How to promote your add-on – The Message

The previous two posts were about the mechanics of how to contact potential users of your add-on. I’m now going to cover a much fuzzier problem, how to persuade them to consider using it once you are in their field of view. This is an area I need to improve on for PeteSearch, so a lot of it will be practical examples of how I’m trying to change things to be more persuasive.

I met with Mrinal Desai over coffee last week. He’s the chief evangelist for the wonderful Crossloop, and he’s done an amazing job with the app. From being unknown less than a year ago, it’s now got thousands of users all over the world almost entirely through blogs, digg, and other word-of-mouth marketing. They recently crossed the three million user-minutes mark! So, he’s somebody whose advice I value.

He asked a pretty simple question; "What is PeteSearch for?" My immediate response was ‘to make search better’, but this didn’t feel concrete enough, even to me. It reminded me of Guy Kawasaki’s advice from The Art of the Start, to have a three word mantra that describes the difference you’re trying to make to people’s lives. Once you have that, it’s the start of both a coherent, understandable marketing message, and a test for decisions you make about the product.

You may think you don’t have a marketing message, but everything from the name of your add-on, to its description on distribution sites, to its home website, is material that people use to make a decision about using it. The fundamental question you need to answer is "What does it do for me?", how will it improve your potential user’s life? Your answer to this should be your mantra, and everything else should build a convincing case to persuade a user that it does solve their problem.

As a practical example, PeteSearch is trying to improve search, but no user wakes up in the morning and thinks "I need improved search". Users have much more concrete gripes; "I wish I didn’t get so many 404 links when I searched", "It’s annoying to go back and forth between the search and result links all the time", "Why is the text summary so short?", "I wish I could use the keyboard to navigate through results, rather than the mouse". At the moment the add-on is trying to solve all these problems at once, and they’re all equally prominent in the marketing.

This is a problem, because a single user is unlikely to have all these gripes at once, so most of what they read in the marketing is solutions to problems they don’t have. Even a lot of the UI in the extension itself ends up being clutter. This attempt to solve everyone’s problems actually ends up solving nobody’s.

To fix this, I’ve decided my mantra will be "Better Search UI", and I will focus like a laser on adding great keyboard navigation to Google. This will make describing it a lot simpler. I’m even considering a name change to GoogleHotKeys, to make it a lot clearer to potential users what’s in it for them.

PeteSearch may be unusual, many add-ons are built with a much clearer, specific need in mind, but if you’re struggling with a your site or description, I found starting with a mantra really helped me to improve my message.

More posts on add-on promotion.

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