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Summary:

So now you’ve racked your brain to divine the Product; sold your soul to fund It; crushed yourself and staff to develop It. Well, now you’ve got to sell It. Sales may not be the most taxing of your grey matter as a founder, but no […]

So now you’ve racked your brain to divine the Product; sold your soul to fund It; crushed yourself and staff to develop It. Well, now you’ve got to sell It.

Sales may not be the most taxing of your grey matter as a founder, but no one said it would be the easiest, either. Trouble is, it also matters more than most anything else.

As angel investor Constantin Delivanis said to me just the other day: “You can have the best product in the world, but if it doesn’t get traction in the market, what’s the point?” In his terrific Guide to Startups, Part 4 founder Marc Andreessen profiles this common startup-Achilles heel:

Here’s the classic scenario: the world’s best software application for an operating system nobody runs. Just ask any software developer targeting the market for BeOS, Amiga, OS/2, or NeXT applications what the difference is between great product and big market.

Nothing matters more than the market, except market adoption. Adoption requires marketing. Lucky for you, marketing guru Seth Godin has a new tip for you: market to stress.

Now, as any ad wiz or salesman will tell you: marketing is partially a dark art. Of course your product must work. Clever slogans and sell-throughs help. But consumers are fickle. Businesses can be fickle, too. Sometimes it’s not about your mouse trap. (Just ask executives at Toshiba.)

So what is the difference between a product that “gains traction” and one that doesn’t? Of course, there are a few answers to this question (e.g. partners matter. Again, ask Toshiba).

But I once heard investor Roger McNamee tell a conference crowd that the “defining factor” between consumer devices that win and devices that lose, “is whether using them saves me time… it’s my most precious commodity.”

Think this over, it makes a lot of sense. First it was email. Then the Blackberry. Now Twitter. They all have nice features, but in the end they all save you time in your communication. In search of a market, MacNamee urged entrepreneurs to develop and market their products to users’ ultimate currency: time.

Seven years later, Godin offers his updated version of our “defining factor”, and today it’s stress.

Hardly uplifting, but I think this idea is also worth some attention. In his Feb 16th post Godin writes about how people are “stressed out all the time…We spend money to avoid it and we spend money to embrace it. And we almost never talk about it.” There is a business opportunity in this, he implies. Or, at least, a strategic imperative:

That thing you’re marketing… Does it add to stress or take it away? Is it stressful to talk about it? Buy it? Get rid of it? Is it more stressful not to buy it than it is to go ahead and buy one? Does it promise to reduce stress, but end up causing more?
Worth thinking about.

Indeed. If you’re selling a product that can reduce my stress, I guarantee you, I’ll buy it.

Do you have a product that makes customers’ livers easier and less stressful? Tell us about it.

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  1. There’s certainly a lot of food for thought in this post. My company, PlanetEye, is an online travel guide that will launch in beta fairly soon. The question we’re trying to address from a marketing and feature perspective is what problems we’re trying to solve…or, as you, suggest, how can we make things less stressful for the traveler.

    Mark

  2. JohnofScribbleSheet Friday, February 22, 2008

    I think its better to think in terms of pain relief than stress relief. But then in the west, how many pains do we really have?

  3. I like it! Reminds me of the selling feature of the the book, Getting Things Done. Or the vacation I just canceled…

  4. The problem is that customers are often too stressed and pressed for time to even evaluate a possible solution to their problem. Our service team automation product (www.bluefolder.com) is a web app for managing field service businesses. Usually we’re talking to the business owner and he/she is not only stressed about their own time but the time of his/her entire service team. We’re always looking for more ways to solve the business owners stress related to the core questions they have about how their business is doing.

    Trying to articulate the potential time savings in a tangible way that customers understand and, more importantly, believe can be challenging. If you can do it, chances are you’ll have a new customer as a result.

  5. Jason Cianchette Friday, February 22, 2008

    I agree if you are making products for busy professionals. Some segments of the marketplace like teenagers and under employed service workers are more interested in products that kill time not save it. See the popularity of myspace or reality TV.

  6. Tim O’Reilly Friday, February 22, 2008

    I’m on the board of Wesabe, a collective intelligence based personal finance application. The founders are laser-focused on this idea, that the application should be something that helps people to reduce their stress about finances. It also ties to Kathy Sierra’s idea that what make products tick when they give people “I rule” moments. (She actually looks at the text of her reviews on Amazon to see whether or not people talk more about themselves and their own success than they do about the book or its author.)

    In short, I think you’re onto something here, Seth.

  7. Yes I have. Check ScholarsCamp at http://scholarscamp.com. this is the first scholarships social bookmarking. Imagine digg or delicious that do specific things on scholarships only. But probably that’s not the power of a product just like you tell me about up there.

    The power lies within our feature called BlackHole. with this feature, our system will collect and show you all scholarships informations that suit with your data. So if you are a computer science student, your BlackHole will contain scholarships on this major too. How about other majors. Don’t worry, we provide a lot there.

    Fortunately, ScholarsCamp doesn’t stop there since The BlackHole 2u will send you an email that list all the scholarships information that fit on you.

    So, Carleen, I (hei, i’m the co-founder and CEO) invite you to join our site. Because this is a stress reducer. especially for scholarships hunters out there.

    And how much people pay for this service? No you will not need to pay anything here. it is absolutely free.

    Now I just have a fresh idea at this moment. ScholarsCamp; The stress reducer for scholarships hunters.

    Wow! Nice post for founder Carleen.

  8. Products I’ve bought that reduce stress: TiVo, Garmin Nuvi 350 (GPS Navigator), & Diesel jeans

  9. Mmmm. Products that save time and reduce stress?

    Apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but….

    Getting work reviewed and approved is just about the most stressful and time-consuming process in any creative endeavor. Ask a designer, web developer, photographer, copy writer or other creative professional.

    We built ProofHQ (www.proofhq.com) to take the time, effort and stress out of getting work reviewed and approved. Our aim is to make it simple to send proofs, review proofs and track proofs.

    We’re in Beta, so if you fancy a test drive… dive in.

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