How to Define Your Product Life Cycle Marketing Goals

In the early 2000s, DVDs were the primary way to watch videos. Netflix streaming launched in 2007, and the DVD player is now a technological antique. Products, much like humans, live on borrowed time. From the moment they launch, they’re on a journey towards decline.  How this journey plays out is what marketers try to […]

The post How to Define Your Product Life Cycle Marketing Goals appeared first on CXL.

In the early 2000s, DVDs were the primary way to watch videos. Netflix streaming launched in 2007, and the DVD player is now a technological antique.

Products, much like humans, live on borrowed time. From the moment they launch, they’re on a journey towards decline. 

How this journey plays out is what marketers try to predict by using the product lifecycle as a model. 

According to the classic sales curve, products go through four stages:

  1. Development and introduction;
  2. Growth;
  3. Maturity;
  4. Decline.

During introduction and growth, products rise along the curve as sales grow before reaching the peak of maturity and its eventual decline.

Whether your product follows this curve or a different path is determined by product life cycle management—the decisions you make to evolve and promote the product at every stage.

In this article, you’ll learn how to set goals at each product life cycle stage to maximize profits.

Demystifying product life cycle marketing

Your marketing strategy should adapt to each stage of your product life cycle. If it stayed the same, you’d miss out on opportunities to reach customers as your product matures.

Product life cycle marketing aligns marketing efforts with the life cycle stage of your product. 

The product life cycle above is a roadmap for your product. Developed by German economist Theodore Levitt, it provides a view of how the product progresses from introduction to launch to eventual decline.

The life cycle makes it easier to visualize your product’s stage and adapt your marketing strategy as you unlock new distribution channels and marketing assets. Adaptation is the difference between accelerating the curve and becoming obsolete. 

For example, focus on building awareness and generating demand if your product is in the introduction phase. If you’re in the maturity phase, leverage your brand equity to lure customers away from the competition.

Smart Insights’ RACE (Reach, Act, Convert, Engage) Framework life cycle marketing model shows how marketing efforts might evolve in line with the classic sales curve. 

Smart Insights product life cycle marketing model

While this curve makes the product life cycle easy to illustrate, it rarely translates to reality.

Your product’s life cycle will be unlike previous iterations or rival products. Which is why, as Derek Gleason points out: 

“The goal of product lifecycle marketing is not to match the curve but to outline what may work best now and plan for the future.”

Leverage previous product life cycles to gain a broad understanding of how your product fits into the life cycles of products in its class. This will help you spot early signs of a pending transition to a new stage and avoid pitfalls (e.g., waiting too long to get out of the introduction stage). 

That said, for them to be of use, your product must first gain attention and demand. And this isn’t always easy. Of the approximately 30,000 products launched every year, many will fail.

Hitting the ground running: Product development & market introduction

The development stage and introduction stage are rarely profitable. Even Facebook didn’t net positive until year three. New products are unlikely to be their most optimized selves. Development and promotion costs will also outweigh sales. 

Your goal is to progress from introduction to growth as quickly as possible to start turning a profit.

Your marketing objectives for the introduction stage of the product life cycle are to:

  1. Get internal buy-in;
  2. Generate product awareness.

People must start discovering your product, why it exists, and why they should buy it. Your teams must be able to communicate this messaging. 

Achieving this starts with customer and competitive research. 

You should already know your ideal customer from work done by product marketing and development teams.

Use this to establish customer goals and pain points. Use qualitative research methods like surveys and interviews to find out how customers are currently meeting their needs.

What are they using to help themselves? What are they not using? Look for gaps in the market that product marketing can exploit to differentiate your product

Use these insights to fuel your competitive intelligence and discover how customers perceive your rivals.

In his course on intelligence and market research, Andy McCotter-Bicknell, Head of Competitive Intel at ClickUp, lists three questions you should seek to answer about competitors:

  1. How do they position themselves?
  2. Who typically buys their product?
  3. What do customers think of it?

Gather these insights by:

Make your marketing consistent by refining your product messaging.

Secure internal buy-in with pre-launch documentation for sales teams

To convert customers, your team needs clarity and belief in what they’re selling. Pre-launch documentation ensures everyone is on the same page before you begin pushing your product.   

Document product benefits and how it’s different from your competitors.

There are several ways to do this:

  1. Sales messaging guide;
  2. Internal press release;
  3. User manual, or;
  4. FAQ guide.

Develop your document from the customer’s perspective. Consider how they’ll perceive the product and the value they’ll get. Customers are much less interested in you than they are in themselves. 

Keep your marketing consistent with clear messaging guidelines

To generate awareness quickly, target your audience across multiple channels (e.g., social media, PR, paid media). Your message must continually drive home the benefits of your product for customers to remember it.

In his book “Successful Advertising,” Thomas Smith suggests that people need to see a message 20 times before it sticks: 

“The 1st time people look at ad, they don’t see it.

The 2nd time, they don’t notice it.

The 3rd time, they are aware that it is there.

The 4th time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it before.

The 5th time, they actually read the ad.

The 6th time, they thumb their nose at it.

The 7th time, they get a little irritated with it.

The 8th time, they think, ‘Here’s that confounded ad again.’

The 9th time, they wonder if they’re missing out on something.

The 10th time, they ask their friends or neighbors if they’ve tried it.

The 11th time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.

The 12th time, they start to think that it must be a good product.

The 13th time, they start to feel the product has value.

The 14th time, they start to feel like they’ve wanted a product like this for a long time.

The 15th time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.

The 16th time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.

The 17th time, they make a commitment to buy the product.

The 18th time, they curse their poverty because they can’t buy this terrific product.

The 19th time, they count their money very carefully.

The 20th time prospects see the ad, they buy what it is offering.” [via The Financial Brand]

More recent studies put the number at seven. Either way, it’s more than once, which is why consistent messaging is key. 

To keep marketing unified, develop messaging guidelines. This playbook should include your:

Here’s the contents of Skype’s brand book as an example:

Skype brand book contents

Reading this, marketing teams (whether in-house or external) get a clear idea of how to talk about and present the brand online. This ensures the messaging customers see is the same at every touchpoint and interaction. 

Ramp up excitement with a go-to-market strategy

With aligned teams and consistent messaging, start generating awareness and encouraging early adoption. 

A go-to-market strategy sets out how you’re going to do this and catapult your product into the growth stage.

There are three options available to you at this stage:

  1. Sales-led strategy. This is the best option if you aim to adopt a small number of profitable users. However, customer acquisition costs can be high. 
  1. Marketing-led strategy. This is an efficient way to scale but relies on strong communication and data-sharing between marketing and sales. Some methods, such as PPC, can be costly in the early days.
  1. Product-led strategy. For SaaS companies, using a free-trial or freemium product can help scale awareness using features and usage to drive acquisition while reducing marketing outlay. It’s a strategy used successfully by the likes of Slack and Grammarly.

Your go-to-market strategy will help determine your call-to-action

For example, if you opt for a sales-led strategy, your marketing may focus on pushing demo requests. If you opt for a marketing-led strategy, you may push for email sign-ups to nurture your audience over time. If you lead with your product, you may encourage users to take advantage of a free trial.

Basecamp’s homepage uses a product-led strategy by offering a trial:

Basecamp home page

Use what you know about your market and target audience to develop a go-to-market strategy that resonates with how they use products like yours.

The growth stage: Firing on all cylinders

The growth stage of the product life cycle is the phase with the steepest increase in sales. There are two clear signs that you’re moving from introduction to growth:

  1. Marketing begins to move from getting customers to consider your product to getting them to prefer your brand over the competition;
  2. You’re considering how to push product updates to an existing customer base.

Now that your product has a foothold in the market, marketing objectives for the growth stage of the product life cycle are critical. This means:

To achieve these goals, switch your focus from marketing to customer behaviors and attitudes to customer experiences.

Leverage existing intelligence to find out how customers perceive your product. Gather qualitative user data from:

Find out how your product is helping customers solve problems, what they like and dislike about it, and what more it can do. Revisit your marketing strategy with this information:

Look again at product positioning relative to your success and competition.

Refine positioning to stamp your authority on the market

At this stage, you’ll know where your product sits in the market. This makes you well-positioned to start establishing authority.

If you boast a more advanced product than competitors, lean into its benefits. Show your customers how you fill gaps in the market that nobody else has. To do this, you’ll need to put more budget behind current campaigns on successful channels.

Use social proof to drive home the authority of your product. Product reviews can increase conversion rates by 270%. Utilizing them helped the likes of Slack and Canva achieve rapid growth.

“Social currency in the sense of our community has always been incredibly valuable for us. Much of that growth has come through word of mouth and our users sharing about us.” – Melanie Perkins, Founder and CEO of Canva [via Forbes]

Take customer data platform Segment. It built its homepage around social proof. 

Segment home page

The second you land on the website, you’re immediately informed that this is a product with authority.

The headline and supporting copy position Segment as a market leader, used by big-name brands. This positioning is hammered home further down with page with a case study:

Segment customer testimonial

That Segment can show it’s “trusted by startups and the world’s largest companies” instills confidence in customers.

Ask customers to review your product. Incentivize them to recommend you to others. Use their feedback as a marketing tool to elevate yourself above new competitors.

Build a strong brand to stand out from the crowd

If your product development lags behind the competition, focus on brand building.

Rather than marketing around differentiation of features, branding appeals to people’s emotions and influences how they perceive your company and product.

Insurance company Lemonade, for example, is able to thrive in a market populated by institutions like State Farm and Prudential by building a fun, lovable brand

Its founder Daniel Schreiber explains the company’s approach in a blog post:

“Insurance brands are some of the least loved and least trusted, and we came to understand that the cause is structural: every dollar your insurer pays you is a dollar less for their profits. Their interests, in other words, are profoundly conflicted with yours.

“Brands that make money by delighting their customers deserve to be loved; those that make money by disappointing customers are destined not to be. With Lemonade, we’re hoping to deliver an insurance experience that is instantaneous, un-conflicted, and downright lovable.”

Its imagery, tone of voice, and social content push Lemonade as a people-first brand—a world away from its corporate rivals: 

Copy showing how Lemonade's insurance service works

To create a strong brand marketing campaign, work on these three components:

  1. Fit. Target your marketing at the right audience, in the right tone of voice, where they hang out online.
  2. Focus. Talk about the issues and topics that are important to your audience.
  3. Consistency. Show up regularly to develop familiarity. Post consistently on social media and engage often with your audience across all marketing channels.

Developing a strong brand now will help grow a community that carries you through the maturity stage.

Map out how your team will handle new product updates

Data from the introduction stage will help to shape the future of your product. It will provide insight into which areas require improvement and bring to light new features you should be building.

Launching these features in the growth phase will help you to build better products going into the next stages of the product life cycle. 

To market updates effectively, work with product management teams to plan in advance. Consider:

  • How frequent updates will be. Regular smaller updates may only require a tweak to messaging and documentation, whereas infrequent larger updates may need a big marketing push.
  • Who features will target. Do you need to create new customer personas?
  • Whether features require significant marketing investment. Will updates require new content, PR, and landing pages

In 2020, Drift launched Audiences to help marketers quantify their marketing efforts.

Drift Audiences value proposition

The platform talks about this new feature update as a unique product. Audiences gets its own messaging, its own strategy.

Empower sales to drive growth

The growth stage is prime for onboarding new users and penetrating new markets. As teams create new content to engage customers, update all sales documentation with information on new audiences

Arm sales reps with fresh collateral to sell the product and maintain consistency with marketing messaging.

Reaching the peak: How to navigate the maturity phase

The maturity stage is the height of your product’s success. By now, you’ve reached the top of the growth curve. 

Market saturation and competition from cheaper and more advanced rivals mean that customers in your target audience are familiar with your product class. Those who want it will either have it or a competitor’s version of it. 

Therefore, the marketing objective for the maturity stage of the product life cycle is to:

Squeeze as much profit as possible out of your product while defending market share.

When the market is saturated, marketing focus often switches to enticing customers away from the competition. This is a popular tactic with mobile phone providers like Verizon:

Verizon competitive switching

Slite does a similar thing in the B2B space, positioning its solution as an alternative for weary Slack users. 

Slite product copy

However, such tactics often rely on offering customers a better deal, lower price, or added incentives. If you’re unable to differentiate in such ways, brand becomes your biggest asset.

Thanks to the work done in the growth stage, you can use brand equity to maintain momentum. Work on nurturing your community with valuable content and rewarding customers for their loyalty. 

Appealing to your customer’s emotions and making them feel valued will go a long way to retaining and turning them into advocates. 

According to research by InMoment, when their needs are satisfied, 77% of customers have maintained loyal relationships with their preferred companies for ten or more years. During this time, they purchase more frequently and spend more money.

In other words, by creating loyal customers around your current product, you’re growing an audience for years to come. 

To encourage brand loyalty:

While laying the groundwork for long-term success, you should also keep one eye on the market. 

Invest in research to extend product profitability

A key question you need to answer in the maturity phase is: where is the market headed?

Investing in third-party market research will give you an understanding of what market segments drop off first and which customers stick around longest. It will also help identify late adopters.

Combine this research with data from sales teams to find out:

  • What product features are sticking;
  • What prices, upgrades, or experiences customers use to choose your product over a competitor’s.

This will help you target marketing campaigns towards your most profitable demographics to improve ROI. Data will also help shape your next steps.

Mailchimp, for example, used customer insight to evolve its product and shift marketing from email to business growth.

Its website and marketing campaigns now push people towards its all-in-one marketing platform.

Mailchimp product marketing campaign

Mailchimp’s founder Ben Chestnut explained the company’s evolution in a blog post:

“Our email marketing product has helped millions of businesses grow, but our customers have been asking for years for us to build something that would enable them to do all of their marketing in one place. 

Small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have time to manage three, four, or five different platforms that each serve one specific purpose, and they don’t want their data all over the place: They need a tool powered by data and expertise that will help them know where to invest their marketing dollars.”

Research on how customers are using your product can also unearth insights for potential new uses that prolong its lifespan. 

Bubble-wrap, for example, was invented as textured wallpaper. When the product began to decline, creators Al Fielding and Marc Chavannes pitched it to IBM as packaging material for its new computers. 

Granted, such a significant pivot is the exception rather than the norm, but a previously unknown benefit can extend market reach and stave off decline in the short- or mid-term.

The party is over: Weathering the decline

As your product hits the decline phase, profit margins and sales volumes shrink, and lesser competitors begin to fall away, leaving only industry leaders to serve the market. While the writing’s on the wall for your product, marketing can make the fall a gradual one.

The marketing objective for the decline stage of the product life cycle is to:

Slow down decline and cut marketing costs as you develop fresh products. 

It’s important to note that, like Mailchimp, innovation and development should begin during the growth and maturity phases of the product life cycle. Slowing down decline is simply a way to gain more time to refine your next offering.

Identify where to scale back marketing to reduce costs

The decline stage is the time to begin scaling back marketing.

Analyze marketing platform analytics to see which offer the best return on investment and which are low producers. 

Start with the easy cuts. If a channel isn’t producing sales or customer acquisition costs are higher than customer lifetime value, it’s time for it to go.

Costs from these channels can be invested in other priorities such as product development or brand marketing

Now is a good time to focus more on nurturing existing customers. 

Creating value-led personalized content and fostering brand advocacy will mean you’re able to align marketing spend with the decline in sales and rely on brand loyalty to promote your product to late adopters.

This is known as harvesting—squeezing the last bit of profitability from a product before sunsetting it. Investopedia gives this example: 

“A harvest strategy may involve the gradual elimination of a product or product line when technological advances render the product or line obsolete. 

For example, companies selling stereo systems gradually eliminated sales of record turntables in favor of CD players as compact disc sales soared and record sales declined. 

Also, when product sales consistently fall below the target level of sales, companies may gradually eliminate the related products from their portfolios.”

Take Coda. It nurtures existing customers with a referral program. When someone signs up for Coda using a referral link, both parties get $10 in credit.

Coda referral program

This encourages loyal customers to share the product with little marketing spend (the referral program sits on the Coda website without promotion). 

It also gives Coda access to potential early adopters. Customers happy enough to tell friends about a current product are likely to be open to hearing about a new venture. 

Gather customer data for future product launches

While your eyes may be firmly set on new product development, the decline phase can offer valuable insight into how to market your next product. Look at:

  • Which demographics stuck around until the end;
  • Which marketing tactics resonated with late adopters;
  • Which customers have engaged with referral and reward marketing campaigns;
  • Which customers have expressed interest in new products.

Conduct qualitative research to gather feedback and insights from customers to gauge sentiment. Learning about user experiences and brand perception will help shape positioning and messaging for your next product launch.  

Conclusion

By visualizing the stages of a product journey, product life cycle management promotes a proactive approach to marketing. When you know what’s coming next, you can plan ahead to make each phase profitable. Let’s recap the goals for each phase:

  • Development and introduction phase. Secure internal buy-in and generate product awareness.
  • Growth phase. Widen your audience, increase market share and encourage brand preference.
  • Maturity phase. Maximize profits while defending market share.
  • Decline phase. Slow down decline and reduce marketing spend.

To achieve these aims, let the research guide you. Shape your early messaging and positioning based on what you know about your target audience from competitive and market research. 

As you grow, tweak your marketing to match customer experiences with your product. Nurture happy customers and foster brand loyalty to manage decline and create a ready-made audience for products to come.

To master marketing across your product’s life cycle, check out CXL’s Product Marketing Minidegree.

The post How to Define Your Product Life Cycle Marketing Goals appeared first on CXL.

New Product Launch Plan: What To Do during Pre-launch, Launch, and Post-launch

No one is better at building anticipation ahead of a launch than Apple. New product launches trigger publicized spec leaks and reveal events draw crowds in the millions (over 2.7 million people watched the iPhone 12 presentation live).  In the iPhone 13’s first quarter, it generated $71.6 billion in revenue (despite parts shortages and a […]

The post New Product Launch Plan: What To Do during Pre-launch, Launch, and Post-launch appeared first on CXL.

No one is better at building anticipation ahead of a launch than Apple. New product launches trigger publicized spec leaks and reveal events draw crowds in the millions (over 2.7 million people watched the iPhone 12 presentation live). 

In the iPhone 13’s first quarter, it generated $71.6 billion in revenue (despite parts shortages and a global pandemic).

You don’t have to create Apple-level hype to see a successful new product launch. Trading app Robinhood launched with almost one million users thanks to a pinpointed market need and waitlist pre-launch campaign.

Unfortunately, many product launches take a “build it and they will come approach,” failing to gain traction and eventually fizzling out. These launches lack the key component of promotion and acquisition.

In this article, you’ll learn how to design an effective new product launch plan to avoid this pitfall and generate demand.

Before starting on your new product launch plan, make sure you’ve crafted a product launch strategy. This’ll help you inform and execute the tactical aspects of your product launch plan.

Pre-launch: Paving the way for a successful product launch 

The pre-launch stage is often the busiest and most impactful stage of a new product launch. Rushed or poorly planned product launches will flop.

Activities during this phase focus on building brand awareness and anticipation, developing product messaging, identifying key marketing channels, and driving demand for your new product to ensure a successful launch.

1. Challenge yourself to become a product expert 

Some marketers stop learning about their product after the initial research and strategy development. In reality, you’ll be learning and adapting your product and strategy as you gain more insights from your customers.

