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18 min read

Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Nina Seth


In the first product marketing insider podcast of 2021, we got together with Nina Seth, Product Marketing Director at Blue Yonder to discuss all things PMM. She shares her journey into the role, insights into working as a PMM at Blue Yonder, her advice for new and aspiring PMMs, what a day in the life looks like, opinion on the PM-PMM relationship, hopes for the future of the org, and heaps more.

Full transcript:

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:04

Happy New Year everyone and welcome back to the Product Marketing Insider podcast. My name is Lawrence Chapman and I'm a copywriter here at PMA.

This episode is brought to you by Product Marketing Core, PMA's very own product marketing certification program, vetted, tested, and approved by senior-level PMMs from companies such as Salesforce, HubSpot, Google, and Facebook. For more information, head to certified.productmarketingalliance.com.

We're picking up from where we left off in 2020, speaking to an array of PMMs about their journey into the industry, which teams they interact with most, what skills they believe are critical for the role, and a whole lot more.

As we kick off this series for 2021 I'm delighted to be joined by Nina Seth, Product Marketing Director at Blue Yonder. Nina is a Product Marketing Director with experience in product and solutions based marketing for SaaS, cloud, mobile, and internet companies.

Thanks so much for joining us, Nina.

Nina Seth  0:57

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:00

Oh, no, thank you so much for joining us. So just to start and the episode off, please Nina can you just give us some insights into your role at Blue Yonder?

Nina Seth  1:10

I would love to. So I would say that my role at Blue Yonder is a very traditional product marketing role, it really encompasses creating messaging, working on positioning, a lot of content creation, launching new features and products, working with sales, and it's really that traditional product marketing role that most people think about where it's the intersection of content creation and launches and product evangelism, both internally as well as externally. So that's how I would describe my current role at Blue Yonder.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:53

Sounds awesome. A nice diverse position that you've got there at Blue Yonder dipping your toe into different areas by the sound of it. So can you just give us an insight into why you wanted to become a product marketer in the first place?

Nina Seth  2:08

Sure. I have a liberal arts degree as an undergraduate at UC Davis and so I always enjoyed writing, my undergraduate degree required a lot of term papers, 10-15 page term papers. When I graduated, I wanted to be able to leverage those skills, in addition to I loved communicating and so I wanted to find a role and a career where I could really leverage my writing skills, my communication skills, planning skills, and marketing, sort of really felt right, and fell into place as the type of career that would allow me to take advantage of those skills.

That's really how I ended up gravitating towards marketing is just based on my background and my interests, it was just one of those things where I decided, 'Well, I didn't really want to be an engineer, and I didn't take that path in college' so I needed to find a career that really allowed me to shine and I think that's really important to when people are evaluating what career they want is, figure out what skills they have, what their strong points are, and then really lean into that. I think that's worked for me for quite a long time now.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:33

Yeah, sure. The more I speak to product marketers, both on and off the show, they do bring up communication time and time again, what would be almost like your piece of advice for anybody who perhaps, is in product marketing in their infantile stages in their marketing career and maybe want to improve and develop the area of skills, the communication element, is there anything that you could perhaps offer in terms of advice for those more junior PMMs perhaps?

Nina Seth  4:14

I think part of being a product marketer is really being able to work with different stakeholders across the organization. So if you're a PMM, you're working with product management, sales, corporate marketing, encompassing AR, PR, you're working with demand Gen. And so, part of it is obviously championing your product, your product line, but really, it's listening to what others have to say, and how do we work together to drive success?

Because it's not necessarily pitting one group against the other but it's really how do all the different pieces stitch together to drive success? If you're working on a product launch, you need to work with demand Gen, you need to work with corporate marketing, PMs, you need to work with sales.

Everyone needs to work in concert and so there's a lot of give and take, there's a lot of relationship building. I find that the faster you can build relationships with different groups of people, the more success you're going to get. Being a product marketer is not a solo role. There are probably many roles that you can do without much communication with other teams, but product marketing is definitely not one of them. It is really a team sport.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  5:40

Okay, yeah, it goes back to that whole collaborative message that again, to highlight what other product marketing people have said, collaboration is key really. It doesn't surprise me in many ways that you've highlighted that as being a particular facet of what a product marketer needs to be successful. There is a consistency and a trend that's emerging there. So in terms of how you actually got into product marketing in the first place, can you take us just through that stage of your career? And what did your first job look like?

