Join Ali McCourt Turhal, Director of Brand & Product Marketing at Art.com, as she discusses her career managing brand and Go-to-Market. Ali shared some incredible insights with us at last years product marketing summit, so let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
The through line throughout my entire career has always been focused on the customer.
As marketers, it makes our lives infinitely easier when we're marketing things people care about.
In this article, I’m going to talk about the importance of starting with a customer need and working with cross-functional partners.
Here’s our main talking points:
- Understanding the importance of starting with a customer need
- Go-to-market strategy: Framework to align business value with customer segments
- Tips for amplifying earned media and working with cross functional partners
Let’s go ahead and dive in 👇
Understanding the importance of starting with a customer need
Good marketing starts with solving a customer need, it’s important and foundational.
When I first got to Art.com, we did qualitative research to understand the customer journey, how and what customers think about when they're purchasing art for their home.
We learned that the biggest deterrent to what makes people buy art online, is to know if the piece they like is going to go with what they already own (i.e. Are the colors gonna match? Is it going to look right in the space?).
When we started to unpack that, we started to align on what we wanted to build from a product perspective.
Paradox of choice
Paradox of choice is the notion that the more choices you throw at people, the more anxiety you introduce into the process and the less likely people are to be confident in the decision they're making.
Around 2000, a study was conducted to look at the efficacy choice had on driving sales. The researchers did an A/B test in a market (like Whole Foods). One day they brought six jams and looked at the impact on sales. Then the next day, they brought 25 to 30 jams, and they looked at the data to see which garnered the most sales.
From the data, they learned that the day they had the 30 jams, they generated more interest but not as many sales and on the day they had six, there were a lot more sales but not as much interest. The notion is: when there's less choice for people to make, they feel more confident in their decision.
At Art.com, when we look at our end-to-end experience more broadly, we used the paradox of choice to figure out what our optimal customer solution would be or what our UX experience would be.
We have introduced so much complexity into our product experience and the mindset we're asking our customers to jump through can become overwhelming. So, we applied the paradox of choice notion to the desktop Art.com experience.
There are still a lot of decisions to make, but we thought this was the first try at reducing some of those choices, or at least making it sequential in a way that customers would find less daunting.
Real life example: Our AR technology feature
A couple months after we did the qualitative research, Apple released their AR (augmented reality) kit, so our mobile team was kicking around what a use case could be for leveraging this technology.
I believe innovation is great, but not if it's just for the sake of innovation. You need to make sure you have an applied use case for it, because innovation without adoption means your products are just gonna die on the vine.
The first thing we wanted to do to reduce the complexity as a team was to be sure what our pain point was. So, we were focusing on the uncertainty people were having around the size and dimensions of artwork, as well as if the aesthetic congruence would go with their space.
I sat down with my mobile dev who was thinking through how to apply AR technology to what we're building, and I brought the insight that people don't know how stuff looks in their space; we needed a tool that enabled them to know.
Sharing this insight with the engineer made the feature a success because it answered a customer need based on research and insights, while also building a lot of credibility with the engineering team.
After we built a prototype, we didn't stop there. We took a step back to look at the overall landscape and saw some other proof points in our space starting to pop up. I'd been keeping tabs on our competitive set and I wanted us to think a little bit bigger about what we were launching.
One of our partners at Pinterest told us there had been over 15 million ‘gallery wall’ pins on Pinterest in the quarter before we were about to launch. From a competitive standpoint, no one else in the category was enabling an end-to-end solution that lets you visualize a piece of art, customize it, purchase it and get it on your wall.
The product we ended up building was two-fold. One part was the standalone piece of art on a wall and the second component was the ‘gallery wall’ designer.
Depending on your style and what size gallery wall you're starting to create for your space, we gave you an augmented reality feature that let you see what it looked like with the right dimensions and colors in your space.
Go-to-Market strategy: aligning business value with customer segments
Defining business objectives
Defining the goals you want to launch with when you're bringing something to market is essential. For us, it was a threefold funnel:
- Drive awareness.
- Activate new and existing customers to drive downloads.
- Driving people to use the feature.
After defining our business objectives, we segmented those to customer types. We looked at both prospects, new and existing and existing and engaged. We used those customer types to inform what our channel mix would be.
Depending on where we were in the funnel, the message was very different. Of course, when you're telling a big brand and PR story, it's going to be more high-level than when you're in the app trying to get somebody to do something within the experience.
