Are you on the verge of launching your product but unsure about your go-to-market strategy?
After 2 years of trying, I finally got to talk to Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP of Marketing at HubSpot. It was well worth the wait.
In this episode, you will learn how to target your marketing regardless of the size of your business, why your beliefs and mindset are so important, and how choosing an enemy could put you at a marketing advantage.
listen to this episode
- Why some companies struggle to get noticed
- How to launch a product with little or no money
- Properly identifying your Beta group before you go to market
- Why product marketing goes beyond marketing
- Letting go of the fear surrounding your product
- The importance of content creation
- How sharing the same beliefs as your market is so important
- Why category creation may not be beneficial
- What marketers should learn to prepare themselves for the future
- Breaking down your launch strategy into a few basic essentials
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, marketing consultants, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. In today’s episode, you will learn how to plan, and how to launch new products with campaigns designed to drive proper adoption.
Louis: My guest today’s the VP of Marketing of HubSpot. You might have heard of HubSpot before. She’s advised on Evertrue, Help Scout, United Way. My guest leads a team of 75 plus marketers. She oversees the content, the product marketing, customer demand teams. She seems to touch a lot of area.
Louis: An interesting point is she’s also a podcaster, so she also had a podcast called The Growth Show that has more episode published on Everyone Hates Marketers. 190 plus so far, so very congratulation on this.
Meghan: Thank you.
Louis: And she knows a thing or two about launching new stuff, new products, including landmark HubSpot products like the Free CRM, the Service Hub, Conversations, and also three different podcasts. The Growth Show is one, but she also had to launch to others with completely different area. That’s why I’m so happy to talk to you. Meghan Keaney Anderson on the show, welcome.
Meghan: Thank you, I am so psyched to be here. It’s great to get a chance to talk with you. I love product launches, so I’m psyched to be diving into that area, too.
Louis: So internet is a jungle, right? I think it’s fair to say, if you go to Product Hunt, which is, for people who don’t know, a site where people launch new stuff. I mean, every day there are new products, new stuff. It’s insane the creativity that goes in there, but it’s also insane the competition you get for attention, right?
Louis: And that’s only the top of the iceberg, right?
Louis: So, how, why… I kind of answer the question in the way I’ve described it, but beside that, why do companies struggle so much to be noticed in overall, do you think?
Meghan: You know, I think it’s a crowded field, right? Most… If you look at what’s changed about the world over the last couple of decades, it used to be that for any one category, there were maybe half a dozen different options. Today, if you look, and certainly in the software space, but in all fields, there’s just been this explosion of options for different products to choose from, each of them handling things a slightly different way.
Meghan: So, knowing who you are in that space as a company, as a product, and who you’re going after and combining those two things to put together a launch strategy that actually stands out, is getting harder. It’s one of those fields that is also driven by hype and driven by practices, so things that worked for the last launch that you did and that were sensational and did really, really well, may not work for this launch, because it is such a fast moving field of expectations.
Meghan: I think that it’s crowded. It’s noisy. It’s evolving all the time, and so your strategies have to match that, but that’s also what makes it so challenging and fun.
Louis: If it was so easy, everyone would do it.
Louis: That’s about right?
Meghan: Yeah, totally.
Louis: I have this example in my head, I didn’t prepare for it, but it just a spot when you talked about it. I remember Dave Garhardt from Drift, who I think [inaudible 00:03:36] launched pretty well. Every time they understood that the channel was working, they would use it as much as possible, and they used to use Product Hunt every single month for new stuff because they were making it as much as possible.
Louis: This is the very, very top of the iceberg, companies that have a lot of money are very much like HubSpot, right? So I’m going to challenge you today on something, right, because as I described before the start of this episode. People listening right now might not have the budget that HubSpot has, right?
Louis: But because of you have so much experience launching stuff, because of trial and error, and the [inaudible 00:04:13] successes, I’m pretty sure you can do something, you can explain. We can deconstruct your method that will still work for people who don’t necessarily have a lot of money, who haven’t necessarily launched new products before, and not necessarily in the tech world, right?
Louis: So I’m removing a lot of stuff here, but it’s going to be really challenging, which is why it’s going to be nice. Let’s say, let’s forget you are at HubSpot for a bit. Let’s consider that you quit and you launch your own stuff, the only thing you can really rely on is your knowledge. No one knows you, let’s say, let’s consider that, which is not true. You don’t have a podcast.
Meghan: Sure, yeah.
Louis: You know, you have no audience, right? You really have to start from the foundations. The things you know have worked in the past. And you don’t have a lot of cash, right? You’ll tell me whether you need 50 grand or two grand. Let’s just play with some sort of [inaudible 00:05:04] figure.
Meghan: So I’m going to-
Louis: How do you make sure… so yeah, sorry, let me ask you the question. How do we make sure we get noticed, how do we make sure we launch something that people will actually adopt as well, right? Because it’s another thing that is important.
Meghan: Yeah, so I’m going to start with the zero dollar launch, because we actually did a lot of zero dollar launches, if you discount head count and the people actually working on it. It’s only been recently that we’ve put ad dollars behind launches. It’s very possible to conduct a standout launch without having a ton of budget behind it.
