One of the thoughts I had in starting this blog was to discuss what other indie companies are doing in the realm of marketing. Some companies are very much "into" the concept of marketing; others tend to treat marketing as an annoyance that they can't be bothered with (even though they are at least doing some minimal marketing by having a website).
Today, Connected Flow launched Viewfinder. With all the material fresh, I thought I would point out some of the cool marketing things that I noticed Fraser & co. do. Also, Fraser is a great guy, so I'm happy to shine a bit of attention on his app.
Salting: This is the pre-launch phase where you build up excitement (thirst) for a product. Fraser has been doing this for a while. On Twitter, Fraser (as himself and, occasionally from the @connectedflow account) was mentioning "[FLOWDACTED]" for quite a while, at least since August if not before. That built up curiousity in the developer and power-user community. Just before Halloween, he leaked (again, via Twitter) the name of the app and hinted that it would be launching soon. Early this week, he created a twitter account @viewfinderapp and started tweeting hints about what the application does. By launch day today, a lot of people in the developer/power-user community had heard about Viewfinder through Twitter.
(Since this is a Flickr-specific application, I would guess that maybe Fraser did some salting via the Flickr community. I'm not plugged into that, so I don't actually know...)
Launch: The process of launching is always a heavy burden for the indie, since it is a lot of engineering and marketing effort at the same time. While I don't see that there were any press releases (which, even if they are somewhat generic, do help get links to your website and the notice of some), there were enough influential people noticing the launch to write up some stories on significant websites. (See below.) From those websites, the news seems to have spread around the web, according to the amazingly fresh Google. (Side note: recently I saw a blog post in a Google search that was two minutes old!)
Mentions: The app got a very nice write-up on Macworld.com. Considering that the article's author, Dan Moren, is following Fraser on Twitter, I'm not surprised that he knew about the app's launch. It's good to be part of a community where journalists know what the developers are up to! Daring Fireball also mentioned the release. This is a good thing: my personal experience tells me that a mention there tends to bring a lot of traffic to one's product site. (When I grow up I hope that Gruber will follow me, too!) Peter Cohen wrote it up for The Loop. Well-known developer/bloggers like Brent Simmons have mentioned it too. Actually, it turns out that all of these people follow Fraser on Twitter, so I would definitely call this a "twitter launch."
Website: The connected Flow website's section on Viewfinder is great. Once somebody has heard about the program, the product website is the "first impression" that a company has to make with their prospective customer. The clean design, copious screenshots, FAQ, and screencasts are all first rate. If you know Fraser, hearing his own Scottish accent on the screencasts is a plus, though I wonder if the general public would respond better to a slightly more "professional" voice. (Theoretically, that's something that you could test.)
I think that the website could perform even better, though. The placement of the PyrusMalus logo is in one of the most prominent positions on the page (according to eye-tracking studies) means that the first-time visitor is probably going to be drawn immediately to that bold image, which does nothing to help the product. If that could be moved or made more subtle, and the download and purchase links made much more prominent, I think that more site visitors would end up trying/buying. The links to the FAQ and the video tutorials could also be made much more prominent — there is great content there that actually took me some time to find, even though I knew the pages existed! The website could also use some tuning in the "title" and "meta description" tags to improve the listing that Google shows for the company and product pages — it's a good idea to make your "free Google ad" as useful for you as possible.
Of course, this is just my humble opinion. But using something like Google Website Optimizer, which I've mentioned here earlier, Connected Flow's webmaster would be able to run some experiments and see just how much better it would perform.
More Opportunities: Going forward past launch day, Connected Flow has a lot more opportunities to get the word out about the application. Certainly, getting in touch with existing Connected Flow customers is an obvious thing to do, considering how much overlap there is with FlickrExport. Perhaps there is way to insert some "ads" into DarkSlide (the free version) for iPhone. There are probably Flickr community opportunities that I can't even imagine. And, since this is a tool that could have great use for graphic professionals, there are probably some opportunities for "integration marketing" such as endorsed mailings, where other companies with complementary products might mention Viewfinder to their lists.
I wish Fraser/Connected Flow well with this new product. (Yes, I've already bought a license for myself — I'm having fun setting the desktop background on my screens with some beautiful images.)
If I missed anything, please leave some comments… or I just might write a followup post after I've had a chance to talk to Fraser!