Can you share your perspective and best practices for repositioning a mature, market-leading product?
In many cases when you’re trying to reposition a mature, market-leading product, it’s because 1) you’re either trying to change your target market’s perception of your product / product portfolio or brand relative to the competition.
Interestingly enough, this is exactly what we did earlier this year with the rebranding of SurveyMonkey to Momentive. We found through our research that despite the strong aided and unaided brand awareness that we had with SurveyMonkey, the name was becoming very limiting as we we’re trying to push up market and lean into our enterprise strategy. The term “Survey” was considered very functional and limiting to that category we were trying to break into. And “Monkey” was bringing up perceptions of “silly” and “cute”, which becomes a difficult hurdle to overcome when you’re trying to sell software to enterprise buyers.
So what did we do?
- Research, research, research. Qualitative and quantitative studies in seven countries, with over 22,000 respondents in total plus 10 different types of studies to instill confidence that the direction and decisions were the right ones. We also did a lot of interviewing and quantitative studies with prospective customers that fit our target ICPs (ideal customer profiles), especially when it came down to determining what name to choose.
- Ensure Executive buy-in at every step. You’d be dead in the water if you didn’t achieve alignment at the executive level, from beginning to end. We conducted interviews with all of our executive stakeholders and kept them apprised of ongoing updates every step of the way.
- Formalize the new brand architecture and positioning. Determine how to structure different products, brands and solutions based on long-term needs and how we planned to evolve in the future.
- Treat the rebrand / repositioning as a major product launch. You want to generate as much excitement and awareness as possible, both internally and externally. Treating it as a major product launch will ensure you achieve your intended outcomes: greater awareness, stronger brand perception, etc.
There’s a lot more to this and our amazing VP of Brand, Karen Budell, goes into a ton of detail about how we made this happen. Adding the podcast here in case it’s helpful: https://www.93x.agency/blog/behind-the-scenes-of-surveymonkeys-rebrand
Good point! I actually find repositioning work to be some of the most fun and rewarding type of product marketing work. With new product launches you often need to work off a lot of assumptions, related research or things you don't know. For repositioning a more mature product, you can work with a lot of what you do know directly. Some of my favorite projects in my career were when I've allowed myself to carve out the time to be the student of my own product. I would study the customer use cases, the biggest wins and challenges of my sales teams, the moves our largest competitors were making and the trends in adoption and usage data. Develop a hypothesis for how your product delivers value to your target audience, and go on a mission to validate that hypothesis with both qualitative and quantitative evidence (while also being flexible to tweaking your hypothesis). And then, practice your repositioning with key cross-functional stakeholders to stress test. Not only does that become a good opportunity to let somone poke holes, it's a good way to showcase your intellect, gain buy-in upfront and crystallize important relationships in your company.
I really like this question because it's not every day that you're launching a new product. Oftentimes you're making incremental improvements to a product (for example, with several features that add up to something pretty significant). Regardless, you should be frequently revisiting the products you have to ensure they're really resonanting in the market.
I've gone through the process of repositioning a product a few times, and I usually encourage people to really start from scratch and have an open mind. That is, don't be bound by the positioning you've had in the past and instead start the process from the beginning of brainstorming what the painpoints and core value props are based on customer feedback, research, talking to sales, etc. Basically, treat it as though it's a brand new product you're launching. Some ideas for where to start:
- Talk to your sales team for the product and get their take on what does / doesn't resonate when they pitch. We've been recently working on repositioning an existing product and have discovered, through convos with a few reps, that certain features we thought would be exciting / really resonate actually don't get customers excited at all. On the other hand, there are certain things we would have never thought would be interesting that are completely game-changing to customers. When you have a product that's already in market, you have the benefit of having pitched it multiple times. Which brings me to my next point..
- Talk to customers. Very similar to the sales point above, you already likely have several customers (of different shapes, sizes) that would be willing to talk to you about what they love (and don't care for) about the product. They are also great candidates to bounce ideas off of when you do have a new product positioning.
