With Jason Shen & Dom Goodrum of Percolate
Last Wednesday, Jason Shen and Dom Goodrum of Percolate led a double-header Work-Bench Workshop on marketing and product design for the enterprise. As an enterprise tech startup building a marketing platform that enables Fortune 500s to better create, plan, schedule, publish, and analyze content, Jason and Dom provided some key takeaways that we’d love to share below:
Building Blocks of Marketing
Jason Shen, Percolate’s Marketing Manager, first spoke about the five primary elements of any effective marketing strategy: brand (what you stand for), objective (what you want to achieve), audience (who you are talking to), platform (the vehicle you use to deliver content), and trigger (why your content is relevant).
Critical to Percolate’s core operating beliefs, Jason described their brand as being built on four key pillars: technology (software), marketing (serving an industry), design (with beautifully designed software), and culture (because your employees matter and because customers care about the people behind the work).
Although every company’s primary objective may be to create a market for themselves and obtain customers, Jason stressed the error of approaching all projects with the goal of “closing a deal.” By utilizing social media, events, their blog, whitepapers, and syndicated content, they are effectively targeting two different types of audiences. First, they look at roles within the enterprise — those who had the budget to buy their software or would be reviewing product results (e.g., brand managers like the CMO or VP of Digital) and those who would be handling social media or otherwise using the product itself (e.g., community managers). Second, they look at the community outside of the enterprise — prospective employees, leaders within the technology, marketing, or local community, and trusted industry analysts like Gartner, who released third party reviews of their product.
To this end, Percolate’s marketing strategy makes an effort to add value to the field of brand content marketing in ways that do not directly advertise their core products. Online, they write content for their blog and for syndication on design, company culture, sales, technology, and more, and they produce a variety of gated white papers that discuss tricks of the trade. On foot, Percolate hosts “speakeasies” or monthly happy hours in New York City that allow community managers from across companies to connect and share ideas. Within their own company, they host annual Hack Days that bring the product and business team together to brainstorm products to improve company operations.
Designing from Start to Finish
Dom Goodrum, Percolate’s Design Director, led the second half of the Workshop with an in-depth examination of Percolate’s design process. Traditionally, building a design department involves hiring for three unique positions: a research role, user experience role, and visual role. The user experience role maps out how the tool functions, the visual role decides the color palette, typefaces, and other aesthetic aspects, and the research role attempts to understand the customer. Percolate, however, aims to make the product designer responsible for all three areas, so that designers have a clear line of sight into the problem being solved.
In order for this to work, Dom stressed the importance of listening as a company — not just in sales or customer support — but across product, business and marketing. This way everyone plays a role in hearing the feedback and challenges that their customers face and is thinking about what opportunities exist for the product. One way Percolate achieves this is by documenting user insights in a Google Doc or in a visual representation of the user journey, allowing anyone on the team to access and understand these insights.
Interestingly, Dom pointed out that the client and consumer research his team runs does not actually focus on the product, but rather on the problem they are solving for. In avoiding talking about the product, Percolate’s design team can focus on understanding the jobs people do and the problems their product is trying to solve. In addition, Percolate places a big emphasis on consumer grade designs and interfaces, which speaks to an exciting shift we are seeing in design for enterprise solutions. “We want people to love our product like they love using Instagram,” Dom said.
Given their design focus, Percolate has thought deeply about brainstorming and internal collaboration. “We know that we need all perspectives from the company, and to bring them together physically.” They’ve learned that, traditionally, the person with the biggest mouth (or HIPPO — the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) leads the room, so they sometimes shake up their workshops by breaking people into small groups, posing problems, and asking folks to quietly sit and think and sketch out some solutions. Additionally, they hold company-wide internal quality assurance sessions, so that everyone at Percolate gets to participate in the feedback loop and try a new feature or product update before it is released.
Last take-away: We’ve heard this reflected elsewhere, but you have to be able to write great interface copy that motivates and makes these interactions clear. The content you put into markups have to reflect the content your customers use. So no more Bacon Ipsum!