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31 min read

Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Gwendolyn Smith


We had the pleasure of chatting with Litera’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Gwendolyn Smith about her fascinating views on where the PMM function should sit; product vs marketing, how the role has evolved throughout her career, plus how implementing an agile workflow framework has led to some exciting improvements. Tune in for all this and heaps more of the good stuff.

Full transcript:

Bryony Pearce - PMA  0:01

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 Gwendolyn Smith, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Litera Microsystems. Gwendolyn joined Litera in 2018 and before that held PMM roles at Narrative Science, Drivin, ShopperTrak and Apartments.com. So let's pass over. Welcome to the show, Gwendolyn.

Gwendolyn Smith  0:18

Thank you so much for having me.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  0:20

Oh, it's our pleasure to have you here. I guess could we just kick off if you give everyone a bit of an intro into you, your role, and then a bit about Litera itself?

Gwendolyn Smith  0:30

Sure. I'll start with the Litera, simply put Litera is a software company that is for law firms. And we empower lawyers and legal professionals throughout their workflow, from first draft to final delivery, and simplify the way that legal profession leverages technology. And we do this by providing all the tools that a firm would need to create, check and collaborate on legal documents and then close deals with clients or from a partner. And we're a global company that's headquartered in Chicago. And we have offices in New York, London, Ukraine, Spain and the Philippines. So that's a little bit about Litera, a little bit about me, as you mentioned in your intro, I've been in product marketing for quite some time, I think closer to seven years now. And having a tonne of fun with it and learning a little bit more every day.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  1:29

So you've been in the industry for quite a few years, what would you say were the main changes you've seen over those seven years?

Gwendolyn Smith  1:37

Ooh, the main changes - a lot. I think when I started, no one really knew what product marketing was. I didn't know what it was when I started. I think the role was kind of handed to me from my boss at the time, and she said, you know, "We have a gap in the business, we think it's good for you to be product marketing, can you take on product marketing?" I said, "Sure. What is it?" She said, "You just focus on our products when you do your marketing". Okay? So I went, and I got certified in product marketing and learned a lot about it. And I think over the years, I'm so lucky that there's a network of people and the function as a role in the business is growing and evolving. And we're getting a lot more presence in the business. So people are really starting to understand that, you know, product marketing is very different than brand marketing. It's much more technical, and it's, while there are some overlaps, but it's a very different flavor and it's starting to get more awareness. So I'm excited to see the function grow.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  3:00

I love your boss's description of product marketing there!

Gwendolyn Smith  3:06

I was like, "Okay, keep doing what I'm doing, or should I?" But you know, it just basically, we just needed to support the product team a lot more and focus on some major launches that were coming our way. So we learned together.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  3:25

It makes sense. And then you mentioned so at the minute you're working with kind of global teams in New York, London, Ukraine, and so on. How do you find managing those time differences?

Gwendolyn Smith  3:35

Oh, they're fine. So we have a pretty flexible work environment. In our organization, we use Microsoft Teams for a lot of our communication and collaboration. And so we'll deploy that, it's pretty flexible. From the marketing team, we have some people in London and in Spain, and so we just try to have our meetings with them early, so I'm based in Chicago in the headquarters, we just try to have our meetings as early in the morning as possible to respect their afternoons and their evenings. So we're pretty good with that.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  4:23

Then in terms of your direct product marketing team, what does that look like in terms of numbers and roles?

Gwendolyn Smith  4:29

We are a team of three, there are two product marketing specialists and myself. The team evolved pretty quickly and I'm so grateful for it as it shows tremendous growth for our business as well. For a while I was the sole product marketer, focusing on all aspects of product marketing. So go-to-market strategy and messaging, competitive intel, sales enablement, and customer marketing for our entire product suite. And that's a lot for one person to take on. And I was lucky to hire a product marketing specialist to own the competitive intel and customer marketing side of things. And our system was working well. But after a few recent acquisitions, we needed to shuffle. So through one of the acquisitions, we gained a specialist in the legal project management space and decided to shift and so now we have one specialist that focuses on all things related to document drafting, which is one side of our business and the other on legal project management, which is another core product of ours, and I kind of oversee the whole go-to-market strategy and messaging for the entire portfolio.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  5:42

Okay, cool. And then out of curiosity who do you report into?

