Full transcript:

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:01

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Product Marketing Insider podcast. My name's Lawrence Chapman and I'm a Copywriter here at PMA. This week on the Product Marketing Insider podcast I'm thrilled to be joined by Eric Moeller, Director of Product Marketing at Sage. Thanks so much for joining me, Eric.

Eric Moeller  0:15

Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:17

It's not a problem, it's our pleasure. To start off, could you give the listeners a brief insight into your current role at Sage, please?

Eric Moeller  0:28

Sure, yeah. So I'm a Director of Product Marketing at Sage, I've been there for just over four years now and I work on a product category called business management solutions, which are basically products that medium-sized businesses need to run both their financials and their ERP systems. So we do focus a lot on manufacturing, distribution, retail, these types of segments.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:52

Okay, awesome. Was there anything in particular that made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?

Eric Moeller  0:59

I've worked in the tech sector my entire career, which shockingly, spans two decades - time flies when you're having fun. I've worked in a lot of different fields within the tech sector over my career. I started in marketing, and then I worked in product management. I then worked in learning services, went off and did some marketing consultancy and now I'm in product marketing.

So I've worked in a lot of different areas. I think the thing that's always appealed to me about product marketing is this analogy of it being sort of the CEO of the different facets of your marketing. So for people who enjoy marketing, it's a great way to be in the middle of all the different types of marketing that are done for product, everything from field marketing to brands, to pricing strategy, to the positioning, to all these different facets, the messaging.

It's a nice way to have a sampling of everything, and really to have a holistic view of the products that you're taking to market.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:57

Okay, and how did you get into product marketing in the first place? And what did your first job in the industry look like?

Eric Moeller  2:06

Yeah, it's interesting. I think the thing that you find at different software companies is that there are companies where usually if it's a smaller organization, a lot of times the product management role and the product marketing role are one role.

I think as you get into larger organizations, you find that those roles actually split, and then you can become far more specialized. Earlier in my career, I worked as a product manager, but I was never one of those technical product managers. I was really a product manager who was probably more of a product marketer anyway.

But it's basically something that I've worked in, in the past and have always enjoyed doing. Basically, I've worked in a lot of different areas but because I have a marketing background, product marketing felt like the natural place even though I've worked in different areas of the tech sector, product marketing was the place that I wanted to get back to.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:04

Okay, brilliant. And as somebody who's very much honed the craft of writing effective sales copy, what's your tip for product marketers to help them write copy that actually converts? Because as a copywriter myself, I know how hard that can be to refine that skill.

Eric Moeller  3:24

Yeah, definitely. Maybe I'll tell a little bit of the backstory on this one. I think it's probably going back about six years ago. I was listening to a lot of podcasts on entrepreneurship, where you'd have these entrepreneurs talking about the one secret skill they found was so important for them to help get their startups off the ground. Everyone kept on talking about sales copywriting and I thought, I studied marketing in school, I've worked in marketing my entire career, I have a sense of what they mean by sales copywriting, but what is it that they're on about here?

So I started to read some of the books they talked about and it really is, I mean, obviously, you know this Lawrence, but for those watching, sales copywriting really is a very specific set of skills that I personally think every marketer should have. I would argue that most marketers haven't really invested in their sales copywriting skills as they should and clearly need to be as effective as possible.

But in my own case, what I did is I started to look at the different books that people were referencing in these podcasts and it became a bit of an obsession that one book led to another book led to another book. And if I were to go look at my bookshelf downstairs, I suspect I have probably close to 20 different books on sales copywriting. You do find as you start to read a lot of these books that they talk about many of the same kinds of ideas, but there are all kinds of different little tips and tricks you can pick up from different ones.

But I think from a product marketers perspective, really the sales pitch to a product marketer as to why they should do this is that if you think about the power of your words, whether it's to influence internal sales colleagues to say, "Hey, this is why you should focus on selling my product versus another one" or if it's as you said, to focus on how you're converting with prospects.