Meghan: The biggest thing, though, is you have to figure out and get really precise about your biggest points of leverage within your marketing strategy, within your audience. I tell you what I meant about that.
Meghan: One of the biggest breakthroughs that we had as a company was, I guess, about three years into my time here at HubSpot, we had all of these agencies, marketing agencies that would sell services on top of HubSpot, or they partnered with us for integrations.
Meghan: Before, we would just launch a product, and they would find out about it at the same exact time as everybody else did. We flipped that, again, about three years after I came into HubSpot, and started to give those people who are partners of ours, who are Evangelists, our best customers… And you mentioned Drift, Drift does this really well.
Meghan: Knowing, in your existing audience, who cares about you the most, and started pulling them in ahead of launch, and treating them almost like, under NDA, but treating them like an extension of your sales team or an extension of your marketing team.
Meghan: The beautiful thing about today is that everyone has a platform. It may be a podcast they started in their spare time, it may be a YouTube presence, it may be their corporate blog. But, all of these partners and customers have their own platforms, and if you can get them coordinated… Identify who they are, coordinate them, and give them materials, right? Give them the raw details about your products and any assets that you’re using for launch, so that then, come launch day, they can launch with you, at the same time.
Meghan: Then suddenly it’s more than just you talking about your product from a soapbox. It’s a dozen people, or a hundred people, or however big you can get that unit to launch all at once and create this surround sound of noise for no dollars exchanged.
Meghan: I think that’s one thing is just finding those advocates who can launch with you. In the beginning, that may be small. It may be just a handful of your best customers, but that matters when you’re looking for momentum in a launch.
Meghan: I think the other thing that I would point to for a low budget or a no budget launch, is investing a lot in a small assortment of launch assets. By that, I mean you don’t need to create the world, you don’t need to have 15 case studies and a myriad of product pages. But you should have one commanding point of view, whether that is a blog post, or on a landing page of yours, or a piece of social content.
Meghan: One thing that has the most crisp articulation about what it is that you stand for as a business, and what it is that this product stands for, and put all of your arrows and all of your emphasis towards pushing that thing out.
Louis: I’m nodding here like an idiot, and it’s a podcast, no one will see that, so that’s why I have to express that I am nodding. You’ve teased that those two steps are pretty important, and you’ve already gone ahead and explained the second one, which is great, because we’re going to touch on that in the next few minutes. But let’s go back to step one-
Louis: … right? Because I think we can go one step lower, one step deeper, right?
Meghan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Louis: Which is, as you mentioned, you want to identify your best customers or best partners to people, your core, dare I say, influencers, even though I-
Meghan: I know, I’m with you.
Louis: … this word is, yeah. We are in the same. Anyway, let’s not say influencer. Your best people, like your people. Your audience, the ones who would support you, your fans. Right? Now, let’s challenge you even more. As you said, it’s possibly that, it’s possible that we are launching our first product. It’s possible that we don’t have a massive audience, and you say we need to smart small. So, how do I identify those people, that I know will likely support me on my business, to help us launch this thing?
Meghan: I think this is actually where product marketing extends beyond marketing. It’s got to infiltrate into your product organization and into the actual development of the software or feature that you’re creating. So it starts with who’s in your beta group? You built this product for someone, who did you invite into the beta group to be some of your early testers?
Meghan: And being really intentional about who those people are. They should be completely identified with the problem you’re trying to solve, and the audience you’re trying to pick. Also they should be good communicators. You should see if they’ve got a following, and try to factor those things into your beta program.
Meghan: Then when you do go to launch, you can launch with those beta users. I think making sure that product and marketing are growing up side by side together, and they’re exchanging points of reference and levers as they go to market.
Louis: One thing that sprang to mind that I’ve heard before in this first part, which is identifying those people. Before you even launch a product, talking about it before you even launch a product. You mentioned NDA, under NDA, of course. How do you convince someone who is very afraid of sharing their stuff to the world, even the [inaudible 00:11:01] business? This is a lot of companies that they are so afraid of, what if a competitor see their idea, and do it instead? How do you convince those people to say, you know what, actually, just fucking share it to people, before. How do you convince them to do so, to change their mindset?
Meghan: I think it’s just that, you’re going to get copied. There are probably a hundred HubSpot knockoffs today. That’s okay. The technology is cheaper and cheaper as we go about this, and so, you kind of just have to let go of that fear, because it’s going to happen. There’s so much leverage in opening up the tent a little bit, inviting people in, that it’s not worth the trade off to be protectionist about your idea, because odds are, there’s somebody else working on the same idea at the same time. It’s definitely a culture shift, but I think it is one that will really be formative in the way that you go about building your company.
Louis: Let’s go into this step again. We know in an ideal world, we have people who are in a beta group that have influence the product. You mentioned the P world, the product marketing, right?
Meghan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Louis: Let’s do a little, next to this. Just, if you could describe what product marketing stands for in your mind, please.
Meghan: Yeah, so product marketing is kind of at the intersection of the marketing team and the product organization that builds this offer. But also the sales team, and the service team, it’s sort of what takes the seed of an idea that was the product, and translates it out to the rest of the world. So the aspects of product marketing that we do… And frankly it means something different in different organizations, but ours is very tied into the product organization.
