The Seemingly Impossible Sales Challenge
I responded to Jerome Whitcroft’s press release announcing a million-dollar speed-typing contest because I was curious to know how my typing skills would rate against the best in the world.
Plus, I wouldn’t mind a piece of the million bucks in prize money.
I sent him an e-mail asking for the press kit, and he responded immediately with complete information.
After spending some time on his Web site and scouting the competition, I sent him a proposal on how he might be able to get some more business.
“On the other hand,” I added, “if you're selling a ton of product and getting rich beyond the dreams of avarice, disregard this correspondence.”
Never heard back.
The more I got into what Jerome Whitcroft was offering, the happier I am he didn't reply.
I think he has a serious marketing problem.
The Business of Touch-Typing
In her 80+ years on this planet, my mother gave me two usable pieces of advice: 1. always leave the john seat down, and 2. learn to touch-type.
So in my 19th year, I took a six-week course in touch-typing at Brown’s Business School in Rockville Centre, N.Y., not far from where we lived on the South Shore of Long Island. I learned this skill on the QWERTY keyboard of a clunky, old Remington office typewriter. (See illustration at the end of this story.)
For me, touch-typing has been a godsend. My fingers are an extension of my thought process. For example, when I interview someone for a story, I use my laptop and can take down what is being said while maintaining eye contact with my subject. I never use a tape recorder; I would rather concentrate on the questions and answers that are in my head and in the computer. This intensity beats sitting through the interview twice—once during the recording and a second time transcribing the tape with all the “ums,” “ers,” “ahs” and pauses. In 50 years of using this system, not one of my subjects has ever accused me of being misquoted.
It is amazing that the QWERTY keyboard—patented in 1874 by Christopher Sholes—is not only still in use, but also is the basic mechanism for getting data into computers. I'm always astonished to walk through an office where people are two-fingering a computer keyboard—laboriously (and slowly) entering data that the machine can process in a nanosecond.
Quite simply, anybody today that uses the computer and does not know how to touch-type is nuts. It’s as dumb as living in the country and not having a driver’s license.
Enter KeyRight.com and Its Million-Dollar Prize
On June 29, 2009, I received the e-mail press release from Jerome Whitcroft announcing his $1 million speed-typing contest.
Who and what is KeyRight.com?
Jerome Whitcroft created a touch-type learning system for computer users. The linchpin: a color-coded keyboard for PCs and MACs with eight colors, one for each finger. (Thumbs are only good for the space bar.)
Use the keyboard and the software, make the color connections in your brain, and Whitcroft promises you'll be able to touch-type in “6 hours, guaranteed!” The cost for everything—keyboard and CD—is $39.95 plus $9.95 shipping and handling for a total of $49.90.
OK. So far, so good.
Enter “touch typing” into Google and the result is 2.1 million hits. The Google landing page listed seven free online touch-typing opportunities. I logged on to several of them, and indeed, I was touch-typing in seconds.
The ninth listing on Google was All the Touch-Typing Tutors. That lists:
- 21 sites with typing freeware
- 15 free online typing courses and nine free online typing tests
- 9 online typing speed tests
- 29 free shareware downloads
With 74 free online touch-typing Web sites to choose from, a person would be nuts to spend $49.90 for the KeyRight program.
Start With SEM
Another challenge for Jerome Whitcroft is that KeyRight.com is deep in Internet limbo. I went through the first 40 pages of “touch-typing” listings on Google looking for Whitcroft’s system. KeyRight.com turned up as the 400th listing.
Quite simply, if you're trying to sell something on the Web, it is imperative to be ranked in the first couple of Google pages and all directories or forget it.
For starters, Whitcroft should hire a consultant who's an expert in search engine marketing (SEM) and continually update his Web site with press releases, white papers and news containing all the right keywords and doodads. Only with a never-ending supply of new material will the Google Web spiders come crawling regularly and move KeyRight up in the rankings. This cannot be done in-house. SEM IS rocket science.
An Oxymoronic Combination of Offers
Go to the KeyRight.com Web site and an attractive young woman in light slacks and a magenta blouse walks in from screen left and greets you. If your sound is on, here's her lede:
Hello and welcome to KeyRight. Would you like to improve your typing skills? You can learn to type fast, accurately and safely in a few hours. The look-and-learn typing solution lets you learn, practice and master typing without even trying every time you use your computer or laptop.
She goes on to pitch the color-coded keyboard and all the people who should be using it to learn how to touch-type.
However, over her head is a changing sign touting KeyRight’s speed-typing contest: One Million Dollars Is Up For Grabs ... Are You One Of America’s Fastest Typists?
Wait a minute, Mr. Whitcroft. Who are you talking to? Your on-screen lady is working hard to interest two-finger typists in your touch-type learning system, while the overhead sign is trying to persuade the fastest typists in the world to enter your million-dollar speed-typing contest.
Why are you blowing $1 million in prize money for a competition among the world’s fastest typists—none of whom would be the least bit interested in purchasing your product?
