Chicken or Egg: Do you Need a Killer Product or a Solid Marketing Strategy First?

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Okay, so you’ve developed a business, and you have an idea for what your product’s going to be. It’s going to take time to develop your product to the level of excellence you desire, so you’re considering getting started with a marketing campaign in the meantime. But then, how can you build a successful marketing campaign without an excellent product to showcase?

The truth is, products and marketing strategies share a mutually dependent relationship, each feeding into the other. Let’s delve into the arguments for and against building a product or marketing strategy first.

The Case for a Killer Product First

There are some advantages in coming up with a great product before attempting any kind of marketing strategy:

· Your unique value proposition (UVP). One of the greatest assets you’ll have for your marketing campaign is your company’s UVP, the single value or benefit your business offers that can’t be matched. If you develop your product first, you’ll know this UVP inherently, and you’ll be able to build a brand around it.

· Word-of-mouth limitations. Even in the digital age, you can’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals, especially in the context of a marketing campaign. Without a product in circulation when your marketing efforts begin, you’ll fundamentally limit the amount of brand awareness and new customers you can earn here. Getting your product in more hands early on can substantially boost this area of business development.

· First impressions. Let’s assume you’ve gone with a marketing-first, product-later approach. Without a finished product to inform your direction, you’ll be left somewhat vulnerable. Assume you sold a group of customers on an unfinished idea — what do you do then? The possibility of unmet expectations and disappointment is high, and you could easily lose credibility as a brand.

· More material. Once your product is developed, you’ll naturally have more material you can use in your marketing and advertising. Images, video, demos, and trials are all at your disposal — but only if you have a finished product (or at least a beta version). Without that, you’ll be selling people on concepts and ideas alone.

· The customer retention factor. Don’t forget that your marketing and advertising campaigns serve a role for relationships and customer retention just as much as awareness and customer acquisition. Without a product on the market (and current buyers as well), you’ll lose this entire portion of your marketing campaign.

The Case for a Solid Marketing Strategy First

On the other hand, there are some serious advantages to coming up with a running marketing strategy as you’re still developing your product:

· Minimal time waste. It takes a long time to develop a product, especially if you don’t even have a prototype yet. Every month you spend in development is more expenses for your business and no momentum for your brand. Marketing early, before you even have a product, is a way of maximizing the value of your time.

· The self-fulfilling prophecy. Outlining your marketing campaign can actually help you develop your product; when you think about what would be the most appealing angle in a marketing campaign, such as a sneak preview of your functionality, you could actually come up with new features and functions that you can incorporate into your product design.

· Anticipation. Marketing early and often, especially if you include an air of mystique to your methods, can help build anticipation in your key demographics, which you can then grow in subsequent campaigns. It lends a power to your product that will escalate the prominence of your eventual launch.

· Flexibility in spending. Just because you invest in marketing early doesn’t mean you have to invest completely in marketing early on. Instead, you can start off light, and escalate your spending as your product gets closer to final development. There’s a lot of room for flexibility here.

The Bottom Line

Let’s see if we can sort out these advantages and disadvantages and form a conclusion. Since both approaches have advantages over the other, it’s impossible to announce a clear victor, but there are certain circumstances that naturally favor one or the other. Let’s examine these:

· How much time will it take to build your product? This is important for two main reasons. First, the more time it takes to build your product, the more time you’ll potentially waste by not engaging in a marketing campaign. Second, timing the market too late or too early could jeopardize your eventual performance. Consider your timing carefully.

· What is your audience disposition? Think about your target demographics. Are these eager types, always anxious to get their hands on the next big thing? Or are they more passive and patient? Will they lose interest in your product if you start marketing it too soon, or will you be able to build suspense over the long term?

· What marketing strategies are you using? This may be the most important consideration, as different marketing strategies offer different types of returns. For example, paid advertising will start yielding awareness and interest instantly, whereas something like SEO takes months of time to develop. Investing in more long-term strategies is a safer bet for a long product development cycle.

Your business is unique, and it’s going to take a unique approach if you want to see the best results. Consider your position carefully, and invest according to your conclusions.

Written by

CEO of EmailAnalytics (emailanalytics.com), a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!

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