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33 min read

Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Farhan Manjiyani

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Associate Product Marketing Manager at Qu POS, and founding 500 member and associate at PMA, Farhan Manjiyani, shares his experience of moving into a PMM role following a career in sales, what attracted him to the role, how that perspective has helped him work with his salesforce, the importance of internal empathy, how he thinks the role needs to change in the future and heaps more good stuff.

Full transcript:

Bryony Pearce - PMA  0:03

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Product Marketing Insider podcast which is brought to you by Product Marketing Alliance. My name’s Bryony Pearce and I’m the Content Manager here at PMA.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Product Marketing Core...meta, we know. PMMC is our very own product marketing certification program, and it covers the A to Z of product marketing essentials. With 11 modules, 68 chapters, 87 exam questions, 10+ hours’ worth of learning and official PMA certification, it’s a course not to be missed. Head to https://pmmalliance.co/PMMC for more info.

To help establish and elevate the role of product marketing we’re on a mission to speak to 50 PMMs and pick their brains on everything from their journey into the industry, which teams they interact with most, what skills they believe are critical for the role, and a whole load more.

To do just that, with me today is Farhan Manjiyani, an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Qu POS, and also one of our very own PMA Ambassadors and Founding 500 Member. So let's pass over. Welcome to the show, Farhan.

Farhan Manjiyani  0:47

Thank you so much, Bryony, happy to be here.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  0:49

It's a pleasure to have you on the show today. I guess could we just kick off for everyone listening with a bit of an introduction to you, the company you're currently working at, and then your role within the company?

Farhan Manjiyani  1:01

Yeah, absolutely. So I started off my career carrying a bag, for those that don't know, in the sales world, so mainly always had the startup bug started off in actually FinTech startup in Hong Kong. Focusing on insure tech I was the first enterprise sales rep there responsible for putting up some of the first logos on the site. And apparently we did too good of a job because we got lots of interest from one of our competitors, and they ended up acquiring us actually just a couple months into the role. And part of that acquisition was 'send the American back home because he's too expensive'. I came back to Austin, Texas, where I went to school and funny enough got introduced to one of the investors at Mercury Capital and a portfolio company down in Austin for a company called TrendKite. So this is a much later growth stage series D company, very mature sales organization, continued as a rep there and that's where I first got introduced to the world of product marketing, initially through sales enablement, as I was learning my ups and downs of becoming a better seller and learning methodologies and personas and different pitches, etc. I just got super enamored by the whole function and wanted to know who's making all these assets? Who's running these trainings? It's so super interesting. And then I found out that there's a Director of Product Marketing, I started sitting down with him picking his brain and trying to figure out what's the best way to transition over to that team. Long story short after working on a couple of projects, this same theme comes back in my life over and over again, we also got acquired by one of our competitors at TrendKite, and in that process, the product marketing team had doubled overnight, so it was safe to say that there weren't going to be any openings on that role for some time. And so then I started looking elsewhere and to this point, it was really mid-market SaaS startups, all B2B was all of my experience and I wanted a better taste of an enterprise highly technical sale. And so that's where I found Qu POS, which is based in DC although the majority of the company is remote, and I was brought in, the CTO is a longtime mentor of mine, so I was brought in to sit formally in the product organization, so I roll up to the VP of product, I'm the sole PMM working with the ratio of five to one which is a tonne of fun. And this is a bit of background on Qu, it's an early stage, Series B restaurant tech company, looking to really change the way that operators think about point of sale systems, but really their entire way they operate from a technology standpoint, specifically looking at enterprise and within that the fast-casual concepts, so we call them the poop 'n' scoop, if you understand, but think about the Chipotle's of the world right? You go down the line and just add something to some combination of a bowl or burrito and keep going. So that's really our bread and butter. And right before I came, the company where it was, we had just focused upstream to enterprise only and no mid-market and really narrowed in that focus to fast-casual, at the same time had really been rebuilding the entire product. So from the perspective of the rest of the company outside the technical teams, it was positioned as "Hey, this is a new and improved product, but in reality, is a net new product" and so what that meant was parity was not there. And so my main role was to really stitch together the first formal go to market strategy within the company, make sure that internal alignment is there, just like you said, a small but mighty marketing team existed, the CMO and a specialist. So it's a super lean, and the majority of the company did not have that operator experience to really understand how our restaurant operators at the enterprise level, were really using the product, and there are so many different levels to that. And so apart from working on that stitching together that first go-to-market strategy and what it looked like, identifying who the players were and what they needed. And then the second piece of that was, of course, sales enablement, going back to what I was originally interested in. And so I don't focus too often on competitive intelligence, but mainly sit at the intersection of those two.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  5:45

