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13 min read

Product Marketing Life [podcast]: Holly Watson

Podcasts | Go-to-Market

Holly Watson, Director of Product Marketing at Sprinklr and our very own PMA ambassador takes a deep dive with us into the world of product launches - how variable they can be, how she and her team prepare for them, how she ensures all orgs stay on the right track, plus we talk delays, goal setting, top tips for others and more.

Full transcript:

Emma Bilardi - PMA  0:02

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Product Marketing Life podcast brought to you by Product Marketing Alliance. My name's Emma Bilardi, and I'm a content marketer here at PMA. This week, we're joined by Holly Watson, and we'll be discussing starting a launch, how to align teams, timelines, and resources. Holly is the Director of Product Marketing at Sprinklr covering the modern engagement core and incubation products. She's led big and small go to markets across all verticals and at an enterprise level and she's a PMA ambassador. Welcome to the show, Holly.

Holly Watson  0:34

Thanks, Emma, happy to be here.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  0:36

Great. We're happy to have you. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Sprinklr?

Holly Watson  0:43

Sure, well, as you mentioned, working there at Sprinklr on the product marketing team, I actually lead a team of two individuals to date, and really help out with one of our largest product areas of the Sprinklr platform. Sprinklr is really known in the market as a CXM or customer experience management platform, where our main initiative and goal is to help large enterprises connect with their customers wherever their customers are.

So that can be on social, that can be on messaging apps and that, of course, can be on their websites in any type of interaction they might have with chatbots and on-prem interactions. So I really help build those products with my product manager counterparts. And as product marketers know, there's a lot that goes into keeping that product up and running from the adoption standpoint, but of course, also the sales enablement that goes into finding those new prospects and getting people excited about our offering.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  1:50

Great. So we're gonna be talking a little bit about product launches, and what they look like for you at Sprinklr. So are all your product launches the same or do they differ depending on the product? How does that work?

Holly Watson  2:04

Yeah, great question. Launches can take a couple of different molds. So I don't think that all launches are the same. And even the term launches can be necessary to clarify, as you're starting projects, for Sprinklr when we think about launches, a lot of the time a launch is going to be referring to more or less a net new functionality. Any type of enhancements or add ons to existing products and solutions, we kind of look at those, as the evolution of the project. So launches for us really pertain to net new items, they can range in size.

For us, we look at our launches in terms of T-shirt sizing, in the same way that you might go into a store and look at a small, medium, large t-shirt, we also size our launches to fit that type of framework. That really allows us to look at our resources, look at our timelines, and really understand how exactly we are going to bring that solution or product to the market.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  3:19

Great. So can you talk us through the preparation of a product launch and what goes into that?

Holly Watson  3.24

Of course, this one's always challenging. It's also really exciting, as a product marketer, we get to work with so many teams and individuals across an organization. Our main audience does tend to be sales or account executives, of course wanting to empower them to sell and grow their portfolio of our offering. But beyond that, we of course, also partner very closely with our product management team to understand the nuances and the technology and the benefit that technology has for our customers. So when we're looking at launches, we do run our launches through a three-phase process, many of you listening to this podcast now will know that that's generally a definition partnership phase or a beta phase, pretty early.

Then you'll move from beta to limited availability, and take limited availability and move to general availability or GA. So as you're moving that product through those three stages, that's when you're going to start pulling in additional resources and additional team members along the way. When you're in that first phase, that beta phase, it's a pretty small team, in terms of how you're looking at the product, how you're trying to ensure market fit, and honestly what customers you're targeting. So in that phase, you're generally working hand in hand with your product management team. There's usually a point person from the product side.

Of course, a lot of the engineers and other product managers who are going to weigh in and provide support on the build or development stage. You as the product marketer are coming in to help observe, help gain information, and possibly add some brainstorming ideas in terms of how you can incorporate other features and functionality that you've perceived or heard or curated from various feedback. So there's a lot of direct interaction that you have at that beta phase with your product manager, you as a product marketer, and you might also have an individual that's kind of an SME or subject matter expert in the field.

For Sprinklr, we actually lean a lot on our solution consulting team, who has that layer deep into our pre-sales process that helps our customers understand exactly the functionality to solve their use cases. So it's a really small team at that early stage. And of course, we also work to find that beta partner, who's going to help us from a customer perspective, validate exactly what we're building, how it's going to be used, and even again, that terminology you want to use when you're crafting your value prop.