Meghan: So, for us, it is about market research and competitive research, to inform what we’re actually building in the product. Then positioning of that product. We can talk a little bit about positioning, because there’s a fine art there, too. Then, the actual go to market strategy. Is this a customer-focused launch, is this a net-new audience launch?
Meghan: Then the actual campaign elements to bring that launch to life. Then, following up with that, how do you continue to, post-launch, drive adoption of that product, cross sales, upsells if you’re a multi-product company, that kind of thing.
Meghan: So, at HubSpot, we sort of have generalist marketers whose job is just to help HubSpot grow. Product marketers are really tied into the four different products that we have, and making sure that those are successful, as well.
Louis: To me, product marketing is really the team that is needed to be there because product has less touch with the people, a bit. I’m being very challenging here, I know it’s probably not wrong, but it could be a bit [inaudible 00:14:00], in the sense that you build a product, you need a team to translate it to the world, as you say. In an ideal world, we will not need that, right? But it’s kind of, in this tech world where things move so fast, when you have a very complex product, you need this kind of translation so that people get it.
Louis: They don’t have time to think about stuff, so they need to just get it fast. As you saying, this step, too, that we’re going to cover, you need to make sure that understand it, to tell a good story, a unique point of view, et cetera, et cetera. So, in an ideal world… It’s very loaded question, but in an ideal world, should we need product marketing, or is it a way to solve a problem that arise because of the complexity of the world we live in?
Meghan: I think in your early stages as a business, product marketing is really kind of brand marketing. Because at the very early stages, your product is your brand. So it may take a different format, but you still need that… Because it’s so easy to copy software or products, it can’t just be about putting up walls and a ruse and shoving a product out to the world. You actually have to know what the unique differentiator of that product is.
Meghan: And so, I think it’s actually essential, in the early stages, the discipline and the practice of product marketing. I don’t know that you have to hire a product marketer as your first hire, but I think that whether it sits on your product team or your marketing team, that discipline of understanding differentiation, and market insights, and launch strategy. Most tech companies, most SaaS companies today are very product-driven companies. Without that, you’re kind of just shoving features out into the world without any context.
Louis: Yeah, I like that. It’s the mindset, right?
Louis: It’s discipline and the mindset, not whether or not you have a product marketing team on board.
Meghan: No, my first hires if I were starting a startup would be an analyst and a content creator. Right? I think that because content is compounding, and the earlier you start developing a blog, putting a podcast out there, the more visits organically you’ll get over time. You want to start that as soon as possible.
Meghan: Then you need an analytics hire and somebody who understands reporting and insights to help you make the right decisions in your marketing strategy or in your business strategy, moving forward. I would start there, then I would layer in some of the other functions.
Louis: So let’s say we have a good understanding of the people we need to reach out to, like those partners, those people of influence who are very much eager to help you out. Before we move on to step two, I feel we haven’t touched on every single thing, there.
Louis: Let’s say we don’t have a beta program. Let’s say we don’t have those people who helped us shape it. How do you devise on hiring those people, or identifying them in the group of customers or in the audience you have? Do you have any tips on this?
Meghan: Usually… most people don’t develop a product in a vacuum. They may not have a formalized beta program, but usually they’re hearing somethings from friends or customers that informed the choice they made to actually launch this thing to begin with. I think it’s really about how you formalize that group of people, and the kind of relationship you have with them that takes a little bit of thought and should be built out as sort of a second stage in your company.
Meghan: But I think that, frankly, if you’re building a product and you’ve never talked to a would-be or existing customer about it, you should probably reconsider what you’re doing. It’s so formative to actually deciding what you’re going to do, that I just don’t think you can do without it.
Meghan: So finding them… Listen to sales calls. I’ll get into tools later on, but listen to sales calls. See what the complaints are that you’re hearing. Even closed lost calls understand why they decided not to buy, and the ones that you do win, try to pull out a handful of those to help coach you as you go on to develop your product portfolio.
Louis: Yeah, and as you say, it’s kind of [inaudible 00:18:21].
Meghan: A little bit, yeah.
Louis: In this [inaudible 00:18:24] we do assume that you’ve talked to people developing your product. You haven’t done it in a vacuum, and when we say product, I think we say it quite loosely. You don’t have to be in tech to follow the [inaudible 00:18:34] through and actually launch something, could be anything, right? You might mention stuff that very, very specific to tech products, but I don’t think so, I think most of the stuff you’re going to say are very, very much foundational, that could be done anywhere.
Meghan: I’ll add one more thing in there, because you talked about… It doesn’t necessarily have to be beta users or customers. I think it helps, but… Look, I would ask yourself the question. You got into this business for a reason, right? There’s a problem that you saw in the world that you were trying to address with this company, with this product. So, being really clear with yourself about what that reason is, then you can go out into the world and find people. Maybe they’re never going to be a customer of yours, but they share the same vision of what the problem is.
