Written by Cassandra Powell, member of MA's B2B Special Interest Group.
I know Michael through the Marketing Association B2B Special Interest Group (SIG) where the both of us currently serve as members. I’ve always been very impressed with the energy and effort Michael invests back to the B2B marketing community in Aotearoa New Zealand. The first time I met Michael was at a networking event he had organised at Tonkin + Taylor (T + T) office specifically for the Professional Services sector. It was a great event with lots of learnings and was just one of the many ways Michael helps bring the marketing community together. With close to a decade and a half in the B2B marketing space, Michael is also a familiar face in the conference and event scene. He’s been invited on numerous occasions to present at B2B Marketing conferences to share his knowledge and experience.
After more than four years at T + T leading the Marketing and Comms team, Michael joined the newly formed entity at T + T where their focus is on disrupting the environmental and engineering consultancy industry by building digital products to create new opportunities and revenue streams for the Group.
In this Marketing Disrupted webinar: B2B Edition Online Series, Michael explained the approach, methodology and rigorous process he and the team undertook to bring new digital products from ideation to commercialisation, generating new revenue stream for T + T.
I think it’s key to understand and appreciate that Tonkin + Taylor was formed 62 years ago and is one of NZ’s largest engineering and environmental consultancy firm, with over 1200 employees throughout New Zealand and Australia. The formation of this new start-up entity within T + T allows Michael and the team to move away from the traditional professional services consulting model and have a slightly different appetite for risk, which is key to bringing new digital products into a fast-moving market and look beyond just serving clients in Aotearoa New Zealand but also offering markets to the global market.
T + T’s purpose is to create and sustain a better world and do that through all the work they do through their clients and communities. With digital products, it is possible to pull on the sustainable lever and leverage the tremendous amount of institutionalised knowledge T + T have in the company – from their scientists to engineers to planners, etc.
Michael provided an overview of the Digital Product Framework used by his team and explained the key action and deliverables by the team at each sprint. He also explained that the team consists of product managers, software developers, business analysts and product marketing managers. He stressed the role of the product marketer is to work together with the product managers and ensure the customers is at the centre of everything, the whole process, all the time. This to me, is the most important factor in building a successful product. Many times, companies can get carried away with developing new, exciting features and only involved the customers’ feedback at the tail-end of the process. By then, it is too late and often too expensive to reinvent the wheel.
The framework that Michael shared consists of two main phases and five gates:
Michael explained that idea generation starts at the business. The business provides the ideas, and these are then brought into a funnel, which then goes into the first stage, which is the ‘Ideation’ phase. In this phase, the team undergoes a quick assessment of the ideas and the following steps:
The next stage is ‘Opportunity’ sprint. In this sprint, the team spends 1-2 weeks establishing whether they should proceed the idea into the Solution Sprint stage.
The customers are brought in to help co-design the solution, test assumptions, etc. The team also start building a ‘cost and commercial model’ to understand how much it may cost to develop the product and bring it to market.
The following sprint is the ‘Solution’ sprint that includes the following steps:
Michael mentioned that the cost of stepping from ‘Ideation, to Opportunity, to Solution’ (under ‘Discovery’ phase) isn’t that high if you have a great team.
Moving into the ‘Delivery’ phase – Build and Activate is when the cost builds up and will ultimately affect the bottom-line of the business.
The Build sprint includes:
The final Activate sprint includes:
Michael then went on to explain the impact product marketing have on the process from ideation to commercialisation, especially the concept of product-led growth, and how to use the product-led lever in conjunction with traditional sales and marketing opportunities to drive more growth for the business.
He highlighted a useful source of product marketing resources, Reforge, where one can access fantastic literature and courses around the idea of ‘Product-led growth’ – which differs from the traditional marketing-led growth.
Ideally, product-led growth will overtime reduce the cost of customer acquisition by reducing the dependency on paid marketing because it’s scalable and cheaper. The key is finding the balance between product-led vs market-led growth in a successful marketing strategy.
Michael then explained the ‘Race Car Model’, extracted from ‘Reforge’ that his team uses at their ‘Activate’ sprint. He went on to explain why the Growth Engine (includes the virality, the performance, the marketing (promotion, pricing), the content, the sales) is the most important part of the race car and regardless of how well the other parts perform, the race car can only function well and go the distance and win the race if the ‘Growth Engine’ is at its optimal performance
Michael also shared three digital products developed by T + T and it’s interesting to learn how this 62-year-old company has digitally transformed their business and jump on the digital bandwagon and created new revenue streams for the organisation. The three apps are Landcheck, Geoinsights (developed by Geotechnic – a subsidiary of Tonkin + Taylor), and Plexus.
Product-led growth – using in-product levers in conjunction with traditional sales and marketing opportunities to drive growth. E.g. people may try products for free or cheaper, and create the advocacy to achieve virality and get more people on top of the funnel. Check out Reforge for some fantastic literature and courses around the idea of ‘Product-led growth’ – which differs from the traditional marketing-led growth. Ideally, product-led growth will overtime reduce the cost of customer acquisition by reducing the dependency on paid marketing (e.g. ads, etc). because it’s scalable and cheaper, e.g. dropbox – refer to a friend and get more storage (getting customers to do the marketing for you). The key is how to balance product-led vs market-led growth in a successful marketing strategy. Another very useful diagram is shown below, an extract from ‘Reforge’ that the team uses at the Activate sprint. The Growth Engine – the virality (as explained above), the performance, the marketing (promotion, pricing), the content, the sales. Fuel – research and money to develop the product, optimisation – data to understand why people are leaving the funnel, etc. this shows how important the growth engine is – the rest are hopeless if the growth engine is not working well.
Michael wrapped up his presentation by sharing the below key-takeways.
I believe this webinar is a must watch for any marketer who is keen in the B2B sector and want to understand how marketing can have a direct impact on the business growth and opportunities by bringing a digital product to market. I strongly encourage you to subscribe to watch the webinar series, because in addition to Michael’s presentation, there are several really interesting and useful learnings from other webinars to take away from. To learn how you can watch all the webinars in the Marketing Disrupted webinar: B2B Edition Online Series, please contact Lani Dodds from Marketing Association at email@example.com
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