Marketing, beta tests and grabbing industry interest

Product announcements are done in phases. If done correctly, the media extensively covers each phase. Does this sway your organization's decision making?

Several suppliers have mastered the art of using a long list of announcements all along the path of product development, product testing and product delivery as a way to capture industry interest and attention.  Apple and Microsoft both come to mind because of their great expertise in this area.

The flow of announcements usually proceeds along this line:

  • Announce plans the company has to develop a new product that is designed to enhance the capabilities and fixes known problems of the current product. If done properly, the company and its product get a great deal of attention. The goal here is stopping the adoption of competitive, arguably better, product. The product may or may not ever be developed. If it is, it may be dramatically different than what was promised or alluded to at this stage.
  • Announce an alpha or beta test suggesting that only the elite, the closest friends of the company, etc. will be allowed to try out the new technology and suggest changes and improvements. If done properly, the company and its product get a great deal of attention and sales of competitive products are delayed or stopped. The product may be dramatically different than what was promised or alluded to at this stage.
  • Announce a limited release of the final product (really beta test phase II) that extends the testing to a larger group of elite, close friends. As before if done properly, the company and its product get a great deal of attention and sales of competitive products will be delayed or stopped. Competitors will be taking about their new product that will beat all other products on the market.
  • Announce general release of the final product. If the whole process was managed properly, the media will be all over this new product and competitors will be talking about, beta testing or offering limited release of their competitive products
  • The process starts again with the next version of the product.

You'll note the the common elements of each step are: the company and its product get a great deal of attention, purchases of competitive products are derailed and still the customers may not get what they wanted.

Apple seems to have been able to add the element of mystery to this whole process. A blurry photo will appear somewhere on the Internet. The media will present all of the possible things that this product will do. Apple gets a great deal of free competitive information and suggestions for what the final product will do. Market research investments can be minimized.

Microsoft seems to have mastered the art of presenting all of the wonderful things the new version of a product will do without pointing out the deficiencies of the product they're currently marketing. It's truly impressive to watch them work.

It's an amazing process that I've seen executed again and again in my time watching the industry. Have you seen this too? Does the release of pre-development or early testing information sway your decisions?