Making sure your product doesn’t suck

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I saw Jason Falls at a conference last year (Thanks Duncan!) and he said something that probably seems obvious to a lot of you but is so often taken for granted:

Before you spend any effort in Social Media make sure you have a product that doesn’t suck.

Jason’s concept seems simple right? Don’t create a social media strategy if your product isn’t very good. I’ll take it a step further here. If your product sucks, doing anything other then fixing it makes little sense. Period.

Timetrax on Flickr

My real world example for you.

About 8 months ago a new restaurant opened up down the street from my house. Since opening they’ve struggled badly. In all the times my wife and I have gone we’ve never had good service. Our food has been cooked incorrectly, the wait times have been abhorrent, and we’ve often been ignored by servers.

Despite all that we’ve gone through though, my wife and I really do want them to succeed. Recently we saw some advertisement which claimed that they had made some positive changes and so last night we figured we’d give them another shot.

Changing the brakes when the engine doesn’t run is a waste of time.

What we experienced was no different than usual. The “changes” they made were switching some tables from high tops to booths, redoing their menu (layout changes but the actual food being offered had barely changed), prominently displaying their T-shirts for sale, and constant reminders about their brand new Facebook page. It made me think about Jason Falls’ comment again. You can put out brand new advertising, coupons, Facebook pages, and magazine PR but if what’s on the other end of those ads STILL sucks you’re just wasting your time and money.

So what should you do?

You need to make some hard decisions. If people aren’t buying what you’re selling or they aren’t coming back you first need to make sure that WHAT you’re selling isn’t terrible. This is really hard for people to come to terms with. No one sets out to fail. They don’t open up a store and talk about how terrible it will be. You get emotionally invested and fail to see what is probably very obvious to others. Here are some quick tips to find out if your product isn’t working or how to stay ahead of the game if it is.

1) Find out what your customers’ problems are.

The one thing this restaurant isn’t doing is asking. Are you asking your customers why or how? In any business, it’s vital that you open up a dialogue with your customers “How can we do better?” So stop paying attention to the fluff. T-shirts? Moving tables? You shouldn’t care about that garbage if people are complaining about your product. Ask, look, listen. You might not like what you’re hearing but without that customer feedback, it’s impossible to learn what people expect. Start listening.

2) Did you test?

Slow roll outs are vital to making sure your customer is getting what they expect. This restaurant should have slowly rolled out its full menu, incorporating what works and eliminating what doesn’t. What testing can you do to ensure that what you’re creating is what people want?

3) Ask your employees.

Your day to day employees are the people answering the phone, and dealing with the customers one on one. Ask them what they think. Plus this is a good time to gauge how happy and satisfied they are. Do they care about your brand or product? Maybe what you need are different employees. Take their temperature and find out.

HighLimit Studios on Flickr

I suspect that this restaurant won’t make it to their 1 year anniversary. It would be a shame because their beer is tasty and the wings are pretty slammin’. Their overall product is terrible and so they will fail; all the advertising in the world isn’t going to help. Don’t fall under the same trap. Don’t be afraid to listen to what your customers and employees have to say and don’t make a product that sucks.

By the way I tried to go to the restaurant’s well publicized Facebook page. I needed to add them as a friend. Oh brother. I suppose showing someone how to add a business to Facebook is a lesson for another day.

Thanks to Flickr and HighLimit Studios for the picture.

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