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How to develop product strategy

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question on Quora:


My answer:

When developing product strategy, I would start broadly to understand the landscape and ecosystem, and then dive down deeper with a series of questions.  If you start with this data, you’ll have lots of ammunition to start brainstorming and eliminating ideas in an informed way.

The best strategy I’ve seen has been informed in some way by the answers to the following questions:

  • What is our current market share?
  • User behavior- what technologies are users using to  consume our product, where is this trending?
  • Who are the players in the space- who are our indirect and direct competitors?
  • What is our direct competitors’ market share, and what is their growth year over year?
  • What is happening in the landscape – how big is the market, and how fast is it growing?
  • What is our market share, and how are we growing relative to the market?
  • What are our competitors doing, broadly, that’s coordinating with their growth?
  • Who are the new players to watch, and what are they doing that could give them an advantage?
  • What can we learn from our competitors?
  • What are broader industry trends— things that are possibly cutting into margins, increasing user acquisition costs—that could  affect us?  What are the implications, trends, opportunities and threats there?
  • What opportunities do we  need to double click on to think about?
  • What are some ideas – first based on our current capabilities and market opportunities- we know how to get into?  What are some ideas that we don’t know how to do—because we don’t have the resources to do it?  If the idea is compelling, what can we do to get those resources?
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How do you market a B2B product?

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question on Quora:

How do you start marketing a B2B company?

My answer:

Here is a possible framework and some ideas for thinking about a marketing plan.  This will need to line up with your sales strategy for the leads that your marketing programs will hopefully bring you.

High level, when I think about the goals of marketing, I think about a funnel of customers through a product.  At the top are new or unengaged customers.  In the middle are current customers.  At the bottom are disengaged/lost customers.

The goal of maximizing reach is to increase the size of the top of the funnel. The goal of maximizing engagement/retention is to widen the middle of the funnel.  I think of retention as engaging customers to  keep using and buying your product. The goal of resurrection, at the bottom of the funnel, is to reactive customers that have dropped off.

I would be interested in not only coming up with ways of getting new customers, but also ways of getting them to engage more with your product (in the case of paying customers, getting them to spend more on your product or line of products).  I would also be interested in ways of reengaging customers that have tried your product before, and aren’t using it anymore.   Retention and resurrection are important.   Most marketers focus on reach– but  imagine the revenue you could drive to your business if you could do a few small things to get more spend from the customers you already have in your pipeline or resurrect a % of the profitable accounts that you know have dropped off?

Reach
As far as ideas for increasing the size of the top of the funnel, this would be a pure acquisition play– I would be driving customers to your product (or website for your product).  Here are some collateral I would create for that:

  • Blogposts
  • Announcements and ad integrations on the company’s website
  • Posts on social sites- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Landing experience for this new product with clear benefits written on it and a strong call to action
  • Integrations or ads on your other product(s) to help you upsell this product to your current consumer base, if appropriate
  • Direct email campaigns
  • If this is a particularly high revenue-driving product- send postcards, and other direct mail to a laser-targeted list of people that in your estimation would find your product interesting or a compelling proposition – and would benefit from it
  • PR- leverage connections to bloggers you know who have relevant followers
  • Create decks for sales training about the product and how to sell it (if you have a sales department)
  • Talking points for executives
  • If you have a professionals program like Adwords professionals or Quickbooks Pro Advisors, reach out to to encourage those professionals to share news of the product with others.  Consider using an incentive
  • Videos- on Youtube, social sites, or other channels mentioned above.  This is not necessary– but it is useful if your product is particularly complex and requires explanation
  • Add virality to the product or the user flow at sign up, if possible– through social integrations, etc.

Engagement/retention
As far as encouraging customers to use the product more, my approach would begin with thinking about why people use/buy your product.

If, for example, if you’re Google, and you’re selling Adwords for SMBs, there would be several reasons why your customers are buying your product– but I’d say that a major one is to reach users at the moment they are ready to buy.  How can you help customers experience that benefit?  When are customers really locked in?  Answer: when they start seeing real impact on their bottom line.  Ask yourself:  How do we get them there?  How can we help them start getting and seeing the results right away?  In many cases, this means:

Training your customer to use your product effectively for their business:

  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • Seminars (online or not)
  • When users are setting up their account, run them through a wizard, or use feature cues and step by step instructions that pop up on the page telling the customer exactly what they need to do, step-by-step, to set up properly
  • Tips sent via email

Making sure that your customers are supported:

  • Training for  customer care reps
  • FAQs and how-to pages

Making sure your customers see the benefits right away:

  • Send new account holders some customized reports on the results of their campaign/etc. right away with some language about what they could do to improve their results (or what works for your business)

Resurrection
What about the users that you’ve lost?  I would segment those folks and come up with ideas for targeted ways to reengage them.

