Marketing isn’t what it used to be. I always say that Marketing used to be a lot like Mad Men. The marketer sat down, drank some whisky, smoked a cigar and decided which was the messaging needed for a marketing campaign, the copy for a landing page, what to write in the blog and what events to go to.
Those times are mostly dead. Most marketing strategies and tactics can now be measured, except for Brand Marketing and DevRel. Most marketers are now asked to measure everything and show ROI, but nobody ever talks about how to improve the strategies and tactics’ ROI. I’ve learnt throughout my career that one of the best ways to do that is to apply the newest product techniques to do so. We’ll learn more about it in this blog post.
"Marketing isn’t what it used to be. Most marketers are now asked to measure everything and show ROI, but nobody ever talks about how to improve the strategies and tactics’ ROI"
Product Techniques TL;DR
Marty Cagan explains what a Product Manager’s (PM) job is beautifully in his Inspired book. In sum up, I’d say a PM’s job is divided into 2 big buckets: Discovery and Delivery.
Discovery is all about finding out what we need to build. We should build something that adds value to a customer and moves us closer towards the outcome (goal) we set at the company. In the discovery phase, we need to iterate very fast with different type of prototypes/interviews/surveys/questions to learn the fastest we can.
Delivery is all about building what we’ve discovered in discovery (pun intended :P). It’s also about measuring whether we got closer to our expected outcome, and use this information as feedback for more discovery. “Product-oriented engineering teams wait to celebrate their wins until after they’ve shipped product and are able to measure the results.”
Even though they seem like “isolated” stages, high functioning product teams are constantly doing both discovery and delivery at the same time.
Applying discovery in marketing
I’m an Engineer who started to work on Marketing some time ago. I remember that back then I was asking other marketers what I should focus on. Their answers were:
- You should be doing more ads
- You should build your social media accounts
- Create a blog and invest hard in SEO
These answers make absolutely no sense. How can they tell me what tactic to do with so much certainty if they don’t know my prospects and customers? How can they be so sure that what worked for them will work for me?
"Marketers usually recommend you tactics: Have a blog, do social media, etc. These recommendations make no sense. How can they tell me with so much certainty that it'll work for me if they don't know my prospects?"
This is where Discovery comes into place.
For Marketing to work, it needs to tap into your customer’s habits. In order to do so, I decided that the best option was to do interviews within our target market to understand what their habits are.
I looked for people to interview through Twitter or LinkedIn and offered them an Amazon gift card in exchange for their time and told them I’d not mention nor try to sell our product even once.
My questions usually are:
- How does your typical day look like? When do you use each device? What apps do you use the most?
- What would you like to learn about? Are you interested in Authentication? Why?
- Where do you go to learn those things? Google? Forums? Meetups? Conferences? Analysts? Which ones
I use the information from these discovery questions to inform what strategies and tactics we should experiment with.
For example, by interviewing developers who use React, I learnt that they usually read things about authentication when they’re stuck and they Google for them. I’d probably think of experimenting (in the delivery phase) using the following hypothesis: “If we create blog content that’s targeted to the SEO keywords that react developers use when they get stuck, we should be able to increase traffic and signup to Auth0 X%” Another example could be Product Managers from Fortune 500 companies who go to Product Tank Meetups and are interested in learning about Blockchain. I’d probably think of experimenting with “decentralized identity” talks at one of those meetups.
As part of the discovery phase, I usually do “user testing” with a “mockup”. I go back to them with an outline for a talk or a blog post and ask them their early thoughts with it. Other times, once I have delivered something (a talk, a blog post, an analyst content), I usually go back to the people I interviewed or some new people and do more “user testing”. I ask them to read the content and share their thoughts as they appear as well as how and where they’d like to read that type of content. Remember that as I said before, discovery and delivery often overlap.
Applying delivery in Marketing
Once you’ve done enough discovery, it’s time to start delivering value to your prospects and customers.
My rules for delivery are:
- Focus first on an experimental MVP: Think what’s the minimum effort you can do to test your hypothesis and see whether it’s worth investing more in it or not. For example for Auth0’s blog, we have a baseline metric for visits, signups and form fills. We set up experiments on specific topics using 2/3 blog posts during a span of 1 to 2 months.
- Have goals and KPIs: It’s important that before you start the test you have KPIs that you want to measure and a goal you want to hit.
- Learn, Learn, Learn: You only fail a test if you don’t learn anything. Make sure that if your test doesn’t get to the desired goals, you don’t just discard it, but rather work on learning what happened. This will help you create more discovery opportunities for future experiments. Also make sure to dig deeper into experiments that worked. You may be able to make them even more successful with further discovery.
Let me tell you a good delivery example we had at Auth0: Once we interviewed a couple of developers, we learnt that they read content when they got stuck implementing authentication. So we tried writing 3 blog posts about how to use Auth0 with Angular if you got stuck implementing auth. We set a target for signups from this blog post during a certain period of time. The experiment was a complete failure. We didn’t get to our goal. However, we learnt that we had a lot of visitors, but our conversion rate to signup was really low. Upon further research, we found that it was because all visitors were returning, and had already used Auth0. Thanks to this information, we went into discovery again to see if developers would be more interested in greenfield content vs Auth0 related content. By retesting, we were able to validate this new hypothesis.
I hope this post has helped you better understand how to use known product techniques to continually create new strategies and improve existing ones’ ROI using both qualitative and quantitative data.