Turning Around a Failed Launch with Remote's James Doman-Pipe and Lune's Alicia Carney

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This edition featured James Doman-Pipe (Remote) and Alicia Carney (Lune). The full video recording is here 👇🏼

Or read the transcript of some of the highlights:

James: "Even though we had the core concept we knew was valid, we knew it was a thing, we knew it should be working, we just weren't seeing that come through in the results at all."

Alicia: "I try to limit these at least per day, but I want to give James some props, because everyone knows that feeling of business as usual, everyone's cheery, this culture of positivity, which is good, but James was the first person who took that tension that we were all feeling where we were seeing flatline numbers, and he created space for that conversation, was like, okay, something's not good here, and really shifted the whole company's focus towards triaging and figuring out how do we actually go into problem solving mode.

And I think that's a really important thing, because I've seen that at several startups now where numbers and performance of a business are flatlining or the NPS is in the toilet, but no one really knows how to sound the alarm. So it takes a lot of courage to do that, especially in small teams, disrupt the status quo.

But I think that's pretty much what gave us the opportunity to turn things around."

Question: What did you do around pricing the second time around? What was the primary difference between the research and framework do you used the first time?

James: "So the biggest difference is we actually went to the market. So we followed the Profit Well workbook ebook framework thing. And that basically breaks down to three areas. And the first is about qualifying your personas. So how easy is it to acquire them? Then looking at what features they value and you can do that through a feature preference analysis survey question. And then ask them Willingness to Pay questions, which you can use to create a really nice chart called a Van Westendorp Analysis chart. And that basically gives you a really nice set of numbers.

So you can say for each persona, they prefer these specific features and they are willing to pay between this price and this price. And we basically just took that and we ended up with five separates that were ranging from free all the way up to kind of an Enterprise "Contact Us" number.

And each one was aligned with the features that those customers told us they cared about."

Question: Talk to me a little bit more about positioning. And how did you think about positioning going into this launch?

James: "We followed Andy Raskin's strategic narrative design format. And that's like, what's the world change? What are the enemies, the new world that your customers can access and things like that? We felt quite confident about that. Again, we've done a lot of conversations. We understood quite well what people were talking about and what they cared about. But what we did wrong is we didn't understand the different stakeholders in play in our buyer journey.

We had done all that validation of our messaging with execs, but we have completely ignored, basically, the champions, the managers of people that would be coming to the website to build their shortlist. And so they wanted tangible benefits. They didn't want the aspirational messaging. They wanted to see the very clear cut do this, this is the feature, this is the benefit of the outcome you're going to get style."

Alicia: "One of the main distinctions there is we took a different approach in terms of the conversations and the information and the value we wanted to get out of all of those different interviews and whatever. We wanted to discover all of the different buyer personas that existed versus trying to validate our own assumptions of who those people should be. It's a really, really big distinction and concept, and I'll try and say it again in a different way in case that's confusing. Let's say I'm like, okay, I want to sell ...take Kayako... customer service software company. I'm assuming that I'm going to have to sell to a customer service manager. And then I almost project my assumptions of what that person looks like, what they care about, what tools they're using, versus discovering what's actually out there.

And if we had taken that different approach first, we wouldn't have just narrowed in and focused on execs, because execs are like a final sign off on budget for the buyer process that we eventually discovered. They're not the actual person who is living and breathing in that tool, relying on that tool to hit their OKRs. Yeah. So the difference is don't build personas. Discover what's that's out there. And that's what really was the key to unlocking us, figuring out how to right the ship and how to fix things and how to speak to those people."

Question: There's a really interesting question here and something that people struggle with around kind of like narrative design and positioning and at what level do you talk about your company? It's cool to have this lofty world change positioning and narrative, but at the end of the day, I've got to write a headline for the Hero section of my home page. And finding that balance of marketing like, hey, there's been this world change, there's a new game. And balancing that with but people also need to see the functional benefits and the actual features. How do you guys think about striking that balance?

Alicia: "If I could say one thing that's a little bit cheeky, we have such good job security as product marketers with one question who are you talking to? Your job as a product marketer is to have the most confidence in knowing who the right person is for you to talk to. And you could build the whole website for what you think sounds good or what you think an executive might sound good. But the actual make or break work is in all of this customer development and building up a sense of confidence that actually CEOs are really like third tier for us.

And I'm going to know...I think the language I used yesterday on stand up is that we're doing a huge push for user testing and user research. I'm going to be doing interviews every day. I want to indoctrinate every single person in my company at Lune with the pain of this particular persona. And that's the hard part."

Question: How did you build confidence with your team that the next decisions were the right ones in the wake of a failed launch?