A product marketer’s role will vary, obviously, by the size of the organization, if you're in a smaller organization, you might have to do some of that demand generation, some of those demand-gen activities yourself, in which case, you need the sales copywriting skills. If you are a product marketer in a larger organization, you might actually have a team or perhaps an outsourced agency that's doing that for you.

However, if you don't really understand what makes sales copy good, it's possible that stuff that's pretty mediocre is actually coming past your desk and you might approve something not realizing that it's actually not as effective as it could be. So understanding what makes good sales copy, I'd say is absolutely critical for every product marketer.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  5:58

I think that's really interesting that you say it's almost like some things can slip through the net and you can get some really mediocre stuff going out there to the masses. So do you ever see, or have you ever seen, as far as company messaging is concerned, any mistakes being made time and time again? And how can product marketers prevent themselves from making these mistakes?

Eric Moeller  6:28

Oh, yeah, definitely. I'd say this is something that a lot of tech companies struggle with is that, I think, a lot of times, the challenge we have, when we’re writing sales copy, is that we want to talk about what we know, rather than what the customer or the prospect cares about. It's easy with a new release to say, "Hey, we're introducing features a, b, and c and that's the great thing about this new release."

That's really focusing on the wrong thing, this is what we care about but what we want to really focus on is what is it the prospect cares about? I think, if you have done the work in advance in terms of having user personas, buyer personas, and for those that are familiar with the book from Strategyzer, The Customer Value Proposition - I think that's the name of the book, I can double-check it - but if you really understand that you understand what the pains are, and also what the aspirations of your customers are.

If you focus your sales copy on those things, then you'll get a sense of are the releases that we're bringing to market even focusing on the right things? That's obviously the product manager’s job, but then the product marketer is also thinking about, are we actually writing sales copy that resonates with what customers care about?

I think that's the thing, and as a product marketer, we also need to challenge in a very positive, constructive way, we need to challenge inside our organizations, are we focusing on the right capabilities? Because sometimes there's an emphasis on, let's keep iterating these features. But if we're not getting to the heart of what's a really painful problem for the customer, we might continue to have mediocre success in the market.

So we have to be challenging ourselves and our team by saying, "Hey, are we really focusing on the right things? And if we've done those things, great, let's also message it so they're really getting to the heart of what's important for the customer". But I think that's something that a lot of product marketers do... sometimes if we're just really honest, as product marketers, sometimes we're making the best of the situation or the hand that we've been dealt.

There are certain things that are happening; you just have to try to tell the best possible story. That does happen sometimes. But I think over the long term, the more that we can ask challenging questions internally, we can help the company do the right thing. And when we say that, the right thing, it's ultimately what's the right thing for the customer.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  8:43

Okay, brilliant. And to kind of bring things back to Sage, can you tell us a little bit more about your direct team in terms first of all numbers, and also the roles within that team?

Eric Moeller  8:56

Sure, yeah. So we actually have a very decentralized model at Sage. That has varied over the years so, in the past, there have been times when the regional product marketers reported to me directly, but actually, at the moment, the way that it works is the regional product marketing teams actually report into a local Managing Director.

Then what you have is you actually have a segment at Sage and I work in the segment which is called business management solutions, which as I mentioned, is for the medium-sized business segment. So what we do is we're sort of an oversight, if you will, we provide the strategic direction for the business, and then we work with the regions to align with them.

Being able to influence is very important, you want to be able to put ideas forth to the regions to really sell them on a vision and to get them aligned and you don't have the benefits of directly managing them. So clearly, you need to be able to sell your ideas and to get them working in unison with you.

The decentralized model which I have worked with in other organizations as well, definitely makes it a little bit more challenging. It has its other benefits as well, but you just need to be mindful of that.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  10:09

Okay, and picking up on what you said there about working in unison, which is obviously such an important part of product marketing, looking at the way you work with other teams such as marketing, sales, product, operations, etc, which departments do you find that you work with the most at Sage?

Eric Moeller  10:34

I'd say the ones that I've worked with the most are certainly the regional product marketers because that's your peer group in the region who becomes your point of contact to get to others in the region. But all the other groups that you mentioned are certainly ones that we would work with.

