Sunday, June 15, 2014

Free Stuff!! Convincing People To Use New Products

A recent news release aimed at the microcontroller and Internet of Things communities got me thinking about ways to participate on the leading edge of an emerging technology.

When someone develops a new product, they often need to also develop a market for that product. When that new product becomes available, people who might use it usually are busy with life and are not looking for and waiting for that new product to be released. Getting people to use the new product takes more than just making it available. If the new product is revolutionary, has immediately obvious benefits and is priced reasonably, the developer of the product need only do a good job of communicating to the target audience what the product does and how they can get the product. Then the money comes pouring in. That sometimes happens, like with the iPod, but it's rarely the situation.

If the product is evolutionary instead of revolutionary, if the benefits are not immediately obvious, or if it is priced high enough that people decide they'll do without or keep using a competitive alternative, the developer of the product must work much harder to get people to use or buy the new item. Some ways to engage potential users are:
  1. Provide free samples of the new product.
  2. Provide the new product at a very low introductory price.
  3. Provide services, for free or very low cost, that will help potential users understand the benefits of the new product and will help minimize the time and cost for them to begin using the new item effectively.
The news release I mentioned at the start of this post was about the Bluetook Smart Starter Kit, a free training package to,
"...walk developers through building a Bluetooth Smart device and creating a Bluetooth Smart Ready mobile application. The free kit is designed to work with an Arduino board (not included) and includes sample code to get developers up and running..."
If you want to create mobile apps that use Bluetooth and don't already have decent tools to let you do that, you might be interested enough to sign up and try out the 'free' kit. The kit is only software, so there is minimal 'cost' for these developer tools because companies must provide developer tools or no coder is going to develop apps that use the new product. The few app developers who take the time to even look at the free 'kit' will likely go 'meh' and continue using what they already use. A few people, most likely app developers who also like Arduinos, will seriously try out the kit. And a few people in the Arduino community might play with the kit because they're interested in Bluetooth.

A stronger way to convince people to try using your new product is to offer it for free when there is true value in them trying it out. A pre-internet example was receiving a small personal sample of a new type of shampoo or other useful consumer products in the (snail) mail. An example more relevant to people who work with microcontrollers is the 'free samples' which some electronics manufacturers offer.

Two examples of the free electronics samples are the Texas Instruments (TI) my.TI program and the Microchip Sample program. Create an account in those two programs, then you will be able to get designated electronics samples for free, usually new products. You might also be able to get individual samples for free even if a component is not listed as a free sample. Providing you with free samples is valuable to the manufacturer because you might not otherwise consider using that item, especially if there are obvious competitor items, either from the same company or from other companies, or if it's totally new. To use a new item, you have to spend your (limited) time learning how to effectively use it. People like free stuff, so giving away a few samples of relatively low cost electronic components can convince people to try using them.

The second way mentioned above to engage potential users is to price the new item low compared to its competitors. Right now Arduino single-board microcontrollers have a lot of media buzz and a very active user community. When TI released a new single-board microcontroller, the Tiva C Series Connected LaunchPad, they priced it significantly lower than the Arduino Uno with significantly better capabilities. That convinced one of the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group participants to order a Tiva C LaunchPad as soon as he read about it.

The third way mentioned above to get people using your new product is to provide services to help people more quickly start using your product. One examples of this is the upcoming MediaTek launch of the LinkIt platform for the Internet of Things and the MediaTek Labs developer support program.
"MediaTek Labs will stimulate and support the creation of wearable devices and IoT applications based on the LinkIt platform. Developers and device makers who are interested in joining the MediaTek Labs program are invited to email to receive a notification once the program launches."
Another example of providing user support is when a tech manufacturer or distributor sends a representative to a user group meeting to explain and promote their products. I worked with Adobe one time to put on a Tech Cafe in Milwaukee which talked about recently released Adobe products and gave a short workshop on how to use some of those products. Adobe sponsored the meeting by having one of their employees lead the workshop, and they provided breakfast and beverages for the workshop participants. Everyone thought that was fantastic -- learn about powerful products, like Creative Suite, get to ask a knowledgeable company rep questions and get informative answers, and have free snacks on top of it. What geek could ask for more than that?
Oh by the way, the Adobe rep gave away a $2500 software suite at the end of the workshop, along with a few other valuable Adobe goodies and company swag. That was an awesome way to support their users and potential users!

How could the developer of a new product get you to try it out? Maybe at the next session of the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group we can make a list of all the ways people at the meeting know of that companies are willing to support the microcontroller users community in Humboldt. And one or several of us can start reaching out to those organizations to make them aware of us and to let them know we are interested in working with them to expand the use of their products!


No comments:

Post a Comment