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December 18, 2007

Do Your Customers Know You Exist?

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Check out the pretty pie chart and you tell me if you were surprised.

That’s right, a recent NPD Group study found that 73 percent of the 600 Internet users surveyed had no idea that Google Docs or other Web-based office suites even existed.

See, that’s not good. Because, as really smart and experienced marketers will tell you, in order for people to buy or use your product, they need to actually know about it. I know; it’s a complicated principle but try hard to wrap your head around it if you can.

I’ve read some commentary on the study and I’m hearing a lot about how Web-based office suites need to come with bar codes and be packaged better if anyone is going to give Microsoft a run for their money. That’s all well and good, but truthfully, I’m not at all interested in that. I was more intrigued by this from a brand perspective. I mean, how bad do you and your promotional abilities have to suck for 73 percent of users not even to have heard of you? Granted, the study was based off a very small sampling of Web users and may not be 100 percent representative of the current market, but still. That’s an alarming number.

One of the reasons mainstream users don’t know about Google Docs is because Google hasn’t done much to promote it. They have a habit of throwing stuff out there to see if it sticks, and then if it shows signs of life, they’ll go back, clean it up and make a more public launch. If you’re Google, you can afford to do that. If you’re anyone other than Google, you can’t.

I think it’s important for businesses to realize that regardless of what product or service you’re trying to launch, it’s your audience who will decide whether or not it will be successful. You can give it all the bells and whistles and upgrades in the world. If it doesn’t meet their needs and get them excited, you’re not going to go anywhere. It’s your job as a marketer to get them excited. And I think that’s a process that starts long before the product is even released.

Research Your Audience: Your first step in all this is to research your audience. Know who they are, know what kinds of advertising they respond to, know where they hang out online, know what they’re doing offline, know what problems their facing. You should be able to identify how the product will work inside your brand and in your community.

Use Email Newsletters To Build Buzz: Yes, it’s very 1990s, but it works. If you’re getting ready to launch a new product, make sure your audience knows about it. Once the product is in stable development and there’s little chance of the whole thing being scratched, start talking to your customers about it and get the buzz going. Don’t wait until launch and then spring it on them. The earlier you bring them into the development process, the more connected they’ll feel to the product and your company, and the stronger brand evangelist they’ll be. If you’re creating an email newsletter, you may also find it beneficial to create separate newsletters for different customer types, which can be grouped by demographics or purchasing authority. If you have a company blog, you’ll obviously also want to build buzz there.

Target The Loudmouths: Who are the people most vocal about your industry and company? Identify them and make sure they know what you’re working on. This group doesn’t necessarily have to be the early adopters or biggest bloggers. If your company has a strong community around it, reach out to the community leaders. Advanced publicity and promotion can be the deciding factor in whether your product succeeds or fails.

Put Someone In Charge: If I’ve only learned one thing in my short working life, it’s that a leaderless project will fail. Someone has to be in charge of keeping everyone on task and getting things off the To-Do list and onto the Completed list. Dedicate a Web promotions person or team to reach out and get the conversation going. Sometimes this one little thing makes all the difference in the world.

Post Launch Email: You’ve researched, you’ve launched, you’ve promoted-but did anyone notice? Send a post-launch email to help gauge customer feedback and reactions. It will give you the opportunity to see what worked and what didn’t, while also allowing you to put out fires that may have sparked.
Unless you’re Google, you can’t afford to launch products and then realize after the fact that no one noticed. Be pro-active enough to take to take the steps necessary to get your product in your customers eyesight from the very beginning and keep it there.

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One response to “Do Your Customers Know You Exist?”

  1. Dj Bill Lovelace writes:

    Thank you for the infomation. Keep up the great work!

    Bill Lovelace



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