Full transcript:

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:00

Hi everyone and welcome to the latest episode of the Product Marketing Insider podcast. My name's Lawrence Chapman and I'm a Copywriter here at PMA. I'm continuing my mission to speak to 50 plus PMMs to discover more about their role, which teams they interact with most, why they wanted to become a product marketer in the first place, and much more.

Today, I'm delighted to be joined by Jennifer Bunting, Head of Product Marketing at LinkedIn. Thanks so much for joining me, Jennifer.

Jennifer Bunting  0:24

Hi, thanks very much for having me, Lawrence.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:27

Just to start, then, could you please explain to the listeners what your current role entails at LinkedIn?

Jennifer Bunting  0:34

So my current role at LinkedIn, I lead product marketing for EMEA and LATAM. So LinkedIn, of course, I'm sure many of your listeners are members of LinkedIn, we have over 700 million members around the world.

And we have different business lines, they may not know that, we have business lines for talent so if you're looking for a job if you're trying to hire people, if you're a salesperson, but my specific business line, anytime you see an ad on LinkedIn, that is the product marketing suite that me and my team works on.

So yeah, my role is EMEA Product Marketing, I work with our global teams in the States for which new products are coming out, and our local sales teams and local customers.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:19

That's awesome. And what is it that made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?

Jennifer Bunting  1:24

Well, I think maybe many of your guests have said this, I didn't know product marketing was a function when I first started my career, I just knew I wanted to be in advertising. So I majored in advertising. I worked at some ad agencies and then I started getting into the tech side. So I wanted to work a fancy ad agency life but I lived in Silicon Valley at the time and tech is where a lot of the jobs were.

Then I ended up working at startups that were kind of creating new digital ad products and I went from wanting to work on advertising campaigns to wanting to work for companies that were creating new ad formats. I did lots of different roles over the course of a few years in sales and in marketing and then I didn't get into product marketing until I actually was working for LinkedIn.

About two years in I relocated to Sydney, Australia to help set up the Asia Pacific business and I was technically under the sales org role, we didn't have a product marketer for our business line. We were kind of the underdog as far as the advertising side went at the time 10 years ago. So I was doing a lot of sales enablement and I felt like I was the ultimate Gossip Girl, I knew all the products that were coming out before the sales team.

I really enjoyed it and eventually, the business realized the type of role I was doing was more of a product marketing role and I kind of pivoted into that, even though I was hired under the sales structure, and they wanted me to be a product expert. So I kind of fell into it by accident, but just by following what I was most interested in over the years.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:05

That's really interesting and as you say with more people transitioning into product marketing it's quite interesting to see what your life path looked like, as well. So in terms of a standard day as a product marketer, I say a standard day, I've asked this question so many times and it seems to be the same answer but if there is such a thing, what does the standard day look like as a product marketer?

Jennifer Bunting  3:35

For me, there isn't really a standard day. But that's probably why I actually love product marketing so much because product marketing flexes so many different marketing muscles, collaboration muscles. So no day is really the same. On the advertising side for LinkedIn, we launch around 150 products every year.

I currently live in London and I have a very small team so we can't work on every single product. But what we will do is prioritize a lot and so any day could include a variety of things, it might include team management and one on ones, it may include talking with stakeholders about what's going to be happening with certain products.

It could include talking to customers or voice of field programs where we're interviewing the field. We sometimes do research, sometimes we'll hire third-party vendors, or we'll need to kind of get into the data in our own tools and build things. We work really closely with our content and social team so we may be thinking about what kind of stories do we want to tell about our products that are more upper-funnel?

Sometimes we're actually even involved in the writing of the content or filming video, which is really fun. Every day is really a little bit different though. It just kind of depends on what's launching, what the sales team needs, what global teams need, and what's on fire at the moment too sometimes.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  5:02

Oh, brilliant and you touched very briefly on your product marketing team but can you tell us a little bit more about your direct teams in terms of numbers and the roles that are within the team itself?

