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30 min read

Product Marketing Life [podcast]: Jeffrey Vocell

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We got some one-on-one time with HubSpot’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Jeffrey Vocell, to chat about some of the secrets behind his success. From what mantras get him through a tough day in the office to what aspects of product marketing he’s most curious about, we’ve asked all the important questions - and more.

Full transcript

Bryony Pearce - PMA  0:03

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Product Marketing Life podcast, brought to you by Product Marketing Alliance. My name’s Bryony Pearce and I’m the Content Manager here at PMA.  This week’s pod’s sponsored by the Product Marketing Festival. For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, it’ll be coming to a screen near you between June 8th and June 14th and will featuring headline acts from companies like Amazon, Uber, Adobe and Facebook, talking about everything from research all the way through to optimisation. To get your ticket, just head over to the site, festival.productmarketingalliance.com. In this episode of the show, we’ll be speaking Jeffrey Vocell, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Hubspot, about everything from best practices that are just bad, what skills product marketers should focus on if they want to move up the ladder, the problems the industry faces, and a tonne more. Jeffrey started out at Hubspot back in 2014 as a Product Marketing Manager, progressed to Principal Product Marketing Manager 12 months later, and has held his current title since April 2019. Anyway, enough from me and before we get stuck in, welcome to the show, Jeffrey!

Jeffrey Vocell  0:45

Thank you so much for having me, I appreciate it. I'm excited to chat with you and excited to be chatting about product marketing, one of my favourite topics.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  0:54

You're very welcome and it's our pleasure to have you here. So the basis of today's pod is to kind of help people understand a bit more about you, your drivers and the learnings you've gathered throughout your career and at HubSpot. So first off, if you could go back to the start of your product marketing career, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself?

Jeffrey Vocell  1:16

Yeah, that's a great question. I think a lot of times, you know, hindsight is 2020, right? If we could go back and do it all over again, we would certainly fix some mistakes that we maybe made or apply a different strategy to something that didn't work out as well as we had thought originally or had hoped. That being said, I would spend as much time as I could on the fundamentals. I really, truly think that to be a phenomenal product marketer you need to be a great storyteller. You need to be great at managing and influencing a lot of variables and people. And a lot of that starts with the fundamentals of writing, telling a great story, understanding your product, asking great questions. And to do those things you need to practice them time and time and time again. And as you grow in your product marketing career you tend to get slightly further away from some of those fundamentals. In my position, managing a team, I spend maybe less time writing positioning, and more time reviewing positioning being written and providing feedback and comments. And so I've had to kind of force myself into a writing habit as well to ensure that that skill set doesn't go stale, so to speak, and I don't lose that. So to answer your question, I really would say that's focusing on the fundamentals and surrounding yourself with people who are really good at that is the best thing you can possibly do.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  3:10

Thank you. And then can you pinpoint at all any sort of mantra or belief or behaviour or tip or anything that's most influenced your product marketing journey?

Jeffrey Vocell  3:22

This is a great question and something that a lot of candidates I interview and a lot of other aspiring product marketers I talk to ask a question pretty similar to this. And one of the things I think is a pretty common trait amongst all of the product marketers here at HubSpot, but also a lot of product marketers that I've talked to out in the industry as well is curiosity. And what I mean when I say that is a curiosity about why people make the decisions that they do, why people use specific products, how products work, why products are built the way that they're built, how users flow through those products and how they use them, how their day kind of functions, why they do the work that they do. There's a million different questions that you could kind of unravel from that. But the point of the matter is having that curiosity to truly dive deep into that. I think a lot stems from that, right? As product marketers, we need to understand our market and our buyers incredibly well, arguably better than virtually anybody else within the respective companies that we work for. And if we understand them, if we truly understand them at that level, or maybe I should say, to understand them at that level, we need to have a curiosity about them and empathy to understand what they're going through day in and day out. And I think that really, truly starts with curiosity. I did mention empathy there as well, and I think that's kind of a core component to this. So that curiosity will lead to questions which will help results in having the answers and the data and information that you need to create great positioning or tell great stories or have great social proof for your launches. And going back to also the fundamentals, I think this truly helps with the fundamentals as well. And you know, starting from a good place of asking great questions, surrounding yourselves with really great product marketers or great people, great professionals. So I would start there.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  5:43

Yeah. Would you say that curiosity element, is that something that's kind of innate or is this something you can learn and how would you learn something like that if you can?

Jeffrey Vocell  5:55

Yeah, I think for some it feels innate but I do truly think it can be learned. I have five children and one of my sons, his name is Maverick and he loves to build Legos, he's eight years old right now and he loves to build Legos but he also loves to like deconstruct things and figure out how they work. And that passion for truly figuring out how something works, I think can start at a very young age, like him, it can carry through into your adult and professional life as well. But it doesn't have to be that way for everybody. It certainly can be a learned skill set. And I've been fortunate and lucky to surround myself with a lot of great professionals, who I've learned from throughout the course of my career and learned how to ask some of those questions, reading a lot of books has certainly helped me inform that as well. But I do truly think it can be learned, for some it is an innate skill set that it feels like maybe you're born with or maybe you just develop at a very young age. But I do truly think it can be learned. And if you focus on truly understanding what is driving the person that you're talking to, or the company that you're talking to and understanding them rather than trying to serve just your own goals, then that will result in asking some great questions. Not every question you ask may be great, but you will ultimately get to some really great questions that will result in likely the answers that you need or maybe you want.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  8:00

Yeah, thank you for that. And then next up, can you think of any bad examples or bad practices that you hear in the industry and you wouldn't recommend others to replicate?