Okay, cool. Thanks. That's a really detailed insight there. So I guess going back to how you got into product marketing, the channel I normally get is people kind of just fall into it and it's a case of, "Oh, I actually realized I was doing product marketing for a few years, just not under the title". But it sounds like you very actively wanted to go into it, I know you were saying you were sat down with the Director of Product Marketing. And this is a question that I see being asked a lot, both within our Slack community and online, like, how do you get into product marketing in the first place? So I guess when you were having those conversations, like kind of exploring product marketing, was it a case of you were just kind of fact-finding to understand about the role or were you kind of completing projects for them on the side? Or like, what did that actually look like for you?

Farhan Manjiyani  6:30

Yeah, great question. It's a question I spent a long time mentoring myself. But for me, interesting enough, I was a recipient of a piece of product marketing, right? And then I got to really formally see both sides of the table. And I realized that I had a competitive advantage that I am, or I was one of the stakeholders of product marketers. So one of the core fundamental challenges as I started to dig in and really understand and ask questions, which is really the crux of how I did it, which is how you do anything else that you want to break into it a tonne of informational interviews, and mind you PMA has played a tremendous role in that educational process throughout the year, whether it's just resources or getting connected to different people and just understanding how much the definition of product marketing differs whether you're B2B, B2C, all SaaS or hardware included in that. And just understanding all these different definitions. But for me, once I figured out that, "Hey, here are some of the core challenges, particularly when it comes to sales enablement", which so often falls through product marketing. One of the core challenges is sales reps don't tend to do what we're told, right? We tend to do as we see others do. And a core function of that is it comes with the territory, you become very territorial, and oftentimes sales reps don't tend to like outsiders. And a big part of the enablement function is simply earning the respect of sellers. And I realized that was a huge angle for me is that I've been there, I get it, I know what it's like to be at the end of the month and be inches from quota, and you know, I don't care what the collateral is, I just want something to get my deal done and get on to the next month. And so understanding the pressure that they're in and how quickly the environment that you need to be able to find that collateral or under what circumstances you're kind of ready in the right mindset to think about how your pitch may need to be different or to think about the persona that you might be talking to, or overall your methodology, what stage of the funnel you're really in, just understanding how to frame it so a sales rep really understands, I knew that that's something I didn't have to be trained on. In fact, it was very likely that whoever I reported into would not come from that background and there was an opportunity for me to educate up, and so I continued to just really play that angle as a seller turned product marketer, and at the same time recognize that most product marketing functions fall into marketing. So, there was definitely some education that I needed there, which you know, the relationship between sales and marketing is pretty tight and I understood, you know, as sales organization or a function, what marketing is able to produce and the short answer is MQLs, that's about it. But then I had to go in and expand and educate myself on "Okay, what about the rest of it, what else is happening? Now understand how a company is fundamentally making money. What else is going into that process and largely who all is touching the revenue generation, kind of entire funnel? And I need to fundamentally understand what are the goals and drivers for each of those team members because ultimately those are going to be my stakeholders" and I kind of just worked my way backward and said okay if I need to sit at the intersection of all this, I need to understand each of these teams intimately.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  10:06

Yeah. Yeah, no, that's a really interesting background. And like you say, I can imagine it comes in so useful as you've probably seen yourself in the community, you see lots of questions around sales teams, you know, pain points, barriers, how can I overcome this? So you're obviously primed to stay on top of that. So I guess to put you on the spot right now, a product marketer's listening and they're having issues with the sales teams, when you were on the other side of this rope, what wouldn't work for you? What advice would you give to product marketers to get that buy-in from the sales teams, get them on side if they were struggling with that?

