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17 min read

Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Loren Elia

Podcasts | Product Marketing Insider

On Product Marketing Insider this week we got together with Loren Elia, Director of Product Marketing at Honeybook and experienced PMM to take a deep dive into the world of product marketing, what it looks like at her company, why and how she got into the role, her hopes for the future of the org, top three skills that have influenced her career, tips for aspiring PMMS, and tons more.

Full transcript:

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:03

Hi everyone and welcome to the Product Marketing Insider podcast. My name's Lawrence Chapman and I'm a copywriter here at PMA. This episode of Product Marketing Insider is sponsored by PMM Hired, PMA's specialist Product Marketing career hub.

PMM Hired has practical up to date, help, and advice regardless of what stage of your career you're at, or whether or not you're experienced in the world of product marketing at all. From Associate Product Managers to VPS, we've got you covered - to register head to certified.productmarketingalliance.com/p/PMM-hired.

This week, I'm thrilled to be joined by Loren Elia, Director of Product Marketing at Honeybook. Loren's an experienced product marketer with 10 plus years in brand management, e-commerce, and digital marketing. She's a creative problem solver following her passion for product marketing management in the technology sector. Thanks so much for joining me, Loren.

Loren Elia  0:57

I'm really excited to be here.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:58

We're excited to have you. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. To start the podcast off for this week, would it be possible for you to give us an insight into your role at Honeybook, please?

Loren Elia  1:12

Yeah, so I lead the product marketing function at Honeybook. We are responsible for everything from driving top of funnel demand for product, all the way down to adopting product features and driving product launches. I've been with Honeybook for a little over two years, I was the first product marketing hire there. Since then, I've been working on building the function.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:40

Okay, awesome. What was it exactly that made you want to get into product marketing in the first place?

Loren Elia  1:47

I've always had a very keen interest in understanding people. So actually, for undergrad, what I really wanted to do was go into psychology, but psychology is a difficult field to get in, I guess. And I also really always was very interested in driving growth.

I've always had this business sense as well. So I wanted something that married both psychology and business and marketing was perfect for that. That's how I got into marketing. I started my career at Procter and Gamble, which was a really good place to learn marketing foundations. And then after that, I worked for a pharma company and eventually started my own company.

That was the best experience I could have had at that point in my career because I fell in love with technology. It was an e-commerce site and we sold experiences - similar to what Airbnb experiences do today but like 10 years ago. So I really, really, really love technology and I decided that's where I wanted to spend the rest of my career. I decided to come to the US to UCLA and did a Master's at UCLA, and then moved to San Francisco to start my career properly in tech and in product marketing. That's where I'm at right now.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:26

Awesome. Sounds great. I know that every day is different to a large degree, especially in product marketing, where things are moving at 100 miles an hour all the time, but try and give us a standard idea of what your role at Honeybook in the product marketing department looks like?

Loren Elia  3:55

Yeah, there's definitely no such thing as a typical day. But I would say our work is divided into three main buckets. The first one is user understanding. So really getting into the mind of our users, understanding what their pain points are, what benefits they're looking for, and how can we help them be better at their jobs with their businesses. Our users are small business owners, and so it's really rewarding for me to be able to help them achieve their dreams and be successful as a small business owner. So that part of user understanding is a huge part of our role.

The other part is market analysis and understanding. So really understanding who's out there, who are the competitors, what are the trends that are out there that can help us provide a better service to these business owners. There's also feature go to market, so every time our product team releases a new feature, it's our job to make sure that our members are aware of this feature, and that we also market it top of funnel so that we help the company grow.

That kind of leads into another bucket of work, I guess it was four, which is growth initiatives. We are also responsible for ensuring that we have programs in place that help us get the word out and convert users to members all through the funnel from top of funnel to awareness, conversion, and adoption. So that's kind of basically at a high level what we do at Honeybook in the product marketing team.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  5:44

Okay, that sounds great. You mentioned working with smaller sized businesses, as well as larger businesses. Obviously, with what's been going on this year with COVID there are more product marketers who are almost branching out and going into consultancy and going into that side of things. What would your piece of advice for somebody who may be looking to set up a small business be perhaps?

Loren Elia  6:15

So I think this is actually a great time to start a small business, especially a consulting business. We have seen exponential growth in actually consulting, marketing consulting, small business owners that are using our platform. We've seen over 300% growth from February to today in that sector. That speaks to me that it is a good time to start a business like this, a lot of small businesses are trying to figure out what to do in this new world.