There's a lot more segmentation and targeting you're going to do, particularly as it comes to paid media.
Launching this AR feature was the first marketable moment we felt we had for the mobile app. When marketing apps, it’s always tricky to distinguish between the app, the web and the desktop experience and how to get away from the mobile web experience and into the app.
We wanted to test what messaging worked best for us so we tested a bunch of creative media types. Historically, we had been looking at acquisition predominantly through ROAS or ROI.
However, with marketing apps you need to look at the lifetime value of your customers, not just ROAS because if you look at ROAS of an app user, your cost per install is going to throw off your whole cost per acquisition. Make sure you look at a one month to three month view of how your media is performing, before you throw in the towel.
When we turned over to owned, it was about getting the word out. We cross-promoted via mobile web, we did some message testing on what worked best to get people to download the app and then got the word out both with an announcement email, as well as our welcome series.
That way, we had a steady cadence of when new customers are onboarded, they're made aware of this feature, which gets you a steady drip of downloads.
As product marketers, we know one of the best channels we have to tell our stories is the product itself and that’s where we should be activating when we're thinking about usage, meaning we have to ensure people are able to actually find the feature we're talking about. To achieve this, we leverage things like Tooltip. Then on our PDPs, we’re making sure the new feature is visible and clear.
Lastly, to garner coverage for earned we targeted tech and consumer media and gave them press toolkits to make it easier to tell our story. We also partnered with Apple early, and they had given us feedback on our prototype, which built a strong foundation for partnership with them.
As a result, a couple of weeks after our launch we were featured as app of the day when they were doing a big push around the launch of their new AR kit.
Tips for amplifying earned media and working with cross functional partners
Amplifying earned media
Our team is very small and we have one PR person, so we had to leverage an agency. The strategy we used was ‘Desk Side’ meetings with media. We reach out to key media contacts that might have interest, and we set up meetings to show them what we're planning on doing.
We brought some of our executive team to help run those Desk Sides, because it helped get the meeting to stick if the CEO was presenting the feature.
To amplify coverage on the media side, we made it fun for them. We made it easy for our media contacts to download the test version of our app so they could play around with it themselves. We also delivered assets to them to help tell the story, such as videos and step by step visual instructions. This strategy was very effective because it made their jobs a lot easier.
As we got closer to the time of launch, we wanted to stay top of mind when the embargo was lifting so we offered them a whole gallery wall to remind them of the launch.
Having them try out their own gallery wall went a long way. At the same time, we also leveraged strategic partners, especially on the technology side, asking people who had been a part of your building process to share the news of our launch.
Here’s the results amplifying earned media had for us:
- We spent very little money and the money we did spend, we optimized. At the top of the funnel, we had 250 million media impressions.
- Month over month, we saw almost a 1,000% lift in app downloads and a significant decrease in costs per install compared to previous campaigns we had run because we were marketing a feature that people cared about.
- On the product side, we had almost a 40% adoption rate of the features. It increased our engagement and our conversion rate went up 30%.
Working with cross functional partners
There's no worse feeling for product or engineering than spending months of time working on something, then bringing it to you to market to find out it’s not on your roadmap and it’ll take probably three months to market. Therefore, my first tip is staying close and connected with what they're working on is key.
My second tip is that bringing them along with your plan when you're going to market is critical. It’s better to over communicate what's going on than under communicate and there’s two major reasons for this:
- Typically, the best ideas don't come from only one person but from people with different perspectives. Communicating gives them a chance to weigh in and think through what are the different ways we could be marketing something.
- Make sure you're sharing what you're planning on doing. I always try to provide additional context for them. That way, when it's time for them to hand the baton to me, they know and have confidence that I'm going to grab it and run with it.
My last tip is to share results early and often. For my developers in particular, results are their currency so when they see people using the features they've developed, they really get excited.
Ultimately, what led to the success of this product was doing the following.
Get down to brass tacks and foundational and push your teams to get involved and talk to customers.
Then, take a step back and look at the broader landscape of the industry. Find additional proof points that help start to tell the broader customer story for what you're trying to solve.
With your teams, think beyond the technology. Don't just create a new feature in a vacuum for a small set of users, but think about how you can apply this to a use case for a broader set of customers.
Lastly, make sure you have a seat at the innovation table. By knowing your customer and having customer insights from the jump, it goes a long way to building credibility.