Gwendolyn Smith  5:47

I report into marketing so I report into our chief of marketing.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  5:53

And is that like fairly consistent for you, have you always typically reported into marketing or?

Gwendolyn Smith  6:00

Mostly yes. In fact, yes. I was thinking back to all my roles. When I started into product marketing, I was at apartments.com and I was always a function of marketing and then as we kind of relaunched our brand and completely redid our whole marketing campaign it was important for me to sit closer to the product team because we were fundamentally changing our pricing and packaging, our website, everything about us, and it was so important that I was just lock-step with the product team. So during that shift for the business, I also moved over to sit on the product team and I reported in to our head of product. I think that worked well. I think it also works well to work to report into marketing. It really just depends on the relationship that you have with your fellow teammates.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  7:10

Yeah, I was gonna say I guess that kind of thing will massively vary from company to company as well, won't it? There's not really such like, in one company, it might make more sense in marketing or the product and then it's those interpersonal relationships as well isn't it?

Gwendolyn Smith  7:21

Exactly right. I think it absolutely depends again, on how the organization is set up, and the relationships that you have, because based on that, it shouldn't feel like you sit on one team or the other. And if you ever feel you're too distant from one, find an empty seat or a chair and go sit with the other team. You learn a lot just by hearing the conversation that happens in their department or in their row. And it's super valuable for you to just be present in those conversations and raise your hand and say, "Hey, have you thought of it like this? Because from my side of the world, this is what we're thinking", and just really share your thoughts that way and collaborate more.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  8:07

Yeah, that's a great tip. And then I guess going back to the start of your product marketing career, it sounds like it was something that you just maybe fell into as it is with a lot of people. But is there anything that particularly made you want to get into product marketing in the first place?

Gwendolyn Smith  8:22

No, no, because I didn't know I wanted to be in product marketing. But now that I am here, I think I really found my place. Before product marketing, I worked in sales, customer success, marketing, and some UX research as well. And I think I found my perfect fit because product marketing, to me, elegantly embodies each of those practice areas.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  8:50

And then I guess it's quite a talking point in product marketing, the sheer variety of backgrounds that people have, there's not really such thing as a set path to get into the industry of product marketing. So I know we've touched on a few of the companies you've worked on so far but could you just talk us through your career path kind of from the very start of your career to now?

Gwendolyn Smith  9:10

Of course. Oh, let's see. Um, I formally started my career as an account manager reinforcing the value of online advertising, which sounds archaic. And I didn't know it then but I really think it was the first best job I ever could have had. So once sales closed the deal I would walk the customer through our advertising platform, and show them how to showcase their products in the most compelling way with tips and tricks that would help the customer stand out from competitors. But then I studied marketing in college, and I was soon promoted to B2B marketing coordinator. And I worked really closely with the sales team to plan events, sponsorships, get out our tchotchkes and premium items, you know, all the fun things that make marketing what marketing is, and then I eventually moved into management and oversaw all brand, positioning, advertising, and campaigns. And so this is really where my story picks up on how I landed into product marketing in the first place. I spent several years building the function where I was and then eventually moved on. So I've been at a few companies in a product marketing role since and I've never looked back. I didn't know that at the time. But again, all those positions I had before product marketing helped me naturally become a better product marketer. They coached me into the role.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  10:50

That's something so many people say as well and interestingly, I was doing a podcast the other day with  Harvey Lee, and he was telling me about his background and his like first job was actually he used to be in a band and he used to go around touring. And he drew so many experiences from being in this rock band, I was like, wow, like, it's not something you'd instinctively like associate the two parallels with the kind of rock band and product marketing, but there's no such thing as a waste of experiences they say and you don't necessarily realize it at the time, but it will always help you down the line, I guess.

