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17 min read

Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Jessica Wright

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We caught up with MINDBODY's Head of Product Marketing, Jessica Wright, about the evolution of the company's PMM function, how the PMM and PM teams are structured and work together, product roadmap planning, and a ton more.

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 is Bryony Pearce and I'm the content manager here at PMA. This week’s pod’s sponsored by the Product Marketing Festival. For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, it’ll be coming to a screen near you between June 8th and June 14th, and will featuring headline acts from companies like Amazon, Uber, Adobe and Facebook, talking about everything from research all the way through to optimisation. To get your ticket, just head over to the site, festival.productmarketingalliance.com. 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 Jessica Matthew Wright, the head of Product Marketing over at MINDBODY. Jessica first joined MINDBODY back in March 2017 as a senior PMM where she was in charge of the company's GTM strategies. Two years later, she moved her way up to her current 'head of' role. Anyway, that's enough for me. Welcome to the show, Jessica.

Jessica Wright  0:45

Thanks, Bryony.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  0:46

Oh, it's our pleasure to have you here today. Can I get you to just kick off by giving everyone a bit of an introduction into you, your role and then the company MINDBODY?

Jessica Wright  0:56

Absolutely. My name is Jessica Wright like she mentioned, and I'm the head of product marketing at MINDBODY. For those of you who aren't familiar with MINDBODY, our mission is to connect the world to wellness. So we are a technology platform for any business that is in the wellness industry. And we're also a consumer platform for anyone who's searching for health and wellness. So they can go on our app or our web to discover and book new things like a HIIT class, or cycling or even book a massage or a lash appointment. So we're really connecting all those businesses who are offering those services to the people who are looking for those services.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  1:38

Yep. And how long has MINDBODY been around for?

Jessica Wright  1:41

Oh, gosh, I think over 20 years now, so quite some time.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  1:49

And then you mentioned off the air that when you first joined MINDBODY, it was kind of a relatively new function, and it was just you and one other PMM. What does your team look like now in terms of kind of numbers and roles?

Jessica Wright  2:00

Yeah, it's evolved immensely, so we were really new and not really established as a function or really a strategic partner at the company when I started and in the past year we have grown and we actually have a new hire even starting today, but our team is about seven going to eight and we support over 30 product managers, over 40 products, and so it's really growing rapidly. And you know, now that we have a full team, we fully stashed this past year so it is pretty new. But we're really excited now that we have a full team to support all of that stuff.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  2:48

Rewinding back to the start of your product marketing career, what made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?

Jessica Wright  2:54

I think it was actually the realization that product marketing is sort of the closest position to a role in entrepreneurship, but where you actually have resources to build and ship things. But really, I mean, I didn't start out in product marketing. I think that the first time I realised this is what I really wanted to do is when I was head of marketing at a really small tech company, and I started to build out our product marketing team there and really saw all the work that they were getting to do and got really excited about it. And that excitement was where I kind of honed in on and I think what I was really excited about was just that ability to talk to customers and look at data and the market and do analysis and really understand you know, what should we build that's providing a real solution in the marketplace. So that stuff really excites me.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  3:54

And then you mentioned you you kind of came from marketing beforehand, would you say you learned the product marketing trade on the job or how did you familiarise yourself with that different side of it?

Jessica Wright  4:04

Yeah, definitely on the job. I have worked in roles kind of all throughout, if you look at the different stages of product development and marketing I've worked in many of those roles. And so I think that this is a great sort of hybridised role of all of my previous experience where I've worked in position, retention, and sort of held an unofficial product owner role even at one point in time, so yeah, definitely have kind of worked around the horn, which I think has really prepared me for this role in product marketing and how I learned the most about product marketing.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  4:51

Yeah. And it's funny as well, you say an unofficial product marketing role, that's a theme I pick up a lot in these podcasts, a lot of people tend to be doing product marketing before they're kind of branded under product marketing, and when I ask people how they fell into it, they're just like, "I just fell into, I just realised I was doing product marketing before the term product marketing was kind of coined". And I think that's quite a common career path I've been sensing from these shows.

Jessica Wright  5:17

Absolutely, yeah.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  5:20

Okay, so next question. I ask this in every podcast, I always kind of get the same response, which is a bit of a chuckle at first, but if there is such a thing, what does a standard day in your role look like?

