Full transcript:

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:03

Hi everyone and welcome to the Product Marketing Insider podcast. My name's Lawrence Chapman and I'm a copywriter here at PMA.

This episode is brought to you by Product Marketing Rendezvous, PMA’s first virtual event of 2021. From the 17th of February to the 19th of February, we'll be bringing the PMM community presentations from the likes of Sage, Microsoft, and LinkedIn, a series of workshops featuring the best PMMs in the industry, and recruitment matchmaking.

To secure your spot, had to rendezvous.producmarketingalliance.com.

This week, I'm delighted to be joined by April Rassa, Head of Global Product Marketing and Communications at HackerOne. April has extensive experience in business, brand, and marketing, during which time she's refined her skills in product marketing, communication strategies, business strategy, corporate marketing, and product positioning and messaging to name a few. Thanks so much for joining me, April.

April Rassa  0:58

Hi, Lawrence. Great to be here.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:00

To start could you just give the listeners a brief insight into your current role at HackerOne?

April Rassa  1:05

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So I run global product marketing here at HackerOne, I also have an extended team not only on product marketing but communications and content as well.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:21

Okay, sounds great. And what was it exactly that made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?

April Rassa  1:28

You know, it's a great question. I think at the beginning, I didn't really have a good sense that I wanted to be a product marketer, I was just doing it by extension. Then through experience, what I found was, the role really is the glue that connects you to both inbound and outbound activities across the organization.

So while each team may have a point of view on endpoints for a product roadmap, product marketing really sits at the nexus of teams across sales, product, CS, and we really bring a holistic approach to the table. I love that aspect of it, the fact that you can bring unique insights about the customer, the market, the buyers’ perceptions, and really be able to provide a unique perspective to your respective product teams.

If you can do it right, you can couple the data, the market, and the customer insights into that intake process and it's a really unique opportunity for any product marketer.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  2:34

Okay, awesome. You kind of say that it's a really unique opportunity but obviously, everyone starts from somewhere. What did your first job in product marketing look like?

April Rassa  2:46

Yeah. Let's see, my first job was actually just a broad marketing role. I was at a startup where I was the loan marketing person and by extension, I was doing everything from go-to-market to demand to partnerships to content. You have to kind of be a generalist at the beginning. Started to grow the team and bring specific skill sets within the team so where I found that I was gravitating more towards was really on the go-to-market motion.

As I started to talk to more customers, and understanding their needs, and working with our sales team, to understand how they were positioning the opportunity and the products, that's really where I felt like I could help and that was the start for me personally, as far as how my product marketing career grew. I started doing more and more and broadening that role in particular, across my experiences.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:57

Okay, you may have heard me ask this question to other guests on the show, and I kinda get various responses. But I'll ask you for your perspective. What does a standard day in the role of a product marketer look like if that actually does exist?

April Rassa  4:17

Yeah, I chuckle, I don't think there is one standard day for us product marketers. There's a lot that I think goes into our role. I think a lot of it is working with our different counterparts.

As I mentioned, you're kind of at the nexus of all these different teams and working with our product teams as far as new products that we're bringing to market and dividing and conquering how we're going to be doing that in terms of market analysis to personas, different kinds of buyers we're going after, understanding the product strategy, working with our demand and marketing folks on the go-to-market plan and then being able to execute.

All those facets really sort of take up an entire sort of day, weeks, months of planning and figuring out. And that's just one thing in terms of taking a product market, there are other facets where you're looking to expand and grow into other markets, or perhaps you're looking for new pricing for a product, or a salesperson may come in and say, "Hi, I'm dealing with a major account, and I need some help in terms of how to position this new offering because we're in a competitive situation".

All those are examples of a day in the life, which is what I love is because not every day is the same, it's different. And it's different in terms of how you're not only managing those things but also how you're running your team meetings and preparing agendas and figuring out how to run constructive meetings across the org. That kind of maybe gives you a sense, as far as what a quote-unquote typical day might look like from a product marketing lens.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  6:12

Okay, you alluded to your direct team just then, what does your team at HackerOne look like at the moment in terms of numbers and respective roles within that team?

April Rassa  6:26

Yeah, so I have the product marketing team, we're pretty small as an organization, although I do have to open headcounts - for those interested, a plug there, as far as looking me up on LinkedIn, and let me know, we're looking for a solution product marketing person, as well as a pricing person.

But in general, I have four people within our product marketing team and they're pretty much divided across our product skews and supporting our regional efforts. Then I have the communication team, which today is about four individuals as well. Then I have our content team, which is two individuals, and I have an open headcount for that. Altogether we're looking at about 10 to 12 people, including some contractors in the mix, as far as the full team that I manage.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  7:26

And in terms of the teams directly outside of product marketing, what's your relationship with them like? How do you interact with them? Who do you interact with most? What's the setup like with them, to make sure there's that cohesion there, and to make sure that you're getting the most out of everyone?

