I want to talk to you about how to create a differentiated customer experience beyond the tech roadmap through product marketing activities, and then I'll walk you through a case study of how I've done that with Marketer. But first...
What does product marketing look like today?
I define product marketing as the glue that brings disparate stakeholders together. Whether you're a team of 20 people in a WeWork or 1,000s of employees across multiple markets, it's really easy for people to stick to what they know, stick to your workstream, and to not solve problems across boundaries.
Product marketing can bring those people together so that the sum is greater than the parts. So we create scalable, personalized customer experiences that drive real business impact, from order volume to contribution profit to satisfaction of our users. The first two should never be at the expense of the latter. And there's a lot of good things and there's a lot of bad things.
The really great thing is that we're here today, that we have a lot of momentum. Product marketing is getting some buzz. But the downside of that is that it's still really kind of ambiguous. And we're still a bit misunderstood. And that's because we have to adapt the unique business needs of the company that we are explicitly working for.
This makes it really difficult for us to have a really clear definition of what product marketing is, which is repeatable across different problems to solve. Another upside is that we live in an increasingly global world and that means that we are inundated with more information than ever before.
As consumers, we are given so much more opportunity to go really deep into the competitive landscape and to do our research, and just to see what actually is going to solve the real problem for us. As a consequence, differentiation is going to become increasingly difficult in crowded markets.
How do you stand out in a commoditized market?
Product differentiation becomes increasingly difficult as competing products become increasingly similar. So how do you stand out in a commoditized market? Let's say, for example, food subscription boxes - there's HelloFresh, there's Gusto, there's AllPlants, and more.
They're all trying to solve the same problem for you. They're trying to give you a relatively healthy meal at a relatively affordable price. They all have a bit of an eco-friendly, environmentally-friendly spin on their messaging, what actually makes them stand apart?
Have you ever tried to cancel one of those boxes? They will call you and give you free boxes to try and reduce their churn numbers and get you to come back.
I'm really sorry if anyone reading is from one of them, I love them, they're great and I still subscribe, but I've tried different ones, because what is memorable about that customer experience? What is unique from one brand over the other?
Product marketing can be the secret weapon for your company's unique selling proposition. And I'll talk about why.
But let’s do a quick pop quiz first:
I think it's a false narrative that if you build the right thing - maybe you're first to market and you think this is going to solve all these problems for all these different types of people right out the gate - you’re going to become this unicorn story, get written up in TechCrunch, get incredible hockey stick growth overnight.
It's not realistic - it can happen, and it might happen, but there is also a more sustainable long-term path that you can take to having that sort of success story. And you can do that by setting the right foundations through product marketing activity.
To stand out, you must connect product to brand and make the experience personal. And that sounds really easy, that sounds like 101. But if you haven't set the right foundations in place, it's actually impossible to do it right.
How to differentiate through product marketing activity
- Prioritize and actually listen to the voice of your customer.
- Craft thoughtful education throughout the customer lifecycle.
- Build, maintain and train consistency across your teams, beyond your marketing scope, all your different stakeholders that touch your end user.
The voice of the customer
So, how do you prioritize the voice of the customer? What does that mean? I'm going to start off with creating scalable feedback loops. And again, this can be a team of two sitting next to each other in London, or if you're at more of a scaled company like I am now at Deliveroo.
*I should say at this point, my experience is all in early-stage startups before Deliveroo, so I've got both ends of the spectrum represented in this article.
Qualitative & quantitative feedback
On the quantitative side, how can you really capture a more mass-market understanding of who you're talking to and why? So at Deliveroo for example, we have a whole insights team that will either conduct their own mass-market research or partner with agencies to understand all three sides of our marketplace.
I just want to take a moment here to say there are multiple owners of the voice of the customer, and they're all correct. But there are sometimes these turf wars like, "No, I'm the voice of the customer, because I'm an account manager, and I talk to restaurants.", or, "I'm on the insights team, so we are the voice of the customer". All of those are just data points and as a PMM, it's your responsibility to synthesize all these different types of feedback and deliver the right outcome for the business.
So on the qualitative side, I have account managers, I have user research where we do in-person interviews at a regular cadence. We also use a tool, and this is not sponsored I just really love them, called Chattermill - it's essentially a tool that allows you to collect feedback from your users, in their own words - like short paragraphs, and they'll take out different keywords, synthesize that into a sentiment score, and they'll put it on a scale of negative 100 to a positive 100.