Nina Seth  6:19

Sure. So my first high tech job actually wasn't in product marketing. I got into tech, I had a sponsor, a mentor, who helped me get my first role in tech. And then I actually did a few years of coordinating projects and working on... I wouldn't necessarily call it grunt work, but really entry-level work that really allowed me to understand how tech companies operate. How they operate, what the different parameters are, success factors. It really allowed me to see how the business is run.

I spent the first two years of my career working in an engineering team coordinating projects for various departments and so I think, as a young person, I had the advantage there of people wanting to help, people wanting to share information with me, but also the vantage point of working with various departments. I was working with QA and engineering and product management, it may have been an entry-level role, but I certainly had a lot of visibility. I think that insight gave me what was required to eventually do an internal transfer into product marketing.

When I got into product marketing, I realized that I was actually working with a lot of the stakeholders that I had already spent a few years working with, and I think that really helped. I think it really helped me appreciate what different organizations did. You come from that vantage point, I think it's too easy to say, "Okay, I'm in engineering, and I only...", you don't appreciate what the other side is doing.

Versus by the time I came into product marketing, I'd already spent time in engineering so I knew what the other side did, I'd sort of seen how the wheels turn. I think that was a great advantage for me is that I had worked in another department and had worked with various teams by the time I landed in product marketing. And so as I said, that relationship building started early in my career, and it certainly helped.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  8:44

Yeah, sure. So it's almost like you dipped your toe in a little bit, you got a flavor and then once you did move into product marketing, it wasn't so much a surprise in many ways.

Nina Seth  8:56

It absolutely was not a surprise. During my initial years, I had actually worked with product management on marketing projects and so by the time I ended up being a full-time PMM, in many cases, I had already done some of the work, I'd already worked with some of the players and so I think it was a great way to ease into a new role. It wasn't 100% pivot.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  9:27

Okay. And since that first role, can you talk us through your career path from then all the way now to the role that you're currently occupying at Blue Yonder?

Nina Seth  9:41

Sure. I've been a PMM for many years, over 10 years, and I think when I think of my career, I've always done product marketing so I think a lot of PMMs will do product marketing, product management, flip back and forth. I've been a PMM the entire time. But the one thing that I think that I've done slightly differently is that I have moved across different sectors in tech. So I started off marketing networking solutions, I went to an internet company, I've done security, I did file sharing, I now work in a supply chain software company.

So I tend to be, I think my career has progressed, but I've also dipped my toe in different industries within tech. I think it gives you an interesting vantage point of being able to see how different industries within tech do marketing, which sectors are more forward-looking, which ones are more traditional, and really be able to take some of those learnings over the course of your career, and apply that.

Because what I found is that while I've worked in different sectors of tech, the same fundamental product marketing principles apply, everyone essentially should be launching a product the same way. Those fundamentals really do apply, regardless of whether you're talking about a file-sharing company or a supply chain company or a security company, I think that's what's really been interesting for me is that the fundamentals haven't changed regardless of where I've worked, and what I've done at those companies.

I think in terms of career progression, I think it's been a steady progression to get to where I am, and really being able to leverage the experience that I have, and then take that and up level it every time I move to another role. I think you have to give yourself stretch goals of where you want to go, and how do you want to achieve that?

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  12:10

Yeah, absolutely. Because as you say, without those stretch goals, some may have a tendency just to almost stagnate a little really and before you know it, you're not bringing anything to the table. I 100% agree with you in that regard, you need to have, as you say, stretch goals, you need to be able to push yourself and when you push yourself, you bring in more to the team, you're a more valuable asset, and that's when you're noticed, essentially, so I 100% agree with you.

Nina Seth  12:49

Absolutely. And I think part of that is really leveraging the tools that are out there, you've got Product Marketing Alliance, there are product marketing meetups, and really seeing how different organizations are doing marketing and being able to take their best practices and apply that. Because even if you work at different orgs throughout your career, that's only a slither of how product marketing is being done.

I think it's really great to be able to leverage what other people are doing and say, "Hey, I know you're finding success doing X, let me see if we can do something similar within the construct of our organization." I think really, you need to spend a lot of time looking at how people are doing product marketing, outside your industry and even outside your org to really stretch and find success.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  13:50

In terms of the way in which you guys at Blue Yonder complete your competitor intel do you have a favorite method? We recently published the competitive intelligence trends report and we were bombarded with just so many different ways in which product marketers approach and the process, what kind of approach would you take as a product marketer when you're looking at different ways that your competitors are operating within your field?

