Here I want to introduce you to a model, a metaphor, that I found to be useful in working on software marketing.Software marketing for traditional, packaged or “enterprise” solutions has quite established models. But in recent years, there has been an evolution of both the market (consumer and enterprises) and the offering, that has deep impacts on software marketing. Moreover also independently the ideas concerning how to market have evolved, in parallel with marketing changing from a one-way to a two-way communication. From this the need of new models.
Some of what I say does not hold for very small niches. Not only software, actually.
I think what I say will be clearer and will be easier to put in context (and disagree with) if there is familiarity with these texts:Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore (book a bit old, but will make you meditate on crucial problems)Tribes by Seth Godin (and what followed)If you don’t know them, maybe some things will get clearer later. It happens to me all the time.Ask: how many of you read CtC? How many Tribes or later books by Godin?
This model could help with one of the basic problems of startups: time scarcity, which I assume as a fact.You all know that you should fail fast; new product and services ideas can be disproved quickly. So you must prioritize your work. Traditionally it is technical development that dictates priorities: I hope here to show how wrong this is. It took years to me to begin understanding this. What and when things should be done when creating product should be dictated by a schedule based on acquiring different kinds of attention at different times.Example: a certain procedure of your software works, but probably it does not scale to a million users. Do you have a vague idea how you could make it scale? Ok, that is sufficient. Leave it as it is and go to the next problem. You’ll probably fail before getting 1000 users, and for different and harder to solve reasons.Another problem of your startup is **limited resources** - so of course you should have a browser version, ipad, ipone android etc versions of your app always updated, but given that you have to choose - which? well, at which step of (the ziggurat are you?) the evolving relationship with the users are you?
Not by technical developments.
The model is this: a percolating ziggurat of user groups.A step (gradone) is a user group of similar technology adoption habits. People at lower steps have slower technical adoption habits.The wet zones are those that your communication reached.Notice that water can spring only from the top and goes downwards.Another point of the model is that time exerts a minimal gravity, causing percolation (this is already different from Crossing the Chasm).You presence online, creating articulated contents, its propagation, requires also simply time. A lot of time. Like, 2 years. Also because evolution of the way software is produced and supplied also means that today from the start we have a more refined approach to UI w.r.t. what was done in the 90’s.
In which group are you?You likely are all in the top step for what concerns IT adoption. But…Quantidivoihannounamacchina?Quantodivoihannounamacchinaelettrica?Quantodivoihannointenzionedicomprareunamacchinaelettrica come prossimamacchina?Quantidivoihannointenzionedirinunciareallamacchina per un car pooling? Quantidivoihannorinunciato del tuttoallamacchina?
Each product has a slightly different ziggurat [do the ones for PM and TW], but many fit in this shape and all have percolation.Laws of percolation:- Percolation goes from top to bottomonce started it goes on even if you don’t do anything more (unless you bring the service down, and even then…)You can diffuse it but it’s hard to sped up
You’ve got to stay online for years.
as the business grows, also your job changes -> dev, web des, marketer, layer, entepreneur (a point made by balsamiq)
That what I was writing was connected to Crossing the Chasm (Ctc) came to my mind after I created the Percolating Ziggurat. But of course it was in the back of my mind.
The book is from 1991. The battle he talks about, is still today’s battle. But the scene has changed in part – al least, this is my theory (and practice).Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_Chasm :“Moore begins with the diffusion of innovations theory from Everett Rogers, and argues there is a chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists). Moore believes visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations, and he attempts to explore those differences and suggest techniques to successfully cross the "chasm," including choosing a target market, understanding the whole product concept, positioning the product, building a marketing strategy, choosing the most appropriate distribution channel and pricing.”Notice the chasm [baratro].
He holds that the mistake many have done (and is a sense I am repeating here) is to assume smooth transition from one segment to the other.To cross the main chasm he believes one must prepare for a specific, targeted battle for gaining a beachhead segment.
I won’t go in any detail here, I just assume you are aware of this. Get quickly something “working” to show.Put together something that may deserve attention.For point 2, there is a vast set of mistakes that can be done, also due to misleading marketing literature and concepts starting from Unique Selling Proposition and the whole school that follows that. Won’t go in any detail on that (will at Better Software seminar, future blog post).Will just say by fighting on features, you are adapting to a context where its the others setting the context -> you are going to lose.
