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Lessons That Product Marketers Can Learn From Successful Web & Mobile Apps

Raechel Lambert, former Product Marketing Manager at Intercom, is of the view that

The best products are built with the market in mind – and product marketing brings that dimension long before anything gets put on a shelf.

As a marketer, I agree with her completely. 

Building a product isn’t a big challenge. A look at the Product Hunt page is enough for us to understand the frequency at which SaaS products and mobile apps are being shipped out every week – each with a unique audience.

But the question is, how many of these products end up sustaining long-term growth?

Not many, you’ll say.

The fact of the matter is that we have come a long way from the “Announce it and they will come” era.

The biggest challenge for any marketer today is the ability to retain a user within the funnel.

And retention today depends largely on good marketing.

Marketing amplifies everything that a product team builds. Factors such as churn, repeat purchase behavior and Net Promoter Score impact retention and can all be controlled when we pair a great marketing strategy with the product.

We studied the strategies used by a few exceptional products in order to understand what made them successful. These examples from the SaaS and mobile world are filled with lessons on product marketing done right.

Let’s get started.

Product Marketing Tips From Start to Launch

#1 Simplify the Product’s Core Message

When you are the Product Marketer, you are the owner of the product’s messaging. Developing the right product messaging is an art, and a tactical one at that. It isn’t about displaying your product’s functionality, but is something that needs to be customized for your user’s needs, and should sing to them on a personal level.

For many brands, developing the product messaging can be a challenge, and for some, it has also resulted in customer backlash. Drip is an example of product messaging gone wrong. It’s a great product that decided to revamp its branding. The revamp is cool, sassy and bold. However, it is also wrong on so many levels.

Drip revamped website

The major flaws with Drip’s brand revamp are its messaging and manifesto – which don’t resonate with its long-time users. In fact, it confused them.  

Like this…

And this…

In a competitive landscape, that’s a big mistake to make.

Open Phone is another example of complicated product messaging. This messaging is a guessing game;  it can mean so many different things. Other elements that deaden the effectiveness of the product messaging the use of jargon and overly ambitious language to describe their product.

open phone messaging

A few established brands, like Evernote and Mailchimp, got it right from the very start.

Statista reports that Evernote had over 200 million users worldwide as of July 2016, clearly demonstrating its popularity. The product has a huge user base that embraces its ease of use across many different formats – from making lists to taking notes.

For product marketers, devising product messaging for even a simple product can pose a real challenge. The more aspects of the product that you highlight, the more ways it can get complicated and go wrong. But that isn’t the case with Evernote.

Evernote messaging

Evernote kept its messaging straightforward. Instead of highlighting hundreds of features or its pricing plans, it focused solely on highlighting what it users want to hear, and that’s ‘how it acts as their second brain’ and how it can simplify it’s users’ day to day challenges.

MailChimp follows a similar product messaging strategy. The product is best known for its ease of use and freemium model, yet its product messaging has focused on “sending better emails” and how it is suitable for most businesses.

Mailchimp messaging

#2 Build Strong Messaging Across Platforms

Product marketing messages have numerous variants; from ads to landing pages to push notifications, there’s a lot of opportunities to show users value as they move ahead and build a deeper relationship with their product.

A strong product messaging game at this stage ensures that the user stays motivated and moves further down the funnel, eventually ending up strengthening the relationship (signing up for updates, referring the product, etc.).

Nir Eyal, author, and Behavior Design expert explains this user behavior through his Hook Model, seen below:

Nir Eyal's Hook Model

If we study this model closely, it is clear that without a strong trigger the remaining actions either wouldn’t be possible or would be futile. Every external trigger, such as emails, push notifications, in-app messages and even website chat, thus becomes an important part of product messaging that needs attention.

Here’s how product managers can use strong messaging on various platforms.

  • Email

Email is one of the simplest ways of keeping a user hooked to your product, provided that the whole approach is strategic and aimed at benefiting the user rather than just spamming their inbox.

Good product-oriented emails do two things; they provide useful information to the user and they motivate the user to take a specific action. The traditional sales playbook is all about sending nurturing emails to the user. However, very few companies get it right. It isn’t surprising that most users end up ignoring the bulk of these emails when they hit their inbox.

So, what can product marketers do differently?

Cliched, but true – do things outside the box.

Today, product messaging is not about how many times you communicate with your users, it’s about what you communicate with them.

Buffer is a fine example of a company that’s perfected its product marketing emails. Whether it’s sending an email when the user’s Buffer queue is empty or reaching out to them with new product announcements, the company ensures that there are enough triggers for the user to take the next step forward smoothly.

Revue is another good example of product emails done right. The newsletter tool sends users timely emails which help them create their next newsletter more effectively, analytics to help them gauge their performance, and a ‘send day’ reminder to keep them on schedule.

