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Intel and inspiration for the world's best marketers.

How to Make Product Marketing Strategic: Start with Understanding the Market

Posted by Ellie Mirman on June 15, 2017.

On a scale of 1 to 4, is your product marketing function the quarterback or the waterboy? That was the question that came out of last week’s Product Marketing Conference, where many presenters spoke about the role of product marketing and how this function can have the greatest impact on the business. 

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This analogy, suggested by the CEO of DocSend, articulated the range of product marketers who play a strategic leadership role versus those who are reactive and tactical-only. The quarterback is on the field, setting plays, and leading the team to score. The waterboy also plays a key role, keeping the team hydrated and enabling them to do their best. But which gets fans into seats at the stadium? It’s the quarterback who draws the crowds and acts as the linchpin to the team’s success.

Focus on Strategy

So the question is, how do you get your product marketing team to be the quarterback rather than the waterboy? After all, there are a lot of forces pulling product marketing in the waterboy direction:

  • Requests from sales for new collateral, competitive comparisons, or case studies
  • Requests from product management for competitive product research or a launch plan for the latest feature
  • Requests from other parts of marketing for website content and messaging
  • A general lack of understanding of product marketing’s role in the organization

Each of the requests on their own can be incredibly valuable and, as a quarterback, product marketing can still produce each deliverable. The difference between the quarterback and the waterboy is where strategy fits into the picture. Simply fielding requests from other teams puts product marketing in a reactive role, and can result in a lack of cohesive strategy connecting each effort and department. But the product marketing quarterback sets the strategy to proactively drive the creation of collateral, competitive research, messaging, and more.

Become the Market Expert

That still leaves another force pulling product marketing into a reactive role: the lack of understanding of its role in the organization. And all of this talk of oh-so-vague “strategy” certainly doesn’t help. What does “strategy” even include and don’t other departments have strategic responsibilities? Defining the scope of product marketing’s role and responsibilities could be a whole separate and long discussion, but consider the following definition:

Product marketing’s role is to understand the market and drive go-to-market success.

This definition has been echoed by organizations like Pragmatic Marketing and Sirius Decisions as well as experienced marketers at leading companies like SAP and Fuze. Underlying this definition is a conclusion around the center of the product marketing universe. It is not the products. It is not the customers either. Ultimately, the center of the product marketing universe should be the market 

"Product marketing’s expertise lies in the buyer audience. Whether it’s a new prospective buyer or an existing customer, the buyer is key to audience-centricity. It is also one of the most unknown domains in b-to-b organizations."   - Sirius Decisions

Define Roles & Responsibilities

Understanding the market and audience (including non-customers) is where product marketing can and should play a key strategic role in the organization. This could result in the following breakdown of responsibilities:

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Focusing on the market and the buyer (or persona) helps define how a product marketing team can drive strategy across departments. Market strategy is a key input for both product strategy and acquisition strategy, but leaves room for the product management and demand generation teams, respectively, to drive those efforts. Similarly, product strategy and acquisition strategy can feed helpful insights back to product marketing, such as positioning that does/doesn’t convert well or product usage metrics that point to some use cases being more/less urgent.

Focusing on the market also allows the product marketing team to step back from the tactical requests and see the big picture of where the organization needs support. While a sales rep may ask for a datasheet on the latest product feature, you may find through your market research that case studies covering each persona will have a bigger impact.

Ultimately, the key to making product marketing strategic is to focus on being the expert on the market and bringing that knowledge to the rest of the company. Work with each department to establish role definitions for each function - your own flavor of the table above - to get alignment. Get a pulse from inside and outside the product marketing team to see where each sees that function on the scale of quarterback to waterboy. Then evaluate what your team needs to do establish those strategic plays and lead the team to win.

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Trends from the Top 1,000 Landing Pages [New Data]

Posted by Ellie Mirman on May 31, 2017.

Landing pages are a critical component of any marketer's strategy. They represent a tipping point, the point of conversion where a prospect becomes a lead or a lead becomes a user. An improvement to a landing page can drive significant, tangible business results.

The best marketers are constantly testing and iterating on their work, and that includes their landing pages. That's why it's so interesting and informative to learn from the best - it gives us insight into how they're iterating and investing and gives us a hint at where marketing is going next.

