How could we have been more effective? Jason responded that we should have asked several programmers who were not our friends to read the copy and tell us if they understood it. Show your marketing copy to your friends and they ll tell you it s great, he says. So don t ask your friends. Go to your target audience ”programmers ”and say, ˜Here s my message. What does this sound like? Do you understand it? How do you feel about it?
The inventor should forget what he wants the audience to think about the product and ask audience members what they think about the product. He should spend time with the potential target buyers , asking them, ˜Does this make sense to you? Are you willing to buy this? Will you buy it? Then he can start writing the marketing materials.
When he was establishing CDnow, Jason s goal was to make his description of the workings of this online store so clear that even his grandmother could understand it. ˜Will this make sense to my grandmother? was my test, he says. Clarity and simplicity of message were vital . At that time, Web sites advised their visitors to communicate with them by sending an e-mail to ROOT (the UNIX administrator), Jason says. We at CDnow were the first to change that word to ˜ manager. It was very important to us to communicate that we were a store, an online store, and that you, the visitor, could speak to a customer service person or the manager.
How about the other steps we d taken, at great effort and formidable-(for us) expense ”and that had yielded so few sales?
Renting the booth at COMMON and holding the news conferences were good moves, Jason acknowledges. Getting press coverage is a very powerful way of communicating, he says. It s good as part of your marketing program, but it won t create sales by itself. Contrary to inventors expectations, a favorable editorial mention in a magazine isn t going to establish your company.
As for the magazine ad that yielded nothing, that didn t surprise Jason either. An ad isn t going to create a tornado of interest in your product. In any given magazine, you ll see hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars worth of ads touting products, to create a little bit of awareness that the product is out there. You use an ad in combination with all your other marketing tactics.
What is the gap between an ad and a sale? Is the customer being told to do something NOW in that ad ”dial this number, clip this coupon ? The ad needs to challenge the reader to take some physical action right now.
As for the lack of response to our 100 marketing calls and 400 marketing letters , in a market this small, Jason says, it s not unreasonable not to get a nibble. Direct marketers know that the response rate is very low. What we had definitely done wrong was to make only one phone call, send only one letter, to each prospect. What, Jason said incredulously, you didn t call back two or three times? You never approach a prospect just once.
Sure, telemarketing is painful, he says. There s a tremendous amount of rejection . But if you set out to contact a customer, you ve got to contact him more than once. There are books about the gambits you need to use to get through to people live and set up appointments, he says.
Just because your product is good doesn t mean that you deserve to be able to sell it ”that your customer is wrong if he doesn t buy it. It s up to you to make him want to buy it. Until your customer uses your product, you have work to do.
Marketing Your Product
Your idea for an invention may be brilliant . But does the market know about it and want it? How will you know? Can you afford to take a flyer ”quit your corporate programming job, max out your credit cards, put a second mortgage on the house, borrow from your pension fund ”to find out? Be warned that if you do make the jump, your experience as an independent software developer may renew your appreciation for the rewards of life as a highly paid ”and regularly paid ” corporate programmer. On the other hand, you may be in for the adventure of a lifetime.