“Technology enthusiasts”, visionaries? Or press? Today, it is a combination of both. The press that concerns you are early adopters.Press does curation for others. Examines, evaluates.
“Talk about it at a local event like this” -> cihannoprovato.
That the necessary step. Without it, you’re s****d.Will they talk about your product? Here is a moment (only one) of reality check.I can tell from experience (Patapage).If you reached step 1, you’ve already had one reality checks, e.g. getting a working prototype.Subsequent reality checks will be whether you can go down the ziggurat, but if you don’t pass this step, again, you’re s****d.The press gives you a real-world second test. Two products that failed this step, Bugsvoice and Patapage, we were very much in love with the idea and the technology, but the was no corresponding need out there.As the press is not at all in love with your private idea and technology, and will try to map it to a user’s need.In the case of Licorize, they could easily find the mapping, for several reasons.
“The Balsamiq story is really quite addictive”You need to say something really interesting.In our two failed products, we were “in love”. Focused on the technology. But we didn’t have a realistic model of the users.But the press, they have indeed a realistic model of the users, at least of an expanded early adopters segment.
But the usual advice is in term of “fight on features”, which is a bad, bad idea.
Friends of ours got press with a game, but they gave no way for the tribe to constitute.
Even in “The Social Network” we see this at work.
This way you can win in the most unlikely situations
Detailed examples follow.
One thing I believe is that in this new context time helps (CtC does not believe this), because the web does percolate. But it is true that being at the first step and being at the second step are different situations that require different ways to communicate.
Important way to get down and wider in the ziggurat is to make others integrate you. This is a great way to get mainstream. We completely missed this opportunity with both our products (Licorize and Teamwork), but others are doing this brilliantly:Evernote, Balsamiq Mockups (actually he started by using only this “piggyback” technique), and in these days Instapaper, which already got mainstream by using this technique.They realized how for from the second step onwards, the existing product infrastructure plays a major role. This a crucial point in the transition from visionaries to pragmatists.Becoming mainstream may simply not be your mission - it is not ours.
Online services percolate very slowly. We experience that with Licorize, but for other players of similar size the experience is similar: Amy Hoy with (hear this interesting interview on Mixergy: http://mixergy.com/amy-hoy-slash7-interview/ )http://letsfreckle.com/took two years to get 10.000 $ month. Given that it is developed by 2, its ok.
Monday, March 28, 2011 1
Introduction This talk is about a marketing communication metaphor, the Percolating Ziggurat, its relationship with Crossing the Chasm models, and how it relates to the evolving story of the marketing of a software product. Monday, March 28, 2011 2
Why new models In recent years, there has been an evolution of both the market and the offering, that has deep impacts on software marketing. Also the ideas concerning how to market have evolved, in parallel with marketing changing from a one-way to a two-way communication. Monday, March 28, 2011 3
Context This model is meant for software product creators that are doing something that needs global reach. Some of what I say does not hold for very small niches. Monday, March 28, 2011 4
Context Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore Tribes by Seth Godin Monday, March 28, 2011 5
Context Basic problem of startups: time scarcity, limited resources. You all know that you should fail fast. Model can help define what to do, when. Monday, March 28, 2011 6
Context What and when things should be done when creating product should be dictated by a schedule based on acquiring different kinds of attention at different times. Monday, March 28, 2011 7
The model Sometimes a silly visual metaphor can help. Monday, March 28, 2011 8
The model People at a step are a set of potential customers who have a common set of needs or wants or potential to have new similar needs that reference each other when making a try / buy decision. (Adapted from CtC). Monday, March 28, 2011 10
Percolating Ziggurat Monday, March 28, 2011 11
Percolation The force of indexing and social propagation. Today there is “gravity”, a intrinsic force of the Internet. Social and SEO gravity induces percolation. Percolation is slow, and drop by drop. Monday, March 28, 2011 12
Communication changes What and how you should communicate changes in function of the Ziggurat step at which you are. Creating relationship with users is pursued with different means in function of which kinds of users you are talking with. Monday, March 28, 2011 13
Crossing the Chasm Comparing CtC model with today’s situation can help understanding the Percolating Ziggurat idea. Monday, March 28, 2011 14