Through the entire product lifecycle, the product marketing manager (PMM) and their team should be the masters of the new product. Using the product marketing strategy you’ve developed, your product marketing team must know:

  • What the product does;
  • Why it exists;
  • Who it serves;
  • How it helps them, and;
  • Why it’s the best option.

You’ll continually develop this expertise by working closely with other departments. Learn from marketing, sales, and customer success what customers are raving and ranting about.

Interview product managers and engineers to gain a technical understanding of the product. Or better yet, use the product yourself. Tie challenges back to your product benefits.

Slite, a digital workplace for async teams, connects their customers’ challenges to their product benefits on their ”Discussions” feature landing page.

Slit home page screenshot 1
Slit home page screenshot 2

Slite found that a common frustration around a competitor’s tool is communication getting lost in Slack threads.

Instead of dancing around the topic, they called it out on the landing page: 

  • “A place for more focused discussions.”
  • “Tired of endless Slack threads?”
  • “Slack isn’t cutting it, and it’s about time for a better alternative.”

Learn all you can from market research and by interacting with other teams. Then tie your customers’ challenges to benefits in the clearest way possible.

2. Generate excitement and buy-in with an internal press release 

Create an internal press release to communicate your positioning with your entire team.

Having a single source of truth document ensures clarity and consistency across marketing, sales, product, and customer success teams. It also builds internal excitement for the new product launch.

Amazon’s former director, Ian McAllister, describes a framework he uses for internal press releases:

Heading: Name the product in a way the reader (i.e. your target customers) will understand.

Subheading: Describe who the market for the product is and what benefit they get. One sentence only underneath the title.

Summary: Give a summary of the product and the benefit. Assume the reader will not read anything else so make this paragraph good.

Problem: Describe the problem your product solves.

Solution: Describe how your product elegantly solves the problem.

Quote from You: A quote from a spokesperson in your company.

How to Get Started: Describe how easy it is to get started.

Customer Quote: Provide a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how they experienced the benefit.

Closing and Call to Action: Wrap it up and give pointers where the reader should go next.”

Keep it short and simple (under a page and a half), and avoid overly corporate or technical language. McAllister revealed his trick for communicating the product’s unique positioning and messaging is to pretend you’re talking to Oprah:

“Imagine you’re sitting on Oprah’s couch and have just explained the product to her, and then you listen as she explains it to her audience.’”

The press release should help shape every aspect of product development. The product team can refer back to the document, asking at all times if what they’re developing meets the brief.

Doing so will keep the product team focused on customer benefits and help them avoid wasting resources on features that aren’t important.

3. Building genuinely useful marketing personas 

Often, marketing personas are empty, unrealistic imitations of who marketers hope their customers are. This happens when the persona development process is top-down instead of bottom-up. 

Rand Fishkin, founder and CEO of SparkToro explains his experience with the typical user persona:

“Build personas → Make sure they get used across the company → Create product and marketing initiatives to employ the personas → Get no benefit at all → Doh!”

Buyer persona Gru meme

Fishkin recommends a five-step approach to creating genuinely useful buyer personas:

  1. List out the applications your personas are solving for. Who’s doing what with your product? What information might they require to do that work effectively?
  1. Audit and cull. Identify realistic elements that can be tested and proved through data-gathering exercises.
  1. Substantiate with data. Leverage internal customer data from social accounts, web analytics, email subscribers, and current product usage data. Scrape insights from market research, industry statistics, and competitor press releases. 

Interview your customers, your prospects, and your lost deals to understand real-life needs and challenges. Access audience intelligence from tools like SparkToro, Brandwatch, and Helixa to gather quantitative data at scale.

  1. Segment your personas. Use the data you’ve gathered to establish the characteristics that separate one group from another. If two or more sets of your market share overlapping behaviors and characters, group them under one persona. 
  1. Settle on a presentation format. Present your personas in a way that makes sense for your team to digest. That might be a Google Doc with a few bullet points, an infographic-style design, or a short video.

HubSpot offers a free tool that creates personas like this:

4. Determine which channels you’ll capitalize on 

Your product marketing strategy should inform the channels you’ll use to reach your audience (leading up to and including launch day).

Build a list of the specific channels you’re going to use. Then consider:

  • What you’re going to share in which locations;
  • When you’re going to share it;
  • Who is responsible for executing and monitoring each task.

Here are four common channels to build hype and reach before you launch and on launch day.

Paid Media

Consider which channels you’ll allocate ad spend. Your next steps will depend on the channels you use.

For example, will you run Google Ads? You’ll need to determine the key search phrases you’ll target. 

Considering a publisher network? You’ll need to identify where your audience is most engaged and ensure your budget is going to the right places.

No matter your chosen channel, ensure messaging and creative tie back to your product marketing strategy.

Organic

Customers who want your new product may come to you through various organic channels, like search and social media. 

If you want to encourage organic traffic by investing in content marketing, you’ll need to identify the topics most relevant to your new product users. 

You’ll also want to consider how your website needs to change to reflect the new product. Will you need to create a new landing page, feature the product on your homepage, create new content on your blog, etc.?

Take Later, an Instagram marketing platform.

When it dropped a new product feature (first comment scheduling), Later knew it could reach its existing audience on Instagram. 

The platform designed an informative video to demonstrate exactly how the new product works, and published it on Instagram where their target users are.

Digital PR

If you have existing relationships with media (newspapers, magazines, radio, online publications), use them to broadcast your launch. 

If not, where do opportunities exist to form new relationships?

Develop a strategy for media outreach. Develop easy-access content that journalists, PR, and other media professionals can use (e.g., press releases and brand kits).

Take Happsy, an organic mattress retailer.

When launching its new product, Happsy leveraged PRNewswire’s large reach to promote a press release announcing its certified organic bed-in-a-box.

Happsy press release

Take advantage of relevant media outlets and include an exclusive offer to entice readers:

Happsy press release CTA

Traditional press releases can only take you so far. Happsy leveraged media outlets they had relationships with and issued a press release.

To make a real splash, you have to be where your audience is most active and give them content they’re looking for. 

For example, AI video editing software Kamua launched on Product Hunt, where tech-minded individuals learn about new tools.

Kamua product hunt top 3 announcement

Their launch campaign on a site targeting their user base gained them so much engagement, they rose to the third “most hunted” product on the site in a day.

Leverage digital PR by showing up where your audience is active and engaging with them on launch day.

Influencers

Think about how you’ll leverage third parties, like thought leaders and other brands, to promote your product and spread your message. 

Mention is a platform where you can find influencers and track their activity once employed to see how it’s impacting your reach. 

Consequently, Mention put this to good use when marketing its new product. It created an influencer marketing microsite and got other marketing influencers involved to help capture more attention.

Mention influencer marketing stack

There are many ways to use influencer marketing. Consider:

  • Whether you’ll use a partner channel;
  • Whether you’re involved in any communities that you might engage; 
  • If you can leverage online forums like Reddit to maximize reach and conversation; 
  • Whether you’ll use more formal influencer relationships to promote the new product launch.

Millennials don’t want to be advertised to, which is why many businesses are using influencers instead. Learn your audience’s preferences, then fit your channels to your audience.

5. Increase organic visibility to boost brand awareness and demand

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial growth driver for B2B product launches.

Because organic content can take time to reap traffic rewards, publish before launch. This allows time for pages to be indexed, spark conversation, and rank.

Create high-value, intent-focused long-form content to attract top-of-funnel prospects, based on both product-driven and problem-driven topics.

Take sales CRM Pipedrive. One of their target markets is real estate agents.

Pipedrive uses concise, informative, search-optimized descriptions to win top positions, like this featured snippet for the keyword “real estate CRM.”

Real estate CRM search results

Pipedrive also focuses on developing top-of-funnel, problem-driven content to attract real estate agents struggling with cold-calling and lead generation.

Real estate cold calling search results

Prioritize topics that have a higher likelihood of ranking.

For example, take these two search phrases “top real estate CRM” and “best CRM for real estate investors.”

Real estate CRM search data from Semrush

Both keywords have similar monthly search volume, but one has a keyword difficulty of 39% and the other has a difficulty of 63% (according to SEMrush).

Having identified which key search phrases provide the best opportunities, use a tool like Airtable to build out a content calendar, detailing for each piece:

  • Topic;
  • Headline;
  • Keyword;
  • Project status;
  • Due date;
  • Writers and editors responsible;
  • Distribution channels.
Airtable content planner

6. Debug website issues and improve user experience 

Most of your product launch campaign activities will direct traffic back to your website. So, before launch day, make sure your site is prepared to handle traffic spikes.

OrangeValley found that if their site was just one second slower, their conversion rate dropped by 25%.

Loading time impact on conversion graph

Ensure that your site:

  • Has a healthy load speed;
  • Is not bogged down by excessive code;
  • Doesn’t have any 404 warnings or dead links;
  • Is easily navigable;
  • Is mobile-responsive;
  • Doesn’t host any duplicate content;
  • Is secure and uses HTTPS;
  • Has an XML sitemap to help search engines crawl and index pages.

Find tools and learn how to fix these issues to prepare your website for traffic and growth in CXL’s article on technical SEO.

7. Collaborate to develop initial messaging 

Develop your product messaging in the pre-launch phase, but be prepared to adapt it as you collect customer feedback during and post-launch.

Morgan Molnar, Director of Product Marketing at Momentive, shares a template for developing initial product messaging in her CXL course on product launches.

Use this template to write a short description of your product. Detail key value propositions and the features that deliver them.

Share your product messaging with other teams across marketing, sales, product development, and customer success to gather important feedback. 

For example, sales representatives may be able to identify common phrases or language your target audience uses to describe their pain points.

8. Test your message before it gets to your customers 

Use message testing products like Wynter to understand how your customers see your product and messaging before bringing the product to market.

Wynter home page

Build your target audience using Wynter’s proprietary B2B panel, set up the test creative (e.g., your new landing page), and customize your test questions.

Use this feedback to amend your product messaging where appropriate, and run a second test to validate changes.

9. Create shareable pre-launch content to generate hype

Prepare for launch day by creating shareable content. This will help generate discussion around your new product.

The more people you have sharing and interacting with your product, the more likely it is to land in front of people who need it and want to buy it.

For example, Rand Fishkin, co-founder at SparkToro, created pre-launch content detailing their funding journey.

Marker.io also launched in public, transparently narrating the entire process along the way. Hotjar describes Marker.io’s launch in their case study:

“Gary Gaspar and his team launched Marker.io, a visual communication tool, back in 2015. Being featured on Product Hunt within a month made them think they had ‘arrived’, but they were far from it: they attracted about 20 upvotes and 2 comments (…one of which was Gary’s).

For the second Product Hunt launch, the team worked relentlessly. They made a very detailed action plan, sharpened their product visuals and copy, built shareable documentation that included a demo video—and only then did the hard work pay off: Marker received 600 upvotes and around 3,000 new signups over the course of one month.” 

Marker.io even made their Product Hunt launch plan publicly available in a Trello board:

Maker 2.0 Product Hunt launch plan

Leading up to your new product launch, focus on creating highly-shareable content like this to build awareness and stimulate conversation.

Launch day: Deploying your new product launch plan 

Launch day is all about coordination. Without coordination, your chances of reaching the right audiences (and even virality) are lower.

Enable sales and marketing teams to spread the word about your new product, and have a clear plan for doing this.

Advocates and influencers should be prepared to push your message to their own audiences to further your impact.

All parties must understand how the product works, where it brings value to your audience, and why competitors’ customers should second-guess their choice. Luckily, you’ve covered this in pre-launch.

Here’s how to bring everything together on launch day.

10. Develop a coordinated plan of attack 

Coordinate sales and marketing teams to have the right activities ready to go at the right time:

  • Who is available to book product demo meetings?
  • Will you be running live streams, webinars, giveaways, etc.? Who owns these tasks, and when and how will they take place?
  • What emails will you send? How will they be scheduled? Who’ll be responsible for handling responses, and what kind of responses can you anticipate?
  • If you have a sales team, who is making phone calls? To whom? When? 
  • Who is responsible for inbound calls?

Prepare your teams by having step-by-step plays ready to go (when X happens, we do Y). You won’t anticipate every customer challenge, but you can help your team operate autonomously by preparing as much as you can.

Leaders (particularly those with established audiences), should also be prepared to push the message out and engage with the community.

Let’s revisit Rand Fishkin. 

On launch day, Fishkin engaged consistently with his Twitter audience, answering questions, demonstrating use cases, and helping the community get the most out of SparkToro.

Use your collaborative work platform to organize your plan so everyone knows where they’re meant to be and what they should be doing on launch day.

11. Share relevant content across your primary channels 

Share a formal product announcement message along with other communications on launch day.

You’ve determined which channels you’ll rely most heavily on during the pre-launch phase; now’s the time to act on that plan:

  • Roll out new product landing pages;
  • Publish and share new blog posts and how-to articles;
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the day that promote your product’s value props;
  • Encourage discussions with your audience when they engage with your content;
  • Coordinate media and PR releases to drop on the same day and link back to your main launch platform (such as the new product landing page).

The best way to communicate your new product launch is to show potential customers exactly how your product is going to solve their problem.

Take CRM platform monday.com.

When they released their new product workdocs (a collaborative document editor similar to Google Docs), monday.com used a short, informative video to demonstrate the product’s value and key competitive differentiators.

The video featured a face-to-face comparison with existing word document editors demonstrating workdocs’ speed and collaboration abilities, showing their audience exactly why they should choose workdocs over a competitor product.

12. Galvanize your advocates for sharing launch-day content 

Leverage any influencers you have a relationship with—without “buying” them. 

Ensure that your influencer partner sincerely backs what you’re selling and that it’s helpful to their audience.

Engage your advocates to upvote your new product on Product Hunt, and to share content on relevant social media platforms.

To maximize engagement (and to allow influencers to retain authenticity), have advocates publish unique content rather than simply retweeting your existing posts.

Take Ashley R. Cummings, freelance writer, and SparkToro advocate.

Rather than simply retweeting one of Fishkin’s product videos Cummings shares a quick tip on using SparkToro to find interview sources.

Fishkin then leverages this user-generated content by sharing this insight and product advocacy with his own audience.

13. Use a referral program to turn your customers into advocates 

Referral schemes are an important part of long-term product marketing strategy, generating a near-passive stream for customer acquisition.

Take Airtable, a low-code platform for building collaborative apps.

Airtable encourages users to invite their network by offering $10 worth of credits for each person invited.

Use a compelling referral offer to grow your customer base quickly at launch.

For example, you could offer a “first month free” initiative for both the inviter and invitee. Offer this incentive for a limited time to boost initial launch sign-ups before reverting to your long-term referral scheme offer.

Post-launch: Conducting a post-mortem 

Focus areas for the post-launch phase are retention of your new, hard-won customers, and KPI tracking. Consider:

  • How do we retain the customers we’ve attracted at launch? How can we convert trial users into paid ones? What tactics do we have in play to upsell and increase customer lifetime value (CLV)?
  • What KPIs are we tracking? How does our performance stack up against expectations? What are the underlying causes behind low performance (if applicable), and what will we do about it?
  • What lessons can we learn from this experience to apply to future product launches? What insights have we gained that might apply to product development in the next life cycle?

The launch isn’t over at midnight on launch day. Here’s what to do next.

14. Execute your customer retention strategy 

Your product launch tactics were successful. You’ve attracted a group of prospects and converted them into users.

Now it’s time to keep them from switching to the competition.

  • Use customer-facing webinars to show existing customers how to get the most out of your product and to demonstrate specific applications.
  • Leverage email marketing campaigns to introduce users to product features step-by-step. 
  • Send out product updates when resolving bugs or adding new features.
  • Encourage customers to follow your social media pages, and post insightful, shareable guides to using your product in a real-life context.

Make your customer retention strategy a two-way conversation by encouraging customers to give feedback on your product. Ask those who switched from a competitor what drove them to leave. 

Alex Turnbull of GrooveHQ shares a simple email template for capturing customer feedback.

Analyze customer service data and support logs to identify areas of friction. Review email performance to understand what actions take place (or don’t) when you send out retention-focused emails. 

15. Conduct a post-mortem and analyze results 

Start by evaluating your performance on metrics that measure the success of your product launch. Track metrics like:

  • Content engagement metrics such as time on page, bounce rate, and page views;
  • Click-through rates for ads and organic content;
  • Volume-based KPIs like the number of new trials, new customers, referrals, sales qualified leads;
  • Total revenue from customers acquired through online marketing; 
  • Cost Per Lead segmented by acquisition channel, and;
  • Average Customer Value.

Compare your actual metrics against your forecasts and goals, and ask:

  • Which goals did we achieve?
  • Which goals did we not achieve?
  • In either case, why?

Try not to make assumptions about the reasons behind meeting (or not meeting) your goals. 

Engage with your customers (and non-customers) to understand how your marketing efforts impacted performance against benchmarks.

If you hit your goal for sales qualified leads, but fell short of the KPI for the number of new customers, this may indicate a breakdown somewhere in the sales process.

Analyze sales pipeline data to understand drop-off rates at each stage. Meet with sales reps to find out how customers respond to your messaging and word tracks. Set up interviews with missed opportunities, and ask them why they chose not to sign up.

16. Share key learnings with internal departments 

Don’t make the mistake of keeping your post-mortem insights to yourself. Sales, marketing, product, and customer success teams can all learn from your findings. They may be able to provide additional insights into what worked and what didn’t.

Use these questions to deconstruct the results of your new product launch marketing plan, and share your answers with all relevant departments:

  • What lessons can go toward the next product launch?
  • What could sales have communicated better?
  • What new issues are being presented to the support team?
  • What assets could optimize your marketing campaigns?
  • What demos could ease customers into the new product?
  • What does our product usage data tell us about the usefulness of the new product?

Post-launch insights can also prove invaluable for informing the product roadmap, so make sure to share key learnings with the product team as well.

Take Wonderflow, ​​a voice of customer analytics company.

Wonderflow was working with a client who produced an innovative new baby monitor. Unfortunately, the product launch didn’t go as planned, and the client wasn’t gaining a lot of traction.

The post-launch feedback analysis identified the problem: the monitor remained silent if there was nothing to report, but parents wanted a regular update, problem or not.

The product team used this feedback to change the monitor’s update sequence, the product marketing team adjusted their messaging and marketing collateral, and sales communicated the updated feature to prospects.

Conclusion  

New product launches are a core aspect of product marketing. They require careful collaboration and coordination of sales, marketing, product, and customer success teams to execute effectively.

The majority of your new product launch plan activities take place pre-launch, but don’t discount the importance of a post-launch analysis of your new product’s impact, and subsequent changes to your product marketing strategy.
Master new product launch planning to start getting revenue out the gate with CXL’s Product Marketing Minidegree.

The post New Product Launch Plan: What To Do during Pre-launch, Launch, and Post-launch appeared first on CXL.

The Role Marketing plays in New Product Launches

By the time Robinhood launched, it had already gained almost a million users.  The stock-trading company called out one of the biggest trading pain points (fees) in their tagline: “$0 commission stock trading. Stop paying up to $10 for every trade.” Then they used a waiting-list product launch model to create excitement and FOMO while […]

The post The Role Marketing plays in New Product Launches appeared first on CXL.

By the time Robinhood launched, it had already gained almost a million users. 

