Full transcript:

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:01

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Product Marketing Insider podcast. My name's Lawrence Chapman and I'm a Copywriter here at PMA. Today I'm thrilled to be joined by Marie Le, Vice President of Marketing at MoneyLion. Marie is a product marketer with over 20 years of experience in the industry and specializing in areas such as consumer product marketing, social impact technology, technology marketing, and go-to-market. Welcome to the show, Marie.

Marie Le  0:25

Hi, Lawrence. Happy to be here today.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:28

Thank you so much for joining us. To start off, could you please give the listeners a quick insight into your current role?

Marie Le  0:35

Sure. So I recently joined MoneyLion, as you mentioned, as the VP of Marketing. In this function, I oversee various acquisition, engagement, and operations teams. That also includes product marketing, which’s part of my remit as well.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:51

Okay, great. Congratulations on the new role as well. What is it that made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?

Marie Le  1:00

It's interesting that you ask me that, I was reflecting on this before the podcast and I would say that throughout my career, I've always been in roles that have been at the intersection of marketing and product development.

I see it as my mission and my passion to connect teams to build and launch products across diverse industries, so that we can meet your customer needs, and then also solve their problems, while also delivering positive social impact.

Really early on in my career, I realized product marketing was my Ikigai. For those who don't know what Ikigai is, it's basically the intersection of what you're passionate about, what you're good at, what the world needs, and ultimately, can you make a career out of it?

I realized early on that it sort of hit all those points, and hence why I've built a career out of being a product marketer.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:49

Awesome. Can you talk us through a little bit about your own career path in the industry itself?

Marie Le  1:55

Sure. My career path, I started my role as a product marketer at Brother, Australia. That was my first introduction to product marketing because as I mentioned before, I was at the intersection of product and marketing.

But then throughout my career, I've always been in those types of roles. I would say that in my previous roles, I've led Consumer Product Marketing at Twitter and Open Table, and Brother. Also in my most recent roles at N26, and MoneyLion and Good Deeds, my scope expanded to oversee more of the marketing function, but always including marketing function, oversight over that.

For me, even with a bigger remit, I understand the value of product marketing, and the value it brings to the organization. So I continue to advocate for it across the organizations that I work for.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  2:50

Okay, fantastic. In terms of your direct team that you've got in place at the moment, what does that look like in terms of numbers and roles?

Marie Le  2:57

Sure. So right now, I oversee a range of marketing functions, as I mentioned before, including product marketing, I'm in the process right now of building out the product marketing team, which currently consists of two PMMs, we do have an open role so anyone who's listening to this and has an interest in or passion in FinTech should definitely reach out to me.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:19

Okay, great. And in terms of your team's outside of marketing such as sales, product, operations, etc. which departments would you say that you interact with most? And what can product marketers do to communicate with internal teams to greater effect?

Marie Le  3:35

Good question actually, I would say, for me, product marketing teams have to work closely with all divisions across the organization. I see product marketers as the glue that brings teams together. To answer your question, specifically, the teams that the product marketers interact with the most I would say are product managers, product design, general managers, customer service, and of course, all the creative and marketing functions which we work with to build our go to market.

The best way I would sort of describing my perspective on the role of product marketing is I see product marketers as like diplomats, right? They need to represent the voice of the customer, and the consumer, and marketers. They need to listen and negotiate and influence their peers.

They need to find common ground, build relationships and agreements, but all in a friendly and cooperative environment. I think that's important in terms of building those relationships. Because if you can build relationships and show value, you can really build a strong foundation of collaboration and team influence.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  4:47

Okay, and obviously, you've been in the industry spanning 20 years now, and a lot of product marketers who may be starting their career, they'll probably look at the companies you've worked for and the longevity of that career and really aspire for that. What would you say the top three skills are that have helped you get to where you are today?

Marie Le  5:10

Sure, that's a good question actually. I would say there are three things. The first thing is building relationships as the cornerstone of connection and collaboration.

Second, developing messaging that is consumer-centric, differentiated, and connects the brand with the product but then also isn't why feature said that it has to have that common thread throughout all the different product launches.

And then the third thing is a data-driven strategy and measurement approach.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  5:40

In terms of areas that you've focused on during your product marketing career at different companies, you've obviously planned and executed a series of amazing product launches, what would be your tips on how to execute a great product launch? What is your quintessential piece of advice for anybody who may be doing the same?

Marie Le  6:04

I would say the biggest thing is to try and get in early into the product launch process or in the development process. Why? It's important to understand from the beginning the why of the development - why are we building this product?

If you're in there early, as the teams are developing the product, you can start developing your messaging, iterating the messaging, and ensuring that by the time you get to launch, your messaging, your plans, the way you're positioning is all aligned with the rest of the development teams and the efforts of the other teams, it also gives everyone time to plan all their respective areas in time for an effective product launch.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  6:48

Yeah, absolutely. I imagine that communication just needs to be at the core of everything, with any successful launch?

Marie Le  6:57

One hundred percent, I would say that great communication skills and as I mentioned before, being a diplomat is the almost table stakes skill sets of a product marketer.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  7:08

Looking at another valuable trait, leadership is often considered and has been identified on this podcast itself as being a valuable characteristic of any successful product marketer. You mentioned that you've built, trained, and inspired strong cross-functional teams, can you outline your specific leadership style for us? What or who inspired you to lead in this particular manner?

