May 17, 2024

Shape Up ✍️ — It’s not just for products

Hey there—

We talk about Shape Up a lot. After all, it’s the way we work and central to how we’re able to ship a lot of products and features quickly, with small teams. Shape Up is focused on product development, but a lot of it is applicable to any situation. Here’s an example of how we applied the concept of shaping to the marketing campaign we did for the HEY Calendar launch.

Setting boundaries

This is really a question of “appetite”, or how much time are we willing to invest in this? We’re continually experimenting with new marketing channels and highlighting different products. In general, our maximum appetite is a single cycle. We only have three people on the marketing team, so devoting one or two people for a whole cycle is a lot. Smaller, one-week projects might be something like updates to the Basecamp website or a single feature video. HEY Calendar is almost a whole product in itself, so we were willing to devote two people to it for three weeks, or half a cycle.

Shaping the work

“Shaping” is about setting the team up for success by clarifying the problem/goal and thinking through the general solution. The work isn’t specified down to individual elements or tasks, but the overall solution is spelled out. And, we try to address any open questions or rabbit holes we could see up front.

We started with a few possible campaign themes, each with several elements in mind… a longer form “anthem” video, a series of videos about specific features, and a new landing page that showed HEY Email and Calendar together. We then promoted all of these creative assets on LinkedIn and YouTube.

After discussing the options, we decided to keep it simple. Since HEY Calendar is all new, it was more important to show how it actually worked than to spend a lot of time on an elaborate brand video. Also, we could just add a dedicated page for the new feature to instead of trying to cram ALL the features on one. Finally, we chose a “Best of Both” theme that highlights how HEY Calendar combines the utility of digital calendars with the personality of paper calendars — something that differentiates it from Apple Calendar and Google Calendar.

Here’s the final pitch, and how we shared it in the Marketing Kickoff 🥾 before the cycle started.

Handing it off to the team

Here’s the project in Basecamp. In the pitch, we outlined what each of the use cases might look like, but there was a lot more to actually bring the ideas to life. We didn’t produce that list of ideas exactly, and that’s okay. We expect that things will be cut and added along the way, just as when developing new features.

And, here’s a playlist of the final work!

If you’re curious about other ways we use Shape Up in non-product work, drop me a line.

In the meantime, here are a few things you might have missed…

Thoughts We’ve Shared

Why am I still doing this?

This year, 37signals celebrates its 25th anniversary! Founder Jason Fried blogs about why he’s still in it, and why he’s as motivated as ever.

A Spin-Off Story

On the REWORK Podcast, we talk about spinning off products. They stress the value of keeping contracts simple and how once the handover is done, it’s best to take a hands-off approach and let the new team run things. They share their experiences with boards and underline the need for trust and flexibility.

Things We’re Excited About

New feature alerts!

We’ve just revamped an essential part of HEY — working with long email threads! Before, one click expanded all of them, which was disorienting. Now, you can take a peek into individual messages, while the rest stay in place.

In Basecamp, you’ll definitely want to check out References, a new feature that automatically ties related things together! No more “Where was that original message?” or “What happened to the card for this?” References appear in a separate tab alongside comments.

The next ONCE product…

Nope, sorry. Not going to tell you what it is yet. But if you watch or listen in to this recent podcast episode, we’ve been dropping some clues and an exciting announcement about the price point.

Until next time,
Elaine, COO of 37signals

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