Using Social Product Development To Bake In Communication


At Mutopo, many of the organizations we work with are early stage. They raise money to bring new things to market. So they need ways to reduce the chance of a launch #fail. And they need to reduce the cost of launch, since burning through their hard won cash will also lead to #fail.

But why:

  1. do so many products fail when they launch?
  2. does it still cost so much to launch a new product?

The social web seems to be offering some hope on 2, potentially joining search marketing in a formidably efficient pairing. However, perhaps the products can help too, by speaking for themselves?

Baking Products With Lower Failure Rates & Lower Launch Costs

Yep, turns out products are social, too.  In their new book, Baked In, John Winsor and Alex Bogusky share their thinking and recipes on how to build communication into products, so they can help get themselves to market.

One of the reasons we were excited about this book – we’d heard the idea before, from another very smart person.  Roelof Botha at Sequoia Capital, used the same words to describe what he helped to do with Paypal and Youtube – they “baked in” the marketing. They found ways to have people help them spread the products via email, ebay and social networks.

What do Sequoia and CP&B folks have in common? They really, really know how to get new products to market. So among other things, they have found ways to reduce the launch costs and reduce the risks of failure. So we’re listening and watching and with Baked In’s encouragement, stealing with our eyes and ears, where we can.

We like much of what they do and say, but we are interested in particular idea that is common to both of their strategies – the role of co-creators.  I dont know if the Baked In page 39 diagram hack (featured above ) is better, but I’d like to suggest it for a future Baked In version because I think this is what they mean. And the Baked In folks are making it as easy as possible to make these kinds of suggests on their Wiki Blog thingy (that may be how you found this post).

Why are the co-creators so important? Well they can do so much to help. Early on in the product development process, they can give critical feedback and ideas to help make products that they are more likely to use – i.e. products less likely to #fail. They can help teams prioritize by elevating the importance of issues they may have downplayed. They can give feedback on prototypes.

In the chart below, the bottom line, shows a traditional process. People are invited in selectively for research and then perhaps a soft launch. But in social product development, prospective customers are invited into more aspects of the development. They get to see more and influence more. And ultimately they help reduce the risk of failure at launch.


But they help with something else, too.  Not only do people co-create, they c0-own.  This may be best described by the ikea effect – the idea that people are willing to pay more for things they have had a hand in creating. i.e. they feel ownership. And this seems to mean they are more likely to help get the word out and buy. So they can also help reduce launch costs (economic costs, anyway).

So we really believe the co-creators are the key to reducing the chances of product #fail.

But how?

Learning by doing


At Mutopo we realized the best way to understand baking in and social product development, was to try it. We cant share some of our client projects yet, but we can talk about some of our own:

betacup – We’re all working on betacup to create a more sustainable coffee drinking experience
window boxen – Marcel is working with the Quirky community to get his Window Boxen window farming (initial concept rendering shown  above) ideas to market.
skin colaboratorie – Andrea is doing the Skin Colaboratorie to create new skincare productsto target specific ailments

Just like my experience with the Jovoto community, even at the concept stages, the feedback can be enormously valuable in shaping the product (unfortunately I didnt have the skill to do more with my Jovoto submission).

We’ll let you know, as we learn more. In the meanwhile, we’d love to know what you think so drop us a line or find me @shaunabe.

Get Real or Go Home

We have talked about Sequoia Captial a number of times. We love that they do and how they do it. 

So when they call together their CEOs for a little motivation and discussion about expectations, it interesting to listen in. Even more interesting, is if you can get the presentataion.

Its a call that any business should heed. Do more with less. Understand your strenghts and exploit your competitors weaknesses. And focus on cash flow. Its funny, but the folks from 37Signals have been Getting Real for some time and declining VC investment despite multiple offers.

Of special interest is emphasis on specific aspects of operations (slide 47):

Product – what features are absolutely essential?

Marketing – measuring & cutting whats not working?

Pipeline – real probability of closing deals?

No one moves fast enought (slide 50). Unfortunately we have seen this multiple times. We often sound harsh when we propose significant changes. Salaries always come into focus and the standard assumption is cutting headcount – it really doesnt have to be this way. Our experience is that in many cases, it can make sense to reduce salaries but keep teams together to reduce the difficulties as people leave the organization. 

We think this is just great business advice.