Market first

Posted: March 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Startups | 6 Comments »

I’m told Amazon writes the press release for a product before beginning development.

I don’t know exactly how the process works, but this has been sloshing around in my head mixed in with a bunch of other tidbits. Like the trick of running ads that lead to a signup page before you build anything to see how many people are interested. Or the notion that a crowdfunding campaign validates demand before you go build it (although it requires a lot more investment).

Pike Place Market

Recently Apptentive asked me about marketing techniques for apps.  The first thing that came to mind is that if you already have the app, and are just now starting to think about marketing, you’re probably hosed.  Great apps, services, websites, and the like are built with the marketing in mind from day  one.  How will the world think about this? What’s the pitch? Why will people share? How are they going to hear about it?

Put all this together and I have a modest proposal: if you are creating a new startup, you should figure out your marketing first.  Create your Kickstarter video (the nickel version, shot with dummy props on your phone and crudely edited together) first and see how many views you can get for it on Youtube.  Mock up the app store page and A/B test it against screenshots of competitors using a survey. Write the press release, post it online, and see how many people would buy.  Run some ads and see how they convert.  Write up a blog post with the idea and see if it goes viral.

Once you find something that resonates, you have a north star.  It’s not just that you’ve figured out how to market your product, it’s that you now know what’s most important about your product.  What you’ve created, the thing that generated excitement – that’s what you need to bring to life.  Staring at a blank screen it can be hard to know where to start – now you know.  Features that excited people get written.  Those that aren’t part of your pitch get cut.

I haven’t really done this before – when I figure out what I’m doing next I plan to give it a try.  If you have, or if you do, please let me know how it works out!

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  • Andy

    You need to do this for Sharpies! (The proof is in the taste.)

  • http://xdjs.com/ C.Y. Lee (@cxy)

    Here’s a great primer on how Amazon’s “working backwards” approach written by an Amazon GM: http://www.quora.com/What-is-Amazons-approach-to-product-development-and-product-management

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Oy.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Thanks – that’s helpful!

  • nolastan

    I’m actually do this right now. Printed a bunch of postcards on Moo.com and plan on going door-to-door with them this weekend to validate my collaborative consumption product.

  • Joe Morrissey

    This is actually a cool idea, even if you don’t fill comfortable doing it completely ‘backwards’. It’s a great exercise – think about your product on the shelf, in a web ad, in the app store, or on a podcast, etc. The approach actually reminds me a lot of the Lean Startup book I read a couple years ago. I use some of the principles in it on a regular basis in my day job. Totally worth a read: http://www.amazon.com/Lean-Startup-Entrepreneurs-Continuous-Innovation-ebook/dp/B004J4XGN6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=