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EPISODE 14 – Lauren Fisher

Remembering The First P – Why Marketing Needs to Be Involved In New Product Development

When most people think about marketing, they automatically think about the promotional aspects of it. But anyone who has studied GCSE business will be able to tell you, that the other P’s in the marketing mix are equally important. 

In this episode of Marketing Freed,  product marketing consultant Lauren Fisher joins me to discuss the importance of marketing being involved in new product development, along with some tips from Lauren to make sure you end up with something your customers actually want to buy.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How marketing can build strong connections with product development teams.
  • How to gain insights from consumers 
  • What factors you should prioritise new product development ideas on





    Episode Transcript
    Episode transcript

    When most people think about marketing, they automatically think about the promotional aspects of it.

    But anyone who studied GCSE business or beyond will be able to tell you that other four Ps of the marketing mix are equally, if not more important. I am extraordinarily pleased to be joined by product marketing consultant, Lauren Fisher, as we discuss the importance of marketing being involved in new product development, along with some tips from Lauren to make sure you end up with something that your customers actually want to buy.

    Lauren, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for having me. Great to have you on. Look, Lauren, it’d be great for everyone listening. Just if you could talk, your way through your career and how you’ve ended up working as an independent consultant. Sure. I think I’ve had what I think might be referred to now as a squiggly career.

    I’ve been hearing that a lot recently. so I started in media. I worked in a couple of media agencies when I graduated. I knew I wanted to work in marketing. I didn’t know loads about What kind of marketing I wanted to do. I also graduated in 2009, which I think was probably the worst possible time to be looking for a job.

    a couple of my friends worked in media agencies, and so I went along to a group interview, got offered a role, and I thought, here’s as good a place to start as any. So I started doing that. I did enjoy it. It probably wasn’t what I definitely knew I wanted to do in the future. I started to realize probably quite early that I wanted to go client side.

    Wasn’t quite sure how to do it. fortuitously, O2 happened to be looking for a marketing manager who had quite strong media experience. and they offered me a job, as a creative and media manager. But I think it was probably just a brand marketing manager. I genuinely couldn’t believe they’d offered me the job.

    I had proper imposter syndrome doing that. But I absolutely loved it. And I’m so grateful, to the guy there, Simon, who recruited me. And trusted that I was going to be good at the creative bit as well. I was, I loved it, did loads of really cool brand work there, worked on some amazing campaigns, we had massive budgets, it was brilliant.

    I do tend to get a little bit bored after a couple of years, so I think it was probably two and a half coming up to three years that I started thinking about what I wanted to do. I did get offered a role in the propositions, kind of product side of the business, interestingly at that point. I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the kind of creative, creative.

    Side of what I was doing and I got offered a role at three Which I initially didn’t want to do because I thought well, it’s just another telco but then I found out that the old brand director of o2 who did the do you remember the be more dog campaign? They’re quite iconic, it was quite a big It was quite a brand shift for O2 and also all the kind of O2 priority music stuff.

    All of that had happened underneath her. She’d gone off and worked to Harvey, Nicks and then Three had got her as their CMO and everyone O2 used to go on about how emergency she was. She was, she’s called Shady Hallowell. and I decided that I really wanted to go and work for her. three was a. No one really liked 3, so I felt like it was intellectually a bit more of a challenge.

    So anyway, I went and did that in a kind of brand role. Did that for a couple of years, got my normal itch. Had a chat with Shadi and she said, Where do you want to be? What do you want to do? And I was like, I want to be you, to be honest. and she was like, fine, but you’ve only got one side of the marketing mix.

    You, you can only really do the, brand stuff. And you need to go and learn about the rest of the business. You need to, go and do some commercial roles. So that’s what I did. I went and got a role in the, what was then the kind of proposition development team, which. It’s straddles product and marketing.

    So it’s probably my first product marketing role without me really realizing it. and I did that for a couple of years, which is amazing. Realize I should have done it much sooner, but as I was really good at it, love the commercial side of it, love the data, the analytics, the strategy. and then I moved again to manage a product that I’d developed within that team.

    Then I went off on maternity leave, loved my daughter. She’s amazing. It was. Took us a while to have her. So I was quite surprised at how early on maternity leave, I decided that I was a bit bored, I thought I’d really love the whole year, but I didn’t, and I actually think probably not enough people talk about that.

