(This feature was originally published by the Connected Digital Economy Catapult, you can find out more about the organisation at the bottom of this page.)
So you have a great idea for a digital project, but how do you go about making sure your creation is noticed and talked about by the right people?
To help you out here are a few suggestions on how to get your app, program or website in front of the people who can gain the most from it, which in turn ensures you gain the most from it, whether that be sales, contacts or feedback.
We’ve broken it up into sections to allow you to jump to the areas you are interested in, but we do recommend reading through it all, as you never know what ideas it may spark.
Don’t be afraid to ask your contacts and peers to be involved with the testing of your digital idea. Asking for testers not only gives you valuable feedback, but also if you are responsive enough to their ideas you may find you get a group of brand ambassadors for your project, who will go out and sing its praises to their own peer groups.
People who have a hand in creating a new service who also feel they have been listened to and have helped shape the project are often the most vocal and encouraging when passing on information about it to others.
If you are involving potential customers in the development process this will also allow you to shape the project to the needs of the people you want to sell it to and possibly help you avoid potential dead-ends and unnecessary extras.
Be as positive and gracious as you can when responding to any feedback received – remember how you sell yourself will also help sell your product.
Shout about it
As with all commercial ventures a large part of your budget or time should be put aside for marketing and making people aware of your project. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t let anyone know about it it isn’t going to be successful.
“You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t let anyone know about it it isn’t going to be successful”
You don’t have to spend a fortune marketing your project, and word of mouth is usually the most effective way of getting people interested in your project initially. To do this it’s best to target your product to an audience you know will find your service useful.
Blowing your own trumpet
A Twitter feed, Facebook page or LinkedIn page/group about your product are free avenues you can use to let people interact with you and your product and are also useful ways of driving traffic to your newly created website.
You can use them to let people know when your project is coming to fruition or when new services or data sets are added to it. You can also use it to gain feedback about what people are using your project for or how they would like to see it develop in the future.
Quite often places like Facebook and LinkedIn have groups of professionals using certain pages or networks to share ideas. If you can find some whose interests align with what you are trying to do, it may be worth telling them about your project to create a discussion on what you are offering; in turn this could lead to talking about new directions they think you could explore.
Looking good – the importance of design
At the start of your project it’s important to consider how your product is seen by other people. Remember, first impressions count, so it is a very good idea to employ a designer to provide a logo, image and font style for your product to allow it make the right impact. This may seem obvious, but this is a commonly overlooked area at the first stages of a project, and getting it right can reap many rewards.
“It’s best not to underestimate the effect your product’s design can have in conferring trust on a product”
It’s best not to underestimate the effect your product’s design can have in conferring trust on a product: amateur-looking logos, brochures, leaflets or websites can put people off, often at the point of purchase. If you are going to make a physical product you need to also think about how you present your product through its packaging.
Getting a good designer in early can save you problems down the line. Remember your website or app store listing may be the only presence a potential customer sees, so without a professional looking design or brand people could be put off. What’s more, trying to change an already established logo or font later can lose you customers due to a lack of recognition during the transition.
Contact your contacts
As you have been developing your idea for your project it is likely you have picked up various contacts. Keep them informed by email of your progress, and share your social media and blog presences with them.
If you can get your industry peers to interact with your web presences or talk about your product with their colleagues you have won half the marketing battle, as when they share, comment, or like what you have done, others in their social sphere will be aware of this. It is likely that key decision makers that can influence your product’s success will be part of the community of people they interact with on a daily basis.
Don’t swamp people with communications; a simple ‘thanks for your advice and look what we’ve been doing with it’ email can be a great way to express gratitude to people, involve them with your product and spark off new interactions.
Don’t hate the haters
A lot of people are scared of creating blogs or having a social media presence because of ‘trolls’- people who go out of their way to put hate-filled or derogatory comments which can make your product or service look bad.
Don’t be scared of discussion or feedback that goes against your views. As long as you have been truthful about what your product or service can do or offers, you can turn these comments into a positive.
Provided you give constructive or well-explained arguments to derogatory or rude comments you will always come out looking all the better for it, and this may well encourage others to spring to your defence. Do not ignore them or resort to childish emotional responses as this will just make you look unprofessional.
What’s more, entering into discussion about your ideas is more likely to get your ideas shared with like-minded entrepreneurs and cement your position as a thought leader in that area.
Show off your work
Also keep your eye open for relevant events and conferences, and put aside time and money to attend them. Holding demonstrations of your work in progress or finished product is another useful way to engage potential audiences, provided you don’t come across as too sales-focused.
Treat these sessions more as a way to get valuable feedback from potential customers and always follow up on these demonstrations with what you have learnt from them and what actions you have taken to improve the product based on their feedback.
If a potential customer feels you are listening to them rather than just selling to them -and even changing your product to suit how they would work with it – then it is very likely that this information will be passed on in a positive way to their peers, each of which is a potential customer to you.
