, while the potatoes are served at the neighboring restaurant, you will feel highly disappointed. Thus, next time you will go somewhere else where you can order both chicken and potatoes together.
The principle sounds logical, especially when it comes to the right products and in the form of a restaurant. It is applied in some stores – for instance when you buy a cell phone, you are also offered a case, a car charger, or anything else, for this very cell phone model…
However, this principle may be distorted and eventually lead to absolute lack of focus of a concrete internet project. The example with the real estate agency is more than telling. Unfortunately, many people still believe that in order to attract consumers’ attention, their website must have EVERYTHING.
You should underline this sentence of the article: “Give the consumers what they are looking for and make it easily accessible.”