    I found it quite lonely, found it a bit boring. So I started doing a little bit of consultancy work and that’s how I came into doing this. I did a couple of product marketing consultancy projects. One of those clients asked me to stay on. I. Decided to just go for it, handed in my notice, started working on a retainer, a couple of days a week for them and then started deciding to grow my consultancy business, which is what I’m doing now.

    What sort of clients do you typically work with? Anything really, I’ve got a bit of a thing about specialising in a particular area because I think the discipline of marketing, product marketing, should fit any type of job. sector or organization. So I do B2B, B2C, tech consumer products. I probably haven’t got so much experience in, fast moving consumer goods.

    I think it tends to be tech, based products, but that, is a wide range of sectors and businesses. I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit. and there’s a reason that I didn’t ask this question, in advance during our pre interview, because I want to see what, how your reaction is. you’ve worked, you said agency side, I think. so before we get onto the main theme of the episode, complete the sentence.

    Marketing agencies are

    Expensive. Yeah. Aren’t they just? Yes. In fact, in some of the work I do for one of my clients. I, look for freelancers or agencies a lot, and I am really quite astounded by the cost difference between agencies and freelancers who have got the same experience. I would always choose a freelancer. Yeah. And I think the point of me asking that loaded question about where do you find your clients, it’s, a challenge, isn’t it?

    Because unless you know where to look and then you’ve already got someone in the, in your network, yeah, maybe you’re connected to somebody on LinkedIn or you just happen to see a post from them. You’ve got to be a bit careful. You’ve got to be connected to the right people and a bit fortunate to find the right people.

    But, it’s an interesting point. Thank you. the, main theme for this episode is really how we get marketing involved more in the development of new products. And that’s where your passion lies. And that’s where a lot of your experience lies as well. to set the scene, could you walk us through some examples, where you’ve been involved in that or marketing have been involved in product development and where it’s gone really well?

    Yes. I think, I was thinking about this. one of the, I think probably the best example I’ve got actually is some work that I did while I was enrolled at three. so we had an issue where customers were churning at quite a high rate. So we looked at all the different reasons why they were churning off and the, classic ones came up, which we knew were going to happen, price network, et cetera.

    And then the third most common reason why people were churning was. Lack of recognition for loyalty. So we started doing a bit of work on, okay, if we were to start trying to reward customers for loyalty, how might we do that? And how could that help us solve our churn problem? So we did quite a bit of exploratory discovery work around where the gaps were in the market.

    What. What the rest of the market was doing, there’s lots of different ways you can do it. We also spoke to customers about what they actually meant by being recognized for loyalty, which I think is actually quite important. and that did lead onto quite a lot of the thinking that we did.

    and we developed a two pronged approach. So one of the prongs was we want to give a kind of monetary Reward for loyalty, so discounting, which is a much more complex proposition that we were, I didn’t actually deliver while I was there because it, various different tech based reasons, but that was one side of it and the other side of it was going to be a rewards app, which is similar to what the kind of competitors offer.

    Anyway, I remember we were having these conversations about how this, what, this app did, how it looked, what was included in it. and I remember fighting very hard for this because there was a, drive from a lot of people, lots of senior people, from people from all the product side to fill the app up with lots and lots of things.

    So go look for partner offers, and create a kind of continuous UI flow where you just keep scrolling through. And, the idea was, we have something for everyone on there. I felt very strongly that’s not how users, customers use those apps. You were on a kind of ride. I don’t know if you’ve got one of those loyalty apps, but I’m pretty sure your daily routine does not go, Oh, I’m just going to go on Instagram or LinkedIn.

    And then I’m going to go and look at O2 priority. That’s not customers don’t do that. So I felt very strongly that we needed to think about customer behavior when it comes to these apps. And I felt like a lot of our competitors hadn’t really got that right. The one that had got it right a long time ago.

    Do you remember orange Wednesdays? Yeah, I do. Yeah. With the cinema tickets. Yeah. Two form cinema tickets on a Wednesday. Super, successful. Really popular. Great for Orange in terms of, loyalty and acquisition, actually. So I was like, actually, if you think about why Orange Wednesdays were so good, it’s because it was a really, clear offer.