10 out of 10
Don’t forget to contact magazines, newspapers and websites which review or write news or features about new products and services. Put together a short email explaining what your app or program does and why it may be of interest to their readers along with the offer of a free access code to as many reviewers as possible.
“Think of each review, news piece or mention as free advertising”
Obviously try to target your email to people likely to be interested in your service and take the time to research the correct person in the organisation to contact, as this will increase your success rate in getting it reviewed or featured. Think of each review, news piece or mention as free advertising, and if you are targeting the right publications, it is likely that your service will be put under the noses of those you most care about finding out about it.
If you are offering a truly ground-breaking service or technology it is also worth talking to popular science magazines and websites such as the New Scientist or Focus magazine, or the science blogs that often post images or articles to Facebook with titles along the lines of ’12 things we can do this week that we couldn’t do last week’. These are powerful ways to get your service noticed by a wide variety of people and can spark valuable interactions with people who can really help drive your business forward.
Video killed the manual star
Experiment with video to explain how to use your tools and services. If you are making a ‘how-to’ guide, the production values don’t need to be high – just a screen capture of you using the service with a voice over can help people understand what you offer and how to use it much faster than a written manual. Again these videos should be posted everywhere you have a social presence.
You’ve got to be in it to win it
When researching your market it’s worth looking out for competitions you can enter your product or service for. Even a project at a concept or development stage can be nominated for technical and innovation awards.
A great way to get your app into the public eye or to make it more attractive to investors is to have a badge or award on the communications you send out, and even nominations can provide you with valuable media exposure.
Also, being nominated or considered for an award can get you in front of important decision makers or influencers who may be able to help you take your project in new directions or introduce you to other relevant markets or audiences.
Another way to create a buzz around a developing project or service and also to get some valuable ideas for where you could take it in the future is to organise events like hack days.
If your project has a database with an API (application programming interface) which allows others to access the data and services your program offers to use in their own projects, you could invite developers or students (academic institutions are often open to advertising these type of events) to use your API to see what other services or applications they could create.
Typically you would offer a cash prize to the people with the best idea or new digital service. This possible cost may put you off, but the benefits of such an exercise can be high – introducing your application to people who can utilise it, meeting up with bright people who you may want to employ and getting ideas for where you may want to take your project in the future.
If your product is going to be an app it is becoming harder and harder to stand out from the digital crowd on the main app markets such as the Apple app store or Google Play. Common advice given on being noticed on the app store of your choice includes choosing a name that describes what your product does (to help in searches), choosing a niche where you can be among fewer competitors, and ensuring you encourage as many people as possible to add positive reviews and comments to your app store page to help bump you up the listings.
It’s also worth considering targeting one of the smaller app stores initially, for example, Windows 8, Opera, Blackberry and the Amazon app store.
Targeting these app stores may seem counter-intuitive, but owning one area in a smaller app market, for instance a section on Windows 8 rather than being lost in the multitude on the Apple app store is worth considering, especially as then you can use the funds generated in one market to pay for the advertising push you may need in another.
Owning the field
Remember no one knows your product like you do, what it is capable of, and what it could be used for in the future, so the best person to explain these ideas is you.
“Remember no one knows your product like you do, what it is capable of, and what it could be used for in the future, so the best person to explain these ideas is you”
Share how you came up with your ideas on your blog and social channels. Outline what you hope to achieve, invite discussion, run surveys on the industry areas you want to be involved in and share the results. You never know who may pick up on what you are sharing, particularly if you are creating content or statistics which no one else is.
The more you engage with your digital audience the more successful your product is likely to be. Also, taking the time to put these ideas down or perform this kind of research gives you a valuable opportunity to reflect on the project and its future development yourself.
To be a true ‘thought leader’ it’s also important to share posts and links to people doing or writing about similar projects so people come to think of you as the authority in that area. If people come to respect your opinion, that trust will be conferred onto the products and services you provide too.
Another part of thought leadership is to connect contacts you have with each other. If you can help people connected to you to work together, they will remember your involvement in that introduction. They will also see you as a useful contact and will want to work with you again, and most likely recommend you and your product.
Communication, communication, communication
Hopefully the suggestions in this guide have sparked a few ideas on how you can get creative with digital communication. And it is great communication that is the key to getting your digital project noticed.
“Opening up discussions, inviting and responding to feedback and sharing information are never going to be a waste of time”
Whichever avenues you choose to concentrate on, opening up discussions, inviting and responding to feedback and sharing information are never going to be a waste of time, as you never know who may be out there waiting to get involved with buying, consuming or talking about your product. Good luck!
The Connected Digital Economy Catapult is a national centre designed to rapidly advance the UK’s best digital ideas. It builds platforms for many UK SMEs to innovate on at speed and with less risk, so new digital products and services can be accelerated to market.
The Digital Catapult is not a funding agency. Rather than working with small businesses on an individual-by-individual basis, they build platforms for a large number of SMEs to use.