Gwendolyn Smith  11:24

Yeah, totally. Totally.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  11:27

Okay, cool. So next up, I ask this question in all these product marketing insider podcasts, and I always get the same answer, which is that there isn't really an answer, but I still ask it anyway. So if there is such a thing, what does a standard day in your role look like?

Gwendolyn Smith  11:44


Bryony Pearce - PMA  11:45

That is the answer I always get.

Gwendolyn Smith  11:48

You know, I really wish I could be the change in the pattern here, but absolutely not. There isn't such a thing. Okay, that is a bit of a lie because there is a structure to my day. And it does shift a little bit. So okay, because our marketing team kicks off every day with a stand-up. So in a 15-minute huddle, we talk about our daily priorities and our blockers, similar to an agile workflow. After that, it is a blend of collaborating sales, marketing, and of course, the product team. And we're a global company so I do spend a lot of my time on video calls, sometimes at the crack of dawn, sometimes late at night, although, as I mentioned before, we try to avoid that but it happens, right? I think marketing has, generally speaking, been a pretty flexible team. And I would never want to discourage this but sometimes it gets pretty difficult to balance or prioritize the last minute requests with larger, more long term initiatives. I felt our team needed a little bit more structure. And since our daily stand-ups work so well, I decided to experiment by implementing an agile framework. So just like the product team, we operate in two-week sprints, whatever comes on our radar, whatever work we have on our roadmap, we add it to our sprint backlog. And then every two weeks we gather and do a retro of what worked well, and what we could have done better. And then we move into our planning. So of everything in our backlog, what is the highest priority? How many dependencies do we have? What is the level of effort and time that this will take? And from there, we move about 60-65% of our backlog into our to-do's for the upcoming spring. And we leave about 25% of our time open for those ad hoc last-minute projects, and about 15% of time for meetings, whether they be scheduled or not scheduled at the time. And we've been doing this since January and as a result, we've been able to better predict our workflows, work faster and stay focused on the projects that matter most. And also be able to communicate this out with other departments to say, "Oh, you know, we'd love to help you. Let me add it to the backlog" or "Can you help me understand...", you know, everything is urgent, every request that we get people just, you know, 'I need it right now, for a customer". "Okay, well, tell me about the customer. When do you need it? When is the meeting?", "Oh the meeting's not for two weeks, but I really need to prepare". "Okay, great. Well, while you're preparing I'm gonna try to prioritize our workflow a little bit". So it's definitely helped not just the marketing team or the product marketing team, but the marketing team work better with the sales team to just have better alignment and set expectations, so I'm really excited about it.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  15:18

Yeah, it sounds like a sweet setup. And then in terms of actually kind of prioritizing what goes into those two-week sprints, do you have like a process or a checklist? Or how do you identify what is and isn't a priority?

Gwendolyn Smith  15:31

That's a good question. Right now, the way we prioritize is based on how much time it's going to take, how many dependencies we have to do it, and the due date. And so if it is a customer request, you know, we do try to ask those discovery questions. So when is the meeting? What is the value of the opportunity that you're working on? So you know if it is a higher dollar opportunity from just a priority standpoint, we might say, "Okay, this is a really big deal for the business, how can we get moving on it faster?" Or if it's a longer-term project, and we know that it's going to take collaboration from people throughout the marketing team, and sales team and maybe even product, then just knowing that you know, I might be able to get my work done today, but somebody else might have their own backlog that they're trying to work through. So we just try to get an understanding of what is the value of the work that we're doing? What is the timeframe that it needs to be done in, and that's how we assign our priorities.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  16:54

Yeah, that makes sense. And then in terms of communicating that kind of priority list, and what is and isn't going in the sprint internally, how do you go about doing that?