If I had just listened to my account managers when we launched Marketer in Q4 2018, there was so much buzz about it, everyone was excited, we had taken this thing to market in six weeks across 13 global markets, I lost my voice, it was wild, but we got it out there and everyone was excited. But if we had just listened to that, it would have been like, great, we shipped a great product, my job's done.
But then I paired that with our sentiment score on Chattermill and it was a negative 52 on a scale of negative 100 to a positive 100. And we were able to read all this real feedback from restaurants saying, the MVP is too small, we need more, we need this, we need that. It was a good idea, but we had more that we needed to develop in order to make it really viable to solve the real problems for the restaurants who are relying on it to grow their business.
And so that takes me to the second category here of sentiment. It's your responsibility to find out what is the right cadence and the right sentiment metric to consistently measure and to feed that back into the business. Because oftentimes, it's very easy to forget about those types of metrics and to focus on just the bottom line and just order volume. And what are you actually doing if you're just spiking order volume in one month, and then everyone hates you?
So whether that's NPS or satisfaction, whatever makes the most sense for your business and your target audiences. I think as a PMM, we can really bring a lot of value there.
Positioning & messaging
Once you create those scalable feedback loops and sentiment scores, you have to feed that into your competitive positioning and your messaging, not only for your existing customers, but for the audiences that you want to attract to your business tomorrow.
Obviously, most people reading know about personas. Fictional representations of your ideal customers. And this is an example of a framework that you can do.
Again, this can be a six-month-long research project for one person, or it can be a few weeks for a whole team. But we have to really understand the unique pain fit analysis for all the different types of customers that we want to attract. And then not only keep that in the marketing org, but just share that more broadly with the business.
I think one qualitative or subjective success metric I like is when sales teammates communicate the personas back to me, like “That was a small business Sally, and this is what they want”. That is a really good sign that it's been internalized by your team. Because then what we're doing is we're not thinking about our users in relation to their value to the bottom line of my business, we’re thinking about the problems we're solving for them. And that represents a fundamental shift in the way you think about success.
Ideal customer profiles
Last, you have to exhaustively validate an ideal customer profile (ICP). Back at my last company before Deliveroo (Kayako) we conducted work to identify and validate an ideal customer profile. If you think about things like:
- What are the success metrics of this persona that you're going after?
- What are the goals or daily activities? And on the fit side,
- What is the total opportunity here?
- How many types of customers like that are out there?
- What's the average revenue?
- What's their company size?
(This is a B2B example but of course, but there are consumer examples as well).
And I think this needs to be consistently updated as well. If you just do one exercise to decide who your personas are, it's kind of just one snapshot but that should probably be continually evolving. So once you've done that, you're starting to get the basics down, and you're setting yourself up to scale in a really sustainable and easier way. And all that needs to inform your segmentation framework.
You need engage in segmentation to define your buckets of target customers versus just blasting generalized messaging. So I think my key ask here, for the voice of the customer section, is:
- How do you know that you know your customers? Or,
- What are you operating on and executing on that's just based on assumptions?
It's very easy to do and it's not really something that we should blame each other for, but when we have limited resources and limited events that we can trigger really personalized information off of, we don't really know our customers and the problems we're solving, it kind of sets us up to have really bland brand experience or customer experience.
Another thing that I try to communicate when I'm doing product marketing consulting with early-stage founders who have a really big idea is to start with one segment first. Win it completely, win mindshare, become the category king or queen, and just dominate and then move on to other verticals or segments. I find that is a much more efficient way of doing it.
And also that you can make sure that you're prioritizing the right improvements to your product with your product management team as well. And most importantly, that helps you to stay organized by saying:
- Who are the customers I have today? But also,
- Who would I want to attract tomorrow?
And here's an example of a company that I think does that really well.
Front were one of our competitors back at Kayako, and I think they've done a really good job here of distilling all of those foundations we just talked about, into clearly articulating the problem they're solving which is ‘that email kind of sucks’. And they say great work starts in your inbox. And if you look in the navigation under the solutions page, you can see that they have organized the unique pain fit and benefits that they're playing up for all of these different types of customers.
