The 2018 Eastwood Product Marketing Trend Report

The 2018 Eastwood Product Marketing Trends Report highlights where technology companies are currently focusing their product marketing resources and going-to-market efforts. Product marketing is a large job with many responsibilities and this report will help you understand where technology companies are focusing their product marketing resources.

* See how you compare with your product marketing peers

* Learn how product marketing in your industry compares to others

* Rethink your product marketing priorities

The top five product marketing focus areas include:

1. 71% Positioning and messaging

2. 69% Working with cross functional teams

3. 63% Sales tool development

4. 50% Learn key customer insight

5. 41% Product launches

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Tired of poorly run meetings? Try these 7 practices from PMO blackbelts

If you’re like most managers, you live in meetings most of which are run poorly. No clear agenda. No actions items with due dates. No accountability. Just open discussion with some attendees who really don’t need to be there but may lob “grenades” into the meeting to get attention. Sound familiar? There is a better way. Some of our clients have modeled this exceptionally well in PMO or “program management office” meetings. The PMO model can be applied to any cross-functional project or program from marketing campaigns to product development to executive sessions. Here are seven practices we’ve found ensure great meeting outcomes:

Establish and maintain a clear purpose. People meet for a variety of reasons – to disseminate key information, make decisions, assign resources, solve problems, mitigate risks, brainstorm possibilities, etc. Whatever the reason is for your PMO meeting, we strongly recommend you remind people every single time you meet. That’s right. Every time. This practice prevents newcomers from hijacking or disrupting your meeting, and sets the boundaries for the topics under discussion.

Establish roles and minimal attendees. Most meetings have too many players. We recommend the “RACI” model with “Responsible” player being the one who owns a function or key initiative being covered. “Approver” is usually a director, VP or C-level executive who approves what the Responsible player recommends. The “Contributor” offers necessary input into any action or decision to be made. And “Informed” are the ones who just need to be told the final outcome. We recommend at the most 7-8 players in a meeting.

Move deeper discussion offline: you’ve all experienced meetings where someone brings up a topic that becomes a “rat hole” in which the team attempts to solve a problem as a group.  It might be a very valid topic worthy of deliberation but certainly not by the broader PMO team. The better approach is to interrupt after about 3 minutes (use a 3-minute “hour glass” like timer) and clearly articulate the problem statement or item needing deeper discussion. Call it a “parking lot” item for now. Use RACI to clarify who must participate in that topic, assign a deadline, and have the Responsible person report back no later than the next PMO meeting.

Surface risks to mitigate them: the practices above may feel like a “checkbox” approach to project/program management meeting which may inadvertently discourage quality discussion. Moving discussions offline must not come across as squelching the team’s valid concerns. We recommend the leader go around the table asking each person to speak up on a risk they see that requires a mitigation plan. Ask for their recommendation too.

Use a consistent reporting format: a project/program management type meeting is specifically meant to detect and manage risks so that the team can achieve the committed goals on time, on budget. We recommend a dashboard with red, yellow, or green status indicators for each key tactic. Have measurable criteria to determine these conditions. Items that are yellow or red should require the Responsible person to explain why the item is this color, what the plan is to get the item to green, and what help they are requesting of the team. The best PMO leaders will work ahead of the meeting to find out which item is turning yellow/red and coach that responsible owner to work diligently to manage the risk.

Be a strong, disciplined facilitator: first off, have a leader for the meeting! Ever been in a meeting where there’s an awkward silence as everyone is trying to figure out who is running the meeting? An effective meeting requires both team cooperation and a strong leader. It’s helpful upfront to tell the team you might have to cut discussions short, note the item for “parking lot”, and setup an offline meeting, if needed. The team also needs to support the leader by staying on topic, and being clear on when an item needs discussion offline.

Use a good web-based tool like Wrike or Jira:  the PMO meeting is just part of a broader process such as product development, product launch, marketing campaigns, strategic planning, etc.  Tools like Wrike and Jira offer powerful yet easy to use ways of tracking action items, owners, due dates, and dependencies. They also facilitate team collaboration in between meetings with threaded discussions.

We have many more tips to offer you but these are the top seven tips. What practices have you found that are particularly useful?

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These Four Steps Distinguish Good Win/Loss Programs From Great Ones

Most organizations love the idea of a win/loss program. They imagine a process by which they can better understand their buyers’ evaluation and decision-making approaches, track the effectiveness of their sales and marketing efforts, and uncover useful insights about the competition.