April Rassa  7:52

We have a great relationship with our sales counterparts. At HackerOne, we have different markets that we're going after so really, within the SMB, within sort of the mid-market, and then the enterprise. So we have weekly cadences with our sales leaders within those segments to understand what's happening in the market.

We have a regular weekly session with our product counterparts. I run a pricing committee meeting within our organization because pricing falls within the product marketing realm. So that's a bi-weekly cross-functional discussion where we look at opportunities within new product skews, are there discounting levers, are there new skews that are coming up that we need to be taking a look at? All of those facets.

Then I have a monthly sync with our SEs, our solution engineers, as far as how they're demoing the product, what they're hearing from a competitive standpoint. Those are probably good examples of sort of the cross-functional interaction that I have and the team has across the organization.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  9:08

Yeah, it's interesting to tie your product marketing set up with the product marketers I've spoken to before, because I say it time and time again, that it seems that this facet of collaboration is just such an important part of product marketing, and just from listening to your response then it kind of reinforces that further.

In an absolute dream world, is there anything about the relationships at HackerOne or from product marketing between other internal teams that you'd change at all? Or do you think there's anything that can be changed to help product marketers execute their role to greater effect?

April Rassa  9:57

I think in general, if you think about product marketing, it's still pretty nascent within organizations, and it's not devoid of HackerOne, particularly I think just in general, the role is pretty nascent. And I think it's upon all of us to be able to take more of a leadership role within organizations, to be able to educate different constituents as far as what the role entails, what you as a product marketer bring to the table, and how you can help not only be that strategic driver within the organization, but really help shape where the business is going.

I think if done, I think there are probably two levers that I would say are really important in that. One is come to the table with data and two come to the table with customer insights.

Data about how your product is doing, what maybe opportunities are within the marketplace, what is the TAM if you're looking at maybe new product entries. Then customer insights to be able to help influence that, and I think there's probably still a little bit of confusion, depending on how mature your organization might be as far as just where product marketing starts and ends versus where product management starts and ends.

I think that's probably really key to be able to create a framework within an organization to set the responsibilities clear. So I wouldn't say it's something that I would change, it's just more of being aware of the core responsibilities that product marketing brings to the table versus maybe other roles within the organization.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  11:45

Yeah, sure. In terms of the actual skills that have helped you to get to where you are today, I mean, you've accumulated some awesome experience, and I'm sure a lot of people would want to occupy the roles that you have been lucky to occupy in your career. What would you say your top three skills are that have helped you to get where you are today?

April Rassa  12:13

I think especially now, in lieu of the world that we're living in - pretty distributed - I think communication and crisp and clear communication is paramount. You have to be able to communicate effectively, specifically, because you're probably communicating mostly through digital means, either it could be through Slack, or it could be through email, or it could be through Google Docs.

Don't leave anything up for interpretation, be very clear in terms of your communication, and next steps.

I think the second piece is the ability for product marketers to be able to not only think strategically but to be able to connect the dots, to be able to execute as well. It's one thing to say that we can do the market analysis and the market planning. But if you can't connect the dots as far as what that means in terms of the go-to-market, and what that means from a tactical perspective, then you're not going to succeed, because half the battle is making sure that you have flawless execution.

I think the third is really being able to be empathetic. I know you hear that a lot but it's tough being a salesperson out in the field and being able to position things and being able to not know the thing. Be empathetic as far as the folks that are in the field and going through the sales motion.

Be empathetic to your product counterparts that are trying to run a pretty agile process with development and engineering. And really have a sense of what it means to be in their shoes so that you can have that sort of flawless communication and be able to drive a lot of the planning with those counterparts. It's really key that you're in their shoes and understanding what they're going through as well. You can build great relationships across the org.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  14:14

Yeah, absolutely. It's almost like, as you say, you do need that consistent relationship irrespective of whether or not it's product marketing or whether or not you're working... you could be in a restaurant, it doesn't matter, you need to have that sustained trust,  to make sure that you can bounce off one another and only then do you get the best out of people, right?

April Rassa  14:41


Lawrence Chapman - PMA  14:42

Totally understand where you're coming from. In terms of the role of a PM and a PMM, where do the two roles begin and end? Do you think that there's almost like lines in terms of their responsibilities?

April Rassa  14:58

Ah, the question I think every product marketer and product manager probably ask in an organization, depending on maturity, of course, of the org. The way I think about it is, the simplest way to describe the difference is, product managers are responsible for leading the creation of a product, and product marketing managers are responsible for that go-to-market for that product. That's probably the crispest way of thinking about it.

The product manager is really sort of the GM for the product, they need to own the end to end product lifecycle. The product marketing is really sort of the so what? Why does this product matter? How can I help influence the market? Who am I going to help influence within the market? How am I going to help expand and grow it? And what does the pricing look like for it?

So all of the go-to-market motions that you would think, fall within the product marketing windmill. It's so critical that these two functions are joined at the hip, and really connect as far as how they take a product to market. Who are the key buyers that are going to be using the product? And understand the key levers that they're going to pull on. That's sort of the simplest way that I can think of describing the two within an organisation.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  16:26

Okay, and would you say that there's a crossover at all between what you do and what a PM would do at your company and beyond?

