Sunday, May 02, 2010

What’s in a date?

Can you recall the date on which any online business launched? Furthermore, is there any significant  web-related date that anyone can remember? When did Google launch, or Yahoo!, or Facebook? When did Amazon sell its first book?

I can’t remember the date on which any project I’ve ever been involved with went live. Clearly a project needs a set scope / duration, if only to contain the project scope & manage costs, but with the magic of hindsight, the actual calendar date is irrelevant. What counts is the quality of what is delivered. Google is Google because it’s an amazing product, not because it launched on  … well, you get my point.

(Interestingly, the Google website doesn’t list any significant dates at all – just the year-by-year calendar of events. Wikipedia does list dates – but only for things like the date the domain was registered, the date the company was incorporated. There is in fact, no known date on which the search engine itself “launched”. Perhaps it was always there, and Brin/Page simply discovered it, like gravity, or natural selection?)

The reason dates have such prominence is marketing. Dates are critical in marketing – where things like promotional campaigns and launch events centre around a date. So the problem seems to be the relationship between marketing and production. It’s the age-old issue (/moan) – you should market something that has been built, and not build towards a marketing plan.

I’ve decided to write about this (again!) because of a comment made on a conference call earlier this week. That the launch of a product couldn’t be delayed on account of the parent company’s marketing budget dates – in order make use of the remaining quarterly budget we had to hit a launch date of the 12th May, irrespective of the quality of the product. The account manager was genuinely suggesting that we remove the testing period and launch direct to the public because they had booked a big promo for a given date.

I’m not saying that marketing is a worthless industry – it isn’t – it can be amazingly effective. However, what will ensure the long-term future of the product is the quality of the product, and not the campaign announcing its arrival.

(I think you can expect me to return to this theme fairly regularly, so if you work in marketing and think I’m wrong, please look away now. Or comment.)

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