Jessica Wright  5:32

So I spend the majority of my day in meetings. But it's because we sit in a really unique space in the company, we interact with every department. So we're in meetings a lot, and I think it kind of varies based on the team member and what they're focused on. So I have team members who are focused sort of end to end from, like research and helping out with roadmap development all the way through launch. And then I have some other team members who are focused just more on the sales content and regular communication side of things. And then we have another person focused completely on competitive intelligence. So depending on where that specialisation of their role is, really depends on what their day looks like. But a lot of definite working with product owners, product managers and planning for strategic initiatives around the go-to-market strategy and plan and then also working with marketing sales super heavily on how we actually make that plan come to fruition.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  6:50

And then what launch or sales cycle would you say you're in the moment and then does the stage that you're in will that kind of heavily impact your day-to-day much?

Jessica Wright  7:01

Absolutely. So depending on where we are in development or launch definitely impacts the day-to-day. So, we could be spending months on end just working on product strategy, and then when it comes to launch time, it could be full on all of marketing and events and sales initiatives and that kind of thing. So it really varies depending on where we are in that launch cycle.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  7:35

Yep. And then you mentioned at the start that you work with 40 product managers and I can't remember how many products but a lot more products than that as well. How do you manage that relationship with so many different product managers and so many different products? How do you bring structure to that?

Jessica Wright  7:54

Yeah, we focused the team, what it comes down to really is being really disciplined on where we're working and focusing our time and making sure that we're focusing our efforts on the initiatives that need the most attention and have the most impact. So when it comes to sort of researching and working with those teams, it's really what are they working on that requires a bunch of PMM partnership and a larger go-to-market and not always a larger go-to-market, we actually score our launches so we can understand different things like so we have a rubric system sort of that takes in a bunch of variables. So things like impact on revenue, sales effort, whether it's white space or Greenfield expansion and then we give every launch a score. And what that score does is it puts that launch in a sort of a T-shirt size. So it provides a playbook for what we're going to do as far as that launch, and in all the tactics and artefacts, and ceremonies that need to come out of that launch.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  9:21

Yep. Okay, that's interesting. That's something that comes up a lot as well in Slack in terms of launch tiers and how to know how hard to go with your marketing for different launches. So is that something that you've developed internally at MINDBODY, that system?

Jessica Wright  9:34

It is definitely, yeah, because one of the things that we found was it was difficult for us, and the way that it was sort of formed is we were working super closely with product owners, and there was always something missed when it came to communicating internally or, you know, expectations or something. And so what we did was we wanted to create sort of this common language between product owners or product management and product marketing, where we can make sure that everything is always covered when we have a product launch. So it creates that common language, and it really helps us with understanding, even downstream too about what type of resources or level of effort is needed for a particular launch.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  10:21

Yep. And then when you're benchmarking a launch against these kinds of scores, is that something that product marketing will do in isolation? Or do you sit down with a few different business departments to see if they agree with the score that you've given the launch?

Jessica Wright  10:36

Yeah, it's definitely a collaborative effort. So we work super closely with anybody, all the stakeholders on the team, who are working really closely on the launch and also the ones that are supporting the launch. So like I mentioned, some of the inputs to the score are sales effort, marketing effort, new market penetration, that kind of thing. So it definitely requires a cross-company input when we're talking about that score.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  11:05

Yep. And then talking of the teams outside of product marketing, which teams would you say you interact with most in terms of like sales, products, operations, etc? And then what's your relationship with those teams like?

Jessica Wright  11:20

Yeah, so at the beginning of the product development lifecycle, we refer to that as sort of the advanced work, and we partner super closely with the product management team. And also what we call the experience design team, which comprises of our product marketer, our user experience designer, and also a researcher. So the team works super closely in that group in designing what that product will kind of look like it and then on the launch side, we work super heavily with the marketing teams as well as anybody who's customer-facing so sales and support.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  11:59

Yep, and then out of curiosity, who does product marketing report to at MINDBODY?

Jessica Wright  12:05

We report under product, and it's, I think, really valuable for our team and function. And like I mentioned, we're sort of a newer function at the company and it just really puts us more on that strategic side of things, which is super important and really valuable for our impact.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  12:28

And is that consistent to other companies you've worked at, or have you previously reported to other departments?

Jessica Wright  12:35

No, it kind of goes back and forth between product and marketing departments. And actually, when I first started here, we rolled up under the marketing department and in my previous company, it was under marketing as well.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  12:50

Yeah. And I guess would you say your preference is product?

