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Organizing new product launches and telling customers about new features can be a daunting task. It can be difficult to know exactly how to market your products and features to your audience, and you might have trouble coming up with just the right language to attract the attention of your target audience.
Today, we’re chatting with CoSchedule’s product marketing lead, Kathryn Nyhus. Kathryn helps organize product launches and comes up with the specific messaging necessary to speak to our varied customers. She’s a super-smart marketing nerd, which helps her fit right in with the CoSchedule team!
Some of the topics we’ll cover today include:
Quotes by Kathryn:
Nathan: Let’s just say you’ve been asked to market a brand new product, or if you’re a software company a brand new feature, where do you even start? Hey, I’m Nathan from CoSchedule and I’m going to be honest with you, that question was really hard for us to answer for a really long time. That’s why we brought Kathryn Nyhus on our marketing team at CoSchedule as our product marketing lead.
Kathryn is the one who helps us organize new product launches. She helps us target new features at the wrong audiences with super specific messaging. She’s basically a super smart marketing nerd which is why she fits in perfectly here at CoSchedule. Today, I’ve asked Kathryn to share how she plans the new launches for new features at CoSchedule. She’s on the Actionable Content Marketing podcast to give you a behind the scenes look into the process, some of the tactics that she uses, and how she keeps us all organized in the midst of sheer chaos. Let’s hear what Kathryn has to say.
Hey Kathryn, thanks a lot for meeting with me today. I think content marketers for software as a service companies and even those launching new products definitely need to know about the discipline of product marketing. I think that the functions, product and content marketing together, definitely complement one another to help users scoop down the funnel. Anyway, I’m really excited to pick your brain today to learn a little bit more about marketing new SAAS features.
Kathryn: Yeah, sounds good.
Nathan: Awesome. Just for anyone who may not know, could you just tell us a little bit about CoSchedule?
Kathryn: Sure. CoSchedule is a marketing project management tool specifically for blog management, social media managers, marketing projects, and content management. Basically, it’s a really awesome editorial calendar that helps you to organize anything that you need to do from planning, publishing, executing, and sharing with the world.
Nathan: That makes total sense. Alright, tell me a little bit about what you do as the product marketing lead at CoSchedule.
Kathryn: I am the person that helps to convey the value of CoSchedule as a product. Whether that’s teaching them through feature launches and showing the benefits of a new tool that CoSchedule is creating or educating them on how to use it better. That could be through demos, webinars, email campaigns that just teach users how to use a new feature or even case studies and customer testimonials.
Nathan: That seems like a lot. Before we get too far along, I want to know how do you define product marketing?
Kathryn: Product marketing is about conveying the message or the benefits of a feature to its users. A lot of times, I think of it as content marketing is the piece that builds the trust and attracts people to a tool and product marketing is the one that really starts to develop the relationship and shows you the reason why you should adopt this new tool or feature that you’ve been slowly becoming friends with. We’re the next step in the relationship.
Nathan: I like that idea of possibly content marketing at the more of the top of the funnel obviously connects into all areas. Product marketing has that specific focus.
Nathan: Makes total sense.
Kathryn: Conversions are what we’re all about.
Nathan: Right. That’s really great clarification. I think this is a newer facet of marketing that’s not often talked about. Your description there definitely shows how the two can be combined, content marketing and product marketing, to really help a business grow.
What sorts of projects have you worked on before taking on this product marketing lead role at CoSchedule?
Kathryn: Before coming on with CoSchedule, I actually worked for a web development company. We weren’t product focused, we were customer focused. I did a lot of conferences, specifically The Next Web. We did a lot of sponsorships and I was the one who would go to these different events and talk to our future customers, current customers, whoever it was, and really get to know the people behind what we were selling. I think that’s helped a lot on the product marketing side because really the only way to sell a tool is to know how your users communicate the tool itself. It’s very important to be continually in communication with your customer and that helps a lot in the last position that I worked in.
Nathan: That makes sense. It sounds like you have a lot of experience with marketing, different kinds of marketing, customer focus, and especially software. How does all that experience help you in the product marketing work that you do right now with CoSchedule?
