Web Informant #399, 9 February 2005: Making the Pitch




One of the things that I like about being a tech journalist is that I get to work with some very smart people, both as colleagues and as interview subjects. When I was at VAR Business, Rich Cirillo put together a cover story called "The Perfect Pitch" comparing the elevator pitches of 17 hi-tech CEOs and their companies. Our team interviewed the movers and shakers in our industry and came up with a very interesting story, which you can read here:



Anyway, not to leave well enough alone, in the past couple of months freelance journalist Meryl K. Evans took this idea a step further and set up a survey to see how many of these pitches are recognizable to her readers. Go take the quiz now and see how well you'll do at matching the pitch with the company:


She has somewhat skewed her results by segregating the various pitches into different degrees of recognition. What was somewhat embarrassing and also proves Evans' point was even though I was one of the original authors of the piece, I had a hard time recognizing some of the pitches. Granted, we wrote this story several years ago, but it was tough going for me. The exercise got me thinking that a good pitch should transcend time and be memorable enough, especially for the reporter who spent all this time trying to track down the CEO who is constantly using it.



Well, I must say that I was surprised by Evans' survey results. Ebay's pitch (to help practically anyone buy and sell practically anything)and Dell's (to be the leading direct computer-systems company, bar none) were both mostly recognizable, picked by more than 80% of her readers. On the other hand, Cisco's, Oracle's and Intel's were so vague that less than ten percent of the people could figure them out. Indeed, no one picked Cisco's pitch: Continued investments in IT result in measurable productivity gains. What does that say that makes it unique to Cisco? You got me. Where is the mention of building network infrastructure, or enabling great Internet applications, or even being the dot in the dot com? Oops, someone else got that one already.


Evans says in her analysis: "I never would have considered these three for the bottom of the pile. But when you put their names with the pitch, it's understandable. Those pitches don't match the keywords that would come to mind when thinking of these companies." I completely agree.

What was equally surprising was how someone else's pitch was picked, and how consistently. Novell's pitch was more often chosen as Cisco's, and Intel's pitch was confused with AMD. This is quite telling, and one of the reasons that both Novell and Intel have the kind of competition that they do. They just can't get on message with their customers, suppliers, and partners.


I guess the next analysis would take a look at the stock prices of these 17 companies in the two or so years since we wrote the article, and see who has outperformed the Dow or some other measure. Or who has grown market share in the two years. I have no doubt that Dell and eBay will still be on top, and Cisco and Oracle near the bottom. All this shows is that finding the perfect pitch really matters. The more you can communicate your unique value proposition, the better you'll be at getting and keeping customers.


A note on browser security


This week security experts discovered several exploits to Mozilla and other open-source browsers.



One that is most insidious has to do with the way that non-Roman alphabet language domain names get displayed by the browser. Ironically, because Microsoft never supported these international domain names IE wasn't vulnerable. If you do use Firefox, go through the following steps to make yourself secure from at least one of these vulnerabilities:


1.  Type about:config in the URL field;
2.  Look for network.enableIDN in the list of configuration settings (they're alphabetical, you'll need to scroll a bit);
3.  Double-click on the line that contains network.enableIDN.  The
line should turn bold, and the setting should be "false" (bold means
that it has been changed from the default setting). You are now protected from the IDN exploit. You also won't be able to properly view IDN sites.


The bad guys are getting badder. It used to be easier to spot phished URLs. With this IDN exploit, even something that looks like the right URL isn't.


David Strom


Tom's Guides Publishing

31225 LaBaya Dr #107

Westlake Village, CA 91362

+1 (818) 991-0282 x204



Web Informant is (r) registered trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

ISSN #1524-6353 registered with U.S. Library of Congress

If you'd like to subscribe (issues are sent via email), please send an email to:


Entire contents copyright 2005 by David Strom, Inc.