As advertised, leading win/loss programs provide all of that and more. However, their effectiveness and impact vary by organization. A number of variables determine program success. Executive-level ownership and participation, sales leadership endorsement and sales team accountability, and a strong and influential internal program manager make a world of difference.

Assuming all of these things are in place, the most successful programs are the ones that take immediate and measurable action on the insights gained by following these four steps:

Prioritize actions

Win/loss programs yield a lot of great feedback and suggested actions, so much so that it’s nearly impossible and counterproductive to follow each lead. Those who really understand the value of the program also understand the importance of prioritizing the suggested actions. Often, they will do so by asking themselves:

  • Which of these actions is aligned with our corporate goals and objectives?
  • Which of these actions will make the greatest short- and long-term impact?
  • Which of these actions will help to address an issue that has the potential to knock us off course and negatively impact our business?

Set baseline metrics

Once an action has been prioritized, it’s important to set a baseline metric. This metric will be used later to measure the success of the action taken. The questions to ask are:

  • What metric can we use to measure the impact of the action we are about to take?
  • Using that metric, where are we today?

Take action

Now that the action has been identified and a baseline metric has been established, it’s time to move on it. Aside from a baseline metric, successful actions have an owner, a timeline, and accountability. Before taking action, the following questions must be asked:

  • Who is going to own this action?
  • How will this person report on the progress associated with the action?
  • By what date will this action need to take place?
  • On what date and in what forum will the owner report on the completed action?


Now that the action, either in its entirety or in part, has been completed, it’s time to measure once again. Here are the questions to ask:

  • When is the right time to measure again?
  • How does our metric compare today to when we first took action?
  • Besides the action taken, were there other factors that impacted the metric?

This simple approach to taking action and measuring results is the biggest difference between good programs and great programs.

Happy hunting!

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Why the Product Team Must Own Pricing

Author: Mark Stiving, Pragmatic Instructor

Who should own pricing? When I ask students this question, it almost always evokes emotion. Some people respond confidently, while others are more sheepish. And a lot of people think their companies are doing it wrong.

Before we answer this question, it’s important to define just what it means, because there are so many pieces to the pricing puzzle. For example, someone must decide which pricing model to use. SaaS or perpetual license software? Do we price by the seat, the gigabyte, the transaction or something else? Usually, executives decide this, or at least participate in the decision.

Another aspect of pricing is to negotiate discounts. In most companies the sales team does (and should) own this part of pricing.

However, when most people respond to the question, they focus on who is responsible for setting the price, which involves determining the list price and often establishing guidance for discounting. For now, let’s agree with most people. We ask, “Who owns pricing?” But what we really mean is: “Who sets the price?”

Using this definition, the answer is obvious: It must be someone from the product team. These are the people in the company whose job it is to know how much value the product delivers to buyers. And the person setting the price must know value to put in place value-based pricing (VBP).

VBP is the basis for all profit-maximizing pricing strategies. It means we charge based on what buyers are willing to pay, which is a function of the value buyers receive. The product team is uniquely positioned to know that value and determine how much markets are willing to pay.

How do customers decide their willingness to pay? They make their decision using one or both of the following methods: value in use or value in choice.

Value in use is when customers estimate the inherent value they get from buying a product. They will pay some percentage of that value to buy the product. For example, how much would you pay for gas if you’re in the middle of the desert, your gas gauge is on empty and you see a sign that says: “Last gas for 75 miles”? Probably a lot. That is value in use.

Value in choice is when buyers compare your product with an alternative. If they decide they get more value from your product, they will buy it. Imagine a busy intersection with a gas station on each corner, and your gas tank is empty. How much would you pay to buy gas at the most convenient station if all the other stations are charging $2.25? Probably much less than what you would pay in the desert. That is value in choice.

To use VBP, a person must understand the value that the markets and market segments receive from using your products. They must be able to put a dollar value on it. Even more challenging, they must understand value in choice. This means knowing competitors, their prices, how they are different (better and worse) and how much buyers value those differences.

Who inside your company understands this value? The product team. They know the competitive landscape and understand how your buyers make decisions. And because they must understand all these things, they should be responsible for setting prices.

Your finance team should not own pricing. Finance has the desire—but not the knowledge—to set prices based on value. Although they care about margins and understand costs, finance people don’t know the value their products deliver and they don’t know their competitors’ products. If finance sets prices, the only method they can use is cost-plus pricing.

