Throughout my career, I’ve learned to become an advocate for both customers and sales, and these skills helped me successfully carry out Asana’s first-ever vertical launch.
We totally flipped our traditional GTM process on its head and changed the ways we work with our product and sales team, and here I’ll take you through the whole process, the results we achieved, and the lessons we learned along the way.
A little bit about me
My name's Daniil and I'm on the product marketing team at Asana. I've been in B2B for 10 years, but I didn't spend all of my 10 years in marketing. For the first four years, I was at BrightTALK running webinar and email marketing campaigns. My number one client was actually product marketers and demand generation professionals. That experience taught me to be an advocate for two groups.
So after running, I will say over 1000 webinars, I became a huge advocate for customers, I was in so many kickoff calls where customers didn't have a clear goal in mind, didn't understand their problem statement and needed a lot of help to get to the point where they wanted to.
I realized how important the role of CS reps was in that process. So it made me a huge customer advocate in all the work that I did. Then I transitioned a little bit into a subject matter experts solution engineering role, and I joined a lot of sales calls, probably too many, and it made me an advocate for a second group of people and that's sales professionals.
I'm not going to play the world's smallest violin for sales folks right now because I think they get compensated very well, especially in SF. But being on calls is hard, pitching your product is hard, talking to difficult folks on the phone is hard and the more things that we can do in our roles to really understand how they sell and what that experience is like and support it is really important. You'll see the idea of that advocacy throughout my article.
A little bit about Asana
If you haven't heard about us, we help teams orchestrate their work so they can move faster in everything from day to day tasks to large strategic initiatives. What I want to talk to you about today is basically a case study of a launch that we did in February of this year.
Asana for marketing and creative
Asana for Marketing and Creative teams was our first vertical launch and it changed a lot in our company - it changed how we went to market, it changed how we worked with sales, it changed how we worked with the product teams.
It triggered a lot and it was definitely, I think one of the most exciting years in my career so far.
What I'll talk about in this article is:
- Defining product marketing at Asana, and I think defining it anywhere,
- Evolving our business model, how we're doing it and I think there'll be a lot of lessons, things are constantly shifting no matter what company you're at,
- Getting on the product roadmap, and what I learned about that experience, and
- Going to market in 90 days.
Defining Product Marketing
I was a political science major at college and when you study campaigns what they tell you is if you don't define yourself early and effectively, your opponent will do it for you.
So I think you're never too early in your development as a company, and it's never too late to try to define your charter. Here's how we think about it at Asana.
PMM as the API to the business
- When marketing is thinking about campaigns and initiatives, we want to make sure that they ladder up to company objectives
- When product is building things we want to make sure that it's actually addressing the pain points of our customers or the customers that we want to get.
- When sales is going to market, we want to make sure that they're going with the message and position that is effective.
Now, the shadow side of all this is that it's a tonne of work and it's a huge commitment. But what it helps address is the other thing that can happen in companies with PMM is that you just become a service desk. Product basically shows up with a fully built product that you've never seen and tells you to figure out how to launch this.
I think this helps PMM really deliver on the vision of what the role can be and that's a strategic adviser to every part of the business.
You can't be an effective advocate for customers and sales if you don't understand how your product team builds products so this is a basic Double Diamond that a lot of product teams now use - it started in industrial engineering, but a lot of product teams use it today.
PMM orchestrates execution
I'm not advocating for product marketing being involved in every part of this process but there are a few key areas:
- When your UXR team is selecting the audience that they're going to be researching,
- When your product team is zeroing in on a pain or business challenge that they want to solve, or they're figuring out what the solution is.
Product marketing needs to be there because product, and they should be this way, want to build the cool things. They want to build things that a lot of people will use. They want to build something that they can show their friends and show how innovative it is. Someone needs to be in the room to say:
- This is a cool problem to solve but will people pay to have it solved?
- This is a really cool feature but does our audience care? Or,
- This is a really interesting audience you've selected but is it going to create confirmation bias for what you already want to build?
- Are we getting our audience right? And finally:
This is what I think we're all used to - PMM works with creating the messaging and the positioning for launches, on making sure the bill of materials covers everything that needs to be delivered at launch, works with performance marketing and lifecycle marketing teams on campaigns and launches, and make sure that everyone from people who are getting onboarded at Asana to people who are veterans constantly know what the latest and greatest with our product is.
But what I really want to zero in on is that we want to orchestrate that work, we want to enable the teams to do this, we want to provide value when it comes to strategic thinking and direction. We don't want to do that work for them, we want to make sure that they're enabled to do it.
Evolving our business model
I like product-driven growth as a topic and this is something that Asana has been at the forefront of for a while, I can take zero credit for that, I've only been there for a year and a half.
