Marketing 2.0: A Distributed Marketing Approach For Web Services And Applications
With the advent of Web 2.0 and the explosion in the number of web-based services that has ensued, we have seen hundreds of new applications and tools become available without any sign of slowdown yet. Thanks to cheaper technology, open APIs, and the ease with which today's coders can put together working applications, the offer in terms of web services has exceeded its own ability to market and make itself self-sustainable.
Photo credit: Cookelma
The main problem with such many web applications, especially when they integrate some social or collaborative aspects, is that they take very little advantage of the small, independent publishers acting as strategic marketing agents and distribution partners.
When you make your web application, re-usable, embeddable in other sites and blogs, if not altogether customizable, or even private label-able, you have got a much better recipe for online success.
Requiring users to log-in a centralized place, when their true community is elsewhere is counter-nature. It is the tools for the community or specific interest that should be where those passionate about it hang out.
Expecting all kinds of different users and demographics to get excited by one common denominator, one look and feel, one name and communication approach sounds a lot like working with traditional mass media.
If the Internet is made of thousands of passionate communities of interest why are we trying to sell our tools to all of them in the same exact way?
Decentralizing, supporting capillary re-distribution and marketing, allowing re-branding, and even providing a margin for variable pricing are the ingredients for a marketing approach for web services and applications that fully leverages the Internet distributed nature.
Nonetheless this would seem a natural, intuitive marketing approach for new companies to adopt, it remains yet the greatest stumbling blog to successful marketing and distribution for most new web startups.
Marketing 2.0: Make Your Tools Available Everywhere, Re-Brandable and Re-Sellable By Others
New web startups can significantly increase their reach and their profit potential if they were to adopt a simple solution: let existing communities, web personalities and blogs expose, distribute, and even sell their paid version under their private label to their own audiences.
Give the ability to small online media companies to brand and easily integrate your service into their sites and to have a direct control on resale pricing and (if you have a good product) they will positively do the heavy lifting for you.
If you are a company that develops web tools and applications, you basically create the service in a way that can be easily redistributed under different labels, customized in different ways for different audiences and resold / subscribed to at different prices, depending on the reseller audience and marketing strategy.
Web startups think that their web application needs to have just one name and one look, but, really, who said so? Couldn't the same video streaming service be labeled and branded in completely different ways to address much more defined target audiences?
I often do not identify at once with the "brand" developed by a service or tool I like. If given the opportunity to re-distribute it, while customizing it, private-labeling it, and in certain cases make a return on it too, is something that when the core content / product is of value, I would always consider doing.
My raving fans, would certainly hesitate much less in signing up a new tool or service that had my name on it, my stile, my kinda features instead that a generic one. And if I was good enough to add exactly those extra little extra features and personal touches to differentiate my release from other ones, my community would have absolutely no more hesitation in getting signed up to it too.
So. I and many others out there, companies, small publishers, bloggers, have an audience listening. In many cases a well-defined, passionate audience that has an interest in very specific things.
If you are a new web startup, why should you try to get the visibility and reach that many of us have tried so hard to build over a long period of time? How fast can you build a community of raving fans?
Yes, you can get coverage, blog reviews and much visibility thanks to these many new independent media outlets, but one thing is to have them talk about your tool and one other would be if some of those media outlets could actually re-brand, personalize and re-distribute your tool to their passionate communities.
Come to me, and let me wrap your web application under a Robin Good label, add it one or two things others don't have, give it a unique look and feel and see if I can't build 100 times more registered and paying users for your service.
So, here my key recommendations to these companies:
1) Decentralize Distribution
Do not centralize the sign-up, adoption and promotion of web services and online tools. Devise widgetized, embeddable or easily customizable / brandable versions that small and large publishers of relevant niches can take up as added-value content complements. Let others do the heavy lifting for your marketing and sales department. There is no way you can compete with established communities and their own idea of what is cool, how it should look and work. Let the leaders or the key online content channels for those communities bring your product to them in whichever way they think is most appropriate.
2) Focus on Creating a Great Tool
Create a useful web service first and foremost. Having great distribution means that in many cases, especially where there are few or weak competitors you can gain much larger market share even with a medium quality product. Having few or no other alternatives, interested audiences will adjust and adopt your solution until a better one comes around. But if you can architect great value and usefulness, in a simple, modular, and highly customizable product, you are in for positive results.
3) Provide Cool Marketing Support
Give the best marketing support tools to your marketing and distribution partners. Create badges, ads, extra venues to promote and personalize their offer. Have a cool unique way to allow your partners to private label your service. Provide good customer support and technical assistance that they can rely upon.
4) Facilitate Personalization, Branding, Customization
Create white-label versions that publishers can rebrand and customize to their specific audience needs. The more in this direction the better. For example: if you have a few extra cool features that are not core components allow different distribution partners to activate them selectively. Or, design multiple templates and color schemes and provide a distribution toolkit that allows further customization.
5) Let Partners Price It
Let distributors control final pricing. Give pricing margin to distributors allowing them to set their mark-up prices and to adjust the offer, price tag and service to their marketplace. Follow the approach that CafePress, Zazzle and Lulu have set long ago but extend it to other web services and tools. Who said we can only resell t-shorts and coffee mugs with our label on it?
Originally written by Robin Good for Master New Media and first published on June 5th 2008 as "Marketing 2.0: A Distributed Marketing Approach For Web Services And Applications"
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