You might argue that sales could set price. After all, great salespeople are value-focused; they try to understand value from each buyer, which aligns with VBP. However, they have two strikes against them. First, salespeople have the incentive to close deals quickly, which often means dropping the price. Second, they don’t see the entire market, only their specific customers. Someone needs to aggregate this information to provide companywide guidance.

An additional reason the product team should set prices: They determine what the next product will look like and which features have highest priority. Whoever makes that decision is who I want to own setting prices.

Why? Because companies should strive to make products that buyers value more. To do that, they must choose the best new features, ones that add more value to their product in the minds of their buyers. If product management owns setting prices, they are in that exact mindset. They get to decide which new capabilities might give them the ability to charge more.

What is different if finance sets prices? Again, the only way finance has to set prices is cost-plus. They take the cost and add a margin. When deciding whether to add a new feature, product management then would only need to determine if buyers are willing to pay more than the cost plus the margin. If the answer is yes, then put the feature in. If the answer is no, omit it.

This would be especially onerous for software companies. The marginal cost of manufacturing any new feature is near zero. This would allow product management to say yes to virtually anything and still meet that rule. The product manager has no incentive to find new high-value features. The company won’t charge for them. Hence, the company ends up with only slightly better products.

If sales sets pricing, product management doesn’t need to understand the value of their product. When deciding which features get priority, they would just rely on sales. In fact, when sales sets pricing, they become the de facto product team. To make it worse, each new capability sales asks for will be based on direct customer requests. It’s a surefire way to ensure that the company only builds incremental innovations.

The right answer is to let product management set the price. Their goal should be to choose the price and product features that maximize the profitability of the product. They can trade off the importance of customer requests against the value of brand-new capabilities. They have control of both important levers, price and product.

If you want to maximize profits, the product team is the only section of your company with the knowledge and incentives to effectively implement VBP. More important, if you want to create more valuable new products, the people who define the next product should also be in charge of setting its price.

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The business of telling stories (and how to do it)

If you’re in the business of marketing or selling products, then you’re also in the business of telling stories.

Investor and entrepreneur Ben Horowitz once said, “You can have a great product, but a compelling story puts the company into motion.”

As marketers and sellers, we put the product story to work every day. We use it to forge connections with prospects. We rely on it explain why our product matters. And we leverage it to grow our share of today’s scarcest resource, attention.

Stories are powerful. Studies have shown the profound impact that stories have on our brain. Stories not only engage us emotionally but also help build trust and even inspire action. Indeed, B2B buyers are nearly 50% more likely to purchase when they see personal value in a product.

When we rewrote our sales deck earlier this year, we did so by putting our story – not our features – first. And the results we saw confirmed the power of storytelling to drive business outcomes.

But, if you’re not sure what it means to tell your product story, this is easier said than done. Don’t worry, though – we’ve got you covered.

5 steps to telling an effective product story

1. Ditch the list of features and the features matrix.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Prospects don’t care about your product. While your product might be technically impressive, simply calling out your features doesn’t tell prospects why they should pick your product.

We’ve all seen feature matrices like the one below. You find them in product overviews, in sales decks, and even in reports and white papers. Look at it for a minute.

example feature matrix - product story

How does this feature matrix make you feel? Excited to jump into the product? Probably not.

And that’s exactly the point.

A feature matrix shuts down rather than invites conversation. It overwhelms prospects with details about your product without providing any real clues as to the value they might get out of it. And relying on prospects to figure out why your product matters rarely wins you the deal.

2. Put your product story in context.

All great product stories start with context. In order to grab and hold prospects’ attention, you need to establish what’s at stake. You need to show prospects that you intimately understand their situation and know exactly what it will take for them to come out on top.

More than that, naming stakes enables you to answer the question, “Why now?”.  You create urgency by connecting those stakes to the highly positive outcomes prospects will (only) achieve by using your product. Remember, how prospects feel – including the anticipation of professional and personal rewards – impacts how likely they are to purchase.

We use our discovery deck – the deck we present during our first sales call – to establish why our product matters for modern sales and marketing teams. And one of the ways we do that is by pointing out how buyer behavior has changed and the need for sales to get smarter, faster.

changing buyer behavior - product story

Putting our product in context shifts the conversation from why our product is a nice-to-have to why it’s a must-have. And the highly positive outcome we’re pitching? To win in today’s buyer- driven world, businesses need real-time insight into the content that’s fueling the sales funnel.

3. Understand why customers hire your product.

Your customers are your best resource for getting to the heart of your product’s value. That is, what problem do customers solve with your product? And what makes your product the right solution for the job?

