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Good Development = Great Marketing
By Elden Nelson
A month or so ago, my wife and I were having an argument. She said our twins must be identical, I said they're fraternal. Either of us could have been right, but neither of us had proof. Knowing that this debate would go on (and on and on) until resolved, I pulled out my trump card and said, "OK, let's check their DNA."
To show my trump card was not in fact a bluff, I sat at the nearest computer and did a Google search on "twin DNA test." I was amazed to find that not only is it possible to order a twin zygosity test online, there are several companies that specialize in this kind of test.
Now I had to pick which to go with. The thing is, each offers essentially the same service. I had only two ways of differentiating the companies: price and the quality of the online experience.
The company offering the lowest price had online ordering, but it was no-frills. Place your order, get your DNA testing kit (two sets of cotton swabs and preservative solution), send it in and wait for your results. For $20 more, though, a different company had online order tracking. You could log on to the site whenever you wanted and check your order's status - when they shipped the kit, when they got it back, when they started evaluating the DNA, and when they had the final results. Further, they'd e-mail you updates whenever they had new information or the final results.
I spent the extra money. That's right, for the exact same product, for essentially the same turnaround time, I willingly spent $20 more than I had to. Why? Because I like getting e-mail as soon as the company had something to tell me. I like being able to log on to the Web site and see where the test stands. I like feeling like I'm involved. And I suspect that lots of curious parents are the same way. The company with the better Web application got my business, even though it was more expensive.
That's not an isolated incident. I have made more than 250 purchases from Amazon.com because one-click ordering is pretty darn convenient. Ever since eBay integrated Passport into its site, I've visited and made bids there much more frequently because logging on is simpler.
So what's my point? Well, actually I have two. First, the fact that there's actually competition for twin zygosity testing online is a good indicator that the Internet has reached a product-availability saturation point of sorts. Chances are if something exists, you can find and acquire it on the Internet. So just having a product is not enough to make it successful. The phrase, "If you build it, they will come" is no longer true. You've got to distinguish your product somehow. That's what marketing does.
My second - and most important - point is that a stable, well-built, informative, convenient tool is the best marketing a company can have for its product, whether that company's product is DNA tests, books, auction brokering, news, or anything else. And you are the people who are building the tools that distinguish your company. You're the ones who have the power to make your company successful. You're not a marketer - the thought of being called one probably makes you ill - but you're developing the best marketing the company has. Make sure the big shots in management know that. Photocopy this article and pin it to their doors.
asp.netPRO.com has some great articles geared specifically to help you as you develop the apps that stand out: Plug In .NET My Services by Markus Egger, will get you moving toward enabling your apps to access a common set of contacts, appointments, documents, devices, and so forth. It's an interesting step toward freeing your users from having to enter the same information repeatedly. Also be sure to check out Steven Turley's Authenticate Users with Microsoft Passport for info on getting your apps working with this emerging login standard. You'll find still more authentication info in Rob Howard's Ask Microsoft column.
I'm very interested in what you are doing with your apps that makes them stand out from the crowd. If you've built (or are building) something you think is going to make people pick your product over someone else's, tell me about it at [email protected].
And just in case you're curious, the twins are identical. Which means, of course, my wife won the argument. Go figure.
Elden Nelson is editor-in-chief of asp.netPRO magazine. Readers may contact him at [email protected].