Crossing the chasm – very short version Monday, March 28, 2011 15
Crossing the chasm – very short version Monday, March 28, 2011 16
Crossing the chasm – very short version Innovators pursue new technology products aggressively. Early adopters are not technologists but buy products very early in the product lifecycle. Early majority relate to technology but need practical hooks. Late majority need to see other using it. Laggards are hopeless Monday, March 28, 2011 17
From Gaussian to Ziggurat The ziggurat is the Gaussian of CtC turned by 90° and using different techniques (also no techniques) for easing percolation. Crossing the Chasm is not a discrete process, because of the evolution of communication. Monday, March 28, 2011 18
Step 0: having something to show Enough models: lets get into details and see more examples Monday, March 28, 2011 19
Before approaching the first step people Before trying to get the attention of the people of the first step, you must have something that may get attention. What can get attention is not necessarily a finished, perfectly working, fully tested product. A home made video of a mockup in some cases may be enough. Monday, March 28, 2011 20
Before getting to the first step people Most product ideas never pass step 0: they never get anything that can be presented. Or better: that gets presented. Monday, March 28, 2011 21
Step 1: attempting to enter the ziggurat Now we try to let the world know about our product / prototype. Monday, March 28, 2011 22
Entering the ziggurat What is the top of the ziggurat composed of? How do you enter the top of the ziggurat? Monday, March 28, 2011 23
Entering the ziggurat Start a blog A tweet channel A page on Facebook Tell your friends Talk about it at a local event like this Monday, March 28, 2011 24
Entering the ziggurat DOES NOT WORK* * Unless a miracle... What you need is… Monday, March 28, 2011 25
Entering the ziggurat “That's the press, baby, the press. And there is nothing you can do about it.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgdE-qPv6kw Monday, March 28, 2011 26
Entering the ziggurat Seems obvious – for many its not so. The press- its scary. Win the fear and write. Monday, March 28, 2011 27
Entering the ziggurat Fearful because it is (a second) reality check. Examples from my experience: Bugsvoice – Fail Patapage -> Fail Licorize -> Passed Monday, March 28, 2011 28
And what IS the press? A blog with 5000 loyal followers in a field connected to what you dealing with can be more effective than a little blurb on Wired. Monday, March 28, 2011 29
Build a marketing story for the press Writing to the press is OK, but write about what? Monday, March 28, 2011 30
Marketing stories “Potential customers cannot buy what they cannot name” Journalists cannot write about something that has no novelty: you’ve got to serve them the concepts, the story, the novelty. A new feature is not a novelty. Monday, March 28, 2011 31
Marketing stories “Most people resist selling but enjoy buying”. If you manage to define the buy situation, victory is in your hands. Monday, March 28, 2011 32
Create the story You have to define an original context, inhabited not by your product, but by users. Once you created this story, here comes your product that saves all. You can also put in the story an evil, cunning wolf – the competitor – that does not fit well in the story, in today’s (fictional) happy life of the users. Your product, instead, fits perfectly. Monday, March 28, 2011 33
Marketing stories Example: With Licorize, we started telling the users (the press) again and again that their bookmarks are precious, that they have ideas that they should not lose. There is Delicious, of course, but the context is lost, the app is old, it integrates nothing, needs have evolved… And Licorize, in this story context, is your help, your savior. Monday, March 28, 2011 34
Marketing stories Teamwork “Alternative to Microsoft Project” – we tell a completely different story about managing work. Licorize “Beyond Delicious” This somehow puts you on the same status level of the competitor you are referring to. Referring to a well-known competitor, which in your story looks old and grumpy validates you, which is what lower level users need. Monday, March 28, 2011 35
First steps examples that worked and that didn’t Monday, March 28, 2011 36
Didn’t work: Patapage Monday, March 28, 2011 37 We were in love with the idea and the technology – but we had a wrong picture of the market i.e. of user needs. The idea was cool. Nobody needed it. We were so happy to introduce discontinuous innovation that we didn’t really ask whether anybody would be interested in it.
Didn’t work: Bugsvoice We were in love with the idea and the technology – but we had a wrong picture of the market i.e. of user needs. The idea was cool. Nobody needed it. We were so happy to introduce discontinuous innovation that we didn’t really ask whether anybody would be interested in it. Monday, March 28, 2011 38
Did work: Licorize Monday, March 28, 2011 39 First time that we started from imagining a need. Not a need of developers like us. Needs of web marketers bookmarking. Way, way simpler needs w.r.t. the convoluted product ideas we had before.