One of the tools we use to answer those questions is “Job Stories.” Job Stories focuses on capturing situations, motivations, and outcomes. The result typically looks something like this: When [situation]happens, customers want to do [job or motivation] to accomplish [outcome].

Here’s an example of how Salesflare describes the job that customers hire their product to do. The job story below might read, When sales reps are closing deals, they want customer data at their fingertips, so they have full visibility into the relationship.

salesflare product story job stories

When it comes to selling software, many times the only thing your customers share in common is the job they want to get done. And knowing why customers hire your product provides invaluable insight into what stories and what messages resonate with them.

A good product story weaves together what your product does with why your product matters.

4. Repeat your product story often.

Once you get started telling your product story, it’s often tempting to continually invent shiny new ones for different scenarios. Resist the urge to do so.

Why? Because the secret to good storytelling is consistency.

You need to tell the same story over and over again to actually be heard. The power of repetition is the bedrock of marketing principles like the “Rule of 7” or Thomas Smith’s Successful Advertising.

Take a look at Intercom’s story. Their mission is to make business personal again – and they tell their story in blog posts, on landing pages, at live events, and elsewhere. While they might repackage ideas for different mediums, the core message stays the same.

intercom product story landing page

When a customer purchases your product, they end up buying part of your story. That is, your product becomes part of how they realize the story you’ve just told. And it is to your advantage to tell your story wherever and whenever you can – throughout the funnel and across channels and formats.

5. Measure, learn, and iterate.

While consistency might be key, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve upon what’s been said before. In fact, the goal should always be to refine your product story and to bring clarity to what’s at stake. But you need to do so with a plan and data in hand.

You can measure the power of your product story in a number of ways. Methods we use include getting user feedback, conducting A/B tests, and measuring content performance. For sales content, we regularly use metrics like time spent per page, average percent viewed, and dropoff rate to keep a pulse on engagement.

DocSend sales content metrics - product story

We’re constantly testing whenever and wherever we can. Just like your product, your product story can and should evolve. Actively optimize how you tell your product story, what words you use, and where you feature what parts of your story.

Remember, a good product story starts and ends with your customers. And they – their preferences, attitudes, and emotions – are absolutely subject to change.

Crafting a good product story is hard

It’s not easy to come up with a product story that’s just right the first time around. In the beginning, it often feels like a shot in the dark – and, sometimes, it is. It takes time to move past the what and how of your product and to really nail why your product matters.

Our best advice? Take the time to get to know your market, your customers, and even your product. And make that learning process part of what it means to tell your story. We’ve seen incredible lifts from sharing our product story, and we rely on feedback – both critical and positive – to continue telling a story that’s meaningful for us and for our prospects.

How have you leveraged storytelling? And what’s worked best for you?

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Boost enterprise sales with leads from product trials

A majority of SaaS companies that I have built products for have brought their products to market with a sales led G2M motion. The sales reps would source new customers through outbound efforts and engaging their professional network. This method was great when we were trying to find product-market fit as the sales reps were close to the customer and we had easy access to interview the customers we engaged with.

However, as our business grew we ran into challenges efficiently scaling our G2M efforts. We did all the right things. We invested more into marketing and reduced the size of the sales team and as a result gained some customer acquisition cost (CAC) efficiencies. Marketings goals were to get more customers speaking with sales reps. Once the deal was done, the customer then got access to our product.

We thought we had it all figured out, but a new problem emerged. There was a growing gap between what customers thought our product could do for them and what it actually did. As a result we now struggled with keeping our top-line ARR as our customer churn rates were too high. We were stuck in the SaaS grind of acquiring customers knowing that we couldn’t serve them well. We beefed up our customer success organization, trying to patch the revenue leak and ended up increasing our operational costs to deliver our product.

Many SaaS companies find themselves in this same situation and I want to share there is hope.

To get out of the SaaS grind, you must address the customer expectation gap by getting customers into your product earlier in the buying cycle. This is achieved by offering either a free trial version of your product, or providing access to your product during a POC period.

To make this transition both effective and efficient from a cost perspective, you need to update your marketing and sales operations to account for leads who are in a trial period by:

  1. Mapping buyer journey to sales process

With your current process, you track a lead’s lifecycle in your marketing automation and CRM systems. Using this setup, you set the following lead statuses along the way; Lead, MQL, SQL, Opportunity, Customer. You now need to incorporate a new state; where the lead is in a trial state within your product, either having started a free trial, or have been provided access to a POC.