But we have a really exciting flywheel model, and I'll take you through it and this context will be relevant when we talk about the launch. We have a free product as well as a trial of our product and our performance marketing team has gotten really great at creating these beautiful landing pages and driving people either into our free product or starting a trial.
At that point, once they're in our free product, they've started to trial, our new user experience team takes over. Their job is to make people adopt our product, we want to guide them to our best, most powerful features, make sure that they're using them quickly.
Here you're looking at our timeline feature, which is our version of Gantt charts…
Or here you're looking at custom fields, which is an amazing way to sort and filter and monitor and track your work...
Once folks are seeing that, and they're using those features, they then convert either through self serve, which means they never talk to anyone at Asana, they never interact with a sales rep or through low touch, which means they might get into chat, ask a few questions about pricing or security, or maybe exchange an email or two but the sales cycle is still 24 or 48 hours.
This worked really well for a very long time, and it still works amazingly well. But the reason it worked so well, in the beginning, is because our category was still being created. There was no budget for collaborative work management, the decision-makers at the top, it wasn't on their radar yet, but the end-users already felt the pain and already wanted these problems solved.
A change in direction
So they were looking for these solutions. But something started to change and as you might have noticed in my job title I was hired as an Enterprise Product Marketing Manager. So obviously, the leadership in the company was seeing and investing in these changes and when I first joined, I'll give them credit, our head of solution sales and our head of solutions engineering gave me a month, but then they started putting bi-weekly, that's twice a week not once every two weeks, hour-long meetings to basically bend my ear.
I'll save you the whole process but this is where it took time to be an advocate because I did not understand what they were trying to communicate to me about what was happening in their part of the business and what they were seeing. It took a lot of commitment to get it down to paper but I'll boil it down and what they were seeing essentially is a new type of person was showing up to our party and we weren't going out to find them but directors and VPs very often in marketing, were suddenly in sales conversations with our teams.
Things were going differently in those conversations than in the model I just described. What we were finding is that these folks had complex workflows. They wanted to move an entire multifaceted cross-functional workflow into Asana and they had a lot of questions and a lot of requests, and they expected a more traditional sales software buying process.
Gap in our product offering
They were also identifying gaps in our product offering, they were saying, "I would move my 200 product marketing managers and demand Gen and campaign people into Asana, but you don't have X and you don't have Y and we need this to be able to do it".
Land entire departments
And finally, the big thing they were saying is, "If we do this, we can land the entire department, we can get into marketing and that gives us a huge landing spot in the organization to then be able to grow".
So once we had all of this, this was information that the sales team, the CS team kind of intrinsically knew and this is where product marketing comes in because the hard job was now, "Well, how do we convince product this is something they should prioritize? Their roadmap is already built out".
Getting on the roadmap
Build a business case: opportunity
We first wanted to identify the opportunity and there was a large unmet need in the market. This is the part where I think product marketers overthink the most or freak out the most about every time you're asked for like the total addressable market or what's the impact on the business going to be?
We did something pretty basic, but I think effective - just went into LinkedIn, identified how many creative producers, how many particular marketing roles existed in North America, we just started with a market that we knew we could address, and then identified which ones came from larger companies, I can't tell you the cut-off, but where we believed that the software decision buying process was a little bit different.
We just showed 'here are all of these people, we can't effectively touch unless we have this solution for them'.
Build a business case: urgency
We also wanted to parrot some executive language in this presentation and align with it.
We believe that the collaborative work management category is heating up, winners and losers will come to the forefront pretty soon, and if we want to be one of the winners and not one of the companies that are consolidated, we need to move quickly.
Build a business case: upside
We aligned with executive messaging when we did this presentation, and we also wanted to talk about the upside.
We believe that if we landed an entire marketing organization and got to talk to marketing ops that would connect us with other operational departments to think about how work is done in their organization.
All of that is cool, but it doesn't really get people too excited because, at the end of the day, there was a very clear ask, we wanted the product team to build forms and take forms for work, we wanted them to build proofing, which is markup on images, one way to do approvals in Asana for work. And finally, a few key integrations that we saw a lot of asks for.
Use PMs love language
This is where I think a lot of product marketers can go wrong, which is going straight to product, and saying, "Here's what I want you to build". I would recommend you use product managers' love language, and that is user stories.
You convey the story to them and let them come up with a solution. This worked really effectively for us.
Disclaimer: I have these beautiful slides now but just so you know, all of this was done in a Google Doc with text only so I want to make sure that you understand that, and what I want to take you through are some slides of that story.
How we got on the roadmap: an example
The idea was basically this - we took a fictional company, Webflix, and they had a very successful show Weirder Stuff, and part of their marketing strategy was regionalization and this is a totally made-up story.
