HomeAbout MeJoinContactTwitterFacebook

Monday, October 24, 2016

You Can't Sell a Product

You have developed the best product in the world. You can't believe your own brilliance at its invention. And yet, you can't sell it. In your opinion, it is the most brilliant invention this century. So why can you not start shipping warehouses full of it right away?

You may have the best product ever, but you will never sell a product. Instead, you have to sell a solution to a problem. The greatest solution in the world has no market if no one has the problem it solves. So how do you match your wonderful product with the right problem?

It Starts Before You Do

Before you even have a product, you need to start understanding your market. Ask questions. Get to know your audience before you spend time developing a product. Why waste six months developing something that nobody wants? Start in with your research early. Look at things similar to what you want to make and understand the gaps and limitations that your new product can fill. Then ask people whether or not they actually need you to fill those gaps.

Amazon (and its reviews) can be a great starting point for your research. You can discover a wide world of products and whether or not similar competition to yours exists, as well as how well it performs. The reviews provide insight into potential customer challenges and desires that you can look to address with your product or service.

Don't Overbuild

Another problem that can plague product developers is overbuilding the product, spending too much time developing the product, often to create excess feature functionality that nobody actually needs. Here we can steal a process from agile software development - the concept of a "minimum viable product." The idea is to define the least possible functionality required to create the marketable product.

For sure, some of your feature ideas may be wonderful, but they can't delay the release of the product. Instead of spending excessive time developing additional features, focus initially on getting out a good product that solves a customer problem, and make sure that it has a market. Then, you can work through your backlog of features, making sure that each of the features has a market, much in the same way that you discovered the need for your product - research and interrogation. Thus, you can avoid wasting time developing unnecessary features and create only what your customers want.

Never Finish, But Get to Done

No product ever reaches perfection. Once you have launched your minimum product, you likely will have many more features to add to continue to build it out for your customers. This phase is important and can solidify the product greatly, as you have actual users and customers of the product that can provide you the most valuable feedback in terms of enhancements and needs. But the enhancement cycle can become an endless loop.

To prevent this infinite chase for perfection, set a concrete goal that means you are "done." Maybe you want to sell a certain number of items or hit a specific number of customers. Maybe you need to limit the total time you spend on a single product. Whatever the test, create and write down some outer bound on product development for a given initiative. Once you reach it, force yourself to move along. Work on something else and get that to done as soon as you can. Certainly, you can keep enhancing the previous product, but you need to move your focus towards creation rather than enhancement.


Instead of developing products, you evolve them. They start by identifying an actual need that exists in the marketplace and matching your product to fill that need and close gaps. Then, you need to determine the minimum product you need to be able to get sales started and begin to receive feedback from your customers. From there, you have the ability to enhance and modify the product to move forward, though you should define your criteria for being done and prepare to move on towards your next product. Lather, rinse, repeat and build a portfolio.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pokemon Go's Lessons for Marketing

You probably know someone that plays Pokemon Go. Over the summer, the game became somewhat of a pop phenomenon, and it has been downloaded over 100 million times according to Engadget. The game hit the market as many pundits had begun predicting the "death of the app."  This summer's biggest hit game proved them wrong, though.  The app isn't dead.

In addition to the implications on mobile app developers and digital strategy in general, the app has some interesting messages for marketers and digital marketers as well. Through an ever-growing combination of tactics and techniques, Niantic (the company that makes Pokemon Go) has guaranteed themselves a good connection with the audience for some time.

Free Hooks

Pokemon Go costs nothing to download. You can go get your phone right now and download it for free. I've talked before about using freebies to lure in your customers (Scott Sigler does it), but in this instance, there aren't required upgrades. You can actually download the game for free and play the full-featured version.

If you are developing a marketing strategy for your business, you might not be able to give away the entire product. But you might be able to look at what you could give away to hook potential customers before you ask them for their money. Niantic has proven that model out among others, and it is worth investigating how that might apply across various business models with a variety of products.

