For the majority of my professional career I have been a builder. Never carried how things were sold, just focused on building them. But once you decide “I am gonna build something of my own!” Well sure but who’s gonna sell them?
Couple of months ago I was influenced by Naval Ravikant’s famous tweetstorm, ‘How to Get Rich (without getting lucky)’. Now before you think this as some “Get rich in 10 days” kind of thing and dismiss, the title is supposed to be flashy! But a dozen of these tweets teach more wisdom than a four year graduation program. That’s not possible you say? Well, once you boil things down to their fundamentals and strip all the fancy terms, things start to make sense. And that is what Naval has done here:
Quoting one of the most striking tweet ”Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.” to that most of us engineers go:
“OK. I can build things. But, I can’t sell…But I can build the best React native app you have ever see. It’s gonna have this…and that…”
Hmm…why is that? It’s not rocket science. Surely we can figure it out step by step. Let us try an analogy – Pattern Recognition. We software engineers are all familiar with at least one aspect of it “Regular Expressions”:
import re # Hat tip to all the Pythonistas 😛
Pattern Recognition in Digital Marketing
Venturing into the exciting world of digital marketing I came across this Podcast called ‘Everyone Hates Marketers’ a couple of days ago. The honesty in the title made me check it out and listening to one of its episode inspired me to write down this post. The episode I am referring to is “4 Steps to Launch Your Next Digital Product (Without Sh*tty Growth Hacks)” with Tom Morkes (Relevant discussion timestamped at 20:00) :
Tom Morkes, discusses in detail with a use case, how he identifies the pain points or the needs of his target audience and based on those data points he directs his marketing campaigns.
Let us take an example and try to apply Pattern Recognition to it step by step and see what we can learn about our target audience. Imagine you have built a software development tool for Agile teams that can give Atlassian a run for its money. And now you want to market it to your target audience in such a way that they are convinced to give it a try. What is it that well make them turn their heads? What will cultivate a curiosity among them? How can we make your campaign compelling enough for somebody to take an effort to signup? Let us crack this problem together:
Case: Marketing Campaign for Agile Software Development tool
To understand what ticks our target audience and where to hit them we will first try to understand their pain points, their criterias for selections and their discomforts with the existing products. These learnings will serve as a foundation for our campaign. We can categorically address each of the concerns or problems faced by our audience in the marketing campaign and highlight how our software tries to alleviate them. We can even do A/B testing to see which of these learnings better conversion rates and boost or tweak it accordingly.
According to Tom, the best sources to truly understand your audience are sources like Amazon. Why you ask? For example people who have posted reviews on Amazon books or products have already taken that initial step of investing in a product and made an effort to critic it. Thus showing their willingness to be open to try something new. We might call them as our early adopters. These are the kind of audience that we want to target so that they might try our product out of curiosity and even go a step further to critic it or recommend it to their networks if they think it meets their expectations. Now in our case people who went on Amazon and bought books on ‘Agile methodology’ or ‘SCRUM’ are the people who most likely would consider trying our tool if we market it to them appropriately.
1. Proceed with an open mind: Before we dive into our mining, it is important to cast away any preconceived notions or biases and proceed with an open mind. An open mind will allow us to spot the patterns irrespective of our biases and not dismiss anything that might hold some kind of value.
2. Identifying our audience insight sources: Following are some of the resources where our target audience is highly engaged. We should limit our sources to a few highly engaged and specialised ones so as to avoid any kind of noise.
- Amazon Bestsellers: Just a quick overview of the Amazon top 10 bestsellers books on Agile and Scrum, their descriptions, customer reviews.
- Udemy Top rated course reviews: Top rated courses on Udemy or similar platform with courses on Agile and Scrum. A quick look on course descriptions, syllabus and reviews.
- Reddit subreddits: A quick skim of top rated posts on subreddits like r/agile or r/scrum.
- Competitors Reviews: A tour of reviews of the competitors in our space on Capterra, G2, Trustraidus and such.