Farhan Manjiyani  10:44

Yeah a couple of things here that I've picked up both from my time as a rep as well as just researching this field, super, super interesting. Number one, sign up for a PMA membership, right? Start really consuming that content and build that discipline in yourself to ultimately build empathy right? How you do everything else is you need to understand the drivers and motivations. And more tactically, what that looks like is a couple of things. I like to always go back to the four R's for educating reps, which if you've gone to any methodology class, any sales enablement, this comes up time and time again, a sales reps need to be able to retain what they're taught and recall it at will, repeat it to both their managers as well as their clients, qnd if all else fails, they need to fundamentally understand how to research any of those three things on their own without any help from anyone else and everything that you're doing from an enablement function should touch on one of those four, and in my time as a rep as well as training reps a couple of things that I've learned are - a lot of times the enablement function seeks to change the results themselves, when I really think that they should focus on managing the activities that actually drive the results, and when you're changing the activities that drive the results, it goes back to oftentimes what's said on the sales floor is control what you can control, right? You often can't control the results. But you can control the activities that lead to those results, for example, your effort and attitude that you're coming with every single day and just understanding that perspective. And the next thing is salespeople like we talked about, often don't do what they're told, they do what they see. So it's going to start with your managers, what are your managers doing to reinforce the enablement that you're really trying to put in? Whether that's a new pitch deck or a pitch overall or personas or whatever it may be, are your managers doing it themselves? Do you have buy-in from the directors and the VP of Sales? Do they think the methodology is useful? Are they also asking about it when it comes to things like pipeline reviews? And then finally, people often don't do what you're expecting them to do, but they will do what you inspect of them. And so if you're going through something in your salesforce and you're trying to make sure they're following some sort of sales methodology, let's say it's the BANT, the budget, authority, needs, and timeline. If you write in there that after you hang up on this call, you need to be able to articulate these four things to your sales manager, and you have the buy in of sales leadership and the sales manager to ask those questions after a call, you better believe that every rep is gonna be able to do that. They're gonna make sure 'before I hang up the phone, I need these four things otherwise, I'm gonna look really dumb', and that's an excellent, excellent motivator.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  13:48

Yeah, that's a great shout. And then you mentioned earlier as well, so you're kind of PM to PMM ratio is five to one, which sounds pretty intense. How do you find that and how does that work day to day, week to week?

Farhan Manjiyani  14:02

Yeah, that's something we're still working out. So a little bit of extra context there, of the five products two have been released for some time and are stable products and we're just iterating and really optimizing. Two of them have been released very recently and so they're rapid iterations to ensure that we're really making... and really that's purely driven by customer feedback at this point. And then one is simply beta launched, and so because I sit in the product organization, my day to day on a macro level is following what product does and my responsibilities are just complimentary to product and oftentimes one and the same. And so we're following all the scrum ceremonies on a bi-weekly period, and so there's two weeks of planning and requirements building and figuring out what we're going to do and actually doing it and then two weeks of testing that, and so every four weeks we continue to repeat this process. So just some quick examples of that, if the product managers are building out requirements for the upcoming sprint, then some of the activities that I may be doing is implementing design sprints, going out to customers and saying, "Hey, what's the job to be done here? What do you really need this feature for? What do you need this product to do? How would you want it to do it?" And getting that information and making sure the voice of the customer is represented in the development process through vis-a-vis the PM, so I'm really an extension of each and every PM in that fashion. Or if the product managers are doing pointing, figuring out an estimate of how much work is this thing going to take for me to build this specific feature or function? Then at that time, really, I'm going back to the sales engineers and saying, "Hey, we're getting ready to develop XYZ, we need your input, we need to understand what are some of the challenges that you're finding in the technical discovery with our prospects? How can we make sure we build that in as we're now trying to figure out how long are we going to work on this thing?".

Bryony Pearce - PMA  16:18

And then in terms of all those internal stakeholders and counterparts like, within your organization, I know another industry-wide pain point as such in product marketing is that a lot of people struggle to get other people in their company to understand what the role of product marketing is, what they do, the value they bring to the table. What's that like for you at Qu POS? Does everyone get the role? Is everyone bought in? Or do you find yourself having to educate them or?

