If Not Press Releases…

I was talking with Val O. last night and she said “Okay, if not press releases, what should they be doing.”  My snarky answer, “Whatever works.”  But really it’s simpler than that.

Let’s take a look at a friend who’s product manager for a legacy software product.  It’s got 20 years of service, and runs on a platform that’s no longer made or supported by the company that made it.  Feature-wise, it’s still the best in the industry.  So they decided to extend the product by porting it to Windows.

This project took over a year, and came at a point where every single one of her existing customers was targeted by the competition as an easy mark for a system sale.  All of the customers realized they were going to need to replace their systems. 

The plus side of the equation was that it is a tight user community, and she’s had open lines of communication, as has the entire support and development team,  with the customers forever.  In fact, she comes from the user community herself. 

In order to get the product right, she started by talking with customers.  They were literally pulled into the development process.  A monthly newsletter was instituted to make the development process as transparent as possible.  Each and every newsletter had a call to action to call or email and keep the discussion going.  It did.  In fact, the circulation of the newsletter expanded dramatically as the users added the names of other interested parties within their organizations.  Customer support discussed the development when they had users on the phone. 

When they were ready, they identified a single beta customer to help launch the product.  Once that customer was live, they put together a simple 5 minute recorded Webex demo and included a link to special homepage, with a new product datasheet, access to the demo, and a call to action to schedule a one on one demo of the working product.

My analytics package showed that within the first 24 hours, the demo was watched by over 20% of the newsletter subscription list.

With a successful beta under their belt, plus datasheets, a “give us 5 minutes to see your next system” demo, and an informed customer base that had been part of the process the whole way along, they finally issued a press release, as almost an after thought.

Many of you right now are saying “that’s not new marketing, that’s the same old goal driven, email sending, press release writing” stuff that we’ve seen since the dawn of tech.  Here are the key elements of why this worked and why it is different:

  1. It was realized from the beginning that the customers had to be engaged, that in fact they had ownership of the brand.
  2. Technology wasn’t used for technologies sake, instead she used the media that was most likely to reach her core customers.
  3. By securing her existing customers as part of the process, she kept a percentage of them from jumping ship.
  4. The project was accomplished with a virtually non-existent marketing budget.  In fact, the only things that came out of the MarComm dept. were the final press release, the time it took to format the product datasheet, plus a couple hours of webmaster time sending the newsletter monthly.

The key thing is that she ensured the product remained relevant to her users at a time when it easily could have lost that.  They were engaged in the process, and as such took pride in the brand.  The development insures that a high percentage of these users will probably retire from the trade having only ever used this system!

Consider using the right technology to reach your core customers, involving them in the evolution of the brand.  You will create and maintain committed partners, rather than disinterested customers. 

4 Replies to “If Not Press Releases…”

  1. Your friend is brilliant! Newsletters like the one she created really do provide a sense of community, as well as helpful tips.

    As for that press release. Why couldn’t the demo have been embedded in the release? Then the release gets optimized for the search engines. Then it’s seen by all those surfers who have an itch that your friend can scratch.

  2. Normally I’d have wanted to see it everywhere – spray painted on buildings if need be, but in this particular case, it is a niche market, which they’ve got clearly defined. The plan is to go to the broader market soon, but first they want to secure the existing base.

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