User Stories in Agile Marketing Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled “User Stories in Agile Marketing“. I intended to write a follow on post the next week, but travel and work and a few other blog posts came in between. Here is the long promised follow on, which covers how development user stories and agile marketing user stories differ, and how to implement user stories in agile marketing.

Here is a table of some of the differences between user stories used for development, compared to those used for agile marketing:

Development User Stories

Marketing User Stories

Low level High level
Lots of them Relatively few
Left brain Right brain
Focus on functionality Focus on outcomes


Because development user stories focus on relatively low level details and functionality, there tend to be lots of them in any given project: at least 20-30, and sometimes hundreds. Agile marketing user stories are higher level, and typically, there are fewer of them: generally under 10 per persona, and often only 3-4 per persona. Development user stories tend to focus on left brain oriented processes and functionality, “I want to login so that I can access subscriber content”.  Marketing user stories tend to focus on right brain outcomes which have emotions associated with them.  “As a mom, I want to take and share videos of the kids so that I can share important moments with grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.”  As marketers, we sometimes focus too much on function/feature, rather than outcomes.  Good marketers and salespeople have learned this lesson.  How does the Nordstrom saleslady sell a dress? Not based on feature/functions (it has spaghetti straps, a street length hem and six buttons), but based on outcomes (You look great in that dress.  Your husband is going to love it).

The back of the card containing a development user story outlines the test cases for the implementation of the user story. When documenting marketing user stories, I use the back of the card for a different purpose.  In one column, I list the SEO keywords associated with the user story.  This reminds me, if I’m generating a piece of content to address the user story, of the keywords and phrases that I need to incorporate in to my text.  In the second column, I list the alternatives that the user has to address this user story, starting with how they address it at present.  This column represents the competition, but it’s important to list more than just formal competitors (other companies in your market). How does the user achieve the outcome at present? In the example above, perhaps the mom uses a traditional camcorder to record videos of the kids, or perhaps she doesn’t record video at all, but uses a digital camera and shares stills.

So how to get started using Agile Marketing user stories? Begin by documenting the personas relevant to your product or service. I use a template like the one pictured above (this is a slight modification of a template used by Todd Warren and his NUvention class; thanks, Todd). After I document my personas, I begin writing down user stories for each one of my personas.  At times, there is overlap – multiple personas want the same outcomes. But often, different personas in a market or a sales cycle want different outcomes. By documenting these user stories as a team, including the SEO keywords and the alternative solutions, we can be more consistent and more effective.

What’s your experience? Have you tried user stories in marketing? If you’re interested in doing so, and you’d like to start with my templates, leave me a comment and I’ll send them to you.

Outside Eyes and Ears: Coaching Top Performers


Photo courtesy of SD Dirk

Lance Armstrong had a coach; actually, two coaches (Johan Bruyneel and Chris Carmichael).  So does Rafael Nadal (his uncle Toni).  So do the world’s top opera singers. Tony La Russa’s masterful coaching of the St. Louis Cardinals was a critical factor in this year’s World Series.  Coaching can also benefit a top performing surgeon, according to a fascinating article by Atul Gawande in last month’s New Yorker magazine.

But how about mid-career, top performing marketers? Can they benefit from coaching, from an outside set of eyes and ears? I think the answer is clearly yes.

Great marketing requires great implementation of the basics – positioning, understanding the customer, engagement.  As we advance in our careers and we get engaged in projects, sometimes we forget or don’t pay enough attention to these fundamentals. The effectiveness of a marketing campaign can also be determined by the most minute of details: details that we may be too close to see. A coach’s perspective, encouragement and discipline can help even the best marketer improve their performance by tweaking the details and covering all the fundamentals.

I have a coach.  He’s not a marketing coach, but a business coach. I find talking to him once a week tremendously helpful. He provides me with that outside observer’s perspective. He reminds me to focus on particular details and to prepare thoroughly for a meeting, making sure I understand my objectives going in and thinking about the perspectives of other players. He sends me inspirational materials, including the above mentioned New Yorker magazine article. Without his coaching, I’m sure that I wouldn’t continue to grow as much as I have or enjoy my work as much as I do.

What about you? Could you use a coach? Where could you benefit the most from an outside set of eyes and ears, as well as the encouragement and discipline of a coach?

Want to Learn Something? Teach It.

TeachingIt seems contradictory, doesn’t it? How can you teach something that you yourself don’t know well? The truth is, for anything that is an extension of your existing expertise or where you have a reasonable aptitude, the best way to learn something is to teach it.

Back in early September, I received an email from the University of Washington, Bothell campus, asking if I would be interested in teaching a course in E-Marketing. The person slotted to teach the course had dropped out, and I had a previous relationship with the school. I took the opportunity, although I didn’t then consider myself an expert in E-Marketing.

The last time my job title contained the word Marketing in the title was back at Microsoft, in the late 90′s up to early 2001.  At that time, Microsoft barely got the internet, and Mark Zuckerberg was still in prep school. No one at Microsoft talked about social media marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization or a host of other e-marketing techniques.

As CEO of a couple of startups, and then through my consulting practice, I had kept up with most of the new concepts in e-marketing, but I was hardly an expert. Here’s what I learned and some tips if you decide to use teaching as a method of learning a new skill or subject.