The stock-trading company called out one of the biggest trading pain points (fees) in their tagline: “$0 commission stock trading. Stop paying up to $10 for every trade.”

Then they used a waiting-list product launch model to create excitement and FOMO while giving them access to beta-model feedback ahead of launch.

Robinhood’s messaging aimed at the right audience, at the right time and place, is what gained them a million subscribers before they even launched. It’s also a prime example of successful product marketing.

In this article, you’ll learn how to strengthen new product development with product marketing so you can deliver on customer needs.

Product marketing ensures new product development solves real customer problems

Without truly knowing your customers, you can’t create something they need. Product marketing helps you develop a solution your customers are hungry for. 

The product marketing team uses market research to guide product development’s direction. 

Conduct product marketing research before developing a new product. Ask questions like:

  • Is this something consumers want or need? How does it help them solve an existing problem?
  • Who are they? What attributes do they share? Which of these attributes matter most to us?
  • Where can we reach them? What publications do they read? Which movers-and-shakers can we befriend to access them?
  • What is the competition doing? What gaps are they leaving unfilled?
  • What is our USP? How can we ensure we stand out from our competitors?

Product marketing helps you understand who your brand is selling to, where to play, and how to win. 

As a product marketer, you must keep each department aligned, continually optimizing the product and marketing and sales strategies to meet customer needs.

I’ll lay down four steps you need to take when launching a new product and explain how to execute them.

1. Identify your ideal customer through buyer personas 

Buyer personas fuel efficiency during new product development. They’re a detailed archetype of someone who represents your ideal customer, identified through extensive user research

It’s critical that your buyer personas represent real customers that want to buy your product, not who you hope they are. 

Build your personas from the bottom up. Find people who would buy your product, then fit your personas around them.

Identify realistic, testable elements to your personas. Then substantiate them with interviews and home in on the most relevant real-life pain points and challenges.

Be specific. Then combine personas with overlapping characteristics and segment personas that are clearly different.

There are several tools that allow you to do this. HubSpot has a Make My Persona Tool that takes you through a workflow to deliver a cartoon persona.

HubSpot buyer persona tool

From there, you’ll need to do some tweaking to ensure your buyer persona contains the most relevant information for your brand.

In order to populate tools like this with accurate, useable information, base your workflow answers on market research—not educated guesses.

A buyer persona aligns your whole company on what challenges a new product could solve. It informs how you’ll deliver value, the messaging strategy, product development, sales strategy, etc., so it’s worth investing time to make this a useful exercise.

2. Conduct market research to see how you stack up

Identify threats and opportunities by digging into what your competitors are doing. Review your competitors’ products to identify the gaps in their offerings.

Get your new target customer and any existing customers involved by:

  • Interviewing them; 
  • Sending surveys to list subscribers;
  • Using tools to survey users outside your list.

One of the biggest challenges when building a new product is finding representatives of this new audience to ask those important questions. That’s where third-party sites can help.

Wynter has panels of B2B specialist, mid-level, and senior-level audiences. 

Wynter B2B audience panel

Momentive targets both B2B and B2C users.

Momentive product marketing messaging

No matter how you conduct market research, design your questions to understand where current products fall short, what new features are most relevant or exciting, and what customers expect next.

3. Rally the entire company around the new product

Product marketing is responsible for positioning alignment across the company, including why you’re upgrading your current product or adding a new featureset, and how you’re selling it. 

There are several ways to do this:

Because product marketers are masters of the product and its positioning, you’ll brief all departments on assets like sales scripts and marketing collateral. You’ll also help create the go-to-market strategy and define the new product’s USP

The positioning and messaging document you create will help teams get a head start, but you’ll be there to ensure alignment.

4. Use data to guide product development post-launch

During the new product development process, product marketing supports the product team with their research. This data informs product ideation and iteration, helping the product team make strategic adjustments as needed.

Successful new product development cannot happen in a vacuum. As responses come in after launch, you’ll adapt your product to become an even better fit.

Product marketing helps strategize, iterate, and ultimately produce a unique product worthy of demand.

Listen to your biggest fans: Leverage consumer sentiment and anecdotes

No one knows your brand better than your existing customers. Invite them to help shape your new product.

Conduct customer research with your advocates and loyal customers. Collecting voice of customer data helps you make sure users are experiencing your product in the best way possible. 

​​In a Marketing Science paper, researchers defined four aspects of voice of customer research:

  • Customer needs described in the customer’s own words;
  • Hierarchical grouping of needs;
  • Prioritization of needs;
  • Segmentation of needs and perceived benefits by audience.

The paper illustrates the critical need to talk to your customers. It shows them you care and that you’re taking steps to solve their problems. 

This research begins with your existing customer base. 

CXL’s voice of customer data course recommends using surveys and polls to ask open- and closed-ended questions. This gives you both quantitative and qualitative to understand your customers’ motivations and goals.

Open-ended questions are helpful for gathering in-depth answers. Customers can respond to questions freely, in writing or via an interview.

The downsides to open-ended questions are that interviews take longer, and survey questions get lower response rates. Longer responses require more of your customers’ time and effort. 

It’s also more challenging to compare results between customers or segments due to response variance.

Closed-ended questions encourage participation and allow for comparison. They can be helpful for benchmarking, perception measurement, and direct questions that don’t require nuance to answer.

However, there’s more room for bias. 

Bias can creep in from the question creator (you) or from the respondents, meaning you might not get an honest answer. This is because the answers are provided via multiple-choice, yes or no, ranking, etc., and questions can inadvertently guide respondents’ answers. It takes practice to design bias-free questionnaires.

Design a survey that helps you understand your customers’ motivations and goals using a mix of the two question types. 

Ask questions like:

  • What pushed you to purchase our product/service? This helps to understand your customer’s mindset at the point of purchase. 
  • What problem does our product solve for you? Your customers might use your product or service beyond your original value proposition. Asking about the problem it solves for your customers can help you identify new target audience segments.
  • Did you consider any similar products? What helped you make your final decision? This helps you understand your competition better and helps you understand your differentiating factors from your customers’ POV.
  • Did you have any concerns before purchasing our product? What helped alleviate those concerns? Learn where you can remove friction and optimize the buyer’s journey.
  • Are there times you wish our product could do more or perform differently? This helps identify the problems that still exist.

These questions help you shape your product strategy

New product development cannot begin without product marketing

Waiting until after launch to deploy product marketing is a mistake. User research sets the direction for development, ensuring your new product solves real problems for your customers.

Design a survey or conduct focus groups with your target audience to better uncover their needs, wants, and motivations. 

Ask questions like:

  • If they’re already using a competitor’s product, why did they choose that brand? 
  • What do they love about the product? 
  • What do they dislike about the product?
  • What features do they wish were included? 
  • What made them pull the purchase trigger? 
  • How does the product address pain points or goals they have?

Get to the root of your customers’ behaviors and motivations to identify the top-priority features for your new product development. 

Only once you’ve done this research can you create an accurate, useful buyer persona. Like this one from virtual whiteboard platform Miro:

Miro buyer persona example

Creating a buyer persona based on market research is critical. SparkToro’s Rand Fishkin explains personas often contain:

  • Information with no business application;
  • Demographics and psychographic traits that are hard-to-apply at best and stereotyping or biasing at worst;
  • Data that’s aggregated based on informal interviews and guesswork alongside data from surveys or market research tools (with no indication of which ones came from which sources);
  • Idealized versions of singular, representative customer targets that narrows, rather than broadens, to whom a product or marketing campaign might appeal.

These personas are not useful. Rand goes on to say what they should contain:

  • The information your team (or client) needs to effectively do their job;
  • Details about that information’s source and accuracy;
  • Enough breadth to represent the range of individuals covered by the persona;
  • Segmentation of those personas only when there’s a relevant need to target, build-for, or market-to individuals in those groups differently.

Don’t make your persona-building workshop a pointless exercise. Substantiate every claim with data and segment into purposeful groups you plan to market to.

SparkToro is a great resource for this. Using search behavior, the platform offers a unique take on audience insights:

SparkToro audience intelligence report

Make decisions with confidence knowing your new target customer’s motivations (e.g., allocate marketing budget, tweak messaging, focus sales outreach, etc.).

Differentiate from the competition (and yourself) 

The market is saturated with lookalike products. Zero in on differentiation to create a better product that’s worthy of conversion.

Creating a differentiation strategy helps you in two ways:

  1. It helps teams align on what sets you apart;
  2. It determines how you communicate your new product’s value.

Conduct competitor research in the development phase to better understand how your organization compares.

This framework from Buffer can help you determine your direct competitors:

Buffer competitor customer overlap framework

Competing brands may sell to the same customer or sell the same solution to a different customer. Your direct competitors solve the same problem for the same customer with a similar product.

Conduct a competitive analysis to analyze where similar products with the same audience fall short. Ask questions like:

  • Can you create features their products are missing?
  • Are there features where your competitors’ product is weak but yours excels?
  • What about your brand makes you better positioned to sell this particular kind of product?
  • Can you distinctly improve the user experience?
  • What can you learn from your competitors’ product reviews? 
  • Are there aspects of your competitors’ products that you can’t beat (e.g., brand recognition, labor-intensive features, etc.)? Is there a cost-efficient way to close that gap?

Create a full picture of your opportunities and threats compared to your direct competitors. 

Your customer research is invaluable here. Talk to your customers to understand their problems, then prioritize the features and experiences they care about most.

Feature or plan upgrades, as well as entirely new products, should hit on the customer pain points identified during your research phase. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Why should customers buy your latest release? 
  • Why can’t they get the same features from product A? 
  • Why is it worth jumping to product B? 
  • What have you addressed in product A to come up with product B?

New customers might come from your existing customer pool if you have an established product line. 

Determine your messaging for both new and existing audiences. Their pain points may not overlap.

Be transparent when communicating value with your customers. You’ve already identified your ideal customer’s pain points, so speak to that directly in your messaging.

CRM monday.com calls out its competitor, Asana, on a landing page. 

monday.com competitor comparison landing page

monday.com also understands that empty words don’t mean much to consumers. They want to know where the true value-add lies. 

Further down on the site, there’s a way for buyers to compare the two products directly. 

monday.com competitor comparison features

In a table, monday.com compares their platform to their biggest threat, highlighting where they excel (tied to customer pain points). 

Asana’s landing page, by contrast, focuses more broadly on the value they bring their clients, including stats like: “Teams report they’re up to 45% more efficient with Asana.”

Asana customer-driven landing page

Stand out from the competition and highlight new products for existing customers by clearly communicating your USP. Tie this directly to customer pain points to help them understand its value.

Build a winning product marketing and go-to-market plan

Where your product team focuses on creating a successful product, product marketing acts as the customer’s advocate throughout the entire new product development process. 

According to Epsilon research, 80% of today’s consumers expect a personalized experience from brands. 

And a positive customer experience is tied firmly to a company’s success—yielding 20% higher customer-satisfaction rates and a 10% to 15% boost in sales conversion rates.

Talking to your customers directly also deepens your relationship with them and makes them feel heard. 

Customers that see their concerns addressed through your new product or product features will strengthen their affinity and loyalty toward your brand.

This comes across in your bottom line—a PwC report shows that customers will pay up to 16% price premiums when they feel appreciated.

As your product nears market readiness, create a product marketing and go-to-market plan that highlights how you’ll elevate the customer experience. 

Building a customer-centric product marketing plan

A product marketing plan outlines the positioning, messaging, and value proposition for a new product. 

This strategy is what your teams will use to communicate the value of your new product and secure the best path toward a successful launch

We’ve already covered some of the work that goes into this plan, like creating buyer personas. Those personas are a key first step to building your product marketing plan. 

The research you conducted to create those personas gives you a complete understanding of your customers’ pain points, needs, challenges, habits, and motivations. You’ll use all of that information to build out the product marketing plan.

Next, you’ll leverage your competitive research to conduct a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis considers your product’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

New product marketing SWOT analysis

You’ve already done similar work during the product development process to understand how to differentiate your product. 

Now, assess how much of that intended differentiation comes through with the final product.

After conducting the SWOT analysis, use your product’s strengths to create your product positioning and messaging. 

Positioning refers to your brand or product’s ability to influence buyer perception relative to your competitors. Your positioning should tell the story of your product—what makes it different, why you created it, what need or problem it aims to solve. 

Keep your customers at the heart of this positioning work. The story you tell through positioning should combine all the strategy work you’ve done so far to incorporate your ideal customers’ needs.

Let’s look at Privy. It’s positioned as “the ecommerce marketing platform for online brands that need to grow sales.”

Privy product marketing messaging (landing page)

It directly calls out Shopify sellers to let them know they’re in the right place: “One-click signup with Shopify.”

Messaging is a subset of your positioning. It outlines what and how you’ll communicate with your audience about the new product.

Privy’s messaging communicates speed by saying it’s the “fastest way to grow sales with email and SMS.” 

It tells visitors exactly what they can expect: “build your list, save abandoned carts, send money.” And it tells them they can do this “all in one place.”

When it comes to messaging, consistency is key. Share the messaging and positioning with sales and product to make sure everyone is on the same page about how to talk about the product. 

Create an elevator pitch for your product that succinctly outlines the products’ benefits and value. Align on the tone and style for your messaging, leveraging your buyer persona to determine how to speak to your customers at their level.

This pitch will keep the whole company on the same page when it comes to interacting with your customers.

Finally, your value proposition is the clear articulation of why customers should consider your product above all other potential options. Getting your value proposition right is crucial for conversion.

Your value proposition should make three things immediately clear to your customers.

  1. Why your product is relevant: How does it solve a problem for your customers?
  2. What the products’ benefits are: Be specific about the quantified value of your product.
  3. How your product is different: Tell your customers why they should buy your product over your competitors’ products.

Privy’s relevance (email marketing for online brands), benefits (build your list, save abandoned carts, etc., all in one place), and differentiating statement (the fastest way to grow sales) are all included in their value proposition.

Positioning, messaging, and value proposition are three important strategic pillars of how you’re perceived in the market.

Hashing out these three elements ensures your entire company is aligned on the distinct value of the new product, how to talk about it, and what sets your product apart from the rest.

Creating a go-to-market plan 

A go-to-market strategy is a guiding framework for who you’ll target, how you’ll sell your product, how you’ll win against the competition and a high-level launch timeline. Each element of this strategy is influenced by research insights.

While a product marketing plan can evolve as your product and the market shift post-launch, the go-to-market strategy is more fixed on the new product launch itself. 

Zero in on your competitors and differentiate

Differentiation is a major consideration here. Start by understanding who the key players are, which you can do by using Gartner Magic Quadrants

Gartner magic quadrant example

You can also narrow in on your competitors by conducting SEO research. This helps you see who is paying for ads against certain keywords and how they’re framing their product messaging. 

Like these results for the term “email marketing”:

Email marketing tools in the SERPs

After you’ve identified your competition, do deeper research on your three to five biggest threats. This should be a realistic view of your direct competitors.

Audit the positioning, messaging, and value proposition work you’ve done and figure out what your top differentiators are. 

Identify your launch audience

Build on your existing persona research to identify your launch audience. Select the segments you’re going to target and get even more specific.

For B2B products, develop a company profile. Narrow in on the industry, company size, and internal accounts that fit your product best. 

For both B2B and B2C brands, build out a customer profile, including their department, title, level, and demographics (gender, age, income, location, etc.). 

Beyond personal details, work out their challenges and pain points, specific to the product you’re selling. You’ll eventually tie these points to the features of your product and how you solve their challenges.

Finally, list the marketing channels where you can reach your ideal customer: 

  • What publications do they read? 
  • What related interests can you tap into (e.g., apps or other companies)? 
  • What social media or communications platforms do they use? 

Leverage this customer research to identify where, when, and how you’ll need to communicate with them about your new product.

For example, an email marketing company like Klaviyo might target marketing and sales executives at B2B companies with 50+ employees. 

To reach this audience, they might distribute content through marketing blogs or trade publications.

Klaviyo product marketing messaging

With a full picture of your customer, define the product you’re taking to market. You first iteration may not match what you take to market—the same product can launch under a different name, brand, or messaging. 

To learn this, ask questions like: 

  • Do multiple personas need your product? 
  • Are there multiple use cases? 
  • How might you need to adjust messaging across different use cases? 

Many B2B products and software solutions can be used differently across different industries. 

Even if you don’t end up launching one product as multiple products, you can identify opportunities to update your messaging based on the persona you’re targeting. 

Naming

Naming your product is perhaps the most intimidating step. In their Product Marketing course, CXL outlines five essential steps to name a product:

Steps to naming a product (CXL course slide)

Customer research is invaluable here. A name that doesn’t resonate with the customer can cripple a product’s success. 

Survey your customers to understand their associations with your kind of product, such as:

  • How do you refer to the process you do when you’re using [competitor’s] product? 
  • What words come to mind to describe this process or the problem the product solves?
  • How does using this product make you feel?

Names can be descriptive (literally describing what the product is or does) or branded (loosely related or unrelated to the product). Testing, voting, stakeholder interviews, and legal review will all help you determine the name that is the best fit.

Create your launch messaging and pricing strategy

Once you’ve determined a name, create product messaging that ladders back to the challenges your ideal customers are facing. 

Launch messaging should include short descriptions, use cases, key value propositions, differentiation, and supporting proof points. This messaging will inform your launch campaign creative, sales outreach, and product pages.

Develop a pricing strategy that takes into account the value you’re offering to your ideal customer. Pricing should pass the following tests:

  • Can you explain the price to your customer without being embarrassed? If the value does not align with the price, you risk letting your customers down post-sale or failing to get to a conversion in the first place.
  • Is your pricing easy to understand? Avoid “black box” pricing models, which set the price of a product based on complicated algorithms and sets of conditions. If you can’t explain the pricing easily, your sales team won’t be able to either, and you’ll leave customers confused and frustrated.
  • Can you leverage existing packages or offerings? Your existing products can help you gauge the appropriate price for a new product based on comparable value. You can also consider how your products might price out when combined in a single sale.

Consider acquisition

Use your customer persona(s) to determine how you’re going to acquire customers. Two common methods are self-service and sales-assisted.

Self-service relies on inbound customer activity. This method can leverage:

  • Ecommerce platforms and app stores, where customers find and purchase your product;
  • Free trials, which hook customers by allowing them to test out your product;
  • Upgrade triggers that move customers from free to paid products;
  • Conversion funnel optimization, bringing people through awareness, consideration, conversion, and, eventually, loyalty and advocacy.

Sales-assisted service is driven by inbound and outbound demand generation. Leverage your inbound marketing funnel to ensure a steady flow of leads for your sales reps’ outbound and cold prospecting efforts (as well as any account-based marketing strategies).

Build your timeline

Finally, determine a launch timeline. This outlines specific dates, such as:

  • When to have your GTM strategy completed;
  • When your GTM execution plan must be ready (and budget acquired);
  • The deadline for recruitment and onboarding of beta customers;
  • Training and sales development, and;
  • Launch day.

When determining launch day, consider what works best for your product and your customers. 

External factors to consider include major holidays that could drown out your launch, competitor releases, and industry events. 

Internal factors include product readiness, other company launches, and where you are in the sales quarter. 

Optimize for repeat buyers 

If your existing or new products don’t require repeat purchases, additional new product development can act as a retention strategy. 