Kathryn: It’s crucial that I’m constantly in contact with customers like I was saying. 90% of product marketing is speaking in their language. By having that experience, it’s an art to talk to people and to be able to get the right stories out of your customers and to really get them to naturally explain how they use the product or what they think about your product. That practice really helped me when I started doing user interviews at CoSchedule and just getting on the phone with our customers to find out how and why and what they do with CoSchedule.
Nathan: Wow, that’s a lot. I can say I’m definitely glad to have you on the team here.
Kathryn: You were doing all this, so that’s yours.
Nathan: I was pretty busy for a while there. To take this a step further, could you tell me what you mean about marketing a new feature? I think that’s the main focus of what I want to dive into after this. Tell me about what you mean by marketing a new feature.
Kathryn: Whenever we get a new feature out of CoSchedule, my job is to build a story behind it. The feature itself does great but unless there’s a story that directly relates to our customers, they’re not going to adopt it. It’s just not going to be as easy for them to adopt it.
Marketing a new feature is about creating that story or that message behind a feature that we’ve been launching so that people can understand how great it is and how it can help them.
Nathan: That is a great clarification. Just for anyone who may not know what we’re talking about with the feature, how would you define a feature for a software as a service company?
Kathryn: It’s not a stand alone tool, it’s not something that you can just go to. Maybe headline analyzer is an example of a stand alone tool that we have, but then we created it into a feature that’s directly integrated into the app itself. While you can use headline analyzer completely on the web by itself, you can also go into the CoSchedule calendar and use it there as well. That’s considered a feature for us in CoSchedule.
Nathan: I think one way that I used to think about that is if someone outside of software were to take on marketing a new product, it’s almost like that for a software company we just treated and the terms of features.
Nathan: Excellent. I really like that description. Now, what did marketing a new feature look like before you joined the team at CoSchedule?
Kathryn: Well, we like to call ourselves scrappy and I would say that the process was very scrappy. It was kind of flying by the seat of your pants. When I came on, we did have a feature that we were basically launching the week that I started. That was kind of the only heads up that anybody had gotten, that this feature was going to be launched in three days. It was kind of a process of product team tells you hey, this is happening, and then marketing stops all that they’re doing and launches that product. It’s a bit crazy.
Nathan: Chaotic is a good word for that.
Kathryn: Yes. It worked. Obviously, it was doing the job. We’ve gotten a little bit more organized since there’s more people on the team to really hone in on this process too.
Nathan: I love that. I can tell you from experience that chaotic is kind of a good word to describe what it was. Thinking about where we were at before you joined the team at CoSchedule, how have you improved this process of marketing a new feature?
Kathryn: We have a process now. We’ve kind of built in sort of a checklist system, broken out the product launch into specific pieces, and now the product team is the one who creates the actual launch date. The timeline for promoting a feature is not dictated by the product team, they tell us when it’s ready but then we decide the actual day that we’re going to present it to the world. That helps a lot, we kind of have a two-week sprint where once we’re told that the product is ready and it’s on staging we can then have two weeks to really create all the assets that we need to promote it to the best of our ability.
Nathan: Makes sense. I want to dive a little bit deeper into that. One facet of your process that you’ve developed was that you need a little bit more time to develop a type of go to market strategy for a new feature. How would you come up with that go to market strategy?
Kathryn: A lot of it was trial and error. Here at CoSchedule, we’re really big on failing quickly and just giving it a shot, doing the best with what you’ve got at that moment and then retrying and iterating on that process. A lot of it was kind of just the team coming together and going okay, what do we want to do to market this? It also was looking at people that we really respect. Intercom does a really great job of marketing their features, so does HelpScout and Buffer. Just kind of seeing how they did it and then finding pieces of it that we liked and copying it. Just really trying to find people that do it well and then also just continually testing out the process.
Nathan: Learning from other people’s experience is great, always.
One question I have for you that builds off of that somewhat is the idea of speaking points for a feature. Could you explain to me what that concept is?