So if you are coming to look for a solution for your team, they've got that right there, if these are the industries that they want to better engage with, or even if you're looking by feature, so whatever type of solution a customer or potential customer is looking for out of their software, they have articulated that really explicitly and made it really easy to access that information at the forefront of their brand experience.
So this is going to facilitate a really memorable experience, I know that Front actually solves my problems.
Okay, so once you've done all that you can finally craft really thoughtful education throughout the customer lifecycle if you truly understand the unique pain fit analysis, you have set yourself up for success by actually creating a differentiated customer experience throughout the lifecycle of getting the right value messaging, to the right customer, at the right point in the lifecycle.
This is an example of the onboarding series we created when we realized we were sending out really generalized messaging. And users were signing up for a free trial and didn't quite understand what to do next.
So we made sure to articulate all the different points of our value proposition to our target, ideal customer profile, right there in the first thing that they received as soon as they signed up.
So I guess here my key ask from you, your homework, is to audit your marketing activities and see what is actually tailored for the exact customers you want to go after versus what is just a generalized message. And you will find a huge difference in the performance of that content when you're able to better explicitly solve the problems of who you're sending that to.
Building, training & maintaining consistency across teams
When I launched Marketer in Q4 2018, I was one PMM, I had 14 global markets, I had account management, I had heads of marketing, I had salespeople, I had commercial directors, pricing team, there are so many stakeholders at a company like Deliveroo, and it's so fun because you get to get people excited about what you're doing.
So yes, it is my job to position my product really competitively and make sure that the value messaging is shining through from the product experience through to the engagement we send, after they've created an offer, for example, in Deliveroo. But differentiation requires more than stellar marketing activity.
It requires enablement accountability. Getting all of those people across time zones, across teams, all of that requires something bigger than the product itself. The bigger picture and the ethos of:
- What are we doing?
- What problem are we solving?
- Who are we affecting by building this product?
- How can we give value beyond the actual functionality of what we built?
And that requires a lot of buy-in and a lot of excitement and a lot of confidence in what we're doing. So I guess my key ask here is what can you do to break down boundaries and silos between teams in your company, as well as between your business and your customer? To make that kind of excitement shine through.
Snapshop case study: Marketer at Deliveroo
Okay, I’m going to go through a case study. Again, Marketer is the start of our marketing and advertising platform. Restaurants can either log in and create their own offers to engage with the right customers for their business goals, or they can opt in to participate in one of Deliveroo's marketing campaigns like Black Friday - we had 6,000 Marketer offers live globally, all part of a themed campaign.
So I could have said, "Hey, here's a really cool discount tool, enjoy.", but what a reductive way of doing my job. Instead, in everything that I did from the commercial training, the resources, the sales decks, and all those things that we created, the playbook of insights, through every single training session, I talked about the way that we are transforming the way restaurants engage with customers in the delivery space. We're doing something bigger.
And by doing that we've turned Marketer into a business unit at Deliveroo that can actually drive a fundamental shift in what the industry looks like. And on the consumer side, yeah, here's a good deal on your favorite spaghetti. We are changing the way that the perception of value for money on the platform.
And so it was the value messaging of the bigger picture that got 100s of stakeholders across all these different time zones to say, "Yeah, I want to help with this". And helping my stakeholders hit their goals was the way that we found success.
One really big thing that I want to talk about here is that we had to listen to the voice of the customer at step one, and that informs the MVP, and that informed the product marketing activities that we did around the product. So something we heard a lot - both from account managers and our restaurant satisfaction survey - in user research interviews with restaurants face-to-face, is that restaurant partners expect us to give them more control.
That wasn't something that we were talking about internally, it was explicitly informed by those feedback loops. They wanted more control over how to engage with the right customers for their business goals. So we changed, we pivoted, and as part of the product, we made sure that restaurants could either target new customers, so purely incremental sales for their business, or plus customers who are subscription customers who are more loyal to the restaurants they engage with, or the full opportunity of all customers.
So already, we're really solving the problem of our ideal restaurant profile, who is a more growth-minded higher value account, who maybe has historically been super operationally-minded - restaurants don't think the same way that I think as a marketer of 10 years. And so getting into that headspace and helping to educate them about what good looks like was a huge challenge in itself. And this is the USP.