Back to the Adwords example–there may be old Adwords users that had spent a lot of money on Adwords and then quit, or people that started setting up an account and then stopped before setting up payments.  Find out why they disengaged and offer a solve. Some ideas–

  • If they disengaged because they didn’t understand Adwords and didn’t set up the account, offer them $30 to try Adwords Express
  • If they disengaged because they didn’t get great results, send them an email with tips on how to improve their website quality score or add negative keywords
  • If they spent a lot of money on Adwords and then quit, send them an email to ask for feedback and ask them if they would like a customer care rep to talk with them and solve their difficulties.  Consider the LTV of a high-spend customer—could it make sense to do something like a live training event for them and people like them?

Some more ideas:

Communicate with interesting infographics that salespeople can share with their clients and that you can share with the press.  For example, you could communicate how much better an average customer’s performance in X area would be with this product over a competing one

Put slide decks on Slideshare.  When folks make the presentation a favorite, you’ll know that they’re interested. Have salespeople look them up on LinkedIn and contact them

Use  case studies. This is compelling validation of your product.  It’s basically   anecdotal evidence to back up your case.  It also puts an interesting spotlight on the benefits of using your product

Have executives at the company engage with your audience.  See if you can get them booked as guest bloggers.  Use them in guest appearances on your Twitter and Facebook accounts to answer questions—this will not only bring people closer to the brand– it will get people engaged and talking about the product in social media and the press

Try display ads on LinkedIn

Don’t forget to leverage recommendations

Quantify.  If you can help customers quantify the savings or revenue you can help them get with calculators or other tools, go ahead and leverage those tools

If this is a mobile product directed to SMBs, you might want to look at this: https://als355.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/how-do-you-market-a-mobile-app/

Note: Paid acquisition– no, I didn’t forget this.  This could be a whole other post in and of itself– do you want to pay for search leads through Google Adwords?  Do you want to try display ads (which can be expensive), etc.  Best thing to do is try a few different paid techniques and shut down any that don’t provide more value than their cost.  Try just a few at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed or blowing your budget.

Hope this helps!

What are the differences between the largest mobile ad publishers, and how do you evaluate them?

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question on Quora:

How does Millennial Media compare to its competitors?

My answer:

Here are some difference, as well as pros and cons between Millennial, AdMob, and iAd:

Millennial Media
+Success Stories: Millennial Media’s customers include 23 of the top 25 Ad Age brands.  Work(s/ed) with Zynga and Rovio
+Size: Millennial Media owns 17.7 percent of the mobile display ad market
+Ability to target via gender, age, household income, behavioral attributes, types of content preferred, device, carrier, and location, etc.
+Reengagement: similar to Flurry’s AppCircle, their App Engagement Program can drive users back to specific destinations inside your app, and retarget them with relevant messaging.  This is great if you can target and reengage those lost users that had a high LTV
+Full service or self-serve (very simple onboarding for self-serve)
+Free house ad campaigns to cross-promote products within your portfolio

AdMob
+Success Stories: Rovio used AdMob to expand their Angry Birds game to the Android platform
+Size: AdMob owns 24.8% percent of the mobile display ad market
+Ability to target demographics by gender and age (useful, since females monetize higher than males on freemium games)
+Offers in-app advertising
+Primary market is US and it also offers other regions to scale into when the advertiser is ready
+CPC is the predominant ad model, which is in-line with the kind of performance marketing that startups would best benefit from (especially when doing a burst campaign).  (CPI would be better.)
+Free house ads—for cross-promoting games across your portfolio
+Ability to target users on specific app platforms (iPhone+iPad, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7) and OS versions
+Easy, intuitive onboarding process in 4 steps
– No targeting of specific app types (for example, gaming apps).  This is a real problem because your likelihood of conversion will be higher if you can target this way.

iAd
+Size:  iAd owns an 18 percent share of the mobile display ad market
– Minimum cost of an advertising contract is $100,000
-CPM advertising model (was CPC + CPM)
+Sophisticated targeting based on factors including demographics, app preferences, entertainment preferences, location, device
-Ads can prompt users to do many things within the app without leaving what they were doing: download an app, send emails to their friends, share content, etc.
-Not self-service

The process I would use to evaluate spend for mobile ad publishers would involve asking the following questions (below) and seeing which would fit your products’ needs for user acquisition:

1)     What kind of ad model am I interested in? (CPM, CPC, Search CPC, CPA/CPI).  I would lean towards CPC, CPA/CPI
3)     In which platforms do I want to publish (desktop/mobile internet/mobile apps) Mobile internet/ mobile apps, with apps are preferable
4)     How much user targeting do I want? (country, carrier, time-of-day, user demographic, location device, mobile OS, behavioral) In most cases, Behavioral, country (those that monetize well), and mobile OS targeting would be most helpful, followed by gender and age
5)     What level of performance does this network offer? (average CTR ranges, conversion rate ranges)  The higher, the better – though isn’t commonly published information.  A test ad may be required to truly know what conversion rate your product should expect

(Jan 2012 market share, courtesy of eMarketer)

Hope this helps!

