Sunday, January 9, 2011

There's a reason to be unreasonable

Back in the early 90's, when Mark Zuckerberg was making his first steps in elementary school, we used to say that one would tell 5 friends about a product she liked, and 12 friends about a product she didn't. While I can't remember the exact number (it's been 20 years ago, so you'll have to cut me some slack), the point was that it is more likely for customers to be vocal when they are unhappy about your product or service.

The principle holds true in our days, but the scale is vastly different.

What do you do when you're very happy or unhappy with a product? You share it on Facebook, you post it on LinkedIn, you Tweet it, you email it, and before you know it, thousands of people hear you.

What does this mean to us marketers?

As Seth Godin writes, in today's connected world you just have to be unreasonably good. "Reasonable" products, "Satisfied" customers, will not cut it any more. You need to create an experience so good (or so bad...), that it will make people go "wow, this is so cool (bad), I just have to share it with my pals!".

Back to 1991: Mercury (years later acquired by HP) launches a product called TestRunner. The concept is intriguing - one computer records all input/output of another computer to automate test script execution. The problem? It never did work (as a systems engineer, I was one of the guys taking the heat from customers who spent a small fortune buying this product just to realize that its only practical use is as a heater in their cold cubicles...). How many knew about this miserable experience? Very few. In today's world, such a poor performing product might have brought a company to its knees.I can imagine the angry posts, the "I hate TestRunner" Facebook group, and the belligerent tweets.
The point: social media is a fantastic amplifier of customer's voice, but it takes an unreasonably good product to leverage it. Seth has got it right: unreasonable is the new reasonable.