Wednesday, 13 June 2007

When marketing = product design

Being a high tech start-up developing a social networking product, there is only so much honing of the marketing message and writing press releases and advertising that you can do. It takes lots of time and money to do it competently and sustainably. More importantly, most marketing effort in the early stages ought to be spent on the product.

You have to make hard decisions about the priority features the product should offer to really excite early adopters. You can't just toss in a load of nice extras and expect the whole to miraculously become more than the sum of the parts. Too many features dilute the appeal.

You have to look at how to make the product sticky for your target audience so that they will want to keep connecting to your service to get their regular 'fix', and so that they will want to tell their friends about it and get them hooked too.

You need to think about how to make it integrate and sit comfortably with the other products that your customers use ... and anything they use that is too similar needs to be blown out of the water by what yours can do. If they're comfortable with the three old tools they know that can do the same thing already they're not going to switch. But you make it less painful if your product does it better, offers new cool features, and integrates better with everything else they use. And of course it had better be dead simple to use even the most powerful features.

So in the marketing domain we haven't been doing much promotion; in fact we're doing next to no communication at all and focusing our efforts on getting the product right. We're getting tons of new registrations a day all the same. And we're getting feedback from customers to help us improve (even if they don't know it: our detailed stats are showing how they use the application too).

In this connected generation it's our customers who are empowered with the most effective marketing tools, and it's up to us to give them a good reason to use them.

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