In the region, I would work with people that are responsible for sales enablement, partner enablement, field marketing, field sales, support, product management, all those different organizations in the region. I think this is the challenge also, as a product marketer is that on the one hand, you want to be known by all those people and if they're having a problem, being seen as the go-to person is always a great thing because then you're very visible in the organization and people know that you can help solve problems.

That's a great place to be but it's also a challenge when you can't get scale. Because imagine, if you're dealing with 10 different regions, and you're their first point of contact, suddenly you're not a scalable resource. So I think this is the balancing act that you play by being important to the region or being visible in the field, but then also figuring out how you actually scale your efforts as well?

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  11:42

Yeah, absolutely. You were saying earlier on in the podcast that your experience has spanned 20 years, but what would you say that the top three skills are that have helped you get to where you are today?

Because there are so many product marketers out there, whether at a product marketing manager level, or just literally coming into their product marketing career, or they may be thinking about transitioning into product marketing, they'll want to hit the levels that you've hit.

How can they do that? What are the skills that you can pinpoint and think are the absolutely critical skills that have helped me to get to the role of Director of Product Marketing?

Eric Moeller  12:26

I think you could probably come up with a list of 20 but if I were to narrow it down to three, I think one that is really critical to me that is applicable certainly every single day, is the ability to solve problems. When you think about it, in the software industry, or any sector within tech, every day, we have problems to deal with.

You find out the development team is going to be late on something, you're trying to figure out we're racing to get to a go-to-market launch, we need to have that ready in time. You've launched something in the market and maybe you're not getting the uptake with either the sales colleagues or perhaps the partners. The question then is always why? Why are we having the problem?

Having grown up in Canada, I think a lot in terms of ice hockey analogies. When you see children playing ice hockey, what often happens is the puck is moving around the ice, and there is a swarm of children following that puck. We can have the same thing actually happening in a tech company as well that there can be a problem, everyone's kind of chasing the problem around, and what is needed sometimes it's someone to step back and say, "Let's get back down to first principles here and what exactly is happening? And why is that happening?"

That could be potentially 10 different problems but sometimes you have to say, "Well, if we could only solve one problem, what is the problem that's really going to be that that Archimedes lever, that's going to help us solve the other ones?" I think that's something that the business needs from a product marketer, they need our help to be that problem solver because there are always going to be problems. Truthfully, you're going to be more valuable to your organization, the more that you can help them solve those problems. That's just number one but that's really a big one for me.

Another one that I think of as well is communication. We've talked about sales copywriting, but communication is absolutely critical. If you are not effective in presenting, if you're not effective in communicating through the written word, you're going to really struggle as a product marketer. Now, one thing I would encourage people to consider is don't label yourself as "I'm a rubbish speaker. I'm not very good at writing" and that sort of thing.

These are absolutely learnable skills and you're not just going to take one class or read one book and completely nail this thing. These are journeys, you continue to hone these things over the span of your career. So I think that's the thing is, if anyone feels that they're not as strong as they could be I would say continue to focus on how you can improve those things and ask people for feedback and be open to that feedback. That's another thing, I'd say.

A third one and I'm kind of wrestling, I want to squeeze a couple of things into my number three spot here. I think having a positive perspective on things is very important which doesn't mean you're delusional and only looking at the bright side of things. But I think you have to have a positive mentality in terms of "We absolutely can do this".

There have been product launches that I've been part of where you're getting close to launch day and people are panicking. "We're not in time for this. We've got this issue, you've got that problem". And someone needs to be the voice of "You know what? We absolutely can do this. Okay, what's the problem? What's the highest priority problem? Tell me what that is, we'll find a solution".

You need to be that positive voice, because there will be a lot of other parts of the business that say, "No, we want to delay the launch, or we're not ready, or this isn't quite as good as it can be". But I think having a positive outlook is really important. Which doesn't mean you're not open to feedback.

