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19 min read

Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Jennifer Royer

Podcasts | Product Marketing Insider

Full transcript:

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:01

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

Today I'm delighted to be joined by Jennifer Royer an experienced strategy and marketing leader who has helped build teams and scale businesses whilst entering new markets globally during a career that's seen her work in Australia, China, Taiwan, and the UK.

Jennifer is currently the Head of Product Marketing and Go To Market strategy at Olive, manufacturers of artificial intelligence and RPA solutions that empower healthcare organizations to improve efficiency in patient care whilst reducing costly administrative errors. Thanks so much for joining me, Jennifer.

Jennifer Royer  0:40

Great to be here.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:42

So first and foremost, if we could just start off with the essentials, really. What is it that made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?

Jennifer Royer  0:53

Well, product marketing was somewhat of a happy accident for me, I was coming off of my MBA program back in 2013 and was pretty dedicated to moving to San Francisco. I had spent some time out there as a part of my program and an internship that I did out there and was just really excited about the innovation happening in that space and certainly, the technology landscape out there.

So I had a geographic location in mind, I had background in strategy consulting, and I was really just looking for the core ingredients of a product and company that really excited me, really inspiring people and culture, and a versatile role that really could draw on my roots and passion for strategy. And product marketing and specifically, where I landed at DocuSign really met a lot of those criteria.

I had looked at roles in business development and internal strategy, product marketing, even borderline product management. But I found in product marketing a really nice blend of cross-functional management really the skill set of simplifying the complex and being able to really evangelize and take to market a product or product portfolio to really delight customers.

I was really excited about the prospect of doing that and interfacing with a lot of different parts of the business. I kind of have versatility in my DNA coming from my early career in strategy consulting where I would kind of parachute into any situation and quickly have to understand the value drivers and the core market and who should be targeted with what message, what differentiation, and why, and found that there was a lot of overlap in product marketing.

But also a really nice tangibility factor in owning and driving launches and enhancements and improvements in the way that we reach the market. So, in many ways, product marketing found me as I was on that journey, and it really came together in a lot of the things that I was passionate about.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:32

Okay, awesome. And in terms of your very first role in product marketing, what did that job look like? And can you talk us through the career path that you've gone on from that initial exposure to where you are now at Olive?

Jennifer Royer  3:46

So my first role in product marketing was at DocuSign out in the Bay Area, I spent a very short amount of time in a role that was more around partner product marketing. I stood up some programming for third-party partnerships but quickly moved to a role that was more focused on core verticals.

I led one of our first industry product launches in the life sciences space, a highly regulated industry and product and it was everything from building the business case to the go to market and commercial strategy, working very closely with product management, with sales, with marketing to really make sure the product was delivering on the needs and value in the market that it was improving our differentiation relative to competitors and that we had a path to make some money. But while doing so in a way that really brought customers along with us. That was really a hallmark of those early days at DocuSign.

I then went on to take on some roles in customer marketing, really looking at post purchase, and worked on optimizing our advisory council program across verticals. I had a much broader purview there and saw a different part of the business, which was really interesting. And then, prior to coming to Olive, my last role at DocuSign was standing up our regulated industry marketing team, and that covered government, higher education, and healthcare and life sciences. So it was really looking at core audience segments and products across our portfolio that we could sell into those verticals.

In many cases, defining the commercial strategy or advancing it in conjunction with sales as some of those were newer segments we were going after so it was the first time we were putting a product marketer in place, for instance, in education in government, and we had a lot to shore up to really make sure we had our priorities straight in terms of audiences and also modifications we needed to make to the way we messaged or packaged the product just given some of the unique needs of those segments. That brings me to today where I came to Olive after that to really head up product marketing for my current organization.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  6:38

Okay, brilliant. That brings me nicely on to the next question, I was just wondering, and I do ask this question in so many different episodes, and I get so many varied responses but what does a standard day in the product marketing team at Olive look like?

Jennifer Royer  7:03

Yeah, standard is always a hard word for product marketing roles that I think are so diverse. Also, just depending on whether there's a product launch or we're more in support and enhance mode, or if there's a customer event coming up, it could really change throughout the course of the year. The way that I think about a more typical or even just division of responsibilities is across three core areas.

One being market intelligence. So what are we reading, hearing, seeing from the market? Be it through our frontline sales team, through win-loss conversations and intelligence, Slack channels and engagement from the company, or other kinds of survey instruments we might get that allow us greater insight into what's going on in our space, or just the broader landscape that really impacts us.

A lot of that information really impacts our content strategy, our engagement with the sales team, and the prioritization of where we spend our time to make sure that we're putting our best foot forward with our customers. So having that core intelligence is really where a lot starts. So spending some time there, whether it's reading the news or having a conversation, there's sort of a keep the pulse activity that I'd say is kind of par for the course.

