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Follow These Best Practices To Promote Your Product

Follow These Best Practices To Promote Your Product

In yesterday’s post I was pointing out what went wrong with Cheddar’s marketing. The question now is: How should they have done it? How can you promote your product without violating the trust of existing and future customers?

1. Ask Users For Permission

Using the customer email database for promotions is probably the most common of all mistakes in online marketing. When customers open an account with a service, they expect it to be used for one thing only: their account. If you use their email for other purposes and they have to go to email settings to turn off newsletters that were turned on by default, you are actively destructing the bond of trust between your customers and your product or service.

Permission marketing works quite simple: you ask people if they want to receive promotional emails. Support emails, newsletters and promotions are not the same. Make sure you separate these channels and give your customers the choice to opt in or out with every channel.

The moment to ask people for their permission should be right after they signed up with your service. It shouldn’t be a checkbox that is turned on by default. You can’t assume your customer’s wishes. Send them a confirmation email with a clearly visible option to opt in with marketing emails or newsletters.

Is it too late, if you missed that point? It isn’t, but if you want to ask customer’s at a later point, you shouldn’t just send them a promotional email and then let them know they can unsubscribe. No matter how much you sugar-coat such a procedure, it is always spam, and it is corrosive for the customer-product relationship.

2. Use Original Product Strengths

If you did your job right with product development and product management, and you designed your product experience around your customers, there are certain strengths your product has that are unique to it. These strengths, these values are the reason why your customers use your product. These are the turning points, the levers, the knobs you can use to improve the customer experience. You basically can’t go wrong with marketing if you use your product’s strengths at the core of it.

Of course this isn’t always enough, especially if your product is generic and doesn’t do at least one thing better than the competition. Figure out what makes your product unique and elevate those few points. Don’t talk too much about what else it can do — you have that covered in the product description. The job of marketing is to point out, to highlight and to remind users why they want to use your product.

Base your entire marketing campaign on this. Make it consistent across the board, from your presence on Social Media sites to email marketing.

3. Make It A Game

Gamification is not wrong. Cheddar tried their luck with a wheel of cheese. As I pointed out yesterday, that doesn’t work quite well, mostly because it’s value for an entirely different traget group: the occasional sweepstake benefactor. People looking for coupons and free stuff. If you take a look at he product’s actual target audience, they are people who want to organise their lives.

You can gamify your marketing in a number of ways. If you keep within a few boundaries, it will elevate your customer’s interest instead of killing it.

Instead of sending out a mass email to buy fake “likes”, you could send a survey. Ask your customers specific questions. Don’t ask them how to improve your product, or what they would do differently — you have the forums and support pages for that. Ask them questions that are relevant for their lives. You know your target audience: people who want to organise their lives. This is what the survey should be about.

If I am a movie fan, I am not just a fan of all movies ever made. Ask me about which genres I follow, which actors I like, what the best directors are. Surveys have two benefits: they tell you more about your customer base and they make your customers feel you really care. There is nothing wrong in adding an incentive to the survey, but it should be something that’s in the interest of your customers.

4. Know your customer’s motivations

To enable any kind of user experience, you need motivation and intent. These two factors are the reason why people do what they are doing. If you don’t know why your customers use your product, you are in trouble. You need to know about their lives, their circumstances, their situations. You need to know their intent.

Customers have high expectations in products and services today. Their brand loyalty is highly dependent on how a product performs, more than it is based on marketing. You can only elevate existing values with marketing, you cannot produce them. So make sure that whatever you do with your marketing, it is meeting the intentions and motivations of your customers.

They aren’t monkeys, donkeys or mice that can be teased with wheels of cheese. Showing them your respect and valuing their opinion turns your customers relations with your product into actual relationships.

Cheddar’s “Social Media Campaign” Is a Schoolbook Example Of What Is Wrong With Marketing

Cheddar’s “Social Media Campaign” Is a Schoolbook Example Of What Is Wrong With Marketing

Imagine you are going to a housewarming party. You weren’t invited, but who cares. At the door you pick up a few people and tell them: “If you go inside and say that I’m the best guy you’ve ever met, I’ll give you money.”

This is what most “Social Media marketing campaigns” are all about. It’s not to contribute any value, it is selling pseudo-value. All you have to do is faking that you love the product.

Cheddar is a little list app that does exactly the same what Wunderlist, Clear and a few dozen other apps with checkmark icons do: it lets you make lists of things for you to check off. These apps have pretty much the same functionality, but Wunderkinder’s Wunderlist has been endorsed by the Apple Store, and therefore it has a lot more customers.

Clearly, Cheddar is desperate to expand its audience in order to stand up to the competition. But instead of improving their product, thus increasing value and potentially raising the desire of people to download it, they are going the quick and dirty road of marketing: buying friends.

Whether you call it a competition, sweepstake, or you actually hire a 100 kids sitting in a room in Pakistan, randomly “liking” things on Facebook they never heard of before, makes actually no difference.

If you think this is the peak of scumbag marketing, you are wrong. It gets worse. The only way Cheddar can reach people outside of their existing customer pool seems to be email. So they don’t ask people to participate in newsletters — they just go ahead and use the whole database of email addresses customers needed in order to open an account with Cheddar.