Kathryn: Anytime we have a new feature, we got through a process of building out the main talking points. These are the key things that we want to convey to our customers. This is actually a process that I got from you but it’s the but why where you state this feature does this and then you put yourself in the customer’s shoes of asking, “But why do I care?” You keep just asking the question, “But why?” You answer it until you get to a point where you really find the root, the true benefit of why anyone would care about that feature.
The reality is, example the headline analyzer, people aren’t just wanting it because it’s easy to write a title in there versus on the web. They want it because it gives them insight into how their headline is actually going to allow people to click through to their headline. Finding that real benefit to a feature is how the process we go through for talking points.
Nathan: That’s awesome. I absolutely love the but why approach. I can tell you that I got that from Garrett actually, he gets the credit on that one.
When you started here, what was one of the biggest challenges that you had with marketing a new feature and how did you resolve that sort of challenge?
Kathryn: I think it was the messaging, it was the talking points. That was something that was a challenge to me and it was going through until I found out about that but why process, it was kind of a guessing game in my mind of me assuming I knew what the customer wanted. That’s not a safe place to play in.
Just getting the right message across was a challenge. Working through an exercise that sometimes takes a little bit longer and you just kind of want to get into it and you want to get those features marketed, it’s okay to go start slow and really plan out what you’re going to say. Once you have that foundation, then it’s smooth sailing and you can go really quickly through every other step. The talking points are very important.
Nathan: We love the talking points even on the content marketing team here to help us complement what you’re doing on the product marketing team with more of an inbound approach. There has been a massive amount of improvement so congrats.
I also want to know what sort of tactics, methods, or techniques do you use to market a new feature?
Kathryn: I was saying that I break it up into key areas. Some of the things that we use, a lot of this is there’s three departments in our marketing world. We all combine our forces together for product feature launches. We always do a blog, Nathan’s team always does on, and then we do a product feature focus blog so it’s really just telling you what the feature does itself. Video has been very important to launching a feature.
We use GIFs, we found that educational GIFs are really good for putting in emails because you don’t have to click on a video but you get a really quick understanding of what this feature does while you’re reading the email. Email campaigns are really crucial to this. We found that not only sending out that initial message day one of the launch but also having a drip campaign for a couple days, weeks, and months after the launch has happened have been really helpful.
Nathan: That is all really great. I want to take a step back and just pry into something that you mentioned. For someone who may not know that much about CoSchedule or how we’re structured, could you explain a little bit about our marketing team?
Kathryn: There’s three big teams in the marketing team. We have content marketing, we have product marketing, and then we have our success team.
Content marketing, the way that I try to visualize it in my mind, is the one that makes you our friend. They are the one that have built you trust, they’re the one that is constantly giving you great advice, feedback, ideas for how you can improve as a marketer in general.
Product marketing then tells you, “Hey, you’ve learned all this stuff but now use our tool because with the tool and that knowledge, you’re going to be unstoppable.”
Customer success is the guys that come alongside you as your coach and they’re the ones that really help you to hone in on the tool and guide you while you’re actually using it and continually educate you on the process.
Nathan: I think that is a perfect description of it. We try to align teams at all those areas of the funnel. I think that complements what we wanted to talk about here today, marketing a new feature and how product marketing really comes into connect the dots. Excellent.
I know CoSchedule has a lot of different kinds of users and audiences and you use many different tactics to reach those people How do you deliver that right message for all of those different audiences?
Kathryn: Segmenting. That’s something that we’re still working on but really honing in on figuring out what the right group of people is for each email. A lot of times, I have an email and I have kind of a set email drip that I’m going to send out. The message is catered towards each of these segments. Not everybody is getting the same story because you might not be a customer, maybe you’re in a trial or maybe you just read the blog and you haven’t really heard about CoSchedule, you have to change the copy in your emails to cater to those specific lists. A blast doesn’t help. It doesn’t work and it tends to mostly make people frustrated and annoyed.