The first step is to decide collectively between your marketing, product and sales team how to categorize a user who has signed up for a trial. Should they be considered a lead? When should sales engage? When do they qualify as an opportunity?

Given you are aligning the activities across multiple departments, it’s recommended you start by documenting your buyers journey and how it aligns with your sales process. For each stage in the process, who is responsible for what activities. With this shared understanding you can now paint the process together on how to incorporate trial users into this process.

Find below a simplified example where each stage in the buyer journey is mapped and how the trial users can be incorporated. The goal is to align your teams and provide visibility into conversion rates at each stage to know where to optimize the process.

Example: Buyer Journey mapped to Sales Process

2. Measuring Product Qualified Leads™

Not all trial user are ideal candidates to become customers and as a result you don’t want your sales teams to engage deeply with every user who signs up for a trial account. Just as you had implemented the concept of Marketing Qualified Leads based on the person’s demographics, firmographics and marketing content consumption, you now can create the equivalent based on the features they use in your product.

Your product’s role just got much more important to the sales process.

You now want to define the set of features your customers can use to realize value, also known as the “first mile of product”. When your trial user adopts specific features, you can then categorize them as a Product Qualified Lead™. When trial user reaches the defined threshold of product feature activity, you can then notify your sales team to engage.

3. Creating the Product & Sales Handoff

This step is where your planning meets your execution. Now that your teams are aligned on the process and you’re able to use your product to identify qualified leads, you need to make it easy for your sales teams to know when a trial user is ready to buy.

In your CRM, you need to have the information you sales teams need to properly engage with the lead. In addition to the demographic and firmographic information on the trial users, you will want to provide your sales team with what features they used in your product. Triggered alerts can be sent to lead owners when trial users become product qualified and specific views can be created to help prioritize their engagements.

Armed with this information, your sales team now have a more complete picture of what challenges the prospect is looking to address with your product and can offer the best package to fit their needs. You have also allowed your customer to realize the value of your product first-hand and set value expectations to make them a happy life-long customer.

In this article, we cover the marketing and sales operations changes to incorporate a free-trial or POC within your enterprise sales process. For a complete guide to using your product to accelerate growth, download a free copy of our book Mastering Product Experience.

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5 Growth KPIs Every Product Marketing Manager Should Know

Author: David Daniels, BrainKraft @

How do you measure the impact product marketing has on your business? It’s a common question I get. Most of those questions are in response to pressure by bosses wanting attribution metrics. That is, data to prove that a given marketing effort has an impact on the business in a positive way.

Measuring a direct correlation is possible but it’s far easier to measure in the aggregate. That way you’re reporting on trends rather than incidents. You want to use KPIs that correlate to the business goals for the products you’re supporting. In other words, don’t measure things that don’t matter.

There are 5 basic KPIs I recommend you monitor. Each one brings something to the table to help you figure out what’s working and what’s not. This is a good starter list of KPIs, but it isn’t a complete list by a long shot. The list is limited in scope to what product marketing should focus on.

Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)

Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) is a high-level KPI. It’s a trending indicator, like your weight, cholesterol, or blood pressure. In this case though, a higher LTV is better. It means that each customer, on average, is spending more money with you. It means your business is getting healthier.

A declining LTV could be the result of competitive pressure or there could be excessive discounting. If all competitors are experiencing declining LTV it could be an indicator of a declining product category.


LTV = Sum (amount each customer spends until they leave) / # of customers that have left



LTV = ($250,000 + $375,000 + $225,000) / 3 = $850,000 / 3 = $283,333

What I like about LTV is it can be easily calculated from past data. Ask your Finance team to pull the data for you from the last few years and see where it’s trending.

Close Rate

The close rate tells you how many qualified leads actually close and become customers. A higher close rate is better. It means there is a higher efficiency in acquiring customers and it’s being done at a lower cost.

Lower close rates could be an indicator of a poor product-market fit or a sales enablement gap.

You need to decide where you begin the measurement of a close rate. Some organizations use a marketing qualified lead (MQL) as the starting point and some use a sales qualified lead (SQL) as a starting point.


To calculate the close rate using SQLs, your formula looks like this…


Close Rate = # deals closed / # SQLs




Close Rate = 320 deals closed / 1,000 SQLs = 32%


Average Cost per Lead (CPL)

The cost per lead is an indicator of lead gen performance. A lower cost per lead is good. A higher cost per lead is not as good. The goal is to generate the best leads at the lowest cost while increasing close rates.