    It. every single week, and it was really, easy to use. It was just, you got a text, turned up at cinema, showed your code, you got two for one cinema tickets. Amazing. So I was like, what can we take from what we know about why that worked so well, and put it into what we were doing with our app at three?

    And so we did, we decided to create offers which drove habits. We did a Cinematicket offer and it was once a week. We did an Uber Eats 20 percent off, which was a really good offer. Again, the code renewed once a week. And then a free coffee once a week. And then I was very, clear that when a user logged into the app, even if we had a really cool, shiny new thing, those hero offers had to be once a week.

    At the top of the screen, those were the things that we had to communicate consistently because those were the things that were going to be driving the habits. And that’s exactly what happened. The app launched, we got a million customers on it in about six months. It was amazing. It was such a success.

    And then the most used offers, of course, were those three offers that were the ones that I knew would be the most used. And then We did have to fill it with the other ones because that’s what senior leadership wanted, but I managed to get my way on that. Well done. That’s a brilliant example.

    and during that example, you mentioned a couple of sources where you’re gaining some, inspiration from, for what you can build into your products. You mentioned competitors, you mentioned Orange were doing their promotions really, well. you mentioned customer feedback. Are there any other sources of data that you’re looking for?

    I tend to take a kind of three pronged approach to it. What? The market doing. So when it came to loyalty, there’s a plethora of ways that you need, there’s the boots, there’s points, Tesco, ClubGuard, et cetera. there’s ASOS premium, those sorts of things. So I had a look at the market and what they were doing and a really kind of good analysis of that.

    I think it’s really important to look outside your sector when you’re doing stuff like that, because you’re talking to a customer, experiences, lots of different things. So it’s about trying to fill the kind of gaps in what they want in their lives. Consumer research I think is, really important.

    We did a lot of consumer research. We did a lot of quant and qual. and actually one of the really good things that we did was we did a lot of employee testing as well. So it was a really good way of actually galvanizing the rest of the business behind it and asking them and getting their feedback.

    And actually, when we, had our kind of initial concepts, we did lots of testing with them to start with, which I think was actually a really great way of picking up things that weren’t quite right, things we needed to change, offers that weren’t quite working. So I would definitely love their own ideas, don’t they?

    So if you need to get internal buy in, what a great way of doing it. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So we had a huge kind of re three lots of retail stores. it was really great to involve with the retail staff in that, because they were the ones that were gonna be selling it Yeah. To customers. So that worked really well.

    That’s great. Was there anything that’s, that stands out that you can remember that was suggested by an employee that ended up being built into the app?

    no, but we, but use ux UI stuff. Yeah. really silly one, but. Passwords. So when you have to go and set a password, I think the app developer was like, it has to be 15 characters, three, three symbols, actually that user testing that we did with employees was really good to clap back at the app developer and be like, we can’t do this.

    It’s, really prohibitive to get people in there. Yeah, I hate it. I, hate my Apple ID one because it’s, there is a requirement for a character that appears in most of my other passwords that I’m not able to use. And therefore I end up either forgetting it or writing it down, and it really, winds me up every time I use it.

    Yeah. It’s so annoying. It’s such a bugbear of mine. Yeah. Okay. look, in that, in that process, you mentioned gathering both qualitative and quantitative data. How are the two used? Do they have different purposes? Yeah. Yeah, it really depends on what it is that you’re doing. if you’re at the point where you’ve got concepts, I think QOL is really good because you can, get You know, one to one feedback.

    You can really start to unpick what it is. Why do you react like that? Why don’t you like that? Why do you like this bit? And I think you can draw out so much more from QWOL than you can from QWANT. That being said, sometimes you need to make quick decisions or you need to validate things. More quickly, more efficiently, and quant is a really good way of gathering quite a lot of insight and data.

    if you’re at the very beginning of kind of product development, surveys, quantitative surveys are, great for starting to steer the directions you go in. And then when you get to that slightly more well rounded view of where you’re going, that’s where I think qual becomes really important.

    Yeah, and, with the qual approaches, they were Is there a particular structure that you take with them? Are you always asking the same set of questions every time? So that it’s, a fair test? Or actually, are you just rolling with whoever’s in front of you and the feedback you’re getting?