Farhan Manjiyani  16:46

Yeah, very much the education is necessary, I think because I'm just kind of an extension of the product team, right. The product marketing function is not its own function. And so I think when you don't have that executive that also has a similar title to yours, everyone just sees you as an extension of XYZ team. So I will say that the one thing that's clear, I think to everyone, is the bridge-building aspect of product marketing, in that people can go to me to get some sort of answer from product. And product is just a big bubble for everyone else non-technical, but that's going to include everyone from developers to scrum masters to engineers to product managers, it doesn't matter. Whatever the question is, they just come to me, whether that's marketing at the end of the day, whether it's support, whether it's the implementation team or anyone else, or sales, I'm kind of that first step, everyone just says, "Oh, go talk to Farhan, he'll sort you out". And so that didn't require very much education, but outside of a triage, if you will, and just pointing people in the right direction, some of the more strategic value that's often talked about with product marketing, which at a high level, how do we think about market penetration and product adoption within that? Those are conversations that I find myself having to really think strategically and look for inspiration of others as a sole PMM, when you're the only one in the company, how are you advocating to others? Because you're advocating constantly, whether it's to your peers, for me, which are the technical teams, to truly understand, "Hey, here's what I'm working on". You may see me as just another product manager or an analyst and want me to dig into requirements and write technical documentation, or for marketing, "Hey, can you just go write this blog for us? Because we want to do it. It's really technical. So can you just do it?", or support and just saying, "Hey, we're making training videos for our customers. You're the product guy, can you come in and work on this for us?" It's really just educating that. Yes, those responsibilities are important and technically can fall under product marketing, but what's the broader strategy? And how product marketing is actually influencing the business? That buy-in is not clear today for my organization.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  19:14

And then how do you find being the sole PMM, I know a lot of product marketers kind of work alone and I guess in a way it can maybe be isolating if you don't have that team of people who are working on the same kind of things as you to bounce off, who do you go to for support and to lean on internally?

Farhan Manjiyani  19:31

Yeah, it's a great question. And so within the product manager stratification, there's a singular senior product manager and two product managers and two product analysts. And so that delineation I think, is super important and it took me some time to understand as well. But essentially, the higher you go into our organization the way it works is, I found that product managers often have very similar challenges to product marketers, in terms of the identity crisis, for example, you'll find that product managers and scrum masters, and for some organizations, they just simply call them project managers for tech on the technical side, basically, the bridge between the product manager and the developers, are often misconstrued, they're often conflated with one another, for example, a product manager is often asked, "What's the current status of X?", when that's really a job for the scrum master, and they need to work hand in hand, but their product manager should be thinking ahead, not stuck in the weeds of what's going on today, because they're looking at the market and how we're fitting in that today. At the same time, the product marketer is their counterpart, right, really making sure that looking ahead also, what's the product adoption looking like? And how are we making sure we're doing that for what we have built, as well as what we will continue to build? And what is the scope and support needed from the rest of the organization? So again, because that function is not fully fleshed out, believe it or not, it was kind of an expectation that many of these responsibilities that are formally product marketing, were actually being asked of each of the product managers to do individually for their own product. And so when I came in, essentially what I did was just take a little bit of work off of everyone, put it together and really start to educate on "Hey, this is all in the bucket of product marketing and this is something I can absolutely own". And so because a lot of these product managers were trying to do both, they were really empathetic to a) having some extra help doing these tasks, but also start to understand what are some of the practices to actually execute? What are some templates we can use? What are some methodologies we can adopt, in addition to everything we need to do to make the product bigger and better? So there's just a lot of empathy and normally I don't just sit beside product managers to be close to them, I'm actually part of the product team. And they always ensure that I feel that way, which is really awesome. So to answer your question, I actually go to the product managers themselves. And because I'm able to lead with empathy and understand intimately their roles, and I also have done enough education to understand kind of the key differences, but also the overlap between product marketing and product management, it becomes a really nice marriment for us.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  22:32

Okay, that leads me nicely on to my next question in terms of that crossover between what you do and what a product manager does, because that's something I see a lot of conversations around as well kind of where does the line begin and end. In your eyes, where do those lines start and stop or is it kind of a general crossover slash merge, or?

