Product Design is Marketing, Sales and Advertising at Once
During the recent years everyone realized the importance of good product design. Designers moved higher up the product development cycle. Instead of adding buttons for new features at the end, we’re now working with the rest of the team from the beginning, getting to influence and shape the way a feature is developed. There’s much more focus on the end user and her pain points. Designers don’t just create pretty interfaces anymore. We solve problems. And we do it right from the beginning, together with the managers, developers and marketing team.
But there’s still a long way to go if you ask me. As Product Designers, we don’t solve our own problems. We solve the user’s problems. It is often difficult to translate this into more business for the company on the other side. It is sometimes difficult to argue that happy users lead to a happy bottom line. Happiness is not trackable, there’s no scale or spreadsheet you can map it on.
Therefore, it often comes as second nature to invest in marketing, sales and PR instead of product design. Social media followers go up. We sell more than ever before. People interact with us more often on our website. We have better sales results than the neighbour. Potential customers find us via Google Ads. All these are easy to track, easy to show at meetings and it is easy to prove that the investment is worth it.
While all this is really good for companies, it’s important to keep focus on a fundamental paradigm: if your product sucks, no marketing effort will be enough to save your brand.
Marketing is really good when you have a solid product. They are the voice of your company. They are the ones who spot potential customers and, through their messaging, make them more interested in buying.
A good sales team is also really awesome to have. They bring in new clients too, making sure that they approach the right way and at the right time. When you have a solid product, they’re golden.
At the end of the day, there’s one thing that links the two: a solid product. That’s where your efforts should be aimed at. You can’t just talk the talk. You need to walk the walk! Your product needs to deliver, otherwise all that user base you’ve sweated to create will leave sooner or later.
Product Design is your company
Product Design teams strive to understand the value behind every decision made, being it adding or scrapping a feature, simplifying a product or going through a major redesign. Every decision taken should add value to the product and be aligned with the company business goals. It’s hard to always have both sides in mind, but it’s what makes a product successful in the long-term.
Although they are far from perfect, the best example is Apple. People argue that their success is solely based on marketing efforts. But just as I’ve mentioned before, marketing efforts are an excellent addition to your gameplan if you have a solid product. You might trick one or two into buying your sub-par smartphone, but once the word spreads out about it, it’s over. You’ve lost you credibility, your marketing equals zero from that point on, your sales team will be met with assertiveness and, most important, you’ve lost the innovators and early adopters. When you think that they are the ones who make or break a product, that’s a hell of a situation to be in.
Anyone with resources can hire a strong marketing team, but in this competitive environment, it takes a good product to stay in business. While we all run around seeing ourselves as mini-Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, it’s highly unlikely that we’re ever going to be at that level. And even with their vision and intelligence, they still needed to put together great product design and engineering teams to end up being successful.
During the past years at iPaper, we shifted from just adding features to solving problems. It’s a thin line between the two. Today it’s not about us anymore. It’s about how can our software improve our customer’s life.
In general all over the world, the mentality is changing. The focus is changing. The product has never been in spotlight before as much as it is today. This is the right way to go. This is what brings long-term success. So before you make yet another addition to your sales or marketing team, take a moment to consider if money wouldn’t be better spent on improving your main source of income instead: the product.