The actual go-to-market strategy itself and working in close partnership with product management is another core area where we're spending time so depending on where a product is in its lifecycle, or where we are in the evolution of our strategy, those activities might be different. Right now we're working on packaging across our portfolio and really looking to standardize a number of our offerings while looking at others as more custom offerings. So how do we do that across our portfolio? How do we redefine the category that we're playing in? At a high level.

For some of the product marketers on my team, it's looking at the launch that's happening in a couple of months time, and do we have everything we need to do to train the sales team to share value with our customers, to drive interest in the right events and forums? So having that comprehensive plan and executing on that plan is certainly a sizable part of the job, but certainly varies, again based on where we are in that new product introduction process, and how it ties back to the overall strategy.

Then certainly, there's a piece around sales enablement and training. So we have the materials, we have the strategy, how do we make sure that our teams feel equipped to be successful, that we're answering the right questions that we're getting out ahead of that, but also, in tune with what's happening real time?

We can't always be sitting back and planning and developing when there's a big deal on the line and there's a missing piece, or we're hearing feedback consistently that we didn't expect, and we need to turn on a dime to do something about it.

I think there's a mix of that broader strategy and intelligence and then real-time partnership to really action on what we're seeing and hearing in a more agile way if I really break it down. It's doing so through Slack, through meetings, through upward downward lateral conversations for me, and for my team, certainly, it's that partnership across the organization to really bring those pieces together.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  11:26

Okay, and in terms of your direct team that you're working with, at the moment, can you tell us a little bit more about them in terms of how many are there and then their actual roles within the team as well?

Jennifer Royer  11:42

Yep. So it's a fairly small team at the moment, four going on five, I'm in an active hiring cycle right now, shameless plug. But the team's really split across what I would call core product and platform and then solutions.

With core product and platform, we have one really core product right now, which is our automation suite. That's really where we are helping organizations drive efficiency out of really burdensome administrative processes across their healthcare organization. In doing so, in an automated fashion with our technology, the way we deliver that is actually helping customers scope out the areas of opportunity, and actually providing them not only with the tools and technology, but also the service wrapper around that to really stand that up in their business.

We call that delivery model AI as a service. So we have a product marketer who's really focused on that core of automation, and helping bring that to market. We also have a product that is in beta right now and about to launch that's focused more on real-time intelligence. Less so in the background, and more working alongside a frontline health care worker and extracting information from systems and data that they're working in every day to surface right insight, right time, right place.

Those are the two key product areas, one that's been our core for the past few years and the other that's kind of emerging and where we've got product marketing coverage there. Because we're serving the healthcare industry, we also know that the needs for revenue cycle are different than supply chain or different than clinical.

So we've more recently started to build that that solutions part of the team, and it is aligned in that order with revenue cycle and supply chain, I'm looking to bring more resources on even in the revenue cycle side of things, but also looking to hire for more of a clinical role this year.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  14:10

Okay, and in terms of the teams outside of marketing, such as sales, product, operations, etc. which departments do you interact with most? And what are your relationships with them like?

Jennifer Royer  14:21

Certainly, product and sales would be the two key areas outside of the marketing team that are really in our orbit of influence. That's not to say we don't work with others, but those are the other two chiefs outside of marketing. With product, it's so critical for us to understand and align on the market needs, the strategy, and truly understanding the product itself and immersing ourselves in that such that we can appropriately evangelize the message around our core value to the market.

With sales, it's really being in tune with our front lines who have an ear to the ground. I often view sales as another customer in that we certainly have our end paying customer but if sales aren’t on board, then our message may not get to our end customer because they're such a critical channel.

It's everything from outbound sales reps to our more storied, we call them executive directors, but account executive folks who are really out there, have a quota to meet, and really have the core relationships with our customers. So ensuring they feel equipped to succeed and that we have a good feedback loop with them around their needs, their gaps, and how our customers' needs are evolving in the marketplace, objections that we're getting, etc. Those are really critical data points to have as we're looking to advance our value and go to market.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  16:27

Okay. And then in terms of the top three skills, I mean, there are all sorts of different characteristics, if you like, that have been suggested from all the different guests I've spoken to on the podcast, but what would you say that your top three skills are that have helped you to get to where you are today?

Jennifer Royer  16:48

I mentioned before coming from strategy consulting routes, and I actually think the foundational skill set of strategy, which I view as really fitting together disparate pieces of information and insight into a more cohesive plan and looking at trade-offs and alternatives, and proposing the best path forward - that core skill set is really critical to a product marketer that's working across so many different functions and sources of insight, some of which I mentioned earlier. Be it from the lips of a salesperson or a conversation you have with a customer to a really rich quantitative survey instrument.