Consider what add-ons you can offer your customers to increase purchase frequency. These can be products or services.

Can you offer a more personalized package for select customer personas (e.g., service upgrades like one-to-one consulting with your team, tailored reports, or performance data)?

Take Pipedrive, for example. Its core product is CRM software that helps sales professionals manage their customer pipeline.

Pipedrive pricing page

In addition to multiple pricing tiers that help customers customize their purchases, Pipedrive has add-ons to further support different customer personas. 

Pipedrive product add-ons

A LeadBooster add-on might be valuable for a startup sales team looking to add leads to their funnel for outreach. Another team may opt for the Web Visitors add-on to better understand online behavior.

By offering features that go beyond the standard, bundled product, Pipedrive creates more opportunities for additional revenue and shows its customers that it understands their needs. 

For B2C brands, what related products can you sell to diversify your revenue streams? 

For example, a bike manufacturer may only sell someone a bike once every five years. But offering a cleaning subscription box or bike trail app could encourage customers to spend more.

Conclusion

When done well, launching a new product can help with two things:

  1. Increasing usage or revenue of existing customers;
  2. Penetrating new markets or target segments.

Differentiation is key in a crowded landscape where many products fail. Product marketing strategy work helps your new product stand out.

Center the customer at every step of the new product development process. Ensure you’re delivering on their needs and solving their real problems, rather than creating new products for the sake of new products. 
Learn and master the skills you need to successfully launch a new product in our Product Marketing Minidegree.

The post The Role Marketing plays in New Product Launches appeared first on CXL.

Excel in 2022 with our Complete Guide to Building a Product Marketing Strategy

Around 30,000 new products launch every year. Many of them fail.  The biggest reasons? Poor product-market fit, positioning, and messaging. Effectively, they don’t understand their customer, nor where to play or how to win. Many companies are so focused on building the perfect product that they put off their growth efforts until it’s too late. […]

The post Excel in 2022 with our Complete Guide to Building a Product Marketing Strategy appeared first on CXL.

Around 30,000 new products launch every year. Many of them fail

The biggest reasons? Poor product-market fit, positioning, and messaging. Effectively, they don’t understand their customer, nor where to play or how to win.

Many companies are so focused on building the perfect product that they put off their growth efforts until it’s too late.

In this article, you’ll learn how to create a product marketing strategy that reaches your ideal audience and converts them into customers. We’ll cover positioning, messaging, pricing, and team alignment to help you get ready for launch. 

We’ll also show you how to plan for launch and gather data to keep your product relevant in the long term.

What is a product marketing strategy?

Your product marketing strategy is a roadmap for how you position, price, and promote your new product in the market. 

It’s what tells you where your biggest fans are and how to reach them.

Your strategy should integrate with the product life cycle, informing how you market your product from development to growth. Its creation and implementation require input from product managers, product marketing managers, marketers, and sales teams. 

A good product marketing strategy helps customers perceive you as a better product for their needs, and through the constant feedback loop, you become the best solution.

ConvertKit launched in 2013 to face early-on-the-scene competitors like Mailchimp and Constant Contact. Instead of quitting following a slow first two years, founder and CEO, Nathan Barry, doubled down on a niche: email marketing for bloggers.

Barry used product marketing to pinpoint ConvertKit’s positioning and messaging and evolve into the specialized email marketing suite it is today. 

The platform can’t compete with the big players on features, so instead it focuses on specifically and purposefully addressing the needs of their users through content. 

ConvertKit resources menu

Create a research-backed product marketing strategy that captures and creates demand  

Developing a product marketing strategy requires the skills of both product marketing and product management.

  • Product marketing is responsible for the voice of the customer, positioning, messaging, and product adoption.
  • Product management sets out the vision, identifies pain points, and develops a product that solves them. 

The two then come together on product pricing, gathering research, and influencing product development.

As we go through the process of creating your strategy, you’ll see where the strengths of both teams are needed.

1. Analyze the market and define your target audience

Early-stage research will determine success. Market research will validate the demand for your product and provide insight into customer needs. It’s broken down into two main types:

  1. Qualitative research. Conducting customer interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc.;
  2. Quantitative research. Analyzing swathes of customer and audience data from internal sources (CRM), online sources (audience intelligence tools), journals, and industry studies.

Discover if your product is viable with data-driven research

Begin by analyzing the customer data you have access to. What does your sales data reveal about territories, customer types, average sales, and pricing? Financial data can provide insights into which type of products bring bigger profits. 

Gather external data from governmental and local organizations. Data.gov and Eurostat offer volumes on demographics, economics, trade, and production data in the U.S and Europe, respectively.

Supplement this with reports and studies from trade associations, industry journals and media, and commercial marketing data. 

Conduct competitive and social media research to see who you’re up against and how they market their products. 

This information will help you answer questions around the size of the potential market, how it will grow or shrink, and what market share competitors own.

Get specific with primary research

Where quantitative research gives you a top-level view, qualitative research gets you into the consumer’s mind. 

Interview your existing customers. Ask them to complete surveys and questionnaires (including open-ended questions to gain qualitative feedback).

If you’re launching a new product, speak to the audience you’re looking to attract. Reach out to them on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn and invite them for a short conversation. 

Base your questions around: 

  • Pain points. (e.g., What are your biggest challenges with X? What would help you solve that challenge?)
  • Goals. (e.g., What do you look for in a product? What do you hope to gain?) 
  • Pricing. (e.g., What is a reasonable price range? How would you rate industry prices?)
  • Psychographic traits. (e.g., What interests you? How do you prefer to buy?)

Depending on your product, you can also run Minimum Viable Product (MVP) testing. By releasing a version of your product with a few priority features for new customers, you can gather feedback to determine its viability and improve future versions. 

The data you get from customers will help shape the product that management develops and the customers that marketing targets. So it’s important not to rush it.

2. Define your target audience

According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. If their needs aren’t met, 58% will switch companies.

Defining your target audience gives you that initial understanding of your ideal customer, their expectations, and what they like and don’t like. It also gives you insight into how to market your product so it’s the best choice. 

Use your qualitative research data to build robust customer personas that focus on:

  • Behavioral drivers. Customers’ goals, ambitions, and their journey to finding your business;
  • Obstacles. Hesitations and concerns potential customers have. How do they view your product, and how will this impact the information they need to buy?;
  • Mindset. Customers’ preconceived notions around the buying experience. Do they want a tailored experience, or are they looking for a bargain?

Segment data based on common threads. Start with intent, then look at hesitations and mindset. This will help you find a small number of clearly defined personas.

Where possible, round out these personas with quantitative data from on-site behavior from Google Analytics. Gather data such as:

  • Average revenue per user;
  • Transactions per user;
  • New versus repeat customers;
  • Frequent customers.

Base your personas on real people. As buyer persona expert Tony Zambito points out: 

“Buyer personas are archetypal representations of real people. If they sound and look like stereotypes—they probably are. They must sound believable and represent believability as well.”

It’s much easier to market a product if you can visualize the buyer. Paul, 35, who values family time and cares about online privacy, for example, is a lot more relatable than Persona #4.

3. Solidify your product positioning and messaging

Positioning and messaging are crucial elements of marketing a product people want to get behind. 

As Aha! CEO and co-founder Brian de Haff notes:

“Positioning and messaging are how you describe the value you deliver. Positioning is the background to organize the team—the real-life reason you are telling your story in the first place—and messaging is the actual content served to customers. Both are used by marketers to be their best.”

Both elements help you tell an original story that attracts customers away from the carbon-copied competition.

Establish your product’s market position

Positioning should always come first. It creates the customers’ perception of your product, who it helps, the problems it solves, and how it compares to the competition.

In her Product Messaging course, Maya Shah-Ceccotti explains the importance of good positioning:

“From your positioning work, you should be coming to the table about developing messaging with a really solid understanding of a few critical things. Those things are: 

What your product is and what space it plays in. What category is it in? How do customers understand and reference it? 

What is the narrative around your product and your company? What is that story that inspires the customer and communicates and drives home the why? 

Who is your best-fit customer? Who are your target audiences (also sometimes referred to as your ICP)? 

How do you want to be perceived within the competitive landscape? And, also, what are your product’s unique attributes and values?”

Your positioning is the foundation that your messaging is built on. Nail your positioning, and it’s easier for your team to communicate product benefits to your target audience. 

To hone in on your product position, start by thinking about the four Ps:

  1. Product. How does your product compare to others? What’s unique about it?
  2. Price. How does your price relate to your audience and value? (More on this soon.)
  3. Promotion. How do/will your customers discover you?
  4. Place. Where do your products live? Purely online, or do you have other distribution channels?

The Four P’s may be a primitive marketing model, but combining this with your data-driven research will illustrate what customers value most about your product and how it’s different from the competition.

Use this to shape your product narrative and give you the building blocks for developing a positioning statement for internal consistency.

Know that while it’s crucial for positioning to be standardized for all teams, it may eventually shift. 

Loom’s positioning as an “async video messaging for work” wouldn’t have made sense when they launched in 2015.

Loom in the SERPs

Since then, the world has changed dramatically. Loom pivoted from a video recording platform centered around user feedback to a platform that helps professionals (remote ones in particular) avoid excess meetings and emails.

Loom home page

Their messaging is crystal clear across their website, saying what they do and who they do it for: “Record quick videos of your screen and cam. An essential tool for hybrid workplaces.”

Their “async” lean is also echoed across social media. Such as on LinkedIn: “We’re bringing video messaging to work and empowering everyone to communicate more effectively, wherever they are.”

Loom LinkedIn profile

And Twitter: “Record and instantly share video messages of your screen, cam, or both. Faster than typing an email or meeting live.”

Loom Twitter profile

Define your positioning statement, then ensure everyone in your organization sticks to it.

Use positioning to craft a compelling narrative

If positioning determines your target customers and how you want them to perceive your product, then messaging is how you communicate that concept.

To stay consistent across all departments and touchpoints, create a messaging strategy.

Your messaging strategy should include the following four elements.

1. Unique selling proposition (USP): Why you’re different from the competition;

2. Target audience: Your buyer personas;

3. Brand story: A narrative of how your product came to be, why you make it, and your mission; 

4. Messaging strategy guidelines: A playbook that includes a mission statement, tagline, value proposition, brand pillars, positioning statement, brand promise, and design and tone of voice guidelines.

To plan and deploy this strategy, focus on:

  • What sets you apart. Pinpoint at least one thing that makes you different.
  • Not trying to appeal to everyone. Don’t just be another option. Be the product your audience has been looking for by appealing to their individual needs.
  • Speaking to your customers. Find out their motivations and current level of satisfaction with available options.
  • Continually testing. Test your messaging on a small audience, then analyze and adjust. Be ready to change your messaging to suit the product, audience, and opportunity.

4. Set measurable goals unique to your objectives

Research shows that there’s a strong connection between goal-setting and success. Make this step practical by writing down what you want to achieve with your product.

For most brands, success comes in the form of sales. Strong brand awareness and customer satisfaction makes this goal easier to achieve.

Divide your goals into three categories: sales (or user acquisition), customer satisfaction (or retention), and brand awareness. Set a specific goal for each pillar. 

Here are some goal examples you might try to increase or decrease:

  • Sales. Revenue, assisted conversions, qualified leads, cost per acquisition, close rate, customer lifetime value;
  • Customer satisfaction. Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer sentiment, product usage;
  • Brand awareness. Market share, share of voice, website traffic.

Keep your goals realistic by using the SMART framework. Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

This will ensure team members focus on the most important objectives, helping you achieve them more efficiently. 

5. Align your teams

Aligned companies grow faster and experience lower churn. Ensure everyone involved in the development and implementation of your strategy is on the same page.

Research from Sprout Social shows that people feel more connected to brands when the CEO and employees share information online. If the information coming out from these sources isn’t aligned, it can confuse customers. 

Worse still, it can lead to distrust. 

Each member of your team should be clear on:

  • Product features and benefits;
  • Customer pain points;
  • Positioning and messaging;
  • Buyer personas;
  • Product goals;
  • Pricing strategy.

Make this information accessible by creating an internal knowledge base. Many tools offer templates to help you do this:

Promote collaboration by utilizing tools like Slack, Asana, or Trello. The easier it is for teams to access a unified source of information, the more cohesive your marketing will be across different departments and practices.

6. Price your product based on value

In a study on what influences customers’ buying behavior, researchers found that over 70% of respondents rated price to be a “very important” factor influencing their decision. 

The actual price of your product is important. Customers need to be able to afford it. But equally as important is how customers perceive that price. 

Price low, and your product could either be seen as a bargain (good) or as cheap and inferior (bad). Price high, and your product can either be seen as luxury or premium (good) or overpriced (bad). 

A good way to think of pricing is covered by ProfitWell’s Patrick Campbell in his Pricing and Packaging course:

“Your pricing is the exchange rate on the value you’re creating in the world.”

When you view pricing in this way, one method becomes the outstanding option: value-based pricing.

Where cost-based and competitive pricing can help you quickly reach a ball-park figure, both neglect the unique value your product offers.

On the ProfitWell blog, Patrick explains why focusing on value-based pricing over the alternatives is something his company recommends:

“Value-based pricing gives customers trust in your product and brand. Your pricing matches what they’re willing to pay for the value you provide. You can offer packages and price points that precisely meet their needs because you understand what they truly want. You can price higher than competitors because you conducted the research that proves how much customers are truly willing to pay. You can also re-evaluate prices as you add value to your product and learn more about your customers and their evolving needs.”

Value-based pricing is based heavily on data. But by this stage in your strategy, a lot of the hard work is already done. 

To find the right price points for your product:

  • Analyze buyer personas;
  • Survey customers on how much they would pay for a product and which features and benefits they most value.

Use this data to create tiers and pricing packages. Test and measure your strategy before rolling it out fully.

Zenefits, for example, offers plans that increase in price based on the features they include: 

Zenefits pricing table

This personalized price plan is reasonable and suits multiple personas. It also offers clarity. Buyers can see the value they will receive and can choose the most suitable plan for their needs.

This can only be achieved through experimentation and understanding what customers want and value.

Hit the ground running with an effective product launch plan

To successfully implement your product marketing strategy, you need an action plan. How you launch will depend on whether your product is rolling out to the market or existing customers.

Momentive’s Morgan Molnar covers this in her Product Launches course, where she says that each type of launch comes with its own set of goals.

A launch that prioritizes new customer acquisition might consider awareness, user acquisition, and impressing investors as primary goals. If retention is your goal, then improving the existing experience and engaging existing customers is likely to be the priority.

The type of launch will also influence your strategy:

  • Soft launch. Rolling out to a small portion of your customer base at a time;
  • General availability (GA) launch. Open to your entire customer base.

A soft launch aims to work out bugs, gain feedback, and validate product-market fit. With a GA launch, your goals should tie to common marketing tactics, such as building awareness and acquiring new users.

To focus your resources, choose a product launch tier that best represents your product:

  • Tier 1. A strategically important product that you want everyone talking about. Example content for this tier might include client events, press releases, or webinars.
  • Tier 2. A product that will impact many customers. Example content for this tier might be blog posts, social media posts, and sales collateral.
  • Tier 3. A product upgrade. Example content for this tier might be blog posts, chatbots, and help center guides.

Develop product marketing roadmap and define team roles

Ensure everything goes to plan with a product marketing roadmap that visualizes your growth plans.

Your roadmap can be goals-based, deadline-based, or task-based. It must keep all stakeholders and individual contributors aware of what’s happening, what needs to happen, and what they need to do to move the project forward.

Here’s an example from Roadmunk that shows how a product marketing roadmap might look:

Roadmunk product roadmap example

As well as Roadmunk, there are many tools you can use to build and manage your roadmap:

Weigh up the pros and cons of each to see which best suits your needs.

To populate your product roadmap and define roles and responsibilities for team members, use the DACI model (Driver, Approver, Contributor, and Informed).

This framework is designed to bring clarity to a project and promote easy communication by giving each person a clear role:

  • Driver. The person responsible and accountable for driving the project (usually the marketing manager);
  • Approver. A key decision-maker to give the go-ahead, provide feedback and approval;
  • Contributors. The people that do the work (e.g., marketers and sales reps);
  • Informed. Those who are kept up-to-date with milestones and completed phases.

By using the DACI model, you can speed up decision-making and work productively and efficiently from the get-go. 

Measure product performance to inform your next steps

When building your product marketing strategy, you base every decision on what you can assume from the research. Post-launch, you have the advantage of concrete data. 

Gather feedback as your product gains traction to improve and add features. The same goes for content marketing. What assets generated results, which didn’t, and why?

Track product metrics and KPIs to evaluate performance. Measure:

  • Market penetration rate. Calculate the success of your marketing strategy by dividing existing customers by the size of your target market and multiplying by 100 (number of customers / target market size x 100 = market penetration rate).
  • Return on Investment (ROI). Calculate success by looking at the efficiency of your investment (net income / cost of investment = ROI).
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). Gauge how likely customers are to return and recommend your product by running NPS surveys. NPS scores grade your product from 0–10. Customers who rate you between zero and six are detractors. Customers who rate you between seven and eight are passives. Customers who rate you between nine and ten are promoters. Your NPS is then calculated by dividing the percentage of promoters by the percentage of detractors (promoters – detractors = NPS).

Continue to monitor web and social analytics to ensure you’re meeting your targets. Employ social listening to keep track of your mentions and the conversations around your product. 

What are customers saying about your product in their online communities? The insights from these sources can be a goldmine that guides future decisions.

Finally, continue gathering customer feedback at every opportunity through surveys, customer support, and social media. Communicate this feedback across your teams to keep your product relevant.

Conclusion

Successful product marketing is about meeting customer needs at every stage of the product life cycle. Strategy will help you achieve this.

Dedicate time in the early stages of your strategy to learning as much as possible about your market and audience. Conduct in-depth research so that you can develop a product that meets expectations, backed by a product marketing campaign that sells it as the best choice.

Keep teams aligned and updated on every aspect of the product and marketing goals so that implementation is consistent and efficient. Once your product hits the market, continually gather and assess feedback, and tweak your strategy to maintain momentum.

Learn how to create an effective product marketing strategy that attracts your best-fit customers with our Product Marketing Minidegree.

The post Excel in 2022 with our Complete Guide to Building a Product Marketing Strategy appeared first on CXL.

What is a product marketing manager (and what do you need to become one)?

Daniel J. Murphy is known for elevating SaaS startups to new levels of success. He helped Privy become one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S., established HubSpot’s customer review program, and grew Drift’s marketing team eightfold in two years. He helped grow these companies as a product marketing manager. The product marketing manager (PMM) […]

The post What is a product marketing manager (and what do you need to become one)? appeared first on CXL.

Daniel J. Murphy is known for elevating SaaS startups to new levels of success. He helped Privy become one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S., established HubSpot’s customer review program, and grew Drift’s marketing team eightfold in two years.

He helped grow these companies as a product marketing manager.

The product marketing manager (PMM) is responsible for creating and executing the product marketing strategy. It’s a vital hire for companies competing in saturated markets—which means most companies today.

In this article, you will learn the core responsibilities of the product marketing manager, plus the skills and attributes that make a truly great PMM.

What’s the difference? Product marketing manager vs. product manager 

Though product marketing managers and product managers work closely together, they are very distinct roles.

The product manager is the voice and direction of a product within an organization. Their role is internal.

