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A Market in Search of a Product | An Interview with Pragmatic Marketing

by Aug 30, 2019Marketing

Many companies today focus on creating a product and then finding their market, but is that the best way to go?

Our very own guide and Product marketing expert Kevin Krusiewicz joins Pragmatic Live host Rebecca Kalogeris to discuss the importance of understanding your market before creating and marketing your products. Understanding who is going to use and buy your product, performing market research and really understanding the different buying journeys of your personas ensures that you’re not building and marketing a product in search of a market, and are instead creating and presenting a product a market has been searching for.

Listen to the Podcast below. And make sure to subscribe to Pragmatic Live so you never miss an episode!

 

 

Transcript:

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Hello and welcome to the Pragmatic Live podcast series where we tackle the biggest challenges facing today’s product management, product marketing and other market in data-driven professionals with some of the best minds in the industry. I’m Rebecca Kalogeris, Vice President of Marketing at Pragmatic Institute and your host for this episode. Today we are joined by Kevin Krusiewicz, founder of Marketing Trail guide, which provides marketing leadership and guidance to companies looking to grow their business. Prior to funding his own company, Kevin’s background was in product marketing and direct and channel sales for everything from startups to multibillion dollar international brands. Welcome Kevin!

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Thanks Rebecca. Happy to be here.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
I think first, Kevin, I want to dive into the fact that your intro is a little different, right? You used to be the founder of TELL and TRAiN and now you’re this founder of Marketing Trail Guide. Why the name change?

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah, so you know, as, as we grow as individuals and as companies and things change, we take on new opportunities and grown our expertise. Sometimes you find that what you used to call yourself or refer to yourself as isn’t quite as applicable as it used to be. So that the whole name was TELL and TRAiN, which really as you mentioned, kind of came out of my product marketing background, building a lot of marketing and training content for software companies and the like and and just parlayed that into sort of my own brand as I kind of went out and freelance. And then as the company grew and we started to take on other projects, really realizing that the TELL and TRAiN impression wasn’t quite connecting as immediately as we wanted it to. So we figured Marketing Trail Guide was pretty explicit, pretty obvious, and hopefully is fairly clear for people to understand what we do.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
So then the big question because as we’re going to be talking about personas and messaging and all kinds of things, is, did you follow your own process when you did your rebranding?