Gwendolyn Smith  17:05

So with the marketing team itself, so right now product marketing is the only function within the marketing team that's utilizing this framework right now. So what we'll do is... let me take a step back. So every morning, we as a marketing team, we have our daily standup where we talk about our priorities. But then once a week, we all will get together as a department and talk about what we're working on and the progress that we've made. So I'll communicate our weekly or excuse me, our bi-weekly sprint goals and objectives in that weekly meeting with the broader marketing team. And then, so that's how I share our updates within marketing, and then within sales, we also have a bi-weekly meeting with the executives in the sales leadership team and the revenue team and say, "Okay, here's where we're focused. Just to give you guys a heads up on the things that you've been asking for, here's where they fall. And also, here are some other things that we're working on as a team and we want your help getting the word out". So we'll just meet with the marketing team once a week and then with the sales team, once every two weeks, and then products we're pretty locked in step, so we don't have a formal meeting with them. We just kind of fill them in casually.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  18:42

Okay, cool. Thank you. And then we've spoken about sales and marketing quite a bit and product obviously, in terms of which departments you interact with quite a lot. Outside of those three core departments, which internal teams would you say you have the most kind of interactions with?

Gwendolyn Smith  19:00

It's a bit of a coin toss really, um, we talk to the product team all day long, we join their bi-weekly sprint reviews, and sit in on product council. And the product marketing and product teams also meet bi-weekly to align on our release strategy and product promotions. The adoption team or you know what some people might call a growth team, we work really closely with them as well, because they support our growth strategies within our law firm customers. So with adoption, product marketing extends itself as a service to our customers to promote awareness and get people excited about the tools that they have in their toolkit from Litera. So our buyers are traditionally IT people and they teach lawyers and legal teams to use their products and we know that they can do a good job. But the reality is they're IT people, they're not marketers. So my team will develop email campaigns, case study templates, posters, anything, really anything that the firm needs to drum up interest in our products to get their users to use it. And then we work with sales day in and day out and it's really hard to escape marketing, of course, we collaborate on campaigns, content strategy, audience segmentation, really the works. We have a rock-solid team and I'm so lucky to be amongst them, but I know that's not a clear answer to your question. But it really is a coin toss. I don't know who I talk to the most.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  20:49

No, you've answered it well, thank you. You mentioned creating the email templates and stuff like this for your teams to use. Once you've created assets like that, how do you go about actually passing them over to the relevant teams and making sure they're actually using them?

Gwendolyn Smith  21:06

Oh, passing them over is easy. Making sure that they use that....  isn't, I mean, well, okay, I don't want to sound like the work that we produce isn't valuable, because it is, but it's making sure that you're what you produce is used at scale. Because we'll create a resource that a handful people love, but the other side or another team of people might say, you know, it's just not really for me, I prefer to do my own thing and you're always going to have those people, that's fine. What I'm looking for and what I wish we could implement and what I'm looking into now is a way to really track the usage on all of the resources that we develop for internal use. I know that there are vendors out there that'll help with this. But, you know, it's a tricky question to answer if you don't have any sort of internal tracking setup on it. So that's something I'm working to do. Otherwise, we just promote the heck out of it. So whenever we have a new resource, or a new campaign, or anything that the product team delivers, or the marketing team for that matter, you know, it's really important to get in front of the adoption team, or anyone under the revenue umbrella and say, "Guys, look, here's the way that we were before", think of, I mean, just think of a case study template, right? "Here's a challenge we were facing before. Here's the shiny new object. Here's the value delivered to you. And here's best tips on how to use it. And if you have any questions, we are your partner, don't ever forget that. We're all fighting the good fight together here. So if you have any questions, ideas, ways to make it better, please shout and let us know". And we do get a lot of good feedback and work hand in hand with the revenue team and the product team on this. So I think getting the word out is really easy. But people are creatures of habits, and sometimes they'll adopt it right away, or sometimes they'll just go back to their own way. So I think it's also just a matter of reinforcing the resources that we have available to them. And sometimes they might not know that we had something available and that's why people weren't using it. So we just, you know, as a marketer, we have to remember to always make sure that our message is relevant and remind people of all the great tools that they have in their toolkit.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  24:05

And in terms of those kinds of initial asset launches, do you generally try to do them face to face or face to screen type thing or?