You can calculate CPL based on MQL or SQL. The game for your sales team doesn’t start until there’s an MQL, so that’s the minimum threshold. Take the total cost of marketing programs to get MQLs and divided it by the number of MQLs acquired.


CPL = Money spent to acquire MQLs / # MQLs acquired




CPL = $500,000 / 850 = $588


Average Contract Value (ACV)

The average contract value is the average amount of money per transaction. Think of shopping at a grocery store. There are hundreds of people who go to the grocery store each day. If you take all the sales generated for the day and divided it by the number transactions, you get the average contract value.


ACV = Sum (value of deals closed) / # of deals




ACV = ($150,000 + $200,000 + $175,000) / 3 = $175,000


Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Customer acquisition cost is like CPL only bigger. It adds the cost associated with going from awareness all the way to a close. A higher CAC is generally thought of as bad but that’s not  always true. The CAC can rise as long as the corresponding ACV goes up too.


CAC = Sum (all marketing and sales costs) / # customers acquired


All marketing and sales cost includes salaries, promotional costs, commissions, and any other costs associated with acquiring a customer. If you calculate your CAC on a monthly basis, you can monitor trends. It’s not an exact science because there’s an assumption that near term  marketing efforts turn into near term customers. It’s not perfect but it definitely trends over time.




CAC = Sum ($50,000 marketing cost + $25,000 sales cost) / 5 customers = $15,000


It’s bad when the CAC is greater than the ACV, like the parody of SliceLine on the TV show Silicon Valley. You can’t make money if the cost to deliver pizzas is $10 and cost to buy them is $9.

In the example, we’ve calculated a CAC of $15,000. If the ACV is below $15,000 then you have a business decision to make. It might be a strategic play to accept deals that are under water to optimize for profit later. It might be a bad business model. Or, there could be leaks that need to be plugged.


Putting it All Together

Think of this list of KPIs as basic diagnostics, like when you visit a doctor. The doctor gets measurements from you to evaluate the status of your health. You know from experience the initial collection of data can result in more diagnostic tests to pinpoint an illness.

The reason I’m using this analogy is that I just returned from the doctor’s office. I have a small scratch on my cornea which was diagnosed after a secondary set of diagnostic tests. It occurred to me this is a perfect metaphor for product marketing KPIs.

Using multiple KPIs is important. It allows you to compare how KPIs correlate to each another. One KPI can be great while another KPI is bad.



Assume that you have a Cost per Lead of $300. Your finance team has decided the cost per lead is too high and you need to bring the cost down. Over 6 months your team has dropped the CPL down to $50. High fives are in order because it’s the lowest CPL you’ve ever documented. The CFO is thrilled. But he’s noticed something else.

You now have a Close Rate of 10%, which by any measure is abysmal. It used to be better. In January the close rate was 30% and trending higher. What went wrong?
You can’t diagnose the problem yet, but you have data to analyze. You graph the CPL against the Close Rate from the past 6 months.

Uh-oh. You see where the problem started and can figure out the right treatment to help the sick patient.

We can’t be absolutely certain there is causation to the correlation, but it sure does stink. It requires more investigation but now you have data, not a guess.

If you were tracking CPL against the close rate on a monthly basis, you would have spotted the trend sooner.


There is an endless supply of relevant KPIs. Don’t get lost in analysis paralysis. Pick a handful of KPIs that are meaningful to your business model and to the goals of your organization.


Planning a Launch: Communicate Globally, Execute Locally

By Rich Nutinsky, master instructor at Pragmatic Marketing

Planning and executing any product launch is daunting, but planning and executing a global product launch increases the size and scope by an order of magnitude. Not only are there differences in geography and language to consider, there is also the local calendar. And that’s just the beginning.
First, you have to identify the problem you want to solve. Does it exist for people in other geographic locations? Will your product universally solve that problem?
You will need to conduct market research to answer those questions. But remember, conducting research on your home turf won’t allow you to extrapolate information that is relevant to other geographies; the problem you’ve identified may not be an issue there.