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Absolutely. Although I found it to be a lot harder with myself and with our company than with others. And I guess that sort of plays into a lot of the narrative that I talk about with my clients where, you know, there’s this thing called the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge being, you know, we know so much about our own thing, whether it’s our own domain expertise or about our own company, it’s hard to get objectivity. And so sort of bringing in outside prospective, outside help, is really helpful. So, what I ended up doing was doing just that. I kind of pulled together a consortium of people that are sort of multidisciplinary, that aren’t necessarily marketers, but were in business and a business coach of mine and folks in software and folks in other industries to help me get that objectivity. You know, going through a process of trying to define your target audience and your message to them. I found myself stumped a few times and really had to get outside of myself to get that layer of objectivity that I needed.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
I do think it’s often true, it’s hardest to, to turn our powers on ourselves. But it’s important and I think it also helps build your own credibility and legitimacy and practice, right? You’re like, wow, when my clients go through this, this is what it feels like. And it’s easy to forget that when you’re more distanced from it.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah. There’s, I guess there’s a little bit of a funny way of saying that that I’ve, the expression that I’ve heard is sort of eat your own dog food, right? And walk the talk I guess is another way of putting it. And I think, I think marketers have a challenge with that sometimes. I certainly struggle sometimes too. You know, get into content creation mode myself because of that subjectivity that we deal with. So, I think it’s really important for the credibility factor to demonstrate that you believe in what you preach and you do it. And I think carving out owner time and allocating resources to getting your stuff done is really important.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Awesome. All right. So that’s kind of what’s going on in your world. Talk to me a little bit about what you’re seeing with your clients and in marketing now. That’s got you just super excited.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah. You know I don’t think it’s necessarily anything cutting edge, but I, I did have an experience recently with a client in the nonprofit space who has been around for a long time, has a nationally known brand. The brand is attached to the, the nonprofit brand is attached to a for profit corporation that everybody’s heard of. And one of the challenges that we came up against is some of the brand associations connected to the for profit entity, sort of rubbing off on the nonprofit entity and creating some confusion about kind of who they were, what their mission was, who they served, how they were funded, those kinds of things. And you know, it’s, I think it’s easy sometimes for marketers to be the hammer in search of a nail and to sort of pound away at what they know. But I think it’s helpful. And what I’m pretty excited about right now is allowing the assumptions to be suspended for a period of time and really going with a curious mindset, a really start to look at the market research aspects that need, that really proceed any type of content creation or deliverable, any type of creative work. And it’s easy to make assumptions, especially if we’ve been around a brand for a long time. But coming in kind of with that clean slate, I think really afford us the opportunity to, to check our assumptions and make sure that when we do go into campaign mode, content creation mode, creatives mode, that we have some solid beliefs that are well-founded. And you can do that just by talking to the target audience, talking to the different stakeholders. So for this last engagement that I’m, that I’m thinking of with this client I really just spent a lot of time interviewing stakeholders, interviewing volunteers, interviewing donors, interviewing the public to try to get an understanding of what the, the brand sentiment, the perception of the market of the brand was. And that really caused me to take a tack that was, would have been a little bit different. I didn’t come in then with my recommendations and that deliverable saying, well, look, all of the things that you need just magically happen to align with the things that I already do. Actually what I found out was that there’s some things that they need that, that really aren’t in my wheelhouse. And I was able to bring in some some domain experts in some of those areas to speak into that process. So I think at the end of the day I think it serves our clients more rather than the approach of I’m just a hammer looking for a nail. And at the end of the day it’s a better outcome.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Well, you know, as Pragmatic, we are passionate about the same kind of thing, right? Like understanding the market and using that to drive things forward. And I know one of the things that you take this knowledge and then you’ve, and you’ve got to share it with your clients and what are the things that you use and, and, and talk about too is personas, right? Sort of how does that personas fit into that as part of the process of moving from market research to things that we can actionably use as we build out our product marketing.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah, so that’s, that’s perfect. You know, there’s one way of building products and doing product marketing and that sort of product centric, right? Like I came up with this cool thing, this school idea, I want it to, I want to figure out how I can make money with it. And then I just sort of, you know, kind of try to jam that into selling it to somebody and appealing to them because I think it’s a cool product. And, and you know, we see this a lot with people that you know, want to sort of look at it from an engineering first approach. But that’s kind of a product looking for market rather than a market driving product. Right? And I understand that. I’m preaching to the choir here, but you know, understanding the personas, understanding who it’s for, whether it’s your product itself or the marketing around the product, a particular campaign, a particular message. I’m really asking those two questions from a design standpoint, design thinking standpoint. Who is this thing for and what’s it for? And I’m, I’m in favor of kind of trying to understand who your target audience is and getting into their story. You know, when I wake up in the morning, I’m kind of the main character. I’m the hero of my story. I’m not living in GE story or Apple story. I’m in the middle of my story. And so, I’m looking for products and services that are going to help me get to my happy ending, right? And that’s the grid and the the lens through which I look at the world. And so, I don’t have a whole lot of patience for people that haven’t done the deep discovery to really understand anything about me. I actually got a cold call or a somewhat cold call this morning from a company that I ended up on their list four years ago. And, you know, he kind of goes right into this pitch about products and I asked him, what do you know about me? You know, and at this point I’m, I’m probably uber sensitive to this sort of thing, but I think we’ve all experienced you know, the cold call, the knock on the door, the automated, the robot call… And it just alienates us because we don’t feel like people really understand where we’re coming from or really what we’re after and they’re just sort of pushing products. So back to personas, deeply, deeply understanding who you’re serving. And then the implication of that is tailoring the message really around that, that hero, that persona and what they want, you know, and really understanding what it is that they’re after, like what’s the promised land for them. What are the things that they really want? What are the things getting in the way of them attaining what they want? And then, then we can come alongside them as sort of the mentor or the guide, sort of the Mr. Miyagi to Daniel or the Obi Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker and we can position ourselves alongside of them to help them win the day versus it becoming really all about us. Some of that’s market research driven in terms of understanding those personas, things like demographics and psychographics. You know, some of those things we can, we can make some, I think educated assertions based on what we already know. Maybe if you’ve been in the market for a while but really trying to understand, you know, the buying psychology and the life and the experience of who that target market is and then how we tell that story so that respective groups can be different from one group to the next, right? So if I’m talking to, I’m a CEO who is really looking at business drivers, that’s going to be a different story that he’s in, for instance, than the CFO who is really looking at how to prevent financial disaster, you know, or make sure that things are fiscally sound or quarterly earnings or things like that. So I’m really taking to account, coming back to, you know, the simple thing that we know who is your audience and then kind of tailoring the story to that.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Awesome. And I think in today’s world, you know, some of the times you get really frustrated, you’re so used to companies knowing so much about you, there’s so much data out there, there’s so much sort of personalization and hyper personalization that it’s almost more offensive now than ever when they act like they don’t know you. Right? It’s like, I know, I know, you know. So then as they get to know you and they do the messaging, how do you work with your clients in iterating and testing that messaging and making sure that it’s really fine tuned for each persona?