April Rassa  16:34

I do. Yeah, absolutely. At the very beginning, what we've done is we've created a framework together between product marketing and product management, as far as how do you think about taking a product to market?

There is the initial market analysis that you have to do, which is how big is the market? Is it the right market for us to enter? Does it even make sense? How do we think about the positioning? What are we and what are we not? What does maybe the pricing model look like regarding the competition? And where can we actually differentiate against the competition? How do you think about the packaging? Do we bundle it with our products? Is it a separate skew? Do we think about volume discounts?

All of those things that you might think about in terms of the initial analysis to the product strategy, and then it's really taking it into the go-to-market. So as you think about the go-to-market, there are all the funnel aspects in terms of awareness and consideration, and how do I convert and think about creating opportunities for advocacy programs and whatnot?

And then when you execute what are the key metrics that you're looking at? How do you define success? Throughout this entire journey, the product marketing and product manager counterparts work together to be able to define not only the strategy but how do you define success? Because it's going to be an iterative process.

It's not like, okay, we just launched it and go, you're going to go back, you're going to iterate, you're going to review, you're going to assess, and you're going to continue to iterate in terms of your strategies. So it's critical that you put together a plan that you both work together so that you can each have your key swim lanes that you're going to be responsible for.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  18:29

Yeah, absolutely. Again, as we were just saying, it comes straight back to that element of collaboration. It's almost like the magic word that I've found in product marketing. I'm sure there are many others, but collaboration is just one that keeps on coming up week after week. What does the process of actually introducing new products and features look like at your current company? And how does that compare to previous places that you've worked?

April Rassa  19:03

I think my journey in my career has been twofold. One, it's been working at startups where, as I mentioned, I was sort of the lone marketing person and then was able to grow the team. By extension, a lot of the responsibilities sort of I shepherded that and then brought in stakeholders and experts to be able to help me in the go-to-market.

Here at HackerOne, we are, obviously, a bigger team so we have different teams across the organization. So as we think about new products, we have new products already in market so we think about different levers, we think about how do we expand across our customers?

We think about, what are the new features that are going to help our customers be successful? Are those same features going to be applicable to our smaller customers versus our larger customers? How do we think about those? What are the opportunities? How do we think about new market opportunities? Are there ancillary markets that we can help disrupt that will not only help our customers grow but also maybe open new opportunities for us to grow into vertical markets?

Those are all different areas that we're looking at as an organization. I think depending on the maturity of a company, and sort of where you are, you're going to be pulling on different skill sets that are going to help your organization be more successful.

If you're a smaller company, you're going to probably need someone that can be more of a generalist that can wear a lot of different hats. If you are sort of at that mid-stage company, you're going to need more specialization to come in and help you in terms of your go-to-market. If you're at a larger company, then it's even more critical that you start to build out the core functionalities and specialties that you want your product marketing org to fulfill versus your product management roles.

That's kind of how I think about when you think about introducing new products and features. It's really those lenses and then like I said, having that framework where you have a process, you have a launch process where you think about prioritization on features. Not all launches are the same, you have a large launch, that's going to take up a lot of different resources within the organization versus a smaller, maybe feature launch that you're going to have a different process for how you run that cadence.

Those are kind of the things, the processes that we've put in place here at HackerOne, to be able to be more nimble, to run an effective product and or feature launch.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  21:58

In terms of changes, I mean, changes are made all the time to make sure that there are slick launches within product marketing. But would you make changes at all to product marketing itself? Or what changes would you want to see made to product marketing to make it even better?

April Rassa  22:22

I think forums like this are great, where product marketers can share best practices, where they can share learnings, they can share frameworks, they can share processes. As I said, it's still a nascent role and function within organizations and I think the more we can share best practices amongst each other, and to be able to share frameworks that have worked or launches and processes that have worked, then the better we're going to be off in terms of defining success within small, medium and large organizations.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  23:06

To any new or aspiring product marketers who may be listening to the podcast, what would your advice to them be?

April Rassa  23:16

I would say, think people not features. Whether you're in B2C or B2B it doesn't matter. You sell to people so listen to them, understand them, and speak their language.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  23:33

Sound advice, brilliant. Obviously, it's a brand new year, 2021, what do you think this year may have in store for the product marketing community? What would be your product marketing prediction for 2021?

April Rassa  23:51

I think good things are bound for our product marketing community, I think you're going to see more CMOs taking leadership positions that have a product marketing bent, versus maybe traditionally it's been more on the demand and growth function. I think you're going to see more CMOs with that bent in 2021 and beyond.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  24:14

Okay, awesome. Well, thanks so much for joining me, April. It's been a really great chat, I've really enjoyed talking to you and hearing more about your respective product marketing journey.

April Rassa  24:24

I enjoyed it. Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  24:26

It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you very much. Cheers.