Developing Perspective

#211: Asterisk Free Marketing.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note dynamics, development, Apple, and the like. I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:08   I'm an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. This is show number 211.

00:00:13   Today is Wednesday, February 11. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes,

00:00:17   so let's get started.

00:00:19   All right, so today I'm going to be talking about honesty. And it's a subject that I think

00:00:27   about a lot, but it was recently something that came up in my mind when I was working

00:00:32   on the app preview for Podometer++.

00:00:35   Which coincidentally I just released a video talking about, which I'll be linking to in

00:00:40   the show notes, so if you're curious how I made the app preview for Podometer++ or want

00:00:44   to see it, it's available.

00:00:46   Kind of a little how-to YouTube video.

00:00:48   So plug that.

00:00:50   Anyway, so while I was making this video, I kind of came up with this concept of like

00:00:55   I wanted to have a little catchphrase, a little marketing message. And the message was, I

00:01:00   ended up on, was set a goal, start walking, get fit. Pretty straightforward. It's a pedometer.

00:01:07   So what you're going to do is you're going to set a goal for how much you want to walk.

00:01:11   You'll walk, and hopefully as a result, you'll get fit. And the reason I mentioned that experience

00:01:19   as something around honesty, it got me thinking a lot though about the tricky balance that

00:01:24   think we have to strike about marketing truth and marketing lies, I suppose. Like, is it

00:01:34   okay for me to say to my customer, you know, like, set a goal, start walking, and get fit.

00:01:40   The get fit's the part that I, you know, like, I struggled with a little bit. And maybe this

00:01:45   is just me being me. But, you know, if you set a goal, start walking, you may or may

00:01:53   may not get fit. Like, if you set a goal and you start walking, but you're walking to Dunkin'

00:02:01   Donuts every day and eating a dozen donuts on your walk back, you're doing the first

00:02:07   two, but you're unlikely going to have a healthy body and a fit lifestyle. Like, it's situations

00:02:15   obviously far beyond the scope of my little app that counts your steps. And so I thought

00:02:21   about that for a while. And I think there's a broader thing that we have to think about

00:02:26   as software developers, especially as people who, you know, people like myself who are

00:02:31   also wearing other hats in that process, where I'm not just making software, I'm not just

00:02:35   designing software, I'm also marketing and selling software. You have to make some interesting

00:02:41   calls about where you're going to draw the line on marketing. Because a lot of marketing

00:02:47   and mainstream whatever, like general marketing, marketing on the back of a magazine,

00:02:52   in many ways is about you're selling a lie. You're selling this perception or this promise that,

00:03:01   you know, if you get this thing, then you will feel this way and your life will be better and

00:03:06   you will have all this fun and you'll be beautiful and happy and, you know, prancing in lilies. Like,

00:03:12   that's a lot of what it comes down to. You know, it's like if you buy this car and you drive this

00:03:16   fast, you will feel alive and powerful. And maybe you will, maybe you won't. Like marketing

00:03:23   is a tricky thing. And I worry about that though, as somebody who makes things and then

00:03:30   sells them. And there's a very direct personal connection to what I'm doing, what I'm building,

00:03:36   and the product that I ultimately produce. Because in some ways, many times people buy

00:03:44   or download something that I make because they know I made it. Like, it's a personal

00:03:48   thing. Like, when Nike says, "Just do it," they're not really like, it's not there's

00:03:55   a person telling you to do that. While they may have a celebrity endorsement saying that

00:03:58   or whatever, it's not quite have, it isn't quite of that same message. It's not me saying,

00:04:04   be fit. It's this more amorphous kind of corporation telling you something. And so it could give

00:04:10   me some pause. And maybe think also of a situation that I often run into where people reach out

00:04:16   to me with feature enhancements and requests. And they say, "Hey, I love this app. It'd

00:04:23   be great if it did X." Get lots of these. This is just part of building software. Most

00:04:29   software is like, for any given customer, software is like 90% perfect. And the 10%

00:04:35   that it needs to change is unfortunately different for every customer. That 10% that they were,

00:04:41   "Oh, it would be great if only it did this. It would be great if only it did that." That's

00:04:44   most of the experience of building software. And early on in my career building software,

00:04:51   I found that I would often respond, "Oh, that's a great idea. I'll see if I can get that in.