Part of the strategy for growth was regionalization so they create a portfolio for it. Then they assign a project to the regionalization manager to basically bring Weirder Stuff to South Korea. That person gets the notification that they're in charge of that project. They go in, they see the creative brief, and they see, "Oh, my I have to create Instagram ads, Facebook ads, a whole bunch of collateral".
So, they find in the company wiki the intake form for their creative production team, and they submit a request, and they say, "Hey, we're moving the show to South Korea, we need all of these assets. Here's the creative brief".
The creative designer, in the regional office, receives the requests, puts it into a Gantt chart to create a work back schedule so all of the tasks are clearly identified when they're due's clearly seen.
And then this is where some of the magic starts to happen. The designer is working in Adobe and she doesn't have to leave her tool. She gets her task from Asana and she can immediately work on the Instagram ad, save it, upload it to the task, and basically ask for feedback.
The manager can then in Asana, leave comments, annotate that image and the conversation can happen within Asana back and forth until it's to a place where it's ready for approval and the campaign can go out.
This was the most effective part of the Google Doc that we shared with our head of product and our executives...
This is where most of the conversation and most of the comments were happening:
- Why can't they do this now with our existing feature?
- What would happen if we built it like this?
All of these requests for forms, proofing, the integration with Adobe, they existed before, it's just putting it into one user story and showing how impactful it could be for a customer really makes things click and I think moves things on or at least that's the story I tell myself.
So I highly recommend that when you're thinking about pitching to product that this is a way that you tell that story and you really make the customer come alive for them.
GTM in 90 days
The reward for hard work is more hard work. There was a bit of silence for a few weeks, maybe a month, and then it came back and lo and behold, our product team decided to move heaven and earth to launch these four products on one day, something that we hadn't done before.
There were four separate teams working in parallel, driving all to one date. At that point, I sat down with our CMO and kind of looked around and said, "Hey, this is a brand new go-to-market motion for us and it's brand new for us in a number of ways".
A new GTM
As I mentioned, we were really driven by self serve and this was obviously a more complex story that would need to be told by sales. So how could we explain to the market and bring this solution to market that was more complex of a story, a more multifaceted of a story than we've ever told before? What was different is we were targeting a specific role.
We were very much a horizontal company up until that point and this was one of our first sales-driven go-to-market motions. We needed to have sales involved earlier, involved more deeply, and this was something that was new for them as well.
Suddenly, I came knocking on their door and they were like, "Oh, yeah, launch is happening. Why are you here?" Well, we needed their input in a way that we didn't before. How did we go about making sure that this launch was successful, and creating a whole new go-to-market strategy?
Again, we wanted to focus in on the audience, and we were very scrappy. You'll see in some of the slides what these first initial talks actually looked like before we got design resources on them. Because all of our design team was working on this launch and wasn't also able to accommodate us.
Targeting a specific role
So we really focused on job titles first, before we thought of folks as either a team lead or a project lead. And here we needed specific job titles that our sales team could go into LinkedIn and LinkedIn navigator, and actually search these people and find out more about them.
Targeting a specific role: sales playbook
We wanted to also understand their metrics and what they cared about. Each play had, ‘here are the four or five job titles you might encounter, people who use this workflow, here are the metrics they care about, and here are the pains that we believe they feel doing their job today, here's how Asana can help solve those, and most importantly, here are customer stories - folks like them are already solving these problems’.
Giving our sales team the entire story that they needed throughout the call that they would have or the email conversations they would have to be able to reference every point in that story that they needed to tell.
This sales playbook actually ended up being extremely valuable not just for our sales team, but for all of the supporting teams. So marketing, CS, even product began using it as a touchpoint to understand what was the strategy of this launch, what were we actually trying to do?
Then, we started working with our content team, we realized we really needed to create a lot of content and a lot of training tips to help support sales through this process. What we wanted to do is create a matrix that aligned to their existing funnel, to the existing stages of their sales journey and say, "What content do we need there? What training do we need there? And how do we help the rep go from one to another?"
It's useful for a number of reasons.
- When you're strapped for time and resources, it really helps you understand what is that minimal viable product, or where are you going to have gaps because you decided to support one area versus another.
- At the end of the day, when you're spending a lot of time and resources on something and the executive sees a two-pager run across their desk and she says, "Well, why did we create this?" you can say, "Here's the exact point in the sales process where this helps address a need for our sales team and helps them move a conversation forward and hopefully affects revenue".
A full-funnel content bundle
We delivered a full-funnel content bundle, so something that covered every piece, but we were MVP, we picked pretty much one piece for each stage. We wanted our sales reps to have something to share at each stage of a conversation whether it was a product overview, a case study with very specific ROI statements,, or something that was a little bit more thought leadership-oriented.