From there that's when you get into like the limited availability stage and you see your team expand a bit more. Product marketing really comes in to do more of that collateral development, so you might bring in some design resources, you might bring in some additional team members to start planning that sales enablement motion, which also includes how you actually build that product, which means you're going to bring in maybe something of the implementation or enablement team to again, understand those nuances of the true build.

Along the way too I should say that encompassing all these launches, your ELT or SLT executive or senior leadership is definitely going to have a sponsorship on the project. So you essentially have the ability to manage up, prepare your recaps and your reports to leadership, as they, of course, have a larger initiative with getting this product to the market.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  7:34

Okay, great. So we've talked a little bit about some of the teams that you bring into the product launch at the beginning. Can you tell us how you prepare those teams? Does it work on a departmental level?

Holly Watson  7:48

Yeah, great question again. The prep is oftentimes, maybe the more tedious part, but so, so important. In preparation for launches, I always like to try to assemble the team members really early in the process, get the product manager on the line, get my solution consultant on the line, get the leadership team member on the line, and really any of those other contributors and walk through a go to market.

For me, it's not about if you've done launches before or if we've worked together on prior projects, or even if you've been at the organization for some time. Having some type of kickoff is so vital so that you know that everyone's on the same page, and you know how to assign or contribute to what role everyone's going to play and have that conversation. We do use a document that we've kind of coined at Sprinklr called 'the toolbox'. And this toolbox, just as it's named, is really a presentation super simple, not a pretty deck at all, but it's a way for us to all collaborate in one central location.

So the product manager is able to contribute, the early mocks, the why we're building this, the who we're going after those types of early-stage, brainstorming ideas, but we're also able to map out here's that broad-based timeline. Here's our racy of roles and responsibilities. And then, of course, that toolbox really evolves over time, as each SME from those departments start contributing to the actual product launch. So in preparation, it's really important to orient everybody on, what roles are they playing? What responsibilities are we relying on that individual for? Exactly what's the timeline that we're going to be running through when we talk about this launch? Again, big or small.

Emma Bildardi - PMA  10:00

Yeah. So how difficult is it to set a timeline that takes into account everyone's roles in the product and the launch? There's a lot of people to wrangle so I can imagine that can be pretty difficult.

Holly Watson  10:12

There are a lot of people to wrangle, maintaining schedules, and trying to get everyone on the same meeting can be difficult as it is, regardless of if it's a new product launch or not. So again, leveraging that toolbox has been helpful. A lot of the projects might spin up pretty quickly. And trying to make sure that we're not getting wrapped up in a whirlwind is pretty important. And so in those early stages, I like to try to leverage the collaboration that we have via the toolbox by giving some people some soak time.

Here's the toolbox. Here's a bunch of information that we've already curated, as an individual participating in this group, spend the next maybe week, week and a half, reading the information, which can be challenging in itself. But allowing that person to kind of soak it in before you have that first kickoff, I think is helpful in preparing those individuals for that meeting. Making sure that that time spent together is super valuable.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  11:14


Holly Watson  11:16

From there, you're able to, of course, start scheduling your more reoccurring meetings. And honestly, I've seen success with having those reoccurring meetings be more of the 30-minute mark versus the full hour mark. And that whole intention is to be very poignant on what are we here? What are we talking about? How are we making progress going forward?

And of course, there's Slack messages and emails that go outside of that meeting. But really trying to be conscious that there are plenty of other projects to do, there are plenty of other customers and prospects that we want to support. So being really conscious of the time you're using, but being organized to make sure that you're targeting every item that needs to happen throughout that process.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  12:04

Okay, for longer launches, what's your approach to ensuring everyone remains on track? And smaller milestones don't slip?

Holly Watson  15:00

Great question. Staying on track for launches big or small can definitely be a challenge. But obviously very important. For us, we have an approach with our Gantt chart and this is a list of very detailed tasks that take us through the entire launch. Amongst that Gantt chart, we have these key milestones that correlate with that phases of definition partnership, limited availability, and general availability. Those milestones are actually very important to yes, the internal process, but also how we're maintaining those beta customers and early customers willing to participate in giving us feedback through the launch.

So instead of us seeing these milestones in terms of an internal deadline, we actually relate and hold them accountable to our customer, our customer demands, that allows us really to keep this rigor behind those timelines and ensure that what we're building is satisfying our customer. We gain this feedback through more or less an NPS survey. So if the customer is saying this product is satisfying my needs, it's really working smoothly, we were able to get it implemented - thumbs up, that gives us some good indicators that we're able to sufficiently move to say stage two or limited availability.

