Is your product idea good? Top 3 Ways to Know for Sure!

Ever had a product idea and wondered if it was any good?  Whether you are an engineer, an MBA, or a stay-at-home mom, these 5 tips will help you answer definitively whether your idea is good… or not!

Tip #1: 
What is your goal?  Do you want to build it for yourself or friends or sell it as an idea?  Do you want to start a full business or just make some for side-money?
Depending on your answer, good has different meanings… And tip #1 is essential to answer before you go any further.
Three possible answers make your product idea good:
Sell the idea!   Stop.  Nobody buys ideas.
Start a real business.  Yep, step 2.
Make some for side-income?   Okay, but tread carefully to step 2.
If this is a lark, stop now and proceed to hobby lobby!
Tip #2:  
Who cares?
Really, is there anyone who cares about your idea?  Does it solve someone’s problem or is otherwise desirable by some specific kind of customer?
If not, stop.   Someone, some specific demographic, the smaller the better, must care, have the problem, or otherwise desire the product, or else, stop.

Tip #3:
Can you sell one and for how much?

I don’t mean build one then sell one.. I mean sell one!

The best way to know if your product idea is good, and the TOP TIP to know for sure if your idea is good is to PRE-SELL it!

Literally, setup a 2 page website where page 1 introduces the product, page 2 accepts a pre-order.  If you can get a few pre-orders, go ahead a build *a few*…
You could also do this with Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but those services expect bigger ideas and a real budget for video/marketing/etc.  Instead take the money you make on the first few orders to build some…. then build a few more… once you’ve sold 100, go ahead, do your kickstarter!

Good luck!

Go out and SELL!  Sales is the only way to know if your product ideas is good or not.

Now, back to my Smart Watch idea….

All of Marketing by way of “Target” and “Position”

All of marketing may be explained by clearly defining and using two words: Target and Position.  Learn to use these two words correctly, and your business will prosper.  Fail in either or both, lose focus in either, and your business will die.

Target: The single very narrow, focused customer type you really, really want to love your product/service.
TO BE CLEAR: I mean +/- 5 years of age, a clear gender, and ideally also some “qualifying” attribute. (example: M/25-35/Hardcore Gamers.)

Position: The unique place in the mind of your target you want your product/service to occupy.
TO BE CLEAR: I mean a clear position that you can own in the mind: “The Best”, “The Fastest”, “The Cheapest”, “The Healthiest”, “The Most X”, etc.  (example: “The Most Hardcore Social Game Ever”)

So, how is this “all of marketing”?
Some example questions that come up in running a business should suffice to explain:

Question 1: Where should you sell your product?
Answer 1: Wherever the Target shops.

Question 2: What kind of copy should you write?
Answer 2: Whatever would please the Target while helping your product occupy a Position in their mind.

Question 3: How should you advertise?
Answer 3: Advertise wherever the Target is likely to see it; and ideally to solidify the Position in their mind, and eventually to drive buying behavior.

Question 4: Should I have a website?
Answer 4: If your Target uses the web… usually yes.

Question 5: What features should I have in my product?
Answer 5: Those features that help you occupy the Position in the mind of your Target.

Question 6: Should I partner with company X?
Answer 6: Only if company X is appealing to the Target, and can help you solidify your Position.

Question 7: What price should I charge?
Answer 7: A price that the Target is willing and able to pay, given your unique Position.

Question 8: Should I use Social Networks?
Answer 8: If your target uses Social Networks… usually yes.

Question 9: What if I have a new product?
Answer 9: Define it’s Target and Position… and STICK WITH IT.

Question 10: What if my product isn’t doing well?
Answer 10: Perhaps you need to improve the product for a better Position, or adjust the price to match your “actual” Position in the Target’s mind.

Question 11: Should I add feature X?
Answer 11: If the Target wants it.

I could go on and on… and you may say:

With such a narrow target, aren’t you losing out on sales?
Answer: NO!

You will get sales outside your narrow target, precisely BECAUSE you appeal so strongly to your target.  (e.g. imagine all the people who “aspire” to be in your target.. or who themselves uniquely identify with your message/target).  You don’t turn these sales away, nor do you let it change your focus… it is your appeal to your TARGET that lets you win other customers outside the target.

I hope this makes sense and helps!  I am a bit passionate about this.  Email me or comment with questions/feedback/ideas.  I’m always open!

Got Marketing Questions? I’ll answer them here!

