FullStory’s Jordan Woods on Marketing Lovable Products

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by Vanessa King on August 15, 2018 - 7 minute read

The trick to completing a 1,000 piece puzzle is to start with the easy stuff, split the project into lots of smaller sections, and work towards the goal piece by piece.

Making a great website is a giant puzzle, but products like FullStory help decode the bigger picture. Simply put, FullStory records user sessions so marketers and UX designers can see how users are interacting with websites, landing pages, and products. The result is a constant stream of insight into low-hanging fruit and larger optimizations.

As FullStory's resident product marketer, Jordan Woods is tasked with helping these audiences find, understand, and use FullStory to reach their goals faster.

In an interview, Woods walked us through how marketers of all stripes can get the ear of the product team, and why even the most performance-centric organizations should consider brand marketing campaigns.

How marketers can influence product development

As a marketer, you understand a target audience inside and out. You know how they talk, what their performance is measured on, and why they might choose your product over a competitor's.

Yet, sometimes marketers have little to no influence over how a product works and what it can do. This inevitably leads to friction with product managers and developers, who often have their own vision of a product's future.

Woods learned how to navigate these challenges while at FullStory and in his previous position at an adtech startup. He provided a three-step path for marketers to take when they see an opportunity to improve.

1) Consider whether it's a marketing or product opportunity

As a product marketer, Woods often has to decide whether a challenge should be solved by a product change or a marketing shift.

To decide between the two, he asks whether any amount of marketing can solve a problem. If not, a product tweak needs to happen, he says.

The creation of FullStory's free subscription is a perfect example of this at work.

“We knew there were a ton of small companies that wanted to use FullStory. For a long time, FullStory’s pricing model wasn’t focused on them," he says. "No amount of marketing could persuade someone with a strict budget to pay.”

The solution needed to be made at the product level. So, the team created a free plan with reduced features. It was an instant hit, he says.

To diagnose marketing issues, Woods considers whether more education or information would solve a problem. Think of API-first companies like ClearBit and Zapier to understand what a major marketing problem looks like, he says.

"There’s so much you can do with those tools, and the challenge when you can do so many things is helping people understand what they should do with them," he says. "What happens when all of the data in the world is available to you?”

FullStory's marketing team has faced similar issues, although on a much smaller scale. FullStory can be applied to tons of different use cases, and it's a constant challenge to help people find the right way to use the product, he says.

This became obvious at Unbounce's CTA conference a few years ago. An onstage speaker was extolling the virtues of FullStory to a group of 1,700 marketers. It was a dream marketing moment until she asked members of the audience to raise their hand if they used FullStory.

Three hands went up.

"We immediately got on the phone with this person. It was really clear to us that she was using FullStory to conduct conversion rate optimization audits," he says. "She was using it in a way that was so obvious and yet we ourselves hadn’t dug into that use case.”

Basically, the team had stumbled upon a major marketing opportunity.

"It was clear that we weren’t effectively nailing the messaging and telling the story," he says. "As we started talking to more agencies or e-commerce customers, [using FullStory for CRO] was like a lightbulb moment for them.”

"As you start digging into it more, you realize that we often use terminology and features we’re familiar with as the only way to solve a problem."

2) Create a culture where ideas come from everywhere

Perhaps because of its limitless use cases, FullStory advocates for everyone in the organization to come up with product and feature ideas that solve user needs.

This was put to the test when the company was confronted with user demand for heat maps.

Heat maps, of course, are a common feature in any user experience tool. Otherwise, how would marketers and designers see what users are interacting with?

But FullStory resisted adding heat maps because of glaring issues like not working with dynamic web pages, he says. Still, customers told the marketing team, the customer success team, and the product team that they wanted heat maps.

"We kept hearing, 'I just wish I knew what people were clicking on,'" he recalls.

Eventually, the answer came to them: customers actually wanted click maps, not heat maps.