How do we bring together all of those piece parts, and then say we need to pivot our strategy, because of XYZ reasons that we're hearing and seeing and here are ways we can do that and drive a credible conversation with stakeholders. I think that's a really critical skill set. I would also just say, a healthy spirit of inquiry, there are several layers of why that we need to unpack constantly when we have that target of broader customer value.

Really, it goes down to anything from bringing a new product to market to understanding how to prioritize or whether we should prioritize feedback or an ask from stakeholders across the business. Why do you need that? Who's it for? Why does it add value? Does it add value to more than one individual? These are the types of questions that we're asking to understand and make sure that we're focused on the right things.

But, as it pertains to understanding our product and market as well, you've got to go beyond the surface layer of information. It's not just reading that a competitor is doing something, what does that mean for us? How do we need to change course? And what are the implications? We've got to get beneath the surface layer when we're analyzing any sort of scenario that we come across or having conversations with others in the business.

So I would say strategy, inquiry, and alongside that, as much as it is a softer skill, relationship building because we are ambassadors and liaisons across the business so for us to make sure that we are good partners to those that we work with. Also knowing that a lot of these stakeholders are really key sources of information we want to have the trust that we're providing value such that we can get the value back and really get the feedback from those parts of the business.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  20:15

Yeah, sure. It's almost the whole make sure you practice what you preach type thing, isn't it really?

Jennifer Royer  20:21


Lawrence Chapman - PMA  20:22

So in terms of what you're doing in your position, and what a product manager might do, would you say that there's any crossover at all between the roles and responsibilities at your company?

Jennifer Royer  20:39

I think that we have an interest in answering the same questions and a lot of shared ground in what we need to do our jobs well. If the target is creating long-term value for customers, which I very much view to be an overarching charter for product marketing, but which I believe can extend into product management as well, that is a common currency.

To do that well, we need to have our ear to the ground, our finger on the pulse, whatever you want to say, around needs in the marketplace, competitive landscape, broader market landscape beyond competitors, so regulatory, etc. as well as how we're meeting those needs.

What is the the unique value that we're delivering? How do we do it better than anyone else? But the way in which we action on that information is different. For product, it's building the right things to deliver on those needs and value. For product marketing, it's more of the commercialization side of that.

How do we take that to market successfully, target the right audiences with the right messages at the right time, and equip our organization to be successful and really understand what we're selling, why we're selling it, how to sell it in many ways. While we may work with the product on the packaging and pricing strategy, for instance, we may work with sales and sales operations on the skews that we need to have, discounting matrices, and a training where folks get certified.

There's certainly overlap in what we're driving across the lifecycle of ideation to launch to retain, enhance, support over time. But the output may be different in one, you get a product and for another, it's a library of assets, training, demos, thought leadership, etc. So we need to understand a lot of similar things, but action on them differently is kind of how I see it.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  23:23

Okay. And in terms of when you're introducing new products and features, what does this look like at the moment at Olive? And how does that compare to the other places where you've worked?

Jennifer Royer  23:35

We've had quite an evolution at Olive as the company has grown and matured. At the time I joined, we were mostly trying to shore up what existed in that the team was very lean, and we needed to just ensure we were messaging around the core product in the right way. We were also trying to innovate quickly. So we actually had tried to stand up more of a new product introduction process, but it was almost too many steps to be right-sized for the speed at which our organization was moving.

In many ways, we had kind of backed into the business case after we were already developing a product. So one of our earlier launches last fall for some functionality around data visualizations and the way in which customers are understanding the value that our product is providing in the marketplace, when we launched that, the development had already begun last Spring, we didn't have a product marketer on it until probably a quarter or so after development had begun.

But we went back and spoke with a number of customers, partnered up across product marketing, product management, and user design and experience such that before the paint had dried on the product itself, we got critical market feedback around the value it was providing, where they would use it, limitations they saw. We still had enough runway to modify and tune the message.

It was almost a combination of concept testing and message testing as we were further developing the product and the core assets to take it to market. We sort of had reverse-engineered the process there but had that market insight as we were then leading up to the launch and rollout. At launch, we had tutorials and demos and a place on the website, we had fit it into our broader architecture. All of those things I view as critical, I think we did them a little bit out of order.

As we're looking to stand up new products that the process really is ensure there's a case to be made around why we're doing it, I would say the business case here is still fairly lightweight compared to what I saw at DocuSign, where we had a business council, we had to have airtight market sizing, value prop, customer validation, product, sales, and marketing all contributed to the projections there. We had projected revenues, like sales essentially had to sign up for a number, as a part of this business case process before we were full steam ahead on developing.

Here we're at lightweight business case in that there's demand, we believe that it can and should be scaled and know the market well enough that it's worth advancing to at least prototype and start building it out. Then as we get further into development, we are looking to bring on beta customers before a general release. The steps are similar, I think it's just how much time and with what rigor we're spending in some of those steps.