They lead the product team, oversee the entire product lifecycle, and determine the strategic vision for product development.

They’re responsible for:

  • Defining the “why,” “what,” and “when” of product development;
  • Working with the engineering team to deliver on the “how to use it” aspect;
  • Determining the long-term product vision;
  • Setting goals and initiatives to achieve that vision;
  • Working with the marketing team (often the product marketing manager) to understand user needs.

The product marketing manager, on the other hand, voices the benefits of the product to the outside world. 

They lead a team of product marketers, establish a go-to-market strategy, conduct customer research, and define messaging and positioning for the product.

The product marketing manager job description involves:

  • Communicating the “why,” “what,” and “when” of the product to potential buyers, as well as to internal teams (often the sales team);
  • Launching the product;
  • Announcing new product features;
  • Expanding reach and identifying new audiences;
  • Creating product positioning and messaging that resonates with the brand’s target audience.

While both are focused heavily on the user, the product manager is more interested in understanding what users want to achieve when using the product.

The product marketing manager is more interested in understanding the buyer characteristics of the user and discovering how to communicate the value of the product in order to convert them.

The two roles work closely together, as the insights gleaned during their respective research processes are valuable across both disciplines.

For example, a product marketing manager might uncover customer insights that pivot the product team’s direction.

Similarly, the product manager may significantly change features that will require the marketing team to tweak or pivot their message.

The route to becoming a product marketing manager can start from many other roles, such as sales, marketing, or product development. Along the way, a PMM will need to pick up key skills in strategy, messaging, market research, and more.

Carving out a career as a product marketing manager 

Product marketing is a discipline that seeks to communicate the “why,” “what,” and “when” of a product’s features to potential customers as well as internal stakeholders (such as salespeople and developers).

The “why” answers the customer’s question: “Why should I care about these product features?”

The “what” answers: “What features are the most important to me?” and “What do I want to achieve when using the product?”

The “when” answers: “When do I need these features?” 

The product marketing role sits at the intersection of marketing, sales, and product teams and focuses primarily on anticipating and answering customer questions and objections.

Where the brand marketer answers the objection “Why should I buy from your organization?”, the product marketer caters to the question: “Why should I choose your product?”

While product marketing is one of the most crucial marketing functions, it’s also one of the least understood, meaning product marketing can look vastly different across different organizations.

Across the board, though, product marketing’s main focus areas are: 

Within the team of product marketers, the PMM owns the entire strategy, delegates tasks and resources, hires and organizes the team structure, and is ultimately responsible for the success of the organization’s product marketing efforts.

Responsibilities of the successful product marketing manager 

Product marketing managers are responsible for positioning and messaging across the product lifecycle.

This can be divided into three core segments, approximating the stages of the marketing funnel:

  1. Acquisition;
  2. Engagement;
  3. Conversion and Retention.

Acquisition: Capture customer attention

Acquisition efforts center on gaining the attention of potential customers, making the market aware that your product exists.

Common tactics include blogs and long-form content, search engine optimization, PPC advertising, and social media marketing strategies.

Product marketing managers working on acquisition should focus on understanding what captures customer attention.

ClickUp’s product marketing team might have discovered that social proof is a key driver for conversions among their target audience of agile developers. 

They used their ad copy space to include big brand names. By doing so, they borrow the big brands’ influence in an effort to persuade users to sign up for their free trial. 

Engagement: Develop an audience of advocates

Engagement efforts focus on developing a community of superfans.

Activities include in-person and virtual events, special offers, email marketing campaigns, social media group engagement, and the creation and distribution of mid-funnel content.

CXL generates engagement from marketers interested in CRO, analytics, and growth by posting industry-specific questions on social media:

CXL creates brand awareness and loyalty by asking thought-provoking questions and getting involved in the comments with expertise and opinion. Brands that engage with their customers build trust by reinforcing their reputation and being accessible.

Conversion and Retention: Encourage a purchasing decision

Conversion and retention efforts are focused on turning leads into paying customers and keeping paying customers around.

Conversion tactics should focus on reducing friction.

Take Cozy Earth, retailer of premium bamboo bedding. Having performed extensive customer research to understand prospects’ main buying objections, they came to understand that price is a barrier to purchase.

Cozy Earth removes the friction from this decision by providing a 100-night trial, where customers can return their purchase within 100 days if they’re unconvinced the product is right for them.

Aside from product marketing tasks, product marketing managers also undertake a variety of management and leadership duties.

Defining both long- and short-term visions 

Product marketing managers are responsible for developing a marketing team’s long-term vision, defining goals, key metrics, and tactics used to achieve these objectives.

They’ll work closely with the product manager to understand the future and direction of new product developments and tailor their marketing strategy to its evolution.

This aspect of the PMM’s job description is fairly research-heavy. 

It involves defining:

  • The target customer. What are the primary customer needs? What challenges do they face? Where can they be found? How do they use our product? 
  • Product naming. Based on an understanding of the target audience, and typically developed using focus group research.
  • Product positioning. What category does the product fall into? Who is the product for? What benefits does the product offer, and how do they contribute to customer success?

The PMM is also responsible for clearly communicating their product marketing strategy motivations to their product marketing team. 

The ideal way to do this is to involve your team in building the vision itself. When everyone in your team has contributed to the product marketing strategy, and owns specific duties (e.g., social media research, framing messaging, etc.), they’re more committed to the goal you’ve defined.

Building a successful team 

A large aspect of the product marketing manager role is building and leading a team that you trust to deliver on the larger mission.

An easy mistake to make is to look for marketers who are just like you, with all of the skillsets and attributes you bring to the table. 

Great PMMs take the opposite approach. Look for gaps in your own skillset and then fill those gaps with complementary hires with strengths in other disciplines.

Consider this list of skills and attributes that are important to product marketing success:

Perform an honest assessment of yourself as a marketer, and rank your ability in each discipline.

The areas where you’re not so strong tell you where you should hire first.

Team building, motivation, and conflict management 

Leading your product marketing team to success involves people management, team motivation, and conflict resolution skills.

New leaders should consider Harvard’s 6 styles of leadership, to understand which persona they most strongly embody.

Keeping your team motivated will be an ongoing challenge and will require careful attention to individual drivers.

Motivation isn’t cheerleading. It isn’t a five-minute stand-up each morning where you give an inspiring speech to rev up the team.

Team motivation means connecting with the individuals in your team on a personal level and understanding their larger goals outside of fulfilling their duties (e.g., who wants to be a PMM one day, and how can you support that?). 

Personal development can be a powerful motivator. According to a Gallup workplace study, development opportunities are a top employment factor for Millennials.

Focus on individual strengths, and provide opportunities to develop these skills to their maximal potential.

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, particularly as teams grow larger and more diverse opinions enter the group.

Some conflict can be positive, if handled well. Employees should be encouraged to debate alternative viewpoints and solutions, provided the discussion intends to identify the ideal solution rather than to levy a personal attack.

Even with this expectation in place, quality conversations can deteriorate. The product market manager’s responsibility is to defuse and resolve such conflicts.

The Society for Human Resource Management has a number of great resources for understanding how to manage conflict in the workplace.

Marketing manager or individual contributor? 

For many, the step up from product marketing to marketing management seems to be the logical career progression, but these are very different roles.

Working as a marketing manager is much more about building and developing a team and guiding them to execute on strategies, rather than focusing on specific tactics and execution itself.

For this reason, many choose to remain individual contributors.

Your decision to move into a management role should not be based on the feeling that you should keep climbing the career ladder.

The product marketing manager salary can be attractive (an average of $112k per year in the U.S.), but your decision should be based more on a desire for personal growth and development.

Consider your strengths and what you want your role to look like when weighing up whether or not to take on product marketing manager responsibilities.

Some attributes to consider:

  • Your willingness to give up doing the work yourself and trust others to complete it;
  • Your inclination towards other people;
  • Your ability to focus on long-term goals;
  • Your desire to seek out and grow peoples’ unique strengths.

Many great leaders have been introverts (Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi), and you’ll learn conflict resolution skills along the way as part of your own development.

Great product marketing managers wear many hats

PMMs can take products from innovation to scale. Because they’re involved at every stage, they need to be great at a lot of skills—and know when to pivot.

Here are some of the top traits for successful PMMs. 

Be passionate about, use, and understand your products 

The best product marketing examples exist when PMMs use their products regularly and have a deep understanding of all features and uses.

As a user, you’ll understand the value your product brings, and will have a better insight into how to communicate these benefits to other users.

You can also spot opportunities for improvement and feed them back to the product team.

Be the voice of your customer

Talk to your customers often. Make them feel like you’re listening to their feedback, and seek to understand the motivations behind what they’re saying.

Watch and interpret their actions. How do they use your product? How do they talk about it in public? What questions are they asking in support logs, or in social media communities?

Take this discussion about Clearscope and Semrush. Product marketers from both platforms can gain a ton of insights from chat between users like this.

Community conversation about a product

The more you actively listen to and engage with your users, the better you’ll understand how they’ll react to product updates and how to communicate with new markets. You can also feed insights gathered here back to the product team.

Identify who your biggest influencers are, and engage with them directly. Keep them happy, and you’ll be able to leverage their influence among others.

Keep an eye on your competitors 

Your product does not exist in a vacuum; prospective customers are evaluating all possible options. Current users also likely have an eye on the market and can be persuaded to jump ship.

Watch how your competitors are marketing their products, and how their audience reacts to their messaging. Use their products and identify areas where they outperform your product. 

Use brand tracking tools to track consumer sentiment and market changes. Knowing the value their product brings (and how this compares to yours), as well as understanding their marketing strategies, will allow you to better position your product and identify new angles.

Don’t attempt to market to everyone 

Your goal should be to grow a community of superfans—users who are profoundly influenced by your product—not just to attract more consumers of any kind.

Research and understand the markets and demographics your product is best designed for, and position your product messaging to speak directly to them.

If you attempt to market to everyone, those who convert will likely become disappointed when the product isn’t exactly what they wanted.

Be prepared to react fast when things go wrong

Be agile and react quickly when something goes wrong with a product launch.

Daniel J. Murphy, the expert PMM in the beginning of this article, lists four mistakes he often sees product marketers make in a product launch:

“1) Waiting for something new from the product team to launch vs. designing a launch around a strategic company goal 

2) Going to market with messaging that matches what the product team gave them vs. coming up with messaging for your target customer

3) Trying to do too many things (emails, content, channels, etc.) in the launch vs. focusing on the few things that will get you to your launch goal

4) Not setting an attainable short-term launch goal and then delivering on a brilliant launch but not being able to explain the success of it to your management team.” [Via Sharebird]

Work to quickly find the cause of negative response, and address it directly by communicating with customers. Feed information back to the product team and release product updates as soon as possible.

Get creative with your marketing

Task risks. Try new things. Trust your hunches.

The best product marketing managers incorporate a growth marketing approach, designing experiments, analyzing results, doubling down on what worked, and continuing to experiment.

Understand the opportune moment for a product launch

New products don’t have to be perfect, final-form iterations to be ready for launch.

If you continue chasing down “perfect,” you might never launch at all.

Understand what your minimum viable product looks like, design a new product launch marketing plan, and release.

Build time into your schedule to help the product team make adjustments based on customer feedback, and let your user base guide the product roadmap.

Reassess product performance on a regular basis

Don’t neglect products you’ve already launched, even if your team focuses on developing new, exciting products.

Regularly reassess your entire product range and how each product is performing. What metrics have dropped? What changes have occurred in that vertical since launch? Is your product still an attractive proposition?

Consider retiring weaker products as your range grows, keeping your product line strong and your overall brand proposition positive.

Meet often with product stakeholders

Great product marketing managers meet regularly with company stakeholders, from the ideation phase right through to launch and post-launch.

They work with stakeholders across all departments and recognize that each can provide valuable insights.

Sales team members can communicate common customer pain points and the most influential selling points. 

The customer service team can provide insights into areas where the product doesn’t perform as well. 

Product developers can explain technical limitations (or areas where your product performs better than competitors).

Market internally

Powerful product marketing managers don’t just market to customers; they market internally to the company’s employees.

Get employees excited about the products they’re selling, supporting, or working on. Make them feel like they’re part of the mission. Get them to truly understand the problems your customers face, and how your product transforms their daily lives by solving that problem.

Conclusion 

Product marketing management is a discipline where you can thrive if you’re passionate about building a team of successful marketers and owning a product’s positioning and messaging from start to finish.

The position requires a fair degree of people management skills and leadership capabilities. Some prefer to remain individual contributors and focus on developing their product marketing skills over leadership abilities.

Whichever direction you choose, the most powerful way to drive your career forward is to constantly upskill.
To learn more about product marketing management and practice from leading practitioners, take CXL’s Product Marketing Minidegree.

The post What is a product marketing manager (and what do you need to become one)? appeared first on CXL.

The Complete Guide to Product Marketing in 2022 and Beyond

In 2015, chiefmartec.com reported a “staggering” 1,876 SaaS vendors. In 2020, there were over 8,000. That’s some serious growth. Drift’s CEO, Dave Cancel, says there are three phases to every industry: The Edison phase, where companies are innovating and everything is new; The Model-T phase, where companies are improving early versions, and it’s easy to […]

The post The Complete Guide to Product Marketing in 2022 and Beyond appeared first on CXL.

In 2015, chiefmartec.com reported a “staggering” 1,876 SaaS vendors. In 2020, there were over 8,000. That’s some serious growth.

Drift’s CEO, Dave Cancel, says there are three phases to every industry:

  1. The Edison phase, where companies are innovating and everything is new;
  2. The Model-T phase, where companies are improving early versions, and it’s easy to stand out because you’re one of the first, and;
  3. The P&G phase, where you have to find a way to be the top 1% in a saturated market either by becoming a massive global brand or a leader in your niche.

SaaS is in the final phase. It’s now winner-take-all.

Product marketing gives you the edge to compete in this hyper-crowded market—and win. It helps you pinpoint the unique positioning and messaging that builds an emotional moat around your brand.

In this article, you’ll learn how to design an effective product marketing strategy that propels your brand to that top 1%.

Getting to know product marketing (and what it is not) 

Product marketing is one of the most crucial yet misunderstood marketing functions.

One of the reasons for this confusion is its relatively recent appearance in the organization. The other reason comes from product marketing’s existence at the intersection of four critical departments: sales, marketing, product, and customer success.

As a standalone function, product marketing’s primary focus areas are positioning, voice of customer research, messaging, pricing and packaging, customer segmentation, and product launches.

While product marketing forms its own department, product marketers spend much of their time collaborating with each of the four teams.

Here are some examples of tasks they’ll perform in each department:

  1. Product. Reporting research back to product managers to inform future product developments, receiving key information on changes and updates across the product lifecycle, and gathering product usage insights.
  2. Sales. Assisting the sales team to develop content used throughout the sales process and leveraging insights from sales conversations to develop messaging
  3. Marketing. Using research results to develop positioning and messaging that marketing teams can then access to promote the product and generate demand.
  4. Customer Success. Using insights from customer support conversations to understand common problems and solving these objections by creating informative content.

Product marketing’s main goal is to contribute to revenue generation; other marketing and sales teams are product marketing’s most important internal customers.

Product marketers help by:

  • Educating sales on the challenges buyers are having;
  • Conducting win/loss analyses to understand what’s working well and what’s not;
  • Developing collateral and sales assets to help agents sell better.

They also work very closely with the product team, primarily on research tasks that inform product development. 

They gather intel on competitors, perform market research, and deeply understand how other products function to inform the direction and roadmap of product development.

The role of product marketing is more about answering key strategic questions (who needs the solution, where are they, how do we reach them, etc.) than it is about running specific marketing campaigns.

That’s where we see the collaboration between product marketing and traditional marketing teams.

Product marketing vs. traditional marketing 

Marketing is a broader function responsible for communicating value to prospects across various disciplines (content, performance marketing, brand marketing, etc.). 

Traditional marketing usually focuses on developing brand awareness and generating sales opportunities, users, and conversions.

Product marketers are concerned with the success of the product at every stage of the product lifecycle.

The two functions work closely together.

Product marketing performs customer research, develops product positioning and messaging, and collaborates with other departments throughout the product lifecycle to understand how the product is performing from a consumer standpoint.

They communicate insights to the marketing team, who leverage this information to build lead generation or brand-focused marketing campaigns, reporting the results of those efforts back to the product team for further analysis.

Sales and product marketing: Who owns what? And why?

Product marketers are the masters of their product. As such, it is their responsibility to oversee all content and collateral used to drive the promotion of the product, particularly in the market. 

However, this is rarely recognized by many startups. It’s critical to understand how to distribute ownership of certain duties across the two teams.

There are three aspects of sales that product marketing teams should own:

  1. Sales content;
  2. Competitive strategy;
  3. Messaging and positioning.

Sales content

Sales teams own content creation for their pitch desks, product demos, email campaigns, etc. However, they should run everything through the product marketing team to ensure they’re positioning the benefits of a product accurately.

Take this slide deck from Leadnomics, a customer acquisition platform.

By having the product marketing team own the creation of assets like this, Leadnomics ensures their messaging is relevant and really speaks to the customer.

Competitive Strategy

Product marketers are strategic thinkers. They’ve invested time in market research, so they know what their competitors are selling and their messaging and positioning.

Product marketers make it their job to understand the entire state of the market. As such, they can justify decisions with the most objective lens.

Messaging and positioning

Product marketers are best positioned to communicate the product’s value. They’ve researched and analyzed the market, informed and collaborated with the product development team, and developed the product messaging strategy.

Take HubSpot.

Their product marketing team understands a common customer pain point: CRMs are often too feature-dense and difficult to use.

They address that pain point directly in their homepage messaging: “Powerful, not overpowering.”

Product marketers should be responsible for training marketing and sales teams on the best messaging narratives to keep the whole organization aligned. 

Product marketing goals: Empowering GTM teams to excel

One major function of product marketing is to empower the teams responsible for go-to-market strategy.

This requires foresight and understanding—product marketing teams must know where buyers are today. 

They seek to understand how an audience makes buying decisions, what criteria they used to assess solutions, and how that might develop according to trends.

They need to know the product and market today and have a deep understanding of what both will look like tomorrow to remain competitive.

Defining product marketing’s contribution to revenue success

As a function that sits between four major departments, product marketing owns a variety of responsibilities that work toward overall revenue growth.

Responsibilities can vary across industries (particularly in B2B vs. B2C). Broadly, product marketing duties include customer and market research, product positioning and messaging development, and collaboration with internal stakeholders at different revenue departments.

“Riling up” internal teams

Product marketers work with internal teams (particularly sales and customer success) to get them excited about how their product can help transform the lives of those who use it.

Product launches

Product marketers design marketing plans for new product launches. They assess and analyze consumer sentiment to quickly adapt positioning and messaging if a product launch plan goes wrong.

Product positioning and messaging 

Product positioning and messaging are major components of the product marketer’s role.

They research the competitive landscape to determine how best to position their product’s unique features and conduct studies, like voice of customer research, to inform and develop messaging strategies.

Creating sales assets and collateral

Product marketers collaborate with sales team members to understand weaknesses in the sales process and identify opportunities where conversations can be improved using sales enablement content.

For example, reps at the hypothetical productivity tool startup may find it difficult to communicate the benefit of the company’s minimalist UI. Product marketing can design a practical one-pager detailing the real-world benefits.

