This article was taken from a presentation for the Product Marketing Summit, Austin, 2021 by Colin Thurmond, Director of Solutions Marketing at Bazaarvoice. Catch up on all presentations with our OnDemand feature.
One of the things I want to address today is the inflection point that many of us have as we're growing an enterprise company. It’s a problem of scale: how do we build our product marketing organizations as we grow?
I'm going to be looking at this very much through an enterprise B2B lens, and the approach that I'm going to take is a case study. So, rather than just thinking abstractly about big concepts, I'm going to be talking very practically about what our problems were and how we solved them.
Of course, there's some danger in the case study approach. It may not be 100% applicable to everyone at every company, but hopefully, you’ll be able to glean some useful nuggets and steal some ideas for your organization. I’m going to do my best to dig into the “how” and the challenges and give you something that you can work with.
I’ll specifically be focusing on:
- Bazaarvoice’s origin story
- Portfolio expansion
- The challenge
- Product-level metrics
- What this helps us to accomplish
- Parting thoughts
Bazaarvoice’s origin story
Before we get down to the nuts and bolts, I’m going to tell you a little bit about Bazaarvoice, the company I work with, and that’ll give you some context as to the challenge.
Bazaarvoice is one of the OG tech companies here in Austin, Texas. We started to focus on ratings and reviews when they were only a thing at Amazon. At the time, people were like, “Wow, you're gonna let customers talk about products publicly? No way!” That was a scary idea back then. Today, it's pretty commonplace.
The second part of our original offering centers on questions and answers. We give brands the tools they need to answer their customers’ questions online, and we help them run live chats and build FAQs so they can answer those questions for all to see.
The third big product we’ve offered from the beginning is sample boxes. We put your product in a box, ship it to somebody new, and ask them to share a photo or review in exchange for that. This can play a big part in new product introductions and help get product launches off to a great start.
For 15 years, Bazaarvoice was all about these three products, and we got entrenched with some of the biggest brands and retailers in the space. When you go to Walmart, when you go to Target, when you go to Adidas.com, all of those ratings and reviews are powered by our product.
At a certain point, the company wanted to grow. As we went from a public company to private equity-owned, and then from private equity to another private equity, different questions started to come up:
- How can we diversify our product lines?
- How can we sell more to our enterprise client base?
- How do we continue to grow the market cap of our company?
With that, we started a whole bunch of acquisitions – this is where I think a lot of our readers may eventually run into something similar, whether that’s through internal innovation or mergers and acquisitions (M&A) work.
Remember those sampling boxes we sold? Having that product meant that acquiring a company called ‘Influenster’ was a natural move. With that acquisition came 12 or 13 more ways to get products to people, a whole bunch of different styles of boxes, and lots more new products.
All told, we acquired a dozen new content services products that we could offer our client base. These were about helping you get content from people outside of your website’s usual customers.
Then we went in on social; social media platforms have stopped being just about networking and they’ve started selling, too. People are checking out and buying products directly through social media. So we bought Curalate, a company that deals with getting user-generated content (UGC) from social platforms. That gave us another 12 or so products in our portfolio.
So Bazaarvoice, in over 18 months, went from three products to about 30. And let me tell you, that hurts. It’s very difficult to grow that fast.
All of a sudden, on top of all these new products, we've got two new personas in the mix as well. We started selling to social media managers and brand managers, and we didn't know who they were. We’d been mostly selling to eCommerce managers up until then.
Scaling is difficult. So, how did we begin to think about this internally? Between the OG Bazaarvoice, Influenster, and Curalate, three companies had become one. However, they were all operating in silos; they were all individual islands. Some of you may find yourself in this position at some point in your career.
So, we had three different messages being brought to market; we had three different demand gen engines and programs; we had three different sales teams; and we had three very different product roadmaps, none of which was talking to each other, and none of which was connecting the dots to draw a more holistic picture.
So this was our challenge: how do we create a messaging hierarchy and framework that tells the story of these three companies coming together to create an added value that's greater than the sum of its parts? This is the story we were looking to tell on the back of this acquisition work.
We needed to create efficient marketing campaigns with no overlap or waste. We needed programs that would talk to one another. We had to create a unified sales method, where instead of having three sellers selling to one account, we had one seller selling multiple products in a suit. And we needed to create a holistic roadmap that would get these platforms to talk to one another.
And of course, we needed to figure out how product marketing fit into all this. You’ve almost certainly seen this Venn diagram before, with a product circle, a marketing circle, a sales circle, and an arrow pointing at the center.
Sorry to be so cliché, but that's what we were thinking: how do we sit right here in the center?
Our product marketing team was very focused – you may find this in your own companies, too. We had somebody looking after the product portfolio of ratings and reviews, a product manager for Q&A, a product manager for sampling boxes, a product manager for social, and a product manager for our analytic services.
Their job was to think about the product life cycles of the product line. They were looking at creating good go-to-market strategies, how to talk about and message their products, and how to differentiate all those products, too.
So, we had these five big columns of product marketing, and we were trying to figure out how to build a solutions marketing function that would encompass them all. We had to create a team that wasn’t not bound by any one product but would sit across products to understand how they work best together.
