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Here’s a little secret about sustained product success

“We’re always searching for that secret formula, that magic pixie dust to sprinkle over our products, services, books, causes, brands, blogs to bring them to life and make them Super Successful. Most marketing-related buzzwords gain traction by promising pixie dust results if applied to whatever it is we make, do, sell. “Add more Social!”. “Just need a Viral Video!” “It’s about the Storytelling!”. “Be Authentic!”
The rise of social networking and media opened up a world of new possibilities, yet most Marketing 2.0 is basically:
“If you cannot out-spend the competition, you can out-friend them!” He who has the most Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and blog commenters Wins! It’s all about Social Capital now!
Sure, you can try that.”

KATHY SIERRA, www.gapingvoid.com (7 June 2011)

Kathy Sierra is pointing out an important truth in the blog excerpt shown. There are no shortcuts to success with any product, of any type. It’s not about the advertising spend, nor the PR exposure, nor the “share of mind” that your product generates. It’s not about whether you can make your product “go viral” or not. It’s about something else together.

Before I tell you what it is, consider the advent of social media. These days, we have consultants tripping over advisors ready to tell you that you need a “social media strategy” for your product or organization. That you must be on Facebook and Twitter, and you must do many clever and manipulative things that help you generate ‘”friends” or “followers”. And the more, the merrier. If you have 100,000, that’s better than having 10,000. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Really? Think it through. What use are even a million superficially bonded, vaguely connected, vaguely interested so-called “friends” to you? Nearly all of those are only following or befriending you (in digital terms) because of the herd syndrome: because lots of other people do. In other words, this “popularity” is because you are fashionable, or because something about you went ‘viral’ in the cybersphere.

If you are interested in popularity for its own sake, so be it. Enjoy the throng apparently in your thrall. But if you are someone who stops to think about success for more than a split second, you may observe a few things. One, that the ‘attention’ you get is momentary and fragmented in the extreme (you may be one of hundreds, probably thousands of people being similarly befriended); and second, that apart from basking in the glow of faddish popularity, there is no other benefit to this following. Try monetizing it to see. Will these people buy your products or services? Will they pay to follow you? Will they queue up to buy your book or gizmo or whatever?

The real path to sustained selling success remains the same in the era of Twitter as it was in the era of the steam engine. If you want to really matter, you have to offer something that adds something to your USER, not to your own ego. In other words, your offering has to be useful in the life of your follower or customer.

In Sierra’s words: “If you have little else to compete on, then out-friending/out-viraling/out-gamifying can work. At least until your competition out-hires a good social media strategist or compelling extroverted social media star and out-friends you.”

In other words, the true nature of advantage has not changed in the digital era. It is still about helping your customers to become better, to improve their lives in some way. If you or your product genuinely do that, nothing can stand in your way. If your product is mediocre at best, then you need all the wily, articial boosts you can get.

Which would you rather be: the one that’s genuinely valuable and useful, or the one superficially and momentarily popular?

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