Monday, June 25, 2012

Xobni Apocalypse

I just un-installed Xobni. Allow me a moment to explain why you should care.

I used to think Xobni was cool. Working under a freemium model, it offered an extension to Outlook that dramatically improved the email search experience. It also had some social elements that I never really used, but I thought there was some potential there.

Somewhere along the way Xobni disappeared from my machine, and by the time I noticed the change and went back to re-install it, something had changed. Now Xobni was annoying. It was a serious drag on my day, because Xobni actively interfered with the creation of email -- every time I opened a new message window and started to type an address, Xobni would try to upsell me to the Pro edition by showing that its address book was so much more effective than Outlook's. The window dropped down far enough to cover the CC and Subject lines, and, worst of all, if Outlook recognized the name and auto-filled it, the Xobni box would enter the name a second time if I tabbed out of the address field. I had to learn an entirely new action -- click to exit the field, rather than using the tab key -- to fix a problem created by an overzealous marketing effort.

Presumably Xobni's freemium model isn't working out too well, but I don't care. I wasn't inclined to pay for the Pro account before, because I didn't see enough value there. Now that I'm expanding my definition of "four-letter word" to include the occasional five-letter exception like "xobni," they have lost me for good.

Marketing is a delicate effort. On the business side, it's driven by the urgent need to make money, pay the bills, and satisfy the shareholders. The mandate is on the business, though, to put that aside and look at things from the customer's point of view. If your marketing effort makes things worse for your potential customers, even if you manage to convert some of them in the process, you are destroying your brand and sentencing your company to a long and lingering death. This is the road that Real Networks went down, and the outcome is not pretty.

Marketing is not about what you want, it's about what your customers want. Forget that at your peril.