Chris Penn has a great blog post about online marketing web strategy we should all read and take to heart.

In essence, Chris tells us that the product comes first, the advertising comes last.

Whether you intend to market yourself, your company, a product, a service- it doesn’t matter. The very first thing you need to concentrate on is the quality of the “widget” you want to market. If the “widget” isn’t the best it can be, if it isn’t worth remarking on, than no dog-and-pony show of marketing will make it any better than it is.

The Cheeseburger Doritos Fiasco

About a year or so ago, I wandered into the local supermarket, and there was a bag of snacks called Doritos Flavor X-14. You were supposed to buy them, try them, guess the flavor, and go online to tell Doritos more about the flavor- it was a very video-game like environment, and was pretty cool. I even liked the whole mystery flavor experiment. I bought this chips and tried the whole thing out, impressed by the marketing scheme as much as anything else.

The core problem here was that cheeseburger is a lousy flavor for Doritos or any chip. It ended up tasting more like a charcoal briquette with ketchup as anything else. No amount of cool marketing would make me go back and buy that chip again. You might say that they got me to buy one bag, and that was the end goal. However, if you have lost my trust by this weird marketing misstep, I am not coming back, and I may even be less inclined to buy your current products, which are just fine.

The bottom line here is that great marketing can never make up for a bad product. If you have a fantastic, remarkable product, you may want to market it to get it to a wider audience, but no amount of marketing will actually improve a lousy product- it will, at best, give you a modest return as you dupe people into believing you- but their loyalty and return visits won’t pan out for you. The word of mouth about you and your product will start to turn, and making up for that loss of trust will take much longer than waiting and marketing your product when it’s ready for prime time.

it’s really hard not to talk about the things that excite you. It’s next to impossible to keep some great innovations under wraps, because people are eager to be surprised and engaged, and if you have a great thing going, the word will travel quickly. As a business, you may need to identify influencers and the people who act as social nodes into a bigger community, but word of mouth will spread, if you have something worth discussing and mentioning.

So there’s no need to rush the publicity part of the program- wait until you have the underlying product in great shape, whether it’s yourself, your show, product, service or whatever- think it out beforehand and be ready.

Marketing before the product exists will only frustrate everyone, especially your future business partners and clients, so wait. Talk about your ideas with friends and colleagues to get initial feedback, but don’t open the social media and marketing flood gates until you are really ready. Marketing is the decorating or staging of a house to help it sell; It’ the window displays, the eye-catching moment of attention, that gives you permission to give someone more information. It’s important, but you don;t want that attention all the time, and certainly not before you are ready to go.

As my mom used to say about teens in low cut garments, complaining about getting too much of the wrong kind of attention: “Don’t market if you aren’t selling.” In the business context, this also means don’t market until you are actually ready to sell, and then don’t be surprised by the overwhelming positive response you receive.