 While there are plenty of variables, global launches generally fall into two main categories: phased and big bang. Big-bang launches, which indicate a simultaneous launch in all markets, are the rarest and most problematic. From a project-planning perspective, the more complex and larger an effort, the higher the probability of failure.
 It is virtually impossible to take a one-size-fits-all approach; most launch activities simply don’t lend themselves to a big centralized push across markets. Ideally, planning should be done locally and integrated into a comprehensive plan. If you plan for a launch in North America and expect to duplicate it in another region, you won’t be successful. It’s important to plan a variety of phased local launches that take into account the unique needs of each region. Here’s a sampling of what to consider in this phased approach.
Regional Considerations
Global launches are often staggered by geography, and the tasks that must be accomplished for each region will drive their launch dates. For example, are there language translations and content modifications to consider? What about legal registrations, trademarks and branding?
When I managed the global launch of a new line of products, something as simple as considering a region’s holidays and buying cycles created immense complexity around timing the launch. Planning and execution of messaging was also a challenge.
Naming the product was another challenge because for every jurisdiction we wanted to enter, we had to make sure that we could use the same product name. If someone had already registered that name or a domain, we’d be back at square one.
These challenges were unbelievably detailed and required assembling a team with global representation, including marketing resources from the different geographies.

“Depending on the geography, product categories may be in different stages of their life cycles.”


Product Life Cycles
 All products and product categories go through a life cycle: new, growth, mature, decline. Where your product and product category are in their life cycles will affect how you go to market. If your product is in a new, innovative category, your approach to launch will be much different than if you are in a mature product category where a lot of people already have the product.
This is important because depending on the geography, product categories may be in different stages of their life cycles. Therefore, you will want to localize the approach, message and timing of your launch to coincide with the specifics of a particular geographic market. You might include some activities in Asia, for example, that you wouldn’t include in North America.
The Buyer
As you look at global markets, you will find that customers use different decision levers depending where they are. They will buy differently in the Middle East than in North America, and Latin America will be different from Asia.
For example, in some regions companies guard the identity of their actual decision-makers from vendors to gain an advantage during the buying process. In other regions, discounts are a routine incentive. Because the differences can be profound, it’s important to understand whether a strong relationship is required to buy, or whether the decision is a straightforward economic one based on ROI.
Many businesses also discover that buying in a government environment is much different from buying in a commercial market. Not only are the processes defined differently, but the roles and players may change as well. Navigating all the red tape can become as challenging as delivering a compelling value proposition.
Distribution Channels
With all these variables, it often makes sense to employ different distribution channels in different markets. For example, launching a product in Japan through a Japanese channel partner will involve a very different set of steps and activities than if you work with your direct sales force. And if you want to do a regional launch in Europe, multilingual and multi-currency availability are key. But in the U.S. it doesn’t mean a thing. When you go to market, the messages you want to deliver, the value propositions you want to create, must be localized by geography.
Major launches by companies like Apple may appear to be global. But if you look carefully, they usually kick off with a global marketing launch well in advance of the product’s availability. In terms of when customers can get their hands on the new product and how it is delivered, the timing is usually staggered because of the approvals that are required across a variety of jurisdictions.
At a software company based in northern Europe, we twice tried unsuccessfully to expand into North America before determining that we needed to have local resources in North America to be successful. Once we got established in North America, we focused on expanding into the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, we looked at Central America. Through that focus we were successful.
The bottom line?  It makes sense for most businesses to expand their footprint into markets one at a time. You need to consider the risk, complexity and localization involved in your launch. And even when you communicate globally, it generally makes a lot more sense to execute locally.

Product Innovation is Not About Taking Risks; It’s About Reducing them

Author: Cate Zovod from Cognizant Accelerator

And Product Marketers are Key to Risk Reduction

There’s a scene in Steven Spielberg’s epic historical drama “Lincoln” in which abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens is chastising the President for making perceived compromises on the morally unambiguous issue of racial equality. Lincoln explains the means to the end – ensuring the passage of the 13th amendment:

“A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it’ll point you true north from where you’re standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps, deserts and chasms that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp… what’s the use of knowing true north?”

There are known and proven disciplines for building products. A good product manager knows the latitude and longitude of the destination, how many covered wagons they are going to need and how long it will take to get there. But as their product marketing partner, you can map the route that is going to avoid the swamps and deserts – known and unknown. Whether you are in a bootstrapping startup or (in my case) one of the world’s largest technology services companies, you will encounter Terrain, and no matter how good your cell coverage, you will find yourself in places that are not showing up on your GPS.

I am a product marketing startup advisor in a product accelerator in a leading professional services company. I have the privilege of working with deep domain experts who, with a service-delivery mindset, tend to be more customer-centric than their counterparts in traditional software companies. However, repeatable product development and delivery is new territory, and I have learned that where I can provide immediate value is to reduce the risk – or perception of risk – from what we build. How? Through thorough research (quantitative and qualitative), real, meaningful customer conversations and strategic, intentional engagement with the internal and external business partners who are critical to your product’s success.