Meghan: I would reach out to them, and these are people who you actually could call influencers, but I would reach out to them and bond over that same hate for the problem you’re trying to solve, and incorporate them into what you’re doing, and make sure that they are aware of how you’re trying to solve it, too. They could also be a resource for you and an Evangelist for you down the line.
Louis: I love this. The reason why I love this is because you didn’t mention you need to reach out to people who fit a certain demographic. So, whatever age your customers are, and then whatever job they have. No, you talk about the beliefs. Whoever share the same belief, because this is way more powerful than just saying, “Hey, you’re a B2B product marketer, I’m sure you’d be interested in that.” No, instead it’s a, “I saw your Tweet, I think you believe in the same stuff. We both hate,” I don’t know, “The word influencer. This is why we’re launching this.”
Louis: This is much easier to convince people, because we appeal to psychographic… And just by the way, this is an internal kind of joke. I think we have listeners at this point where I mention it in every single episode, the word psychographic. But this is it, you appealing to identity instead of appealing to demographics.
Meghan: And God, we live in a time where all of this is just readily available for us. You mentioned Twitter. It’s never been easier to find someone, to find a tribe out there that is annoyed by the same stuff, and believes in the same vision of a future. I’m really into civic tech and smart cities. I very quickly could find a collection of people who are interested in the same thing. Should I ever want to go start a product in smart cities, I know to reach out to them.
Meghan: So, again, I think that’s… I’m glad you pushed on that, I think that’s an important point. It doesn’t have to be your customer base. I think it makes a better product if it is, but, even outside of that customer base, there are believers in what you believe in anywhere, and they’re so easy to find today.
Louis: You mentioned the word tribe, right? That’s important, find your tribe. Find the people who believe in the same thing. You mentioned hating the same thing, which, I might be wrong here, but it feels like this is easier to get people behind something that we both hate, rather than something we both love. There is something a bit more powerful in finding a common enemy, right? Which is why this podcast played on that a lot from the start. It’s not for everyone.
Meghan: That’s actually, yeah, exactly right. You nailed it.
Louis: Well, yeah. It’s… we are doing our best.
Meghan: [crosstalk 00:21:56] for your podcast, yeah.
Louis: We are doing our best. So, okay, step one I think we nailed it. You nailed it. Step two, and I’m very into that, positioning all of that as something we talk a lot on our podcast because it’s so conventional and could make or break anything. I’m not 100% sure I remember exactly the way you phrase it, but I will let you explain. Once you have those people, one you have your tribe, what it step two? What do you advise on doing?
Meghan: I would take a step back and talk about positioning for a minute, because I think that is foundational. If you don’t have strong positioning, it’s just always going to be a hindrance on… You can have a million dollars to put towards this launch, but if the positioning isn’t there, it’s going to just kind of be watered down.
Meghan: I think that positioning… There’s all this common thinking around, okay, good positioning has to have a target customer and some pain points, and a solution, and differentiation. There’s ingredients that you can look up online for positioning. But, I think all of that boils down to one, really, two things. Who are you fighting for, and what are you fighting against?
Meghan: I think that you talked about enemy before, and it really does… It’s important to have an enemy. Now, you can take that too far, but I think in the world of positioning, an enemy kind of anchors you against… Or anchors everything else, and it becomes this point that you can go back to.
Meghan: Because if you know what you’re fighting against, you know what you’re fighting for. What I would say is, that enemy shouldn’t be company X that is a little bit bigger than me that I’m trying to take down. The enemy shouldn’t be another product, the enemy should be a broader idea, or it could be a characteristic of some of your competitors, but I would be really careful about making a competitor the enemy, because that’s really more about you than the customer. Bottom line, I think you need really solid anchoring for every message that goes out, and the best way to anchor is to know what you’re fighting against.
Louis: So who you’re fighting for, which defines your tribe, your audience, and what you’re fighting against, which we’ve described before, which is the enemy. What is the common enemy you want people to rally against. Can you give me a quick example of that on the fly from one of the previous products you launched? Just briefly, an example of how that sounds narratively.
Meghan: Yeah, so I can actually talk a little bit about how that’s evolved for us over the years. When HubSpot started, it actually had really strong enemy-centered positioning. HubSpot started a marketing software, only, and the thing that they were fighting against was outbound marketing. And by outbound marketing, I mean the interruptive cold calling, direct ads, irrelevant marketing that gets in the way of people.
Meghan: The reason why that outbound marketing was the enemy is because people couldn’t stand it anymore. There’s so much of it. They were learning to filter it out. They got ad blockers, they got all of these things. It became really easy to make that outbound marketing the enemy, and then offer the alternative, which was inbound marketing, which is much more about consumer-driven marketing.
Meghan: So content designed to be found online when you’re searching for it. Social that spreads word of mouth to word of mouth because it is inherently interesting. The shift from, let’s stop putting this barrage of advertising and irrelevant content out into the world, and let’s start attracting people with stuff that actually matters to them.
Meghan: That was early days. Now that was great differentiation when we were only a marketing product. The inbound/outbound was a nice clear line. But then, we added sales software, and we added service software, and we added a CRM, and we added a whole ecosystem of tools. Suddenly, this thing that was such a strong positioning point for us became sort of a hindrance in some of these other conversations, because people would be like, “Oh, I know you from marketing. I know you because you’re the inbound marketing people. I love it, I love that you fight advertising, I love that you fight cold calls, but I’m in customer service, so how is that relevant for me?”
