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Summary:

The key to a market strategy is to balance how you will acquire users against how many resources you have at your disposal (money and time). In the case of a community site, you have two communities to attract – the users and the customers. Your […]

The key to a market strategy is to balance how you will acquire users against how many resources you have at your disposal (money and time). In the case of a community site, you have two communities to attract – the users and the customers. Your market strategy towards each is distinct.

The strategy answers how you will accumulate enough users in order that your customers will pay you money (assuming you want to make money at this). Without lots of users you can’t gather customers – put the majority of your effort on users.

To develop your strategy you have to put yourself in the shoe’s of the user. How do they like to find the information you offer? How do they get it today? Do they Google for it? Read magazines? Go to local wedding planners and related stores? Look in the newspaper? The answer to these questions will tell you where to find the users.

Once you know which of these routes will put you in front of the most users, then you can lay out a plan for attacking it. Be laser focused. Spend your limited resources on the target with the best return. Try it, learn, adjust. Don’t expect to nail it on the first try.

This applies to your product marketing strategy too. What features do the users most desire and use? Expect to be adjusting as your learn.

How much you should spend on branding, PR, SEO/SEM will fall from your plan for user accumulation. Go for the biggest bang for your buck. You do not need to address elements that don’t bring you users. Attempt to guesstimate the cost of gathering each user with these different elements – the cost per user is likely very wide. Some methods are also measurable and some are pay-n-pray. Measurable is always more desirable.

Branding becomes more important when you get larger and and want to build a value into your name. At an early stage, having a simple company name that’s easy to remember and a matching URL are probably the top items you need. A logo and set of colors are needed for your website, collateral and such.

Another dimension to think about is partnering. What other companies have access to these people? Could you work together? Good partners can accelerate your market growth and create barriers to competitors.

Viral can be great if there is a natural communication network within your users. Is there something that bonds these people together – do they communicate already? Does it transcend the one wedding event? Any natural communication among your users is a good place to look to leverage a viral model. If they are all islands today, or only use the site for one wedding, this can be hard to pull off.

  1. A nice writeup. Also is it helpful to look at local possible biz partners and ‘use’ them to market your services? What are the common pitfalls for such scenarios?}

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  2. Very good artile. Simple and straight to the point.}

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  3. Great points. I was given the advice once to think about ‘your product/service space’ as an ecosystem. People you think of as competitors could be possible partners and visa versa. Thinking about things in this way also helps you clarify what market you are really in or potentially should be in.}

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  4. Very practical advice – especially if you are either new to thinking strategically about marketing or rethinking current strategy.}

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  5. Makes a lot of sense. Agree that there are a lot of useful points regarding rethinking a current strategy.}

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  6. clevelexec Friday, May 4, 2007

    Great article! Helps to clarify a few strategy points that tend to get lost in the shuffle. Rethinking partner relationships and adding viral initiatives can expose a number of new ideas or approaches!}

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  7. howardkaplan Tuesday, May 8, 2007

    Jeff-

    You’re preaching to the choir on putting customer-centricity 1st and foremost in your marketing strategy. I recognize it’s far more difficult to do what you did (come out first, and write the article) than what I’m about to (stand beside it and criticize ;) but I have to mention- did you realize you described visitors/customers/people as USERS a total of 15 times? As a marketer, I’ll wonder aloud how many positive associations to being labeled a *user* exist.

    The difference between users (of say, a tool) and people (who makeup the audience, of say, a community) is one of motivation. You’ve no doubt heard the famous, people don’t buy drills, they need holes. Sure improving the feature set should increase market-share, per se, but in my experience is not usually following your advice of aiming to return the most bang for your buck.

    Again, I agree with a lot of your solid points- take a walk in the audience’s shoes, expect to keep learning about them (by measuring *what they do* not what *they say they will do*), and adjust your resources accordingly. I’ll simply add I believe there’s a more scientific way to do this than just the principles you’ve laid out… but perhaps that’s a subject for a different article. Thanks for taking the harder spot, and putting something out there for the community to comment on.}

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  8. I hate to nitpick, but the credibility of your opinion drops sharply for me when you don’t correctly spell the plural of “shoe” as “shoes”.}

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  9. Great job of reinforcing the importance of the user, the person whose problem you are solving.
    So many companies build products and services from inside their company board room, or the CEO’s wife having a great idea, and not focus on the market of user needs.
    If any of your readers would enjoy learning more about the power of being intentional about who you are, what you do , and whom you serve, my book is downloadable for free at http://www.outbsolutions.com called branding backwards.
    Mark

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