Existing Fans

Pokemon did not magically appear this summer. In fact, the franchise was created back in 1995. So over the past 21 years, it has developed quite a varied following, finding some adults in 2016 nostalgic for the cartoon they watched as kids and kids in 2016 just as excited as ever. This large existing fan base provided a huge opportunity for the marketing of Pokemon Go, as every one of these individuals with a phone could potentially be a customer.

Businesses with existing bases of support often overlook those loyalists in favor of obtaining new customers, but with the right pitch, you can capitalize on the faithfulness of your true followers and sell to them again and again. The opportunity has to be new and different enough that it provides a new value to them and does not ask for more money for the same product they have already purchased, but repeat sales can catalyze huge growth in your business.

Co-Promotion Opportunities

Pokemon Go's placement of "Pokestops," or places where players can recharge and collect game items, created lots of location-specific tie-ins between the real world and the game. This sparked businesses with the good fortune of being selected as a virtual game destination to capitalize and offer specials for players of the game, as well as host special events centered around the game. This marketing formed a win-win between the local business and the game itself, as more people were encouraged to play and check it out.

As you look to launch new products or even market your existing products, consider how you might be able to create cooperative opportunities with other businesses to cross-promote products in a genuine and mutually beneficial way. Are there products that complement yours? Could you tie discounts together with others when purchased as a set? Figure out how you can take advantage of another business's client base and share truly good offers with your own, and you can expand the reach of any of your marketing efforts.

The Right Price Point

Pokemon Go is free. But in the game, players can get some items faster by buying them in bulk instead of visiting hundreds of Pokestops. The game makes it easy (and inexpensive) to purchase a small increment of game coins, starting at $0.99 and ranging up to $99.99. While some might want to continue to play the game for free, most would look at a few dollars as a relatively low investment to enhance the game. The low price point allows those same players to make the low dollar purchases time and again, creating an ongoing revenue stream for the product as opposed to a one-time buy.

This strategy can be used to set price points on a variety of other products, particularly if there is a way to generate smaller, repeat purchases as opposed to a single large buy. This can generate a more constant revenue stream with better longevity than a few instant-hit purchases. In addition to just price, setting up products either in graduating packages or in smaller pieces allows lower commitment to entry, gaining new customers, as well as repeat business to create that ongoing stream of revenue.

The Magic of Exclusivity

Pokemon Go's premise, if you don't know, is to allow players to collect various Pokemon (little monster creatures) and then use them to battle other players. Anyone can download the game and catch various Pokemon, but the game creators limited some creatures to certain geographical areas. In addition, they made certain creatures appear less frequently than others. The result? Players who have rare Pokemon get a feeling of exclusivity, like they are part of an elite club. Others want to join that club, so the only answer to them is to keep playing.

The lesson for other businesses? Create a VIP element to your product or service. Create the ability for your customers to get to some elite status through repeat purchases or continued contacts throughout your sales funnel. Everyone should be able to attain VIP status, but it should require substantial commitment to your business in some way (think airline mileage programs).

The Importance of Fun

Finally, Pokemon Go is fun. Fun for adults. Fun for kids. Fun for just about anyone in between. And deceptively simple. Niantic did a great job of capturing the spirit of the franchise and create a fun game that people want to be a part of.

In your business, look for the enjoyment in what you do. Create a fun environment for your employees, coworkers, and especially customers. When you enjoy work, others will notice.


Through a combination of tactics, Pokemon Go spent the summer becoming a viral worldwide phenomenon. Your marketing efforts can borrow or steal elements of their success, whether combining low price points on distributed products, creating elite status for your customers, leveraging an embedded fan base, or seeking cooperative partnerships to cross-market products.

The biggest key of all? Don't rely on a single marketing method. One size does not fit all when it comes to marketing. Creative combinations of various methods create a stickier product and better environment for creating ongoing revenue streams.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Keeping Focus

The last few weeks have been full of a good bit of activity for me. I've started planning a site redesign which will make the pages here more responsive, especially on mobile and tablets (though that might be a 2017 thing). I've outlined a book that I will start writing shortly. I collaborated on a case study paper that hopefully will be out soon. I sketched out topic ideas for the blog for the next month. I took a certification class to get some new initials to drop on the LinkedIn profile.