We recently took a look at the top 1,000+ landing pages of 2016 in Crayon Inspire based on user engagement. The pages analyzed span 30+ industries, large companies and small, everything from ebook pages to app pages. Check out some of the key trends below, or download the full report here.

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Download the full report here.

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What to Include in a Competitor Analysis [+Free Template]

Posted by Ellie Mirman on May 03, 2017.

A competitor analysis is a lot more than a feature comparison sheet. In fact, some competitive intelligence specialists will say to cover product features last, and instead focus on areas like finances, positioning, or campaigns. Ultimately, the most powerful competitor analysis provides a complete view across many aspects of the competitive landscape, including where each company compares to the other on various dimensions.

There are five main aspects of a competitor's business to evaluate as part of an analysis: Market, Team, Product, Marketing, and Sales. Let's dive into each and some of the key elements to include for each area. You can also download our editable Competitor Analysis Template that walks through each of these components with additional detail.

But first, a note on making a competitor analysis constructive. The most impactful analysis is not merely a report -- rather, it's a blueprint for a company's competitive strategy. The full cycle of an impactful competitor analysis includes these four steps:

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  1. Benchmark Performance - Take stock of the current landscape and compare your own business to the market.
  2. Identify Opportunities and Action Items - Drive follow up actions in response to the findings from the benchmarking process. Be specific where possible and tie action items to desired results.
  3. Keep Stakeholders Updated - A competitor analysis is not a one-time effort, it is an ongoing strategy for winning in a competitive market. So, stakeholders across the business need the latest intel on an ongoing basis.
  4. Close the Loop - Connect with each department or employee that owned an action item to understand what actions were taken and how it performed. Revisit the competitor analysis regularly to see how your strategy has impacted the market.

This full cycle is key for an impactful competitor analysis effort. Where most analyses are lacking is going past the first step of benchmarking performance to driving action across the business and ultimately impacting the market. Be sure to complete this cycle to make the most of this effort.

So, what do you include in your competitor analysis to make sure it provides a complete and insightful review of the market? Let's dive into each of the five areas.

Market Insights

Starting with market insights helps provide a high level view of the landscape and key financial factors. A market analysis should include:

  • Competitors plotted by dimensions, such as direct or indirect, legacy or emerging, vertical, or solution
  • Financial standing and funding history to get an understanding of scale and stability for each company
  • Key market trends, whether tied to a specific competitor or generally to the market, to get a view into how the market is growing, shrinking, or changing

Plotting your competitors along various dimensions can provide a quick and easy framework for evaluating the impact of all other insights. 

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Team Insights

Team details give you insight into what goes on behind the scenes at each company, influencing how leadership and employees think about the market and subsequently act. A team analysis should include:

  • Team overview to see each company's scale, resources, and geographic focus
  • Key executives to get a view into their expertise and industry connections
  • Employee review trends and themes to identify strengths and weaknesses for further research

Employee reviews and ratings give an "inside peek" into each company. Looking at overarching rating trends as well as themes from comments can provide great intel.

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Product Insights

Product insights are key for many of your departments, from sales, who want to know how to respond to product comparison questions, to product and services, who want to know how to drive development to better serve the market, to marketing and executive management, who can use this intel to influence overall strategy. A product analysis should include:

  • Pricing and packaging comparisons for products and services
  • Deeper feature comparison to dig into coverage and product focus
  • Product review trends and themes to identify customer satisfaction and disatisfaction in different areas

Customers' product reviews can be rich with intel on how the company delivers on its products and services, and uncovers what customers care about most.