Mobile Games: What are some user retention strategies for mobile games?

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question posted on Quora:

Mobile Games: What are some user retention strategies for mobile games?

It’s  important to understand what attracts your users to your game in the first place (why users are playing your game).  Try to apply retention strategies, game mechanics, and tactics that enable users to enjoy that aspect of your game as soon as possible in gameplay.

Here are a few related tactics and game mechanics that you can think about applying to retain and engage your users:

Making a quality product (obviously the most important thing on this list).

Increasing difficulty. Make it easy to level up at the beginning of the game, and then make it increasingly harder and take longer.  This will make the game more challenging.  This is also a monetization technique because users will buy coins, etc. to speed up gameplay.

Mobile push notifications. Remind users to to log back into the game when you publish new content, or when they need to take an action (feed a pet, etc.).

Energy. If users need energy to keep going, they will either buy energy or wait and come back several times a day.

Providing deep content. Publish new themed content on a regular basis.

Seasonal content.  Offer content specific to the season or holidays.  For example, Tiny Zoo recently offered special animals for Father’s Day and decorations for the Queen’s Jubilee, and Zynga launched an entire new version of CityVille for the winter holidays.

Collection completion.  Users will repeat actions to complete collections or gain a new skill.

Story development/Quest unlocks.  Users are incentivized to engage in the game—or pay for coins/energy/gems– to advance an interesting story/plot.  Zynga is very weak in this area, but it’s getting better.

Identity development.  Users can develop a sense of identity through playing a game.  An example is Vampire Wars, which was very attractive and engaging to young people interested in goth culture/fashion.

Building a hardcore community. You can do this with wikis, Facebook pages, and other social platforms, or more sophisticated custom solutions.

Offering shareable power.  Players help other players.  Tiny Zoo and Tiny Village both offer this with tips– users can leave tips for other players after they visit others zoos/villages.  You can see another example of shareable power in Mafia Wars—users can “save” a player/friend that’s losing in a fight.

Care obligation/Tamagotchi (users will log in to take care of characters in the game).  Tiny Zoo uses this technique with babies that must be placed in their pens before they get “sick,” requiring users to log back into the game to take care of them.  One of the earliest examples of Tamagotchi are those virtual pets on keychains sold by Bandai (below).

Announcements of new content in-game. At game launch, when leveling up, etc., announce the latest animals or content themes.

Daily rewards for returning. There is some argument about the effectiveness of daily rewards, so you may want to read up about this or run your own A/B test.

User Generated Content (UGC). A great engagement tool, both for content creators and content consumers.

User profiles.  This allows users to develop a sense of identity in the game (more essential in social mobile games)– it also generates a sense of investment in the game.  The more sophisticated, the better.

Network effects (users are drawn to the product because their friends are already there).  Truly social games like Draw Something rely on network effects to both attract and retain users.

Engagement loops with organic notifications from other users’ actions.  For example, receiving an email from Facebook when a friend posts a picture of you and tags you.  The message from Facebook is something like “Your friend has posted a picture of you on Facebook.”  Even if you’re not an active Facebook user, you will be compelled to log in.  This essentially draws you into the network via your friends.

Stat boosts/ skill specialization (users buy or earn points that give them a specific kind of skill in the game).  This was used in Mafia wars, where users could become specific kinds of mobsters with specific skills if they earned enough points.  This is also a form of identity development.

For ideas about organic (in-game) user acquisition: Annabell Satterfield’s answer to Mobile Games: What are some of the best techniques to increase virality in mobile games?

Hope this is helpful!

What Was Draw Something’s User Acquisition Strategy?

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question posted on Quora:

Draw Something: How did Draw Something seed initial users?

