Wasted kindling

The most valuable wood at the campsite is the dry twigs and branches used to start a fire.

It's hard to imagine a bigger waste than cooking an entire meal using nothing but kindling. It burns fast and bright, but it doesn't last. You might be able to cook something, but then there's be nothing left for the next guy. No, the useful technique is to have some bigger logs standing by, and to use as little kindling as possible.

This, of course, is my analogy for marketing and promotion. That juicy link from a design blogger or your appearance on TV—that's kindling. If that's what you're depending on, you're in trouble. One manufacturer I know explained that he got about thirty orders from a post on a well-known blog, and so he needed a post like that every week to stay in business. Good luck with that.

PR and promo addiction starts this way. It's the easy and lazy way to keep your product selling. Spray and pray. Work the kindling system, get the quick bits of attention and then move on.

It might work now and then, but it's not a dependable and scalable way to grow your business. You need significant logs, things that keep the system working without a constant stream of promotion. A few:

  • a remarkable product that users enjoy talking about
  • a product with virality built in–something that works better when my friends use it too
  • a community orientation, so that each new user enhances the value of the community, creating a virtuous cycle
  • economies of scale in both production and marketing. As you grow, things get both cheaper and easier to talk about

All four are intentional (and not easy) acts of a marketer and designer who realize that they have a choice about what to build and how to build it. [Here's a post from three years ago with more on this.]

Using up all the kindling is selfish and ultimately pointless.