For my work, I have to make a lot of presentations. And lazy me takes the first shortcut available and calls all my presentations with the default word - Presentation1.ppt.

Today I was asked to hunt for a file and I keyed in .ppt on the search bar. I got a list of some 20 presentation1.ppts. No points for guessing how happy I was with the search results. I did not get the work done and now I am renaming all those files to something that is more searchable.

The key lesson here is that search plays an important role in the way we humans work. More than search, retrival plays even more critical role. It is so easy to stuff a closet with million things and it is equally difficult to retrieve one particular thing from that heap of million things. No wonder Google has done so well as a company. It makes the entire process of retrival so easy and intuitive. Google for me is more of a retrival compay rather than search.

And this leads me to my lesson # 1 for the day. Any business that I get into will have to have a minimal search cost. I define the search cost as the amount of effort on part of end user to identify a service provider (as one of the alternatives to fulfill the demand). And by virtue of this definition, lesser the search cost, easier it is for the end user to find your service.

In fact advertising is a way to reduce the search cost for consumers. Your product might be the best in the world but the customers will never be able to find it if the search cost is too high. The good news is that there are ways to reduce or eliminate this search cost. Case in point, Bisleri. Bisleri by virtue of age has now replaced "mineral water" in vocabulary of Indians. Search cost for Bisleri is hence zero.

Now this concept of search cost can be extended to any business activity. Take for example hiring. You are a growing company. You want to attract and eventually hire the best talent. There are two problems now. One, you dont know where to look for good talent. And two, even though you might find awesome talent, the talent might not know about you. He hasnt heard about you and in all likelihood he would join one of the better known brands.

Think about the Internet. On Internet, a lot of things are noise and a very very few are actually signals. Search cost for anyone on Internet is very high. All of us use feed readers, aggregators, social bookmarking etc. to discover content. Discovery is getting more and more difficult as more and more spam blogs are being published.

How do you then reduce this search cost? How do you make yourself as the default choice for any customer? Is advertising the only way? Is this the core function of advertising?

Any thoughts?

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The Nidhi Kapoor Story

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