My Answer:

OMGPOP’s approach to user acquisition for Draw Something was to build a great, simple product with virality and word-of mouth incorporated into the heart of the game, and then use marketing to get its first high ranking in the app store.  Their CEO, Dan Porter, likened their first paid acquisition effort to starting a fire: “it was just enough to light the match.  The huge fire came after that.  We spent a little money the first weekend to climb to number 6. We never spent a penny afterwards.”
Only 5% of Draw Something’s users came from paid advertising– and that advertising only appeared on other apps.  (I’m sure they did cross-promote via Facebook as well, as Steve said, but Mr. Porter must not have considered that advertising.)  Dan Porter confirmed this with a quote: “The only place to advertise an app is in another app,” Porter said, “Nowhere else matters.”  OMGPOP also only used minimal PR (though not by choice—the media wasn’t interested in their announcements).

A chart of Draw Something’s first month, courtesy Business Insider:

How to Increase Virality in Mobile Games

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question posted on Quora:

Question: Mobile Games: What are some of the best techniques to increase virality in mobile games?

My Answer:  Agreed, eCPI is on the rise. I do think that the best counter action for this is to (1) look very closely at ways to increase organic discovery (and social is a critical part of that), (2) find other ways to drive quality traffic to your game (with emphasis on quality) through things like partnerships, and (3) use paid discovery carefully, making sure that your ROI for driving quality traffic is high.

Because it seems that you’re interested in fostering unpaid discovery, here is a short list of some organic discovery tactics to start thinking about.

Note: Organic discovery is, first and foremost, driven by great product quality and exposure in app stores. However, there are techniques that mobile gaming companies can use to enable it.

Make a quality product and earn high ratings. Quality is the most important driver for organic acquisition and retention. If you don’t have a quality product, people will not be motivated to download and use it.   A high average rating is an indicator of quality, so the higher the ratings are, the higher the conversion rate and, interestingly, the lower the user cost per conversion (due to the higher conversion rate).  (A new trend: reaching out to your loyal users to ask them to rate you in the app store.)

High Apple app store rankings in relevant categories. (free games, etc.)  The primary destination of discovery for the majority of players for iOS is the app store—and being ranked highly gives a game visibility and free exposure.  (You can manage this with a major marketing campaign burst at launch and additional ones as needed to maintain your high rank.)  Think about focusing on a niche category that would be easier to dominate.

Featured placement in editorially-curated sections of the Apple app store. (e.g. Editor’s choice, New and Noteworthy).  A high ranking is helpful when requesting a featured placement, but that is only a part of the strategy required to be chosen.  Other criteria include presentation, uniqueness, timing, and mentions by top app sites.  It also helps to cultivate a relationship with Apple’s editorial team.  Rovio’s Angry Birds early success was partly due to  featured placement in the UK app store, which it obtained partially through connections.

Google Play Visibility.  The strategy for gainingapp visibility is a bit different for Google Play.  80% of the organic users in Google Play come from searches in the store, so keywords are important.  It’s also helpful to treat development for Android as a priority.  For example, TinyCo has done that with their Griffin game engine.

Offline word-of-mouth. Very difficult to track. This is an extremely valuable driver of traffic, especially for mobile apps.  (Users are more likely to discuss mobile apps then desktop apps, and users are far more likely to accept a word-of-mouth invitation to try an app than convert from an ad placement.)

Unpaid PR via social influencers, media.  This is a source of organic discovery, but a company can help by effectively using PR and business development to partner with media outlets, bloggers, and other influencers— and proactively announce news about its products.

Cross-game promotion using your existing portfolio of games to distribute traffic between your games.  There is an opportunity to do this (and share news of upcoming games) from within the game.  Zynga uses this technique a lot within its games.  See example of a cross-promotion during gameplay, below (yes, this is a PC example, but you get the idea).

Direct marketing (email).  Find a way to collect your players’ email addresses and email them to share new games or drive engagement.  Don’t spam; make sure you’re providing value to them in these emails.  Tiny Zoo and Tiny Village publish the Tiny Times newsletter, for example, which players can sign up for within the game.

Enable users to post progress on social networks or invite friends to the game.  Enabling someone to use Twitter to post a high score, or use Facebook to tell friends to download and play the game with them is the softest way to build an audience.  It might be helpful to remind users of this feature in the game, perhaps in notification interstitials when users level up.

Incentivize first-time sharers to share the game on social networks. Offer incentives for referrals.  It might help to offer more for that first referral to help players get over that first share hurdle.
Brand affinity. Think about using a “family branding” strategy.  This allows you to cash in on the name recognition you paid for when marketing your earlier products.  TinyCo wisely uses a “family branding” strategy with its “Tiny” brand name, which enhances the marketability of all the games that carry the same “Tiny” prefix.  Zynga does the same with its ‘ville’ naming.  Apple does something similar with its “i” prefix to its product names, iPad, iPhone, iPod, etc.