Jennifer Bunting  5:14

So my role is maybe a little different than some of the other leaders that you've had on the podcast. Even though LinkedIn is, of course, a global company, and our product team, our engineers are all in the States, I sit in London. There are over 30 product marketers on our business line in the States. But for myself, covering EMEA and LATAM it's just me and one other person right now, I'm hoping we'll be hiring some more very soon.

But we look after EMEA and LATAM and then we work very closely, kind of like a dotted line to each other, my APAC partner. We have a lot of similarities in our day to day maybe over our global PMMs because they work so closely with product who sits in the States, and then we sit closer - back when we could all go into the offices before COVID - we sit with the sales teams.

By nature of that our roles are a little different. I have one person on my team and I also am currently managing our vertical marketing team, as well. So I have two marketers, one focuses on our tech vertical customers and the other on financial services.

The person I manage who's a PMM, in terms of what she does, she's kind of like me, there are 150 products so we kind of do our OKRs. So maybe one quarter we'll focus on a launch of something, and then we'll have to pivot and focus on an adoption strategy. So it just depends.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  6:43

Sounds busy. Busy but exciting. So in terms of the teams outside of marketing, for instance, sales, product, operations, etc, which departments would you say that you interact with most? And what's your relationship with them like?

Jennifer Bunting  6:58

Probably just by nature, being a regional team, I talk to sales every single day. Different people within the sales organization, sometimes they are a person with a quota that they're trying to hit in a book of business, or it might be sales leadership, we also work with sales ops to really try and understand from a business perspective, what products are performing the best in terms of adoption and revenue generation.

They're really helpful for that, and thinking about our strategic accounts and what those customers need. Outside of sales, we have a team of kind of technical consultants, they're the teams that the sales team will go to if there's ever a challenge, a question that's difficult to answer, because the salesperson has a question on how the product works, or is there a bug and those sorts of things. I have weekly catch-ups with that team as well.

There will be other teams that support the sales team, as well. So content evangelists, we have an agency and channel partner sales team, so they focus on ad agencies, and of course, product, but product is in the States.

So typically when I work with my product partners, I bring in my global person, because I think it's more elegant for them if they can think about a global story and I feed into their needs, rather than going it alone and talking about an individual market or country.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  8:31

Okay, yeah, sure. And in terms of the top three skills that have helped you to get you to where you are today, you're working for one of the biggest companies in the world, you've got a great role there at LinkedIn, what would you say the top three skills are that have helped you accomplish yourself in this role?

Jennifer Bunting  8:50

I think for product marketing, specifically, being curious and wanting to learn. With product marketing, there's so much that changes because by nature, you're focusing on the new products. So being curious about how those work and how that will enable our customers to do something and by nature then how will that help the relationship between the customers and the salespeople.

So just being curious about technically how it works, but then also that relationship that needs to happen from the customers with us and with our sales teams. The next one I would say is communication.

A lot of times in product marketing, you're taking a very technical set of information and you need to translate it if you will, into something that the sales team can speak. So I'm all about being able to make something complicated sound simple and something that you don't need to be a technical expert to understand which is sometimes hard to do at a tech company.

Then being able to communicate that both in writing because so much of what we do with different time zones, but also like everyone working remotely, so how you're communicating and writing, how you're putting that messaging across in meetings and one on ones with the sales team and with stakeholders, and then also how you're communicating that to the customer base or potential customers.

Every audience, whether internal or external, cares about something different. So really being able to take that curiosity and what you learned from your product and apply that to what your specific audience needs in your communication style is super important.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  10:36

Okay, great. And as part of your role at LinkedIn, you've overseen the launch and adoption of digital ad campaigns across, as you said before, 150 products and features every year. In your experience, what are the crucial ingredients for a successful launch?

Jennifer Bunting  10:54

A successful launch, for me, it's really putting the audience first and what is the audience going to need? That will prove whether or not your launch was successful. I think the ingredients would include being involved early on in the process so that you understand were the right clients in on the beta? Were you able to get the right information from those customers back to the States? So really having a great beta process is helpful from the very beginning.

