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16 min read

Product Marketing Insider [podcast]: Rory Woodbridge


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 delighted to be joined by Rory Woodbridge, Director of Product Marketing at Whereby. Rory's an accomplished product marketer with experience working for fast-growth startups as well as international brands such as Google, YouTube, and Amazon. Welcome to the show, Rory.

Rory Woodbridge  0:23

Hey, thanks for having me on.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  0:25

It's no problem at all. Thanks for joining us. First and foremost, can I just ask what made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?

Rory Woodbridge  0:35

Well, I guess I kind of just stumbled into it. I mean, I think probably most of my career is a happy accident, really, that I didn't have much of a plan for. I've never specifically sought to get into product marketing, I started off as a writer, though, and I think that naturally lends itself to product marketing, and probably quite a few product marketers are writers in a previous life.

But now that I've been working in it for the best part of a decade, I have to say I absolutely love it. I think it's just one of the best roles there is. Especially if you're at a product-led company like the one I'm at at the moment, Whereby, where the product itself is such a big part of the reason that people love your brand and the reason that you're growing.

Being at that intersection, being where all the fun is. As product marketers, you get to work with the product team, really closely, day by day, and inform the product roadmap and work on new solutions. But you're also part of a marketing team where you get to play with words and design and animation and all that fun, creative stuff.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  1:49

Yeah, sure. It's such a multifunctional role. It's something that's come up time and time again, to be honest, when I've been speaking with product marketers on the show, they love the diversity of it. I can imagine that's something that's appealing for so many people who want to be product marketers now.

Rory Woodbridge  2:04

For sure and just so much variety as well, you get to work with every different team. And really, if you like having a load of different plates spinning at any one time, it's kind of the perfect role.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  2:18

Awesome. So how did you get into product marketing initially? What did your first job look like?

Rory Woodbridge  2:24

So my first product marketing role was actually at Google. I was one of the first people in Europe to work on Google Play when that was in its infancy, and so I was working on the apps and games store, which is now I think, the biggest apps and games store in the world, and the music download store.

But the reason I was there was to work on launching Google Play Music, I'd previously been at Amazon working on their music product and so I'd come over to be part of the team that would launch Google's first streaming music service. And that was how I got into product marketing and I'd say it was a very launch-focused role.

So Android was growing like crazy at the time, and with it, there was a need to provide new products and new ways of engaging those users, and Google Play Music was one of them. So yeah, that was my first role and I think in the end, we launched in... Well, I was working on EMEA and I think in total, we launched in 41 markets while I was there. That was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  3:38

Awesome. And for any listeners who may not be aware, Whereby is a video calling platform and obviously, with remote working increasing massively during the pandemic, subscriptions to video calling platforms have just skyrocketed. Whereby promotes itself as the easiest way to meet over video, but how would you differentiate the platform from alternatives on the market?

Rory Woodbridge  4:04

Yeah, it's one of the biggest product marketing challenges that I face on a daily basis is, why Whereby? And I think all of the players in this category are facing an interesting challenge where a year ago I think it was about promoting the idea of remote work and the idea of meeting over videos and now we face a very different challenge where pretty much every company in the world has a video meeting solution.

Now it's about answering that question of why. So I think if you asked our customers it would be ease of use and simplicity, Whereby doesn't have any installs or downloads required, you can join in one click. When you create an account, you get a meeting room and it's the same meeting room link every time so you would have a whereby.com/Lawrence and I would meet you on that and if I ever needed to meet with you, I'd meet you on that every time.

I think people love that simplicity. They also love the design. We're originally a Norwegian company and I think with that comes a sort of certain beautiful aesthetic, and so we're very proud of the way our product looks, and users seem to respond to that really well.