Farhan Manjiyani  22:53

Yeah, it is a little blurry. And that's because we're just not that mature as a company. Still very early stage. And so when there is something to be done, it's less about who has the expertise in the area and more about who has the bandwidth. Particularly when you have a technical product, it's very hard to draw a line in the sand and say, "Okay, at this point, it's this individuals responsibility", when often what happens is a product manager is helping flesh out what a feature really needs to look like, how it needs to work, vetting that with customers, and then at the same time, once it's actually developed, making sure it was developed correctly and educating the rest of the company, as well as supporting customers vis-a-vis the support team as well. And when you're asked to do that full cycle, that's insane, especially if you're trying to develop quickly and often. And so, on top of that, often the responsibilities then come from other folks of, "Hey, what about pricing and packaging? Oh, you should really think about this". And "Oh, what about competitive differentiation, have you heard of this company and doing this and this and this?". And so, for us, it really comes down to bandwidth. And so I've had to make sure I have a close ear to all of the conversations happening with all the product managers really at all times. And so almost every meeting that they have, I'm a fly on the wall. And it's really been up to me to make sure I understand, "Hey, this is an awesome opportunity to flex my product marketing muscles, let me make sure that I take on this responsibility" and at the same time, you know, it's my development, but it's also coming in and saying, "Hey, this is a lot of stuff for you and how can I be helpful?" and most people are kind of embracing me with open arms, but had I not been there and before I even came, product managers were just expected to really do everything and be a jack of all trades.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  25:03

I guess that's just startup life as well isn't it, typically, so much more scrappy and you don't have these defined teams I guess like companies who have these huge product marketing teams, you might have people who just specialize in positioning, who just do go-to-market, who just do competitive intel, but in these early stages, exactly like you said, you're a jack of all trades and you just dip your toe in all waters and I quite like that, obviously, PMA is startup life and it keeps it exciting, it keeps it fun, it's challenging, but like you say, especially for personal progression, it's amazing.

Farhan Manjiyani  25:34

Yeah, because everything has to be done today or even yesterday, and then you have to learn all of it or you get to learn all of it, is the way I like to look at it. So it's been really, really fun. And I think important for that empathy, when you are so cross-functional, the first thing in my mind that you need to do is intimately understand everyone else's KPIs. You need to know, how do they win? And how can you align yourself to that winning and part of that is understanding what a day in the life is like, for each of these people. So the more you can do that I think all the better and the easiest way to do that is go to a startup and don't worry, you won't even have to raise your hand you will be volun-told.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  26:21

I love that one, I've not heard volun-told before, I'll be using that. Okay, awesome. You just I think, subconsciously, very nicely led me on to my next question, which is a day in the life of you. So I ask this question all the time on the Insider podcast, the common consensus is there is no such thing as a standard day as a product marketer, every day is different diving into new things, but like, are there any kind of constants or consistencies between your days or?

Farhan Manjiyani  26:49

Yeah, it's a good question. I think broadly, like you talked about most of it is... the difference is, I'm stitching together a go-to-market strategy, it's not kind of fleshed out and everyone understands. So it's something that I'm constantly iterating on, and therefore I'm also constantly educating on. So I think that's a recurring theme of, "Hey, these are processes in place to just make this better, please remember and follow them". And at the same time, it's making sure people really understand the lifecycle of product development, because I think for a lot of people, this is really aloof. And for us, we're very much a product-led company, which means that you need to understand, what are the cycles? How long does it take to develop? At what point is the right time to give feedback that it will actually be heard, but also implemented? Some people just see that I gave feedback and it wasn't implemented until six weeks later. Well, in that six weeks process, what's actually happening? And if you intimately understand that, then that can really change the game not only for your own awareness but it's just helpful in general because if you're customer-facing especially, that's something they're going to demand too is, "I asked for this thing, you said I could have it, where's my thing? I'm just gonna keep saying, where's my thing". So as much as you can really intimately understand things like scrum ceremonies, which is basically what runs my life today, is we release every four weeks and so every four weeks, I just kind of rinse and repeat and figure out how to optimize the go-to-market strategy. And so tactically on the day today, I'm doing daily stand-ups as a product team, but also with every product manager and the rest of their technical teams. So this is the scrum masters, the engineers, the architects, etc, which is also super helpful, because when the marketing team reaches out or whoever else reaches out sales, sales engineers, and they say, "Hey, I need I need help with this one thing". For me in startup land, you don't go to a single source you have to go to the source because probably the person who worked on it is the only one who really understands how to troubleshoot or do anything else. And so joining all of these teams has been really helpful to just kind of say, "Oh, that's this person, I can actually reach out to them right now and get the right answer. And I'll be back in an hour" Versus post in Slack and a couple of days go by until the right person is tagged, and you find out they're not even in the channel. That happens all the time unless there is that bridge. So really following product in the morning, and then I think most afternoons, evenings tend to completely switch to customer-facing teams. And fires are going to pop up every single day, especially because like I said, we're rebuilding product about a year ago, and we were just about to launch, or we actually launched maybe a month after I joined, and so from then until now there's been a huge, huge goal of deployment, deployment, deployment, the board, of course, wants to see a return on their investment. But as those deployments go in, and your software is going into stores for the first time, which by the way, in the restaurant world, it's quite fascinating. A store maybe closes at 8 pm and opens at 8 am the next day, and in those 12 hours, everything has to be done. The old hardware has to be pulled out, the new one installed, everything's tested. By the time they open the doors literally overnight, the next morning, everything has to work perfectly. And oftentimes it does not. And so there's a lot of support on that front as well, whether that's, "Hey, how does this thing work? What's the technical documentation? Pricing?" You know, it makes sense how are we negotiating this or that or the other? So most of the rest of the afternoon and the evenings are putting out fires and when they're not, I'm going back to some of those processes that we talked about, on how product marketing can just make our company better and where can I look for inspiration at other companies and other resources to put into place and then how can we make sure that sticks?