Gwendolyn Smith  24:14

Yeah, as much as possible. We try to have a presence in the revenue meetings. So we could, I suppose, demonstrate the value of our new resources, and then send an email afterward, reminding them of what we have. And if it's something really significant, like a new playbook for a new product, or a new story on a segment to our audience, I'll partner with our training team and put something on our learning platform and work to actually have a very interactive training session with our entire company to make sure that they understand the value of what we're delivering.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  25:04

Okay, awesome, thank you. And then kind of going back to the internal relationship side of things, like how would you say your relationship with those key stakeholders are? So in terms of marketing, sales, product, adoption? Do you have like fairly strong and open lines of communication with them? Are they receptive to the work the product marketing function does? Or how does that look for you?

Gwendolyn Smith  25:26

Oh, yeah, I'm again, very lucky to have the team that we have. I think our relationships are very strong. Because again, there isn't one team that we interact with the most. Our relationships are very collaborative. Again, we partner up on each other's meetings, we have a strong presence and deliver value to everyone's meetings. So I think we're really lucky in this case, it hasn't always been that way in my past experience, and you kind of have to work a little bit more at certain relationships. But I think overall, we're a really strong team and we're fortunate to work very well cross-functionally.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  26:21

Is that just a kind of company cultural thing do you think? Or is it that people are maybe understanding more about the role of product marketing and the value?

Gwendolyn Smith  26:33

I don't know if it's necessarily... I mean, I'd love to attribute it to the cross-functional role of product marketing. But I truly believe it's stronger than that. It's bigger than that. At Litera we have very strong cultural values, and a very strong mission on who we are, and what we hope to accomplish each year and each quarter. And the only way that we hit these goals is to work together. So our leadership team does a phenomenal job of saying, "Hey, never be shy. Here are the goals, we empower each of you to really run with them and make it happen. And the only way we're going to get that done is if we break down every wall and just communicate often, be very clear with our roadmap, be very clear with the goals of every team and work together on it."

Bryony Pearce - PMA  27:37

Sounds like a nice setup to have, I'm sure more PMs would like it.

Gwendolyn Smith  27:43

It really is, again, very fortunate to be here.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  27:49

Okay, awesome. Um, next up, what would you say the top three skills are that have helped you get where you are today in the product marketing field?

Gwendolyn Smith  28:00

Top three skills, I would say 1. organization, or at least to have a plan, right? I think just working so closely with product, they're very plan oriented. They have their roadmap planned out, and I took a lesson from them and said, "Okay, I also need to have a plan". And you know, nowadays everyone wants to have projects delivered yesterday. And when you're balancing multiple projects, it's really almost too easy to feel like a cat in a laser show. So, without structure, it's impossible to communicate effectively, work more efficiently, and really feel like you have a grip on what's going on. So no matter what, I work with my team to take a step back and say, "Okay, what is the goal here? Who needs to be involved and what are the real deadlines? Not a 911 and you know unless it is but you know, what are the real deadlines?", and the agile has really helped for us and I am excited to see where it takes us but I think organization is definitely one. On the tail of that is probably 2. flexibility, I would say is my second top skill. And you know, although your plan that you created might look perfect at first it is going to change and you have to be okay with change. Because as new information comes up, as you learn more, timelines change, dependencies change, people who are involved change, roadblocks begin to surface and things move into the backlog, and it could throw off your master plan and totally ruin your life. But only if you let it and that has been a huge lesson for me to just remember that things change. So organization, flexibility, and then probably 3. empathy. And remember that things change for a reason and it's probably a good reason. And you have to you've got to understand that it's nothing against you hopefully and the people that you work with, you might not even want to make the change, but it needs to happen. Gotta have each other's backs and get on board. And when you understand and can share the feelings of others and communicate it in such a way that shows that you understand you'll just get a lot more done. So I think organization, flexibility, and empathy are definitely the skills that helped me get to where I am.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  31:00

That empathy one's a great one as well, I did a podcast a few months ago with Irina Barbu from Shopify and she talked a lot about empathy. And I think a lot of the times in product marketing empathy's spoken about in the context of empathy for your customers. But it's super important as well to remember empathy towards I guess, your colleagues and your internal stakeholders as well, which is fundamental in those internal relationships.