You know what I didn't do? Post much to the blog.

I could say that all of these other activities got in the way. I could say I was not inspired or didn't have time. But the truth is, I was able to watch several old episodes of Arrested Development and Key & Peele (thanks, Hulu, Netflix, etc.) and catch the premiere of Westworld on HBONow. So there evidently was some time in there. At least three hours.

And, like I said, I have three or four topics picked out already, so the whole "inspiration" thing really isn't an excuse either.

The truth? Lack of focus and prioritization.

Writing a decent blog post can take a couple of hours. A not-as-good blog post can take thirty minutes. Both of those could have fit in the schedule. The reason they did not is simple. I did not focus and make that a priority. So what could I have done?

Determine What's Important

In order for something to be a priority for you, you have to actually believe that it is important. I've previously written about "voting with your feet" and how what you do actually shows what you think about the importance of competing interests. But how do you determine what is really important?

First you figure out what is the impact of not taking action and the cost of delay of that action. For me, not posting on the blog means that the content starts to get dated and the more I delay, the longer the gap comes between posts. I may shuffle it up at some point, but for now I had been trying to drop a post weekly. Delay of more than a week means that regularity falls down. Also, while I might be writing other things, the blog keeps me in a habit of writing, which keeps the juices flowing. Again, if I am cranking 1000 words a day on a book, I might be in that habit, but the blog can even help to break up that single topic focus and give me a little breather.

So to me, the blog posts are important.

What's important for you? What activities should you do that provide the most impact? And is there any sort of cost (real, opportunity, or otherwise) if you delay? I'm not going to say that urgency necessarily generates priority, but if the impact of the action is reduced by delay or the benefits start to disappear, you might look at that first.

Focus Only On That Action

Once your priority item has been determined, go do that. I decided this morning that I had to get this blog post done (and not miss another week), so in my first free minute, I sat down and started writing.

Do just that.

Once you have a free second (and again, you are showing what is really your priority by doing other things instead of creating a free second to do the "important" thing), do the task. Get it done. Eat the Frog and all of that (though if every important thing is a frog to be eaten, you might want to go back to prioritizing and make sure you enjoy some of the things you do with your life - or try my take on Eating the Hot Pepper).

I won't kid you. This is actually the hard part. You know why? Because you need self-discipline to actually get yourself up out of the chair and go do whatever it is you need to be doing. Action is hard. Passivity is easy.

Pretending that you are a victim of the circumstances ("Time got away from me" or "I just had so much on my plate I couldn't get anything done") just lets you hide your inaction. So stop whining and go do something about it.

Did you do it yet? I am OK if you pause reading right now and go actually do the thing. Then come back once you are done. I'll wait.

How about now? Are you done? Great. Now what's next on that list?

Set A Deadline

This works for thousands of folks every year for NaNoWriMo and other month-long challenges. The premise is simple. Set yourself a deadline and challenge yourself to make it. Deadlines are powerful.

Douglas Adams had a saying that I find humorous, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." It's funny, but not how you get things done. 

That quote does illustrate one point, though, and that is to make those deadlines realistic. Will you write a novel in a day? Probably not. A month? Maybe. If you commit to it.

Make sure that you give yourself reasonable time to accomplish the task. Once upon a time, I tried writing daily blog posts. It was overkill and led to a ton of really thin and not-fully-baked ideas. Once a week ends up being enough time to come up with a good idea, write it, edit it, and get it out. Sometimes. In an event, it is a reasonable amount of time. Do the same with your deadlines.

Don't Defeat Yourself

The last thing I'll talk about here is this: don't kick yourself for being down. I missed a week's blog post. You know when? September 26. But once I missed it, it became just a little bit easier and less guilt-forming to miss that next post. Don't do that.