    No, I think it’s hard to answer that. It’s a little bit of both. I think in order for it to be accurate and fair, you have to, the question, the interview has to be structured in the same way because you need accurate data to use, but. If you’ve got a consumer who you’re testing with who is opening up a lot, and you can probe a bit, then obviously why wouldn’t you do that?

    That being said, you don’t ever want to take a straw poll of one. Yeah, very good point. And I suppose during the, during the interview process, even though you might not be outright asking questions, whoever’s involved in it is going to be picking up on signals or just quirks or behaviours that the person in front of them, the consumer, might not even be aware they have, but they’re still valuable.

    A hundred percent. And actually, going back to when you, what you asked me earlier about agencies, I do think research agencies are incredibly valuable. experts in their field, I’m always amazed at how they can frame certain questions and how they can pick. responses apart to give you certain results.

    it’s a real, skill that I think. Interesting. Okay. Thank you. And I don’t think you should skimp on it. I really don’t. No, it’s so valuable to get right, isn’t it? Because it really can make such a huge difference. If I think back across my career, some of the stuff that I’m most proud of having been involved in and where it’s made the greatest difference to the company’s performance have been.

    Relatively simple tweaks to some software to make it super relevant to a particular niche. And that niche was going through some changes at the time, and we were just on, on two separate occasions, able to capitalize on it before any of our competitors. And it was just unparalleled. It was for that particular sector.

    Every year it was like one sale, no sales, two sales, no sales. And then we make a few relevant tweaks to them based on the feedback, based on some observations of the market, and all of a sudden goes from zero, maybe two, on a good year. To 10 to 20 each year. and that maintains, just, thinking about what you might do as a software company.

    I suppose your options are totally unlimited, aren’t they? You could, in effect build anything. How do you go about deciding what features or what products you should be developing? What you should be prioritizing? It’s, that’s a great question. And I would say I’m a bit of a stickler. For, making sure that you get this right.

    I’m, I obviously think there is a place for very, creative people who are ideas, people, and who are excited by innovating, every business users, and if you’re doing any kind of product development, that is absolutely imperative. And that is why, the likes of Google and Apple have been so successful because they’ve had those type of blue sky thinkers.

    However, there is always a, but. That comes with that and that is, is it commercially viable? how much is it going to take to build? How long is it going to take to build? Does it fit the brand, the customer offering? Is there a customer need for it? Is there a gap in the market? Can we rightfully play in that gap?

    and so I think my, process. would be depending on whether that initial ideation has happened or not is start with discovery. So what do we know about the markets? What do we know about what our competitors are doing? What’s our offering? What do we know about how customers are interacting with our offering?

    are there particular points where they’re dropping off? And we think we have a bit of a hypothesis as to why they’re dropping off. Is, that because there’s a gap in what we’re offering or is it just because we’re not communicating something to them? So I think it’s taking that broader picture and trying to work out where it is that we can develop and play in and what’s going to, where we can capitalize basically.

    and then it’s a case of, working with a variety of teams, so big cross functional team, which I think is very important for all of this stuff to be quite cross functional. and then working on some kind of initial concepts for that. And then I think once you’ve got to that, point where you’ve got some really solid concepts, that’s the point that you start going, prioritization.

    And I do, I’ve got this little table that I have, which is essentially, commercially. Is it viable? what’s the value of it to the business? From a T, a kind of technical t shirt sizing point of view, how long is it going to take? How much is it going to cost? and then, does it fit our kind of customer offer and where do we want to get to in 3, 5, 10 years?

    And is this the right thing to be doing to get there? And then you can prioritize based on that. And it’s, not all science. It’s a bit art and a bit science, I think, trying to make those calls about prioritization. I like that t shirt sizing approach for new product development because the truth is, You can do all the research, but you never know to a scientific degree until it’s out there in the big, wide world.

    And you’ve got famous examples of, I think, I don’t know, IBM being asked, the head of IBM, how, what’s the size of the market for computers? And it’s maybe we’ll sell five. And obviously massively underestimating the size of the market in that instance. But basing a sort of scorecard on some t shirt size and for how much resource is it going to take?

    How well does it fit our place in the market? Commercially, is it viable for us? Presumably, if it’s not, that’s a just, do not pass go type response, isn’t it? You’d think. Okay, interesting. Yeah, you’d think. I, yeah, it’s interesting because I suppose it can feel commercially viable for, I’m working for a business at the moment that has got consumers.

