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Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

The Barnacles Forum Is Worth Your Time

Barnacles is a clone of the Hacker News clone Lobsters, but Barnacles is aimed at bootstrapping entrepreneurs instead of general software devs. It’s a lot like Hacker News, actually, but maintained for small-scale internet businesspeople instead of enterprise employees. Barnacles is pretty low-volume compared to a place like /r/Entrepreneur, but that means it’s more thoughtful. So far I’m enjoying interacting with the frequent contributors, and the links that rise to the top usually feature concrete techniques that you can readapt to your own business.

Barnacles on a rock. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.

Most social venues yield what you put in. My personal Twitter account is enjoyable as well as promotional because Twitter is a platform that perfectly fits how I want to interact with strangers (through ironic jokes). I spend a lot of time on there, quoting the articles I read and commenting on other people’s thoughts. I do that on Facebook too, but it’s more of an afterthought. Barnacles provides something in between — I can post a link without extensive commentary, but if it’s not valuable, I’m not using the forum correctly.

I also self-promote via Barnacles. For instance, I’ll post a link to this article. When you make sure to post links to useful articles and generally provide value to others, they don’t mind a little bit of self-promotion.

“If you’re truly talented, then your work becomes your way of doing good in the world; if you’re not, it’s a self-indulgence, even an embarrassment.” — Kathryn Chetkovich

I think a lot more people are “truly talented” than we typically acknowledge. Marketing is still hard, but when we band together, we build up our collective knowledge and do a better job.

“Software is a completely new type of good in that it is both infinitely differentiable yet infinitely copyable; this means that any piece of software is both completely unique yet has unlimited supply, leading to a theoretical price of $0.” — Ben Thompson

Barnacles is a place where new entrepreneurs collaborate on raising that theoretical price from zero to something more tolerable like $100 per download or $15 per month. Even though software is trivial to copy in a technical sense, it’s very possible to convince customers to pay a premium if you deliver value that they need. Sell convenience!

Product Communication =/= Marketing, but They Both Matter

First things first: what is product communication, again? Quick reminder! Every time you say something about your product in a place where a potential customer could see it — especially if you want them to see it! — you’re engaging in product communication.

Does that mean product communication is just marketing? Nope, it’s not the same thing as marketing. That said, product communication is a subset of marketing, like the folder called “Yosemite 2013” is part of your larger “Vacations” folder. However, the whole big field of marketing encompasses way more than little ol’ product communication.

Product communication is part of promotion, which is only a small part of marketing. It’s important, but it’s not everything. Marketing is far more complex and overarching than promotion. Before you can start spreading the word about your product, you need to evaluate the market you’re stepping into, right? You need to vet the competition and maybe put together a few spreadsheets.

Pitching your potential customers is only the last step in the process. You can’t convince people to try or buy unless you have something to offer! And the product you offer has to be good. “Good” doesn’t necessarily mean “high quality” in a fancy-schmancy sense, but it definitely should be compelling enough to get people to commit resources to accessing it.

Even though promotion should be the last item on your to-do list, after the core product development has happened, it’s still crucial. And promotion can’t be effective without equally effective product communication. You need to understand your product more deeply than you thought you possibly could, and you need to learn to explain your product’s value in a way that potential customers will understand.

This is not a new idea. Recently I came across a 2014 blog post by Brian Clark of Copyblogger that sums up the requirements well:

“First, make a list of every feature of your product or service. Second, ask yourself why each feature is included in the first place. Third, take the ‘why’ and ask ‘how’ does this connect with the prospect’s desires? Fourth, get to the absolute root of what’s in it for the prospect at an emotional level.”

Clark’s advice is useful, but it’s also pretty broad. Not to plug myself too obviously, but… ;) Product Communication Basics drills down into the questions you need to ask yourself. That still requires significant effort from you or your team, but it’s easier than floundering through without a guide. No need to reinvent the wheel when you don’t get better results that way!

The question was, “Is product communication just marketing?” The answer is, “No, it’s only one part of marketing — but not a part that you should ignore!”

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