You need to be able to hear the negative feedback but when people give negative feedback, you have to challenge and say, "Is that really that important? Or why is it that way?" And I think really go a few layers deeper to understand it. But yeah, being that positive champion for your product is also really important. So those would be my three.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  16:33

That's great. I mean, negative vibes are just poisonous sometimes, aren't they? I can totally understand...

Eric Moeller  16:43

They can be, yeah.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  16:45

So looking at the way in which new products and features are being introduced at Sage, what does that look like at the company? And how is that compared to previous places where you've been based?

Eric Moeller  17:00

Do you mean the go-to-market?

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  17:04


Eric Moeller  17:04

Okay, yeah. At Sage, I would say other companies that I've worked with have had something similar, I'd say this is quite standard but what we have is we have a launch framework that we have that's agreed upon at a global level that the region's use. It's one of those things where it provides structure and support where it's needed.

It's not a blueprint, where you must follow absolutely every single step to the letter. It's not quite that rigorous and strict. It's more of a framework to give guidance so there's consistency across regions and also to give them support in terms of here are the things that we're expecting from you. I would also argue that we're probably continuing to evolve what that looks like at Sage as well.

For those that don't know who Sage is, it's a company that's been around, I'm trying to remember what the exact year is that we founded, but we're roughly 40 years old. And we're very much transitioning that old world of selling on-premise software to software as a solution. I think the thing is, when you look at go to markets, they tend to be quite different in those two different worlds.

So we're an organization that's evolving, we still have on-premise products, but we also have a lot of software as a service offerings that are based in the cloud. So I think we're continuing to evolve. And it's also, in a large organization, you have that tension of what's the right amount of structure without being too cumbersome for launches.

I think we're continuing to iterate and refine upon those things but it is good to have that because again, in a large organization, you need consistency between product lines, between regions, and it's really a comforting thing to know "Okay, good. We've ticked all the boxes, we've hit all the key things for our launch here".

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  18:55

Great, and to round off what's been an amazing discussion, a really enjoyable podcast, if there are any new or aspiring product marketers who are listening to this episode, what would your advice to them be to help them get the most out of their product marketing journey?

Eric Moeller  19:14

That's a great question. I think if I were in their shoes at an earlier stage, I think networking is a really important thing. That's something that's really great about the Product Marketing Alliance is, you now have a group that brings other like-minded people together through various online forums. I know there's a Slack group as well.

I think having those touchpoints is really valuable. It can be everything from trading notes in terms of, "Hey, if you're doing competitive analysis, what tools or templates have you used that have been effective? When you're doing messaging, what structures or frameworks have been helpful?

If you try to develop your sales copywriting skills, what books or courses or talks have been helpful for you?" Or even just asking the community for feedback on things, "Hey, I'm working on something here, would anyone be willing to take a look at this and provide some feedback?", I think leveraging what other people have done is really a great thing.

When you think about how you can develop your skill set, sure, you can take a course, you can read a book, you can get a mentor, you could create your own mastermind group of other product marketers and maybe you can create a small group of people across different businesses where you share stuff, and you can get feedback. But being really open to feedback is really important. It's a very difficult thing to do but it's also one of the most beneficial things that you can do professionally.

Just to be really transparent about it, it took me a long time to get comfortable with that. I remember I saw an interview once, where Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg was interviewing Elon Musk and Elon Musk made a comment in this interview along the lines of the only wanted to hear what the negative feedback was, because he said, when I know what that is, now I can actually do something about that. I thought that was quite an interesting worldview.

Because often negative feedback is the thing we don't want to hear, or we really shy away from it. I think the more that you can lean into it, and take that on the chin, the more people are gonna have tremendous respect for you and your organization that you're not afraid of anything, you'll just lean into problems and figure out how to fix them.

These are some things I would definitely encourage product marketers earlier in their career to take these things on, do some of those things, network with those people, and be open to that feedback, I'd say.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  21:40

That's great advice. Eric, thank you so much for taking the time out to speak with me. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Eric Moeller  21:48

My pleasure, Lawrence, nice to speak with you, and thanks for inviting me to have this chat.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  21:51

No problem at all. Thank you very much.