The primary principle of email marketing is called “permission marketing”, and Cheddar — like many other app makers — sees no problem in violating it, abusing customer’s trust by just using their email for marketing, no matter that they never asked for it.

Note that the sender’s address is “Cheddar Support”. You can’t make that stuff up. In short, Cheddar’s advertising campaign is a schoolbook case of destructing credibility and loyalty towards its brand and product:

  1. Systematically destroying consumer trust by abusing customer emails without permission
  2. Sliming your way into more Facebook likes, buying fake friendships by offering cheese as a reward
  3. Using an incentive that have absolutely nothing in common with the product values, it just shares the same name (which was a cheesy choice in the first place)

Who doesn’t want a wheel of cheese that will rot in your fridge before you can possibly eat it all up? I think it’s save to say at this point Cheddar LLC has squandered its integrity in the eyes of its customers.

Winning When You Least Expect It

Winning When You Least Expect It

Two weeks ago I experienced something awesome. My idea, Project Join, won the first prize at the Startup Weekend St. Gallen, in Switzerland.

Little did I know about the good times ahead of me when I was riding on the train that brought me to St. Gallen. I participated the weekend with the intention to make connections, to network, perhaps to talk about collaboration through Core UX with one or the other new contact. For the one and a half hour in the train I did not think about presenting an idea later that same night.

And yet, that is exactly what happened. Most participants who presented their idea on this Friday evening were thoroughly prepared. They had written down the key elements of their idea. They had repeated their speeches until they felt secure.

“Anything else?” the moderators asked after all were done. “We’d really like to hear some spontaneous ideas, or even if you found a problem you think that should be solved, come on stage and let us know!”. The crowd clapped in a driving pace and as if someone else had slipped into me, I rose from my seat.

In this instant I knew what I was going to talk about. It was something I had kept in the back of my head for years and I called it “Join”.

Instead of presenting a carefully prepared speech, I directed my attention to the audience, asking them why they came to this event. I looked at a couple of faces and asked them: “Before you came here, did you know with whom you want to talk?” No one said they did. “And yet,” I said, “all of you came here hoping to make new connections and possibly find common interests. That is what Join is about, to help you meet whom you want to talk to.”

The idea goes further, but I will write more about it when it is ready for the public. What I can say now is, that there is little competition in the area it is addressing, and yet it is exactly that area in online and mobility that is of great interest to a lot of businesses. It goes beyond of what every service alike provides today.

Yet the benefit for the end user is extremely simple, but essential to the core: meeting relevant people.

I don’t know what got into me that Friday night. But I felt elevated, delighted, happy when I returned to my seat. I hadn’t felt like this in quite some time. It was a feeling that this was right, a feeling of having found something that is of real interest to people.

So many apps today are saying they are improving people’s lives. Look at how few of them actually deliver on this promise. I’d say the majority of apps is there rather to distract you, than to extend your capabilities.

Startup Weekend St. Gallen

What happened next on this weekend, I can only describe as a really great experience. My idea got the second most points in the selection process right after all ideas had been presented. Clearly, people wanted to see this happening. We built groups to collaborate on these ideas, to develop them into business models and finally present them on Sunday afternoon, a presentation designed to work like an investor’s meeting.

There were lectures, lessons and group activities throughout this weekend that made me learn a lot and interact a lot with people. There is something great that happens when bright minds meet. There is an increased activity of sparks firing in your brain and your conversations. Geeks become passionate with glowing eyes when they are talking about their ideas.

This alone would have been enough to make this weekend special. But Sunday evening prove to top it all.

Startup Weekend St. Gallen

All teams presented their shaped out ideas, complete with how it works, a business model, competition analysis and estimated numbers. We kind of botched our presentation. Instead of 10 slides we had 19. That was way too much for the six minutes we had. Luckily, in the four minutes of Q&A with the jury that followed, we managed to pull up one or the other slide that hadn’t been shown yet. When the 10 minutes were over, we felt still confident about our idea, but we were pretty sure we wouldn’t win the competition.

The third prize was announced, then the second. We hung in our seats relaxed, looking around to see the faces light up of the team that was going to be announced as the first prize winners.

And then they said our names. My partner and I looked at each other with stunned smirks. Was this real?

Aside of everything, of meeting fellow entrepreneurs, of learning inspiring lessons, of being creative together and shaping an idea as close as possible to become reality, the one thing nothing can beat is the moment of the unexpected.

And this moment only happens when you go out there and do it. This is what I took from this weekend: You can do it, even when you are not prepared. But you have to go out there and try.

Minuum Rethinks The Virtual Keyboard

Minuum Rethinks The Virtual Keyboard

Minuum is easily the most innovative keyboard available for mobile devices, and it aims to introduce the most advanced way to type. The idea is disruptive as much as the seemingly unsolvable problem: Keyboards follow a traditional design pattern of the classic typewriter.

QWERTY keyboards are extremely inefficient for small screens. Typing on a small device, even at sizes of the iPhone 6 Plus, is still quite awkward and requires training time to get used to it.