Nina Seth  14:28

I think if you're doing competitive there are a couple of different ways to do competitive depending on what industry you're in. I mean you can utilize software or organizations like Crayon, you can do your own competitive analysis, going on different websites, looking at messaging, depending on the type of solution it is, you can also do your own testing of what that solution is. In some industries, it's obviously easier to do that, if you can easily sign up for a trial and you can kick the tires.

I think there are many different ways to look at what's going on in the industry. Also, I think part of it is looking at I would say news articles, right? I mean, what's being written about that industry? And what does that mean for the sector that you're marketing to? How does that affect what you're doing as a business? So I think there are many different ways to look at what we're doing from a competitive standpoint.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  15:35

Okay. And if there is such a thing, I mean I ask this question to quite a few people and there have been a couple who have said, there is literally no standard day as a product marketer and they find it quite hard to pinpoint that. But in your case, if there is such a thing, what does a standard day in your role look like?

Nina Seth  16:00

I don't even know if there's a standard day, I think the one thing that product marketing provides is variety. I once told someone, 'no two days are ever alike'. I can have a day where I've got four to five hours in meetings, and then the next day, I might have one meeting. I think in a course of a week, you have some things that are pretty standard, you'll have meetings, you'll have writing time, you'll have planning time, I think there's some commonality there.

But I mean, certainly day by day is very different. You can't always necessarily plan your day, other people will create meetings, or you'll decide that you need to have a meeting for x, y, and z, in order to drive an initiative, and suddenly your day fills up.

I think in my career, I've never really had a standard, there has never really been a standard day. I think if you like variety in your life, product marketing is certainly the type of role that you would want, I mean no two days are ever going to be alike.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  17:03

I imagine that's the beauty of it really. Ultimately, you don't want two days to be exactly the same. You don't want the same laborious work day in day out. You don't want to be going into the office, knowing what's around the corner.

I imagine that is something that is so appealing about it, and that's why maybe so many people are A. staying in product marketing and B. why so many people are entering careers, and looking to become product marketers, but who knows?

Nina Seth  17:46

It's a variety. I mean, it certainly is variety, you get to meet with so many different people, work with so many different organizations, and I think if that's something that you enjoy and thrive on, then this is certainly the career for you. I mean it is absolutely the most collaborative team and discipline I think there is in an organization.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  18:08

So speaking of collaboration, in terms of the teams outside of marketing, such as sales, product, operations, and so forth, which departments would you say that you interact with most? And what's your relationship with them like?

Nina Seth  18:23

Sure, I think in my current role, as well as many previous roles, I've spent probably the most amount of time with product management, and I really think product management and product marketing are really two sides of the same coin, they really need to be joined at the hip and be working together and on the same page, because, I think that's really required for success.

The other organization would be Demand Gen. I think we can create content, but at the end of the day, that content needs to be there for campaigns to generate leads, where you get opportunities, and so working with them in concert is extremely important.

Certainly working with a sales team, the sales team is working with customers day in and day out, they are going to be able to tell you what's resonating, what's not working, what do we need to change, and I find that if I want to create content, when I'm creating content, having that sales perspective is really important to the development of that material, to ensure let's say it's a piece for the sales team, making sure that one or two people in the sales team are helping in the creation of that really helps drive success, almost validates what we're doing and also ensures that the sales team is actually going to leverage that content.

And so I think it's really important to be working with those teams. Not to say that there aren't other teams that I interact with. I mean, you're certainly working with AR and PR and many other organizations within a company.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  20:13

Okay. On top of that, and in terms of the skill, I mean there are so many skills a product marketer has to bring to the table, but what would you say the top three skills are that have helped to get where you are today at Blue Yonder?

Nina Seth  20:32

Sure, I think this goes back to the very beginning of our conversation when I hit on my background, and I think for me, I would say writing, communication, and really interpersonal skills are absolutely key to being a successful product marketer.

I have yet to have a product marketing role where I didn't need to create a tonne of content, write blogs, solution sheets, presentations, and writing skills are absolutely important. I always joke with people, if you don't like to write, this probably is not the right career for you. You need to have great communication skills, you spend a lot of time in cross-functional team meetings and so people are asking questions about the product, where we're going, you need to be able to clearly articulate that. I think that's really important. And that leads to the third one, which is really having great interpersonal skills.

