No matter what you make—whether it's pizzas, mobile apps or custom-painted tennis shoes—the success of your product relies in part on marketing. (Even if your product development team thinks it has the coolest gadget in the world on its hands, it won't sell if no one knows about it.)
But marketing can be expensive and/or time consuming. One of the best ways I've found to minimize marketing costs while maximizing effectiveness is to build marketing into the product development process.
How do you go about it?
It may be easier than you think.
1. Get your teams talking.
The old-fashioned model for product development and marketing was to keep each department in its own silo. A product would be built, and the finished product would be handed over to marketing to promote.
As businesses have become more agile, though, business owners have learned that it can be far more effective to eliminate those silos and have development and marketing folks work together—from the very beginning.
Why is that so important? It can be an opportunity to bring different skillsets together and leverage them while the product is still malleable.
Take phone apps as an example.
When an app is being built, developers are making decisions that will ultimately affect marketing. Even things like color choices, font selection and names are decisions that may ultimately affect the way the app is marketed and received by consumers.
Why on Earth wouldn't you want people with marketing experience to weigh in?
Coordinating the efforts of your product development team and your marketing team can help make the product launch more successful.
2. Focus on the problem you're solving.
Innovation for the sake of innovation is cool, but it's not necessarily marketable. Products that are sticky—the ones people buy and use over and over again—are often ones that make a difference in customers' lives. Effective marketing helps makes the connection between a problem and its solution (read: your product) clear for potential customers.
How can this play out in real life? People who would purchase custom painted tennis shoes are looking to stand out from the crowd. That means an artist's website that's boring and conservative might not be the most appealing.
An edgy site that's full of personality, though, invites potential buyers to peruse your selection of funky shoes. Problem: Potential clients don't want boring shoes. Solution: Your product and its marketing are anything but boring!
Likewise, if you're developing a phone app that's meant to entertain children, you might opt for playful fonts and bright colors that will directly appeal to young users. Soothing background music and dreamy colors may not necessarily appeal to rambunctious children. Staying focused on the usefulness of your app and building in inherently appealing features can make your marketing seamless.
3. Get input from your customers at every single stage.
I think soliciting customer feedback early and often is helpful for two reasons. First, it helps the product development team build products better, taking into account future customers needs and wants. Secondly, from a marketing standpoint, you're forging connections with those future customers.
When people participate in surveys, beta testing and product trials, they may become invested in the success of that product. You're creating a product posse who may become early adopters and unofficial brand ambassadors.
4. Reward referrals.
The customers you work with during product development can be a powerful marketing force, especially if you make it worth their while.
Offering an incentive for referrals can help swell the ranks of your fans. People are more likely to trust their friends than a slick marketing campaign, and friend referrals can help spread the word to people who may be genuinely interested in what you're selling.
Whether you offer a free slice of pizza, free credits on your app or a discount on a pair of shoes, you're potentially generating goodwill and reaching new potential customers.
5. Make your product pleasant to buy.
Have you ever downloaded an app, become frustrated by the lengthy, complicated setup process and closed it with no intention of ever opening it again? We all have!
Ever wanted some delicious food that's been advertised and been put off by less-than-stellar customer service? You're not likely to go back, even if the pizza is good.
Or maybe you've tried to order something from a small artisanal business and found the website clunky and difficult to navigate. That artisan probably lost your business.
Product development should factor in the onboarding process and attempt to make it as pleasant (or at least painless) as possible for users. If you market a product that's simple to use, you've got a built-in point of difference that can help you stand out from your competition.
Bringing together product development and marketing can help boost your company's authenticity. When you've been focused on connecting with your customers and serving them as well as you possibly can, you can have an easier time marketing your business as genuinely better than the competition.
You don't need marketing gimmicks if you're authentically great.
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