Bryony Pearce - PMA  31:01

Okay, cool. Thanks. And then in terms of those relationships with product, sales, marketing, sales engineers, and so on. Like, how do you think or how do you wish they could be better? Or would you say they're pretty idyllic at the minute or?

Farhan Manjiyani  31:16

So are you talking about just generally a my company are generally for product marketers and those teams in general.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  31:23

Just for you, like you and your setup at Qu POS.

Farhan Manjiyani  31:27

That's a good question. I think that education piece was key of understand how product is developed, because I think it's tough for non-technical teams. When you don't get to see the V1, 2, 3, and 4, you just see V9 and you're like, "What, this is version nine. How can there be any sort of problem ever? You did it nine times. It has to be perfect at nine or you just don't know what you're doing". It's so easy to make those assumptions until you get into the nitty-gritty and I think oftentimes as product marketers, and especially sales, especially for any seller right now, it's all about lead with empathy, lead with empathy, lead with empathy. And I think at this time, especially for those who are in those kinds of high stakes environment where you go live, and then all hell can break loose, it's really important to give that empathy back to those technical teams and just understand the sheer amount of effort and force that they're trying to put in to really harden and make everything perfect. And mind you often without any sort of understanding of the operators, because I think personas can go so far, but a user persona for a technical team and a buyer persona for a sales team or marketing team are oftentimes very different. And I would say most companies don't have both, we certainly do not have both. And so if you don't have a fundamental understanding of who that user is, and you don't have the industry experience and the know-how it's really, really difficult to just get it right. Not only that, but understanding your customers may not have the same appetite to rethink the problems as you do, or maybe your company vision does. It's really do you solve my problem the way I want you to solve my problem? If no, I'm going to go to someone else. And when those are the stakes the conversation becomes very different, and that's tough for a lot of reasons. So I would say really just understanding some of these high-level conversations of, what a company needs to do to retain and grow their client base today and making sure you're giving empathy back to technical teams who I think are just so often misunderstood. In the same way, I think sales is misunderstood. I think that's why I have so much empathy. There's all this conversation about shady selling and how people are just really those pushy people that knock on your door and don't leave you alone until you say yes, shoving software down throats. In my experience, those sellers are the ones that don't last. You don't close deals, you don't hit quota and you're fired before the end of the quarter. So nine times out of 10 it's not. And the same goes for technical teams where your assumptions are probably wrong. So I would really take some time to get to know your counterparts if that's who you really want to work with.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  34:20

Yeah, no, I love that internal empathy point as well, because I think a lot of the time in product marketing, empathy is obviously spoken about an awful lot, but usually in the context of having empathy for your customers, like as you say, it's so so important to kind of replicate and follow that on with your internal counterparts, because, you know, everyone obviously has their own targets or own pain points or barriers. And yeah, I think that's a really good point. So you spoke a bit about the kind of relationship with products, I know you've obviously super close to your product managers Qu POS. What does the process of introducing new products and features look like over there and kind of how early are you brought into those conversations and roadmaps?