Gwendolyn Smith  31:20

It is and especially when you have a lot of passion for your role or for what you're working on, when things do change, you could get a little emotional, um, and I think empathy is such a big key because, you know, it all depends on how you trickle down the news of change or news in general. The plan could adjust and my boss comes to me very heated, very angry about something and then I'm fired up and I go to my team and I'm like wait a second, no, you know, take a step back, think of how I want to deliver this message. It's nothing that we did wrong. It's a business change. And it can be really disappointing because you're like, 'Oh, I worked for a whole week on this. And now you're saying we're not going to do it anymore'. And it's finding, I mean, we're product marketers, we're good at repositioning things, so it's like, "well, it's not that we're not going to use it, it's that we might just use it in a different way or at a later time, or how can we take some of the work that you produced and change it a little bit", right? So it's, again, it's just being empathetic for your team for the business and having empathy in how you deliver your messaging.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  32:59

And then you mentioned when you were talking about the organization in terms of, you know, a lot of people always come to you and say 'deadline of yesterday', you know, everyone needs it at the same time. How do you find like, obviously, you have to say no to people sometimes, how do you find that? Because I feel like it can be an art in itself telling people "No".

Gwendolyn Smith  33:20

Yeah, it could be. I'm gonna say sometimes I'll just say "no". But to your point, you know, we have to be delicate with how we deliver the message. So what I'll do, it depends on the request, but when it comes to saying, "No", I try not to just say, "No", I'll try to again, here it comes to empathy, just trying to understand where this person is coming from and put myself to the best I can in their shoes. What are they dealing with right now? Are they someone on the revenue team or are they engineering or who are they and what's going on in their world? And what do they really need? Because a lot of times they'll say, you know, if it's someone on the revenue team, "Oh, I just need this piece of paper. And if I had this sheet that answered all these questions then I could give it to my customer and then they'll buy it". And I'm like well, you know, maybe we already have this information on a sheet and you may not notice this. It may be a coaching opportunity to say, "Okay, well tell me about the conversation that you're having. Tell me what the customer is looking for", and then realize, 'Oh, they don't need that sheet of paper at all. They just needed to understand the product functionality a little bit better. Maybe we can have a demo instead', and just really coaching through, like, what are you looking for? And what is the challenge that you're facing? Because maybe we already have the answer, and I can help you with it. And if then all things still lead to 'no there's a gap', then I'll prioritize it in our backlog.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  35:25

And then in terms of unpacking those challenges and customer conversations, would you say like are the sales teams quite open and forthcoming with that kind of thing to you? Because I know a lot of product marketers have the challenge of, you know, they know these customer-facing teams have all this knowledge, but they just can't get it out of them. Like how does that work for you at Litera?

Gwendolyn Smith  35:45

Yeah, they are. So whenever we, especially when it comes to competitive intelligence, so if we catch wind of a competitive campaign, or here's something new, we'll reach out to them and say, "Hey, are you guys facing this? What's happening?". Or if they learn something in the market, they're very upfront and they'll send a note, not just to product marketing, but they'll send a note to the company to say, "Hey, here are some things that we're hearing from customers", whether it be positive recognition, just to kind of keep up our rally cries and "Hey, good job, everybody. I just got off a customer call and this is what they said about us, or about a specific product, or about how we are above and beyond our competition". You know, they're very open with us because we all rally together. And then when it comes to campaigns or support, absolutely, they'll either write us an email, text us on teams, or just have a call and say, "Here's what's going on in my market, or in my segments of firms that we're working with. What can we do to help? What is something creative that we can do to get ahead of the game, or make sure that we have a stronger presence?". We're very open and collaborative, but it's all about sharing our stories. Right? So what are you hearing from customers? What are you feeling? And they're not shy to come to us. And I prefer it to be that way. We're not shy to go to them, either. I reach out to them all the time to help me answer questions. And I say, "Look, you have a really close pulse on the market. You're talking to customers every day. What are they saying about X? Or can you get me on the phone with them to talk about and learn a little bit more about why?", and they're very happy to connect us and or ask on our behalf.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  38:00

That's another great setup you've got there Gwendolyn, you're gonna be making a lot of product marketers very jealous.