They would then manage the creation of deliverables such as pitch decks and product demonstrations.

Customer & market research

Research is an integral part of the product marketer’s role. Product marketers perform research to understand:

  • The processes new customers go through before a purchase;
  • The key considerations buyers make during the customer journey;
  • What kind of messaging resonates best with their audience;
  • The state of the market and competitive landscape;
  • How competitors are positioning and marketing their products;
  • Where competitors are falling short (and how to capitalize);
  • Customer engagement with marketing campaigns.

Reporting back to product teams

Product teams develop a roadmap for product development. This roadmap must be malleable, and should be informed by product marketers’ research.

Product marketers report back to the product team on customer sentiment related to product updates and relay information such as competitor developments or common issues existing customers have to inform future product developments.

Storytelling

Product marketers use customer research to develop stories that resonate with their audience.

Take Pipedrive, a CRM platform, and the cases studies they share:

Pipedrive case studies

Case studies are an ideal storytelling method because they typically feature familiar story figures: the hero (the client), the guide (the business), and the villain (the issue the client was facing).

Align these case studies with your target audience to attract more of the right customers.

Product marketing success analysis

Being a highly-strategic function, product marketers regularly analyze the impact of their messaging and positioning to understand what’s not working (and get rid of it) vs. what is (and double down on it).

For example, the hypothetical tool’s product marketing team might analyze how their social media messaging resonates with customers. They determine that messaging focusing on reducing email and meeting load converts better than messaging about the tool’s technical abilities.

Content marketing

Product marketing uses the insights identified through various research undertakings to inform content creation for assets used in sales and marketing efforts.

Take Square.

Their Town Square business resource center is a powerful product marketing example.

It provides a comprehensive resource database for its target audience, delivering marketing information, data insights, and customer services. 

Square also profiles users of their tool, using storytelling to convince and convert potential customers.

Measuring success: Product marketing metrics to track growth

There are many metrics marketers can measure, but everyone cares about one core metric: revenue.

Revenue allows companies to innovate and serve the developing needs of the market, and it’s why product marketers have paychecks.

Revenue growth over time (weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly) should be the primary metric product marketing teams pay attention to.

Outside of revenue, product marketing teams have multiple internal customers to serve:

  • Marketing;
  • Sales;
  • Product;
  • Customer Success.

This means product marketers should also be paying attention to the KPIs measured by those internal teams.

For example, your sales team’s win rates are critical to understanding how a market responds to your product. 

Additionally, competitor presence in deals is an important metric to track. You can spot challenges before they become problems and get ahead of them.

Driving business success through customer-led product design

The products that win in today’s environment tap into a customer need that competitors aren’t filling.

Product marketers advocate for your customers, seek to understand the market’s needs, and work with the product team to ensure your product fulfills these needs.

They also work with sales and marketing teams to leverage the insights they identify through deep audience research.

Take Billie, a shaving and cosmetics retailer.

They made a stark discovery by studying the competitive landscape: most razor brands don’t show body hair on women in their campaigns. This omission really annoyed their customer base.

Billie carved out a niche by highlighting this pain point and launching a marketing campaign titled Project Body Hair.

Billie product marketing video

By deliberately showcasing body hair on women in their ads, Billie appealed to a target audience of people who’ve felt alienated by unrealistic portrayals of the shaving experience.

Future-proofing your business 

Product marketers help companies build and sell products for today’s market, but they also look ahead to determine what market demand will look like in the future.

Today, many verticals are oversaturated. While proper positioning is key to succeeding now, product marketers must understand how product, sales, and marketing can adapt and stay competitive moving forward.

Take Hyundai, a car manufacturer and proponent of electric-powered vehicles.

Hyundai’s product marketers know that Gen Z and millennials are more concerned about renewable energy than previous generations

So, they launched a product line called Hyundai Home to capture the growing demand for home charging solutions.

With Hyundai Home, customers can capture energy using solar panels on the roof of their home, store it in Hyundai’s proprietary Energy Storage System, and use it to charge their electric vehicle with a Home EV charger.

Note that these products are unavailable, but Hyundai have a waitlist to generate demand for up-and-coming products and build an email list at the same time:

Building a product marketing team: The crucial traits that spell success

Many product marketing managers don’t have a strong understanding of how to structure a team or what to look for in a product marketer.

Most product marketing teams have a Product Marketing Manager at the head of the team (typically reporting to a VP of Marketing) and several product marketers with varying expertise (and various titles like PM Associate and PM Researcher).

As a general rule, you should look to hire for gaps in your own skillset rather than looking for clones of yourself.

For example, suppose you’re strong at audience research and developing product positioning but less well-versed in creating sales assets. In that case, you’d do well to complement your skillset by hiring a product marketer with content creation expertise.

Traits of a powerful product marketer 

Beyond experience and expertise in specific product marketing functions, look for these traits when hiring and building your product marketing team.

Communication & storytelling

Research demonstrates that effective communication (in narrative form) leads to a coupling in neural activity between the storyteller and the listener, resulting in enhanced comprehension.

Hire product marketers with strong communication and storytelling skills. They’ll effectively present a message that will resonate with your prospects (and convince them to make a purchase).

Cross-department functionality

Product marketers work intimately with team members from sales, marketing, product, and customer success. 

They’ll need a team-oriented mindset and a degree of understanding of how those departments function.

Go-getter mindset

Effective product marketers are those who demonstrate entrepreneurial traits.

They’ll grow your business by identifying gaps in the market, spotting weaknesses in your strategy, and keeping an eye on market developments.

Customer-centric

Senior Director of Product Marketing at Outreach, Jordan Greene, offers his advice on product marketers:

“An excellent product marketer is customer-obsessed. They’ve built a set of practices that keep them regularly in touch with customers and ultimately produce significantly more effective messaging and content.”

If a product marketer can think like and sympathize with your audience, they’ll also understand how to put your product in front of them.

Industry knowledge

Great product marketers not only know your product inside and out, but they have a strong understanding of your industry too.

That means understanding who your competitors are, how their products work, and how they promote. It also means investigating market trends, customer pain points, and sentiment toward product direction.

Build a distinctive, customer-driven product marketing strategy 

An effective product marketing strategy is driven by the voice of the customer and a strong understanding of the competitive landscape.

To differentiate your brand in saturated markets, you must understand what drives customer purchasing decisions and how existing competitors promote their products.

Analyze the market 

Product marketing strategy is a research-heavy undertaking. In the early stages of a product’s lifecycle, an understanding and analysis of current market conditions drive strategy.

Market research breaks down into two main types.

Primary research involves conducting customer interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc. Organizations often outsource this type of research to an external company.

Secondary research includes analyzing existing data from internal sources, online sources, journals, and industry studies. 

For the sake of speed, consider a hybrid approach.

Secondary research can access market insights, such as demographic makeup and demand for given product features. Then, use customer feedback surveys and brand tracking tools to assess more qualitative features, such as brand associations and perceived quality.

Take Drift. They invested heavily in customer feedback and user behavior analysis to understand what drives their target audience: Revenue.

Then, they go right after the pain point in their messaging.

Customer surveys effectively gather large-scale, quantitative data (like understanding which pain points are most important to resolve).

To establish qualitative insights (like how those pain points impact day-to-day performance), conduct long-format video interviews. Transcribe conversations using a tool like Rev for deeper analysis you can share between teams.

Complete a SWOT analysis 

Use the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) framework to analyze your positioning strategy and to answer the following questions:

  • Where does our product fit?
  • How can we improve upon competitor offerings?
  • What challenges exist that threaten our success?

Take this example SWOT analysis from a B2B shipping supplier.

A SWOT analysis for this company identifies a weakness in its email marketing initiative.

It also shows that sales conversion is increasing, which might point to a successful messaging change.

Use the opportunities section of your SWOT analysis to identify your product marketing strategy priorities. For this company, developing an effective email marketing strategy would be critical.

Identify your target audience 

Use your market analysis and research into your current user base to develop user personas that can inform marketing campaigns, messaging, and product positioning.

Buyer personas should be heavily data-driven, using surveys and one-on-one customer interviews to develop an understanding of what drives purchasing decisions for your audience.

Adrienne Barnes, the founder of Best Buyer Persona, recommends interviewing three kinds of customers.

  1. Biggest Fans: The customers who use your product day in and day out, and can explain exactly why they work with you over anyone else.
  2. Greatest Enemies: Those who used to be customers but canceled abruptly and left a negative review. 
  3. “Meh” Customers: The customers who’ve joined recently and can provide fresh feedback on the decision-making and sales process.

Talking to all three kinds of users allows product marketers to understand why customers buy, stay, and leave.

Drift, for example, already knows that revenue is a key driver for customer acquisition.

Their “Meh Customers” can teach them what recent revenue challenges motivated them to sign up. From their “Biggest Fans,” they can understand exactly how Drift delivers revenue growth for their clients.

Collate the answers across all conversations and divide insights into four categories to build out your user personas.

  1. Roles;
  2. Responsibilities;
  3. Rituals;
  4. Relationships.

Craft your positioning statement and product messaging 

You’ve done your research. You know who uses similar products and may have an interest in yours. You know your competitors, their weaknesses, and how you’re going to differentiate your product and brand to get ahead

Now, it’s time to declare your unique value and communicate it to your target market. 

For larger companies, product messaging may be segmented across the different audiences and user personas you’ve developed.

Take Mailchimp.

They offer a comprehensive tool with analytics and a design studio suitable for large-scale enterprise customers.

But, they know that startup customers use their tools to grow their businesses.

To cater to this segment, they created a landing page with that simple message: Mailchimp will help you grow your business.

Use your messaging to highlight the unique pain point to your target customer. Show them how you’ll help solve that challenge. Describe why your solution is worth choosing over your competitors’.

For Mailchimp, the target audience was small companies, and the pain point was driving growth. Their messaging demonstrates how Mailchimp is powerful and effective but affordable and intuitive enough for small businesses.

Product messaging should be short, to the point, benefit-driven, and within branding guidelines. 

Take Yac, an asynchronous communication tool that stands against video meetings.

Their product messaging is direct and straight to a pain point.

Use simple language (no industry jargon) to communicate product positioning. Describe the challenge discreetly (Zoom fatigue), address your product’s primary use (async meetings), and the group of users you serve (remote teams).

Conclusion 

Product marketing is one of the most crucial disciplines in today’s environment. It bridges the gap between product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams, and owns key initiatives such as market research, product positioning, and messaging.

Build your product marketing team by analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses and hiring to fill any gaps.

Then, engage in intensive market and customer research to develop a data-driven product marketing strategy.
Become great at product marketing by taking our Product Marketing Minidegree.

The post The Complete Guide to Product Marketing in 2022 and Beyond appeared first on CXL.

The Expert Guide to Creating a Marketing Growth Strategy

Rob Sobers said about the marketing growth strategy, “It’s not about tactics—it’s about people and process.” And when it comes to people, you need buy-in from all over the organization. Growth is everyone’s business. When it comes to process, growth marketers must learn to fail. And fail fast.  A marketing growth strategy is about small […]

The post The Expert Guide to Creating a Marketing Growth Strategy appeared first on CXL.

Rob Sobers said about the marketing growth strategy, “It’s not about tactics—it’s about people and process.”

And when it comes to people, you need buy-in from all over the organization. Growth is everyone’s business.

When it comes to process, growth marketers must learn to fail. And fail fast. 

A marketing growth strategy is about small and incremental wins that build up over time. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to build a marketing growth strategy to increase your market penetration, market share, and revenue.

Rapid experimentation is critical to your growth marketing strategy 

Growth marketing is about process over tactics. A marketing growth strategy goes deeper into customer relationships to uncover opportunities that engage, activate, and retain.

Growth marketing aims to add value throughout the entire marketing funnel, whereas brand marketing focuses on top-of-funnel activities like awareness.

The growth marketing process is all about rapid experimentation, learning, and adaptability. To drive growth, test ideas, implement what works, scrap the failures, and keep experimenting.

To say the business landscape is competitive is an understatement. In 2020, there were 8,000 martech solutions.

Infographic showing the marketing technology landscape

In such a fast-paced environment, to “fail fast” is to win.

Failing fast is different from failing often. The goal is to test ideas intentionally and get answers quickly, then iterate and continuously improve. 

This philosophy comes from The Lean Startup methodology, which relies on testing hypotheses to better understand your customers’ pain points and goals. 

The reality is that we don’t know what our customers want most of the time.  

Running experiments allows you to test what you think you know about your customers, rather than investing time, resources, and budget into an idea that ends up not yielding results.

Each experiment helps you learn more about your customers and generate foundational data for future experiments and marketing efforts. In this way, they are continuous feedback loops that help you find the message and marketing approaches that will achieve your growth goals.

Your customers want different things. To drive loyalty, tailor the experience to what each customer values. 

To truly differentiate your brand, center your growth strategy around creating unique and personalized customer experiences.

Getting to know the 4 major types of growth strategies in marketing

The Ansoff Matrix, named for its strategist creator Igor Ansoff, can be a helpful tool as you evaluate growth opportunities.

It outlines four major growth strategies: market penetration, market development, product development, and diversification

Marketers can use this framework to evaluate the risks associated with different growth strategies. Market penetration is the least risky and diversification is the riskiest strategy.

Infographic demonstrating the market penetration matrix

1. Market penetration

The goal of market penetration is to leverage new tactics to increase product sales, including existing customers and new customers within existing markets.

This strategy can be useful for established companies looking to grow but don’t have a pressing need to expand beyond their niche. 

It can also be helpful for startups looking to expand without the resources to branch out beyond their existing target markets.

For example, in 2021 accounting software platform Bill.com acquired spend management tool Divvy in order to increase its market share. Bill.com penetrated this market by taking over a company already in it and reported increased fourth-quarter earnings of $78.3 million (including over $10 million from Divvy).

Growth marketers can penetrate a new market by running experiments like:

2. Market development

Market development involves taking existing products into new markets. These markets will have varying levels of familiarity with your brand and products. 

New markets include geographic regions, new customer segments, or new channels to reach your customers (digital or physical).

It’s a lucrative move for businesses with truly unique products. Especially if customers have high purchasing power, meaning a more profitable market. 

If your desired customers have similar needs and behavior to your existing customers, you can employ similar tactics that have already worked well for you.

Such as UK-based money app Cleo’s expansion into the United States:

Cleo app screenshot

Cleo’s marketing team might test actions like:

  • Regional or global expansion. Expanding into foreign markets or untapped domestic markets.
  • New customer segments. Catering your marketing and promotional efforts to reach a new type of customer.
  • New channels. Building new revenue streams in an untapped channel, like content marketing or email marketing.

3. Product development

Product development allows you to expand your existing market share by developing a new product for that audience.

This is what happened with Clubhouse. In 2020, Clubhouse established a market for an audio-only social platform. Then competitors came into this existing market with their own products.

Such as Twitter Spaces:

Twitter spaces app

And Facebook’s audio chat rooms:

Facebook audio chat room screenshots

And Spotify’s Greenroom:

Spotify's greenroom feature

This strategy is only possible with a deep knowledge of your customer. By understanding what pain points exist, you have the opportunity to alleviate them. 

During product development, test activities like:

  • R&D. Investing in research and development to create new products for the existing market.
  • Acquisitions. Companies can acquire competitors’ products or technology to enhance their offering within the market they already serve.
  • Partnerships. Strategic alliances with other brands to develop offerings or leverage each others’ distribution channels.

4. Diversification

Diversification by taking a new product into a new market can be risky but lucrative. It can set you up for future growth within a new market, allowing you to test new growth strategies within the new market it now has access to.

Depending on the type of diversification you pursue, you can mitigate some associated risks. 

The two types of diversification where growth marketers might test include:

  1. Related diversification. The brand has some existing relation to the new product or market it wants to pursue.

    For example, a SaaS company that primarily caters to marketing teams could employ related diversification by creating a new program for CFOs. In that case, the company has existing knowledge of the space and can leverage its networks and credibility for market expansion.
  1. Unrelated diversification. The new business endeavor is entirely unrelated to your existing products and market.

    For example, a software company that opens a restaurant would be employing unrelated diversification. It still creates a new revenue stream, but the unrelated nature of this move likely means the business can’t leverage its existing knowledge or networks to gain traction.

Design a marketing growth strategy that increases market share and revenue

A marketing growth strategy isn’t created by a marketing department in a vacuum. It requires buy-in and cooperation from all departments within an organization.

In most cases, an organization’s leadership sets the company’s revenue, market share, and goals. 

The marketing growth strategy is the road map that outlines how the entire company will work collaboratively to meet those goals.

Once you have assessed your goals and resources and landed on the type of strategy you want to pursue, you can begin building a killer growth marketing strategy using the following phases.

Defining your growth model 

Defining your growth model is the foundational stage of building your growth process. In this phase, you’ll spend time mapping out your customer journey and identifying all of your growth channels. 

A common framework for defining your growth model is Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics for startups: the AARRR framework.

  • Acquisition: Generating leads and new users;
  • Activation: Increasing product usage and improving customer experience;
  • Retention: Reducing churn and encouraging repurchasing;
  • Referrals: Encouraging brand advocacy;
  • Revenue: Turning leads into customers.

These stages aren’t a strict pathway. Customers will bounce through various actions throughout their experience with your brand. 

The framework helps you evaluate how you can affect growth at each stage of the customer journey.

For each stage of the funnel, consider the distinct metrics that ladder up to your business’s KPIs. Those KPIs will help you zero in on the stages of the AARRR framework where you should focus your business growth strategy. 

Once you’ve done this high-level digging into your growth model, map out the customer journey. Think about the touchpoints at each stage of the AARRR framework. 

This exercise will lead you to a full picture of the channels you can leverage to increase those metrics. Some of those channels might include:

  • Acquisition. SEO, SEM, paid advertising, content marketing, social media, email marketing, strategic partnerships with other brands, PR;
  • Activation. Your brand website, product demonstrations and videos, free trials, push notifications, email marketing, targeted ads and campaigns, live chats, content marketing;
  • Retention. Email marketing, push alerts, brand app, content marketing, events, sales, personalized communications, and reminders;
  • Referrals. Rewards program, contests, email marketing, campaigns;
  • Revenue. Paid advertising, subscriptions, lead generation, direct sales and relationship-building, partnership models, email marketing, push notifications, and live chat.

This exercise will look different for every business, and some stages will overlap.

For example, email marketing can be a powerful tool that falls under every stage. It comes down to how you’re using email marketing. What is the action you want the recipient to take? How will you drive them toward that action?

Those are the kinds of questions you’ll consider as you think about ways to drive growth throughout the customer journey. 

Your growth framework helps you think about what information your customer already has at each phase of the customer journey and what additional information they need from you to move throughout the funnel.

Leverage this customer journey map to understand all of the channels you can activate toward those goals. Do this by improving the customer’s experience and reducing obstacles at each phase. 

Get your whole team involved at this stage. Their ideas can help you cover blind spots and fully understand the customer experience. 

Once you’ve mapped out your existing customer journey, consider what this would ideally look like. What is the best customer experience? Where are there gaps between that ideal scenario and your current experience?

You may learn that some of your channels are obsolete, while new channels would better serve your customer experience. Those gaps can feed into your growth strategy by helping you identify the opportunities that exist for product or marketing development. 