I think the differences I've seen at Olive relative to DocuSign in large part relate to our position in the market, the speed at which we're moving, our relative size. We're just about now a little larger than where I was when I started at DocuSign, when I left DocuSign, we were six times as large as Olive so that process that I spoke to around more kind of CXO level validation and a more rigorous business case and new product introduction process, that really matured throughout the time I was there.

I think it's about right-sized for where we are, in that we're getting market input early on, continuing to iterate and test and refine before we roll it out. At the time at which we launch, have customer testimonials, have validated that the product is working and meeting needs, etc. So that's kind of how things are going here relative to what I've seen.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  28:54

Okay, thanks. And in terms of like, and don't get me wrong, product marketing is like your craft and in product marketing for years now but what I want to know from yourself is, is there anything about product marketing that you would like to see almost change to make it even better than is already?

Jennifer Royer  29:22

I think there's always an opportunity to be more unified, more agile, and more audience-centric so I can speak to each one of those.

On the unification point, I mentioned a lot of the partnerships that we have in the business. What I've seen is it's really important to have the right operational rhythms so that you don't get caught flat-footed or skew too far on the side of strategy and planning or short term execution because the pendulum can swing those ways and where you're getting a lot of feedback from the field it can result in a lot of short term thinking and execution.

But if sales, marketing, product, etc, aren't aligned on the core strategy, then what are you chasing after? So I think having a more holistic approach and the right operational rhythms to check in on both long term and short term and having shared goals as a part of that is really important. I think there's always room to improve there.

On the agile point, what I would say is, I think there's often a lot of relief that comes from launching a product or completing a really exciting persona research and profiling project or other milestones like that - getting through a sales kickoff.

But sometimes we're aft to get past it and not come back to it. To give the example on personas, for instance, we did a lot of great research last year, we very much acknowledge that year on year, a healthcare CFOs needs and profile might change, especially when you look at the healthcare industry now and some of the pressures that they're dealing with. 2021 is not the same as 2020 and so how can we look at what we believe we understand or what we've profiled and say, what's changed? How do we make that better? How are things performing?

Certainly, something that we keep our pulse on but I think especially when things have been a Herculean effort to pull off, we need to be mindful to not just leave it and assume that it's working, but come back to it. That agility, being a little more dynamic in looking at the full picture of performance, I think is important.

Audience-centric was the third. I think that what I've seen over time is, it's not enough to speak in the abstract about your value, you could have the same product and it means different things to different buyers and influencers. And marketing as a whole is getting so much more sophisticated around personalization and targeting.

So understanding the implications for different stakeholders in an organization as a part of the broader go-to-market is so critical. It's not just planning around the core... I should say it this way, when we're planning the broader strategy and needs, it should include those targets and goals for those audience targets to really be comprehensive enough. I think that's something that we're doing a better job of here in taking stock of some of those different segments, as opposed to trying to be one size fits all.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  33:59

Okay, great. And if there were any new or aspiring product marketers listening to the podcast, what would your advice to them be to help them get the most out of their product marketing journey?

Jennifer Royer  34:12

Sure. One, I would say stay hungry. I mean that along a few dimensions, one is the markets always changing so keeping a pulse on that and knowing the key channels to get information will really strengthen your leadership position and the relationships that you have across the organization. It also goes back to that skill set of five levels of why and asking questions. There's no constant but change. That's certainly true in the world of a product marketer.

That hunger for learning, for proposing new solutions, and really being a self-starter in doing so I think is great advice for anyone who's interested in becoming a product marketer. The other would just be staying close to customers, I think what I've found breeds more success is having some direct relationships with customers that you can call upon for not only things like case studies, but to bounce some ideas around as part of the new product development process or to understand if a message is resonating.

Having some of those customer relationships I think is critical as a source of insight and to really advance your plans. I think the last thing which is kind of an overarching thought is just keeping your eyes on long-term value and what that truly means. I think if I go back to one of your other questions around how should product marketing change or how is it changing? I think there's value at multiple levels, and even what we've seen in the market over the past year or so, it's going beyond a product or solution level into are you a company that I want to do business with, and what does that mean?

Also just ensuring that we are good partners, beat well and beyond the close but in adapting and growing the relationship, it's really critical to be viewing the entire customer journey, the entire customer lifecycle, and constantly be thinking about how we make that better, and how we understand if we're delivering against expectations and how value is defined in the first place. Because I do think that's getting more complex and more nuanced than what we've seen in the past.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  37:23

Thanks so much for joining me, Jennifer. That was awesome. Thanks so much.

Jennifer Royer  37:28

You're very welcome.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  37:29

Thank you.

Written by:

Lawrence Chapman

Lawrence Chapman

Lawrence is our Copywriter here at PMA who loves crafting content to keep readers informed, entertained, and enthralled. He's always open to feedback and would be thrilled to hear from you!

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Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Jennifer Royer