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The mantra of our time is that the best marketing is your service itself. And it’s true – no amount of marketing will save a disappointing experience. But how great is a digital service that people don’t use?
Companies today are spending huge amounts of time, money and resources in developing digital services, hoping that once they’ve built them, users will come and fall in love with them. And sure, some will. But how do you reach your full potential audience? It’s imperative that we start paying more attention to how we launch, brand and market our digital services. After all, how we measure the success of services boils down to its users: downloads, retention, time spent, and so on.
A while back, I was talking with a startup entrepreneur who captured the spirit of the age well: “No one’s interested if you’re just saying stuff. Millennials hate it when you’re trying to overtly influence them. And this attitude has grown into a mega-trend.”
The entrepreneur continued: “You need values. What is your service really about? Who are you? What’s your story? Having a real story is interesting to people. Slapping on a thin veneer of marketing eats away your credibility.” In order to convince your most valuable customers to try your service, and then return to it, you need to be able to explain what makes you and your service unique, and how it impacts its users’ lives.
Here are my five steps to launching successful digital services.
Step 1: Build multifunctional teams rather than silos
Great launches begin with the service itself; make sure that marketing and communications are part of your product development team from the get-go. This ensures that the same knowledge that goes into building the service is also used to launch and market it effectively.
→ Avoid the waterfall model where development and marketing are separate processes. Instead, create a multidisciplinary team that has adopted a new marketing mindset.
Step 2: Think tribes over demographics
Who do you want to influence? What are their interests, passions and networks? Consumers today don’t relate to demographics (age, gender, location), but to tribes of like-minded people, and buy products and use services that enforce their identity.
→ Visualise your most valuable dream customers and make sure the service is specifically tailored to relieve their pain points.
Step 3: Set yourself apart from the competition
Truly understand what makes you different and why you do what you do. Then be crystal clear in communicating it to your customers. Give them a reason to choose you. You cannot communicate everything, so pick the one thing that sets you apart.
→ The digital environment enables testing and optimization. Experiment with different marketing messages to find the ones that resonate with your dream customer. Then keep going and continuously optimize your messaging as customer needs and situations change.
Step 4: Don’t rush your marketing
Never underestimate the power of a first impression: it’s hard to bounce back from a one-star app rating. Once you have a service that works and customers who use it, as well as data to base decisions on, then you can start your marketing communications. However, avoid setting an exact launch date – be flexible and launch with the simplest version that still relieves most of your users’ pain points.
→ Do a soft launch first. Launch to a limited user group, then gather feedback, learn and optimize. A good way of doing this is for example an internal soft launch (this is also a great way to engage people within your company), where you can learn what works and what doesn’t from your own colleagues.
Step 5: Get the word out and develop continuously
Traditional strategies don’t work and bring results in this non-traditional world. We have whole new ways of reaching people and being present in the moments that matter – the best of which is the service itself. Measure to make sure what you’re doing works, and that you’re retaining the customers you attract. If not, keep testing and tweaking your approach; prepare to kill your darlings and go back to the drawing board.
→ Think of ways you can use your service to market itself. Encourage, for example, your users to recommend your service to a friend, and then measure the impact. Don’t just look at downloads – follow your retention numbers: how many initial downloads are you turning into loyal customers?
In my past roles in advertising, we used to do countless rounds of iteration. Unfortunately, those magnificent modifications happened before anything was launched, and the iteration was pointless because it took place in Powerpoint decks between the client and the agency. Learning and getting real insight from actual customers to optimize the marketing efforts after the launch was close to zero.
To successfully launch your digital service, you don’t need superpowers or magic tricks. You need to shift your mindset. Go out and find your users, track, iterate, experiment and most of them all, dare to get out of your comfort zone and start using new marketing tools to reach your full potential.