Don't use your inaction of the past to justify inaction of the future. We tend to create these internal monologues that start telling us that since nothing catastrophic happened by delaying just a little bit, then procrastinating a bit more won't hurt.

Inaction does not solve problems. Only action can solve your problems.

So don't let your little voice in your head trick you to believing that you can wait just a little longer because you have already waited. You will spend more time arguing with yourself over whether or not you should do something sometimes than you would actually completing the job. Tell the little procrastinating voice to shut up for a few minutes, then go do the task while it stays silent. Take away the topic of discussion.


Staying focused on your priorities requires effort. Nothing that you want to do really comes without work.

When we make a mistake or lose focus, all too often we can get sucked into this little inner discussion that justifies procrastinating just a little bit more. To succeed, you need to shut that down.

Set your priorities. Put a due date on it. Then go do it before you do anything else.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So there. I wrote a blog post. I probably should get started on next week's. What are you going to do right now?

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Myth of Being Busy

So I have been reading Drive by Daniel Pink over the past week (fair warning - the Amazon links are affiliate links if you buy it, it will add a few cents to my account). While the book focuses mostly on extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation and what really drives us, I stumbled across a passage talking about the way we work and it made me think about how we're really busy nowadays.

For years, when people asked, "How are you doing?" the stock answer "Fine" would come back as a high percentage response. Lately, though, people tend to answer "Busy" instead almost as often. Articles have examined whether or not this phenomenon is good or bad, with our collective thinking that being busy says something positive about a person.

But I started thinking, when you say you have been busy, it can definitely convey some extremely negative characteristics as well. So be careful who your audience is. They might just be busier than you. Or they might ascribe one of these less-than-flattering traits to your "busy" response.

Busy Means Inefficient

I knew a guy several years ago who was always "busy" and proud of it, but when pressed on all of the things that he was working on, I discovered he was just very inefficient. Tasks that would take his peers hours to complete would take him almost a full day, and a week's worth of work might occupy his time for close to two.

This all created a tremendous sense of being busy to him, but it really meant his supervisor had assigned him equal work to his peers, and he was just unable to complete it in an appropriate window of time.

Busy Means Disorganized

Running hand in hand with inefficiency, disorganization also causes someone to feel busy. Not having a system to keep track of the things that you need to do can make every little task seem overwhelming. 

You can't keep work items in context with your total to do list or set priorities appropriately when you don't have them organized.

Disorganization also means that you don't know what to do with new requests, which can lead to the next perception.

Busy Means Overcommitted

You have an inability to say "no" to new requests, even though your plate is entirely full. That may be what you are conveying when you say you are busy. If you had great control and understanding of projects you have already pledged to complete and what level of effort you would spend on a new project, you could easily keep yourself from getting overcommitted.

Want to avoid this perception? Make sure you know how to say "no" when faced with a task that will overcommit your time. Then use that skill to avoid getting too busy.

Busy Means Lazy

You might be surprised, but your busyness could be perceived as laziness. If the person you are talking to feels like she is busier than you are, then your claim to be "busy" may give her the impression that you are lazy. Obviously, in her mind, if you are "busy" but you aren't as busy as she is, then you must be a slacker, complaining about your light workload.

Busy Means You Lie

Lack of communication could have your busy state perceived as a lie by others, meant to make yourself look more important. If you claim to be busy, but nobody ever sees what you are actually working on or completing, others may think you are lying about how much work you do.

In a world where some value being busy as a badge of honor and importance, claiming to be busy without any tangible proof looks like bragging, when you may or may not even have anything to brag about. 


If you typically answer "How are you?" with "Busy," perhaps you should rethink that stock answer. If you really are not that busy, don't act like you are. If you are busy, though, perhaps you could think about the root cause of why you let yourself get so swamped.

Then again, you could always think about how you actually are doing and answer appropriately. Communicate instead of reacting automatically to others, and you might manage to build a layer of trust between you and your coworkers.