I think every product marketer cringes if they're not brought into something before it's time to go to market, you really need to be involved early on. As you start getting ready for your launch, thinking about where do you need to weigh up? Sometimes it is a launch where your sales team is going to be driving the bulk of the sales revenue. Your sales team has to be ready to sell a product, if they're not, if you have a sales team and they're not ready to sell it, then you need more time for your go-to-market.

But they need to be armed and then how do you want to talk about that externally? So some product launches, I'm able to stop at the sales side and just arm the sales team because it's not maybe a product that my comms team is going to be able to get in the press. But then other times, we want to take a risk and do something different in our market, maybe there's some research or there's something that is valuable to our customers that is adjacent to the product.

So you can go to market with a big announcement and talk about how your product helps the situation rather than the product always being the star. It's a bit different because when you think about product marketing, you think you're always going to be talking about your products. But in the ideal product launch, I want to talk about my customers, and then the product helps my customers do something. My ideal product launch would have that element in it as well.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  12:47

Okay, the next thing I'd like to run by you, I did a little snooping on your LinkedIn and you've overseen a 39% year-on-year growth of messaging in your role, what steps can product marketers take to improve the quality of their messaging?

Jennifer Bunting  13:10

For the messaging, specifically, what we were talking about on my profile, that's one of our LinkedIn products. LinkedIn, of course, if you're on LinkedIn, you're gonna see a lot in the newsfeed but also, there's the inbox area on LinkedIn. We've called that LinkedIn Messaging and brands can use that space.

So if you want to think about how you can get the most out of the messaging space on LinkedIn, I would say, be as human to human as possible. I think B2B marketing in particular gets this bad rap as being boring or sterile or less imaginative. But at the end of the day, a B2B decision-maker making a purchase is a human being as well.

They're also a human being when they're still on LinkedIn and so they like to be surprised in pleasant ways, informed, entertained, all that stuff. When you're writing your messages, whether you want that to live on your inbox, on LinkedIn, or in the newsfeed, if you can make your point quickly, and provide value and make it interesting for that person.

So that inbox, you feel like you're going to be talking to another person. It can come from you as a person, or it can come from a spokesperson of your brand or can come from the brand itself, but making use of that subject line space to kind of grab their attention in a way they might not be expecting but still professionally relevant.

And then give them some information within that space that is helpful and interesting. I think if you can have that mix in the message, then you're going to have a higher chance of someone clicking on your call to action button.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  14:53

Yeah, sure. Speak the language of the customer, as you say. So customer success, if we can move on to customer success, presents itself in a number of ways depending on which company or team you're a part of. With customer success among your specific responsibilities in your role at LinkedIn, what does that look like from your perspective? And what steps do you take to continuously try and enhance the user experience?

Jennifer Bunting  15:21

So for our team and our role, there's a couple of areas where customer success gets into there. One would be taking the learnings from our customers that have done really well, and sharing that back with global teams so they know what's working in our region. But also our customers want to know what other customers are doing. So working with those customers and creating case studies or success stories out of those, so that people can see the bench - everyone wants to know the benchmark if they're a marketer, what does good look like, and how is good defined? What can they expect as a return on investment?

So there's all of that. Now, sometimes, of course, customers have challenges and sometimes the customer success comes in that they had a challenge, and then you worked with them. So sometimes what we do with our sales team is really try to help them understand if something is the right fit for a given customer.

Sometimes it has to do with, in the advertising space, maybe a specific ad product wasn't the best fit for a customer to get their results. We spend a tonne of time with our sales team and sales enablement, it's more around helping the sales team understand what is best for the customer, so that they get to the right product, rather than just telling them, "here's everything you can do now you choose".

We want that interaction to flow through from us sharing information externally and then when they work with a sales representative, it should feel like a consultation, rather than a sales pitch, it should all be tailored. Because there are many different things you can do in marketing to get different results. So we do a lot of the sales enablement as well.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  17:08

Yeah, sure there's no such thing as a blanket approach, I guess.

