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Friday, September 21, 2007

Marketing 101 for Developers

It's 3AM when I went home from a party but I couldn't sleep so i picked up one of my fiancee's book which she left titled "Marketing Magic" by Don Debelak, It's a good book for those who's into small-medium enterprises which teaches you the basics about marketing. Note: I also identified a lot of BS stuff on it which is typical since most marketing people won't share their trade secrets.

You might find it weird that a system engineer/programmer like me would read such books but IMHO after finishing the first 5 chapters I'm persuaded that this should have been part of our BSCS college curriculum in the first place.

So I tried applying what I read so far from the book to my work.

I equated stores to webapps, and likes stores there are those who sell products and those who sell services -- which is true for webapps as well. There are sites whose main purpose is to promote products and there are also tons of sites who sell services like Digg, Google, and YouTube.

According to the book, one of the basics in marketing is finding costumers and for shops these which is ain't just all about ads. The author noted that he is not a believer in advertising anyway.

Boutique owners for example must layout their store in such a way that it's easy for potential customers to find all the products -- this may be done by arranging clothes by gender, sizes and lifestyle, same goes for supermarket, book stores and convenient stores like 7eleven and Ministop where each product is arranged by categories. This basically applies to webapps as well, we must categorize all the contents and functions then render them into link hierarchies and site maps where in it's easy for users to find and navigate the site. The easier it is to navigate the site; the more uses will browse your site. This is basically the same idea why malls has spacious corridors and wide open store window to allow people to window-shop easily.

Now imagine if you walk into a bookstore where all the books stacked randomly together and most of the shelves are blocking your path? IMHO I wouldn't last 5 seconds inside because its basically just takes to much effort to find the book that I'm looking so I might as well better off finding another bookstore.

As you see, these aspects has been inherent in those so called killer webapps as well.

Gmail made it easier to read and search threaded mails, Digg made it easy to categorize and rank stories, Flicker made it easy to categorize, browse and search pictures, Picasa made it easier to share Photos while Google Maps made it easier to navigate streets, give directions, and find places.

Another basics of marketing is how to make what you offer better than others, this can be done is many ways and one of my favorite is specialization. Basically a store can sell almost any product and target a broad audience, this is basically what we also do with webapps. We want traffic -- tons of traffic to our site.

Which is wrong.

Not all traffic is good because if we attract the wrong type of users, we will be spending more resources serving them than serving those target users that generates our revenue. For example malls attract people but not all of them would buy and they would take up space which would have been used by potential buyers -- people who are actively looking for the products they want.

Here is from my own experience. I went to All-Flip-Flops to buy my fiancee a pair of their latest slippers but when I got there, a crowd has already filled the store so most of us have to fall in line to enter the shop. As I observe, around 1 out to 30 people would buy a pair while others were just attracted to go there due to the crowd and they would stay there inside the shop for 5-15 minutes just browsing and trying out pairs. The rest of us who were in line got impatient in waiting and we decided to go somewhere else and get back later after the crown subsides (I went for lunch ^_^). When I got back the crowd were gone which gave enough room to browse call my fiancee without having to shout against the crowd noise and in the end I bought 3 pairs because I know I'm lousy when buying gifts for women -- which was a good thing I it did because my fiancee only liked 1 out of the 3 pairs I bought.

Same applies for webapps, you would rather have users in your site which contributes contents and pro-actively interact with users and refer other users to the site rather than attract hordes of lurkers whose attention span last only for a month. Also attracting the right users makes sure they would refer your site to their friends which would have similar pro-active tendencies. This is the new rule of Web2.0 -- subscriber base size isn't good enough anymore.

Therefore if you look at all of these, It is not just about programming skills anymore -- that trend is only true during dot com era.

Today a junior programmer can out perform a senior programmer given the right framework and the right attitude to actually use those framework and follow pseudo codes and standards.

Developers and engineers has also evolved, reaching beyond the system analysis and design -- we must also have proper knowledge of the business the models. Designers shouldn't just make nice layout's and graphics, they must understand the impact of those design decisions in the overall marketing strategy.


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