Having held marketing roles for the better part of my life, I can certainly appreciate a good campaign. I appreciate it even more when I buy into it knowing it’s a ploy for more of my business. This past weekend I discovered what may be one of the best product marketing tactics I’ve ever been sucked into and believe it or not, it was for AT&T.
I hate to admit it but I was one of the millions of people who stood in line on Black Thursday to get a new TV for a deeply discounted price. This weekend was primarily dedicated to hanging it on our living room wall and feeding cables through the wall to give it a clean appearance. In doing so, I spent a few bucks to upgrade the cables connecting our other devices (xbox, blu-ray, cable box) to the TV and went with the best HDMI cables I could get my hands on (pro tip: buy them on Amazon, you’ll save a ton). In the past, our cable box provided by AT&T for the U-Verse package we’re subscribed to has been connected to the TV with a simple coax cable – nothing special or out of the ordinary. We purchased the closest to bare minimum from AT&T for TV because we just don’t watch too much of it; so it came as quite a surprise when suddenly we had access to every channel including HBO and HD channels after booting up the cable box post-set up.
We thought we struck gold! I looked into our account online and found that none of the “extras” were checked off as part of our service and figured it might have accidentally happened after resetting the box. The wiser part of me thought it may be a ploy by AT&T to get us to upgrade to the HD package based on the switch from coax to HDMI – but I couldn’t figure out how they could make that happen and brushed it off. It wasn’t until we turned on the TV Monday night to get our weekly dose of AMC’s The Walking Dead (sometimes we record it to watch the next day) that my suspicions were indeed correct – the extras lasted just two days, just enough to make us want more. We ended the night with a call to AT&T and an extra $10/month added to our bill for the HD options – hook, line, and sinker! The got us, they got us good. At first, I was a bit irritated – but in the end I respected the method.
Traditional marketing, and sometimes what some people label as sleazy marketing, can work if executed correctly. In this case, a balance between the too. You see, AT&T figured out somewhere along the line that when someone switches from a standard coax cable to an HDMI cable, the chances are that they have more than likely upgraded their home entertainment as well. Someone at AT&T said “Let’s dump every option, especially the HD channels, on them as soon as the box recognizes an HDMI cable and let’s do it for two days. It’s just enough time to give the customers a taste of crisp, clean, and beautiful picture on their new 1080p HD tv’s and by taking it away – we’ll have a greater chance at selling them the extra services.” To whomever this was, I commend you. As sneaky as this tactic is, it works – or at least I’m the only sucker it worked on.
This can closely relate to today’s product marketing. The internet tells us that the role of product marketing is to increase sales and brand awareness by building sharable experiences into your product. Most entrepreneurs, startup teams, and even the product marketing managers themselves limit this to a simple social sharing option tied carefully into the product and at the right time. While this can be effective, it can’t always be done. The rule of thumb for product marketing guru’s should be that if you build a great enough experience around your product, and the ability to share that experience, you’ll generate the right buzz to generate more revenue. This is true, and in this particular case, AT&T took a risk. I could have taken to the Twittersphere and ranted about how their bait-&-switch was unfair but instead I bought the service for a few bucks more a month. That in itself was key, it was a no-brainer after I got the price for adding the HD option.
Take this experience into consideration when building your product, people want to be sold. I don’t care what anyone else says, people have a real desire to be sold. Sometimes they’re defensive about it, but there’s a reason car salesmen still approach people who claim to be “just looking” – they know these people want to be sold. It’s just a matter of when and how that will make the difference. If you or your product marketing expert can figure this formula out, you’re gold. However, be sure the balance between sleazy bait-&-switch and truly valuable experiences is right or you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Have a question? Disagree? Want to exchange pleasentries? Leave a comment below. As always, you can reach me on Twitter @joshuahays or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org