Press Releases, Launches and Seth Godin

I have a love/hate relationship with Seth’s blog.  I love the way that he distills down complicated concepts into bite-sized chunks of wisdom that very often get me thinking.  I hate how utterly theoretical and non-practical this wisdom is and therefore fear that no matter how great his ideas are, nobody could ever figure out how to actually apply them to real, live, functioning businesses.

Today’s post, First, 10,  is one of those that manages to get me thinking and drive me crazy at the same time (which I suspect is the desired result).  In it he states:

Find ten people. Ten people who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you…

Those
ten people need what you have to sell, or want it. And if they love it,
you win. If they love it, they’ll each find you ten more people (or a
hundred or a thousand or, perhaps, just three). Repeat.

If they don’t love it, you need a new product. Start over.

So far so good. Most folks selling B2B have been doing the shortlist of first reference customers thing for ages.  I don’t buy that those customers are actually going to get out there and close million dollar deals for me but they sure as heck are going help me get into my next 10 accounts (either directly or indirectly), so I’m good with this.  Then he says this:

The timing means that the idea of a ‘launch’ and press releases and the
big unveiling is nuts. Instead, plan on the gradual build that turns
into a tidal wave.

Well, in my opinion that depends on what you mean by “launch” and “press release”.

I agree that the age of the “big unveiling” is over.  It doesn’t make sense to keep new product/releases a secret until an arbitrary set date. It makes a lot of sense to be engaging your prospects and influencers along the way to having something released to market.  Having your external communications gradually build up “into a tidal wave” makes a lot of sense to me.

Launch is another thing altogether in my mind though.  The process of managing a launch of a product involves way more than external communications and anyone that’s working toward a date where a product will be generally available would be nuts if they decided they didn’t need to work that plan anymore.  That plan includes sales enablement, services enablement, channel readiness, training, marketing, marketing communications, analyst relations all of which should have a series of important dates where deadlines must be met (not just the “launch” date).  So basically I agree that “launch” as a one day only externally facing event doesn’t make sense but as an internal way to describe the integrated set of things involved in bringing a product to market, you are dead without one.

The second piece I’m not comfortable with is the statement that doing a press release is “nuts”.  Not in my world it isn’t.  In fact, now that I can do multi-media and social media press releases, I’m having more success with press releases than I have in years. If Seth is talking about a traditional press release that goes on the wire and only announces “You can come and buy this now”, then I would agree, that is kinda nuts.  But I think smarter companies are moving away from those to something much more informative, interesting and relevant to customers, media and influencers.

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16 thoughts on “Press Releases, Launches and Seth Godin”

  1. Seth drove me nuts when he mentioned curriculum marketing in his “Permission Marketing” book. I took curriculum to mean instructionally designed like the WebMonkey tutorials on CNet back in the early days of the web. But, I’m sure he meant something more along the lines of A/B testing.
    I emailed him, but never heard back. I’ve emailed him more recently and got some meaningful responses.
    Customer evanglism does take a lot of effort and time, so much time that a quick tidal wave isn’t likely.

  2. I agree with your general thoughts about Seth’s body of work on his blog becoming ever more “theoretical”. I had recently written a quick note to a similar extent on my Posterous (in case you care to check it out, it’s here:
    http://alexschleber.posterous.com/my-cmt-on-5-who-broke-rules-of )
    As to launches, Seth clearly hasn’t been paying attention to what some of the savviest internet marketers out there have been doing with launches (StomperNet / Andy Jenkins, Frank Kern, and the godfather of IM launches, Jeff Walker, come to mind).
    The have hatched an ingenious amalgamation of “moving the freeline” principles (giving tons of quality/actionable content away early on), persuasion tactics including massive/continuous social proof for the entire pre-launch period, listening to and answering/defusing prospect objections in a real-time, flexible way on launch blogs, motivating and orchestrating mailings by armies of (super-)affiliates with massive lists, and generally turning the concept of the sales letter into a horizontal, “over time” axis, all punctuated with strong scarcity motivators at the end.
    I am probably forgetting about another half dozen things that are going on. So no, I would have to strongly disagree with Seth on this point. And BTW there are very large companies including Apple that are using similar tactics to great effect (scaled to their needs).

  3. April: I can understand why you think as you do and why you wrote your blog post. Having been a product manager of a B2B software product in a previous life, I can remember dealing with the issues you raise.
    But I have to disagree entirely when I think about this from my perspective today as the co-founder of a two person Web 2.0 startup. From this perspective, I see Seth as exactly dead-on in his advice.
    I’m not sure I can do my reasoning justice in a short comment. But I just wrote a long blog post on this responding to Seth’s post on the Bscopes Blog (http://blog.bscopes.com/2009/04/02/the-secret-of-the-new-marketing/)
    I’d be very interested in your opinion on the approach that Bscopes is taking to dealing with Blog Overload.

  4. Hi David,
    I don’t think anyone would argue that there is such a thing as a quick tidal wave. Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing Seth personally and like I said I love the way his blog always makes me think.
    April

  5. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you that the nature of “launches” is changing and I’m sure when Seth says that launches are nuts he’s talking about old-school style launches where from the perspective of the outside world, the company was completely silent until the big bang launch event. But like you say, there aren’t too many companies doing those anymore and I think the newer style of “launch” would be something Seth would like a lot.
    April

  6. Hi Brad,
    Thanks a lot for the comment!
    The trick with Seth’s advice (and the point I was trying to make in the post) is that it all depends on how you interpret it and decide to execute on it. I would roll up how you decided to go to market (blogging, Twitter, word of mouth) as the communications part of your launch plan. There are other parts of that plan you are working on such as support, creating materials to help your customers understand how to get the most value out of your products, building the online tour, etc. Some of those things you made sure were done before your product was available, some are scheduled for after. My point is I would bundle that stuff into a launch plan and call it a launch. It isn’t your grandfather’s launch where you said nothing until launch day and then only spoke to traditional media through a press release. And frankly, I’m not seeing many launches like that anymore.
    My worry about Seth’s advice is that folks will throw the baby out with the bathwater and not do the hard work of a launch because they are no longer doing the big bang communications part. You guys seem to be doing that instinctively, and that’s great!
    By the way – you guys have a great value prop. I am doing a talk on Monday and I am going to use you as an example of a good one. (the one on the Take a Tour page, not the text on the home page)
    Thanks!
    April

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