There’s lots of talk about how to launch products in the blogosphere, particularly much conversation around 37Signals book, Getting Real which details how they do it. It’s a damn fine read by the way, but there are definately other ways of doing a product launch.
The Web2.0 Hype Launch
I see several product launches a day, I’m a true technophile, and love to follow all the cool stuff (and all the shit stuff too) that people are trying to get out there into the ‘sphere. The “established” way runs something like this:
- Make a few hints
- Invite a few mavens into the fold
- Suck up to, or buy your way into “web2.0” sites hearts
- Launch invite only
- Pray that someone buys you before the app cripples under the weight of popularity
That’s a very generalistic list, but you get the point right?
The Community First Approach
The way we launched both Performancing Firefox and Performancing Metrics was somewhat of the reverse. We knew who are target audience was, so we decided that rather than risk not being able to buy or slime our way into the right crowd to get coverage of our launches, we’d develop our own crowd, first.
It runs something like this:
- Pinpoint the audience and start writing for them
- Do all the normal things you do to promote a blog, including a little strategic advertising to kick start if you can.
- Develop the community, put them above all else.
- Invite key members of the community into alpha’s, beta’s etc. Develop a sense of ownership before launching
- Launch and let your community be the first evangelists for your product
Again it’s generalistic, and much detail and caveats are missing, but it’s an approach that’s working well for us.
It’s not without it’s downsides. What if you spend all that time and money developing a community only to find that you’ve called it wrong, and they hate your products? How about time frame? It’s certainly slower this way…. One major caveat is that aswell as all of the above, we still send out traditional press releases, and email folks outside of the community we think our stuff will be interesting too.
But for me, and for Performancing in general, the community has always been central to success. And you know what? I don’t want to have to suck up to various folks in the web2.0 crowd to get them to write about our products. Fuck ’em. I’d rather stick my head in a bucket of cold sick.
I’m much more comfortable letting the people that help us shape our products, help us get the word out. Launching to a ready made audience that YOU identified, and that YOU targeted in every blog post that you wrote, is a lot nicer than spinning the wheel and hoping that a few folks like you enough to help you build the buzz you need to gain critical mass.
So far so good…
heh, it’s just like anything else Raj, there’s no “using”, its just a way to get the attention of those that matter to you *before* you launch, not after.
It’s certainly not a new idea. Just a little different in the currently overhyped, sickeningly nepetistic web2.0 environment many are convinced they need be part of right now..
I feel so used, Nick ;>
But seriously, a beautiful strategy. Bootstrappers like myself could never pull such a thing off. You need capital to start with. But maybe, one day, when I’m making a trillion dollars a month from AdSense, I’ll try it.
Can’t see the downside of this:
What if you spend all that time and money developing a community only to find that you’ve called it wrong, and they hate your products?
If the community hate your product then is doesn’t matter if you’ve greased every A-lister’s palm, they’ll still hate it when they eventually use it.
Too many people focus promotion on the blog A-list rather than on the real users of their product, looking for the halo effect from celebrity.
Focus on who will buy your product or use your service, make sure they love it and they will do all your promotion for you.
Nick, the way you have developed Perfomancing is how I am trying to develop my product e.g. build an audience first, then the product comes later. I can’t divulge much more about my product as the 1st stage still hasn’t been hit yet, but within my niche I’m going against the grain, as opposed to my competitors who are still stuck in 1999.
The trick, of course, is to develop something that will turn my competitors into customers 😉
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: it’s better to shoot your arrow first then draw the target around it, rather than shooting for the same target as every other mofo out there. I’ve managed that in music, will manage it again in my new field.
It’s disappointing that some of the Ruby merchants I’ve approached are now slapping a few zeros onto development costs for something that purportedly takes a fraction of time to develop compared to php etc. Greedy [email protected]!
Obviously you would expect me to agree but here is my take on it.
You can release with a big bang and hope lots of people like it. Seems to work. Kinda.
What I would rather do is find out what people want and need, try the best you can to meet those needs and release something that you think is pretty much right. Then talk to the people who are going to use it and ask them to try it. Act on feedback, take comments seriously, help people. For all the web2.0 claptrap I think that is actually why things like BaseCamp are a success. Not because they were built using Ruby by groovy web2.0 fellas, heh.
I believe the days of “company vs consumer” are over. There isn’t some distant, abstract entity called a “market” you can hold at arms length and shout at via broadcast media and PR manipulation.
They are real people with real needs and voices. They will get heard anyway so why not start with listening?