Farhan Manjiyani  35:02

Yeah, it's a good question. Funny enough at the very beginning, because I'm actually a big part of managing the road mapping tool. I'm usually the one both right when if it's for the board or someone external, making sure we have the right fidelity of information that we're sharing, or if it's for, you know, an account manager or directly to the customer, going back to that question of, "Hey, where's my thing? When is my thing coming? What's the status of my thing?" Making sure that that information is available in a good self-serve model. So really, the go to market looks a little bit like this, once something is kind of fully fleshed out and slotted, and we're pretty confident that we're going to hit it, a big piece of my role are their release notes. How does this thing work? What's coming out in this version versus that version? So ultimately, where's my thing and how does it work? But then also, figuring out what scope or level of support does this need? Is this something that's going to get picked up by the press? Should it be picked up by the press? Are there privacy concerns? Is this just general, you know, plumbing table stakes for the market? Or is this a true differentiator that we built? And making sure other folks at the company have a good understanding of that. And then the second piece of that is, is some of those foundational materials, the technical documentation of what is launching? Why are we launching this? What pain points are we solving? What risks are there to maybe even our own you know, if a customer is on a previous version, or if their use cases are axed, you need to pay close attention to this from a configuration standpoint. We're really big on those implementation teams. And then usually we're pushing out quite quickly and one runs into the other. But it's important and I think this is something I often have to advocate for because product marketing isn't that fleshed out function is what rework or work do we need on our persona? What about the positioning and messaging? What collateral needs to be created, here and now. And when you have a lean marketing team, oftentimes, these are not higher priority items. But for me, they are making sure we're doing that company demo and everyone in the company understands that these are some really awesome things that have come out. And from the feedback you get there, I think going back to product and understanding what KPIs are we going to measure? Sitting down with the product manager and saying, "Hey, first of all, what's even possible to measure today? What kind of plumbing do we have in the analytics world? And where can we put some in really quickly?"  even if it's just a quick Google Tag Manager to make sure we have a basic understanding of is this thing touched yes or no? And then going back and doing it all over again before the next launch. So this is a process I repeat as quickly as I can, every two to three weeks.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  37:56

You keep oddly reading my mind and leading me into the next question because I was going to ask what kind of KPIs, OKRs you have in place? Are you able to share some examples of what you're working on?

Farhan Manjiyani  38:11

Yeah, so actually funny enough, I read the OKR report that you all put out, and actually went back to my manager and leadership and I was like, "Hey, look at this, this is really awesome, we should really be thinking about this". Because to be honest it's pretty muddy. And it doesn't matter whether it's product managers or product marketers or even developers. It's a little unclear on, you know, based on the fidelity of work that you put out. Everybody's doing the same thing. But what are the great differences and what are the expectation differences based on tenure and stratification? Those are some of the things that again, going back to scrappy startup, just not at that maturity level, to have clearly defined initiatives broken down from company to department to level by that it's mainly we have a goal set by the board, here's what you're gonna do to meet that goal. And that's pretty much it, did you do it? Or did you not do it? If you came in clutch, then that's A-okay, if you didn't, we need to have a conversation about how to do it next time. Because like we mentioned, all that high stress, high impact, high reward environment, and you got to hit it every time. So I think that's a big pain point for me is really understanding how can we get better OKRs and make sure it's tied back to each of the different stakeholders and the buckets of work that we work on each day, not only for product marketing but as a product organization overall. And how are we making sure that these metrics are then shared with other departments? And that cross-functional collaboration is clear. And we're just not at that stage just yet.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  39:50

Okay, cool. Thanks. And then I guess kind of looking back from the start of your product marketing career to where you are now. If you had to narrow it down to three top skills, what would you say the main skills are that have helped you get where you are today in product marketing?

