Nothing sells itself

“If it were good, it would sell itself.”

That is the single biggest lie in marketing. Product people and engineers are condescending towards marketers. They think that marketing is a superficial thing you tack on at the end after the real work has been done. If you just build a product that’s amazing enough, you wouldn’t even need to market it.

That’s just not true. Even the best products don’t sell themselves. The best products have virality and marketing built in early on. Those products are worthy and give people something to talk about. They give people a reason to evangelize.

The disagreement here is really in what constitutes marketing. I have a broad definition of marketing. It starts at the product development stage, and even before that. Marketing starts with having an insight about a consumer need that you want to fill. From there, comes the product itself.

The way your favorite websites are laid out, intuitive to use, beautiful. The way your iPhone looks and feels. The way you just want to scroll forever in Instagram, or find never ending things to pin on Pinterest.

Even a product as simple as a cosmetic powder compact. Have you heard that “click” sound when you snap it closed?

Even that sound is orchestrated. Marketers found that customers like when the click is sharp enough to sound like the lid is closed securely. So they make powder compacts that click shut. It’s a satisfying sound.

Another example in consumer goods: marketers at P&G, or one of the other large consumer goods companies, found that people rated cleaning products as more effective when they smelled pungent. Researchers have already discovered ways to create cleaning products that are odorless or even smell pleasant. But customer’s don’t think it’s as effective. So marketers intentionally leave the scent to smell like toxic chemicals. Because it smells like it works.

There are many examples of this on the web too. App notifications, gamification tactics, “invite your friends to join” messaging, newsfeeds. These are all features that were built in to make a product stickier.

That isn’t accidental. That was orchestrated. It was built into the product to make it “sell itself” down the line.

Having a product that sells is way too important to leave for consumers to decide whether they want to buy. No, those products you think you are naturally drawn to? They were orchestrated to sell every step of the way. As a consumer, you didn’t even stand a chance.