Now, if we're getting other types of feedback that might say, "Hey, there are a few items here that are either the messaging is confusing, was a little bit more challenging to implement. Or it's not quite hitting all my needs as a customer", that's going to really allow us to evaluate and remain maybe in the beta phase for a bit longer. That type of customer feedback really helps us not only stay accountable to certain deadlines but also be cognizant and aware if those deadlines need to shift due to the demands and expectations of the users that we're trying to build it for.

Emma Bildardi - PMA  17:13

Okay, so we've talked a little bit about preparing for launch. But how do you know when to delay a launch? And how do you communicate this internally and externally?

Holly Watson  17:23

Yeah, another great question. Delaying launches can be a bit challenging in terms of making sure you're meeting the requirements of your leadership team. And, of course, meeting the requirements of what's happening in the market. I mean, maybe there's competition, maybe there are certain large economic events that you need to be cognizant and aware of. So when you're delaying a launch, you might have to really consider again, that customer feedback that you're getting. But you also might need to just evaluate the size of your launch.

And so looking at the decision to delay a launch is going to include a couple of different factors. It's not ever necessarily a completely bad thing, though, to delay a launch, if the product isn't necessarily as stable or if the customer feedback that you're so far receiving, gives you insights that this product needs some additional work or enhancements, those are very valid reasons to work with your leadership team on why you need to delay a launch. I will also say in terms of size if the launch should be delayed, there might be ways and angles to look at, essentially, all the features and capabilities going into the solution and possibly removing some that are more of a nice to have been a must-have.

That could allow yourself to create that more stable product so you're able to meet your launch deadlines, while also ensuring those customers, that the items that they're needing those nice to haves are on the roadmap and will be essentially released into the regular release cycle once that product goes live. So I think there are ways to compromise exactly how you look at your launch deadlines, and what shifts you're able to make along the way.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  19:16

Okay, so how important is it to set goals for a launch? And what kind of goals do you use it Sprinklr?

Holly Watson  19:23

Goals are so important. I think we hear all the time that if you don't have that goal, if you don't have that kind of measurable metric, kind of what's the point? So for launches, we actually do hold ourselves accountable for those deadlines. We also hold ourselves accountable to that customer satisfaction. We want to make sure that our customers are going to use and adopt this product. And of course, from the business perspective, we do also set ourselves some financial goals.

So through the launch in understanding the market and understanding our pricing and packaging, we're really able to project out our goals for how many net new customers should we acquire? And what revenue is that going to bring in? How many current customers should we expect to actually adopt, onboard, and grow their portfolio of products at Sprinklr? And add this new solution to their contract?

Financially, we look again at pipeline growth, opportunity, as well as current customer base growth and opportunity. And we time that out, according to the launch deadlines. So there's generally a 30/60/90 day goal that we want to hit. And of course, there are the quarterly goals that are much longer in terms of those customer revenue cycles.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  20:50

Okay. Excellent. So on Product Marketing Life, we like to wrap things up with some words of wisdom. So for anyone about to start a product launch for the first time, what advice would you offer them?

Holly Watson  21:04

For anyone starting a launch, and I think this can go for really, if you've never done a launch before, or if you've done a handful of launches in the past, as a product marketer, it is a skill set, it's a project, it's a talent that product marketers bring to the table. But we have to be aware and empathetic to our counterparts who have expertise in other areas of the business.

So as a product marketer, the advice that I would give is to try to really create that deck that explains what your launch is, what phases are you taking people through? What expectations go into the full launch? What are those tasks? What are those big milestones? How exactly are you going to move from one phase to another? And be able to explain that to your counterparts. Again, as a product marketer, it's kind of funny, I don't heavily work with a lot of my other product marketing counterparts.

I work more with my cross-functional teams. So there's a lot of information transfer and education that I want to be able to bring to the table that clearly articulates what is my role in this project? And how are we going to collaborate and work together? So really, to summarise if you've just started a launch or if you've worked with launches before, as you get started, have some visuals, have some documents that really support and walk a new member through what is the launch and what are those expectations?

Emma Bildardi - PMA  22:46

Okay, so to sum things up, be mindful of others, which is great advice for product marketing and life.

Holly Watson  22:54


Emma Bildardi - PMA  22:56

So I want to thank you for joining us today, Holly. That was brilliant. And take care.

Holly Watson  23:03

Thank you appreciate it, Emma.

Written by:

Emma Bilardi

Emma Bilardi

Emma is a Manchester-based freelance writer. She's been writing for as long as she can remember, and in the last few years predominantly about product design.

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Product Marketing Life [podcast]: Holly Watson