Because, I'd say, product marketing is the linchpin in an organization, you really are working with probably the most number of groups, and being able to have great relationships with folks and being able to work with them day in day out is really going to be key to the success of your product and the success of your career. So I think for me, those are the three that I like to share with folks when they do ask for product marketing advice.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  22:00

Okay. And in terms of what you do, and what a PM does at Blue Yonder, would you say there is any crossover at all in your responsibilities?

Nina Seth  22:11

Sure, I mean I think there's always crossover and Blue Yonder is not unique in that. I think in any of the companies that I've worked at product management and product marketing will work together on sales enablement, they might be working together on blogs. Certainly, I think there are opportunities for crossover. Customer insights, it depends on how much time product marketing is spending talking face to face with customers.

But I think there's also, it's two sides of the same coin, where product management is spending a lot of time talking to customers about requirements and using that to build out product, and then product marketing's role is really to take that to market and to really take the vision that the product management team had for a specific feature or product and really make sure that the sales team understands what we're doing, customers understand what we're doing so that we can have a successful product out there in the market. I think there is certainly overlap, but I also think there's a continuum when I think of the role of product management and product marketing.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  23:35

Okay. I know we don't live in a perfect world by any means but where does the role of a PM and a PMM begin and end in your eyes? Do you think there should be lines that are established in terms of the responsibilities between the two?

Nina Seth  23:54

This is an interesting question for me. I don't know if there's a specific line where it begins or ends. I think it really depends on the specific organization you're working in. It depends on the size of the organization. Many small organizations may have product managers that are doing both roles or product marketing that's doing both roles.

The larger the organization, the more delineation there is. I don't know if I have a hard line between where PMM and PM ends. I think certainly PM is spending time, as I said, working with customers, working with engineering to build out features or products that are going to meet the market need.

And certainly, product marketing's role is to drive go to market activity, right? So really taking what product is building and then making sure that sales understand what it is we're building, why are we doing it? What is our competitive differentiation? And then taking that to market. And so I think they really do work in concert. I think that would be my view.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  25:12

Okay. And in terms of product marketing as a whole, we've kind of alluded to the fact that more people are going into product marketing and more people are staying within product marketing, there's clearly a great deal there. But is there anything in particular that you think needs to be changed about product marketing to make it even better?

Nina Seth  25:38

I don't know if there's a specific change to the whole, but I think product marketing, I would say, within most organizations needs to be brought in much earlier in the process. I think, based on my experiences throughout my career, as well as conversations I've had with my peers, I think success really comes when product marketing gets in at the ground level as a company is thinking about building new capabilities and building new products, as opposed to saying, 'Hey, we've developed this product, we need to go market this'.

I don't know if it's necessarily a change about product marketing as it is a change within organizations to bring in product marketing early enough in the process, so that product marketing can ask the questions, which is, 'hey, if we're building this, do we really have a market for this? Is there a market validation for doing what we're doing?'

So it's more about what we are doing as a business to ensure that it's not just, 'hey, someone decided to do this', but we really do have a market need for building out this capability. I think from my perspective, that's what I would like to see.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  26:57

Okay. To round off what's been another great episode and a really interesting chat with yourself, Nina, if there are any new or aspiring product marketers listening to the episode, what would be your advice to them in their product marketing adventure?

Nina Seth  27:18

If you're an aspiring product marketing manager, or you're still in college or grad school, I would definitely encourage you to do an internship. I know when I did my MBA, that was certainly a way that many of my peers got into product marketing or other functions. It's probably the easiest way, many large companies have specific roles for entry-level or grad product marketers. I think that's a great way to get in, it's also a great way to see whether you like the role.

I think at one point in my career, I was mentoring a product marketer, and it turned out the person wanted to do demand Gen. I think it's always good to dip your toe, see whether it really is a good fit. I think if you're new in product marketing, soak up as much knowledge as you can, people are always willing to help, I am ever so grateful for all the knowledge that my peers gave me when I started my career.

I would say ask a lot of questions, soak up all the advice and that you do get earlier in your career.  I would say even now, I mean, it's always good to ask a tonne of questions.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  28:33

Okay, that sounds really solid advice and advice that's certainly actionable for any aspiring product marketer, so thank you so much. It's been an absolute pleasure, Nina, really enjoyed having you on the show. Have you enjoyed it?

Nina Seth  28:52

Yeah, absolutely. This has been fantastic.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  28:55

Well, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. And all the best for 2021.

Nina Seth  29:00

You too. Happy New Year.

Bryony Pearce  29:05

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]: Nina Seth