So then the question becomes, how, instead of telling a single product-led story, can you tell a very different story that sits across all of your products? Well, we had a couple of options for this framework.
One option was to think about our different industry verticals and how our personas map across those industries. Another way was to think about how those personas map across different scales of business. What do they need in a small business versus in one of the world's largest enterprise clients thinking about global domination?
It's about creating a conceptual framework and layering it on top of all your products. That way, you begin to simplify and organize your conversations, and you don't have to pitch 30 different products at once, which is a horrible thing that I do not recommend. It gives us an organizing principle that we can use to think about how all of these products work together, driven by persona, industry, and client segment.
So what metrics are these teams focusing on? Our product marketers were deeply entrenched in thinking about their product line bookings, their product line adoption numbers, and churn.
Our solutions marketing team was thinking about upselling and cross-selling; they were thinking about attachment rate and average contract value; and like our PMMs, they were also zooming in on adoption and churn.
In our new framework, we're thinking about metrics slightly differently. We’re looking at the same metrics, but through a different lens, and holding our product marketing and solutions marketing teams to separate but aligned metrics to keep them focused on the right thing.
One of the things that’s important here is that we're also not shoving seven or eight products down somebody's throat that they don't need. This is where managing churn comes into play. If you sell a client a bunch of unnecessary products, they’re not going to use them, and 12 months down the line they’ll churn. That's not a position we want to get ourselves into, so we need to think about scaling appropriately.
What this helps us to accomplish
So what does this new structure help us accomplish? When we think about restructuring teams, I think a couple of things are important.
Number one is that it frees up our product marketing team to do excellent product marketing, and not have to worry about the things that now fall into solution marketing’s remit. It allows them to focus on excellence in the life cycle of their product, the product features and functionalities, the launches that they support, and giving feedback about those products to our product organization.
Number two: it also allows our solutions marketers to get out of the din of the quarterly go-to-market cycle. They can focus on market expansion and vertical work instead of sitting in on every go-to-market meeting for every iteration of every product.
There are a few more things that we want our solutions marketing team to be able to focus on. I’m going to dig into each one of these a little bit.
The first is a holistic messaging framework. In the early days of Bazaarvoice, the corporate marketing team was focused on defining the company's mission, vision, and brand position. We also had a great product marketing organization that could articulate the value of their products super well – they kick butt at that.
However, the portfolio layer, everything in between the company’s lofty ideals and the products themselves, was a bit spongy. This “greater than the sum of its parts” story wasn’t very well articulated.
This is where the solutions marketing team came in and started to clarify this middle layer to unify the company’s messaging. With two additional companies incorporated into Bazaarvoice, it was time to come up with a new elevator pitch. Our solutions marketers also rethought our brand-wide differentiation above and beyond just the product level and took a new look at the company’s thought leadership activities.
And, of course, being a solutions marketing team, they wanted to clear up our solutions messaging. Their challenge was to take 30 messages for 30 different products and distill them into only four.
At its most basic level, each Bazaarvoice product either helps you collect content, moderate content, syndicate content, or analyze content, so what our solutions marketing team did is group the products under one of those four umbrellas: collect, moderate, syndicate, and analyze.
Now all of a sudden, we have a much clearer framework. We can say, “At Bazaarvoice we do these four things well,” rather than reeling off an endless litany of products. We also align this with our product management teams to guide their upcoming developments and iterations.
Improved quarterly launches
I’m sure many of your companies have a regular cadence of product launches. For us, they’re quarterly. These are much more communicated thanks to our new framework.
Let's say we've got four or five innovations coming for this particular quarter's launch. Well, now we can build that launch around one of those umbrellas I was just talking about. From there, we can create thought leadership and demand gen content to tie into that and highlight what distinguishes us from our competition.
Mapping cross and up sales
The other thing that our solutions marketing team focuses on is mapping cross-selling and upselling. Depending on where they start, each customer has a different journey with us. They may start with one of 30 different products, and the question is how we get them to use as many of those products as possible.
Our team is mapping how these customers move through their journey with us and which products they land on. They’re building campaigns and messages to put out along the way and make sure that customers are graduating the way that we want them to.
Data and research
Data and research are another big part of what our solutions marketing team now owns and provides back to the business. They can do deep dives into, say, the total economic impact of using multiple products versus a single one, or segment data for a certain industry. This data then feeds into our segmentation, pricing, and packaging exercises, so we can tailor our packages for certain sections of the market.
Lastly, our solutions marketing team gets to work on expanding our total addressable market (TAM). Rather than just looking at how to expand the TAM of people buying ratings and reviews, we take a more market-focused approach and look at TAM segment by segment, across the entire portfolio to build solid business cases.
Better still, since the team isn’t tied up with the continual drumbeat of innovation and launches, they're now able to step back and take their time to build those business cases to present to our executives.
To round things off, I want to leave you with a quote that I constantly come back to as a leader in our business:
“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they’ll screw it up, but if you give a mediocre idea to an excellent team, they will either fix it, throw it away, or come up with something better.”
Lucky for you, I’ve only given you a mediocre idea, and this is my challenge to you: take this mediocre idea, fix it, throw it away, or come up with something better.