Note: The following are excerpts from Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making by Tony Fadell.
While good marketing is anchored in human connection and empathy, creating and implementing your marketing programs can and should be a rigorous and analytical process.
1. Marketing cannot just be figured out at the very end. When building a product, product management and the marketing team should be working together from the very beginning. As you build, you should continue to use marketing to evolve the story and ensure they have a voice in what the product becomes.
2. Use marketing to prototype your product narrative. The creative team can help you make the product narrative tangible. This should happen in parallel with product development—one should feed the other.
3. The product is the brand. The actual experience a customer has with your product will do far more to cement your brand in their heads than any advertising you can show them. Marketing is part of every customer touchpoint whether you realize it or not.
4. Nothing exists in a vacuum. You can’t just make an ad and think you’re done. The ad leads to a website that sends you to a store where you purchase a box that contains a guide that helps you with installation, after which you’re greeted by a welcome email. The entire experience has to be designed together, with different touchpoints explaining different parts of your messaging to create a consistent, cohesive experience.
5. The best marketing is just telling the truth. The ultimate job of marketing is to find the very best way to tell the true story of your product.
Steve Jobs often said, “The best marketing is just telling the truth.”
You make hundreds of tiny decisions every day, but then there are the critical ones, the ones where you’re trying to predict the future, the ones that will put a lot of resources on the line. In those instances, it’s important to realize what kind of decision you’re faced with:
- Data-driven: You can acquire, study, and debate facts and numbers that will allow you to be fairly confident in your choice. These decisions are relatively easy to make and defend and most people on the team can agree on the answer.
- Opinion-driven: You have to follow your gut and your vision for what you want to do, without the benefit of sufficient data to guide you or back you up. These decisions are always hard and always questioned—after all, everyone has an opinion.
Every decision has elements of data and opinion, but they are ultimately driven by one or the other. Sometimes you have to double down on the data; other times you have to look at all the data and then trust your gut. And trusting your gut is incredibly scary. Many people don’t have either a good gut instinct to follow or the faith in themselves to follow it. It takes time to develop that trust. So they try to turn an opinion-driven business decision into a data-driven one. But data can’t solve an opinion-based problem. So no matter how much data you get, it will always be inconclusive. This leads to analysis paralysis—death by overthinking. If you don’t have enough data to make a decision, you’ll need insights to inform your opinion. Insights can be key learnings about your customers or your market or your product space—something substantial that gives you an intuitive feeling for what you should do. You can also get outside input: talk to the experts and confer with your team. You won’t reach consensus, but hopefully you’ll be able to form a gut instinct. Listen to it and take responsibility for what comes next.
Practice delayed intuition. This is a phrase coined by the brilliant, Nobel Prize–winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman to describe the simple concept that to make better decisions, you need to slow down. The more amazing an idea seems—the more it tugs at your gut, blinds you to everything else—the longer you should wait, prototype it, and gather as much information about it as possible before committing. If this idea is going to eat up years of your life, you should at least take a few months to research it, build out detailed (enough) business and product development plans, and see if you’re still excited about it. See if it will chase you.
The best ideas are painkillers, not vitamins. Vitamin pills are good for you, but they’re not essential. You can skip your morning vitamin for a day, a month, a lifetime and never notice the difference. But you’ll notice real quick if you forget a painkiller. Painkillers eliminate something that’s constantly bothering you. A regular irritation you can’t get rid of. And the best pain—so to speak—is one you experience in your own life. Most startups are born from people getting so frustrated with something in their daily experience that they start digging in and trying to find a solution.