A great product sells. Period. … but if it’s not?
So, you have just decided to invest a significant amount of your time (and money) in designing and developing a brand new product potentially used by tenths of thousands of people through the Internet. Having read up a lot about how to make your product succeed, in this case you decide to apply it, step by step. Buying “the whole package” you are pretty confident that you will have a good chance to create something used by a lot of people.
Trusting your intuition, you choose an innovative technology that you love, to create your software. You set up an on-line community to support the use of your tool, you create an account under a social CRM platform to be really transparent to users, you create your website as a blog so you can talk directly to your customer base.
Everything is ready to go live and you remember that you forgot one of the most important things of all: marketing. So, you work really hard to set up a web marketing campaign in order to spread the word as much as you can. You monitor, measure and estimate; then again you integrate Google Analytics into your product and define marketing goals that you can check.
Finally everything is ready to go live. The product has been developed and tested, so you launch!
An even more intense period suddenly starts: blog posts, emails, newsletters, social networks, customer issues, … Days goes by, and you start getting a strange feeling about your project: just after a brief moment of using your “incredible platform”, people start loosing interest. You have done some great marketing on-line campaigning, so people know a bit more about your innovative idea, but you keep feeling that something is missing. Users sign up to your platform, they use it for a while and then they leave it.
Why? What’s wrong?
What about your plans of getting rich and famous quickly and spending the whole day on the beach? You keep an eye on the Page Rank of your website and it’s awesome (7 is a great value), even unique visitors seem to be really good. That means that your marketing actions have been a success, so what’s the problem?
I can tell you right now that you can keep asking yourself the same question over and over, but if you cannot get more data from your application you probably won’t get any answer – at least related to where your users leave the application.
As anyone who decided to bet on this business, you probably based your business model on some kind of freemium – a basic but limited service for free and the full feature version to be payed. If you are not selling enough user accounts, you cannot pay the bills. But then again, if you cannot afford the web hosting service, probably you’re not doing so well and …
Now… I can keep telling you the whole (and very long) story, but there’s a much simpler way to get an answer: “a good product simply sells”.
That’s it. All the rest can help a good product to sell quicker or to gain a burst in new customers. But let me tell you again: if your product is a good one, it sells. Period.
I’m not telling that you will always make tons of money, but you should definitely make a good quantity of it.
On the other hand, a bad product does not sell and spending time on web marketing and advertising won’t change it significantly. Of course, making your product known could get you some good sales, but trust me it won’t last.
So how can you distinguish a good product from a bad product if you start your business with a pretty expensive (on-line) advertising campaign?
Pretty simple, as soon as you stop investing in advertising and marketing, the sales of a bad product will get less and less. A bad product can sell if supported by sustained actions, but it won’t be used by the customers in the medium term and even worse they won’t suggest it to others to use this service or tool. No word of mouth, no viral effect, … In the business of software-as-a-service, you typically charge small fees for your services and then you need a large number of users to make your business a hit. For that reason customer loyalty in the long-term is fundamental, because you need a lot of time to gather the minimum customer base to be profitable.
Fortunately we can all learn from our mistakes and a product can get better with time if we allow it to grow. There are probably many ways to get this result, but the best I know is to listen to your customers day after day, talking to them, being in their shoes and becoming one of them.
I think that all of us should learn from Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and master of this discipline.