Jennifer Bunting  17:13


Lawrence Chapman - PMA  17:14

Okay. Would you say that there's a crossover between what you do in your role and what say, for instance, a product manager does at your company?

Jennifer Bunting  17:23

There might be more crossover with our teams in the States. Because of my role being regional, there's less of the crossover, just because there are no product marketers in London or Sydney where I've lived. So not too much.

But there's a lot of communicating with each other. If we're gonna be working on a big program here, whether it's before something has launched, or in the beta process, or maybe it's post-launch and we're trying to drive adoption, we always keep them in the loop.

Also, because we sit so closely with the sales teams and with customers, we're able to give them some information that they may not necessarily have, feet on the street voice of the field sort of thing. So there's not too much overlap from my perspective, regionally.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  18:15

Okay, and what does the process of introducing new products and features look like at LinkedIn, and how does that compare to perhaps other instances that you may have encountered within product marketing?

Jennifer Bunting  18:29

For bringing a new product to market, the typical steps that we'll go through are there'll be a validation process, where we'll interview customers to understand if the product we're working on is valuable to the customer set. It's at that stage where for those of you who are interested in product marketing, but not in it yet, it's a wireframe, it doesn't exist yet, we're just asking a lot of questions trying to understand what are the challenges we would need to solve with the product.

Then we start getting into the alpha and beta, where the product is built and only a handful of customers are getting access to it. It's a really exciting time to be working on the product because anything can happen.

There are lots of bugs, but there's also loads of learning. You get to work really closely with your customers and hear what it is they are liking, what it is they're finding challenging, and then make those changes so your launch will be stronger. There will also be an element of competitive intelligence that's happening during this process as well to understand where we fit in line with competitors.

Then we start working on the go-to-market element so that the product is ready, it's stable in terms of bugs, and then working on the messaging, working on the positioning and also aligning with all our different stakeholders that are going to be involved. At LinkedIn, we would typically involve our comms team, they're gonna want to have a public announcement about it of some sort, our content social team will want to talk about it.

We'll need to actually brief them so they can think about creative assets, type of blogs, what kind of copy they're going to need. During this whole time, there's loads of sales enablement that is happening from the very beginning. For those of you that haven't worked on a beta before, you would do your beta training for your sales team with that subset of people that are getting early access. Then you tailor that training all the way through until launch.

Then there's that go-to-market moment. By then everyone should be trained, they should have all your assets, case studies or testimonials, any kind of datasheets or fact sheets. We have to have help center articles and stuff on LinkedIn as well and those all actually need to get translated into multiple languages. Then your go-to-market moment when the blog goes live, the press goes out and it's kind of a celebration type of moment. That's typically the process, but I've kind of simplified a lot of it.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  21:15

It sounds exciting, though, to be fair, because I think a lot of people do take for granted the things that are on their smartphone, within an app, or if you go and buy something from a store. You don't quite understand or appreciate - I know I don't - all the different stages and all the meticulous planning that goes into the process. Because that is what it is, isn't it, a long process where you're making sure that every single box is ticked.

Jennifer Bunting  21:50

It's a long process, especially for LinkedIn, because we have certain tenants that we have to adhere to as part of our culture. The number one thing is that our members always come first ahead of everything, if our members are not getting the experience they want on the platform, that means the product needs to change.

So if we're launching a new ad product, and it's distracting from the core thing a member is coming to the platform to do, we have to reevaluate everything.

Our alpha and beta process is typically really long because we're launching to very small sets of customers. Some customers, they'll get, like when we launched stories last year, some customers in different markets were really jealous.

Brazilians got it first so other people in other markets were trying to figure out how they could get access to stories and it's like "Well, it's being tested here, it's going to come, don't worry", but we're going to be very mindful and watch our engaged user sessions and all these things to make sure that everything is still healthy, and it's providing value.

Yeah, you're right, there's so much behind the scenes and until you're in product marketing, you kind of don't realize how many hands have to touch something.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  23:01

Yeah. So product marketing is your vocation, it's what you do, you're clearly very passionate about it. But in your opinion, is there anything that you would change to make it even better than it is already?