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Marketing Insights

There are many different insights regarding marketing strategy and tactics to include in a competitor analysis. Each member of the marketing organization, from product marketers to PR managers to demand gen specialists should be digging into these insights to improve each of their efforts. A marketing analysis should include:

  • Positioning comparison to see how each company's messaging helps them or hurts them in differentiating their solution
  • Website traffic information to get insight into how each company is fueling their acquisition efforts and at what scale
  • Social media reach across various channels to review if and how they are engaging their audiences across different platforms
  • SEO details, like keywords and inbound links, that drive organic results for each business, to see where and how you can increase your SEO results
  • Content overview to understand where and how each business is leveraging content to drive acquisition or retention, as well as reinforce their positioning and SEO strategies
  • Calls to action and conversion points to get insight into each company's marketing funnel and the steps they want a propsect to take to engage and become a customer
  • PR activity and results, including news mentions
  • Other key marketing programs as relevant, whether events, email, promotions, or others
  • Tech stack for each company to see whot ehy're investing their marketing efforts

Marketing insights can provide inspiration on new campaigns to launch, give perspective on key acquisition channels by competitor, and direction on if and how to best differentiate.

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Sales Insights

Sales insights give the next level of detail regarding how each company is succeeding or failing in the marketplace in terms of acquisition and retention. A sales analysis should include:

  • Sales snapshot, including customer count, geographic focus, and sales model, so you can see a company's sales success and focus
  • Partner channel overview, including count and key partners identified, to get insight into the company's channel strategy and how it relates to sales and product
  • Win/loss data, including win rates and win/loss trends, to see where your team struggles or succeeds in the competitive market

It is critical to collect data on when and why you win or loss against each competitor. This can highlight where you need to invest in product, sales enablement, or other areas.

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An initial benchmark of the above business elements is simply the first step in understanding and out-maneuvering your competitors. The key is to leverage this information to create a strategy and ultimately close the loop on activities driven by this strategy. This process is an ongoing one, to stay on top of each competitor's moves and the many changes that can happen in the market. Armed with this intel, every leader across the business can make smarter and more strategic decisions to win in a competitive market.

Want to get your analysis off to a fast start? We've created an 50+ slide template that you can download and edit with your own data and analysis. The template also includes a list of (mostly free) resources to help gather competitive intelligence data.

Download the Competitor Analysis Template here.

Download the Competitive Analysis Template

Lessons from the Top 100 People Pages on Marketing Your Company Culture

Posted by Ellie Mirman on March 31, 2017.

A marketer's role is not just to promote the company's product, but also promote the company's team. After all, it's the employees who build the product, bring in new business, and work with customers day after day. A company can't be successful without a great team behind it, so it's critical to attract and retain great talent.

So how are marketers promoting their teams to attract talent? How do they use their About, Team, and Jobs pages to communicate their culture and values? What does this content also say to potential customers who are looking to get a behind the scenes view of a potential partner?

We looked at the top 100 people pages from Inspire, Crayon's web design catalogue for marketing design inspiration, based on popularity among Crayon users. What did we learn from the best of the best?

Check out the full collection: Crayon's Most Popular People Pages, Q1 2017.

Show Your Friendly Face

Most of the top people pages involved not just photos of the teams, but specifically informal or candid photos. These photos made the companies seem approachable and fun, a great place to work. Each company took a different approach - some took group photos, some showed executive leadership with funny props, some showed people at work throughout the office. It is well worth it to have a photographer take shots at team events or even gather a casual office photoshoot to create content for the website and social profiles.

Nomad, Method, and Mapbox all leveraged employee photos in different ways

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A Video is Worth a Thousand Pictures

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a thousand pictures. Some companies leveraged multimedia on their people pages to give a deeper view into the culture of the team. Some companies had a general "what it's like to work here" video, and some companies created multiple videos, each focused on a different department, role, or aspect of the company.

EasySignMobile's Jobs Page features a video front and center

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Talk About Values

A company doesn't just want to attract any potential employee, they want to attract the right employees that will embody the company's values. One strategy for making this happen is to communicate those values on the website. This can energize the right candidates and turn away the candidates that would be neither happy nor successful due to culture fit.

DataSift includes a video as well as an overview of their culture on their Jobs page

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Beat the Drum of the Mission

Finally, a key part of attracting talent in a competitive candidate marketplace is getting people excited about the company mission. In talking about the mission, companies often shared their history and founding, as well as the impact they're having. Some leveraged video, and some had this coming directly from the founders themselves.

DuckDuckGo, Ericsson, and Bitly all have website sections dedicated to their mission

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Check out all 100 designs in the collection: Crayon's Most Popular People Pages, Q1 2017.