I'd say those are some of the obvious reasons but then we're also thinking long term about what our customers want from us and ultimately, we want to be a tool and a product that helps them have better meetings, we want meetings to just feel a bit better on the web, and I think they do to an extent, but we want to keep contributing to that and help them host giving them the product features, the content, the inspiration, and the guidance they need to have more productive meetings, more human feeling meetings, and ultimately, I guess, feel the need for less meetings, that meetings are so efficient and effective over video that they don't need to have as many.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  6:05

Absolutely. It's kind of one of those things at the moment, isn't it, where a lot of people may feel as though they are just constantly sat in front of a screen. I mean, I'd hate to see how long I spend out of my 24 hour day, sat either in front of a screen or preparing to sit in front of a screen. And as you say, I like that element of the human interaction and increasing the interactivity, even though you are not in the same room as somebody, I like the way that Whereby seems to be placing an emphasis on improving the interaction between its users, I think it's really nice.

This phrase of 'the new normal' has been used time and time again, but what role do platforms such as Whereby have to play moving forward? Can you see video platforms almost ousting the traditional office environment post-COVID?

Rory Woodbridge  7:13

Not necessarily and I don't think that plays into how we're thinking about the product. I think in one way Whereby just is in a position to lead the way in what remote work looks like. Whereby has been remote since 2017, since the team was founded. And with that has worked out how do you have a company culture that's almost entirely remote and how do you make communication and asynchronous communication work?

But I think also, to my previous point about reducing the need for meetings, I think we actually work quite well for any company that wants a hybrid. I think there's definitely an argument for that being where things are going where somebody might spend a couple of days in the office and the rest of the time being remote. And I think we're perfect for companies that want to work like that.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  8:09

Yeah, sure. It's almost like not chucking all your eggs in one basket, really, I suppose.

Rory Woodbridge  8:19

Yeah, because I think it is tough. We designed Whereby with video fatigue in mind and that's why you have things like the corners are rounded of your camera, and you can kind of reduce the size of yourself because we found that it's actually quite tiring seeing yourself in video meetings all the time.

Even the color palette that we use is with that in mind, and it's soft greens and pinks and sandstone. But still, a day of video meetings is quite tiring and so I don't think any of us want to really be in a world where you're in eight hours of video meetings a day, because I think that's too much for anyone.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  9:01

Yeah, sure. It can definitely be rigorous, shall we say, to say the least. As I very briefly mentioned in the introduction, you've obviously occupied roles in fast-growth startups, as well as market leaders, huge companies. On reflection, how does the PMM function differ in your experience when working at two different ends of the spectrum?

Rory Woodbridge  9:31

I guess at a company the size of Whereby I think you have a lot more impact. I joined Whereby when it was 40 people and I was the first marketer. With that you just find yourself getting involved in all sorts of ways that you can't have at bigger companies.

There's a limit to the impact you can have on the product or the business whereas I think at a company our nice size - and we've grown quite a bit since then - but I think it's still brilliant waking up every day knowing that you can have an idea and in some way deliver on that idea either that same day or that same week. That leads to product marketing having a very important role to play at a company like Whereby.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  10:23

Okay, and focusing on the actual team itself. Can you tell us a little bit more about the direct team in terms of numbers but also specific roles within the product marketing team?

Rory Woodbridge  10:38

Sure, so we're pretty small at the moment, but we're hiring a few roles at the moment. So it's me and a really great product marketer called Tom, who's come over to us with lots of experience at Spotify, and iZettle, and a few other big brands. But we're looking for two others at the moment, the marketing team itself, I think we've got about 20 open roles that we're trying to fill at the moment.

So we've just had a new brilliant CMO come over, Ryan Bonnici, who was previously at G2, and he's got this brilliant vision for what the team and the department are going to be. So right now, we're just on a really hiring spree of trying to grow out all the different departments.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  11:19

Brilliant, and in terms of teams outside of marketing, such as sales, product, operations, etc. which departments would you say that you interact with most, and what's your relationship with them like?

Rory Woodbridge  11:32

It's one of the best parts of the gig, I'd say is the fact that you get to pretty much chat and work with every team in the company. It goes without saying that product are probably the team outside of marketing that we work with the most, I probably speak to most of the product managers on a daily basis.

