Neil Wilson asks:
’”Get Ink” is the fundamental marketing mantra. You guys are natural self-promoters. What do you find is the best way of getting your name in the frame?
10 ideas that come to mind when I think about ways to get people to notice you/your product:
1. Provide something of value. The first step is recognizing that marketing is asking for someone else’s time and attention. You need to provide something worthy of those valuable commodities. So keep your message brief and interesting. When you educate or entertain other people, they’ll pay attention. If you bore them, they won’t.
2. Know your hook. Imagine you are a reporter who wants to write an article about your company. What’s the hook? What’s the angle that will be interesting to someone who normally wouldn’t care about your software? We’ve got a lot of mileage in the press out of staying small and focusing on “less.” What’s unique about your story?
3. Stand for something. Know and expose your company’s philosophy and mantras. 37signals started with a manifesto back when we launched as a design firm. Even though it’s from 1999 and our company has evolved a ton since then, you can see the seeds of many of our current ideas there. That sort of belief foundation will help guide you (and others) to your story.
4. Get your face out there. It’s tempting to think you can do it all from a keyboard. But emails are a poor substitute for real, face-to-face interactions. Go to conferences and meetups, take someone you admire out to lunch, etc. It’s ok to “network” — just don’t be a douche about it. Which leads to…
5. Try to build real, sustained relationships. Actually be a friend instead of a guy trying to get something. Keep your interactions human (a sincere, honest note will go a lot further than a buzzwordy press release). Seek out ways to help others. It’ll all come back to you.
6. It’s the message, not the amount you spend on it. Companies that spend tons of ad/PR dollars to convince people their products are worthwhile are like guys who spend lots of money on gifts and dinners to woo a woman. What kind of relationship are they really building? Successful customer relationships are like any other long-term relationship: They start with a foundation of communication and showing you care about the other person.
7. Give stuff away for free. (I don’t think this contradicts the previous point but maybe?) People love free. Offer a free version of your product, provide coupon codes, etc. Whenever we include a coupon code in a newsletter, there’s a big uptick in upgrades.
8. Ride the wave. Seek momentum and ride it. Is everyone buzzing about the iPhone? Then make an iPhone app. Are people interested in rapid development processes? Then blog about building your app in, say, under a month. Find out what people are talking about already and then figure out a way to get in the picture.
9. Be in it for the long haul. Recognize that promotion, like other aspects of building a company, takes time and effort. If you’re starting from scratch, you have to claw your way up. It’s uncanny how many “overnight success stories” you hear about are actually people who busted their asses for years to get into the position where something might take off. Don’t expect instant recognition.
10. Be undeniably good. Steve Martin was on Charlie Rose last week. At the very end, he gave his advice to someone who’s trying to make it in any field: “Be undeniably good.”
When people ask me how do you make it in show business or whatever, what I always tell them — And nobody ever takes note of it ‘cuz it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script, here’s how you do this — But I always say, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If somebody’s thinking, “How can I be really good?”, people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.
That’s some good advice. Go out and make something that kicks ass and people will notice.
Related: Check out the “Promotion” chapter in Getting Real.
Got a question for us? Please send it along to svn [at] 37signals dot com and use the subject “Ask 37signals”.