Jessica Wright  12:54

Definitely my preference is being in the product org and just because it enables the function to be more strategic and working hand in hand with products in what we're building and for who and when. As opposed to I think whenever it's under marketing it can become a little bit more of a tactical role but not always obviously it can work really well in any organisation it just kind of depends on the maturity of the marketing team or the maturity of the product team and kind of where that company lies and its goals and product development.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  13:35

And you mentioned you did report to market and then you switch to product? Out of curiosity was that driven by product marketing to move over to product or how did that shift come about?

Jessica Wright  13:45

Um, partially and I think the shift came about just in realising that we did need to build a really tight relationship with product owners and also just be able to grow the team under product where when we were under marketing, it was definitely a gap that we needed to fill in creating those relationships with the product team and the strategic direction.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  14:19

Yep. Okay, awesome. Thank you. Next up, what would you say the top three skills are that have helped you get where you are today?

Jessica Wright  14:29

Yeah. So I think that one of the top skills is really just that strategic thinking and really being able to connect dots. Product marketing sits in a super unique place in companies where we touch almost every department as well as customers. So we know a lot about what we're building, for who, when, and then also the pain points and goals also of our internal teams and our customers so it's a lot of information and it's a really unique position in any company so I think the ability to think strategically with that can be a really big superpower. Another thing that I focus a lot on is I really strive for self-improvement, I spend a lot of time on reflection and really trying to understand areas that I can improve my skills and also relationships that really matter. So I think that that's been really important in my development, and my career. I'm definitely one of those people that if things are too comfortable or anything like that, that makes me really uncomfortable. I like to move and learn and improve myself a lot. And then I think another thing that is really critical to a product marketer is the ability to sort of navigate the unknowns and adapt. Most tech companies are rapidly changing, product timelines change, roadmaps change. And I watch a lot of people get almost just kind of paralysed by unknowns. But I think to be successful in companies that are moving fast and are successful, you have to be really good at navigating and adapting to unknowns. I think that's another thing that is really important.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  16:32

Yeah. And would you say these three areas, are they things that are quite innate for you or are they things that you've learned on the job or for example if someone's listening to this and they don't particularly feel like they're adaptable, or a strategic thinker, are these things people can learn and train themselves into?

Jessica Wright  16:48

I mean, I think you can learn anything if you really, really focus on it. And no, none of them come easily, right? I think especially spending time on reflecting and understanding how you can improve yourself is something you have to actually carve a lot of time out of your life to focus on. So I think self-awareness and understanding where your weaknesses are and your strengths are and really focusing in on those, and if people want to be strategic thinkers or more adaptable, I think it's just focusing on what that means for them and where they are in that sort of developmental skill.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  17:28

Yeah, and then would you say there's a lot of crossover between what product marketing does and what product management does at MINDBODY, and like in a perfect world, where do you think the line should start and end between product marketing and product management?

Jessica Wright  17:45

Yeah, let's see. So I think it definitely varies based on whatever product concepts we're working on and sort of the resourcing that we have available to work on that. So there's definitely areas of overlap where we work closely on things. So some of those areas would be like research with customer interviews and doing analysis on the products, planning for betas and success criteria on betas, and then definitely on just communicating out to the company and training and contributing to training internally. So those are some of the areas that we definitely overlap on, also roadmap development. As far as where the role begins and ends, I actually kind of like that it's a grey area. I think that it can be a really powerful partnership. As long as there are clear roles and responsibilities in any given project and we're all sort of marching towards the same goal but I think definitely if you want to call out some specific product management roles, I would say they're definitely charted with product backlog prioritisation, making sure that all of our feature functionality is being delivered on time, release schedules, and another really important thing, especially for all of us I guess, is product instrumentation so we can watch what's going on when we ship a product and perform analysis. So that's definitely on the product management side. And then product marketing is really us creating that story of the product to our customers and building out those marketing plans that we're proposing to the marketing teams and sales teams and working with them on how we're actually building launch.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  19:56

And then in terms of the actual product roadmaps, how early are you brought into the process and do you get much say into the shape of the roadmap?