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah, I’m a fan of you know, kind of even before going live with the given message testing among sort of a, a focus group or if you have a group of of longtime clients that are part of a you know, a council or some kind of a group that you’ve formulated so that you can better understand your customers you know, testing that message with them. Sometimes when you’re going through the exercise of actually formulating that message, including some of those trusted stakeholders people that are close to your brand, people that have been around with you for a long time. I tend to play kind of in the B2B space and so there are a lot more relational versus a transactional model. You know, obviously if your business is a product that’s sold online that might just be, you know, a lifetime value equal to, you know, the unit cost of the widget, that’s going to be harder to do. But I think, you know, it can also come back to conversion optimization, right? You can get metrics on how that message is performing during A/B testing on a website. And we have tools that can track all of this kind of thing. But whether it’s quantitative or qualitative analysis, I think you know, there’s no silver bullet, there’s no magic wand, there’s no, you know, magical Pied Piper music that’s going to convince everybody that your secret sauce is the best, you know, it’s an iterative process and it just requires you going in with a hypothesis. Just like everything is in marketing, right? We go in with a hypothesis, we want to gather the data and observe and then make some educated changes to iterate based on that. So two ways to do that. And I think it’s always even, I mean, think of this last engagement where I went in with a deliverable, here’s the deliverable, here are a couple of pieces of copy and messaging you can use. And just getting realtime feedback. You know, not taking that personally, just like, oh, you know, we could probably add that element to it or tweak this or that. So I think it takes some humility as well. Realizing like, you know, there’s no perfect message and market dynamics are always changing, competitors are always lurking, disruption is always happening and the message has to continue to adapt to an ever changing environment.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
I think it’s, it can be a dangerous thing when we fall in love with our words, right? Like it’s such a clever turn of phrase or it feels so powerful to us and you have to be able to let it go is it doesn’t really matter if I like it and respond to it as much as it does with the market.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
And it might work for a time. But it might get stale.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
One of the other things I think is always difficult is as we’re telling our brand story and we’re trying to do it in a way that is compelling to people is it’s hard to do that quickly. It’s hard to make it succinct. It’s hard to capture them right away. Like if you give me, you know, a little while on a phone call, I can maybe will you and tell you, but how do I boil it down to its essence?