Gwendolyn Smith  38:06

I think it all depends on the relationship that you build with them. You know, not everybody understands product marketing, I think a blessing and a curse of this role is I get so many requests from everybody and I have to say, you know, "I can't fix everything". And then I have to take a step back and prioritize and say, "Okay, wait, I really appreciate you coming and opening up about what you're experiencing, but maybe I need to get somebody in training involved. Or maybe I need to get somebody in product involved or maybe someone or the adoption team or customer success team" and really understand that while flattering that a lot of people want to come to us as product marketers, you've got to be able to depend on other teams as well and know when to delegate because you will be overloaded faster than you know, it's good to be busy, but you've got to make sure that you stay on top of your game and it's easy to drown if you don't delegate.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  39:27

Yep, for sure. Okay, cool. So moving on to kind of the product management and product marketing management relationship. Is there a lot of crossover between what you do and what a PM does at Litera and then in your eye where does the role of a product manager and a product marketing manager begin and end?

Gwendolyn Smith  39:50

The first question is easy, the second one is really hard. Okay, so as far as crossover goes, there are things that product marketing and the product team both have their eyes on but the execution is a little different. So for example, we both have our ears to the ground when it comes to competitors. They log information in Confluence and keep tabs on what our customers say during interviews that they have with them. And we leverage the information that they collect, plus interview sales, and get competitive alerts to put together battle cards with talking points and positioning strategies. So when it comes to product development, they build it and we talk about it. So there is a lot of crossovers but again, I think the execution is pretty different. And then oh, where does the role begin and end... in a perfect world it is a unified life cycle that has no beginning or no end. But realistically, you know, it's not really like that. We do need to respect each other's boundaries of whatever that means and make sure that we clearly understand each other's roles and responsibilities and communicate your goals. This makes it easier to play in the sandbox. Because, you know, in some organizations, product marketing did a lot of the user interviews and UX research, good, bad, regardless, that's just not how things are done at the company I'm at today. So I think when a product marketing role is being filled, or especially if it's new if it's the first product marketer that you're hiring for a company. I think it's really important for the interviewee to ask the hiring manager what do they think product marketing is? And how should this person from the hiring manager’s eyes, how should this person interact with the product marketing team? And where they view the division of responsibilities to be? I ask that question all the time. Because if there's no product marketing role, a lot of times product managers also serve as a function of product marketing. And, you know, you can get off on the wrong foot real fast if you come in as a shiny new product marketer and say, "I want to do all these things instead of you" and they might love that you're helping take work off their plate and they might hate it, they might feel threatened by it. So I think it's really important to set those expectations immediately.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  43:08

I think that's a great point anyway, like, regardless of where it sits or anything like that, just to ask what does product marketing mean to the person, because even if it's the head of product marketing you're speaking to it varies so much from company to company, it's just a great way to get a feel for what the role actually entails. Because I guess some people see it as a pro some people see it as a con, but there's just no standard really is there from one job to the other?

Gwendolyn Smith  43:32

It isn't standard. And I think that's a major pain point or discovery point from even the PMA annual survey, right? What is this magical mythical role of product marketing? It's different everywhere you go. So I think it's hugely important to say 'how do you define it hiring manager?' and then also 'here's how I define it. And here's my experience. Here's what I bring to the table', and be very clear. And then I would also say in the interview, if you're interviewing, talk to the product managers, talk to the head of product, say, "Okay, how do you define product marketing as well? And how do you see me working with your team?" And then share your experience once again. Because if you're mostly working with product and marketing, and even sales, it is so important that everyone understands the value of the role and is clear on what you could bring to the table and how all these teams could work together.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  44:42

Yep, that's a great tip. Awesome. Okay, so penultimate question. In your opinion, what if anything do you think needs to change about product marketing?

