Friday, July 18, 2008

It's the Product, Stupid!

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to meet with Mike Hyatt, the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson. I’ve mentioned him here before and I’ve been reading his blog off and on for a few years now, so it was a treat to finally meet him in person.

While telling him about the launch of Learn & Master Guitar, Mike stopped me when I described how quickly things ramped up during our first year. He wanted to know “what was the hardest part about getting the word out?” I thought about it for a bit before admitting that, honestly, it seemed pretty easy. I had already spent five years marketing a similar product at another company, so the marketing strategy was no great mystery to me.

The hard part, I told him, was developing the product. It took a large investment and nine months of incredibly difficult work (thank you Steve Krenz!), but when we finally launched, people wanted it. They wanted it because it really was like no other home-study guitar course available. And since it was internet based, word spread fast.

Mike gave a knowing smile and picked up a bright yellow button that had been sitting on the coffee table between us. In big black letters it read, “It’s the Product, Stupid!” I laughed. Apparently, “It’s the Product, Stupid!” is a mantra Mike has been preaching to his team at Thomas Nelson. As he put it, “when the product is right, everything else is easy.”

I am a marketing guy. I like to believe that the right sales copy and marketing strategy can sell anything. Often it can (for a while), but if the product is lousy, it's definitely an uphill battle.

Marketing is about getting people to want what you have to offer. Offer what they already want and marketing gets very, very easy.

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