Risk: Poor decisions are made based on erroneous assumptions

Validate Every Assumption

Think like a VC. What would you personally need to know about this product to invest in it? After all, you will be investing all of your workday time and effort into making it successful.

Establish the urgency of the specific market problem that the product addresses by talking to customers and industry experts. Oftentimes in doing so, you will uncover other, more urgent problems that can feedback directly into product direction and scoping. Scoping not only means pinpointing what particular part of the problem the

product is addressing, but also asking honestly whether your business has the will, expertise and strategic alignment to build it, and just as importantly, to sell it repeatedly. Comb the business and product plans for assumptions, and design your interview scripts to validate – and poke at – anything that is being represented as fact.

Be clear about the intent of the customer conversation going in. What phase of product research and validation are you in? Is this a preliminary meeting to validate that there is pain in this area, are you looking for feedback on feature prioritization, or are you road testing key messages for launch? How would your customers perceive and measure the value you are promising to deliver, and would they pay for it?

Most importantly, are you hearing consistent themes? One customer interview does not comprise product validation. Several interviews with customers all representing different roles or saying different things also doesn’t reduce risk. What counts is finding the same profile of customer saying the same thing, multiple times. Only then can you check the box on that particular assumption.

Assumption Risk Reduction Checklist

· Customer interview questions for assumption validation

o New Product Idea

o Proposed Solution Approach and Roadmap

o Pricing and Packaging, Market Acceptance Criteria

o Messaging

· Database or spreadsheet to capture and analyze feedback in aggregate for team review and pattern recognition

Risk: Just because you build it doesn’t meant they’re gonna sell it

Boost your Signal to your Most Important Channels

An important area of derisking that product marketing can get ahead of is field acceptance of your product. In large, multi-product companies, your field sales organization is bombarded with messages and “to-do’s.” Give them a reason to believe. First and foremost, build a great product that gives them something new, compelling, and problem-solving to talk about.

Assuming all of your company’s products are well-conceived and designed, you need to go a step further to rise above the noise.

Do everything it takes to make the people who own the relationships with your potential customers comfortable selling new products. Engage key field personnel early in your product’s journey so they feel a sense of ownership. Caucus with them prior to customer validations. Bring them with you.

This becomes especially important if you are in the unfortunate but not uncommon position of having to rebuild credibility after a failed initiative or underperforming product performance.

When planning early budget towards a launch, ask for funding to be set aside to spiff your channels. Short of executive mandate to sell, you need to prime the pump, especially if your product is perceived as “harder” to sell because it addresses a new market or leverages new and not well-understood technologies.

Channel Engagement Risk Reduction Checklist

· New Product Introduction Plan

o Field engagement in customer research (invitations and results-sharing)

o Incentive structure including spiffs

o Sales and channel training, enablement and certification

o Proper sku set-up and representation in CRM

Risk: Investment does not translate into immediate outcome

Meter your Asks and Tie them to Successes

The metered ask is a common paradigm in venture capital. The startup receives more funding as key milestones are reached. Both investor and company alike are reducing risk because they are investing in traction.

Your requests for product marketing support, whether pipe generation campaign dollars, PR launches, access to customer communications channels, staffing – can follow this model too. Be thoughtful about when to ask for support from other Centers of Excellence (PR, Events, Sales Enablement), and build in some kind of quid pro quo when you are incorporating their activities into your launch plans. In exchange for their resources, you can provide a list of customer betas; your product briefing can secure supportive analyst quotes around the company’s strategy; perhaps you can make introductions to clients for case study development. Build incremental success metrics into your plans: number of pilots or free trials secured; conversion rates from beta to full contract; customer advocates identified; sales reps certified, etc.

Go-to-Market Risk Reduction Checklist

· Launch Plan and Budget

o Metered Success Metrics (if…then…)

o Marketing resource quid pro quo (give to get)

o Naming and Branding – trademark checks

There are market and operational risks you can prepare for, but can’t control, such as new competitive entrants and macro economic changes. But there are many risks you can minimize. By making a concerted effort to do so, you are also derisking your own job performance. You will be a more effective Product Marketer when you are confidently targeting the right people with the right message. You will be a more trusted partner to sales and marketing when you are quantifying gains in their areas. Most importantly, you can play a central role in ensuring your company’s success with a strategic, high profile initiative such as a new product launch.