3. Identify what stands-out: Next we try to identify what stands out from the hoards of information and note it down without making any judgments yet. So to list a few example:
I liked it more than I thought I would. I hate that Agile has been “kidnapped” by folks intent on making it elitist and complex. It’s not. Agile is for everyone. This book is a great reminder!Rally R. on “Agile for Everybody: Creating Fast, Flexible, and Customer-First Organizations” [source]
As somebody who has spent a decade in and around the world of Agile inside large enterprises and government organizations, I’ve been waiting for this book. Finally, somebody cuts through the hype and the jargon and speaks to why and how Agile principles and practices can improve the way that teams work together. Many business leaders recoil from implementing an Agile approach thinking that it’s limited to software engineering. This book goes a long way to rebutting that challenge. It does do while avoiding inflated promises of silver-bullet solutions and speaks to the real work that individuals and teams can do to put Agile to work for their own particular needs.Anni on “Agile for Everybody: Creating Fast, Flexible, and Customer-First Organizations” [source]
This book describes Scrum very well. The disappointment stems from the lack of guidance on how to implement it.Eddie on “Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide” [source]
One of the better books on Scrum that I’ve read. It actually takes the time to address larger topics beyond just a small team working on a small software product. Good examples, good coverage of integration with other areas such as product and project management, strategic management, communication, resources and risks, and change management beyond the product backlog.Alexander Orsini on “Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide” [source]
Scrum is simple. Scrum adoption is not. This is especially and painfully true in the large enterprise. … For anyone who is in the throws of agile adoption in a company of any size, this book is a must have. It is a handy reference. It is the missing manual.Michael Wollin on “Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide” [source]
These reviews convey a general positive and negative sentiment about the product and help us circle the actual pain points around a service that you are trying to sell. From the above sample set it is evident that there is a sentiment of gatekeeping in the community and a marketing copy that hits this pain-point head on immediately resonates with this audience set eg. “Agile is for everyone”. We will dive deeper into identifying impactful words and phrases below. But for now we have a good repository of data from which we can draw insights from.
4. Avoid bad patterns:
Along with collecting positive feedback it is equally important to also collect ‘constructive’ negative feedback. It will teach you what not communicate and what can be polarising in your niche.
It’s a great industry standard app that enables teams using Agile or Waterfall to be productive and successful, but the cost associated to use the app knocks some points off, that added with the fact they require you to pay for integrations of commonly used services is frustrating, to say the least. One would expect for how much the app costs they’d throw in things like free Git integration and roadmaps, but those are add-on services.
It would also be great if Jira Software supported automatically sending an email notification to requesters when a ticket’s last updated date gets to a defined period to prevent defect and task tickets from being forgotten.Anonymous user at TrustRadius about JIRA [source]
Above is a great example of what the users are specifically frustrated about and if we can some how exploit our competitions weakness in our marketing copies then are immediately perceived as product with superior offering. Hence, it is important to also look a bad patterns to identify any opportunities to capitalize on your competition’s weakness.
5. Identifying impactful words and phrases:
To understand what resonates with our audience, the story we should be telling to our audience we need to understand the words and phrases that impact their psyche (that incites the curiosity of our audience) so we could speak in their common tongue.
“Streamlines Workflows and Maximizes Outputs”
“Deliver Actionable Results”
“Used & Trusted by Millions of Developers”
“Easy to learn and use with minimal training”
“Easily configurable across various teams.”
“Automating workflows and mundane processes.”
“Work remotely on mobile”
A key insight I could identify from one of the reviews was the need for user’s to be able to use the software on mobile devices. – “Work remotely on mobile”
If this is something our software can do and we miss out on communicating with our target audience we are at a huge disadvantage. We are missing a key part of the story. These key phrases and words should trickle down (rephrase or riff on it; try not to copy as is…) in your sales copy, pages, emails and campaigns as they speak your audience’s common tongue and are already tried and tested from an SEO perspective (hence these reviews are ranked at the top!)
6. Partnerships (Influencers) – Above and beyond…
Let’s go above and beyond: Strategic partnerships (Tom likes to call it cartels!) to figure out how we can win if we collaborate together. By establishing these kinds of relationships with the top 10 or 20 influencers in your niche will help you reach to new audiences and discover new niches and market opportunities. But how do you identify the right partnerships for your product service. Well here the patterns we recognized and the phrases we identified will come in handy. Seek out partners/influencers that promote the same values (patterns) or speak the common tongue (phrases and words) of your target audience. Check out their engagement and the conversations that happen on their content. Does you target audience hangout there? Are the talking about the same values, pain-points that you are positioning yourself with. Try to explore if there is a possibility of any strategic collaborations that will push the boundaries of your niche or your reach a little bit wider. If executed well this can be a great moat (unfair/irreplaceable strategic advantage) to your business since relationships or partnerships are the hardest to discover, build, maintain and grow.
As Tom suggests remember to approach without an agenda and do what you can to give first. This where you can play the long game.
A good indicator of an influencer is one who shares high quality, practical information for free (at least majority of it). Free? Yes, that’s true influence where people value your opinion even if it’s free. Great places to find such individuals is top book authors from your niche, top Youtube creators in your niche and even better top email newsletter authors from your niche (substack).
Following is a great example of partnership working for all the parties involved:
in 3 days…
Share your thoughts/experiments with this approach and research tactics for building your GTM.