Alicia: I think, and not because this was my work, but the transparency that we tried to bring, it was a bit unprecedented. We were really, really trying to own okay, look, hands up, this is not working. Giving all of the information that we had to everyone, it got people bought in to feeling that we were all fighting this one problem as a team versus trying to point blame. But also, yeah, I think that would probably be the main thing, is just consistent accountability and transparency. Leading with voice customer. James?"

James: "We weren't just fixing things and moving on to the next problem. We were iterating on these.

So we worked really closely with the engineering team, the website engineers and stuff like that. We're like, we don't know where our pricing is going to end up, we don't know what our onboarding is going to end up. But we think this is the right direction based on the evidence that we've heard so far. Let's give it a try. We just kept iterating towards that. I mean, it was a journey of at least probably four to six months in total. Getting to a point of satisfaction."

Steve: "Yeah, I'm probably butchering this. There's a saying that goes something like trust dies in darkness, or something like that. And yeah, I've found just kind of showing your work along the way and just constant updates around here's how things are going, here's what we're doing - goes so far in terms of just garnering that trust and respect."

Question: What launch strategy would you recommend and why? A "rolling thunder season of launching" or one big flash in the pan launch moment?

James: "I guess my opinion on that would be it really comes back to objectives that you're trying to have. I don't really use launch tiers. I'm more thinking about what's the outcome that we want to drive? What's the experience that we want customers to have and work from there. At Kayako we definitely focused on this Big Bang launch. It was all in one day, where we sunset the old product, we rolled out the new one. Definitely should have rolled that out a bit more slowly and done more of an evolution of the product or something like that. But the goal was like, look, we're going to cut this.

We want to get rid of the old world. We want to embrace the new world. That's the goal. Other companies, the principle is more about let's learn, let's validate, let's iterate our way towards where we want to get to. And the launch is less about making big noise, but about building a relationship with customers and the experience that we want to offer and things like that."

Alicia: "Before you hate on my launch tiers, they're organized by outcome that you want to drive!

But we really do agree on this mindset of iterating towards success. And I always say that you can never fail a launch if you don't put all of your eggs in one day basket.

If you launch with the mindset of, the first thing I want to do and measure success with this launch is to get feedback and feed that back into the business. That's a success. And if that can improve the quality and the traction of an MVP product or hitting certain commercial metrics or seeing a few points increase on an NPS measurement, better customer experience, that's success. And iterating towards this higher level vision, that's the way to go.

So I guess to answer your question, the Thunder one, but always to take the mindset of iterate and focus on customer feedback, and that will draw you towards the right direction of success. Yeah."

Steve: "My non answer for this is I feel like there's actually room for both, even if you're working towards, hey, we're going to throw this big customer summit in six months, and these are the major things we're going to launch. You can actually talk about them in bits and pieces, like, here's a work in progress update on what we're building and what we're thinking, and you can kind of do those along the way and still have your, hey, this is our big marketing moment for it."

Question: "David PMM at Filevine asks -- How does narrative design ideally take shape in a company? Do you have certain assets and documents that are created and maintained over time to ensure distribution and consistency of the narrative?"

James: "For me is the Sales deck is the basis for adapting that narrative and that messaging and that positioning into all the other documents and deliverables and stuff like that. Narrative isn't just us telling a story, it's about us taking a prospect on that journey with us. So it has to be a conversation or something that you walk through, you have a conversation through, you have prompts that you're asking all the way through and bringing that on that journey.

Yeah. I think Narrative design is really interesting, and Marcus Andrews has done a lot of stuff about it and Andy Raskin and I think it's really interesting to see how different people approach it."

Steve: "Definitely. I love that it's grounded in your Sales deck. I feel like sales calls is like the number one place for you to go out and actually battle test this narrative. So having that be the home for it, I think, makes perfect sense."

Alicia: "It's also a more cost efficient way of testing new messaging, is developing a new deck, asking one salesperson go out and see how this performs. If it gets much traction, you have faster sales cycles, then maybe it's something you want to roll out further."

Alicia: "The only other thing I would add is that I try to do almost micro education and enablement across the whole business. I create a channel called like, Gong Gold where I go back and listen to Gong calls, and then I'll take a snippet and push it into a Slack channel and I encourage everyone else in the business to do the same, where we hear our unique value being communicated back to us. It's one of my favorite kind of qualitative proof metrics of messaging resonating. If someone can recall it and think it's their own words, it is their own words. When you hear that messaging reflected back to you is huge. So for us at Lune we have very particular messaging. That climate is not a cost center, it's a growth driver.

So whenever I hear that, I share it with the team, and then I draw a bunch of attention to it and be like, look, they're doing it, and get everyone really hyped up. What we're doing is working. And treating your internal stakeholders as internal customers is something that James and I talk about a lot. And you're trying to get them to feel that their work has this bigger purpose of the problems you're solving for real people. And so I find that really helpful in accelerating enablement or confidence speaking to that messaging outside of sales conversations. If I know this is working, it really sticks."

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