“You have people that say, ‘I want heat maps because of reason X, Y, or Z’ and as you start digging into it more, you realize that we often use terminology and features we’re familiar with as the only way to solve a problem," he says.

“As we talked more about this idea, click maps really blossomed.”

The cross-team input on user click maps led to one of FullStory’s signature metrics: the rage click.

3) Tell stories to make your case

So what should you do if something is definitely a product problem and your organization doesn't celebrate democratic input?

Woods says it's time to get you storytelling skills out—even if you don't consider yourself a creative.

"Everyone in marketing is trying to tell a story," he says, whether it's writing ad copy or matching up messages to segments. It's your job to use these skills to convince your boss or product team that a feature needs to make its way into the product, he says.

Start by explaining how your idea fits into the target audience’s larger story. Woods recommends focusing on anecdotes such as what these people care and talk about, and the features they're currently using in your product.

Then, put together a few slides with qualitative data that supports your idea. Pointing out specifics like how X% of net new monthly recurring revenue comes from this audience will go a long way, he says.

Finally, take things a step further and answer questions about how this benefits the company over the long term. He says this includes thinking about how your idea will:

  • Attract more types of this customer
  • Make the product stickier for the target audience
  • Ultimately increase the amount they pay you

At the end of this, you’ll have a treasure trove of insight into why your idea needs to be considered.

Making the case for brand marketing and product marketing

FullStory's primary audience is user experience designers. This group isn't hard to find online, but reaching them at the right cost is an ongoing challenge, Woods says.

“You need to be considerate of the fact that a lot of designers work at agencies or are doing their own thing," he says. "If you have an enterprise product and you reach a design community that’s primarily freelancers, there isn’t a great product fit.”

FullStory offers multiple subscription types to satisfy enterprise and freelance needs. The enterprise product is promoted through expected channels like display ads and design advertising networks.

But when the team promotes the free product, it turns to more cost-effective brand advertising to find relevant customers at the right price.

Creating irrational lovability

FullStory's marketing team includes a group that's responsible for creating “irrational lovability” for the brand. In practice, this includes event booths and retro-inspired illustrations, as well as creative ad campaigns that embed FullStory into the design community.

One of these included a Dribbble Playoff campaign, where FullStory asked designers to create an illustration of something that makes them frustrated for the chance to win prizes. It was inspired by FullStory's Rage Grade calculator, he says.

Designers responded with broken pencil tips, people asking illustrators to draw them, and newsletter subscription pop-ups.

“We got a lot of really funny ones. It was a fun experience for us to see these different ideas," he says.

But how many new free trial sign-ups did the campaign refer?

According to Woods, they haven’t even looked.

“That’s the nice part of the Irrational Lovability vertical. It was a way to promote the design community and say we’re part of this as well," he says. "We got a lot of good social signals, and frankly those are the metrics that our Irrational Lovability vertical cares about.”

How to make room for brand marketing

Brand marketing is often dismissed for not contributing to the bottom line or having unmeasurable impact.

“That’s a hard part of brand advertising," he says. "A lot of performance marketers think that’s a lost opportunity and just want to sell their product."

Of course, brand advertising can pay off in the long term—as long as you're tracking it properly. That's why Woods says ironing out your multi-touch attribution model is a good place to start.

"It’s probably more art than science for most people," he says. "For us, the focal point has been on saying, what are the points that get people in the door and do those differ from the ones that get people to subscribe?”

This approach is likely to change once the company launches more campaigns focused on awareness and content, he says. Then, it will become a question of how brand engagements get people interested in FullStory.

Being able to point to that data will make your case for brand advertisements that much stronger, he says.

Hear all of this and much, much more:

Listen to our full podcast to hear Wood discuss all of this good stuff, plus:

  • Secrets for landing page success (promise, they're not the tips you're used to hearing)
  • Why marketers shouldn't fear working outside of Silicon Valley
  • The marketing challenges that come from onboarding a sales team
  • How B2B marketers can grow in their careers