Meghan: So we had to go back and reposition the product line, and reposition the company, without, by the way, abandoning inbound/outbound, because that still resonated really well in the marketing space. You’ll kind of find that you have to do this every few years, is decide if the enemy that you were fighting has changed at all, and if it is still relevant to your product line today.
Meghan: But that’s an example of an enemy statement. I think other examples. You mentioned Drift before, I think they did a phenomenal job with calling forms the enemy. They were coming at a time when forms were getting really, really long, even on our own sites, and people, customers were really annoyed with filling them out. So, noticed that as a pain point and a friction point that was getting in the way of marketing and sales, made that the enemy early on. Now their products evolved, now they’re going to have to kind of figure out how to evolve that, too. I think those are a couple good examples.
Louis: The genius of Drift, if I may interrupt you on this. The genius of Drift on this particular position, and I think it’s a good case study, a bit like Salesforce, those aren’t very well known, but I’m glad you mentioned that because it feels like anyone can really do it, if you do it properly. The genius of Drift on the positioning is not only did they pick an enemy, they pick an enemy that everyone knows. It could be pick an enemy that no one really gives a care about.
Louis: But here, they use the habits, and the existing habits, of your tribe, the tribe of people you want to attract, they all use forms, exactly as you said. You used to have a lot of forms. HubSpot is known to have crazy long forms. I remember this because you want to target or [crosstalk 00:28:03]-
Meghan: That was the model, right?
Louis: Oh, yeah.
Meghan: And the model changes, and the model evolves-
Meghan: … in front of… Catching, right before the model evolves, catching that thing that is driving the evolution is incredibly valuable and rich, right? You can do that in any industry. Finding the thing that is just starting to irritate people or starting to add friction into their experience, the enemy is usually found in a friction point. I think that zeroing in on what that is for your industry matters a lot, and being able to name it and literally market it, that’s where the magic happens.
Louis: Yeah, and it might be, I’m going to push you back on category creation, category name in two minutes, but before that, let’s go back to one point about this.
Louis: I’m glad you mentioned this narrative, because positioning… I’ve interviewed a lot of experts on positioning on this podcast, and a lot of people have different definition, but it always [inaudible 00:29:01] onto something. A lot of experts who talk to you about you need to pick your target, you need to pick competitive alternatives, you need to have a feature sets. It’s very mathematical and rational.
Louis: And I’ve always felt that it’s missing the overall narrative, this thing that distill down to a few key points that people will actually remember and care about. And so, you can be as rational as you want in your positioning to say, “We actually have two features that there is [inaudible 00:29:27], our competitors have this and this.” But if you don’t have this overall narrative and package around it, it’s not going to stick with people that much. And I’m glad you mention it and simplify it to the point of saying who you’re fighting for and what you’re fighting against, because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s really boils down to, is you want to make it noticed.
Meghan: You know who’s created this? Basecamp. They have picked their enemy. Basecamp is basically project management, team organization software. Their enemy became craziness at work, right? How do you get all of the… Work is incredibly stressful, how do you get all the craziness out of work?
Meghan: Certainly that was their product positioning, but then here’s what happened: the founders, separately, started, they wrote a book called Rework, and they wrote a bunch of thought leadership articles on, “God, we’ve gotten a little bit insane around the pressures to grow, as the industry goes. This whole hustle mentality, this whole grow at any cost mentality, even at your own personal cost,” they made that the enemy of their own personal brand.
Meghan: Those two enemies worked really well together, because when you think about it, project management and craziness at work. The craziness of industry and work, and a personal diatribe against that kind of mentality, that becomes an overarching brand and identity. Whenever anybody goes to write an article on over-hyped growth cycles, or where anybody goes to think about sanity at work, they think about Basecamp. So I think they’ve done a really good job translating product positioning into brand positioning, and into, again, what they stand for as a company and as individuals.
Louis: Yep, a very good example, as well. And it’s tough to find one thing, and to really have this one message, because people tend to want to, “We have this feature and we have this feature, and we want to say that, and that, and that, and that, and that.” Before we go into that, actually, I want to challenge you back on category creation, which you started to say you need to name it, like HubSpot [inaudible 00:31:48] marketing. Do you really have to name it? And remember here, people listening might not have massive company behind with big budgets, being able to name something and put ads all over the place to make sure people remember.
Meghan: Yeah, let me be clear. I do not think that you have to create a category. I think that you have to name the enemy, and so, inbound marketing became a category. With our without that category, we still needed to name outbound and irrelevant ads as the enemy. It’s more about, you need every sales rep to be able to say, “We’re the anti-chaos at work,” or, “We’re the anti-form.”
Meghan: That’s what’s important to name, is what you’re fighting against. Not the category that you’re in. Certainly category creation is a strategy that people do. It’s not always easy, right? It depends on the field you’re in. Their could already be… Sometimes fighting against the terms that people use is not the right approach. Why add more work so that you have to explain the category before you can explain the product?