We're still in that nice spot where we're chatting very regularly on loads of different things be it about meeting experience, be it about growth, be it about activation, be it about embedded, which is one of our fastest-growing products at Whereby.

Then outside of the product department, we chat very closely with support, we work with sales, of course, we work with the user research and data analytics teams, you name it, we've probably got a Slack channel going on with them.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  12:27

Yeah, I totally understand where you're coming from, we use Slack here at PMA and we've got umpteen channels going on. So in terms of your journey from way back when, when you first started as a product marketer, and obviously, you're in a great role now. What would you say the top three skills are that helped you get to where you are today?

Rory Woodbridge  12:57

I'd say the first one that jumps out is being good with words. As mentioned, I started off as a writer, and I've always loved writing, and I still write in my spare time. I just think it's so important for product marketers to be able to play with words and enjoy playing with words, because no matter what you're working on, be it sales material or landing page copy or email marketing, it's gonna involve words.

So I think it's important that you enjoy working with those and it definitely helps to have a knack for that. So I guess I'm lucky to be okay with them.

Then I'd say maybe next, an enjoyment for working with people, I really like collaborating and I think I'm pretty easygoing. I try and be as easy to work with as possible. I think that's really important, building and maintaining relationships with everyone within your own product marketing and marketing teams, as well as everyone else in the business.

Third, I guess this is like an anti-skill but being a jack of all trades, master of none, I think is maybe one of mine. I think being up for having a go at anything like be it if someone needs to do some pivot tables, or someone needs to write a newsletter, or if someone needs to have a first attempt at a wireframe, I think I tend to not mind having a go at anything knowing that I'm probably not going to be the best at it in the company. But if it moves a project or piece of work along then I get involved.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  14:40

Kind of roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty, really, is something that I've heard other people who've been on the podcast say. It's almost like the whole, what better way to learn than just doing it really, being proactive as opposed to reactive. The whole philosophy of just going for it, if you're gonna make mistakes, learn from them.

Rory Woodbridge  15:08

For sure, and Whereby's in this brilliant phase of growth where no idea's a bad idea. We're just trying out what works for us and it's this brilliant culture where you've got loads of talented and experienced but respectful people all trying out different ideas and working them out with each other. But action and trying new ideas are really encouraged at the moment.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  15:35

Awesome. And what does the process of actually introducing new products and features look like at Whereby and how does this compare to other companies that you've worked at as well as startups?

Rory Woodbridge  15:48

Yeah, we're definitely working that out at the moment, and what the way that Whereby launches a product is like for us and what a successful product or feature launch looks like. And to some degree, I'm looking to introduce process for that, but not process for processes sake, because I think it's really important to not get in the way of momentum.

But for me, the most important thing is whenever we launch something, it's about not explaining, 'oh, this is a new feature and it does this' it's about talking about the outcome and the benefit for the customer. Why is this gonna change a customer's life? Why is this going to make it easier to host meetings or run a better workshop on Whereby? And so I'd say that's probably the most important thing for me when I approach launches.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  16:43

Okay, just speaking with you, we can see that you're passionate about product marketing, it's your vocation, obviously, you've been doing it for a long time. That said, there's no such thing as perfection so is there anything in particular that you would like to change to make product marketing even better than it already is?

Rory Woodbridge  17:08

Because it still feels kind of new as a discipline but it also feels right now, like it's becoming more and more of a thing, of a priority department for product-led companies and technology companies. So I guess maybe continuing the internal education on the importance of product marketing. I think a new trend we're seeing is product marketing being one of the first marketing hires for a company and I think there's a lot of value in that.

I mean, I'm biassed, we're all biassed, but I think getting someone who's a marketer, who can do a bunch of different things, but ultimately, at the heart of their role is putting the user first and thinking about things from a user perspective. What are the personas that we're going after? What are the jobs to be done, or the goals of the people that we're talking to? And remembering to put that at the core of all the messaging and collateral that you're producing I think is super important. I think it's becoming more of a trend, and I'd love to see it continue.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  18:17

Okay, and in terms of what you do and what a PM does at the company, is there any crossover at all in your roles and responsibilities?