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah, so that’s a great question. Again, no magic wand or silver bullet here, but I think I’m just of the persuasion that we tend to actually make these decisions a lot more emotionally then we tend to want to admit. And what I mean by that is, you know, we want to say I can just sort of create this brain argument, this sort of left brain cognitive case like a lawyer would about why this product or service is it makes the most sense. And there are definitely some people that sort of skew that way in terms of decision making. And obviously the longer the sales cycle you know, the more the, the, the higher the price point, there’s going to be more and more and more scrutiny. But people are people and I think really everything boils down to a person, sort of emotional reason to buy things. And it, and it might be you know, related to things that are also important to the company, but it could be very, very personal. It could be related to something that they’re not even willing to admit, but just have this sort of a primal sense about. So, that’s the hard work of really getting to the core of what’s at stake and what this decision is really about. But I would caution us away from ignoring the empathetic side of things, ignoring the emotional side of things and really focusing too much on you know, the logical case not to throw away the logical case. And that’s obviously really important. But I don’t know if you figured this out, Rebecca or not, but I’m at the point in my, in my life where I’ve realized not everything we do makes sense in the strictest sense of the term all the time. Like some things we just do because it feels right.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
100% right. You know, you go with your gut, you do. That’s how sometimes you pick creative one over the other before you get tested. Right? Yeah. And it’s an important part. And I do think in a B to B environment in particular, we sometimes think that people only make the decisions based on spreadsheets and weighted functionality. And it’s, it’s all a math problem. And, and again, there’s pain and problems and you know, there’s the emotions tied to what success would look like. There’s emotions tied to the pains they’re in. And that is okay, honestly, how we’re making decisions.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah. And I think, you know, I guess, you know, you think if the CFO looking at the financial case, right, or the board looking at the financial case and, and I think w we can’t say that, you know, that’s not important, but going head to head with another provider that has a similar financial case than you do the, the prospect of the client’s gonna go with, you know, apples to apples, kind of what they feel the best about. And that might just be in the sales engagement. They liked you better or they liked the other guy better or as a brand and the brand impression they made they just, they identified with it more, even sort of subconsciously related to the design related to the color scheme. So I think, you know, a lot of this comes back to a brand really understanding who they are and what kind of people they, what they stand for and who they’re for. Because being for everybody and being a product that is for everybody is kind of being like a product that’s for nobody. And there’s a lot of power to say we’re for this kind of person. So, I mean the classic example of this is Apple, right? And if you remember those ads, I’m a Mac, I’m a PC. And of course the character of the PC was sort of this really straight lace, buttoned down, nerdy guy to be frank. And then, the cool brand was Apple, right? And so Apples for cool people, right? And of course that’s a subjective perspective, but they position themselves in a way that you know, it makes my point, like if you look at the spreadsheet and if you look at the tech specs there’s plenty of capable PCs half the price of an Apple computer, but people came in droves and bought Apple computers. Cause they want to be that aspirational identity of the cool guy, right? They don’t want to be the nerd.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
So, we talked about the understanding of your brand. We talked about knowing the right person that you’re talking to and the right message. And I think the third step of this, and I know you talk about this as well, is getting them at the right point in their journey. So what are you guys doing in that areas? I think it’s a tough one.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah, it is hard and there’s a lot of tools out there that try to help you to do that. What we meet at the right journey. And I kind of go back to the analogy of, of friendships or even romantic relationships. There’s an appropriate thing to say to someone you’re interested in later the relationship. But as you said that same thing really early on it would get awkward or creepy or you know, it would not go well. So I can’t just have a first conversation with you and a layer of a level of intimacy that is reflective of a year long relationship, that’s going to go really badly. So, that’s what I mean by it, right message, right stakeholder, right time. The right stakeholder pieces, well, are you the guy that cares more about, you know, X, Y, and Z criteria or A, B and C criteria? Right? And so there’s tools that try to help you do this. You know, there’s, there’s marketing automation tools. You know, there’s Salesforce. I’m a big fan of HubSpot and we’ve adopted that internally and in helping our clients maximize those tools. You know, I’m not here to say that like the tool solves it all. Or that there’s, there really is a, a single tool that solves every problem. I think some of the providers would want you to think that but a lot of the tools have recognized there’s a journey that our customers are on and when we’re trying to attract no customers there’s a certain set of things that need to happen, like pertaining to marketing, right? So we need to advertise or we need to spend some time doing content marketing so we can develop our authority in the space. And so you use things like blogs and you use video and you do things like paid ads. And you do social. So tools that can incorporate all of those functions under a single roof are going to be really, really powerful because you have a consolidation of data, right? The system knows what’s happening. Whereas with many organizations, you have fragmentation, you’ve got data silos, right? You have you know, in the case of a recent client who was a nonprofit you’ve got you know, this group doing this over there in this system and that group or doing that over there in that system. You’ve got social media and all your tools over here, but that doesn’t talk to your email marketing system, nor does it talk to your ads system, nor does it understand what’s happening in their website. So, to the extent that you have that fragmentation, it either means you can reconcile that data manually, which is really time consuming, right? It’s just a lot of manual data reconciliation. Or you can try to build integration or APIs or some of these systems allow for, for integration, right? Where you have the best of breeds that now they talk to each other through Zapier or whatever integration tools you might use. And then the third being kind of the all in one. And so being able to understand what content people have already consumed, where they are on the journey and what’s the right next step in terms of a message that they need to hear from us. Do they need to show up at a Webinar? Do we need to have a salesperson reach out to them? Do we need to give them a message B versus message A based on the things that we know about them thus far? And having that all under one roof just makes things so much easier. And I’m a big fan of making things easier where we can.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Absolutely. Oh, I’d also lets you test different things and you spend less time trying to manually do things and compare things and you can work on the strategic side a lot more.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Absolutely.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
All right. Kevin, we’ve talked about a ton of different things today. If you could get our listeners to do two things differently based on what we talked about today, what would that be?