Meghan: Inbound kind of evolved as a category in its own right because we did a really good job nailing the enemy. But we didn’t go out there saying, “We have to create a category here.” Does that make sense, the difference between the two?
Louis: It does, and I’m glad you simplify it to this point. This is very, well put in very simple, but yet very powerful, yeah. You name the enemy, you don’t overly obsess over calling your software conversational marketing or inbound marketing software, whatever.
Meghan: It gets really jargony, too. It’s like, “Oh, we’re going to make a new category, and it’s called experience marketing,” or, “We’re going to…” It gets just very, very vague. Again, back to your earlier point, it is easier to get someone to relate to you over what they hate than over some aspirational vision. I kind of hate that about society. There’s a lot of bad to that, but when you’re talking about finding that common enemy, that’s the more powerful thing.
Louis: But that’s how we are wired as humans, you know.
Meghan: Yeah, a little bit.
Louis: … I think it’s [inaudible 00:33:52], you can’t fight biology, and that’s the way it is. So, we do connect on common point of hate, and hate may be a strong word, but it is stuff we disagree with, right? Which is very powerful. But yeah, I’m glad you did simplify it this way, and we are in agreement there.
Louis: I believe that category creation, if taken too far, really doesn’t benefit anyone and makes marketing, give marketers a bad name, because inventing new terms of stuff that already exists creates confusion for the audience, create confusion for people, make them wonder if they are missing something else, and have this vicious circle of… This massive FOMO happening from marketers, “Oh, this new account based marketing [inaudible 00:34:36].”
Meghan: Yeah, yeah.
Meghan: I know.
Louis: Yeah, that drives me nuts.
Meghan: They end up being really short-term… I’m not, this is not about ABM, but sometimes these things can end up being very flash in the pan, short-term hype cycles, because you care more about the name of the thing and whether or not you can check that off, than what the actual strategy is behind it.
Louis: So that’s awesome. I’m glad we agree. Let’s go one step deeper onto this picking-
Louis: … an enemy, right? How do you advise folks to pick an enemy? Let’s say they’re not 100% clear on this. Do you have any tips on this?
Meghan: Yeah, it’s got to be… This is important, right? People get this wrong. In fact, I can’t count the number of times people have been like, “Oh, e-mail is dead,” or, “X, Y, Z is over.” If you pick an enemy too callously or too quickly, and it’s not actually ingrained in the reason you started the business, and the thinking of the founders, and reverberated in what you hear from customers, it’s going to be really shallow.
Meghan: The number one thing I will tell you is take it seriously, and it’s not the sort of thing you swap out all that often. You can evolve it, as we have, but it can’t be a flippant discussion. You have to really have that conversation about what it is the company stands for and why you decided to start this thing to begin with.
Meghan: I would take, I would do an off-site, or take a half day, and really have this sort of conversations in a guided way about what it is that you want to be better in the world, as a result of the fact that your product or company exists, and then root everything in that. Don’t let that slide as you get more products, or more features.
Meghan: I’ll give you a great example. At HubSpot, when we first rolled out our sales product, a feature that was high-demand out of the customer base that we initially had in the scope of the product was this rapid auto dialer. Just lines up calls, so you save a bunch of time as a sales rep. Here’s the problem with a rapid auto dialer. It flies directly in the face of this idea of not harassing people, when you mean to help them. There’s no way you can get the context that you need on a person, if you’re just automatically connecting to the next caller, and the next caller, and the next caller.
Meghan: So we had a really serious, hard discussion around whether to launch with that feature or not, and decided to pull it and rework it so that it would be more in line with that belief system of marketing to customers in the way that they would want to be marketed to, and selling to them in the way they’d want to be sold to.
Meghan: So, it can’t be a marketing-only thing. It’s got to be full-company. You have to ask the question every time you have a leadership meeting, or a new product idea. Does this solve for that problem that we identified? Does it match with those ideals?
Meghan: Look, you don’t have to be a principled company or an idealistic company, but it certainly helps in developing a really strong, loyal fan base, because it gives them something to believe in.
Louis: Yeah, this is great example. Great example of how this whole entire positioning, even if it’s for a product like helps you to shape the product itself. That’s what it is. If it wasn’t a good positioning, you can build anything and it wouldn’t really help. That’s actually a very good example.
Louis: Something I would add to this is your customers are the best people to extract the positioning out of. I would advise you, if you’re listening to this podcast right now to take the time to talk to customers on the phone, or face-to-face if you can and ask them those questions. What do you hate the most about your job? Or what are the things you dislike? What do you do that you wish you could do easier?
Louis: Trying to really dig out the things that are painful to make sure that you have something in line with them. Usually there’s something that comes up all the time. I don’t know about you and your experience, but from my experience talking to customers, after a while, you hear the same thing. You start hearing the same thing.
Louis: By hearing the same thing, you can feel within you the energy. This kind of feeling, this is it. I know this is it, because five people who don’t each other say the same thing, in the same order, there must be something there.
Meghan: Yep. Now, the other thing about a crowded marketplace, and I’ll ask you this, what do you do if somebody already claimed your enemy? Right, so what if there’s a competitor out there that, every one of their marketing materials talks about the same enemy that you feel like is your enemy.