- Talk to prospects who passed on the product. If it's an expansion product (and you have customers using yoru core product), this is easier to do. But regardless, you should always try to get in touch with folks that passed on your product to better understand why
- Literally start filling in a blank positioning doc. Again, I encourage people to really start from scratch, and the best way to do this is to start from a blank sheet of paper.
The final thing I'd say here is that it's easy to get into the mindset of thinking that just because something has already been positioned that it must be 'working' and doesn't need changing or updating, which can lead to hesitancy to just start from scratch and reposition. Sometimes, however, products were positioned hastily from the start, or you've learned an incredible amount since you first positioned something, or you're now trying to move into a completely different segment (e.g., moving from SMB to Enterprise) with very different needs (and therefore different value props will resonate). There are a number of different reasons why you might need to completely start from scratch, and it's more common than you might think.
There are many points in a company’s lifecycle when messaging and positioning should be reassessed—such as product launches, rebranding, or when you’re getting consistent feedback from customers or prospects (or other customer-facing teams like sales and support) that things are unclear. Repositioning is often linked to a rebranding moment or major product launch, but not always.
For repositioning a mature-market leading company, first be sure to identify the goal. Is it to develop a cohesive overarching narrative across multiple products so you’re better bundling the solution? Is it to differentiate?
I used to work at SurveyMonkey, which is a 20-year-old market leader, and we launched new messaging a few quarters after we rebranded. I approached that the same way I would have to develop positioning for anything else:
- We outlined a number of goals, one of which was to tell a cohesive, overarching story across our portfolio of eight B2B products and one self-serve product.
- We talked to customers
- We talked to prospects and researched the market
- We tested new messaging across channels
- We rolled it out, internally and externally
If you’re worried about showing inconsistent messaging while you’re in the testing phase, pick channels that you can control the audiences for and throttle volume and impressions for, such as paid/SEM ads or sales outreach emails.
Research, research, research! This is something we embarked on a few years ago for Trello - we had been acquired by Atlassian and over time we needed to cement our place as a mission-critical tool for businesses. We had made our name in the space of being a loveable freemium product that many users got a ton of value out of without paying and it was our job to reposition and repackage our offerings to add enough value to our paid tiers to make them really desirable. We spent a lot of time with internal stakeholders and doing external research to learn as much as we could before we made any changes. That being said - once we'd collected enough feedback and insights we had to act - one of the bigger challenges I see for a mature product to reconfigure their messaging is to play it too safe. Sometimes these types of projects can start big and then scoped back so much that it doesn't feel like there was a truly tangible change made. I think what helped us was having a broad team of leaders internally who could provide different perspectives throughout the process - this wasn't just a marketing change, it was a company-wide transition and we needed to think about it from all angles - product, sales, support, design etc. I think the other big thing to keep in mind is the context of the world when these changes are being made. When Trello first launched it was a completely different time, and though many of the challenges our users faced remain the same- there is a completely different technical and work landscape they are facing. These types of changes can't be made in a vacuum and it's important to keep that in mind. My colleague Leah who led this project did an awesome feature in Writer.com about all of this if you'd like to dive deeper!
ah yes - that can be tricky! on the one hand you don't want to alienate existing customers (for whom the product and message likely are working) but you also may want to evolve the messaging (perhaps in line with evolving product truth etc.). Product positioning/messaging have to be consistent with the evolving product truth and broader product strategy. The following approach seems to work in these situations:
- (1) Involve key customers/a good sample of the customer base in designing the new positioning
- (2) Validate new positioning as much as possible with customers, sales team etc.
- (3) Decide if the new positioning needs to be a 'big bang' approach or can be low key and more subtle
- (4) Invest in customer and field education/awareness. Expect but pre-empt any potential confusion with FAQs, webinars etc. so customers and sales team are comfortable with the rationale behind the repositioning