I know a lot of my blog readers already are marketers… but I would welcome questions from you or anyone.  Feel free to be specific with your situation/example.  If I’ve ever encountered a problem like yours (likely) I will answer it with an example from my past.  Are you an engineer-type?  My answers will be logical (hopefully), and use an engineering problem-solving methodology.   So, ask away.  Comment below, or message me… I’d love to learn more about your specific marketing challenges.  And remember, Marketing INCLUDES product design and development… so those questions are welcome too!

Positioning your Company or Product in the Minds of the World.

What is Positioning?  The outstanding book by Al Ries and Jack Trout should be your FIRST stop on the topic.  Those excellent narrators bring to life a concept that can seem boring; but is truly vital to the success of a product.  If you do not have a “Position” for your product… you are almost certainly doomed to fail.
Consider, when you go shopping, say for a new car, how do you choose what to buy?  If you are interested quality? Toyota.  Great Driving? BMW. Amazing Safety?  Volvo.  
In order to properly market your product, you must find a position for your brand… this means finding a place “in the mind of your target customers” for your product to live.  Imagine your target customer has a limited capacity for remembering things (certainly true)..and you get 1 shot to ‘place your product in the filing cabinet of your prospects mind’… what do you want them to remember?  The idea of positioning is that IF you can get it into their mind WITH a position; it will be easier to file away.  (rather than into the ‘misc’ category, your prospects file it in the “Safest” category or the “Best Value/Cheap” category or the “Highest Quality/Expensive” category or the “Funnest” category or whatever.
With my good friend Barry Raskin, I have adopted a formal sentence structure that helps guide the development of a “positioning statement”… can you fill out this sentence?  Can everyone on the product team?
” _(  YOUR
is a _______  that does ____________ for

UNLIKE OTHER _____________ we do _________________________.”

Having trouble?  You are not alone.  About 90% of the start-ups I encounter have never thought of their products in this simple and critical way.
This will FORCE you to put a position on your product.  This sentence is not something you share with the world (necessarily).  It is an internal guide to keep marketing focused and what you want to ‘imprint’ on people who encounter your product/brand.
There is a whole bunch more psychology and tips that the book (below) goes into.  I’ll leave you with 1 final tip from my own experience.  When you sit down and do this exercise, you’ll realize quickly that the “for ____” is a vital part.  If you are not TARGETING a well define market… your POSITIONING will fail.  Start with the target market first… then find a position in their minds you can occupy.
It is even better when you can occupy a position that nobody else has claimed yet.  The “Most, Best, Fastest” or similar terms are what you are shooting for!
Read more from the experts:

How to Market a Bad Product

There are Classic Bad Products, such as “New Coke” and “Ben-Gay Aspirin”.  There are also horribly bad Tech Products, such as “RealPlayer” and “SoftRAM”.  There are few things they have in common:They often “borrow” from another brand (Brand/Line extension), such as Ben-Gay Aspririn.

  1. They often “do not perform as advertised”, or are otherwise misleading such as SoftRam
  2. They sometimes are just so annoying to use and so invasive that they are not worth the hassle, such as RealPlayer.
  3. Often, they are all 3!
So, can you market a bad product?
Can you get someone to buy it???
Yes.  All you have to do is figure out “who” the product is really meant for… and a ‘fair’ price for the product delivered (not dreamed).
Is it ethical?  Yes.  You have to change the price (to what is truly delivered), and you have to choose the market (to those that actually need a solution), and if yo do those two things, and make a sale, it is fair.
Can you make a lot of money?  Probably not.  Depending on how bad the product is, you will have to narrow the market to be quite small and reduce the price to where it may not make money (and may actually cost you money to sell it).
How do you market a bad product?  You tell the truth.  Be what you are.  Know who you are for.  And HIDE NOTHING.
Ironically, some people may find that refreshing and buy your product anyways… certainly if you can “find the niche” that the product has some use for.
Here are some examples from some Classic Bad Products:
  1. New Coke.
    1. this is a ‘brand extension’…  and uses the new coke brand…. unfortunately Coke tried to make “ALL MARKET” accept this as a brand replacement. (Bad Idea!)
    2. As a brand extension though, New Coke, could have been marketed beside “Coke” as a different flavor, a flavor targeted at younger folks, or targeted at Pepsi lovers.
    3. Given that kind of target market, it might have found a niche.
  2. Microsoft Zune.
    1. Microsoft COULD have carved out a DIFFERENT target market or audience with Zune.  E.g. perhaps Zune was an MP3 Player for Senior Citizens?
    2. Ironically, marketed like that you might have charged “more” for the Zune.
  3. SoftRAM.
    1. Yes, it mislead folks about that it was… but… it also kinda-worked!
    2. SoftRAM could have priced itself as a $0.99 utility to tweak Windows.
    3. They might have sold Millions!  (and not been the target of FTC investigations).
    4. The could have targeted people with extra HD capacity…. or perhaps Housewives… or ‘old PC owners’….
    5. Being HONEST about what they are and are not would have been key
So, my top list of “Bad Products”…  here you go… 
  1. Canned Chicken  –  It’s disgusting.  I am not in the target market.
  2. Windows Mouse – It was terrible, and required a driver install.  Utter fail.  Not worth the price.
  3. Thin Black Socks – They are uncomfortable and do not last long.  Hate those socks  (I’m not the target market)
  4. Playstation 3 – Horrible quality.  Breaks so easy.  Not worth the price.
That’s just a few…. but every one of those DOES have a market somewhere, and a price.
(you just may have to PAY ME to wear those thin black socks).

