Launching around themes

Marketing in today’s fast moving technology landscape can be challenging and difficult to keep up with, but in my personal opinion, that’s what makes it so fun. Your customer’s needs are always evolving meaning your business and product is evolving along with it. Unlike in hardware or consumer goods, where you ship and market a product that will be fairly static for a certain period of time, software products have new versions and features on a weekly basis. Ship or get eaten is the motto in software. Unfortunately, that fast pace can send a product marketer’s life for a spin.

Successful product marketing is telling your product’s story from your customer’s perspective, but ask any author and they will tell you that writing a complete story is no easy task. What agile has done with its 1 to 2-week sprints is cause us to publish a few pages or chapters at a time. Just think about it, we can barely wait a week for the next Game of Thrones episode, yet we expect to share our product’s story in little chunks and have our customers wait to understand what the bigger picture means for them.

Wait to tell the story until you have a valuable tale to tell. You will get pressure from left and right to announce a new update, but hold strong until you feel like there is value to share. Most importantly, remember that you only get one real chance to tell your story, and in this saturated tech news world, your story needs to be impactful, not just another newswire flyby.

Every good story has a theme

During my time as a Product Manager, I purposefully built my product roadmap around quarterly themes. This allowed me to make sure that we focused our limited time and resources around key customer needs and pain points. When feature requests came in from sales or executives, I had the ability to put the upcoming themes in front of them to make sure their request aligned.

So how does this work? Let’s say you work for an ecommerce company and you realized that you have a ton of traffic coming from mobile – an unoptimized channel that is resulting in high abandonment (Yes, this is just an example…most people would have mobile top of mind in today’s commerce world). As a product manager, you can highlight this key experience issue as a priority theme for an upcoming quarter, and build the roadmap around that. You can use that quarter to build out mobile wallet integrations like Google Pay and Apple Pay, or maybe you spent some time to test out the mobile product pages and noticed that there is a better way to optimize the layout. Individually, these updates are good but not that exciting of a story. Now imagine grouping all of these individual updates and features together into a larger, impactful story – “we have delivered a brand new mobile shopping experience, making it easier for consumers to search, discover and buy their favorite products.” This sounds a lot more interesting than saying you launched Apple Pay or Google Pay (not to take away from those products individually).

Jeff Whatcott, the former CMO of Brightcove, gives a good example of waiting to market a product launch until you have a larger story to tell. He shares the story of how they launched Brightcove 4 with large press coverage, but many of the features had been out much prior to the actual launch date. His suggestion is spot on. Group key features and updates around themes, and go to market with a better, more interesting pitch. You can also do yourself one better and group these features around customer-driven themes, such as customer pain points, but that is just an added bonus.

“We chose to actually bundle it up, a bunch of little bits and pieces, and make a significant launch out of it.”

Jeff Whatcott

I have used this strategy multiple times in my career. A recent example is in my current role at Paysafe, where we launched our Paysafe for Platforms solution in late 2017. This solution is made up of various different products and features, many of which were available prior to our market launch. We knew that we wanted to make more of an impact when announcing, so rather than going to market with the individual capabilities, we packaged it into a solution that met a larger overall need for our target customers. Instead of saying we launched split payments or merchant onboarding, we told our audience that we launched a new payment solution with capabilities to help their software platform scale.

In conclusion,

Your customers want to hear a story, and more importantly, a story that they can resonate with. It may be cool that you are launching new features every week but when you only have one shot to make an impactful impression, you’re better off telling a larger story around a theme rather than attempting to make a splash with each small feature. So next time someone in the business is pushing you to make an announcement around a new product or feature, ask yourself whether that feature can hold its own, or would it have more impact in a bundled launch.

Share the whole story, not just a chapter.


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