In the old days you needed a big marketing staff, a huge budget, a PR agency, an elaborate press event at a big hotel (with food and drinks), and the attention of the trade press writers to launch your product. And then you would pray that all that investment of time and money resulted in a few good stories published about you. Just to make sure your message got through you would buy print ads in all the major publications. This was a VERY expensive proposition.
Today you need none of that. It doesn't cost anything to publicize your new product or service. Simply engage a couple of the "A-List" bloggers (Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Dave Winer, Om Malik, Steve Gillmor, Cory Doctorow, Richard MacManus, Stowe Boyd, and others) by sending them a link to your new product or service. Tell them what problem it solves and why it is cool. When they blog, people listen. When their stories hit Tech Memeorandum, Digg, TailRank, and other services the story explodes across thousands of blogs within hours.
All the trade press writers have personal blogs. Om Malik, Steve Gillmor, Cory Doctorow, and Richard MacManus are just a few examples. Once the blog world spreads a story about your product the trade press will pick it up too, which in turn feeds another round of stories, comments, and reactions.
CoComment is the most recent example of this new product launch phenomenon. It all started with Robert Scoble getting a sneak peak at the new service (still in invitation only beta) while skiing in Europe. Robert blogged about it, others picked up on it, Tech Memeorandum aggregated all the discussion, and it blasted off in about 24 hours on a Saturday.
Big money and influential VCs are no longer a requirement to launch a company or product. The price of software, hardware, and bandwidth has been reduced by a factor of ten, or more, since the late 90's. Open source software, free web services, and super cheap hardware have made it possible to start a business for pocket change. Many entrepreneurs are self funding all the way to cash flow, or even break even.
The web, and more specifically blogs, have made it simple and cheap to promote your product. And it can all happen in 24 hours...without ever leaving your computer screen. This is transformational. It has been happening gradually over the last 5 years so we haven't really noticed how dramatic the change has been. It is huge.
Today it is much easier to get a company started. But, with so many companies and products launching does it make it harder to get noticed? Not if you take advantage of the new approaches to exposing your beta product on the web, and engage the blog community for early feedback and promotion. It only takes one or two A-List bloggers to get you noticed. Then it is up to the product to speak for itself.
Products must be intuitively obvious in their design, usability, and value. A new user should be able to understand the value of the product/service, and be able to start using it, within minutes. No training required. No complicated integration with other products. No changes in user behavior. Just solve a user problem, add value immediately, and up sell other services later.
We now live in a meritocracy. Money, VCs, and the press no longer decide what will be successful. Great products/services with intuitive designs that solve a real problem win. Of course once the product catches on and other entrepreneurs take notice, then you need to scale up fast to cement your first mover advantage. That might be where VCs and money add their value in this new world.