Part 1: Developing a new product? Forget marketing. Focus on concept
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

There is a tendency to approach “marketing” as a standalone creature. By doing so, you are removing the product from its original inception story

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

“We’re about to change the world with a new kind of consumer transactions.  People will exchange their products with other members of their community and maximize the value of their stuff.” This was how an entrepreneur began his pitch to me.

He pulled out his mobile phone and demonstrated how the app works. “Look,” he showed me, with a sparkle of enthusiasm in his eyes, “Just press ‘Adam’, for instance, to see what items he has to offer. In one swipe, you can see that he’s offering to sell or exchange his laptop computer. So next time you need a computer (and do I ever…) just go into the app and buy one or offer something in exchange, all in a click!”

“I mean, why should we finance the mega-corporations that make hundreds of percent in profits” he further enthused,” Better to buy from someone in the neighborhood than to make more money for a Chinese conglomerate”.

“Our vision is to empower the community and reduce over-consumerism,”he continues.

Fair enough.

I’m captivated – the vision is compelling, the entrepreneur and his team are charming.

“So why are you here?” I hesitantly inquire.

Looks like I hit a nerve. “Look”, avoiding my eyes he continues, “We’ve launched a beta version that pretty quickly hit 1,000 downloads. After two months we’re already at 3,000 downloads.But then, we got stuck. We just can’t seem to get to the number of downloads we were aiming for”.

“We need help with marketing”’ he concluded glumly.

Better marketing is probably not the answer

If this scene is somehow familiar, it’s because most of us have encountered this problem face to face too closely.  The rest of you failing to admit it, are in the same boat with the rest of us.

And as you probably already know, the solution to this predicament does not necessarily lay in Ad-Words-style advertising or in Facebook campaigns.

I’ll go as far as to say that the answer doesn’t lay in marketing at all.


This is because there is a tendency to approach “marketing” as a standalone creature. By doing that, you are removing the product from its original inception story; which means that the further you disconnect marketing from the core product story, the more money you would have to pour into advertising in order to convince users what you originally meant in the first place.

And here is further reasoning: there are a lot of Apps that help us be more efficient, save time or money, record our thoughts, provide us with ideas, or scream at us when we don’t go to the gym.  These take up half of the space on our app store.The other half is taken up by photo sharing apps. (Games have their own niche, sort of like a special stomach for desserts).

What this means is that maybe in 2012 we could launch marketing campaigns with FB ads and Google Adwards that could make financial sense.  But today, even Google is clogged with so manyAdwards that it screams enough; or in simple translation: I’m fully booked. Pay me more to advertise.

So what do we do now? Or better yet, what do we do now when we have no budget?

The answer: Concept Design.

That means that we go for a new layer of productsthat speaks in terms of a clear cut concept, or a story, if you will. Not another solution to another problem.

Reason #1 for saving on marketing costs: a concept with a story gets our attention quicker than hard sell

Newly launched successful mobile apps or digital products claim ownership over a certain concept.  This is because a “concept,” being different from a “solution” offers a new way of looking at the product.  It attaches a new level of consciousness, or a story to the product. And that’s why we are able to quickly grasp the product’s intention and therefore remember it.  If we simply offer yet another solution, our audience will just get bored and move on.

Take for instance the app du jour, HeyDay, with millions of downloads. Aside from a truly spectacularly designed interface (a must have) the App allows users to view theirdaily journal with photos taken throughout the day, when they are automatically stamped with the date and time.  The app does not offer anything outrageous that any Instagram-like apps cannot do momentarily. But, the concept is sexy:  it’s “The automatic journal.”  The concept targets a clear cut niche.

Reason #2 for saving on marketing costs: a clear cut concept is also helpful in building habit forming products

Habit forming products are the new black.  And while we are in the concept stage, it is much cheaper to get our users hooked to a certain concept through a convincing emotional story than to pour myriads of dollars on advertising (unless you are one of the whatsApp founders). So why not create a good habit, so to speak,from the start? All it takes is a little more intellectual investment in the short run that can save you a lot of money in the long run.

And while on the subject of habit changing – start small. Really small. Too big a shift tends to be perceived as threatening and has little chance of taking hold for long. Small changes, on the other hand, have a way of sneaking up on us and can lead to big results. Just ask Zen gurus, artists, scientists and pundits such as Anthony Robins and Dr. Kelly McGonigal, who wrote the highly influential and recommended “The Willpower Instinct.” (Another good book on the subject is Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”).

Reason #3 for saving on marketing costs: a concept is based upon a strong company DNA.  DNA is the basis for a solid infrastructure and roadmap

Startups usually havehuge visions to change the world, which is great.  And their products often want to do this entire change right on the first day – and this is not so great.  A new product should target just one small habit, even if it makes it hard to see the big picture ahead. We’re not talking MVP here. This is an earlier stage – the product’s DNA, the basis on which a concept is built. MVP follows.

The standard industry mistake is to develop an MVP without establishing the DNA first and then pack it with a basic feature set that represents the big vision.It’s like telling someone who wants to have a healthier lifestyle to cut his smoking by two cigarettes a day, lower their calorie intake by 200 calories per day and jog a mile each day.

An easy recipe for an easy diet anyone?

But given a choice of any one of the three – the task is less daunting and the habit is easier to keep.Once one habit sticks, it is easier toincorporate another.

Establishing the company’s DNA essentially forces us to understand our core subject and make decisions to what is really in focus. This establishes the company’s infrastructure.  Roadmap is built on top.

Which is exactly what Fiverr did.

From its inception, the company’s vision was:create a marketplace where people can make money of their hobbies.

With this big vision in mind, Fiverrkicked off with one straightforward and plain concept – anything for $5.

Within several years, once users grew accustomed to the concept, the company expanded its offerings, to $20, $50 and $100 price brackets, an exponential growth, which was made possiblesimply because users were already hooked on the first concept andthen easily accepted the change.

What if Fiverrwould have offered digital services for all of the price brackets at once? Admittedly it doesn’t sound quite as sexy and it would have no doubt opened the door for fierce competition – probably leading to infinite types of rival marketplaces.

DNA + Concept+ habit formation come together to create low budget marketing

Granted, concept formation is not a revolutionary idea.  Corporates and well-funded companies use this strategy all the time.  It only takes… a great advertising budget.

But what is innovative and extremely cost effective – in the type of conceptual marketing is concept building right from the onset, such thatit relies on a strong DNA, leads to the adoption of a new habit and makes way for a direct roadmap going forward.

So, how do you a build an initial concept?

In post #2 on this series.

Photo Credit: Sutterstock/ Business team drawing a new idea in a wall


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Emma Butin

About Emma Butin

Emma Butin is a technologically challenged geek. She loves everything that that is served in a no brainer effort. Emma’s obsession is to take big ideas and compile them into one button. That’s why she is working with start-ups right from their early stages distilling products to one button.
In 2008 Emma Founded Kryon System, an international award winning software company with patent pending technology. In June 2013 Emma released her first book (in Hebrew) “About Economics and Love.” Today, Butin also teaches “strategic entrepreneurship in hi-tech” at the IDC Herzliya and engages in speaking around the world.

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