Automatic notifications on Facebook.  (Not sure about doing this with a pure mobile game, but this is extremely useful on PC games.)  Zynga uses this lot, though not as much as it did early on.  They also very quickly developed a notification strategy to take advantage of Facebook’s new newsfeed bar as soon as it launched.

Help users share what they’ve built via social media.  Some loyal users are really motivated to share their amazing zoos/towns/fish/zombie farms, etc.  It would be an interesting to see what would happened if you allowed users to display their towns/zoos, etc. on social networks—and see if that wins the game additional exposure or drives trials

Marketing Research: Surveying Small Populations with Diverse Segments

I recently came across a question regarding the validity of using stratified sampling in small populations. What if you have two targets you want to learn about. What if these targets are fairly small (such as in B2B businesses?)

Let’s say you are in the wholesale television business.  You sell to two different kinds of small retail stores: Mom-and-Pop stores and Online retail stores.  You  want to learn about the wants and needs of these two groups.  You have a list of the 100 top stores of these types in America and want to target this list.   Online stores rule the list with a small sprinkling of Mom-and-Pop stores (end of an era, I know.)

You can do what a lot of people instantly think of doing—“I want to know the opinion of these two groups—so let’s poll 25 of each.  Come to think of it, let’s poll the TOP 25 of each group.  Then I’ll know what to do regarding my list of stores.”

Think again.  If we asked the opinion of the top 25 Online retail stores and the top 25 Mom-and-Pop stores and got 100% participation (haha, for argument’s sake)– we would know the opinion of the top 25 Mom-and-Pop stores and the opinion of the top 25 Online Retail stores- but we would not know the opinion of the population of your list.  Why? (Hint: has to do with sampling error.) Unless your two populations are evenly distributed, you would have to go down to #80 (8MM revenue) on the list to get 25 Mom-and-Pop stores to sample and down to to #29 (50MM revenue) on the list to get 25 Online retail stores.  With such varied revenue, your two segment samples may behave radically differently from the mean of those in the greater population.  Some information is fun to know—but if you are planning to make critical business decisions on this data, you are taking a gamble.

If you want to know the opinion of the population on your list as well as the opinion of your segments you would have to use random sampling or stratified sampling. Random sampling (randomly selecting a sample of your total population) would represent your population as a whole well IF you can get a large enough sample that you can be sure that your two segments will be represented fairly.   Say you choose 50 retail stores out of a hat—what guarantees to you have that you won’t randomly select 48 Online stores and 2 Mom-and-Pop stores?  With small population sizes and small sample sizes- the sort of population sizes B2B’s get a lot—such sample variances could happen.  Would you be comfortable with making decisions on skewed data?    Stratified sampling is the standard when you want to ensure your survey results to reflect the diversity (i.e. segments) in it.  It’s great for B2B businesses that want to make the most of their research dollars and ensure that they get information on (1) the target population at large and (2) the segments in it.

Back to the scenario…

I look at my list and add up the Online stores: 72.  Mom-and-Pops: 28.  I need to learn about each of these groups and then put the information together to learn more about my population.  To get a 5% margin of error and 90% confidence interval, I need 58 Online stores from my list to answer my survey.  I will need 26 Mom-and-Pops to answer my survey (smaller populations require sample sizes in high proportion.  This is the ideal sample and you need to manage your need for accuracy with the costs of doing the research.  Most people don’t exceed 70 percent response rates, regardless of incentives they offer their survey-takers.)

Ok, so you have a sample size.  You do your survey and learn a lot about Mom-and-Pops and Online retail stores.  “Wow- their needs are really different but I would like to know what to do with this information when I want to make a decision for the entire population of my target market—my list of 100?”  Here is where you can use weighted averages to reflect the population.   Say, for Mom-and-Pops, the mean level of interest in new packaging is 8 out of 10.  For Online retail it’s 2 out of 10.  Should I change my packaging?  Your top-25 lists mentioned at the top of this article would make this idea seem like a good idea.  But look at the weighted average of interest, taking into account the huge proportion of Online stores over Mom-and-Pops…

Number of Online stores: 72.  Number of Mom-and-Pops: 28

Interest in new packaging for population=.72*2+.28*8=1.44+2.24=3.68

While as a good marketer, you need to balance customer wants with your budget constraints, brand building, targeting, positioning, etc, an interest level of 3.68 out of 10 is a solid data point to keep in mind when prioritizing your marketing plans.  Unlike random sampling, because you collected statistically significant samples of the two segments, you know where the 3.68 came from and how to think about it. As you know, building decisions on solid data is critical- and stratified sampling gives you the solid data you need to make good decisions.

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