So this is product marketing activity, and this is how we have differentiated the product away from all the other promotions platforms that they engage with.
Here’s an example of an insights email:
After they run the promotion, every single restaurant receives an email that tells them exactly how many visits, how many customers, how many new customers, how much money they made, how much it costs them, in a self-serve way. They don't have to contact their account managers to get that insight and get that control.
We then also give them personalized recommendations based on everything that we have learned about what good looks like and how to run a better promotion, and we serve that up in the emails like, "Hey, why don't you try this?". And then, of course, we have a call to action to create another offer.
This has generated a 60% repeat rate. So 60% of restaurants who create one offer because they get this email return in 90 days to create another offer, and the cycle continues.
Okay, so that sounds really strong, but how do we get restaurants to believe this is genuinely going to help them grow their business? First, we start with social proof. And we make sure that in the case studies, we are sure that we are explicitly solving the unique pain fit of our ideal restaurant segment.
This is a restaurant owner who was actually the ex-CTO of a private equity firm, and then he went to start Prairie Fire Barbecue. So he ran a 20% off offer and got a 51% increase in orders, just by targeting new customers, that's going to be any customer who's never ordered from them before. And we conducted the interview in a way that he told us that he likes the way Marketer gives so much control back to the restaurants’ hands for a small business segment, and small changes in revenue have a really big effect.
For me, the key thing in the ratio is the ratio between new customers and existing customers. So if you can tweak that ratio, that's success, so we have articulated who we're talking to, the problem we solve and what success looks like.
Scaling up the process
So, that's one restaurant, but I've got 50,000 plus restaurants and 14 markets. How do I drive a go-to-market strategy that engages all of them, or the right restaurants within that portfolio?
I realized really soon in Q1 2019 that I was going to have to rely on all of those stakeholders that I talked about. So we have local marketing teams in every single market, and they run their own marketing campaigns, like I mentioned Black Friday, treat yourself Tuesday, 25% off Friday, and I realized that that was a perfect opportunity for me to help my stakeholders to hit their goals, and in turn, I hit my goals.
So we rallied and prioritized scaling the process and making it super easy and effective for our marketing teams to run their campaigns through Marketer. We gave them playbooks of what worked well, why it worked well, what success was going to look like, how they should explicitly target the unique customer segments in their creative messaging and their assets.
We were connecting the external brand through to the product experience. And in doing so, the marketing teams and our commercial stakeholders got 1,000s of restaurants to engage with Marketer, and we unlocked broad sweeping strokes of adoption, instead of just relying on the one-to-one relationship of our account managers.
And the kicker is, they all receive the insights report at the end of these marketing campaigns. So we've got 1,000s of restaurants who are opting into a campaign, getting really great results, benefiting from Deliveroo's channel marketing across our social media and what have you, and at the end, we say, “Here's how it went, do you want to run another?” and there's a call to action for them to engage.
So we double down on that process and helping our teams to hit their goals, and this is our result, we launched Marketer through six weeks in Q4, the black line is the start of 2019, every single peak you can see is one of those marketing campaigns.
This is on the consumer order side, we grew from 200,000 in January to 3 million in June, and we're currently at about 5.1. Every single time we run a marketing campaign, we both sustain a certain level of awareness for value for money on the platform from consumers, and a certain level of adoption on the restaurant side. So it's a win-win.
The measurement framework
This is the measurement framework that my product manager and I both are accountable for, in terms of the product health, how do restaurants engage with the tool, what does it look like?
I look after more of the education side:
- What do quality offers look like?
But I've also created my own goals for product marketing:
- How do I drive new customers to the platform and explicitly the target audiences that we have historically under indexed with?
- How can I bring incremental audiences in orders and meal occasions to the platform through this tool of giving control to restaurants?
And on the existing customer side:
- How do I shift existing customers from one segment to a higher value segment?
So if you do all that work, in the beginning, to set up really scalable foundations for listening to your customer and differentiating throughout the lifecycle, it allows you to be more explicit and have more control over what success looks like for your product marketing activities.
And the end result is a really differentiated personal connection to the brand.
What’s the takeaway?
So to recap, how do you work beyond the roadmap and differentiate through product marketing activities?
Put customers at the heart of your product and deliver product love to your customers.
You and the business will feel the impact from customer happiness through to the bottom line.
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