Make Sticky Products & Sticky Marketing

I’m fascinated by Marketing.  It’s super hard.  That’s why I love it.

Please, make my job easier… make products that stick!

This book is a good place to start:

Now, this is a marketing book, but it contains ideas that product people should know…   Since you product folks may not read it… here’s an interpretation for you:

1. Products need to solve a problem people have, a need, or a desire for something not previously possible.
2. A clear vision is established that inspires the development team to reach for it!
3. It needs to deliver on any promises implied. (no buyers remorse)
4. Ideally it is “worthy” of people talking about it after they bought it.

Then, work with your favorite marketer to make sure:

1. Everyone really understands what the product is.
2. Stories are developed around the product that inspire people to buy it.
3. Credibility is built in to the product.

Redefining Marketing: Marketing is science buried inside Art.

Marketing has never been about Advertising.  This is not really a redefinition of Marketing, as much as it is a reminder of what Marketing has always been.  Advertising is a tiny, often outsourced, part of Marketing.  It is the least of what we do.

True Marketing starts with the People.  It is an understanding of the customer -> how they think, what they like, how they shop, their demographics, their psychographics, and as much data about the customer as can be compiled.

It continues with the Product.  What benefits are desired.  What benefits are conveyed.  What to make.  What features to add and CUT. What it is.  What it does. How we talk about it.  Why it was built.

And moves into Pricing. What value is delivered for various customer types.  Pricing Strategy. How to capture the most value per customer type.

And on to Place.  Where to sell.  Where to put product in easy reach of customers.

And finally Promotion (note: this is not advertising)… to include how to let people know about the product.  Packaging.  PR.  And yes, some small bit of Advertising if necessary.

Beyond this, you enter the realm of what I call Marketing Fantasy…

Marketing Fantasy is where some Marketers go… thinking they actually can control:
1. branding/brand awareness
2. style/design
3. predictions/future trends
and more.

These things are Fantasy, because Marketing might be able to measure these things, finding direct controls of these things is nearly impossible.

Why do I love Marketing?  Because…   Marketing is science buried inside Art.


Video Games need more “bosses”.

Do you remember the old Nintendo Days.  Finally fighting Ganon in Zelda?  All the “mini-bosses” in Metroid? Or the countless other timeless boss encounters? Or on PC, the “Doom” Demon Bosses?  Probably you remember the feeling of excitement, accomplishment, dread, and relief that was part of the encounter.  Where have all the boss encounters gone? Recently I have enjoyed playing Mass Effect 2 a ton… mostly because it has some decent Boss encounters here and there… but not as many as the old days!  To me a Boss encounter means that the Boss is actually bigger and more powerful than you could EVER be…  and to kill him, you must learn his trick/secret/weakness.  And that makes for some serious fun gaming!

What does this have to do with Marketing you ask?  Well, there are two lessons here:

  1. Marketing isn’t just promotion (how many times a day do I say that…).  The most important service Marketing can do is to give product guidance.  In this case, there is a target market that craves Boss encounters because the feeling of excitement, accomplishment, etc.
  2. Your target market might be hungry for Nostalgia!  If you can feed them something they used to love… you could make serious cash!

Marketing Innovation now moves FASTER than Technology Innovation

Technology is now moving slower than marketing.  Think about it: WordPress and Web 2.0 are 1999 technologies still used everywhere.  Web 3.0 is just Web 2.0 but easier, and more broadly used, not really “new technology”.  Today, what distinguishes a great blog, website, or online application is how it is marketed.  And the marketing of websites, blogs, online applications and the like is evolving faster than we can even imagine; much faster than the technologies they run on. 

