What internal messaging efforts have helped you shift your company's mindset from a product company to a solutions or platform company? What worked the best? What mistakes did you make?
I found that making the shift to “solutions” or “platform” requires becoming more business outcome focused in terms of your messaging. Rather than speak to individual user-level features/benefits (e.g. “the app launches 2x as fast”) you want to speak to the business impact that it delivers (e.g. “enable 2x increase in pipeline or revenue”).
The key mistake most folks wind up making is not really connecting the dots between what your app does and the business outcome it helps to deliver [or worse, you “connect the dots” in an non-credible way]. E.g. if your app enables you to launch campaigns faster, how exactly does that increase pipeline or revenue?
That’s why I believe the most compelling way to communicate these outcome-focused messages is through customer stories and examples. That makes your pitch a lot more credible.
It starts with the PMM team to come up with messaging that positions the benefits of your solutions/platform. PMM’s own the WHY and not the WHAT. Please refer to my other answers on frameworks and best practices to get to good messaging and positioning here.
Once we have your messaging in a good place, our PMM team works very closely with our marketing, sales, sales enablement, product, partners and strategy counterparts to amplify our messaging. Part of the PMM’s job is to make sure our messaging is easy to understand and sticks with all of our internal cross-functional partners, because they are the ones amplifying and scaling our messaging.
When I know I’ve made a mistake: If I share our messaging and train our wider marketing team on it -- then I read campaign copy they created that isn’t aligned and I’m spending a ton of time making edits...that’s on me as a PMM. I haven’t done my job in properly setting up our campaign team for success to amplify our message. Either my message is not clear or the tools I’m using to deliver my message isn’t working. It’s up to me, the PMM, to figure that out, course correct and keep iterating.
When I know I’ve done a good job: Now, when my campaigns team sends me copy to read and it’s spot on and I’m making very light edits -- then I know I’ve done my job in getting them to amplify our message correctly. This is how you scale good messaging. This is very satisfying and should be the goal of every PMM!
When moving your messaging from product-centric to solutions-centric, you're going to bring in experts in the solutions you're trying to organize around. Whether that be industry, departmental or some other orientation, you will need the people who live and breathe these domains to ensure the messaging/content you develop resonates.
There can also be individuals that act as sales overlays or technical field resources to provide a level of domain expertise in customer conversations that will help in deals focused around these specific solutions.
Internal messaging to motivate the different stakeholders on why to "buy-in" or invest in this transition and communicating why it's valualbe to them is critical. These transitions can be hard and take time so ensuring the broader team knows why the company is going down the path (accelerate growth, expand market, etc.) is communicated is critical. Also, taking time to repeat this and constantly reinforce it is critical....not a one time communication but something that needs to be revisited often.
Great question. To be frank, even for companies with a reputation of being open and extensible, this one is always a challenge when you're in a Platform role. Because at the end of the day, the Platform is less about what products your company creates and more about what a customer can do. Thus you're always in conversations with stakeholders who have a POV that the products your company creates are the things that enable customer success. So there's the nuance where you need to decouple product creation from customer output.
I wouldn't say that DocuSign has fully solved this need, but where we've made progress is in showcasing the business impact driven out of the platform, based on the same KPIs that the rest of the company looks at, specifically what senior leadership is looking at.
An example is we ran some messaging research on our platform and APIs, and one output was some interesting data on decision maker consideration and preference. A persona that we don't typically market platform products to. This opened some doors with our Global Demand team. Opening those doors led to some added internal marketing channels that we could leverage. Those new channels led to larger campaign results. Which led to us revisiting how we look at our historical data so that we. could show impact to the org.
So it was really one step at a time, each time the next step being bigger and broader than the last. The final output of multiple steps together is starting to see change. While a team effort, the end result is now we can tell the Platform story based on conversion rate of a developer lead vs the conversion rate of other inbound lead gen sources. We can compare ACV of a developer lead vs other inbound sources. We can compare LTV/churn of a platform customer vs all customers. We can show lift in usage from customers after Platform marketing content is consumed.
So the goal is really around how we can understand the decision making criteria that our company leadership is considering when building our top-line strategy and then aligning our platform story around those same KPIs.
The mistakes we've made have been where we think we have a silver bullet. A new stat, a new data point, etc. that will drive change. There is none, it has to be a continual and iterative story where one item builds on the last. I'd also add that a mistake made is assuming that the powers that be are going to be OK with the answer that "the platform business is different and thus needs to be viewed differently" because change at the company wide level is only going to happen if the company believes, from the top down, that being a "platform company" will equate to more business opportunities than being a "product company".
Embrace repetition, and get influential stakeholders on board. I've been lucky to have worked in very collaborative, supportive cultures where any repositioning and messaging was broadcasted at major internal events, then re-broadcasted at subsequent opportunities. For example:
- Unveiling: Annual sales kickoff (delivered by PMM)
- Follow-up 1: Company all hands 2 weeks later (delivered by CEO)
- Follow-up 2: Roadshow at team meetings (delivererd by leaders)
- Follow-up 3: Inclusion in bi-monthly enablement track and certification (by Enablement)
- Follow-up 4: Company all hands beginning of following quarter (by CXO)
I don't know if there were egregious mistakes, but I would always welcome even more customer feedback.