Jennifer Bunting  23:21

I've been at LinkedIn for 10 years, LinkedIn has been pretty good to me, I think we've got a really good team, and the way our corporate culture works is I can assume that everyone has the best of intentions. There are always, of course, challenges but knowing we are all coming from a place of just wanting to do our best possible work is helpful.

That said, I think if something was going to improve, it's not really that it's even bad, it's that I think, as an organization, LinkedIn is still realizing the fact that a lot of our growth is happening internationally. It's a challenge for our product teams to be everywhere that they want to be.

So I would like to think about how I can be a better partner to them, sitting so far away from them, and likewise for them to get more access to our customers. Prior to COVID, we were talking about, "Okay, let's get you in market and how often can you come out here?", they really want to be closer to customers. It's just difficult to do with time zones.

I guess in an ideal world, I would love it if we could have our product team come out and visit more often and have a more direct relationship with regional teams. But I think it's just one of those things. We'll have to cross that bridge back when international travel is easier again.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  24:46

If there are any new or aspiring product marketers who are listening to the podcast what would your advice to them be?

Jennifer Bunting  24:59

If you're thinking about going into product marketing, I would say, I think it's a great career choice because you get to work on so many different things. But I think it's important to remember though that not every company may see it that way.

So read the job descriptions very carefully, you may find that it may vary based on like, is it a startup? Or is it a more mature company? You may have a smaller or larger PMM team and therefore, what they need from you as a PMM may be vastly different. They may be focusing on... you may spend almost all your time on that validation, the betas, and launching other products, you may not get to spend as much time doing sales enablement, or like in my case, I did sales enablement for ages before I ever started being able to do some of the other things.

So I think just be mindful that the PMM universe is very broad and it's not necessarily a standard job description. Think about what you want to get out of each role, rather than necessarily, this is the brand that I want to work for.

When you're interviewing for the job, you're interviewing that company as well. Are you going to be able to learn something? And is that role going to challenge you? And it's okay to be scared a little bit by a role, it means you're on the right track if you're learning something new. I guess those are my pieces of advice.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  26:30

That's great advice. If you're not scared by something or at least if it's not giving you the butterflies then maybe you need to look elsewhere. In my experience that's certainly something I've found, if you're a little bit nervous about something then it's not sparking that engagement with you.

Jennifer Bunting  26:54

You're probably too good for the job, you've already got the skills. If you look at a job and think I can do all that I'm not gonna learn anything new, then it's time to either ask them can you take on something bigger than what they're doing? Or maybe look for a different job that's offered.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  27:12

Okay. Just to round off what's been an absolutely amazing chat, I've really enjoyed having you on the podcast, Jennifer. If we could just ask you, as we're coming into the second half of 2021, amazingly, time is flying, what do you think the rest of the year has in store for the product marketing community?

Jennifer Bunting  27:35

That's a really great question. 2020 taught me not to get too focused on predicting the future. I guess maybe on an optimistic note for 2020 versus 2021 I think that there's an opportunity for PMMs to work more closely with their employee resource group.

So employee resource groups, or ERG's, particularly at larger companies, are the parts of your organization that are working with making sure you have great diversity, inclusion, and belonging in your company. I've noticed brand marketers are starting to work more with ERGs. For example, at LinkedIn, for the month of May, I worked with them to make sure that in the States with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month that they're thinking about amplifying those voices on the platform.

I think product marketers have an opportunity to take a page out of the brand marketers book, it's really hard to sometimes get as wide a net as you want in terms of your focus groups and building your product from the ground up. But if you have an employee resource group at your organization, you could have a way to start thinking about diversity, inclusion, and belonging early on in the process rather than waiting and then finding out you've kind of missed a beat somewhere.

I'm kind of optimistic that maybe product marketers will start doing more of that in the future.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  28:59

Awesome. Well, thanks so much for joining me, Jennifer. I've really enjoyed it and thank you so much and all the best for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

Jennifer Bunting  29:07

Thanks, Lawrence. It was great being here.