So you have been on the front page of Digg, you have been a Stumble Upon Top Pick and the blogospere buzz machine has blessed you with enough ink to make Gutenberg cry. Still, your neighbors still doesn’t have any idea what it is that you are doing coding in your den all night long. In fact, he’s pretty sure that you’re some kind of terrorist.
Once you decide to expand your business beyond the bounds of early adopters, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. This will be a brief rundown of most of the important ones.
Keep It Simple
The best way to get real people to use your product is to tell them about it. Remember that most people do not have the same knowledge of “collobrative, crowdsourcing designed to leverage your social graph” that the average internet entrepreneurs does. More importantly, they don’t care. If you present normal people with a useful concept, even if it has been done a thousand times before on the web, they are a lot more likely to adopt it than if you try to wow them with marketese.
Notice that I said useful “concept”. You need to distill your product down to its functional parts. The thing that will detract adoption amongst main stream users is complexity. Once they have decided to use a product, features are a great way to keep them happy. When they are still giving it a test drive, however, unnecessary “stuff” is bound to come back to bite you in the butt.
Use Your Community
No, I am not talking about your social network on Facebook. If your product solves a real problem, there is probably a terrestrial equivalent somewhere. Find the people who use this solution in their daily lives. If everyone at your office has a day planner, they may interested in your new piece of productivity software. If your friends all spend three days a week watching Blockbuster flicks, they may find your new movie recommendation engine helpful.
The point is that you have to understand the problem you are solving and reach out to the members of your community who have those problems. Make a few phone calls, visit your local college, get in front of your Chamber of Commerce for advice. In short, get out there and network.
The Mainstream Web
Remember that the web is also filled with “mainstream” Internet users. You can find them wandering the halls of social networks like MySpace and Facebook. Many of these people have never heard of the blogosphere, and are really only online because it’s an easier way to anonymously stalk people.
Make a Facebook Group and MySpace profile for your idea and invite all your friends. Talk to some of the entrepreneurial groups on these services and bounce your ideas off of them. Get your name out there, and make sure that people have an easy time finding out what you are about.
Once again, these are all people who haven’t been necessarily been saturated with Web 2.0 jargon. Forget your hype, explain your idea and try to make it relevant to them.
Local newspapers have very tight publishing cycles and often very little to write about. Use this to your advantage and write a press release. Also, don’t be afraid to contact your local media with your idea. A lot of times they will be more than happy to put together a human interest piece if you can prove to them that there is something coverage worthy in your startup.
The best way to convince members of the press that your idea is worth talking about is to avoid the Web 2.0 hype machine and just pitch them your value proposition. If you can also throw in how your product will help the community, or something about fighting against a large, faceless corporation that’s usually worth a few bonus points.
Remember that, if push comes to shove, you can use advertising to promote your product. Online, you can usually do this for relatively cheap with services like Adwords. Offline, advertising gets more complicated and much more expensive. This should be the last option in your arsenal for another reason as well. Web products are more easily sold…on the web.
Don’t put too much money into terrestrial advertisement before you saturate the tech crowd.
Web 2.0 Roundup
A better question than where you should go to market offline is whether your startup is even ready to move into the real world. This checklist should help you make the decision. If you answer “no” to any of these you may want to continue building.
* Does your product, like the cell phone and Facebook, translate well to real people?
* Have you already collected a group of early adopters to help you work out the most glaring bugs?
* Does your major “hook” work well?
* Can you explain your product in one sentence?
Good luck and happy innovating.