The best way for us to do that is to segment our emails as much as we can. They can get super detailed, it’s starting to get more and more in that realm. We found that smaller lists convert better because you’re really focusing in on their specific needs.
Nathan: Segmenting is great advice. I know that we’ve got different users and different plans that might need that messaging changed. The people in our email lists may also be users so we want to make sure to change that messaging for certain different people. Something I think happens a lot with marketing is that as marketers, we start promoting something when it’s new. We move onto the next big thing without looking back.
Kathryn: Shiny object.
Nathan: That’s exactly right. You eluded to that just a little bit ago. I was wondering if you could dive just a little bit deeper on how do you continue to spread the word after the initial excitement of something like a feature launch fades?
Kathryn: Again, back at the top, we’re talking about the process and how we continually tested and reworked it. This is something that we’ve found that the initial feature launch actually doesn’t get as much traction as the second response rate that we send out. We’re learning that it’s better to, yes you send out your first announcement and then a week later do it again. Three weeks later, do it again.
We’re realizing that a feature promotion launch isn’t just a two week timeline, it needs to go out sometimes even months later because it takes seven times for anything to really stick for anybody. You have to hear it over and over again and then suddenly you’re like hey, that might be a great idea, maybe we should go check out that feature.
Telling somebody one time and then assuming that they’re going to latch onto it is silly. That’s something that we’re continually working on and we’ve started adding more steps to the feature launch process that keeps us reminding ourselves that even after a month, hey maybe we should send out another reminder of this feature.
Nathan: That connects into one of the core values of a lot of content marketers with consistency. Consistency builds trust, builds traffic, builds email subscribers. Constantly being there and being a source for that sort of solution makes sense. Reminders like that have really helped us stay in front of people and make sure that they constantly know who we are and the sorts of features that we offer, especially someone missed your original message the first time around.
I want to know how do you improve after each feature launch, what sorts of things do you look into for your process to get better at it?
Kathryn: A lot of times it’s rethrowing with the team afterwards. Our team is really smart and we have a lot of great people that give us good feedback on things that they’ve noticed. A lot of times, I don’t notice all the things that everyone else does. Every time we do a feature launch, we retro and we just go and talk about what was the best things that happened in this or the worst things, what are things that we can improve on, what things should we stop doing, and what things can we change?
Really having that built into a feature launch has helped us to constantly find and improve on the steps that we’re taking.
Nathan: That’s really exciting. I just saw something online that said process shouldn’t be a dirty word. I think that you’re showing that process just helps you consistently get better at it to begin with. The idea of retro-ing to always continuously improve is a terrific idea.
Kathryn: I think maybe process to some people would sound dirty is because they’re not working to improve upon it. They’re using the word as this is the process so we can’t change it. That’s not how it should be, process is a living and breathing piece of your job. If it’s not working the right way, you need to pivot and figure out a different way to do it. I could see why people might see it that way, they shouldn’t.
Nathan: I’m with you. I think that the idea of pivoting like you said helps you turn something that might’ve been a mistake into an improvement. This is a great way to grow not just as a person or an individual with the processes that you are using for yourself but also for the business too when you have a process or a workflow that you’re working through to create something like a feature launch as a team.
Kathryn, I want to wrap up with the last question for you. What is the best piece of advice that you would have for marketers who are helping launch a new feature or even a new product?
Kathryn: The biggest thing that I would say is to constantly be in contact with your customers. Get on the phone, do user interviews, record what they’re saying, and use that language to sell your products. Your customer is your best source, they’re the reason why you have a job. Using the way that they describe your product in the feature launches, in the copy that you are using to sell, is just speaking to the people that you want to continually buy your product.
I know that sometimes it can seem like a tedious process to get on the phone and talk to customers but it’s so worth it. It’s really worth it to just build those relationships and hear how people talk about your product.
Nathan: I think my biggest lesson learned here is figuring out the words that people use and using them to connect with people who are like your existing audience.
Thanks so much, it’s been really fun to pick your brain about product marketing and to go behind the scenes of how you launch new features at CoSchedule.
Kathryn: Thanks for having me.
November 1, 2016
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