Rory Woodbridge  18:31

Probably not, right now I'd say. There's so much marketing to be doing and so much product work to be done that there's not a lot of overlap. I think the product manager is in charge of marshaling or managing their squads to deliver great product work and solutions to business and user challenges.

And we're there to help them with insights and research and discussions and collaboration, and then be very involved in that product development and inputting. But I think it's important to remind ourselves that product marketers aren't product managers, and I've always found it's better to bring challenges or insights to a product team rather than, 'hey, I've got this idea and I think we should implement it tomorrow'.

I think you get a lot more out of a product squad if you come with a challenge. We don't see a lot of crossover at Whereby but we do work very closely together on everything to do with the product.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  19:38

Okay, also I guess it comes down to collaboration. It's something that crops up or has cropped up quite a lot in previous episodes, God knows how many guests have said  collaboration as a product marketer is just pivotal, you need to collaborate. For any product marketers out there who are just starting off in their journey what would be your tip for effective collaboration between departments?

Rory Woodbridge  20:15

I'm sure other people have probably suggested this but assuming best intentions is a really good tip at any company. Pausing for a minute before you send that Slack response or that email to think, 'okay, where's this person coming from?'

They're probably coming from a really good place, they probably just have a very different perspective, or they've seen a piece of data that you haven't or they've been given an insight that you haven't and that's why they've done what they've done or said what they said. But assuming best intentions as the default I think has been a huge win for Whereby and creating the positive vibes that we have as a company every day.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  20:56

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

Rory Woodbridge  21:13

I think definitely for fun be thinking about the products that you're using where product marketing is strong, like who are the apps or things that you spend money on that are doing a good job on their website of making it really clear about who their product is for or why their users or customers lives are going to improve by making that purchase?

So just thinking about that stuff for fun rather than thinking about it in a work way. But yeah, I guess ultimately, a lot of it comes back to storytelling and always thinking of product marketing like that, about telling the story of the benefits and how it's going to change something for someone, and that'd be my tip.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  22:02

Okay, to end with, and I do appreciate we're on the first of March on the date we're recording but 2021, on the back of what was a pretty awful 2020, hopefully, it will see some really great developments for product marketing. And so I'd like to ask you to kind of just end off what's your product marketing prediction for 2021?

Rory Woodbridge  22:32

For the discipline? That's a tough one. I'd say I see two trends at the moment or things come up for me at the moment about personas and jobs to be done and kind of which way to think.

And I think we'll probably find a sweet spot of how to blend the two in a way that really works for when you're then working out what your new website looks like, or when you're next building out a sales deck. So I guess that would be one thing, as well as probably that trend I mentioned of product marketers being one of the first things a new marketing team needs at a new startup.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  23:24

I'm not gonna end on that question, I'm going to ask you one more, actually. Last year, we published a C suite report here at PMA focusing on the relationship between product marketers and the C suite. How can, in your view, companies communicate the value of product marketing to key internal stakeholders to encourage them to invest in the product marketing discipline?

Rory Woodbridge  24:12

At Whereby we're pretty lucky that the C suite all see the value in product marketing and our CEO has been a big champion of everything we've done. I guess, if you're someone looking for your product marketing team to make more of an impact internally, I guess, one of the most obvious things where you can add value to anyone in the business is continuing to provide insights.

So obsessing over your customer and on a regular basis providing insights about them. Something new each week or every other week that just makes people go 'Hmm, okay, we better maybe rethink this process or this product message or this product feature'. We're seeing our customer change quite a lot at Whereby at the moment and so what our team is trying to do is provide regular updates on that so that we're never basing too much on old or expired assumptions or knowledge.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  25:22

Okay, great. That sounds like a great place to end what's been a great discussion. I really enjoyed meeting you.

Rory Woodbridge  25:31

Likewise, Lawrence, it's been really nice chatting.

Lawrence Chapman - PMA  25:34

Thanks very much. Cheers. 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]: Rory Woodbridge