  • Read everything relevant to the topic and synthesize it – One of my best decisions early on was to use David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing & PR as a textbook, rather than a traditional college textbook.  I read it cover to cover before starting on the syllabus, and as I read, I investigated many of the links and sources that David referenced in the book.  David led me to another book, Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, which in turn led me to sites like MarketingProfs, Junta42 and The Content Marketing Insitute. The synthesizing generally takes place as I prepare the lectures. I also take notes as I read using EverNote.
  • Call on the expertise of others – Where I don’t have deep expertise, I bring in people who do.  Cal McAllister of The Wexley School for Girls spoke this week on viral marketing, Todd Warren spoke on the creation and use of personas.  Later in the course, I have Matt Youngquist of Career Horizons coming in to talk about E-Marketing in the job search, and Tom Barr coming in to talk about E-Marketing at Starbucks.
  • Learn by doing – Before I teach something, I apply it in my consulting practice. I’ve built Facebook pages, created social media strategies, run webinars, worked on SEO and SEM, and created Content Marketing strategies for clients in my consulting business as I’ve taught these techniques in my class.  This allows me to enliven the discussion by bringing in my own experiences and challenges.
  • Let students learn by doing – I think the academic term for this is experiential learning, but I prefer the simpler “learn by doing”. My students must practice e-marketing either within the confines of an existing business, or by creating a blog or web site, and apply e-marketing techniques to increase their traffic and viewership.

What do you think? Have you ever learned something by teaching it? What new skill could you learn by teaching?

User Stories in Agile Marketing

One of the most useful tools in Agile Development is the use of User Stories.  These stories, typically recorded on a large index card, take the format:

As a [role], I want to [task], so that I can [goal or benefit]

On the back side of the card, developers will usually list the acceptance criteria or test cases for the feature.  To see a good example of user stories in agile development, go here.

Are user stories relevant to the Agile Marketer? If so, how might they differ from user stories used by agile developers?

The Role of User Stories in Agile Marketing

User stories provide the agile marketer with insight into the personas associated with each of their target markets as well as focusing the marketer on the customer’s viewpoint and benefits.  Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

  • As a [role] – Roles correspond to Personas.  A Persona is typically a fictional character that is representative of a set of users who use a product or service in a particular way, and that play a particular role in the selection or use of that product or service.  The Persona is described in sufficient detail that product managers can make decisions regarding features or design elements of the product.  Marketers can use Personas to design web sites, write marketing collateral and generate content (blog posts, instructional videos, white papers, eBooks, etc) which meet the needs of these Personas.
  • I want to [task] – Focusing on what the customers want to accomplish, whether it’s solving a problem, alleviating a pain, scratching an itch, or aspiring to something better, reminds us of why the customers want our product.  For Content Marketers, focusing on tasks reminds us of how we can help our audience accomplish what they are looking to accomplish, and gives us an avenue to add value by providing relevant and helpful content.
  •  so that I can [goal or benefit] – The goal or benefit reminds us that all good marketing should answer a single question for the customer: What’s In It For Me (WIIFM).  Bad marketing focuses on the vendor’s products and features, rather than the benefits that accrue to the customer.

In my next blog post, I’ll describe how Agile Marketing user stories differ from Agile Development user stories, and share with you a couple of templates that I use to document Personas and User Stories.

What do you think?  Have you used user stories in your marketing?  How have you found them useful?

Ingredients of a Good Demo

Steve Jobs demos Macbook Air

Photo courtesy of Tom Coates

David D’Souza of Moprise and I were down at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco last week, demoing Moprise’s latest application, Coaxion, for several hundred VCs, press and technology enthusiasts. Demoing the product over 100 times that day, I started to think about the ingredients of a good product demo. I also watched one of the masters, Steve Jobs, demo products over the years: ranging from his introduction of the Apple Macintosh in 1984 to his introduction of the iPad in 2010. Looking at Job’s demos, and thinking about the ones I’ve done over the years, it seems to me that there are seven key ingredients to a great demo:

  1. Start off with a “hook” – If you look at Steve Jobs introduction of the iPad 1, he describes it as “More intimate than a laptop, more capable than a smartphone”.  We started off our demo of Coaxion by describing it as “Flipboard for the Enterprise”. This, by the way, is what is known as a “high concept pitch“.  It’s like something you know (Flipboard), but different in a way that makes sense (for the enterprise, rather than for consumers).  Or it’s like one product that you know meets other product that you know.  This technique, borrowed from the movie industry, is very effective in communicating what your company does in a single sentence.
  2. Explain a problem and show how your product solves it, elegantly – after our “hook”, we described a scenario involving a salesman, who wanted access to all his documents on the iPad, offline or online, and we showed how easy and elegant it was to retrieve those documents and make them available offline.
  3. Put the product in a bigger context – Jobs is the master of this.  For example, when he introduced the iPhone, he didn’t just say, “hey look, here’s a nice feature and here’s another nice feature”.  What he said was “we’re re-inventing the phone” and then proceeded to demonstrate exactly what he meant by that phrase.
  4. Reinforce by repetition – in his introduction of the iPad, count how many times Steve Jobs said “It’s just that simple.”
  5. Leave out the jargon and the tech talk – watch this video if you’re ever tempted to use jargon in a demo.  It’s a spoof, and an accurate one.
  6. When something goes wrong (and it will), ignore it or make a joke – Coaxion was still unstable when we demoed it at TechCrunch, and almost every demo we would have a failure. Since I had told people up front that this was work in progress, I just joked that the failure showed that this was real software, and not a fake demo.  Watch Steve Jobs handle a loss of connectivity when he introduced the iPhone 4.
  7. Close with a call to action – this will vary depending on whether the demo is to a large audience from a stage, or a more intimate sales call.  In any case, don’t forget the purpose of the demo – you want to move people to action.  Don’t forget to be explicit about the action that they should take, whether it is to download the product or sign up to learn more.