Do this exercise regularly, such as quarterly or semi-annually. 

Creating a regular practice around customer journey mapping helps you keep the customer experience in focus as you plan campaigns, keeps you relevant by requiring regular questioning of your channels, and helps you continually identify growth opportunities.

Quarterly growth planning

Once you establish the foundation of your growth model and grasp your customer journey, you can begin your planning process.

Start by exploring the data to understand your areas of opportunity. Where are you losing customers or potential customers? 

Maybe you’re driving a ton of traffic to your website, but your visitors are failing to convert. Or, maybe you’re losing them later—customers convert once and vanish, failing to become repeat customers. 

Prioritize your opportunities according to what the data tells you. 

Ideally, you’ll have enough customer data to understand what’s working and where your opportunities lie. But in the early stages of development, you might not have the quantitative data necessary to dig into these questions. 

Collect qualitative data by talking to your customers. Conduct surveys and focus groups to get a benchmark for how your customers and prospects perceive your brand and products.

This data collectively helps you build a strategic quarterly plan with clearly defined goals or OKRs. 

Your objective is a high-level qualitative goal, like increasing monthly active users or growing referrals. The key result is a quantifiable metric that determines whether or not you have succeeded in achieving your goal. 

So, if your goal is to increase monthly active users, your key result could be to achieve 500,000 monthly active users by the end of Q1, up from your current baseline of 450,000 users.

Your goals should be motivating, rewarding, achievable, and accountable. Set goals that are aggressive yet attainable. 

One way to walk this line is by setting goals and “stretching” goals. 

For example, if you’re aiming to hit $28 million in revenue by the end of the year, you could set a stretch goal of $32 million, as an extra motivator even when your team has a good quarter.

Stretch goals aren’t intended to set teams up for failure. They’re used to push high-performing teams to do even better:

“If a company has just surpassed an important benchmark in the industry or in its own recent history, it’s well-positioned to tackle a stretch goal. Why? Winning affects attitudes and behaviors positively. 

When confronting an extremely challenging task, the employees of recent winners are more likely to see an opportunity, systematically search for and process information, exhibit optimism, and demonstrate strategic flexibility. 

Companies experiencing weak results, however, are not well-positioned. Their employees are more likely to see a stretch goal as a threat, grasp for externally sourced quick fixes, exhibit fear or defensiveness, and launch new initiatives in a chaotic and ultimately self-defeating fashion.” – Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller, and Kelly E. See [via Harvard Business Review]

Deploy goals and stretch goals should as motivators. Aim big if your team is doing well, but not unrealistic. Often it’s about baby steps toward those bigger goals.

Accountability also remains important. Set checkpoints leading up to your final deadline to evaluate how you’re tracking toward your goals. 

Use those checkpoints to understand where you can adjust your strategy, motivate your team in different ways, or expand your efforts.

In-quarter execution 

In-quarter execution is all about the build, measure, and learn cycle of experimentation. Here is where you’re running campaigns and experiments to better understand how you can achieve your growth goals

This four-phased process works as follows.

1. Designing your experiment

Start with a hypothesis, including an independent and dependent variable. 

For example, let’s say you’re a marketer for Canva. You’ve mapped your customer journey and the associated metrics, analyzed your data, and you see an opportunity to improve your conversion rate. 

Screenshot of the Canva home page

You notice that trial conversions of Canva Pro aren’t converting well.

Your assumption could be that users cancel because they don’t understand the full suite of available benefits. 

Your hypothesis could be that increasing the number of educational emails throughout the user’s trial period would increase the conversion rates of trial users by 10%.

The independent variable, or what you’re changing to better understand the outcome, is the number of emails you send throughout the trial period. 

The dependent variable, or what you’re measuring as you make changes to the independent variable, is the percentage of new customers who convert at the end of their trial period.

Knowing the value you’ll provide to your customers also helps you determine how you’ll design the emails. 

It’s not about the number of emails but the value they provide inside. This is where you’ll carefully design your experiment to showcase the premium membership.

2. Ship your experiment

Start by A/B testing. It’s the simplest way to have a control group to compare against your independent variable. 

In this example, your first move would be sending an email about the premium membership benefits versus not sending an email. Then you’d measure the lift to understand the value of sending that email. 

If there is some lift in your conversion rate, you can start experimenting with other variables to try and beat the original lift level. 

Next, you might look at the copy in the email and test whether language about price or language about features performs better. 

Set another A/B test and keep repeating that process while benefiting from the successful experiments.

3. Analyze your experiment

Measure the results and key metrics. Was your hypothesis correct? What else did you learn about your customers throughout the A/B testing process?

Here, you’d measure metrics like what percentage of users converted to a paid membership, as well as email performance metrics like open rate, click-through rate, and unsubscribes. 

Ask questions like:

  • Did a certain email have a significant bump in opens? 
  • What trends can you track relating open rate to time of day or week, or subject line copy? 
  • What was user behavior following them clicking through to your site? 
  • Did they bounce immediately or browse your content and features?

Questions like these should get the wheels turning about future experiments you can run.

4. Automate and scale OR learn and redesign

Depending on the success of your campaign, the last phase will be to automate and scale or take your learnings and redesign some or all elements of your experiment. 

In the case of Canva, if a certain email outlining the value of the premium membership boosts the conversion rate by 10%, automating that email to go out to all free trial customers should add 10% more value into your business. 

Automating that successful email allows you to focus on the next experiment. 

No matter the outcome of your experiment, you’re learning and collecting data about your customer behavior. This information should fuel your future experiments and campaigns.

Conclusion 

Once you have a handle on your marketing growth process, running experiments can help you learn a ton about your customers and uncover even more opportunities to improve their experience.

Don’t be afraid to fail. All experiments, even those that don’t produce the desired outcome, push you closer to your growth goals.

To learn more about creating a growth strategy from industry experts, take CXL’s Growth Marketing Minidegree.

The post The Expert Guide to Creating a Marketing Growth Strategy appeared first on CXL.

Growth Marketing: The Skills and Frameworks You Need

When WordStream began receiving complaints that the seven-day free trial of their PPC management software wasn’t long enough, the brand decided to A/B test 14-day and 30-day trials. The results? Prospect trial to conversion rates fell with the longer trials. WordStream confirmed that seven days was plenty of trial time, and they didn’t need to […]

The post Growth Marketing: The Skills and Frameworks You Need appeared first on CXL.

When WordStream began receiving complaints that the seven-day free trial of their PPC management software wasn’t long enough, the brand decided to A/B test 14-day and 30-day trials.

The results? Prospect trial to conversion rates fell with the longer trials.

WordStream confirmed that seven days was plenty of trial time, and they didn’t need to waste resources chasing customers down a longer funnel. 

No changes were made to the customer journey, and it had nothing to do with revenue lift. Yet, this was a successful growth marketing campaign. 

Lessons were learned, resources were saved, and “opportunities” were confirmed to be bad moves. 

In this article, you will learn how growth marketing compares to traditional marketing and its key components. You’ll also learn how to apply growth marketing to five key channels and how to plan and execute experimentation. 

What is growth marketing? (And what it isn’t) 

Growth marketing is a data-driven approach to marketing. It uses rapid experimentation and learning to identify and capitalize on growth opportunities without blowing a ton of budget. 

It isn’t about finding quick hacks to boost short-term revenue.

Growth marketing borrows a concept from the lean startup methodology. It starts with the premise that the marketer doesn’t know the ideal strategy or messaging, and the only way to establish this is through testing.

Marketers following this practice start with a hypothesis, design and run an experiment, and interpret results to fuel future experiments. This provides context on which growth efforts to focus on in the short- and long-term.

For example, a growth marketer at Grammarly might begin with the hypothesis that a promotional email campaign targeted at millennials will result in a 10% increase in new subscriptions.

Grammarly email

The growth marketer would design and run an experiment (ideating, drafting, and sending the email), and then review the data to confirm or disprove the hypothesis.

From the standpoint of the growth marketing team, it’s a win-win situation.

If they’re right, they will have influenced an increase in new subscriptions with a target segment. 

If not, they’d know that promotional emails don’t have an impact, and they won’t waste time or resources on similar campaigns going forward.

Having tested and confirmed their hypothesis, Grammarly’s growth marketers could then run more granular A/B tests to establish:

  • What degree of discount has the biggest impact?
  • What is the point of diminishing returns?
  • What type of messaging works best for these emails?
  • What day of the week is most effective for engagement with these emails?

Growth marketers can then use audience segmentation and multivariate testing to understand what resonates best with different sub-segments, informing more personalized communication.

Growth marketing is a practice that is applied to the full marketing funnel. Traditional marketing efforts tend to be directed at the top of the funnel (brand recognition, recall, etc.).

As such, successful growth marketers must have a broad understanding of a variety of digital marketing strategies and tactics.

Growth marketing is about moving toward organizational goals and objectives with confidence from experimentation, meeting them efficiently without overspending.

Optimization across the entire funnel: Growth marketing vs. traditional marketing

The first distinction between traditional and growth marketing models is that traditional marketing, which is often product-focused, is oriented toward top-of-funnel efforts. 

Traditional marketers work to build awareness and emotional connections to product and brand.

Growth marketers focus on the entire customer journey. They work to improve top-of-funnel metrics like brand awareness and identify opportunities to improve customer activation, retention, and referral efforts.

The second distinction is growth marketing’s emphasis on experimentation.

With traditional marketing, you set a goal, such as improving brand awareness, and then put a chunk of your budget into one or two avenues (e.g., a live stream with an influencer on social media).

If your campaign works and your brand awareness metrics improve, you win. But if you’re wrong, you might spend an awful lot of money with little results.

It’s also difficult to tell if your brand campaign directly influenced brand recognition. Perhaps the seminar your CEO led at the same time is responsible for some of the surge in new followers.

Without experimentation parameters, you can’t rule out other variables.

The growth marketing approach to this problem would be to develop a series of experiments.

You might start by running brand-focused LinkedIn ads with geotargeting. Then, compare any change in the awareness metrics you’re measuring in that region with other markets. You might conclude that running brand-focused ads on LinkedIn does improve brand recognition.

Your next experiment might be to test new messaging, or media, to understand what has a greater impact on brand recognition.

What are “pirate metrics?” 

Pirate metrics is a model growth marketers use to guide their growth activities.

They are so named for their acronym coined by Dave McClure, AAARRR:

  • Acquisition (generating leads and gaining new users);
  • Activation (getting customers to use the product more often);
  • Revenue (crosses over into pricing strategy);
  • Retention (reducing churn and influencing repurchasing);
  • Referral (influencing customers to refer others).

Many growth marketers will include “Awareness” in their model to tackle experimentation at the top of the funnel.

Where does growth hacking come in? 

Growth hacking is a term that emerged from the Silicon Valley tech community and the lean startup methodology. 

Lean companies focus on building an MVP as quickly as possible using minimal resources (like “hackathons” where programmers compete or collaborate in sprints to design a program by the end of the event).

Growth hacking is the mindset of someone who wants to work quickly to find the best solution fast (not always the perfect solution) to start getting results.

This evolved into the notion of looking for a silver bullet; a single hack to skyrocket your company’s growth.

But the silver bullet doesn’t exist, and it’s not growth marketing. 

Growth marketing doesn’t prescribe quick-fix hacks that any company can apply to “10x their revenue.” It’s about identifying the channels and tactics that work best for your organization and then maximizing marketing efforts by confirming the best moves through experimentation.

How to build a growth marketing strategy: Setting off on the right foot

Compared to traditional marketing initiatives, growth marketing is more pragmatic. Because of this, growth marketing is strategic in different ways to traditional marketing. 

The danger of being so methodical about marketing is getting stuck in the experimentation phase. So growth marketers need to set up their tests and then get started quickly.

Before running your first experiment, take these three steps: define your growth model, map the customer journey, and prioritize your channels.

1. Define your growth model: Uncovering worthwhile experiments

To build a growth model that achieves business-critical goals, you must first map out the metrics, activities, and touchpoints that influence them.

For example, say you’re trying to improve top-line revenue. This is a broad goal, so you’ll need to uncover experiments that improve any metric influencing purchasing behavior and retention. Think of it like a “trickle-down” model. If X increases Y, then you’ll want to increase X.

Drill down to determine which metrics contribute to your goal: revenue per user, number of paying customers, churn, and new customer acquisition.

How do people discover you? At what point do they sign up, and where does the “aha!” moment occur that inspires users to subscribe? Getting your analytics house in order will give you the data you need to answer these questions.

2. Map out the customer journey: When to test 

Using your analytics data, you can uncover which channels drive action at each stage of the funnel.

At the acquisition stage, channels might include SEO, paid advertising, content marketing, etc. For activation, it might involve push notifications, email marketing, and so on.

The best way to establish the journey your audience takes from awareness to purchase and advocacy is to approach things from the customer’s point of view.

Spotify does this with its map of the customer’s music sharing experience:

Spotify customer journey map

Spotify conducts customer research to identify how users feel at each stage of the sharing journey, from visiting the app to how the share was received.

Once you’ve mapped out the entire user journey, including customers’ emotional states at each stage, you’ll reveal available channels for testing.

3. Identify and prioritize your key growth channels: Where to test 

Once you’ve identified the best channels from your customer journey map, determine which to prioritize based on the impact they make on your business goals.

For example, if Spotify wanted to improve advocacy, the frustration users have with shuffle play after sharing may be a good place to start.

Spotify could then test whether alternative play options improve the user experience at that stage and whether it impacts how often users share music with friends.

In another example, let’s say most of your acquisition comes through organic search, but conversion rate to signups is lower than you’d expect. 

This channel would become a priority, and you’d design experiments to improve on-page conversion rates. These experiments could include:

  • Identifying highest performing pages or content and creating more like it;
  • Testing new calls-to-action by aligning offers with the funnel;
  • Evaluating new tools or widgets to serve those calls-to-action, such as OptinMonster or Sumo.

Good channel candidates for growth marketing experiments are those that demonstrate a high return on investment and a high ability to scale. 

Perhaps LinkedIn gives you a great response rate for the time invested in reaching out to prospects. You can also see that there is a huge pool of candidates to choose from.

However, with cold email, perhaps you get a good response rate but you don’t book as many demos. In this case, ROI is good but scale is limited, making LinkedIn the better option.

Infusing 5 channels with a growth marketing approach

The philosophy behind growth marketing can be applied to any channel. Let’s see how that applies to five of the most common among marketers.

Paid social: Turning marketing dollars into users

Paid social is primarily used to impact awareness and acquisition metrics, so your experiments may be designed to understand how best to influence:

  • Website traffic;
  • Ebook downloads;
  • Webinar signups;
  • Free trial activations.

Take Semrush, a suite of solutions for keyword research, PPC planning, competitive research, and content optimization.

A hypothetical goal may be to increase the total number of users. A growth marketer at Semrush might design a series of experiments to understand how to grow qualified leads and nurture into paying users.

They’d start with the simplest hypothesis: “Running paid ads on Facebook promoting a lead magnet will grow our total number of MQLs.” Then they run the experiment.

Having confirmed that paid advertising does impact the acquisition of new MQLs, a second experiment would be set up to determine what offer delivers the most new leads.

For example, Semrush has a variety of case studies, webinars, and ebooks available for download.

Semrush’s growth marketer might next set up a multivariate test to run a series of paid ads. Each campaign would promote a different lead magnet, with the goal of understanding which offer generates the most leads.

Having established this, a third experiment would test new copy and messaging.

This webinar, for example, teaches two things: lifting traffic and improving conversion rates.

The growth marketer would then run an A/B test, with one ad pushing the traffic message and another pushing the conversion message.

When running paid media experiments, start with a small budget, measuring results early and often. Look for metrics that act as an indicator of success or failure. For example, if you’re driving traffic to a landing page and seeing a high bounce rate, it’s wise to pause the campaign to figure out what needs improving (targeting, creative, messaging etc.).

Organic social: Build a community

Brands with large audiences may find organic social to be an effective channel for acquisition, retention, and referrals.

Take Dollar Shave Club, a subscription service and retailer of razors, skincare products, and shaving accessories.

Dollar Shave Club’s product launch strategy involved a series of humorous videos that skyrocketed user growth to 3.2 million subscribers and grew their Instagram following to over 235K.

With a significant following, organic social is likely a key growth channel for Dollar Shave Club, particularly for retention and referrals.

Take this post, which leverages user-generated content to both promote their product, and publicly thank a new subscriber. 

A growth marketing experiment might start with the interpretation that promoting user-generated content (UGC) improves customer lifetime value (CLV).

 Validating this assumption can be as simple as using a UTM code to measure traffic from this specific page. This will help you attribute traffic to UGC and understand the impact it makes on conversions.

Once this assumption is validated, test the hypothesis that content promoting rewards for sharing UGC (like t-shirts) will increase engagement metrics and encourage more UGC.

A third experiment could be run to understand the best time to post content like this. Knowing that shares peak at around 10 p.m. EST, an A/B test could be run to explore the hypothesis that posting about UGC at this time will improve visibility and drive more engagement.

Though Dollar Shave Club’s organic strategy appears to be growing their following, there is an opportunity to improve by differentiating content across social channels.

Currently, Dollar Shave Club cross-posts the same content on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Instagram is better for engagement than Twitter for the same piece of content, indicating that the brand might not reach its audience as effectively as possible on Twitter.  

A growth marketer at Dollar Shave Club could set up an experiment to test the hypothesis that customer storytelling content performs better on Twitter than meme-based content.

They’d then use the number of likes, comments, and shares each type of post earns as a guiding metric in confirming this hypothesis.

How you experiment with organic social will depend on your existing audience size and the amount of traction you get on a given channel.

For example, if you’re starting from a blank slate, the first decision should be which channel you prioritize. Once you know this, you can focus your resources on building an audience there.

Reverse engineer what already works and run experiments over the long-term. Building a social audience is a marathon, not a sprint. Dedicate yourself to a content format and aim for consistency. Work toward increasing your audience size before moving on to user acquisition or sales.

Leading growth at a more established brand? You can afford to get more granular with your experiments as it’s likely you already have ample attention on your chosen social channels. For example, if you’re looking to convert more Instagram followers into users, consider testing content formats that demonstrate the value of your solution.

Search engine marketing: Driving ROI from searchers

Running search engine marketing (SEM) experiments requires testing more than just the ads themselves. You must work to optimize the entire customer journey; from search to click to conversion.

Take Smartsheet, an online collaboration and work management tool, that relies heavily on Google Ads to drive traffic and free trial users.

Smartsheet runs heavily measured PPC ads. Before it can start testing things like creative and copy, the brand needs to determine the best keywords.

There are nearly 1500 search phrases related to “spreadsheet software” alone, so step one would be to identify the most intent-focused keywords, and then run ads against each of them.

Semrush keyword data

Having established which search phrases perform best, Smartsheet’s growth marketers will run testing experiments to understand what messaging performs best in generating click-throughs:

“We’ve found rearranging copy in a headline or changing the description line from prose to a customer quote can increase click-through rates by 8% or more.” – Brent Frei, Co-founder of Smartsheet [via FastSpring]

Subsequent growth marketing tests could focus on identifying the best geographies to target. They’d do this by designing a multivariate experiment that compares click-through rates and subsequent signups by geographic location.

Here’s a rundown of each stage of the SEM journey and how you should experiment on each.

