Your Questions: Tough-love App Marketing Edition

Jon Trelfa writes in with a nerd dilemma as old as time. Or at least as old as the goddamn “web 2.0″ moniker.

I’ve tried the “if you build it, they will come” model and thus far my great-idea has been sitting with zero hits. I’ve done the SEO stuff to increase ranking as well; still nothing.

I think there’s more to launching a site than just building and SEO – what else would you recommend to help “launch” a website/product more quickly?

Jon, first, kudos for writing to me for help instead of deciding that it’s the world’s fault.

(Rant mode dialed to 11: That may sound harsh, or at least like an exaggeration, but it’s not. I’ve met far too many people in my life who’ve had their own “great ideas” that couldn’t get customers, and instead of chalking it up to inexperience on their part, they blame stupidity on the part of the potential customers. This is a non-starter.)

You’re right, there’s a lot more to launching a site than building and SEO.

And normally, I’d advise you to do all that other stuff before building. But hey, no use crying over spilt code.

Marketing triage… STAT!

First off, if you’ve got no traffic, how do you know there’s a market?

Who wants it? Who will use it? Do they know they need something? Do they even know they’ve got a problem?

To really build a successful project on a shoestring, you’ve got to know your market: who they are, where they congregate, what they believe, how they view their work, the problems they think they face, the problems they face but aren’t aware of, what they wear, eat, when they sleep… ok, maybe not those last few.

It helps if you are your target market. (At the outset, at least.)

It’s late, it’s late, it’s late… but not too late

Now, you’ve already built the thing (whatever it is), and so you don’t have the opportunity to study your market and tailor something to what you find.

Or maybe you already have—you didn’t give me a lot of background info to go on—and are stuck at the next impasse.

In any event, there may be hope yet.

Worst case, this will be a great learning experience for you.

The evils of SEO

SEO, for those of you who may not be familiar, means Search Engine Optimization, which means improving your search engine ranking for relevant keywords (or at least the ones you want).

It’s not all sleazy, believe it or not.

But unless you’re already an expert and just do it casually, as you go, natural as breathing, it is a last step.

You have no traffic. This says to me you don’t have ties to the community of people who need your product, and that means that doing SEO is like closing the barndoor as you watch all your horses ride off into the distant sunset—alone.

SEO is, at this point, a major distraction for you.

You need to know who your customers are, and why they should care about you.

You need to meet them where they live.

You need to meet them. Get to know them. And help them get to know you, not as a sleazy marketer who just sees them as an easy mark, but someone who is really interested and involved.

You listen, you wait, and then you maybe slip that you’ve got this thing.

And you have to give them something, preferably for free—especially something that helps them learn or be more effective. Write a blog. Do a cheat sheet. Have a free demo or a course. Whatever fits.

If your product is remarkable, and it’s well-explained, and it solves a real problem, you’ll be on your way.

Who? What? When? Where? How? WHY, for the love of god?

But here’s the key problem nerds with products face: they think that once a person with a problem sees their solution, the lights will go on and DING DING DING! they’ll want it. But not so.

Most people do not look at a tool and suddenly imagine all the possibilities. They are too busy to turn their full attention to your product and to figure out for you how it fits into their lives… maybe.

That’s why we all have to be marketers.

Mar.. mar… marketing?

Of course, marketing isn’t just selling a product that already exists, it’s designing the product from the ground up to be incredible, useful and desirable.

A very smart lady once wrote that you should spend (AT LEAST) 4 times the amount of time and effort marketing a thing as it took to build it.

Yes, that’s a 4:1 ratio.

No, you cannot get around it.

Read this stuff, & hop to it

First, I wrote an article on pimpin that you might find useful.

Secondly, you should read everything that Naomi at Ittybiz writes. If you like me, you will like her. Buy her Marketing 101 course. If it’s half as good as her blog, it’s worth every penny. (Here are a couple places to start.)

Thirdly, read everything that Kathy Sierra writes about the benefits of teaching people and helping them kick ass, not telling them about how kickass you (or your product) are (is).

Fourthly, you need to read more traditional marketing books like Made to Stick. And everything Seth Godin writes. You can start with his blog, but I highly recommend Purple Cow and All Marketers Are Liars and Free Prize Inside, as well. They are fantastic.

But you can’t just read. You’ve got to act. It doesn’t matter where you start, because nothing we ever do can ever be perfect. But you have to act.

Good enough for ya?

I could write a whole book on this topic—and maybe some day I will—but since this answer’s already edging on 2-3 pages, I’m gonna stop now.

Jon, best of luck.

One Comment

  1. Chris says:

    Excellent read – thank you so much!

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