Home > Business Strategy > When no one does the Wave.

When no one does the Wave.

What does introducing a new product or business have with doing the wave?  What lessons can business owners learn from the failed launch of Google Wave?

Have you ever been at a baseball game and tried to start a wave?  Were you successful?  If you were, you likely succeeded in this endeavor due to the following factors:

  • The timing was right
  • There were enough people who understood your value proposition (why you were trying to start a wave)
  • You included everyone

Conversely, if you were unsuccessful, you likely were unable to meet at least one of the above criteria leading to feelings of embarrassment & regret.  This is how you would feel if you were a developer for the now defunct Google Wave.  This is how it feels when no one does the wave.

In early 2009, I bought into the hype.  I did whatever I could to try to get my hands on a platform I really didn’t understand even though I had watched several product demonstrations and read several blogs and reviews on Google Wave.  After several months, I finally received a Google Wave invite from a friend – VIP-like passes that were in short supply and restricted to those who had a Gmail account.  After playing around with the initial version, it was clear that the product was incomplete, seemingly being rushed to market – encouraging users to help improve the user interface.  The more I tried to understand it, the less I understood it making it impossible for me to communicate the value proposition to my friends when asked, “what’s Google Wave”?

Business startups and companies launching new products can learn a valuable lesson from the failed launch of Google Wave.

Timing is key.
When starting a wave, introducing a new product or starting a new business; timing is key.  Starting a wave in the first inning when the home team just gave up 6 runs doesn’t make much sense.  Ask yourself – why are you entering the market now?  What is the immediate need that you are looking to fulfill?

Your value proposition is understood.
You will get more people to do the wave, if they understand what it is, and why they are doing it.  The same is true when launching a new product or business and acquiring new customers.  What is your product/business?  What differentiates you from similar offerings or competitors?  How will you be perceived in the eyes of your customer?  What do you want your customers to tell their friends and family about your product or service?

Include everyone.
A great wave at a baseball game involves as many fans as possible.  Why would you want to restrict anyone who understands and demonstrates real interest in your product or business?  In some cases, establishing exclusivity can create demand but only when the value proposition is understood and easily communicated.  In the case of Google Wave, the value proposition was not widely understood, yet access to the platform was restricted by invitation-only.  Rather than opening up access to the masses to encourage broad use of the platform, access was restricted.  This put the communication of the value proposition in the hands of a few people making it difficult for the brand identity to be cascaded to those who did not have access to the platform.  Establish a communication strategy with your secondary and tertiary target audiences to ensure that you reach all of your potential customers.

An application of getting your customers to do ‘the wave’ can be found in Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great“.  In this example, Jim compares how mobilizing an idea is similar to getting a flywheel to turn.  An idea starts out with a few people slowly turning the flywheel.  As more people understand your value proposition, the flywheel becomes easier to turn.

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