Latest posts by Mark Spera (see all)
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Product marketing is an important part of a growth marketer’s (or product manager’s) toolbelt. Product marketing is a discipline of marketing that is at the confluence of product, sales and marketing. Product marketing means a different thing across different organizations, but generally product marketers focus on gathering customer insights and turning those insights into website enhancements aimed at sales enablement, increasing customer acquisition metrics and enhancing engagement thereby, growing revenue.
Using the “product” (your website or other customer touchpoints) to enable marketing is what product growth marketing is all about. Websites are nimble by design — use this to your advantage and make changes to promote growth. I think the best way to illustrate product growth marketing is with a few examples.
- Nerdwallet: purportedly, Nerdwallet made the smallest product tweak on their personal finance affiliate website that resulted in a 10% increase in credit card applications. Nerdwallet makes money every time a website visitor applies for a credit card, so naturally the small change made a huge difference to revenue overnight. See the green button that reads “Apply Now?” Nerdwallet A/B tested this button and discovered that by putting the small lock logo on the button, they could increase click-through rate dramatically. I’ve tried to make this same growth product marketing hack work for me with no success. Which goes to show that it is important to test everything for efficacy.
- Fab.com: a simple landing page can sometimes make the difference between a viral launch and one that falls flat. After pivoting from gay social network to an ecommerce site featuring cutely designs at affordable prices, Fab founders were left with the challenge of launching for a second time. By creating an invite-only email signup splash page prior to launch, Fab was able to acquire a ton of customers who feared missing out on launch. I actually remember the buzz about the site that would only let you in if you were invited by a member, so it really worked. Everlane, dating sites and my company, BeGood all launched in a similar way. My company, BeGood was able to acquire 20,000 email addresses prior to launch using a simple signup referral program. While Fab didn’t make it in the long run, filing for bankruptcy a couple of years ago, their product marketing growth hack taught us all how to acquire customers by making an exclusive signup page. If you’re looking for a referral program solution, Ambassador is good referral UX and is light on code.
- Hotmail: one of the original email providers grew to 1 million users just six months after launch and added another 11 million users in the next year. One of the chief instruments of their growth was a product marketing growth hack. On the bottom of every Hotmail user’s emails was a sentence automatically imbedded that said “P.S. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.” Many email recipients would of course click the link and create their own Hotmail account. In this way, Hotmail was able to hack user growth for free with an impossibly simple product feature.
- Genius: formerly RapGenius, Genius was able to use some incredible website structure to hack growth. When you can’t get a song out of your head and you search a lyric on Google, you can usually find the song and full lyrics among a list of many lyrics websites in the search results. Some smart people at Genius understood that this is how most people search for song lyrics. In order to command all this search traffic, they realized they could “trick” Google into believing Genius.com was more relevant than competitors like AZLyrics. How? A smart product marketer decided to make each lyric in a song its own section in the html code, rather than containing the entire song in one part of the code. This tactic meant that AZLyrics may only have one or two indexable sections per song, whereas Genius may have 20 or more. This product marketing hack is slightly more complex, but it was a free hack that just required a tweak in the way Genius song pages were coded.
Genius has separates nearly every song lyric into its own part of the page’s html. Google is able to index many more pages as a result.
AZLyrics contains an entire song in one <div> rather than in separate sections.
5. RealtyShares: My marketing team at RealtyShares used a hack that’s not so complex, but worth mentioning. We were interested to see if we could improve the signup flow on our website, but we wanted to rip it apart and test it in about 10 different ways so simple a/b testing wouldn’t cut it. This signup flow was/is our most trafficked page and minor improvements could potentially save RealtyShares tens of thousands of dollars per month. The signup flow in question had about five steps and contained 20+ dropdown menus (we sell an SEC-regulated financial product, so we have to ask a lot of questions!). Even more, these important fields are mapped to Salesforce so that our sales team can nurture and close leads in a logical and organized way. Changing the number of steps in the signup flow, the number of questions per page and the order of the signup while maintaining data integrity was a challenging problem. We used one tool, Instapage to solve a seemingly complex problem. Implementation of the tool took no code to complete, though we did opt to change a DNS setting with our domain host so that we could host on a subdomain. We simply made landing pages using Instapage that had lead capture and dropdown menus that were similar to the ones on our website. This can be done with their standard $29/month Basic plan. We have the Professional plan ($55/month) and use the Salesforce integration to pipe all of the users’ information directly to Salesforce. We’ve never had a problem with our landing page or integration. Take a look at one of the ~10 pages we made below. We have improved our top of funnel on-page conversion rate by 10%+ (saving us thousands of dollars a month).
How can I improve my product marketing growth results?
Marveling at other companies’ successes is fun, but creating your own success is better! You can teach yourself how to keep eyes open for opportunities to improve customer acquisition and retention through product enhancements.
When thinking about product marketing, I like to look at crucial blockers or operational bottlenecks that are preventing my marketing funnel (below) from operating optimally. It may help to sit down, draw out your marketing funnel and brainstorm what things are most in the way of your seamless funnel and making your business millions of dollars. For instance, let’s say you’re having no problem acquiring strong leads for your B2B business using a suite of digital marketing tactics, but your sales team isn’t closing these supposedly strong leads. The first two things that I would investigate are 1) why are borrowers not funding their deals with us and 2) whether your leads are actually strong.
- I started first, by interviewing three or four of our strong leads that did not bring their business to us. When interviewing customers for this type of exercise, among other things, simply ask “how can we get you to become our customer?” Typically, you will begin hearing the same answer, the more potential customers you speak to. In our case, the answer I heard most frequently was “I don’t know how fast you can close my deal and get me my money.” The solution to this issue was very easy. We made sure to note “fast close in under 7 days” throughout our website and email drip campaigns. As a result, we were able to improve on-page conversion rate and number of closed deals by 21% and 7% respectively.
- To solve the question of “are my leads actually strong?” I pulled data from my CRM software (customer database) and judge whether my lead scoring criteria were correlated closely enough with sales success. For context, our sales team focused more time and energy on leads that were scored more highly. In the case of RealtyShares, our leads are scored through a combination of customer credit score, track record of success and whether or not they are immediately actionable by virtue of whether or not they have a real estate deal ready to go today (we call this “deal in hand”). When we investigated our scoring system, we realized that “deal in hand” was not necessarily a good indicator of a strong lead. In fact, more than half of our closed leads did not have a “deal in hand” when they were acquired. The nature of real estate is such that many leads may not have a “deal in hand” today, but often will have one a few weeks later. This appeared especially true of real estate operators who had a particularly strong track record of success. As such, I went into Salesforce, our CRM, and changed our lead scoring to weight much more heavily to track record. This slight product enhancement increased our closed deal revenue by 45% in one month.
Product growth marketing focuses on changing your website or other customer touch points to grow your customer base. Many of the changes are very simple and involve little or no code. In fact, some of the best product marketing tweaks geared toward growth are the most simple ones. Product growth marketing can help accelerate growth in ways that simple paid acquisition marketing is unable to because product growth marketing affords a lot of opportunity to pick up free customers, improve your marketing funnel and thereby, save a lot of money. Hotmail paid next to nothing for customer acquisition. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t hit that enormous viral coefficient. Most businesses need to acquire users through paid means, but augment their paid channels with smart product decision-making. Read my post about growth marketing for a B2C vs a B2B business to begin thinking about how to find paid channels that are likely to work.