It is a digital world, it's way more of a digital world than it used to be. So for example, a lot of the small business owners or small businesses that use Honeybook, have very traditional ways of conducting their businesses. They collect paper cheques, they send contracts via mail. All of those really take a very long time for the process of back and forth between the client and the business owner.

That creates a problem where they may lose a client just because it'd be so hard to do those transactions that are not necessarily directly related to their business. Having said that, being able to be a consultant that helps these members understand their strategy, their client experience, how they can provide a better experience, how they can put systems in place to make them more efficient, and also how they can improve their marketing so they can reach more people.

These are all things that small business owners right now are really hungry for.I think it's a good time, in terms of what to do or how to get there I think the first step is, as in any product lunch, knowing really, what are your key benefits? As a consultant, what do you bring to the table? What are your strengths? And we know marketing is a very diverse function. So you could be very good at advertising or at strategy or at social media. First of all know yourself really well, what are your key strengths? And have those very, very clear.

Then the same process as when you would do product marketing, know your user or your potential customer, what are they looking for? What are their pain points? Really try to figure out or reach those people that have pain points in the area where you have strengths. First of all, if you have that foundation established, I think you're in a better place to launch your consulting business.

After that, it's all about building a brand for yourself. So start putting content out and same as when you market any product or any tech product, you want to have good content, maybe even some free content out there. So free consultations, leverage your social media, leverage your LinkedIn, and things like that. Most importantly, consulting is a very referral-based business so make sure that you provide an excellent service to your clients, so they refer you to other people.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  9:54

Yeah, sure, absolutely. It's almost like a domino effect, isn't it? Once you hit that first domino, it's just all falls into place I suppose. In terms of your setup that you've got in place at Honeybook, can you tell us a little bit about your direct team in terms of numbers and roles within your product marketing department?

Loren Elia  10:15

Yeah. So we are a small but mighty product marketing team. Honeybook has a little over 100 employees and the marketing team is me, a lifecycle marketing manager, and we have two open roles for product marketing managers right now. So we're hiring, send me your resumes. That's how the team is structured, in terms of the actual roles for the product marketing managers, we're a startup and we're a lean team.

So roles will change and they change all the time because our product changes all the time as we uncover new opportunities. We really want people that are able to be very successful in the top of funnel, but also in driving feature adoption, and that have that strategic framework that they can use to drive our product forward.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  11:13

Yeah, sure. In terms of the teams, within Honeybook outside of product marketing, so for instance, sales, product, operations, etc. which departments would you say that you interact with the most? And what's your relationship with them like?

Loren Elia  11:29

Yeah, so I think that's the most fun part about product marketing is that you actually get to interact pretty much with everybody in the company, particularly at Honeybook. I think we have an extremely cross-functional role and that means that every single day, I'm talking to the product managers, I'm talking to the sales team, I'm talking to the customer success team, and talking to every single function in the marketing team.

And this is every day so when you ask me, what's my closest relationship? I can't tell you because we're working really closely with pretty much every function at Honeybook.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  12:15

Yeah, and I suppose that's almost the sign of a healthy company. If you put all your eggs in one basket for example if you're interacting with sales all the time, but neglecting the relationship with products. It's just all about striking that fine balance, I guess so it sounds like you guys have been hitting it off to a tee, shall we say?

But in an absolute dream world, and obviously, I know that this isn't the case, because there are always things that arise, and we don't live in a perfect world by any means. But is there anything about the product marketing world that you would change or you'd like to see amended to make product marketing even better than it already is?

Loren Elia  13:11

I think product marketing is really a very good place to be right now. In general, I think it's a function that is gaining a lot of traction. I remember when I first got my first role in product marketing seven years ago, nobody really knew what product marketing was. It was kind of like trying to figure out where we could add value and how we could work with other functions. I think what I've seen over the last seven years is that the function has received or gotten a lot more recognition.

Especially at C level executives, so much so that now I even hear VC saying that your first marketing hire should be a PMM or a CMO saying that PMM is our most important function. I think that recognition comes from a lot of hard work from everybody in this industry to really prove how important it is to have someone that is thinking strategically about your go-to-market and thinking strategically about how you can create a product that has that product-market fit.

When we think about product-market fit it's that kind of like magical word, right? Once you achieve product-market fit you're good to go. And that's exactly what product marketers do, we help companies achieve that product-market fit and then grow it. So I think that the function has definitely developed greatly over the last at least seven years.

