Don’t rely on technical features to market your product

As part of marketing their Chrome browser, Google recently did some research into whether people actually understand what a browser even is. As you can see from the video, the answer was “no” for 92% of the people they interviewed in ‘man on the street’ interviews.

Above: “Man on the street” interviews by Google about browsers.

So, they are trying to market a product to people who don’t even understand that there is a product. At that point it doesn’t matter that it is free. Free is still too expensive when there is no customer identified need being met.

When we market technology products most of us (oh yes, me too) have a tendency to follow on the features in the latest release and try to show how cool, useful, valuable [insert favorite word here] they are.

“Seriously, the double speed super widget is fantastic. It is twice as good as anyone else has”

So what?

If there is an identified market of people who have been asking for a “double speed super widget”, then fine. Just tell them and they will buy it. Let’s just call that “Field of Dreams” marketing. But most of the time we are selling into an established market where there is competition and perhaps even an incumbent solution to the users’ needs.

By focusing on the feature, we fail to approach it from the customer’s perspective.

Instead, we need to focus on what the customer needs. In Google’s case, they have a tough time here. Everyone has a browser. Chrome has a few advantages like speed but a) how many people care and b) that’s just an endless arms race. They have to find something that is more compelling to their users and without making ‘evil’ tie ins to their services this will be hard.

What about your product? When you start preparing a launch plan, or even in the MRD/PRD phase, do you evaluate the features and what’s cool about them? Or do you ask what does the customer care about?

Let’s take the browser example. I’ll take a few liberties to make the point. Let’s say that the new browser supports a new flash player that runs twice as fast as the competition. You could market that as: “New Browser Has Twice the Speed of Competition”. But, do your customers know they have a speed problem? Probably not. Modern hardware is too fast and the prospective customer doesn’t know whether it is the incumbent browser (what’s a browser?) or the internet or what is the cause of any lags they perceive.

Instead let’s look at what the customer sees. Let’s say you’ve surveyed customers (how is another post entirely). They complain about herky jerky video and animation on many sites. You know that it turns out that much of that is the CPU load for interpreting the Flash video.

So, try this pitch instead: “Everyone Can Play Online Video Smooth as Silk”. The message addresses a customer pain point. Only deep in the message tree do you explain the whys and hows of this great new feature.

By starting from the customer’s perspective, you can avoid the worst of ‘geek marketing’ problems. You might even design a better product in the first place.

This post was originally inspired by this Slate article.

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