funny sign3By Neicole Crepeau, Contributing {grow} Columnist

If you sell a web app or a software product that has web elements, it’s time to consider how your product can help market itself. More and more we’re seeing marketing  built into products, allowing the code to do some of the advertising work for you. Here are five methods to consider.

1) Perfect Social Prompts

Social sharing is the most obvious and easiest form of marketing that a product can enable but it is also critically important because when fans and followers see a personal recommendation of your product or service from someone they trust, that carries real weight.

The trick is to prompt users at appropriate times and provide an easy way for them to share, without overwhelming them.  Marketers need to work with development to design the right sharing experiences in order to generate maximum, positive posts.

Let’s look at a fantastic example of this. I recently had my laptop stolen. Luckily, I was using Backblaze to back up my files. On the screen for restoring my content, there were prominently placed Share buttons. It was the perfect time to prompt, because I felt incredibly relieved and thankful to Backblaze at that moment.

Backblaze share

What better advertisement than seeing a post from a person who feels immensely grateful for your product?

2) Creative Content Options

Does your product generate content or help users create content? Content is the fuel that powers the Internet and in an ideal world, your product would actually create content of interest your customers want to share.

A good example of this is the social influence company Appinions. Just by using the product, they can generate reports and infographics that are interesting and useful to the press, the public and industry publications.

If your product doesn’t naturally provide content, there are still ways to use the product as the content in a marketing strategy.

For example, say you have a business productivity tool, something akin to Evernote. Can you provide a public option that allows business users to highlight and share content that might promote them or their company? Putting a little effort into making your productivity tool a valuable marketing tool for other users means a public page that showcases your app.

Or, perhaps you’re able to track usage statistics via your product and provide data that might be of interest to other business users. Even support-related content, where existing users provide tips and hints, or describe how they are using your product, is a way to highlight your tool and garner SEO benefits.

Another option is to display user-generated or curated content on your site, which draws other potential users like a magnet to see it.  This subtly endorses your product simply by showcasing it. Pinterest, which shows up in search engine results, is a perfect example of a site where user-generated content is both the product and a self-marketing tool.

Pinterest join

 

3) In Search of Stickiness

The first step in obtaining powerful word of mouth marketing action is for people to actually use your product. That’s why it’s important to consider how to make your product “sticky,” i.e. keeping people glued and coming back.

The most common method of making a product sticky is through automated notifications through email, text messages, or even Twitter DMs. The notifications can range from a simple, “We haven’t seen you in a while…” to updates that inform users of activity or engagement opportunities. Social media tools often use this kind of engagement notification. For example, Twitter notifies you when someone sends a DM and Facebook tells you when someone has tagged or mentioned you.

When designing notifications into your product, you need to consider the whole experience in order to make sure that you are maximizing stickiness without annoying users.  Make sure that messages are useful and the total number of notifications is appropriate to the level of activity and investment the customer has made in your product each day/week.

Make it easy for users to move from the notification to the appropriate, corresponding area or actions of your software, website, or app. For example, when you click the link in a notification from Twitter about DM or @, you go to that DM/tweet so you can see it and immediately respond.

Twitter email

Don’t forget to look for opportunities to capitalize on notification for additional marketing opportunities. For example, say that you’re notifying users of a new post or picture that might interest them. When they click the link to go to that post or picture, it might make sense to have Share buttons that let the user immediately share that item with others, further spreading links to your application.

4) Rewards and Prizes

Who doesn’t like getting something for free? There are myriad ways to build rewards into your product to encourage actions that help market it. For example, Dropbox has a getspace page, listing ways to get more diskspace. In addition to upgrading to a paid or higher-priced version of Dropbox, you can earn space for free by taking actions that market or otherwise help the product:

Dropbox

Consider offering users something for tweeting or posting about your product. Definitely consider a referral reward.  Many products generate a “coupon” code that users can share with others. When friends/fans use the code, the sender gets a discount or other reward. (There are even apps like Ambassador to help you create and track these codes for your product.) You might also consider rewarding bloggers for posts. I know a marketer who gives users a free year of service if they write a blog post about his product.

5) Fun, fun, fun

“Gamifying” products is all the rage. It can keep the product sticky, encourage users to explore features, and entice users to take marketing actions in exchange for status, badges, or to level up.

You can even combine the rewards and gamification techniques. For example, users might level-up through marketing actions to earn discounts, free months on your subscription product, or unlock selected premium features.  Again, design these gamification elements carefully. If your users can level up to use selected premium features, pick features that will showcase the premium version and that are sticky, making those leveled-up users reluctant to give up the feature or the data they’ve saved with it.

Remember to make people’s level and status prominent in the product. Part of the benefit of gamification is to encourage competition. When a new user sees that another user has a special status, the new user may be driven to obtain that status as well. This competitive instinct can be leveraged to encourage users to take the actions you want.

As a marketer, you need to also consider your product pricing structure and how you can use gamification to get users to spend more money. For example, users who pay for higher-priced versions may have greater public status and privileges (like an American Express Black Card). You may also decide that it makes sense to allow users to earn or pay for specific features or privileges.

It’s a wired world, so let’s allow our products to help them market themselves!  Was this helpful?  Any ideas you’d like to contribute?

neicole crepeauNeicole Crepeau is the Senior Marketing Manager at Vizit Corporation, and blogs at Coherent Social Media. She’s the creator of CurateXpress, a content curation tool. Connect with Neicole on Twitter at @neicolec

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