Revue Newsletter

2) Push notifications

Push notifications, if done right, are a perfect way to help users take their desired action. In a time when app usage is growing, a well-defined messaging strategy isn’t just about sending basic push notifications anymore. They need to be personalized, should be able to support a brand’s overall promotion, cross-channel capabilities, user location and also offer value to the user.

Starbucks, for example, actively tracks a user’s location to offer value and elevate their interaction with the app. Here’s an example>

Starbucks Push Notification

Remember, you have one job when it comes to your mobile app: to increase its usage among users. Push notifications are a perfect messaging platform to achieve this.

3) In-app messages

When companies look at sharing product updates with their user base, the focus is usually skewed towards push notifications rather than in-app messages. However, studies have found that in-app messages drive 3.5x higher user retention. A study done by Localytics also found that apps that use push and in-app messaging have higher engagement and retention rates.

Product marketers use in-app messaging to provide information to their users and provide timely feature updates and other content, thereby increasing the overall value that users get from the app.  

4) Chat

Chat is emerging as one of the go-to tools for marketers to use to interact with their users. While most companies use it for real-time conversations, a few others, such as Drift, have been using it share the ‘right message at the right time.’

The difference is that they keep their approach simple and their messages in context.

A chat tab is your window to your users, and with clever product marketing woven into it, you can easily increase the number of leads and conversions.

#3  Perfect the Onboarding Flow

Onboarding is tough and requires dedication. Product marketers, however, often forget that it is a secret sauce for reducing churn.

That’s where good product onboarding messaging can make all the difference.

A perfect onboarding messaging strategy fulfills three critical goals – it welcomes the users, sets their expectations and prepares them for the journey ahead. Unfortunately, most marketers stop at the first step and end up going overboard with their welcome message.

In actuality, onboarding is as much about follow-up messages as it is about the welcome message. It is all about creating a user experience that is cherished rather than flawed.

The BabyCenter app is a great example of onboarding messaging done right since it is tailored around three major factors, namely:

  • Relevance– Is the messaging right for the user throughout the journey.
  • Experience– Does it offer a meaningful user experience?
  • Personalization– is the content personalized?

Kathy Chao, Babycenter’s Global Marketing Director, speaks about the pivotal role of onboarding in the app’s growth.

BabyCenter: Super-Charge Your Mobile App Onboarding & Retention – Kathy M. Chao, Director Global Marketing

Canva is another example of a company focused on perfecting the user onboarding messaging.

There are plenty of things that work well with Canva, however the one key takeaway that Product Marketers can learn from their onboarding is to do research and gather user insights that can be used to build a flow that resonates with the users.

Canva’s Growth Manager Xingyi Ho focused on getting users to reach their goals faster by prioritizing personalization.

His hypothesis was straightforward. He believed that:

A personalized in-app onboarding experience that branched users to various paths could help them get to where they want to go faster. Personalization can help users identify with a product quicker, and an in-app message would appeal to user motivation at its highest point.

This strategy helped Canva improve the activation rate for several of their product features by 10%.  

#4 Create a Customer Success Center

Remember the feeling when you still wanted your old shoes despite the fact that they were worn out and shabby looking?

Adapting to a new product can be difficult for anyone, whether it is a pair of shoes, a mobile app or a SaaS product.

Sure, you have been successful in upselling it, but a new user may still have adjustment issues such as understanding the product features and updates. Perfecting the product marketing messaging (discussed earlier) is one way to deal with user adjustment.

Successful marketers who understand this pain can go ahead and use this as a way to innovate new ways to build a better connect with their users.i., a SaaS company that offers mobile deep-linking solutions, has done this by launching a mobile growth community where they routinely share expert advice, host AMAs and dwell into Q&A with their users.

Branch Mobile Community

Buzzstream, on the other hand, has a dedicated section on their company blog that routinely updates users about new features, etc. These tactics may not appeal to conventional product marketers, but if included in an innovative strategy, can help strengthen the demand and overall success of the product.

#5 Focus on Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is your secret weapon to scale your product, and I can’t reiterate that fact enough. That’s not just my viewpoint, it’s a tactic used by many companies to understand their user’s expectation and to build products that shine.

Valid customer feedback can change the way users interact with a product. This, in turn, can lead to more referrals and an army of loyal users. There are numerous ways to seek product-related feedback, however, most companies tend to focus on NPS as a metric.

HootSuite, for example, used it to significantly improve their product-positioning, and Customer Insights Manager Sterling Anderson is pretty vocal about it.

“Listen to your customers. That customer feedback is gold. You need to be able to base decisions off of what your customers are saying and put that back in the product. It builds trust. It creates a relationship with your users that’s just going to last a lifetime. ”

There’s a Long Way to Go

Building a great product takes years of persistence and without a good product marketing strategy, it is sure to fail.

While the above lessons aren’t exhaustive or the only way to succeed,  they are reflective of the way a user’s expectation has changed over the years and what product-focused companies have been doing to maintain their momentum in a competitive landscape.

Is there a product marketing lesson that impressed you? Do share with us in the comments below.



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