Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Startup Marketing Ideas

Without a powerful narrative, your chances of getting big press and enthusiastic users who spread the word for you approach zero as a limit.

It took me years to figure this out at Smart Bear. At first when someone asked what the Smart Bear tool suite was, I would say:

Smart Bear makes data-mining tools for version control systems.

It's a description so esoteric that, although accurate, not even a hardcore geek would have any idea what it is, much less why it's useful.

Years later, when it was clear that code review software became our sole focus, I got better at describing it:

You know how Word has "track changes" where you can make modifications and comments and show them to someone else? We do that for software developers, integrating with their tools instead of Word and working within their standard practices.

Better, yes, and for a while I thought I nailed it, but still no press. Eventually (thanks to helpful journalists) I realized that I was still just describing what it is rather than why anyone cares. I left it up to the reader to figure out why she should get excited.

Eventually I developed stories like the following, each tuned to a certain category of listener. Here's the one for the journalists:

It's always fun to tell a journalist like you that we enable software developers to review each other's code because your reaction is always: "Wait a minute, you're seriously telling me they don't do this already?" The idea of editing and review is so embedded in your industry you can't imagine life without it, and you're right! You know better than anyone how another set of eyeballs finds important problems.

Of course two heads are better than one, but developers traditionally work in isolation, mainly because there's a dearth of tools which help teams bridge the social gap of an ocean, integrate with incumbent tools, and are lightweight enough to still be fun and relevant.

That's what we do: Bring the benefits of peer review to software development.

Now the reason for excitement is clear: We're transforming how software is created, applying the age-old techniques of peer review to an industry that needs it but where it's traditionally too hard to do. That's a story.

It took me five years to figure out (a) I needed a story and (b) what the story was. It's hard. But one story beats a pile of AdWords A/B tests.

I am not sure why Jason calls those ideas "unusual", although I can not disagree on his other point that there are some many entrepreneurs are try to pitch the common path as something unique, as it is not even funny anymore.

I really liked this story of transformation. You can not get enough of these and they are always great to read. I still remember ours "Social profile synchronization tool" from Atomkeep, which, frankly speaking, has never got transformed (and I'll pass on sharing its variations :) but it was always amazing to see how people react to this: some grap the idea immediately, other understand the words, but get completely messed up with the meaning.

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost