Get Your Product Right Or Get In The Liferaft

If your product will rely on advertsing in whole or in part to fund your business model build in advertising hooks and concepts from day one or else you may as well hand that VC money back.

I wrote recently about the problems I see with an assumption that advertising will pay for everything. Even in the month since I wrote that, world markets are moving in a direction that’s making us all look for the liferaft. All of us excet those who got the big bonuses over the last few years and didn’t blow them on an overpriced city pad. I hear they are in Indian beach huts.
My second point last time, and forgive me shamelessly quoting myself, said, “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans”. I’ve been thinking a little more about this and I can’t stress the importance of it. So, I’m going to say it again. And put it in bold: “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans”.
There is a counter argument, I know. Get your product right first. When you get all the bells and whistles built into your product or service then people will love/use it and advertiser’s like that. Well, see my previous post: advertising can’t pay for everything in this world. If the advertising experience is poor for the conumser you’ve blown the bit about getting your product right. If the experience is poor for the advertiser then you have a mountain to climb to convince them to come.
No, if your product will rely on advertsing in whole or in part to fund your business model build in advertising hooks and concepts from day one or else you may as well hand that VC money back and go and join all the bankers on a beach in India for a year or two. It doesn’t have to distract too much from your central product proposition but you need to remember that it is core to your business proposition.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah”. I think that’s what I can hear you saying. “We won’t do that”. But I’ve seen great companies – big and small – make this mistake again and again.
I’ve lost count of the number of websites that I’ve met with who add advertising into the mix after they’ve done the content system design and build. And after they’ve spent a lot of money on the design which happened not to have a brief to include advertising. Then they add the advertising spaces into the look and feel of the site and the whole thing suddenley looks disconnected. The content system isn’t built to pass any itelligence back to the ad system and they struggle to place ads in the right place. Worse, the content system has a content structure that doesn’t map to how the sales team want to sell the ads so from the first sale nobody’s expectations are met.
There are fewer companies I’ve met, but they exist, who build a way to have users register to use a product but don’t coniser how that could enhance the advertising proposition to both the conumser and the advertiser. So it’s a sepearte system that doesn’t share intelligence. Several times I’ve seen teams re-engineer registration interfaces just to faciliate some use in the advertising mix (and remember knowing you’re a registered user of a site can, sometimes, mean you see less – not more – advertising).
And while I’m talking about registration, you are asking for a little more than an email address aren’t you? Gender and country – fields which doen’t identify an individual in any way (unless your country consists of two people and only one of them is a man) can be invaluable in determining which advertisers might be interested in your audience. More data is better but it’s a start.
Remember that you are selling audiences not spaces. You need to know a little bit about them to be able to construct a meaningful advertising proposition. However, you also need to remember that there are laws – with good reason – that mean you can’t invade an  individual’s privacy. It’s a good trade. I get a product for free and I tell you a little bit about me. You need to aggregate and anonymise data. If you have solid aggregated data then you stand a chance at building a good advertising proposition. And in any product development it isn’t a bad idea to know your audience, is it?
Whatever your product think about how the ads will fit into the mix. It’s not just websites. Many years ago I worked with a company that specialised in sponsored SMS messages. You know the kind of thing. My team score and you send me a text. Somebody else pays for the text. All very nice until you remember that you need to send me the score and get the sponsor message in less that 160 characters. And that sponsor message needs to include a message and, often, a response mechanism. You see the problem?
I could go on. But you don’t need me to rub it in, do you?
So, for one final time, if advertising is going to be central to your proposition …, oh you get the point.

I wrote recently about the problems I see with an assumption that advertising will pay for everything. Even in the month since I wrote that, world markets are moving in a direction that’s making us all look for the liferaft. All of us excet those who got the big bonuses over the last few years and didn’t blow them on an overpriced city pad. I hear they are in Indian beach huts.

My second point last time, and forgive me shamelessly quoting myself, said, “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans”. I’ve been thinking a little more about this and I can’t stress the importance of it. So, I’m going to say it again. And put it in bold: “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans“.

There is a counter argument, I know. Get your product right first. When you get all the bells and whistles built into your product or service then people will love/use it and advertiser’s like that. Well, see my previous post: advertising can’t pay for everything in this world. If the advertising experience is poor for the conumser you’ve blown the bit about getting your product right. If the experience is poor for the advertiser then you have a mountain to climb to convince them to come (back).

No, if your product will rely on advertsing in whole or in part to fund your business model build in advertising hooks and concepts from day one or else you may as well hand that VC money back and go and join all the bankers on a beach in India for a year or two. It doesn’t have to distract too much from your central product proposition but you need to remember that it is core to your business proposition.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah”. I think that’s what I can hear you saying. “We won’t do that”. But I’ve seen great companies – big and small – make this mistake again and again.

I’ve lost count of the number of websites that I’ve met with who add advertising into the mix after they’ve done the content system design and build. And after they’ve spent a lot of money on the design which happened not to have a brief to include advertising. Then they add the advertising spaces into the look and feel of the site and the whole thing suddenley looks disconnected. The content system isn’t built to pass any itelligence back to the ad system and they struggle to place ads in the right place. Worse, the content system has a content structure that doesn’t map to how the sales team want to sell the ads so from the first sale nobody’s expectations are met.

There are fewer companies I’ve met, but they exist, who build a way to have users register to use a product but don’t coniser how that could enhance the advertising proposition to both the conumser and the advertiser. So it’s a sepearte system that doesn’t share intelligence. Several times I’ve seen teams re-engineer registration interfaces just to faciliate some use in the advertising mix (and remember knowing you’re a registered user of a site can, sometimes, mean you see less – not more – advertising).

And while I’m talking about registration, you are asking for a little more than an email address aren’t you? Gender and country – fields which doen’t identify an individual in any way (unless your country consists of two people and only one of them is a man) can be invaluable in determining which advertisers might be interested in your audience. Crude, yes. Simplistic advertising, yes. But more data is better and it’s a start.

Remember that you are selling audiences not spaces. You need to know a little bit about them to be able to construct a meaningful advertising proposition. However, you also need to remember that there are laws – with good reason – that mean you can’t invade an  individual’s privacy. It’s a good trade. I get a product for free and I tell you a little bit about me. You need to aggregate and anonymise data. If you have solid aggregated data then you stand a chance at building a good advertising proposition. And in any product development it isn’t a bad idea to know your audience, is it?

Whatever your product think about how the ads will fit into the mix. It’s not just websites. Many years ago I worked with a company that specialised in sponsored SMS messages. You know the kind of thing. My team score and you send me a text. Somebody else pays for the text. All very nice until you remember that you need to send me the score and get the sponsor message in less that 160 characters. And that sponsor text needs to include a message and, often, a response mechanism. You see the problem?

I could go on. But you don’t need me to rub it in, do you?

So, for one final time, if advertising is going to be central to your proposition …, oh you get the point.

Author: jon

Jon Curnow writes on curnow.org about things that interest him. The site has been around for many years in various forms and he always wants to write much more here than he does.

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