Back to the Future with B2C
It's never too late to return and learn
This week I had a chance to get back my marketing roots with the official launch of Hearty. I’ve had many reps with this routine: Over a period of several weeks your team nails down the product, positioning, PR pitch, and all the little details on the website. Then you cross your fingers and hope for the best…
So far we’re happy with our launch results, and already hard at work on the next features and pitches. But I took a moment to pause, reflect, and smile at being back to consumer marketing for the first time in almost two decades. The experience is bringing back old passions while leading me to develop skills all marketers will need in the future.
Getting Back to B2C
I started my marketing career at Procter & Gamble in 1998 and had a chance to lead new product launches for Tide and Mr. Clean. I learned classic skills on brands that tens of millions of people use every day. But I left to lead a couple of B2B digital marketing companies in 2004. I led marketing for those two companies and did a fair number of launches. Now, with Hearty, I’m back to the B2C world with a product that is mainly for individual members’ benefits. A few things I love about consumer marketing have popped back up for me in the process.
First, a consumer product is typically personal and meaningful, so there’s an emotional core in consumer products and marketing. You’ve got to solve deep pains, unlock positive feelings, and make a personal connection that motivates someone to behave differently. Business products tend to be more of a black-and-white tool for a job, that the actual users rarely get excited about and often have no say in choosing.
I’ve found that I do much better work as a marketer when I am the target audience. In my P&G days I spent a lot of time speaking with women who were heavy laundry detergent users, so that I could understand how to create products and marketing for this target audience. I had to hold their problems and desires them in my head. A few years later, I launched Mr. Clean AutoDry Car Wash, a product for guys who wash cars in their driveways. In this case, I was the target, so many of the decisions I made were easy, quick, and reliable. It was also a lot more fun to work on something that I personally enjoyed using.
Hearty is extra fun for me since it solves a personal problem of finding great people that’s I feel weekly. And it gives me more pleasure from a task I love: Helping great people connect with each other. While we do a lot of research with members, our decisions are faster and stronger since we’re building for our own needs.
My second love of the consumer side is the fact that the market works in a way that feels much more “pure.” In business products, you typically have multiple decision-makers across weeks and months of process. The sale can be impacted by everything from pages of procurement policies to a competitor taking the CMO out to dinner the week before.
I’ve played this enterprise B2B game a lot and done pretty well, but it’s so much more enjoyable to build a product, release it to millions of individual decision-makers, and wait to see if they buy or not. You either connect with them or you don’t. And it you don’t, it’s not because of an internal political battle.
Software Changes Everything
I’ve gone back to B2C, but this time I’m hands on with an entirely different kind of product and marketing model for me, and it’s fun as hell. One big difference is the data. Nearly every part of the purchase funnel is visible in real time this time. We can see individual members’ paths through our app, monitor response rates across channels, and instantly see when issues pop up.
Because we’re a software product, we can make changes immediately. This is a much different mindset compared to my old school marketing, where getting a physical product out to thousands of store shelves brings a higher need for perfection. It’s a little hard to embrace the idea of being purposely embarrassed by your first software product, but it’s so much more liberating to get it out and start gathering feedback.
Our small team makes several changes daily based on feedback, sometimes within 5 minutes. There’s very little “oh, no, we screwed that up” and a whole lot of “oh, good, now we see what they want.” It’s also nice to cut decision debates short by saying, “Let’s push it live and see if it works.” There’s something amazing about coming up with an idea in the shower that morning and seeing it live and in-use by the end of that business day.
And it’s incredibly rewarding when the issues and ideas come directly and immediately from your members. Each email, tweet, or Intercom message is gold to our team, especially at this early stage of development. Not only does this make our product better, but it feels great to see you have something people care about enough to give you feedback.
Some of you dear readers are thinking, “Duh, Bob, welcome to the future, we’ve been here for a long time.” If that’s the case, congratulations! You have the skills that many companies need today, and all will need in the future. You might even call yourself a Growth Hacker or Growth Marketer instead of a Brand Manager or Marketing Director.
For the rest of us, my message is that we can all learn these new skills by jumping into a software marketing opportunity. Whether you choose to join a big player like Microsoft, or are the first marketing hire for a new startup, taking this a leap to this brave new world keeps us marketers marketable—and you might agree it’s a lot more fun, too.