Meghan: We get asked that a lot. The response that I would give, and feel free to jump in with your thoughts on it, too, is there’s two-fold. Either you need to find a different angle on that enemy. Either maybe they’re solving it for big businesses, but no one’s solving it for small businesses. Or, you need to execute on it way, way better.
Meghan: So, I think that it’s a thought process you have to go through when you’re choosing an enemy, if it’s already been… if Salesforce came out and said, “No software,” and then two months later, another company came out and said, “No software,” they’re at a disadvantage. They either have to execute the hell out of that, or they have to talk about the area that Salesforce is missing in their positioning.
Louis: Yeah. You ask a good question and you replied to it well. I can see you’re a podcast host, as well. I would say that I would advise not to really obsess over it, even if there is other similar stories out there, because the world is big enough, likely. The work of going through this positioning and doing it well, the benefit of that in term of alignment internally would far outweigh, I believe, the threat of the competition.
Louis: I wouldn’t overly obsess over it. So many companies don’t have any other stuff you mention, that if you already have that and a competitor have it, well it sounds like it’s actually a good thing, because you have someone else who believe in the same thing. So the world is big enough, right?
Louis: So step one, identify those people, those crowd that really carry your tribe. Step two, nail your positioning, nail the narrative. Who you are fighting, what are you fighting against, and who are you fighting for. Step three, what do you do then, once you have this information?
Meghan: You got to nail the launch strategy. You got to nail the rollout, and the follow-up. Here’s what I find where people go wrong in launch strategy, is they over-value splashy things. They overvalue things that are exciting, right? They maybe overvalue something going viral on Twitter, and they undervalue things that actually move the needle for your business, like customer campaigns.
Meghan: So, we will have for every given launch, we’ll have customer campaign, a partner campaign. We’ll have a public awareness campaign. Every channel gets hit in some way, shape or form. But you need to know the role that those channels are playing and actually the goals for that launch.
Meghan: Sometimes we will release a feature that is incredibly important to our customers, and they’ve been demanding it forever and it’s going to be a huge boon to cross-sale, upsell, all that good stuff. But it’s kind of table stakes for their larger field.
Meghan: We’re going to put way more emphasis into the customer campaign for that, and into the partner campaign than we are into does it get in the New York Times. And so, I think knowing what your arsenal is and mapping that well to your goals for the launch and putting the most emphasis on the things that are actually going to drive the needle is really important.
Meghan: It comes back to your earlier question too on how do you do this on zero dollars. I think that you have to know where you’ve got the greatest leverage. So maybe you’ve got a blog that is taken off, and is doing really well, you’re going to lean into that. Maybe you’ve got no traffic to your website, but you do have some budget to put into ads, and you do that. It’s just, don’t run the same playbook for every single launch. Figure out what it is that that particular product and launch needs.
Louis: It’s like the channel. I would say pick one channel that has the highest leverage, as you say, so it’s likely to be where your best customers hang out, and where you’re going to get the best bang for your bucks, even if the bang could be, bucks could be the time you spent instead of the money you spent. So, yeah, let’s say if you have a podcast, and your website doesn’t have much traffic, obviously podcast is way to go. But if you have huge email list, no podcast, no issue, whatever.
Louis: It’s kind of obvious, I think, but I’m glad you mentioned the stuff like going viral on Twitter. It’s okay if you don’t have a hashtag that goes viral on Twitter for your website.
Meghan: Yeah, no, totally. Yeah, absolutely. There are some launches where it’s like, this is an awareness campaign, people have no idea that we have this product. Our goal is that viral hashtag on Twitter. But, not every campaign is going to need that. I do think that people want the party, and the party is great, if you can throw it, but make sure you don’t loose sight of the thing that’s actually going to pay the bills, too.
Louis: Can you give me a quick breakdown of the type of campaigns you do? Because you’ve already mentioned, customer campaign, partner campaign, awareness campaign. What are the others that you use, or is it a top three?
Meghan: So we do it by audiences. For a lot of our products, we’ll have a primary audience, but then we’ll have secondary audiences, so we think about a dedicated campaign to all of those. That could be the marketer and their developer, or it could be the marketer and the agency, or solutions partner that they use.
Meghan: So we think about campaigns at the audience level, and the segments within that. And then we think about channels. So, social, website, video, audio, advertising, performance ads versus brand ads, those sorts of things. We’ll kind of build this cross stich of a campaign, a grand campaign around the intersection of those two things. So, what audiences should be targeted and for the untargeted stuff, what are the most valuable channels for us in this.
Louis: So, how do you advise… So you broke it down this way, which is great. There’s a lot there. How do you advise, as you said, people with zero dollars who don’t have a lot of energy, who need to fucking nail this?
Meghan: Yeah, totally.
Louis: How do you advise to pick the right channel, the right combination of stuff? And then, I remembering now what you said at the very start, is you create the point of conversions.
Meghan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Louis: You need to have your enemy, your story. Could be a blog post, a podcast episode, but whatever, it seems like you advocate for just if you don’t have that many places, just create one, and bring everything to this.