Jessica Wright  20:05

Definitely. So now it is from day one we're super involved. But I must say that when I first started here it was very little. We hardly had any visibility into it. But when we have thankfully grown and evolved, and we're super involved in the roadmap development process, it's actually a process that we have a tonne of input into from just like a gathering of data and creating our fact base that informs what those product's directors and owners are looking at when we're looking at what product we should build next. So we're kind of hand in hand that whole way now. So it's really an awesome evolution of our company, and we love it.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  20:55

Yep. And I guess do you have any sort of advice for product marketers who don't have that visibility into the product roadmap, because I know that's quite an industry-wide problem is that a lot of people just don't get involved early enough to have a say. So how did that shift came about? And was that driven by product marketing?

Jessica Wright  21:16

Sort of, but it definitely wasn't what made it happen. I think that there was just a realisation, well once we came over into product, and then just a realisation of all of the information and input that we have is super important to how we're building and so we also added a tonne more rigour around how we're developing that roadmap. For people who don't have that visibility, gosh, I would say get that visibility. I know that's not the easy answer, but, you know, it's really critical to have input and visibility into that roadmap. And I would just say that for those people who don't, I think providing that insight that you do have in talking to customers and looking at competitors, and really all of the data that you have access to and information, I think that if your product teams knew that and saw the value you can provide, they would be much more open and would want that input into the roadmap. So I don't know if that's a helpful answer or not.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  22:44

It definitely is. And then in terms of talking to customers, how often does that happen at MINDBODY and what does the process look like? Is it a case of kind of getting on the phone is it surveys, in person?

Jessica Wright  22:58

It's all of the above. So really depends on what our goals are or questions. Sometimes it'll be surveys, a lot of interviews, we do a lot of focus groups. So it really depends on what the goal is and also what stage we're at, in our data and knowledge about what we're building. Some of the conversations are just regular sort of, like empathetic conversations and learning and just kind of going into it with no particular agenda and just hearing from customers and learning what their daily life is. So the scale is very wide as far as what that looks like but I think the more interaction that you can have with your customers, the better I don't think you can ever have too much interaction. And it's definitely something that I require everybody on my team quarterly as part of their goals to build in that customer interactions because I think it's supercritical.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  24:05

And is that something that's just kind of led by product marketing, or do you lean on any other teams to kind of support with those calls?

Jessica Wright  24:13

Yeah, definitely. So we have an entire research team that is dedicated to doing that type of research. So they are doing the recruiting, they're designing what the study looks like, and all that kind of thing. So we're partnered and sort of stakeholders on their research and they're leading the charge on that.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  24:37

I guess this one will kind of as well depend on the purpose of the research. But once you've kind of gathered that data, how do you then communicate your findings with other teams?

Jessica Wright  24:46

Yeah, so whoever was doing the research compiles what those key findings are and the key takeaways that the company or the stakeholder should know. And we put those into a research readout report. And either share it with a smaller team of stakeholders or if it's a larger more strategic initiative we present it out in an actual formal presentation to the company. So it just varies depending on what the goal of the research was and kind of what stage in the product development lifecycle we are, and what our current knowledge is, depending on where that research is.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  25:19

Yeah. Okay. Final couple of questions. In your opinion, what do you think needs to change about product marketing, if anything?

Jessica Wright  25:28

I think that this is probably a common response that you're getting. But product marketing is really variant depending on where the company is, or if product marketing’s sitting under marketing or sitting under product. So I think one of the things that would help everybody, and as I talk to my peers in different industries, I hear this a lot too, is nobody really understands what product marketing is and I think it's just because it varies so much, so if I had to answer this, I'd say just uniformity in what product marketing's roles and responsibilities are across companies. So, and I mentioned this before, but my opinion is that product marketing is most impactful if they're in the product org and strategically focused, as opposed to working in the marketing org where it just tends to err on the side of being focused on just messaging and positioning, but the role is much larger than that.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  26:35

Yeah, and I can confirm that is something I definitely do come across a lot as well. Okay, the final question, if there were any new or aspiring product marketers that are tuned in to the podcast right now, what would your advice to them be?

Jessica Wright  26:54

It really depends on where they are in their career. So in my opinion, it's not really an entry-level role. I know it can be done, I've seen it done as an entry-level role, but I would just say get other experience in product development or research or any sort of analytical role. Or do more technical marketing first, learn data analysis, research, how to write in the voice of the customer, all those skills are super important. And then those are the types of people I've seen be really successful in a product marketing role.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  27:31

Okay, awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time out today to answer our questions, Jessica. I really appreciate it and it's been lovely speaking to you.

Jessica Wright  27:38

Thanks, it's been a pleasure too.

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]: Jessica Wright