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The Curve will tell you how to use the web to give stuff away from free, to build relationships with your biggest fans and to charge them lots of money for things they value.

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How etailers can take advantage of the Curve, and make money when everything is going free.

In June 2014, I was asked by Google to go to their offices and talk about the ideas of the Curve to a room full of etailers. It was part of an afternoon when Google pointed out that ecommerce providers in the UK have three times as many page views as every newspaper and magazine in the UK combined. They are fixated on conversion rates and sales, yet they offer a enormous, free, value-added resource to their customers which can be harnessed as a revenue strategy (through advertising) and through a Curve strategy (through content marketing, earning the right to talk to their customers again and enabling superfans.)

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Case studies: the Marvel of comics

When you have seventy-five years of history and over 5,000 characters in your archives, including Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America, you have a lot of potential to experiment with a Curve strategy.

Marvel is in such a lucky position. In 2009 Disney acquired the comic book publisher for $4 billion. At the time, it was the eighth largest magazine publisher in the US, and 4.1 million people read its content every month. That said, even by the time of the acquisition Marvel was far from just a comic book business. Although it made $125 million from publishing in 2008, that represented less than a fifth of its revenue: the bulk was made up from licensing ($293 million, 43 per cent) and film production ($255 million, 38 per cent). It’s a brand and movie business, and since 2000 there has been a Marvel-licensed blockbuster in cinemas every single year. Continue Reading

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Case study: Kaleel Zibe, a wildlife photographer

In November 2013 I received an email from Kaleel Zibe, a professional wildlife and nature photographer. His business has been under pressure for many years. ‘The crash of stock price imagery, and the fact that everyone is now an amateur photographer, means we in the profession need to re-think what we’re doing to make money. For years now the classic ways of earning a living from photography have had eroding returns.’

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Twitter has taken the first step towards making you “earn the right to pay Twitter to speak to your fans”

One of the key tenets of the Curve is that you use free to find an audience and earn the right to talk to them again. A content marketing strategy that just finds an audience with no follow-through is not a strategy.

My preference is email, because it is in my control, but it is important to be where your audience is: YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and so on.

I have long joked that Facebook is different. On FB, you are “earning the right to pay Facebook to speak to your fans”, and their ongoing changes like hiding the most recent posts and encouraging users only to see the posts that Facebook wants you to see are part of this monetisation strategy.

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Case studies: the B2B challenge, and systems integrators

In late 2013 I spoke to the customers of Peer One, a provider of hosting and related services for the web. Many of their customers are technology consultancies that build e-commerce systems for large retailers using third-party tools such as Magento, and are often known as systems integrators.

The question I was asked most was: ‘How can we apply the Curve when our core product is so expensive to deliver? We can’t afford to keep giving away our services for free, because they have a substantial cost to us. We know that we need to find customers, but the Curve doesn’t seem to help us, particularly those of us in small businesses with only ten or twenty staff.’

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Case studies: Nespresso and the coffee brand

Nestlé have discovered how to turn coffee into a Curve business. And they have done it not with an entry price of free, but an entry price of very expensive.

Nespresso coffee machines start at £130. They are stylish and elegant and the most expensive versions will set you back nearly £500. (US readers can substitute dollar signs for pound signs. That’s not fair on UK consumers, given the exchange rate, but that’s generally how it goes.) The machines are not the heart of the Nespresso business; the relationship with the coffee drinker is.

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Me, the Cookie monster and the cream of ITV

I was asked to give a talk to the cream of ITV – 400 thinkers, movers and shakers in the UK’s largest commercial free-to-air broadcaster. It was a little intimidating (there were some very high profile other speakers), but also a lot of fun.

A member of the audience, Guy Burgess, tweeted this snap. I kinda like it.

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