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Discovery vs. Intent vs. Push Notifications

David Sherry
2 min read

When you think about your product and it's marketing, your distribution channel matters. It matters because it is the highway you take to your audience.

But this highway has rules, and it has a personality, and likely... it's owned by someone else.

Interesting things happen when you discover new distribution channels for old products. You can think of Pokemon Go like this, which took a card game and used VR as it's distribution.

Switching distribution switches the rules, and switching the rules, changes the end product.

I believe a great deal of opportunity, and what leads companies to find success, is by breaking and finding new distribution channels for existing products. Or, creating new products for new distribution channels.

This could be using a rare channel for distribution, like Death to Stock, using email to distribute imagery (rather than a browseable library).

Or creating new rules for an existing platform, like Tim Urban in Wait But Why, using long-form content on Facebook that wasn't just about your cat's birthday.

To think about this at a high level, there are plenty of different distribution channels to choose from.

The right one to choose for your product is a decision that includes a large quantity of factors.

But at a high level, a distribution channel will cater to an audience in three category types.

1. Discovery
2. Intent
3. Push Notification

1. Discovery-based distribution channels are about people just browsing for something new, like shopping. This is Pinterest, Tumblr, Netflix, and even the Mall on a Friday night. You're there because you're _hoping to find something you didn't expect_.

And so if we create our products for this type of experience in this channel, we need to understand that people WANT to be surprised, and they want to discover...

2. Intent-based channels are based on a customer knowing specifically what they need. This is like Google, you go there because you have a specific question to ask. This is Siri, and it's also your local Tailor, or Barber. Your customers find you because they know they need and want something like what you have to provide. So winning in these channels is about fulfilling that intent with the greatest accuracy and personalization. Data often wins in these fields, as do algorithmic personalization.

3. Push, or push notifications, are like discovery, except for rather than the customer doing the browser, they have chosen or elected for a curator to notify them. It's part personalization, discovery, and intent. This push category is most email newsletters, it's your Real Estate Broker, or it's your financial advisor. They notify you when you need, and they do so because they believe they have found something worth paying attention to.

Of course, these categories can mingle and mix, but knowing that your customers have different expectations for different types of interest...Let's you tailor your service or product to the distribution channels which match it.

My recommendationis almost always to "speak the language" of the distribution channel.

But I'll admit, sometimes breaking distribution has a huge advantage. And it's part of what we call "innovation."

Tesla selling cars online vs. through dealerships will continue to serve as an advantage, rather than a disadvantage (at least in the early phase of the business).

What distribution channels have you chosen to use?
And when you use them, are you playing by the rules (because you are great at the game) or are you breaking them (because you see an opportunity to win in a new paradigm)?

xx David