Meghan: Correct, yeah. I think, either way, you’re going to want to drive everybody towards a central location, just for pure tracking purposes. There’s a sign up flow that you’re going to want to get them into. So you need to identify what that place is. Then, I would take a step back and figure out who are the audiences that need to get there. So maybe it’s just one audience, which is great, and usually in early days, that’s it.
Meghan: What are the channels that are best equipped to reach that audience? That’ll depend a lot on who they are, so I can’t give you a blanket statement here, but you find the right mix of those channels, and don’t be exhaustive on it, because everything that you… Every ounce of energy that you pour into a channel that is less important, is energy that you’re detracting from the ones that really are.
Meghan: So, get really focused on, look, I’m going after mid-level marketers in these countries. What is the channel mix that is going to get in front of them the best? You just kind of build it out that way. I think what happens is that people just sort of feel like they need to throw the book at it, in the early days, and it ends up spinning a lot of wheels without the same impact.
Louis: Do you know the best example of this is our politicians? You can see for elections, right before elections. In Ireland, for example, I’ve been living in Ireland for ten years so I know its patterns. You can see how politicians don’t have any clue about what you just mentioned. Their go to market strategy is they are clueless, so they would do blanket Facebook ads to literally everyone within Ireland. You can actually go back if you see the ads, you can click on what are the segmentation rules, and the rules are as simple as your age and you live in Ireland. How are you supposed to actually get a tribe ready against a common enemy with this type of targeting?
Louis: To me, politicians are the… except maybe a few exceptions of there who did it properly before, but usually don’t follow their lead. They really struggle at it, and more marketers, product marketers needs to work with them to help them.
Louis: So, we have our tribe. We have our positioning. We know where they hangout, we know where the channels we need to hit, and we know we need to focus, because if we don’t, it’s going to be difficult. Within the story we tell, there is something interesting that I’ve read about you in your different bio and stuff. You really put a lot of emphasis on the adoptions phase, making sure that not only people notice your stuff when you launch them, but how do you make sure they adopt it? We don’t have a lot of time-
Louis: … but if you had to pick the number one thing you’d advise people to make sure that when they launch something, it also gets adopted and stick around? What will it be?
Meghan: So, measure interest in adoption day of launch, seven days after, 30 days after, 90 days after. Look for differences between those things, and where people are falling off. If they’re falling off at the demand stage, you know what to do with that. If the demand is sort of leveled out and is pretty even, but they’re falling off at the activation phase, you know what to do with that. But understanding behavior, putting a microscope on, wow, you just threw this big party, everybody’s and there, where are they leaving and why?
Meghan: That will help you create the habits that is going to make this a lasting product, in the long run. That’s really it. It’s just, don’t- don’t do the launch and then walk away from it. Make sure that you’re keeping an eye on it for the first 90 days after.
Louis: Yeah, amen to that. So you just make sure to track adoption, as you said. First day, seven day, 30 days, 90 days, is that it?
Meghan: That’s what we do internally, you can adapt that to whatever you like, but, yeah.
Louis: Just let me repeat to make sure I understand properly, you then watch out for those cohorts when they are in time, and look at how they behave through the funnel, so you use a traditional funnel. So acquisition, activation, revenue’s the last one. So what is it again? I’m presuming [crosstalk 00:50:45].
Meghan: You’re talking about the AARRR-
Louis: Yeah, yeah.
Meghan: … the pirate thing?
Louis: Yeah, the pirate.
Meghan: Yeah, I think it depends by product. What we look at is, well we look at awareness, so how is some of that external content doing. Then we look at acquisition, then we look at activation, then we kind of look at long-term adoption and revenue. I don’t know how many A’s there is in that AARRR, but that’s kind of what we’re keeping an eye on.
Louis: Cool, okay. And yeah, you just make sure that, where do they fall off, and then you fix stuff as you go so that the next launch can be better and better and better. Meghan, you’ve been absolute pleasure. Usually I disagree a lot with my guests. No, I don’t, actually, i don’t [inaudible 00:51:22]. But I agreed on everything you said, and I very much connect with a lot of stuff, especially on positioning. So thank you for going through this step by step with me. I just have a few questions left before [crosstalk 00:51:32].
Meghan: You got it.
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next five, 10, 50 years?
Meghan: Adaptability, honestly, because I think you should get fascinated in every new technology, every new tool that comes out, but also be ready to abandon that tool for something else a year from now. I think that marketing is moving so fast, and technology is enabling so many new things, that just that thirst for new playbooks is what’s going to help you in the future.
Meghan: But also, the ability to not get stuck along the way. Not have too much adherence. Like right now, AI and chat and bots and a bunch of things are really, really effective and cool right now, and maybe that’ll continue. Or maybe something new will emerge, and so it’s just the need to stay on top of these things and evolve with them.
Louis: Yeah, and tools come and go, right?
Louis: Exactly as you said, be careful not to fall over the obsessing over this new technology and forgetting the fundamentals that you talked about.
Meghan: Yeah, and the same goes for strategies. I think strategies change, forms rise and fall, ABM is popular but also going through some regulations stuff. I think, just be curious