00:05:00   I'll see if I can get that into the next update. I'll see if I can work that in. That's a great

00:05:04   idea, I'm definitely going to do that. I started in some ways making promises. I started to

00:05:09   react to a customer in that way, in saying that yes, I will definitely do this, or giving

00:05:14   the impression maybe even that that was definitely going to do it. And at the time, that feels

00:05:19   great because the customer's happy. They're like, wow, I just reached out to the developer

00:05:23   and they say they're going to build my feature. Yes, this is great. But what I found, and

00:05:29   is that really I wasn't being honest. I was kind of lying to them a lot of the time because

00:05:36   I did A) I may not have actually been able to build that feature. Like I may have, even

00:05:39   if I, with the best intentions, I thought I could, it turns out I can't. It just isn't

00:05:44   going to work technically or functionally or timeline wise or whatever. Now that's a

00:05:49   little rough. Or maybe on second thought, you know, after a few cups of coffee, I realized,

00:05:55   maybe that's actually not such a good idea. And so I found what I started to do, and if you've

00:06:00   reached out to me at all, hopefully this is the response that I've given you. I started to have

00:06:04   to be more thoughtful about what I said in response to that. I could be like, "Wow, thank you for your

00:06:08   suggestion. I will keep that in mind as I work on future updates. Thank you so much for that feedback.

00:06:14   I'll put it on my list of things for consideration." Those are the kinds of things that I

00:06:19   think that I started to say, which in some ways I don't like because they're kind of soft. They're

00:06:24   not nearly as compelling, they're not nearly as impactful messages to this customer. They're

00:06:30   telling me something that they're kind of hopefully excited about. And I'm being like,

00:06:34   "Eh, maybe. Sounds sort of interesting." That's kind of a weak sauce. And so it's a tricky

00:06:43   balance. But in the end, what I discovered and what I found is that I felt better about

00:06:47   that. I felt better about those interactions when I was able to be honest with them and

00:06:51   say, "That's interesting. Thank you for your feedback. I will keep that in mind."

00:06:56   Because that's really all I ever meant.

00:06:59   So looping back to marketing messages, it's something that I thought about. Like, in this

00:07:04   case, is it appropriate for me to say, you know, "Get fit" as one of the marketing things

00:07:09   when obviously that's the dream that I am selling to this person when they download

00:07:14   this app, that if you get this app, your lifestyle will improve.

00:07:20   You'll be healthier.

00:07:21   You'll be more fit.

00:07:24   Maybe you're not real.

00:07:25   Maybe you won't.

00:07:26   I've had some testimonials and some really kind of amazing stories come in from my customers

00:07:30   where I get these emails from people who talk about the tremendous impact that Pedometer

00:07:35   Plus Plus has had on their health, how many dozens and dozens of pounds they've lost just

00:07:41   by having a pedometer on them.

00:07:44   And that's awesome. That's amazing. There are actually people in the world who are directly

00:07:49   impacted by something I made in my basement. That is mind-bending. And cool. So clearly

00:07:56   it's not like I'm just making up junk and throwing it over the wall. There is something

00:08:01   to that message. That yes, if you set a goal and you start walking and you stick to it

00:08:06   as part of a balanced diet. It's like little disclaimers you always see on cereal boxes

00:08:10   or on anything, it's like as part of a balanced diet, there's always that part to it. But

00:08:17   I don't want to necessarily have the, I want to always be able to put something out into

00:08:21   the world without asterisks. And this is actually something that I think about a lot. I think

00:08:28   about, and this is maybe where I'm going to kind of end up as my conclusion for today

00:08:33   and where I'll be kind of driving this home to. I've always thought that if I ever owned

