Getting Noticed: Create Something Compelling (Step #1)
Now you know there are two critical parts of the success equation: a compelling product or service (the what) and a significant platform (the who). In these following blog posts, you will find a wealth of information on the second element in the equation, but if you don’t slam-dunk the first element—the compelling product or service—you won’t win the game.
There is no sense in wasting your valuable time and resources trying to build a buzz about a ho-hum product or a completely boring service. As one of my favorite marketing gurus, David Ogilvy, once wrote, “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” How true.
For years I have argued, “It’s the product, stupid.” The secret to success in any business is to deliver a great, compelling product or a high value service. And when I say product or service, I mean anything you are trying to say or sell. It may be yourself, if you’re a speaker or entertainer. It might be a stellar service you provide for profit or nonprofit. Perhaps it’s a cause you are championing, a message you are passionate about. Or it could be an actual physical product, like a book. Regardless of the form your product takes, no amount of marketing savvy, salesmanship, or operational excellence can overcome a weak product or a service that doesn't live up to any expectations.
For me personally, I'm doing a little bit of both. On one hand, I hope to build ponds and lakes for people, while on the other hand, I hope to show people how to leverage social media to build the life they have always wanted. Am I there yet? Nope! But I am on my way!
The purpose of marketing is to prime the pump. But if people don’t want to use your product or service and—more importantly—if they won’t recommend it to their friends, you’re hosed. You can’t spend enough money or be clever enough to overcome a lack of word-of-mouth marketing. It just won’t work and history proves that again and again.
In light of this, it was fascinating to watch how Apple first introduced the iPhone. Do you remember the first iPhone? Like millions of other Mac fans, I read all the articles and even worked my way through Apple’s slick, interactive website back in the day. I thought to myself, very, very cool. I definitely want one of these. But I also thought, I can wait until the second generation. Let them work out the bugs first so that I don't have to be a part of the test group and all the frustration that comes with it.
But then I watched Steve Job’s 2007 keynote presentation from MacWorld. If you are involved in any aspect of product development, this is a must-watch video.
I garnered three insights:
1. Create a product or service you would actually use. Watching Steve, you get the sense he loves the product. He is so familiar with it, because he has been using it. He thinks it is “way cool,” and he’s not afraid to say so. He sprinkles words like awesome, incredible, and even magical throughout his speech. He exhibits the wonder of a five-year-old on Christmas morning. You really believe him. He’s not trying to sell you something. He’s simply sharing the experience.
What about the products you create? If you’re speaking about business, do you deliver exciting and powerful messages that you know can make a difference in people’s lives? If you’re in sales, do you even use the items you sell? Would you recommend them enthusiastically to a friend? Do you really love these products or are you only trying to meet some arbitrary quota or generate revenue?
What about your service? Have you ever hired someone to cut your lawn? Do you detail your own car or let someone else do it? Do you ever go to motivational speakers? If not, why would someone ever use your service? How would you know what to expect? It's vital to create something that you can have some level of familiarity with.
2. Create products or services that solve problems in unexpected ways. It was interesting to watch some of the biggest cell phone manufacturers get hammered in the press the week before the iPhone was announced. They essentially said, “We’ve saturated the market. There’s nothing compelling left to build. Investors need to get used to the idea of slower revenue growth and tighter margins. From this point forward, competition is going to be brutal.”
Then Steve announced a new phone that essentially reinvented the category. Not surprisingly, Apple’s stock soared. Motorola’s, Nokia’s, and Samsung’s took a nosedive.
Apple wasn’t content to create a phone that just had additional features. It completely rethought the solution—from the ground up. Apple’s engineers put themselves in the user’s place and refused to be constrained by the past. They didn’t start with the technology. They started with the dream and then went in search of technology. This is a completely different way of doing business.
What about you? We too often think inside the box. We let the past constrain us. We don’t get in the consumers’ shoes and ask, “What would make this really cool? What would take this to a whole new level? What would we create if the limits of current technology weren’t an issue?” You have to get outside the box and learn to dream again.
And before you continue, I'm not talking about a ridiculous spin on a current product or service currently being offered. Sure, you would stand out if you cleaned houses in a clown outfit, but is that really going to make a difference? However, if you were to offer before and after videos, you might be on to something. There are innovations available everywhere, but you have to know where to look and how to make it happen.
3. Create products and services that exceed your customers’ expectations. As I watched Steve’s presentation, I couldn’t help but notice the crowd. It was like they were watching a master magician. As Steve demonstrated each new feature, the crowd erupted in applause. To my surprise, I found myself laughing with glee. I felt like a kid again. Most of all, I wanted one of those phones!
Part of the charm is that Apple seems to execute its product vision with such amazing simplicity and elegance. Every icon on the phone is understated but beautiful. Every feature is easy to use but not complex. Everything seems not only as good as Apple could make it but as good as Apple could imagine it. You should have heard Steve Jobs tell his origin story about fonts and typeface. It played a role in everything!
What about your products or services? How often have you rushed something to market with a sigh and a collective, “Well, I guess that will have to do. It’s not great, but it’s good enough”? Maybe you've said it's "good enough for government work"?
Sadly, we don’t start with a lofty vision. I’m afraid we have become content with mediocrity; we aim low and execute even lower.
If you want to build a launchpad, it’s time to get the passion back. Push one another and yourself to deliver great products that you are delighted—yes, delighted!—to offer. If you don’t, then your attempt to build a platform is doomed to failure.
If you create outstanding products and services, everything else becomes much easier. Apple spends a fortune on product development. But relatively speaking, it doesn’t spend much on marketing. Nevertheless, when it introduced the iPhone, Apple got more press coverage than the entire Consumer Electronics Show that was going on simultaneously in Las Vegas. Apple has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that “it’s the product, stupid.”
Let’s take a lesson from the Apple playbook and get the first part of the success equation right: start with a wow product or service.
This blog post and future blog posts in this series are inspired by Michael Hyatt's book, "Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World". Buy your copy of the book by clicking here.