At Karmaback, we help companies experiment with new forms of online marketing: Sweepstakes on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, Viral Coupons, Groupon-like Online Coupons, Referral Contests, Rewards Program, Loyalty Programs, and much, much more.  Most importantly, we have technologies and reporting tools that let marketers determine IF what they are doing is effective.

Karmaback now has almost 2 years of experimentation, best practices, and data in all things Marketing in this new era of marketing dominating technology.  We can tell you what works, what doesn’t, and a little bit of why.

Check out what we do at Karmaback with our Social Sweepstakes, Social Coupons and Social Feedback System.  Find out how to keep pace with “The New Marketing”!

How to Build a Marketing Plan

I’ve scoured the internet for a nice, simple, method for how to build a Marketing Plan, and all I find is very short, confusing, unorganized stuff (and very little of that).  So, without further ado, my 10 steps for building an “AWARD WINNING” Marketing Plan.

  1. Learn what the heck Marketing is in the first place.  (See my blog on my topic here…. my 5 year old son could figure it out… so can you).
  2. Research your 5-Cs. Customer, Company, Competition, Collaboration, Context
    1. This can be done fairly easily with some Google searching or industry related press reading.
    2. I find doing it in order is the best..
    3. Just jot down as many notes as you can for each section.
    4. Below is the goal you are trying to reach for each C
  3. Customer – Write down WHO is your ZEBRA (Ideal) customer.. then expand that view just enough to encompass a market that is of a “small, but big enough” size.  The goal here is to choose a FOCUSED group of people who you can clearly identify… NOT make it the biggest set of people possible (that’s for Business Plans, not Marketing Plans).
  4. Company – Write down what are your companies strengths, weaknesses, vision, and values.  (This will help in the rest of the plan).
  5. Competition – Write down a list of competitors and note their “pricing” and their “differentiation” claims.  SPEND LOTS OF TIME HERE.  It’s worth it later.
  6. Context – Write down trends in society, business, culture, and geography that MAY (or may not) cause you PROBLEMS or create OPPORTUNITIES.
  7. Now, write down your 4 Ps – Product, Place, Price, Promotion.  First up: Product.
    1. To get Product right (for Marketing purposes), it must fit in the following Sentences:
    2. ACME (YOUR COMPANY/PRODUCT/BRAND) is a _______  that does ____________ for ________.
    3. UNLIKE OTHER _______ we do _________________________.
    4. Now list 3 Benefits. ( NO MORE )
    5. Now list 3 Features. ( NO MORE )
    6. If you can get this focused with your product, you’re ready for the next step.
    7. NOTE: If you have engineers/tech people, don’t invite them to help with this section… do it yourself (or have someone do it for you)… then correct as needed.
  8. Place – Where do you plan to sell?  What is your selling motion?
  9. Price – How much will you charge?  What is the upsell path (or options)?  What is the average lifetime value of a customer?  How does all this compare to the competition?
  10. Promotion – NOTICE, I am last here… many people think a “Marketing Plan” is just this section… (the Advertising, PR, etc.)… but it is not.  This is important, but not the MOST important.  To me, the first C is most important (Customer) Followed by the first P (Product).  Anyways, here’s promotion:
    1. How much can you spend to acquire a customer? (see average lifetime value for hints)
    2. How many customers do you want to acquire in a period? (therefor, that is your budget)
    3. What “Free-ish” marketing can you do? (PR, Social Media, SEO, other)?  How can you measure its effectiveness?
    4. What “Cheap-ish” marketing can you do? (SEM, Google Adwords, Google Adsense, CMP, CPC, CPA)?  How can you measure its effectiveness?
    5. What “Expensive, but hopefully measurable” marketing can you do? (Partner/Reseller Marketing, Paid Banners, Trade Shows, Events, etc.)? How can you measure its effectiveness?
    6. What “Brand building” MUST you do? (non-measurable stuff like TV, Print, Billboards, etc.).?
    7. Now, allocate budget from 2-6… where you don’t spend 1c on the next item, till you’ve spent all you can (reasonably & scalable) spend on the prior number.  MOST COMPANIES SHOULD NEVER GET PAST 4.  (at least not in the early days).

Hope this was helpful!  

Comments and Arguments and Links are always MORE than welcome.