Farhan Manjiyani  40:06

Hmm, good question. So as I listened to the different podcast episodes, I was thinking really hard to make sure I had my answer. Reflecting it goes back to a couple of things. I think one of the key things I talked about is that empathy pieces is huge and at the same time, when you're having that high emotional intelligence and the way to make sure you have empathy and not sympathy, is a good understanding of different teams and sometimes that means having technical acumen and that doesn't just mean you know how to code, but you understand processes. Whether that's demand Gen processes, or software development processes or implementation processes, it doesn't matter. But you have the ability to really understand something very complex and drop it down to easy to understand concepts. I think understanding something difficult, and being able to easily explain it are two different skills but very valuable, or very important rather to have both to be a successful product marketer. The next piece of it, I think, is just in general, you have to be a good connector. You have to have a good experience or skillset to make those cross-functional relationships that really last. I'm not talking just at a company that you're at, but just in general, being able to distill high-level trends across the different areas of the business that you work in, whether it's as simple as, "Hey, there's this really cool tool out there. Have you guys ever looked into this? Have you thought about this?" And being able to just offer nuggets like that, are what gets you invited to various meetings and spaces and get you one step closer to being a trusted adviser,  which is so important as a product marketer. And I think the last piece of that for me, has really been presentation skills. Once you have all this information, it can lead you absolutely nowhere if you're not fantastic, not only at just making slide decks, but particularly making concept problems that are in an engaging way, communicating in an engaging way, but at the same time just your vernacular and being a good public speaker, to hold someone's attention. And really, if you're in a room with executives to be able to command attention, no matter your background and get that legitimacy factor very, very quickly, no matter the audience. That's huge. And that's helped me get very very far today.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  42:40

Okay, awesome. So rolling into the last couple of questions. The penultimate one from me, in your opinion, what do you think needs to change about the product marketing field in a general sense? So kind of outside of Qu POS, as well?

Farhan Manjiyani  42:57

Hmm, I love this question, and I ponder it a lot and I think my answer has changed a lot and I'm still kind of forming consistently. But right now, I would really like to see product marketing... One, I would like to see organizations restructure or reorg to have revenue-generating teams all report into one function, or at least one executive solely responsible for driving alignment across all revenue-generating teams. And I'd really like that person to really come from a product marketing background or at least have extreme empathy for a product marketer and see product marketing really sit at a function that is by design, cross-functional, because oftentimes, I think, you know like I sit in product and most product marketers sit in marketing and some sit elsewhere. And ultimately, oftentimes, a lot of the pains I hear are trying to figure out how to force collaboration, when for everyone else on the team that's not in the job description. And so that is an unnecessary barrier, I think and wasted time and effort when a product marketer can clearly do incredible things if they're set up for that success from a design perspective, that's ultimately what I'd like to see is CEOs, especially rethinking, one, do I understand product marketing?  This isn't another just checkbox of, do I have this function of marketing? Is it being done great? But largely as a business is what am I doing to ensure the product adoption is there and the right information is getting from team to team, that cross-functional collaboration is there in my company? And if not, how can I reorg everything to make sure it is and I think it starts with getting revenue-generating teams on the same page.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  44:48

Yeah, no, I love that one. I like that a lot. Awesome, final question then. If there were any new or aspiring product marketers looking to get into the industry, and they're tuned in and they're listening right now what would your advice to them be?

Farhan Manjiyani  45:06

It starts with the hard look in the mirror and some reflection. I think the first step is to understand what product marketing means, specifically to the company that you want to go into or even at your company if that's what you want to move into. What are some of those core misses that the company is having or challenges, opportunities that the company has right now? And then going out and doing informational interviews, constantly picking the brain of everyone. Pick the brain of someone at your level, above your level, and someone who hires for your position. Understand these challenges, really, really intimately. And then go back and say, "Okay, what skill sets do I have slash what skill sets do I need to refine before I can come in and speak intelligently to some of these challenges or ideally, walk in and be able to solve it relatively quickly". Develop a plan to at least make some progress on some of these challenges really quickly. Because one of the things I've learned for sure is if you want the legitimacy of a product marketer, you have to be able to quickly come in and have a quick win and coming into a brand new organization or even within your organization, if there are departments that you haven't touched before, if there are those relationships that you know you will need to have, but you don't have yet, you can absolutely start that now. You don't need to have a specific title to reach out to your counterparts and just start to understand like I said, what are those incentives for them? How do they win at the end of the day? And then you constantly just go back and forth and you're doing that internal reflection of "Okay, what do I have that will allow me to do this and what do I need to refine?" And there are tons and tons of resources out there and PMA is a fantastic one. So definitely join as well.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  46:54

Okay, awesome, well, thank you so much Farhan for carving some time out and chatting for us today. It's been great to have you on the show.

Farhan Manjiyani  47:01

So great to be here. Thank you so much, Bryony.



Written by:

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce

Bryony's the Head of Content here at Product Marketing Alliance and you'll find her behind most things written!

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Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Farhan Manjiyani