Startups: 10 Reasons Customers Won’t Switch to Your Product

It’s easy for startups to fall into the trap of thinking that customers will switch when given the option of a clearly superior product.  The problem is that switching is often much harder for customers than startups realize.  Having a clearly better product is only one piece of the puzzle. Here are 10 reasons customers won’t switch to your product even though they understand the value of it: Migrating from the existing product is too expensive/time consuming – I put off migrating this blog from Typepad to WordPress for 6 months because I didn’t have the time to do it.  How much better would a photo sharing site have to be to get you to move your stuff off of flickr? I spent years marketing databases and data integration products.  If you want to give an enterprise IT guy a heart attack, tell him you need to migrate a gig or so of data from one platform to another. Skills – It took your potential customers a while to learn to use the stuff they have today and even if your product is much easier to use, the time investment required (even it it’s just their guess of what it might take) to learn it might be enough to turn customers off. Enterprise lock-in – Startups underestimate the power of an enterprise license agreement to stop even a small department from choosing to use a different tool from the corporate standard.  You may be able to fly in under the radar of a CIO that’s standardized on Microsoft or Oracle or IBM in a small department but the moment...

Influencers Suck

This post is a cautionary tale for marketers thinking about running influencer campaigns.  It’s harder than it looks. Virgin America and Klout did an influencer campaign in Toronto to promote Virgin’s new Toronto to San Francisco route.  Klout is a tool that measures how “influential” a person is on Twitter.  Influential Twitter users were offered a free flight to California and invited to a party to be attended by Sir Richard Branson himself.  I was selected as one of those lucky folks.  At first I thought the campaign was a stroke of marketing genius.  Do something really remarkable for a bunch of noisy people and you can pretty much guarantee that we will tell everybody we know about it.  Oh, if only life were so simple.  That’s the dirty secret of marketing – ideas are easy, it’s the execution that’s tricky. As you might expect, folks not offered free flights complained about the selection criteria, the tool, and that Klout was “buying Tweets”.  More invitations were issued and word spread that complaining about not getting invited might actually get you invited, spawning an additional wave of complaining.  Influencers who did not register for the party within a 1.5 hour window were un-invited.  More complaining. At the pre-party meetup, Klout employees didn’t seem to know any of the chosen influencers and a distracted Klout employee walked away from guests mid-conversation.  Complaining.  The launch party invite email had errors.  Complaining.  Influencers were not VIP enough to enter the VIP area at the party.  Complaining.  Each misstep was very minor but taken together, a campaign that had started out with great buzz...

Selling vs. Buying: A Marketing Wake-up Call

Last week I posted a New Marketing Framework which sparked a set of interesting conversations about how marketing is changing.  I believe that marketing needs to shift its focus from selling to helping customers buy and product marketing has a big role to play. The categories of marketing we’ve used traditionally have been very focused on “selling”.  The big 4 marketing groups-Branding, PR, Communications, and Product Marketing, reflect this inside-out, sales-oriented thinking.  Even at startups traditionally “marketing” has meant communications.  PR was outsourced to an agency and product marketing was assigned to product management where it was generally ignored.  Helping customers buy has not been a major focus for marketing. The world has changed a lot, particularly around how customers discover and evaluate products.  The result is a big shift in control of the sales process toward prospects and away from companies. For this reason marketing now has to shift from selling toward helping customers buy.  Here’s what’s changed: We don’t believe advertising (in fact we don’t believe much of anything companies tell us)- There was a time when if a company said they the best at something, we believed it.  But those claims weren’t always true so now we don’t believe what companies tell us anymore. Customers can broadcast to the world – They might be happy, they might be upset but they now have a way to broadcast their stories without going through any media gate-keepers. Prospects can easily communicate with each other – Before, during and after the sales cycle, potential customers can ask each other questions and learn about your offerings and your company in...

A New Marketing Framework

***Please note: I’ve released a new version of this framework: A Startup Marketing Framework V2*** Most product managers and product marketers I know, including myself have studied the Pragmatic Marketing Framework.  I first did over 10 years ago and it continues to be a very useful tool for explaining what product management is all about.  As I’ve been working with companies on product marketing plans however, I’ve wondered what something similar to the Pragmatic Framework would look like from a purely marketing point of view.  I took what I’ve done with companies and what I’ve seen smart product marketers around me doing and constructed a marketing framework that looks like the diagram below.  Also, you lean startup types should note that this is applicable for companies that are beyond product/market fit.  Feedback is appreciated! Segments – Based on your interaction with early customers, these are the segments that have the most affinity for your offering and are the target of your marketing efforts.  These need to be well defined and very specific and includes personas. Market Needs – From your experience with early customers you will be able to articulate the unmet needs in the market related to your segments (and beyond). Key Points of Value – These are the most critical key differentiated points of value that your product offers.  This is not a long list of features but rather small number of key attributes that customers in your segment love about your product. Competitive Alternatives – These are the alternatives ways that customers can attempt to service their needs.  These may be competitive offerings, features or pieces...
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