00:08:38   company that got bigger and bigger. One of my kind of core principles is that I never

00:08:43   want to do things with an asterisk. And if maybe if you're outside of the United States,

00:08:49   you may not be quite as common of a practice. But I know in the United States, almost any

00:08:53   piece of packaging that you have any product in, almost always there's this little asterisk

00:08:58   at the end of some claim, at the end of some assertion. There's a little asterisk in the

00:09:03   the bottom in tiny print, it has a little explanation, a little caveat, a little disclaimer,

00:09:08   a little thing that really makes that statement they were making kind of not true.

00:09:14   And I've always thought if I had a big company, one of the things that my core principles

00:09:17   would be, I don't want to have to put that on my packaging. I would rather be honest

00:09:22   and clear and straightforward with my customers and say something that I can stand behind

00:09:29   and feel reasonable defending, rather than having to make this bold claim and put an

00:09:34   asterisk on the bottom. Like that, I think, in some ways, that asterisk is a cheat, is

00:09:39   a lie, is not great. It's the kind of thing that a lawyer adds into it that is a sign

00:09:46   that you really, you're not being honest, that you're not being truthful, that you're

00:09:50   not telling the whole truth. In the end, I decided with pedometer++, I'm okay with saying

00:09:56   be fit. Set a goal, start walking, get fit. That I think is a reasonable message that

00:10:02   I can stand behind and work on. That is the process that this app is intended and designed

00:10:09   towards. If you do those things, that is a reasonably likely outcome. Maybe it's not

00:10:14   going to happen to everybody. If you're walking to donuts, maybe that's not you. But it's

00:10:20   a reasonable claim. But I wanted to take the time this week on the show to talk about this

00:10:25   Because it's something that you think you really have to think about when you you make a product. How are you going to market it?

00:10:32   How comfortable are you with the marketing that you're doing?

00:10:37   Are all the things that you're saying things that you are comfortable with and would defend and don't have asterisks?

00:10:45   That I think is the sign of a business that is being run in a really

00:10:50   good way, in an honest way, and the kind of business that I want, I'm striving to build myself, and the kind of types of

00:10:57   businesses that I want to, you know, that I want to frequent, people that I want to support,

00:11:01   people who I think are doing things in an above-board way.

00:11:04   So much of, in so much of business, and in the App Store especially it seems sometimes, but I'm sure this is not unique to us.

00:11:12   There are so many opportunities to do dubious things, to be a little bit shady, to

00:11:19   coerce, manipulate to make customers do things that they may not want to do, may not have

00:11:28   intended to do, or in some ways are being coerced into doing. Or marketing messages

00:11:33   that aren't really honest or trying to appeal to people's worst characteristics rather than

00:11:39   aspirationally appealing to their better characteristics. And I think that's the kind of thing that

00:11:45   I just want to emphasize that I encourage everyone to think about. Obviously, we're

00:11:49   all different. We have to decide what works best for us. But I think it's important if

00:11:53   you're building applications and if you're building marketing for them, that you think

00:11:56   about these kinds of things, that you don't, your question isn't just, what can I put on

00:12:01   this label to get the most downloads? It's what message that is true and honest and representative

00:12:06   of my application will also get lots of downloads and be representative in the first place.

00:12:12   Because the reality is, if you can't think of a good, honest message for your application

00:12:17   for the marketing label, well then you probably need to spend more time building the application

00:12:21   in the first place.

00:12:22   You need to go back to first principles and think about your product.

00:12:24   Think about its design.

00:12:25   Think about its use.

00:12:26   Because if you have to rely on the marketing, you've already lost.

00:12:29   All right, that's it for today's show.

00:12:32   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can find me on

00:12:35   Twitter.

00:12:36   I'm _DavidSmith there.

00:12:37   Or you can email me, David@DevelopingPerspective.com.

00:12:38   Otherwise, if you have a great week, happy coding, and I'll talk to you later.

00:12:42   Bye.