  • Keyword targeting: As illustrated in the Smartsheet example above, look to identify and test new keyword opportunities. Similarly, seek out “negative keywords” that drive wasteful traffic (users not searching for your product or solution).
  • Ad groups: What happens when you break out keywords into their own ad groups? Do you see an increase in performance across those groups? Does one perform better than the other?
  • Ad copy: Always be testing your messaging. Test new headlines and descriptions against each other. Once you find a winner, test it again.
  • Ad extensions: What happens when you include call, text, or even download extensions? Experiment with ad extensions to see if they improve or hinder the customer journey by measuring conversions.
  • Landing pages: This is where the action happens. Test headline copy, calls-to-action, and forms to increase conversion rates from traffic.

Organic search: The holy grail of reliable traffic

Testing new organic search experiments can be invaluable in understanding what on-page optimization tactics improve sign-ups and conversions.

Take Qless, a SaaS platform for queue management and appointment scheduling. One of Qless’s core verticals is the retail industry.

Qless target market segments

Qless holds several page one positions, but they don’t hold one for the search phrase “queue management system for retail.”

This would be a prime target keyword for their current Retail page. It has a low keyword difficulty and a higher search volume than the phrase the page appears to be targeting: “queue management for retail stores.”

An initial experiment could answer whether it’s worthwhile to change the URL slug from “queue-management-for-retail-stores” to “queue-management-system-for-retail.”

Additionally, the phrase “queue management system” isn’t used on the page verbatim. 

A second experiment could be designed to test the impact of including this key phrase, with subsequent experiments testing how the frequency of use impacts search rankings.

It can take Google some time to recognize changes. Like all things in SEO, you must be patient to see how these experiments impact results.

Content marketing: Turn readers into raving fans

Content marketing is an effective channel for building trust with new customers and turning existing ones into advocates. By demonstrating your expertise, you build authority, awareness, and get in front of an audience that are looking for the solution to a specific problem.

Take Zapier, a SaaS tool that helps users connect their tech stack and use automation to create custom workflows.

Zapier’s content marketing strategy, which helped propel them to $140 million in ARR, started as a series of experiments on their blog.

Now, Zapier uses a variety of content marketing tactics to influence both acquisition and retention metrics.

The Zapier University, for example, is a series of online videos aimed at helping users get the most out of the platform.

Zapier University screenshot

A growth marketing experiment could be set up to investigate the impact of these videos on retention at the onboarding stage.

The brand might do this by distributing the content via email to half of their audience, tracking engagement metrics, and measuring the influence on CLV.

How to plan and execute growth experiments 

The first thing growth marketers want to do is develop a hypothesis. But before that happens, you need to make sure you’re setting up experiments to work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

There are three considerations to bear in mind when planning growth experiments:

  1. How can you develop tests that can inform effective changes? If you’re testing aspects that make no difference, then you’re wasting time and money.
  2. How can you reduce the cost of testing and optimization? You shouldn’t spend months planning; you need to generate tests quickly.
  3. How can we improve the speed of experimentation? The more tests you run, the faster you can establish answers and use them to drive growth.

To achieve all three goals, you need to understand the problem you’re trying to solve. This starts with customer research.

Growth marketers must understand what is important to their customers and what motivates them to purchase (or to keep purchasing). This understanding is what informs the hypotheses.

Start by developing a series of questions that aim at this need, such as:

  • What do our customers need?
  • What do they think they want?
  • What are they doing about their problem currently?
  • How are they making the decision?
  • What gets in the way of deciding?

Strategies such as voice of customer research can help you to establish answers to these questions. You’ll then use your findings to question each aspect of your marketing efforts.

Take Codecademy’s strategic testing program, for example.

Codecademy knew that price is a decision-making barrier for customers, but they were driven to increase annual subscriptions. Codecademy designed an experiment to understand the impact of pricing differentials between monthly and annual subscriptions.

They tested the hypothesis that “exaggerating the price difference between annual and monthly plans will increase annual subscriptions.”

They found that this was the case in high-GDP countries, but not so for low-GDP geographies, meaning that they’d need to adopt a region-based pricing strategy to optimize annual subscription rates.

Conclusion  

Growth marketing is a process of continual evolution, testing, tweaks, and experiments that seek to improve user experience right through the customer lifecycle. The aim is to drive growth through the channels that have the greatest impact.

Though growth marketing should be carried out strategically, it’s crucial not to get caught in the trap of continuous planning and strategy. Start running actual experiments as soon as possible.

Become a powerful growth marketer in CXL’s Growth Marketing Minidegree.

The post Growth Marketing: The Skills and Frameworks You Need appeared first on CXL.

Marketing Objectives for the Product Lifecycle Growth Stage

Groove’s customer service platform almost died in the introductory stage because they forgot to listen to their customers. They drew people in with a product they assumed would be a hit and pushed forward without taking in customer feedback.  The result? People had a terrible experience using their product. After turning their attention toward feedback […]

The post Marketing Objectives for the Product Lifecycle Growth Stage appeared first on CXL.

Groove’s customer service platform almost died in the introductory stage because they forgot to listen to their customers. They drew people in with a product they assumed would be a hit and pushed forward without taking in customer feedback. 

The result? People had a terrible experience using their product.

After turning their attention toward feedback and testing, letting the voice of their customers fuel their content strategy and product development, they took off. Three years later, they were a $5 million business.

Not revisiting your marketing objectives in the growth phase of your product lifecycle is the death knell of many startups.

In this article, you’ll learn how to develop a marketing strategy for the growth stage. We’ll also share how to achieve marketing goals at this stage, using your existing customers and experimentation to increase sales and loyalty.   

What is the growth stage of the product life cycle (and why is it important)? 

The growth stage is the period of the product life cycle with the sharpest increase in sales thanks to a boost in-market presence. It’s the second of the four product life cycle stages:

  1. Introduction stage;
  2. Growth stage;
  3. Maturity stage;
  4. Decline stage.

After getting your product to market and working to gain traction (with new insights but little in the way of financial reward), the growth stage accelerates your ascent. Your audience is aware of and has accepted your product. 

Generating interest and capturing demand this way comes with several benefits.

  • Increased consumer awareness: More people using and talking about your product helps to increase market size and demand, leading to a boost in sales;
  • Lower costs: The large outlay of product development and marketing in the introduction stage can start to be clawed back through economies of scale, more efficient routes to market, and new distribution channels;
  • Greater profits: The combination of more product sales and reduced costs can see an upturn in profits and margins on products sold.

Increased demand brings challengers looking to benefit from the developing market. It also means you have to contend with no longer being the “new” product and the hype boost that can bring. 

For this reason, the growth stage is the best time to innovate: first by introducing new product features or product lines to diminish competitors attempting to copy, then by capitalizing on your standing to position your product as the best choice.  

How to identify if you’re moving from the introduction stage to the growth stage

In the introduction phase, the focus is on creating product awareness to motivate your target market to consider you when making a buying decision. 

The introductory stage is rarely profitable because of high distribution and promotion expenses but low sales. 

You’re expending a lot of resources trying to build awareness and find a foothold in the market, so your customers continue purchasing and spreading the word. 

This is why fads tend to rise and fall without ever making it out of the introductory phase: They’ve failed to satisfy a lasting need for their users.

Because you’re spending a lot without reaping financial rewards, keep the introduction stage as short as possible. 

Your marketing goal in the introduction stage is to get out of the introduction stage. 

When sales increase and your marketing objectives shift towards creating a preference for your brand over the competition, you’re heading toward the growth stage of product lifecycle marketing. 

The role of marketing in the growth stage

You’ve achieved a degree of awareness, and people are buying your product. Now, you have to get creative, so you’re top of mind as the choice in the market continues to build.

As Harvard Business School professor, Theodore Levitt, notes:

“Instead of seeking ways of getting consumers to try the product, the originator now faces the more compelling problem of getting them to prefer [their] brand.”

Your market goals now are to increase market share and create brand preference.

Luckily, there are many ways to do this (as we’ll see below). To establish why your brand is better than the rest, champion your voice of customer. 

Use the feedback you’ve gained in the introductory phase to position the messaging of your product. Your early customers will reveal the specific benefits of your product in a way that resonates with future buyers’ needs and challenges.

You can also use this phase to drive adoption and consumption post-sale. Once your customers are on board, you can reward their loyalty to create brand advocates that help grow sales through word-of-mouth.

Here’s how to do exactly that, with examples of businesses that get it right.

Develop a marketing strategy that champions the voice of the customer

To drive growth, build a company that connects with customers beyond surface-level attributes like price or features. 

The more customers identify with your brand, the more they’ll hesitate to jump ship. They’re also more likely to return and promote your business. 

Develop your growth marketing strategy with these concepts in mind.

Let customer and competitor research guide you 

At launch, marketing is based on customer behavior related to the problem your product solves. In the growth phase, you have the advantage of early adopters and data to tailor marketing (and product development) strategies based on customer experiences. 

Use quantitative research to glean standardized facts related to users’ experience with your website, brand, or product features. 

Wise, for example, found that 67% of its customers join through recommendations. The better the experience, the more they recommend the product to others:

Advocacy tweet examples from Wise

Wise then used Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to determine if users would recommend it to friends.

They found that the higher the NPS of a customer, the more recommendations they make.

Using the results of this quantitative research, Wise works on creating positive experiences to keep scores high:

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do. We know that in order for every user to become an advocate for Wise, our product has to be worth talking about. We try to be 10x better and more exciting than the competition.” – Nilan Peiris, VP of Growth at Wise

The result? Wise (formerly TransferWise) has the strongest advocates in YouGov’s BrandIndex.

YouGov brand advocacy ratings

Combine quantitative research with qualitative research by:

Qualitative research gives you the why behind the what. For example, if a user wouldn’t recommend you, ask them what specifically about your product, brand, or experience put them off. Then use this feedback to improve.

Use your findings to fine-tune customer personas and make data-driven UX decisions.

Seek user input on new features and updates to help you build a more user-centric product. It will also make customers feel valued and appreciated, both of which are key to winning loyalty

How do your brand and product compare to the competition? Look outwards, carrying out a competitor analysis by:

  • Setting goals;
  • Identifying the competition;
  • Conducting a competitive usability investigation;
  • Comparing value propositions;
  • Interviewing competitor customers;
  • Running competitive design analysis;
  • Making a quantitative competitive investigation;
  • Running a functional investigation.

This deep dive will help you establish how your messaging stacks up against your rivals and which aspects of your brand and product will help you stand out.

Control the narrative with a compelling value proposition

Your value proposition is the promise of the value you deliver. It tells people why they should choose you. 

An effective value proposition must be relevant to the problem or situation your target audience experiences, and it must be benefit-led. It should also act as a differentiation tool

There are no set ingredients for a value proposition, but it should typically include the following.

  • A headline: A catchy summary of your offer;
  • A sub-headline and supporting copy: An explanation of your product and why people should use it;
  • A hero shot: A product image or video that reinforces your message.

Take Hotjar’s homepage: 

Hotjar home page screenshot

Its headline immediately communicates the value of the product: 

“Understand how users behave on your site, what they need, and how they feel, fast.”

The supporting copy illustrates the problem Hotjar is solving:

 “The slow, manual days of collating data and feedback are over.”

Followed by an explanation of what the product is: 

“Hotjar is an intuitive, visual way to discover, consolidate, and communicate user needs.”

An introductory video reinforces the message. It uses the PAS formula to create an emotional connection:

  • Problem. Identify the user’s biggest pain point.
  • Agitate. Reinforce the issue and add emotion.
  • Solve. Introduce the product as the solution.

Finally, Hotjar adds in some value proposition “boosters,” small value-adds that instill confidence in the reader:

  • “No credit card required”;
  • “25,435 companies signed up last month;
  • “GDPR- & CCPA-ready”.

As a complete package, it ticks the boxes for a good value proposition:

  • Easy to read and understand;
  • Communicates real results;
  • Provides assurances;
  • Avoids hyperbole.

Creating a unique value proposition (UVP)

A compelling UVP is born out of brainstorming and experimentation. Come up with several options and stress test each of them. 

Follow the steps conversion copywriter Momoko Price recommends in her product messaging course:

1. List your product’s key features;

2. Pinpoint those that are unique;

3. List customer pain points for each feature;

4. Define desirable outcomes for each pain;

5. Score pains or outcomes by severity and frequency;

6. Edit top-scored pain outcomes into UVPs; and

7. Score the UVPs (and go with the best ones).

Test your UVP using:

  • A/B testing. Split-test the top candidates and measure sales conversions, lead counts, click-throughs, etc. 
  • Pay-per-click advertising. Split-test different ads targeted at the same customer. Measure click-through rate and landing page conversions.

Reward users with tailored marketing experiences to create brand advocates

Multiple case studies have shown that the fastest route to growth is through happy customers. For example:

Happy customers have an emotional connection to your brand, which results in a 306% higher lifetime value. They also recommend you at a much higher rate than satisfied customers (75% vs. 45%).

Create brand advocates by connecting with customers and rewarding loyalty using the following methods.

Stay close to your audience on social media

There are two ways to break down the barrier between customer and company on social media.

Customer service

When a user reaches out to you on social media, the majority expect a same-day response. Meeting that expectation has been shown to increase loyalty

It also gives you a competitive advantage. Around 44% of consumers say social media customer service distinguishes a brand from its peers.

Set up social listening tools to monitor brand mentions and respond to customer questions and comments efficiently. If you’re active on several channels, consider merging comms into a single platform to maintain customer satisfaction with fast, consistent responses.

For example, Lemonade delivers timely, personalized interaction across Instagram:

Lemonade Instagram engagement

Twitter:

Lemonade Twitter engagement

And Facebook:

Lemonade Facebook engagement

This personal touch keeps satisfaction high among users. It also makes a good impression on followers yet to try the insurance company. By engaging on social media, followers will make the link that Lemonade cares about its users.

Where you’re unable to engage promptly in person, keep response rates high by using a chatbot to answer frequently asked questions and direct customers to appropriate support channels. 

Fandango’s Facebook Messenger Bot helps people watch movie trailers and find local theaters: 

Its bot tackles common queries, freeing up the social media team to deal with more complex or pressing issues.

Community building

You can build a social media community anywhere people interact online. It can take many forms:

Studies show that building a social media community can increase brand trust. It’s a great way to glean insights from your audience while making them feel valued. 

Survey your customers to establish their interests and problems. Ask what types of content they like to consume and who they like to connect with.

Build your community around these like-minded people. Let persona-driven insights guide the content you produce.

Most importantly, actively participate. 

Around 70% of customers feel more connected to brands with CEOs who are active on social media. And 72% feel the same when employees share brand information. Your team members are your earliest brand advocates; empower them to start and engage in conversations.

Personalize the customer experience

You don’t have to have Netflix’s personalization algorithm to show customers relevant content. There are plenty of ways to deliver a thoughtful, tailored experience.

For existing customers, use personalization to show that you know them. Leverage data to:

  • Send tailored offers based on previous purchases; 
  • Remind them of their progress;
  • Deliver customer-only discounts and sales promotions;
  • Celebrate special occasions with them;
  • Show them location-specific content.

Snapchat uses geofilters

Starbucks pushes notification discounts (to users with this feature enabled):

Grammarly sends personalized reports that show how users improved their writing:

These companies use the data they hold to personalize the user experience. And with good reason.

Around 83% of consumers surveyed are willing to share their data to create a more personalized experience

Additionally, more consumers are annoyed by a lack of personalization when engaging with a company. According to Accenture, 41% of consumers switched companies because of a lack of personalization and trust. 

Reaching your customers with creatively tailored content is becoming an increasingly critical tactic to deploy. 

There is a multitude of software options you can use to help you do this:

Once you’ve found the right tool, get started with personalization using this three-step process. 

1. Choose your variables: These could be your top market segments and keywords, location, visitor frequency, etc. This will largely depend on what data you hold on your customers.

2. Configure rules and create segmented content: Enter your variables into your chosen personalization software and configure your rules. What will happen if a customer that meets your criteria takes the chosen action? (e.g., when a customer from the U.K. visits your website, ask them if they’d like to see prices in GBP) 

3. Launch your personalized content: Run it for a period and analyze results based on performance. Continue optimizing your campaign until you’ve achieved the desired results.

Drive loyalty with incentives

Much like personalization, incentives are a way to show customers you care. While personalized content is based around customer satisfaction (i.e. creating positive sentiment), incentives are powerful motivators for repetition and brand advocacy. 

Use incentives to optimize customer retention and advocacy through gamification.

Postcron encourages repeated actions by letting users earn and stack rewards:

Every time a customer refers a friend, they get a free month of Postcron Premium. New customers also get a free month. The more they add, the more free use of the premium plan they get. 

You can structure gamification rewards around:

  • Points;
  • Achievement; and
  • Competition.

Unearth which one is right for your users in your user research and testing. In every case, they must add value to the customer experience and be simple to execute. 

If people have to jump through hoops, your program will likely fall flat. Similarly, it can’t be a fad or used to paper over the cracks of a poor product or customer experience.

Drive growth with experimentation

With competitors offering the same solution and marketing to the same audience, you need to do one of two things:

1. Come up with innovative ways to sell your product; or

2. Do what the competition is doing better than they’re doing it (e.g., through better customer experiences).

Design growth marketing experiments (i.e. growth hacking) to tackle these tasks. 

Growth hacking is built on experimentation and failing fast. Come up with new ways to grow your brand and let the data inform decisions. If a strategy doesn’t show growth, drop it. If it does, run with it.

For example, when ConvertKit began to grow its user base by cold-emailing bloggers, it doubled down on the tactic and scaled it up to include an affiliate program and webinars. The result? Revenue grew by 637%. 

On the back of that tactic, ConvertKit now drives $1 million in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MMR). They’re also testing evangelists, listing it as one of the components that make up their culture.

Image source

To get started with growth, choose a goal and define a series of experiments to help you achieve it. Run A/B and multivariate tests to determine the success of experiments while gathering insights along the way. 

According to WeTheFuture.org founder John McBride, your experiments should go three layers deep:

1. Learn whether the strategy (e.g., email campaign, push notification, or landing page) affects conversions;

2. Figure out the right message, offer, or campaign, and then;

3. Tailor the message to individual customers.

John says that the third layer is the most powerful:

“You can probably get to 10% or 20% improvement by just testing different messages or different campaigns against each other at the macro level. Learning what is the best thing for each individual, that’s when you get to the point where you’re at 30%, 40%, 50% better than your current baseline. That’s where you can differentiate versus your competition.”

Use your qualitative user research and competitive analysis to understand what customers want and what they’re not getting elsewhere. Brainstorm ideas to engage them and experiment to find the best formula for growth.

Conclusion

The growth stage is your chance to capitalize on the early promise of your product so that when the market reaches saturation, you’ve already positioned yourself as the go-to brand. 

The key to growth lies with your customers, so make the most of early adopters. Analyze their behavior and learn how they think and feel about your product. Use this data to shape your messaging and fuel growth marketing experiments.  

Deliver positive experiences at every touchpoint, and customers will become your competitive advantage, setting you up for a profitable maturity phase and staving off decline until the time is right. 

Learn how to design and execute growth stage experiments in CXL’s Growth Marketing Minidegree.

The post Marketing Objectives for the Product Lifecycle Growth Stage appeared first on CXL.