Edition 39: PLG

Build a Media Brand

Welcome to the 5(ish) new subscribers who joined since I started running a $100 twitter ad campaign. Thank you for justifying my spend. #ROI

Housekeeping: Sorry for the mess last week. I sent it off while my 3-year-old was dragging my laptop away. I’ve also had some folks mention my emails going to spam. If this happens to you (and you dig it out) can you reply and let me know?

I’ve finally caved and come around to PLG - but not product-led growth which I still think is a term that’s grossly misused like growth hacking before it.

I meant Personality Led Growth.

A few years ago there was a discussion of every company being a media company. The wave started off the back off red bull which was a brand associated with extreme sports and X-Games and such. Then GoPro hit the stage with UGC of videos of athletes and skateboarders doing stunts and GoPro strapped to their heads. This naturally leaned itself towards a tv/video experience - building an audience of folks who enjoyed these with the GoPro branding behind it.

Long story short - this created every company is a media company narrative which then got translated into software/tech. But things work differently in software - the enterprises/infrastructure products don’t lead themselves naturally into engaging consumer content. Stripe being an exception with Stripe Press and Increment Magazine (not sure what is around) and Airbnb with their magazine, even Casper the ‘Nike of Sleep’ publication did not really go anywhere from what I know. Most of these attempts tend to be half-hearted & without actual journalism behind it. Most are thinly veiled content marketing mills.

Perhaps the closest examples are Intercom with their blog which speaks to a broader audience & Mattermark (RIP) & their newsletter + what @alex did there briefly, as Aazar pointed out Profitwell (i’ll admit I have no idea what they actually do) & to a certain extent Wistia.

Edit more examples from Twitter:

But here’s what I think we got wrong - media companies are built around personalities. This has never been more upfront than in the age of Substack where a star writer/journalist can essentially create a one-man media operation by “porting” their audience from saying NYT to their Substack newsletter ($10/mo). Internet celebrities and YouTube stars have been doing it - from vine to YouTube to TikTok whatever platform comes next.

And now there’s a trend with software companies hiring “personalities” in marketing to bring their audiences over.

Examples are the Fast folks and Mathew Kobach / Megan Eisberg / Dave Gerhardt and ... these “star marketers” lend their credibility to the companies they join and also bringing their followers with them to expose the brand to a broader audience. I’d wager more people know about TripActions because they’re following Megan’s next moves from Mongo rather than actually knowing about TrioAcrions because of the company.

PLG - Personality Driven Marketing

This sums it up - even though I think this dude is an insufferable ass based on his tweets

Instead of Influencer - replace with personality.

Personality becomes the brand.

I’ve written briefly about why return on ad spend us a shitty metric for advertising efficiency because it does not take into account so many costs (including the agencies running it) and most ad networks will tend to favor themselves - taking credit for any purchase that had a whiff of an ad impression

The classic “FB GURU” move of posting ROAS screenshots always rubbed me the wrong way. It’s easy enough to inflate metrics favorably not to mention you don’t really know the time/product / spend / ACV etc - granted these moves are nice prevalent in e-commerce DTC communities because the product is so commoditized there’s practically no differentiation. I sometimes wonder if most of these are made in the same factories in Shenzhen.

This is an older one but It’s a cautionary tale on product launches

if you haven’t guessed by now I like to keep my eyes on the e-commerce space. Razors (I don’t shave regularly) are a commodity. There’s my ex-employer Gillette (P&G) and then a whole whack of new kids on the block like Harry’s / Dollar Shave Club and Supply.

Patrick who runs Supply is pretty transparent and open on Twitter - this was an interesting short interview. The money quote:

Our competitors, such as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s, have spent more to acquire a customer than they get from the first purchase. They’re hoping for a lifetime value to become profitable. Our biggest weapon is that we’re profitable on the first purchase. We have a lot of available margin to acquire a customer.

Did Walmart end up buying TikTok? Sarah literally wrote the book on Instagram & this was a very interesting read - how these social apps help ‘create’ the influencer economy because - that’s how you make the app more sticky. Goes back to the personality as a brand example from media.

Here’s the full article by Sarah.

Interesting Reads:

The Costco model for DTC brands (but with better branding):

But this time, the middleman isn’t a Target or Nordstrom or a retailer. It’s Facebook and Google. And customer acquisition costs have basically forced these direct-to-consumer models to operate the same as their predecessors, which is: price 5 to 10 [times] the cost of goods; assume that 30-50% of that, if not much more, will probably go to customer acquisition cost

Since marketing and sales are tied to revenue why not product management too? Seriously this is a fantastic read and makes a very good case for putting PMs into more of sales focused role

We currently have two PMs that are in charge of lowering CAC and three that are dedicated to increasing contribution margin. They align their entire roadmaps around delivering on those outcomes,” he says. You can apply this ethos in a few different ways. “We are signing up hundreds of new customers a month, but we want our experts in customer success to focus their efforts on onboarding the larger customers, by ramping their spending on our corporate credit card. To free up our customer success team, we’ve asked two product squads to exclusively own the onboarding of all companies with 0-20 employees. This means product is building onboarding tutorials, Divvy University videos, and even hosting weekly webinars to train smaller clients.”

And finally some poetry

Till next week


p.s I am running a small experiment to create the wirecutter for Saas - if you are interested in being a beta feedback person - fill out this form.

P.P.S If you enjoyed this please consider sharing this on social. It helps stroke my ego.