The disadvantages of typing on a touch display actually outweigh the benefits of a tactile keyboard. But because a virtual keyboard does have some advantages for diverse mobile applications, we are willing to live with the trade-ins.

Minuum seeks to fix this issue using a drastic approach: it resizes the keyboard to a much smaller size. It looks strange when you see the keyboard shrinking and at first you may think this won’t work at all.

One would think that bigger is what would improve the experience, not smaller, but it appears the opposite is the case. At least the makers of Minuum think it is, and I wonder if they ar right. If Whirlscape, the company behind Minuum, did their homework and ran cycles of extensive user testing, not just for usability but also overall experience (testing how well Minuum integrates into the user flow), they might be onto something that could be potentially big.

Minuum let’s you use eight languages and claims to have a great predictive type engine. Personally, I find the Minuum approach more appealing than the Swype idea. We will see if it is as intuitive as it should be to be able to take off on a mass adoption scale.

(Image: Splitshire)

Why Apple’s iWatch May Not Be What You Are Thinking

Why Apple’s iWatch May Not Be What You Are Thinking

To be honest, I won’t be surprised if Apple does not announce an iWatch today. The concept of an iWatch has been largely driven by competitors picking up rumors, starting their own development programs to create wearable wrist-based computers, and the media picking up on those devices, comparing them to each other only to state the obvious:

The market for such devices has not been created yet.

Sure, there are various small devices available today in the wearable computing segment. These can be accounted to the gadgets category: they are fun products for enthusiasts, which could be generously described as a geek market. It’s by far not ready for mass consumption. Apple has proven of course that it can create and establish entire market sections that didn’t exist before, starting with the original Macintosh, the iPhone and the iPad. With the iPod they didn’t create a market, but they took a very tiny segment and implemented it in a way that found immediate traction with consumers.

In fact, the iPod introduction was Apple’s first serious foray (earlier gaming and TV devices not accounted) into a lifestlye electronics mass consumer market, beyond regular pro, desktop and laptop computing.

And this is the mistake people make when they talk about Apple today. They still see the computer company that also makes music players, tablets and phones. This is clearly not Apple’s perspective. I believe Apple’s product strategy spans much wider, it doesn’t stem from a thought model of “people buying electronic devices”. It begins with the thought of how design improves people’s lives. And with design they don’t mean just how great it looks, they mean how great it works.

Apple may make a big step into wearable computing today. In doing so, they will not introduce yet another smartwatch, just like they wouldn’t introduce yet another Internet ready TV. Apple doesn’t work this way. They are looking at the market, sure, when they are expanding on product categories. But when they are thinking about new products, they think people first. They don’t see consumers, they see people and how they live and work. They look at their passions, at what excites them and what seriously improves their lives.

There is this ongoing mocking of Silicon Valley start-ups, claiming that they all want to improve people’s lives. This running gag doesn’t come out of nowhere. It basically started when Apple introduced this mantra and everyone began to follow it. Isn’t that what we all want, an improved life? The wave of start-ups with seemingly fresh ideas failing to achieve what they believe in gives you an idea of how hard it is today to really innovate.

Of course, achieving innovation as a company even as big as Apple, with many stakeholder’s interests virtually at stake, this isn’t a trivial task either. Everyone seems to be worried if Apple is still innovative under Tim Cook. That’s the wrong kind of question. Apple was always innovative, it was its management in the past that changed and either stiffled or promoted Apple’s innovation spirit. Apple has not reached it’s peak in innovation, its very nature prevents any hill or peak. Expansion doesn’t mean just growth for Apple, it means steady internal improvement.

As some people have pointed out, the fashion factor does play an important role, but I think that factor is overhyped. If Apple did its homework, they are aware that there is no mass market for watches anymore. It may be that the new device (or one of them) will be a wrist-based wearable device, which would work pretty much like a watch and maybe even shows the time. But thinking that wearable = fashion is a narrow-sighted simplification.

The main hurdle with the upcoming wearable computing market won’t be the question if it’s fashionable. Partnerships with designers and brands will help. How I look wearing something is undeniably important. But there is another, even more important layer added to wearable computing, and that is how well it fits in our life. What does it add we find indispensable after we use it?

A watch is dispensable. A phone on your wrist, or even a “smart iPod like device” on your wrist that counts your steps, is equally dispensable.

A device that integrates with a home device, with your iCloud account, joining data to enable platforms such as a unified, life long health-tracking system that ties in with insurances and the medical system—this comes closer to a future ecosystem that at some point could become indispensable. And that’s just one side of it.

The devices Apple will introduce today, whatever they may be, a new TV experience or a foray into wearable computing—they will define new categories in themselves. They will take what we thought something is (like an iWatch) and turn it into something entirely new. Don’t underestimate Apple’s strength when it comes to endure extremely long research and development processes, to come out with something that is really different.

(Image: Apple website screenshot)

Squarefish

Squarefish

Very ugly photos on the homepage (too much processing and JPEG fragments), but a really clever logo design. It is interesting to see a Swiss company entering the mail-order seafood market, considering it is 1197 miles away from the Aegean sea, the source of its products.