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say check your assumptions. And, in that vein, kind of be aware of the internal Koolaid that you might be drinking. Organizations are full of echo chambers and yes, ma’am. And what I mean by that is sometimes it’s political. Sometimes people are afraid to kind of challenge the assumptions. But it’s just that kind of challenge that might actually help you get closer to your target audience. And so, sometimes bringing in some fresh air can really help that. And then I would say look at where there are bottlenecks. Look at where there’s friction in your process and if you haven’t of mapped out your customer journey to understand, and take a look at your best customers, take a look at the best case to understand what path did it take for them to get from never having heard of you to now delighted and your biggest raving fans? What did that journey look like? What were the steps that they had to take? And kind of audit that and try to understand where the friction points may be. You can also interview the people that didn’t do business with you. You can interview your rejectors the people that never did business with you and your defectors, the people that we’re, we’re with you but left you for something or someone else at some point to really try to get a 360º view of what’s it feel like to have a relationship with us as a company all throughout that journey. And really at that point, it just becomes about optimizing each step, removing those points where there’s a lot of friction. And that just creates a smoother customer journey and ultimately means more business for your company and then less people leaving through the back door.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Good, good points. Both of those for sure. All right, Kevin, it has been a pleasure having you on today. I really appreciate your time and I’m so excited to see where Marketing Trail Guide goes and how that name resonates and grows as does the impact you have.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
I appreciate it, Rebecca, and if any of your listeners want to have a resource that can allow them to really help to clearly define who that target audience is and really enter it into the story of their target audience. There’s something on my website they can download for free. Okay, if I gave you that address?

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Absolutely.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
The resource is called the Story Message Map. So if you go to MarketingTrailGuide.com/StoryMessageMap you can download that for free and it’s going to allow you to really get in the heads and the minds and the hearts of your target audience as one distinct from another so that you can figure out how to best message to each of those respective audiences.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
Awesome. All right. Thank you Kevin.

Kevin Krusiewicz:
Thanks Rebecca. Appreciate it.

Rebecca Kalogeris:
All right, that does it for today’s episode. Thanks everyone for listening and don’t forget to join us next week when we tackle another great topic designed to help you elevate your product, your company, and your career.

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