    And then it has business to business customers and they create a lot of products for their business to business customers that do make quite a lot of revenue. but because they make so much revenue for their business to business customers, I think they slightly neglect the consumers. and so when you talk about commercial viability, yes, in the short term you’ve created a new product to sell to your customers, make more money, but in the longer term.

    You’re, slightly neglecting the, I believe, much bigger revenue opportunities for consumers. Without naming names, is it a B2B2C brand? So they’re selling to other businesses who are then selling on to consumers? Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And eventually you might assume it will come to a point where they’ve ignored the underlying or the consumer category so badly that some new innovative startup comes in and just starts cleaning up?

    yeah, I honestly think it’s a real risk for them. I was in a meeting last week and someone said, Oh, we’re gonna, we think that we can make a bit more money in this space. And I was like, I’m sure your customers will want to buy one of those products, but do your consumers actually need that?

    And so I’ve tried to stick my and get involved in the kind of early discovery stages of that. So it doesn’t go too far. Yeah. Great. look, we started the conversation with, you elbowing your way into some product development, activity at three and being very, pleased that you did in and pleased with the outcome that it achieved.

    if marketing teams aren’t already involved in that process in their organization, have you got any advice for them about how they can start that process? Yeah. I think the big learning that I’ve had over the last few years is. To make friends with the product teams. So I think there are lots of product teams who are brilliant and they have got actually very strategic customer focused brains.

    So I think sometimes when they want to shut marketing out, it’s, not because they don’t think marketing can help. I think it’s just because they think that they’ve got that bit covered. Also, some of them do just have a bit of a misunderstanding of what marketing is and how it can help them achieve their goals.

    So I think The best possible thing to do is to have build relationships with the product teams, and help them understand the role that marketing can play. And what I’ve been doing at a business recently, because I’ve, I’m, there to set up product marketing is to, get really close to the product teams and just say, look, what are your challenges?

    The kind of the way I would, to be honest, if I was developing a new product, what are your challenges? Where are your gaps? What do you perceive? Marketing can help you with and then that started to give me a bit of an understanding of How I can weave marketing in and I’ve worked out where the gaps are and I think it’s just a way of framing it, and, nudging, just nudge a little bit.

    Can I be invited to that meeting set up, a bi weekly or even just a monthly catch up with the product teams, find out what’s on their roadmap. the early, about things as the marketing department, the better. It’s going to be for everybody. And the more chance you’ve got of being involved in that, those kind of early product development sessions.

    Perfect. And why wouldn’t they want to hear from the marketing team as well? Because across most businesses, you are the, bridge between this in house development, the in house activity and the wider world. And that can only be a valuable thing. A hundred percent. And I think the thing is, I think a lot of product people probably go.

    We’ll do, we’ll create it and then at the very last minute when we’re at the point where we want to go live with it, we’ll bring you in and then you need to go and write the copy. And you need to take it to market and do some Google search and get people to use it. And that is, by far underutilizing marketers and particularly product marketers who have just got so much value to add.

    so much. Totally agree. And what a point to end on. Before I let you go, Lauren, thank you for all of that. before I let you go, the, the question I’m asking everyone is, can you give a recommendation for a marketing book that you think everyone should read? Yes, I’ve got it here. Good strategy, bad strategy.

    Yes, the kernel of a good strategy. Exactly. I love strategy. Have you? I haven’t got it back yet, I’m going to chase them up after this. This is a new copy, actually, that I’ve got. Because my other one is bent, scribbled on. Yeah. That is an excellent, read. And it’s not too, it’s not hard going. It’s an enjoyable read, but super, super valuable.

    It is. And I just, I love any book like that. That’s got really good tangible examples. I just, love reading about, good business decisions, one bad business decisions. And yeah. Yeah. Brilliant. Thank you, Lauren. That has been brilliant. Really appreciate your time. How can people connect with you after the episode?

    LinkedIn is best. I’m Lauren Fisher. I’ve got a pink cardigan on in my picture. or I’m Lauren@productmarketingpeople.com. And so presumably the website is productmarketingpeople.com? It is. Perfect. Thank you very much, Lauren. Thanks everyone. Thank you so much.