But I think there's still some opportunities as well. One of the things that I would love to see more is more women in leadership roles within the function. Actually, the Product Marketing Alliance just shared a salary survey that you guys ran and one of the things that were highlighted there is a disparity in salary and income between men and women. I would love to see that not happen anymore in the future. I think that's something that we as women in product marketing need to continue fighting for and achieving that equality. That's one of the things.

The other thing is, I do think that product marketing... I've read all kinds of articles and one that was really interesting to me that I recently read, actually was pitching the idea of product marketing being its own function aside from marketing, and having a VP of Product Marketing role up to the CEO. That was interesting to me, maybe a little extreme right now, but still interesting. But just kind of having that visibility at the C level of the function as its own whole self, I think, is something that I would love to see in the industry.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  16:41

Yeah, sure. Just going back to what you were saying before about the whole notion of product marketing being so diverse, and nobody quite having a clear cut understanding or not a clear understanding but everyone having their own definition of what product marketing is. Here at PMA, we put together a piece of product marketing definitions and when we looked into it, we only published 150, but there were literally about 300 plus.

We could quite literally have done a list of 300-400 different definitions because it isn't black and white, there is this big shade of grey with product marketing, and everybody has their own take on it. It is interesting from that perspective, and I do find it quite unique in many ways because even though it is the same area, people within that sector are coming up with so many different definitions of what it actually is, and I find it just really intriguing.

So, in terms of the top three skills that have helped you get to where you are today, I mean, I speak to a lot of people, a lot of different product marketers on this podcast, and they highlight different skills that have helped them get to various stages of the product marketing ladder, but what would you say the three characteristics that you have and have had to implement in your own practice that has helped you get to where you are at the moment?

Loren Elia  18:27

Yeah, I think the key skill that I think every product marketer needs to have very strong is communication. Because our work is so cross-functional, you have to be very good at communicating, receiving communication, and putting out communication. So I think that my mantra here is over-communicate, whenever you think should I share this? The answer is always yes. Because if you have a little voice telling you should I communicate this? Yes, you should just tell everyone. That's the first one.

The second one is strategic thinking, again, because we are a function that really tries to marry that user to the product and find that fit, we have to have strong strategic thinking skills. So we can find those opportunities and also find ways to reach and communicate with either users or prospective users. The third one I would say is leadership.

This is kind of tied a little bit to communication but again, because we are in such a cross-functional role, we are in a very unique position to lead teams, cross-functional teams, and it's interesting because it's a very unique type of leadership, I would say, where you don't actually have any form of power over the people that you're leading. So you have to lead by example, you have to lead by influence, you have to lead because you have the data that supports your initiative, you have to lead by collaborating with people and bringing them into thinking through problems together and finding solutions together.

So it's almost more of a consultative leadership, then inspirational leadership, although inspirational leadership is also needed. But I personally have found that when I am good at collaborating, that's where really people follow me or follow the ideas and the initiatives that I want to push forward.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  21:00

Okay. And in terms of the role of a PMM and a PM, would you say that there's a crossover at all between what you do, and the PM at your company?

Loren Elia  21:21

So, I think not so much at Honeybook, we have pretty well-defined roles between product marketing and product management. We collaborate super closely and I think that works really well, because then everybody knows what they're supposed to be doing. The PM owns the roadmap, and PMM influences that roadmap, right? And the PMM knows that they have to put the product on the shelf and then product marketing makes sure that the product gets off the shelf and gets consumed by the user.

While I think that we have very, very close collaboration, and they are open to us sharing ideas with them, the same way in the other way when we're planning a go to market, we bring them on, they share their ideas with us, we make sure we always take them into consideration. They have great ideas so that makes my life a lot easier. They do have input in the go-to-market but we own the go-to-market, and we have input in the product, but they own the product. So I think that dynamic has worked really well for us.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  22:37

Okay, so in previous instances, I've spoken to some product marketers who've said that sometimes the lines are a little bit blurred in terms of responsibility. So in terms of Honeybook, would you say that there are clear lines in terms of a PM will deal with this, a PMM will deal with that?

Loren Elia  23:05

Yes, but one thing that's not that separate or divided is on KPIs because we share KPIs, which I think is key for any successful product marketing - product management partnership, is that you both share the same KPIs. Because that way, you're both working towards the same goals. That's the only part where it's less clear, 'this is what you do and this is what we do'. It's more like, this is the goal, we work together to reach that goal.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  23:39

Yeah, sure. Again, it's conducive to a healthy company dynamic, isn't it really? Even though there are instances whereby you will need to naturally go in your own direction, and you will have to complete certain tasks and other people will have to complete certain tasks and do their own thing, there is that element of collaboration that is needed surely as a product marketer to make sure that not only the short term goals are fulfilled, but also the long term goal as well.

