Monday, June 26, 2006

White Hats v. Black Hats

Zig Ziglar - "If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want."



White hats versus black hats is a reference to the old spaghetti westerns where the bad guy had a big black Stetson, while the hero had the big white Stetson. This phrase has been adapted to describe the distinct approaches that business entities take to a given marketplace. Based on this approach, consumers will either label an organization as black hat or white hat.

How do customers know how to make this distinction? Essentially they look for organizations that appear to want the same thing for them that they want for themselves; low prices, something for nothing wherever possible, an easy acquisition (shopping) experience; and all of this without any sacrifice in quality. If you can deliver this, you are a white hat. If you promise, but cannot deliver you are a black hat. If you neither promise nor deliver you may just as well holster your pistol and go home.

In relation to intangible products like eBooks, the image an entity projects to their customers is pivotal. In our industry, there are basically two major approaches to the customer:

  • The proprietary
  • The open

The proprietary approach is about locking down the intellectual property tight, so tight that it may never see the light of day. The organizations who take this tact are the groups who want to squeeze as much money from the consumer as possible, give them as little access to what they bought as possible and call it a day. It is obvious in our industry, that these have been identified by the consumers as the black hats. They promise you content, and then deliver something which has limitations that were never clearly defined on the front end: the customer can only read this file once, they can never transfer this file to a new computer, they cannot use this file on both your regular PC and a portable device, and on, and on…

When there are other alternatives in the marketplace, this approach usually gets money from that customer about once. They say to themselves – well, that was a waste… then they never come back.

The open approach is about protecting intellectual property, in an honest way; getting value for intellectual property, at a reasonable price point; bringing the consumer more than they expected, never playing bait and switch. They also operate on the theory that there is room for many players in the game…as long as they play their own cards right, their operating philosophy is – the more the merrier. The groups who approach the customer this way understand the theory of creating a loyal customer base.

When the customer is met with this attitude, they tend to respond with open pocket books.

In this environment the current consumers have already placed Black Hats on the propietary, and White Hats on the open model proponents. The buzz is in the air, on the blogs, in the newsgroups and all over the list serves.

So, back to that dusty old standoff outside the local saloon – watch a few dozen old flicks, and then do your own quickdraw math – how often do you see the white hat go down?

3 comments:

Pat Palmer said...

Is DPP a black hat or a white hat?

Catherine of DPP Store said...

Well, it is for our customers to evaluate...

Just a few points to keep in mind when putting a hat on us:

- We offer free eBooks.
- We offer select titles in printable formats.
- We are dedicated to customer service.
- We reply to any support question within 24 hours.

bigwhitehat said...

You know, some people just like hats.