And I will say that those case studies and those metrics ended up everywhere - on our website, in call decks and became one of the most used pieces of content that we had.
Be an advocate for sales
Finally, again, being an advocate for sales, I keep hearing the same things over and over and sometimes they go into the background, but you should really focus on them.
What we heard from sales constantly is, "Every time I'm on the phone with someone in marketing, their question is always what is the best way to do this? What is the best way to run an event launch? What is the best way to run my content marketing calendar? What's the best way to do a product launch?"
Pitching, demoing, and leave behinds
So we provided for them ultimate guides, basically guides that went through each of the plays that we had created, each of the workflows, and also demo scripts so they could go through an Asana instance and actually show someone what that would look like.
These ended up being the two most loved things by our sales team because it really addressed what they were hearing over and over on calls.
The thing I'll begin wrapping up with is we realized that we couldn't just dump all of this stuff on sales' desk and walk away and say, "You're welcome. We did everything, here's all the content", we really needed to bring them along.
Bring sales along
As we thought about how to do training, there were a couple of big lessons for me here. One is trying to keep your entire sales team together as much as you can in the beginning, there'll come a point where you can't because it's too specialized, but to get them excited, to get them bought in, keep them in the same room.
So our kickoff, our big presentation on the playbook that was done with the entire org in one room, which was really nice. And we also didn't assume that just because this was a very much sales driven effort that all of the individual contributors understood that this product offering was really coming from sales.
We had the head of sales, we had the head of solutions engineering really come up and talk to folks about how this was something we requested of product, how product really showed up and delivered, and how it was the sales team’s time to really take things on.
I think that really helped a lot of people start wrapping their minds a lot of the individual reps wrapping their minds around what was happening. I'll give you a few of the agendas of the actual conversations we had.
So we went really deep on why are we pursuing a solution go-to-market strategy, and how is it different? Why are we verticalizing suddenly, in our company? Why target marketing creative teams out of all the different teams that we could be targeting?
We really wanted to make sure that our sales reps understood the strategy and that it became theirs and they took ownership of it:
- What was in it for them?
- Why have a sales playbook?
We talked to them a lot about how standardizing this methodology would make sure that they didn't have to look for content or constantly figure out what the next step in their sales process was, and also showed them metrics from teams that had developed playbooks and the impact it had on their revenue, their ability to hit and attain quota.
I think a lot of that stuff landed with them as well.
I'm sure a lot of the folks in the room at the time were kind of scared because they were like, "Well, I've been doing it this one way now at Asana for two or three years and suddenly there's a whole new strategy". So we also wanted to make sure that, "Hey, we're not leaving you guys alone at the starting line, we're going to be with you through the entire race and there's going to be a lot of training and launching".
This is where our sales enablement team really came in and they did a lot to make sure that our sales team felt supported throughout that whole process.
We went really deep as subject matter experts, we even at times brought in customers who were already using Asana for marketing and creative purposes. We talked to other subject matter experts, and we really wanted to make sure that our sales team understood deeply:
- What does the marketing tech stack look like?
- What does creative production look like today?
And a lot of this stuff is very exciting if you think about large creative production houses, it's really stories they could connect with around their favorite shows and thinking about how those are created. So this also was something that helped them a lot.
Playbook in action exercises
The last thing that we did, I used my profile here, but basically one of the things that we did with enablement is just found so many folks on LinkedIn, blurred out their face and their name and basically did a lot of 'ring rings' or fake calls.
We basically got each team - the SMB team, the mid-market team and basically said, "Hey, here's a particular prospect your SDR has set up a 30-minute call for you with them, how would you approach talking to them?" And this is where we could really point them back to the sales playbook and all the content and materials that were created.
At first, they would look at a profile and say, "I have no idea how I would talk to this person", like the head of creative production at HBO. But then they would be driven into these playbooks and say, "Oh, I actually have my talking points, I actually understand what this person cares about, I actually know how to have this conversation".
The result: wins
This ended up being some of the most highly reviewed content and training that we did. The impact was nice. I think the biggest thing that we saw was a rise in confidence and effectiveness on the sales team and the depth of the conversations they were having.
This was something that we weren't aiming for but something we really were excited to see that going more vertically into a particular category allowed the folks who've been selling horizontally for a very long time to really talk about the value of Asana in a very specific and targeted way.
I’ve talked about:
- Defining PMMs charter - I think it's really important.
- Be an advocate for customers and sales.
- Know how to influence your roadmap, understand product managers and their love language, I really do think it's user stories, so as much as you can do that, I think it works. And,
- Go to market with how your product is actually sold.
A lot of the work that we did here was influenced by talking to sales folks at Asana and asking them, how are you actually selling today? What do those conversations look like and creating content that they could actually use.