A Web Site Created by Nonmarketers
Apart from the speed-typing contest, the rest of the KeyRight.com Web effort is an attempt to overpower the viewer with facts, figures, statistics and Ph.D. babble about touch-typing vs. two-finger keyboard operations.
A couple examples of the nonsell gibberish in the KeyRight FAQ’s:
- Does the KeyRight Tutor method use the Home Keys Technique?
No! The KeyRight Tutor software bypasses the Home Keys method by encouraging the Direct Reach Method aimed at the Key-Finger Groups. The Home Keys Technique requires keeping at least one finger of the left hand on the A-S-D-F keys and at least one finger of the right hand on the J-K-L-; keys while reaching for all the other keys. This makes half of the strokes involved in normal text generation awkward and some physiologically impossible. KeyRight’s patented solution makes all keystrokes uniformly easy to reach (relative to the COLOR CODING of the QWERTY keyboard). Also, there is the possibility that the Home Keys Technique is a contributor to Repetitive Strain Injury due to the awkward key strokes and the faulty mind-mapping and accumulated stress from performance anxiety.
- Why do we make the distinction between typing and keyboard skills?
We consider that expert typing skills for copy typing and general computer users are about 60 or more words per minute. Touch typing is required for sustained fast accurate alpha-numeric text production whereas the average computer keyboard user typically does short bursts of discontinuous text entry in between thinking, editing and other computer tasks.
I went to many of the 74 competitive Web sites, and the messages were all the same:
- “Learn to touch-type.”
- “Touch-type like a pro.”
- “Learn to type with free typing games and tests.”
- “Learn how to type correctly in just a few hours using all your fingers.”
There's nothing unique or sexy about these selling propositions—no benefits. Why should I spend time learning to touch-type when I'm operating a keyboard just fine?
Here are the eight key copy drivers, the emotional hot buttons that make people act:
fear – greed – guilt – anger – exclusivity – salvation – flattery – patriotism
“If your copy isn’t dripping with one or more of these,” wrote Seattle marketing guru Bob Hacker, “tear it up and start over.”
“Learn to touch-type” is not an emotional hot button. Neither is, “Learn how to type correctly in just a few hours using all your fingers.”
For KeyRight.com to have any chance against all this competition, it needs a unique selling proposition (USP) that differentiates KeyRight’s message from all others in the field.
USP #1 [Greed]: Spend just six hours and dramatically increase your income! With the ability to go from two-finger typing to 60 or 70 words per minute, you can double or triple your daily output. That means you're doing the work of two or three people and will command at least triple your income. More like 10 times your income once management discovers how much you're accomplishing.
USP #2 [Fear]: Your job may be in jeopardy. If your boss discovers the person in the next office can type 60 to 70 words a minute and is doing the work of two or three people, why should you be kept on?
One USP is good. Having two or more is great!
USP #3 [Speed]: Learn faster. In this case, Whitcroft must promise that using the KeyRight system—its color-coded keyboard and easy software—will enable you to learn touch-typing faster than any other course available at any price. Spend just six hours, and you'll leave all your colleagues in the dust.
USP #4 [Convenience] Learn on the job! What makes the KeyRight system unique is that when you use the color-coded keyboard, you can do your regular work while learning to touch-type. You're not spending six or 12 hours of your own time on boring touch-typing exercises.
Urgent! Another Distribution Channel Must Be Found!
With vast competition on the Web, certainly Jerome Whitcroft should explore other media to get KeyRight keyboards into the hands of buyers.
After all, the Web is the new home of instant gratification. Put it into someone’s head that touch-typing is a path to vast wealth and that person will Google “touch-typing” and find nearly a hundred Web sites to scratch that itch.
And for free!
Only a fool spends $50 and waits three days to get the color-coded keyboard. In those three days, even that fool could be on the way to touch-typing riches.
Where would I promote the KeyRight system?
- Sell them to schools and libraries for their computer installations. Kids will learn to touch-type at the same time they're learning computer skills.
- Approach computer manufacturers and resellers with the idea of using the KeyRight keyboard as a premium with new computers. Buyers and other members of the family can learn to touch-type (and go on to increasing their incomes exponentially).
- Call on corporate buyers at Staples, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Best Buy and Wal-Mart to see if they'll carry the product.
- Same thing with Web-based online office supply companies and catalogs, such as Quill.com and CheapOfficeSupplies.com.
- Support these efforts with co-op advertising in local media.
Test a Traditional Direct Marketing Offer
Premiums work. Test selling the keyboard with the software CD as a free gift.
The message: Learn to type fast with the color-coded keyboard, but faster with the software. If dissatisfied with the keyboard, return it within 30 days for a full refund and keep the CD, our way of saying thank you for trying the KeyRight typing system.
Above all, Mr. Whitcroft, don't spend time and money trying to attract guaranteed nonbuyers—the world’s fastest typists—with a million-dollar typing contest. That million and all the effort going into sponsoring the contest are pure waste, unless I’m missing something.
Even with these ideas in place, given the monstrous competition, the inability to supply instant gratification and the $50 price tag vs. free everywhere else, I believe Jerome Whitcroft is kicking shit uphill with pointed boots.