Gwendolyn Smith  44:59

More people need to know what it is.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  45:01


Gwendolyn Smith  45:03

No, I don't even think that's true anymore. I think the role has grown tremendously, which makes me personally enthusiastic. But I don't know if I can say with confidence that it needs to be changed when many companies are still trying to figure it out. I've seen many frameworks about how to launch a product, how to lead a product marketing team, or where the role should sit, but I think again, it ultimately comes down to what's best for the organization and setting those boundaries right away. One thing that would be helpful is to be more closely aligned with targets. So, product has targets based on adoption and usage. Sales has targets based on pipeline and pipeline converted. Marketing is tied to leads, and product marketing is somewhere across all of those. And it's not just where I am at Litera, it's something I've experienced in my experience.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  46:13

Yeah, we see a lot of these questions in Slack, I've seen God knows how many over the last year people asking like, "what are people measured on?", and I've seen a handful of people who just have no kind of OKRs or KPIs to measure themselves against. I think that's very much an industry-wide thing.

Gwendolyn Smith  46:29

I've seen the same questions and the same conversations happen in Slack and it always comes down to something that is very fundamental about the role. It's, "Oh, we'll create 10 battle cards and have positioning statements for all of your products". And it's like, "No, you know, I'm going to do that. But how do I know that it's actually working?" So I'm trying to figure out what are the best metrics I can put behind my role to prove that we're delivering value and one of them that I set for my team is increasing sales velocity. But again, it's still really hard to measure. Because I want to know once a lead was generated,  high five to sales marketing for getting an opportunity into a lead, but how long does it take to move that lead through the buying process? And if we can convert them faster that to me would give an indication that, okay, our story is working and messaging is working, the sales enablement resources that we deliver to the revenue team are proving effective. But it all depends on too, relying on the sales team to keep Salesforce up to date, to make sure that all the timing of the stages that an opportunity goes through their pipeline is accurate. And of course that we can pull that reporting on the data. So again, there are just so many dependencies on how to actually measure the effectiveness of product marketing. And it's tough. So if I could change something about product marketing, I would find the gold standard for measurement.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  48:32

I think a lot of people would be in agreement with that one.

Gwendolyn Smith  48:35

I know I wish I had the answer.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  48:40

We'll revisit that question in a few years’ time and see where the landscape is. Okay, perfect. So the last question for me. If there are any new or aspiring product marketers listening to this podcast right now, what would your advice to them be?

Gwendolyn Smith  49:00

Well, if you're interviewing, ask what it means to be product marketing to that organization, I think we covered that. But when it comes to what you want, first maybe be open-minded and then be direct. What I mean by that is product marketing again means something different in every company. I laugh because every job description I read, all sounds the same. You know, 'you'll drive the go-to-market strategy to find the positioning and create collateral, be a hero'. But in my reality, it's been different while the job description says that, you know, at one point it's been much more focused on a specific pillar within product marketing, be that co-marketing and adoption support, or you are a competitive intel expert, or product training or sales collateral or launching new products to market or maybe doing all the above. So when you are interviewing, do not be shy to ask about the product roadmap, and how exactly you will make an impact on the business and where you see your skills really becoming a fit. Also, just never be shy to question the status quo, the way the best ideas are made. So why can't I find solid metrics? You know, what can you do, this is how the best ideas are made. And, this isn't really advice as much as it will be a warning but there's a lot of writing in product marketing and it helps to be data-driven. So product marketing with any role, we always have to constantly prove our value so it is better to have numbers to prove it. So again, if you find that magic metric, give me a shout or better yet share it with the rest of us, put it on the Product Marketing Alliance Slack channel, and share your findings.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  51:27

I think everyone would like that. Me too. Okay, well, awesome that's all my questions Gwendolyn, thank you so much for your time. It's been really lovely speaking to you.

Gwendolyn Smith  51:40

Oh, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  51:43

Come back anytime.

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]: Gwendolyn Smith