Did work: Licorize Result: 50 positive reviews (by meaningful sites) in 90 days, thousands of tweets. And they both keep coming. Reviewers fell in love with the story – which we had written for them. Also a bit of luck helped – Delicious crisis. Monday, March 28, 2011 40
Second step: getting to early adopters Having got some water at the first step, you have just started, not finished. Monday, March 28, 2011 41
False impression After the first step, this is something I told at an internal meeting: “One may get the false impression that we are done with Licorize. Technically, we probably almost are. But communication wise, we surely are not.” Monday, March 28, 2011 42
Stuck at the first step Being stuck at the first step is not great: lots of promises and few results. “fame and famine” How to figure your way into mainstream? Monday, March 28, 2011 43
Stuck at the first step My point is to focus on changing communication, not on sales. Achieving a few forced sales to visionaries does not alter the basic problem of Crossing the Chasm percolating to the second step. Monday, March 28, 2011 44
Why a story can help also the second step to start going Monday, March 28, 2011 45
Story for the second step “Resistance from inertia can come from commitment to status quo, fear of risk, lack of a compelling reason to buy.” Again the story idea can help you out of this. Maybe a new story. With a story you can also define the contest of your competition. By telling a good story, its you establishing the context. Monday, March 28, 2011 46
Story for the second step You have to distinguish: actions that increase (or create) conversion actions that keep you visible - though the two things are not completely separate Monday, March 28, 2011 47
Down the ziggurat How to appeal to non-technologists? The story, amplified and enriched by the press, will help a lot, because a wide spectrum of people can understand it. A feature based approach here will not help, instead, and this is likely one of the causes of failure to cross. The power of “word of mouth” has been greatly extended by “word of Twitter”. Monday, March 28, 2011 48
Down the ziggurat Important way to get down and wider in the ziggurat is to make others integrate you. Evernote, Balsamiq Mockups (actually he started by using only this “piggyback” technique), and in these days Instapaper, which already got mainstream by using this technique. Monday, March 28, 2011 49
Another line of change in time: user’s application’ life Monday, March 28, 2011 50 Here too we must provide different kinds of interaction and support to our customers.
Down the ziggurat Online services percolate very slowly. Amy Hoy with http://letsfreckle.com/ Took two years to get 10.000 $ month. Given that it is developed by 2, its ok. Monday, March 28, 2011 51
HELPING GRAVITY DO ITS JOB You can help gravity. Somehow. Monday, March 28, 2011 52
Use creativity to replace budgets To maintain the percolation and diffusion is a continuous battle. That is why being a startup as a side project does not work. You need full time dedication: new ideas, experiment and flexibility are the only thing that can beat budgets. Monday, March 28, 2011 53
Give away licenses / Premium access (gave 1600 for Licorize)
Monday, March 28, 2011 54
Help gravity access to press can open other small doors, like having a product page on Wikipedia Show somehow that you are a market leader, or are becoming one: “pragmatists care about the company they are buying from” Monday, March 28, 2011 55
Help gravity “Used by Oracle” becomes more important (for some) than reviewed by Lifehacker. Going down the ziggurat, you need to give more certainties. That is why you should move from FAQ to user guide, from a flashy video giving the idea to one that shows it working in detail Monday, March 28, 2011 57
Step definitions depends on the product’s nature Monday, March 28, 2011 58
Games, micro-payments The “battle” technique can hardly be applied to games with micro-payments. Its all percolation there. For games there is no fight to replace other applications, the figth is for who will get the next layering. Monday, March 28, 2011 59
Early adopters may be enough Consider Minecraft: doing nothing for going down the ziggurat. Using gravity and word of mouth. Transparency is highly appreciated. Monday, March 28, 2011 60
1,000 True Fans “A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.” http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php Depends on the industry. Monday, March 28, 2011 61
The Ziggurat Plan Make a Ziggurat Plan (not a business plan) -> how am I going to pass this step. A blog post with PPT will be online at http://pietro.open-lab.com Booklet of links: http://bit.ly/mziggu Monday, March 28, 2011 62