Loren Elia  24:21


Lawrence Chapman - PMA  24:23

In terms of introducing new products and features, what does the process look like at your company?

Loren Elia  24:31

Yeah. So we have a framework that we use for any feature launch, and the framework basically is a quadrant. On the X-axis we have, how innovative this feature is, and on the Y-axis we have how much the user requires it. Basically, if it's very innovative, and there's a high demand for the product then we have a framework that we use for launching that feature.

And if it's not too innovative but highly demanded by our members, for example, we have a framework that we use to launch that feature. So we have basically established this matrix and then we have already established which channels are activated based on what type of feature it is, or where the feature falls in this quadrant.

This is a framework that we have socialized everywhere at Honeybook, everybody's familiar with it, and so that makes it pretty easy for us to execute go to market strategies in that sense. And very important here also is that we do get together with a PM, and make sure that we agree on what type of feature this is.

Very early on this happens, even before the feature has been built, and that way, we know what we're working with, and what kind of go to market this feature is going to get. That way, there are no misunderstandings and everybody's aligned towards the same goal.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  26:11

Yeah, absolutely. Again, it really boils back to the whole element of collaboration, and it is something that is really consistent through some of the other podcast episodes that we've done here on Product Marketing Insider. Product marketers continually say you need to collaborate, you need to collaborate, if you don't collaborate, it's almost like you're setting yourself up for failure, in essence. It's quite a prevalent trend that seems to be emerging with each episode.

There are so many product marketers who are already operating within their own sphere, their own industry, when we did the state of product marketing report earlier this year, we found that more product marketers were opting to stay within product marketing, and they weren't dropping out of it.

But similarly, there were quite a few new or aspiring product marketers looking to enter the field, obviously, which is really encouraging. What would be your golden piece of advice for somebody who may be contemplating a career in product marketing? What would be your one piece of advice to them, for a product marketer who may be starting off in their respective journey?

Loren Elia  27:46

The first one is go for it, just go for it, if you're contemplating doing it, go for it, do it, it's a great career, it's lots of fun, it's super rewarding. So do it.

The second one, I would say is, to know your basics. Know your basics about marketing, have your marketing basics really down. Know your four P's, your five S's all that so that when you come into a company, you're able to bring value to that company, almost immediately. All of that value comes from really having your foundations firm.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  28:33

Okay, awesome. To wind off what's been another great episode, I've actually really enjoyed chatting with you and hearing your perspective on the product marketing sphere. With obviously 2020 coming to an end and it has been interesting, to say the least, 2021 can only get better for everybody, and especially product marketers, it's gonna be even more exciting than it's already been for the last few years.

What's your prediction for what 2021 may hold for the product marketing profession? And I know that's a really hard question to end on so I do apologize and I've been a little bit mean.

Loren Elia  29:20

I think that's a great question. I actually don't know, but if I had to guess I think product marketing will continue to grow in recognition and be more valued in the industry is one of the trends.

The other trend, which is not specifically related to product marketing, but I just think it's a job market trend is that we will see more companies be willing to hire remote workers, which means that there will be many new opportunities that will open up for people trying to get into a role like this, no matter where you are.

You won’t need to be physically in one of these hubs, product marketing hubs, like San Francisco, like Washington, like New York to get into a role like this. So definitely be ready and be all in for trying to apply for these opportunities that will open up I think next year.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  30:36

So irrespective of where you are, basically get yourself ready for a career in product marketing. Thank you so much for joining me, Loren. It's been absolutely fantastic. I've really enjoyed hearing about your journey in product marketing, and all the very best for 2021 I'm sure you'll absolutely smash it.

Loren Elia  30:55

Thank you, Lawrence. This was a lot of fun and I hope some of what I said is useful for people and looking forward to collaborating more in the future.

For everyone still tuned in thanks so much for listening and if you enjoyed the podcast, please help us spread the word to other product marketers. Before we leave you to get on with your day if you want to get involved here are a few ways you can. If you're a product marketer, and you want to come on the show and speak about your day, a specific topic, or your role in general that's one option. If you want to flex your podcast hosting skills, being a guest host is another And finally, if you or your company want to sponsor an episode, there's a third. Thanks again and have a great morning, afternoon or evening wherever you are.

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]: Loren Elia