Marie Le  7:38

I would say that my leadership style as a product marketer is somewhat similar to my leadership style as a leader in general. That's basically based on four points.

The first is, the team is everything, you've got to collaborate within your teams, you've got to bring everyone together. As long as the team has a clear goal, and understands how they all contributed to a goal. I think that's one of the key roles of a product marketer, as well as a product manager.

I also believe that as the leaders within a launch, you need to empower your respective stakeholder partners and team. Also, then within that construct, have a lot of collaboration. As the different teams come up with their respective plans, it's important to listen with an open mind, have your own perspective, and be willing to have debates and challenges of each other's perspectives in a healthy and constructive way.

Then ultimately, it's important for a product marketer to have this attitude of test and learn. So even though you're building and launching a product, your role does not end when the product launches, your role continues because you're managing the product through its entire lifecycle. So building ongoing plans to test and learn your messages, your campaigns, to drive engagement, I think that's important to have that sort of mentality as well.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  9:14

Okay. As we mentioned in the introduction, in such a long career that you've had, you've built and accumulated great go-to-market skills as well. What should in your mind product marketers always ask themselves, when they're trying to create a watertight go-to-market strategy?

Marie Le  9:39

Yeah, that's a good question. I think, for me, it's always been number one, who is the customer? I think you need to understand what problems are you solving because then it will help you with building the plans around reaching that customer.

Number two, it's really understanding the competitive advantage of your product and the differentiator and the strengths and weaknesses so that you can capitalize on your strengths and negate your weaknesses.

Then thirdly, I think the last question would be, how am I going to measure success? And how is this product going to be evaluated? Because that's going to help you develop your plans on an ongoing basis.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  10:23

Okay, fantastic. When we conducted the State of Product Marketing report, in 2020, we found that more people will for one, stay in product marketing to develop themselves, but also people are transitioning into product marketing.

It's quite clear that the area is massively in demand now, careers in product marketing. But what would you like to see change within the industry to make it even better than it is already?

Marie Le  10:52

I would say there are three things that I would love to see product marketing evolve, the function evolves to. Number one is early involvement in the product lifecycle. So including at the discovery stage. I've spoken to a lot of product marketers over my career, whether or not it's hiring for roles or speaking to peers, and a lot of the times, product marketing engage when it's time to launch a product, I think that there's so much more value a product marketer can bring at the strategy stage, at the discovery stage. That's number one.

Number two, I would like to see more product marketers hired earlier in the life of a company. Often, I've seen at least in my tenure, when a company starts, especially at a startup, it's normally a growth marketer and then you have some other marketing functions, and the product marketer doesn't come in until much later.

I would like to see a product marketer be one of the first hires because I think that the messaging, the positioning is just as important as you're scaling a company to ensure that people understand what their product is.

I think that the third thing would be a better definition of the role. Because as the product marketing function becomes more prominent, there are overlaps with functions such as life cycle, growth marketing. And I think that there are opportunities here to better define the role of product marketing and the distinction between all the other functions and the value that product marketing brings.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  12:22

Yeah, absolutely. It was another thing that came out of the report, it was quite scary, to be honest, the number of different definitions that were provided, they were certainly in the hundreds. Certainly an area for improvement there.

You mentioned getting or hiring product marketing earlier in the process. How can product marketers communicate their value to key stakeholders? How can that be improved?

Marie Le  12:59

That's an interesting question. I've always had to educate, which is what it comes down to is education. I think number one, it's defining your roles and responsibilities, and making sure that there's alignment across the organization around that scope. Number two, it's ongoing education.

You might do one lot of education to your teams, but you're going to be interacting with a range of stakeholders, who may or may not have had experience with product marketers. And their experience, as you mentioned earlier, Lawrence, could vary. So it's really around constant reminding.

Once you've educated people, it's delivering and bringing the results, the value to the table. Because once you do that, your remit and your scope will expand because then your peers, your stakeholders will start pulling you into different aspects and much earlier on in the process.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  13:59

Last, but by no means, Marie, it's been a great discussion, I've really enjoyed welcoming you as a guest. But to round up, if there are 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?

Marie Le  14:19

That's actually a good question as well. I would say there are three things. Number one, it's as we just talked about, defining and educating product managers and stakeholders about the role of product marketing is key, because not everyone understands or knows how to work with the product marketer.

Two, keep building the relationships and show value at each stage because this will allow you to expand your scope. I cannot stress this enough - relationships are key. It gets you into the conversations, it gets you into the seat at the table, it gets you into those places that will allow you to show your value.

The third thing is, and this is something that not all product marketers will feel comfortable with but it's important that they do is don't be afraid to challenge your partners. But when you do, always ensure it's backed by data or a strong rationale.

I think that if you can do that you will gain respect from your partners because they will understand that the value you bring is from a perspective that will push the product or the launch with a different perspective.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  15:35

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me. I've really enjoyed welcoming you to the show and all the very best with your new role.

Marie Le  15:42

Thank you, Lawrence. I've really enjoyed speaking here and hopefully, we'll be able to answer some of the other questions that your listeners have on future podcasts.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  15:51

Thank you so much. Take it easy. Thank you.

Marie Le  15:53

Thank you.