Jeffrey Vocell  8:13

Oh, yeah, this is a fantastic question. I think a lot of times everyone is looking for a shortcut through their career, they're looking to figure out how can they get that next promotion more quickly, they're looking for, how can I get this two weeks worth of work done in one week or whatever the case may be, they're looking for a copy and paste solution and that immediate gratification. And what I would say is the best practices that somebody else has, may not work for you. A lot of times best practices that are published online, the blog posts or any sort of content, don't have the full context of what that individual was going through or what their situation was and how they applied those strategies to truly work to address the scenario. And the situation that maybe you're going through or the product that you're working on launching or updating, may be a lot different. And so blindly taking that best practice just because it's labelled with that term, might not ultimately work very well for you or your launch or your career. And so really, what I would say is like putting in the hard work is super important. I don't have one bad example of a best practice to pick on necessarily, I would just say you need to be careful blindly following best practices because a strategy or a situation that worked well for somebody else may not apply to your product, may not apply to your market, may not apply to your company overall. Even within HubSpot, just to use an example here, we have product marketers who work on our Sales Hub and other product marketers who work on our Service Hub, and I personally work quite a bit on our Marketing Hub. And although we are fundamentally a part of one company and share a lot of information between all of us, we also recognise that the personas of the people that we're going after and messaging to are fundamentally different. And so some of the best practices so to speak that I may use, may be very different from some that my colleagues will use because it just doesn't make sense. Like sales folks will not interact and read content in the same way that a marketer will, so those best practices don't necessarily carry over very cleanly between the launches or the content, or the messaging that we're working on. So, again, I would just be very careful with best practices. I think you can take some insights from them and you can apply them to your own learnings. That's not to say all best practices are useless. But I would be careful with them and don't blindly trust them just because it's labelled as a best practice.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  11:26

Yeah, it's interesting as well what you said about best practices, I was at Product Marketing world's event in December last year, and I can't remember who the speaker was now, but someone did a whole segment on best practices, and how it can be quite dangerous sometimes because people blindly follow these best practices, thinking it's kind of a gospel guide to success, whereas it's not and sometimes the term best practice is actually quite loosely used. I've seen for example, brands on the website, they've done kind of X experiment, it's worked well for them, so they'll put on their website, it's a blog or a guide, for example, here's our best practices for X, Y or Z and like you mentioned, there's so many different variables that come into play, whether or not that's going to be a success. So yeah, I completely agree with that one. That's a really good point.

Jeffrey Vocell  12:14

Yeah. I mean, they should probably be labelled like, "Hey, this is what worked for this specific scenario for this market at this specific time". But as every product marketer knows, or hopefully should know, your buyers are evolving every single day. Maybe they're moving from a more analogue world into a more digital world and they're changing, maybe they're already digital natives and they're buying and they're becoming more used to buying touchless-ly, whatever the case may be, their habits are changing day over day, month over month, year over year, and as a result of that just blindly following some of those best practices that somebody else used at some point in time may not result in the effect that you truly want.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  13:06

Yeah, I completely agree. And then next up, if someone is looking to move up the product marketing ladder, and could only focus on one skill, what should that skill be? And why?

Jeffrey Vocell  13:19

Yes, fantastic question. Ultimately I would say positioning, and positioning encompasses a lot of different things. So maybe that's a little bit of an unfair answer. But if there is one core skillset that you need to truly do a great job at, within product marketing, it's positioning. And so to break that down a little bit further, I think you need to practice the fundamentals of research. And whether that means you have a research team internally or maybe you work with a third-party research team to get insights about your market, then understanding the right questions to ask to truly understand the buyers and the broader pain points and the broader problems within that market is an important skill set that you need to have, and will ultimately get you to the right positioning and get you to the right kind of launch content so to speak. The next is, of course, writing and telling that story within positioning, so how can you frame it in a way that's compelling, concise, and resonates with buyers? And if you're working on a solution that maybe has multiple buyers, how can you break that positioning apart so it's buyer-specific? So if you're selling a product that interacts with marketers, and IT and developers, how can you make sure that you have specialised positioning or specialised messaging and I do truly believe positioning and messaging are different. I don't think we talk about that enough as product marketers. How can you break those apart for each of those different buyers or different personas that you're targeting? So ultimately, at the end of the day, I would truly say positioning is really what it comes down to. If I could I would offer one more specific thing, which I think a lot of product marketers maybe don't like the task of project management, and I also don't like to think about it in the lens of project management, but I do think we are, to use a football analogy given here, in the US at least, we're in the playoff season, I think a lot of PMMs are quarterbacks, so to speak of launches, and that means guiding and ushering along a lot of various teams within marketing and possibly more broadly across your organisation to getting what needs to be done for a launch done. And if that means working with maybe your customer marketing team to ensure that emails are created and the segmentation is done, then so be it. So there are certainly elements of project management built into that. But I like to think about it through the lens of quarterbacking a launch and I think if you're looking to move up the career ladder, then you truly need to nail that positioning element that first and foremost is absolutely a must-have, must do, so to speak. And then secondly, I would say quarterbacking and making sure that you can influence a lot of others across your organization and unify them under the umbrella of a single launch.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  17:07

Yep, I like your quarterback analogy, that's a nice way of putting it. Interestingly as well, I've been doing some persona work lately, for PMA, and one of the questions I've been asking is what people's favourite part of product marketing is and what parts they don't enjoy so much. And that product management admin back work is the one thing that consistently came up and literally I'd say 90% of the people that I did the persona interviews with, but like you say, there's no getting around. It's kind of essential to the role to get those launches to run so fluidly. But yeah I guess it's a bit of a bugbear for everyone, it sounds like.

Jeffrey Vocell  17:45

Yeah, for sure. I think a lot of... and this is a human condition, not necessarily a product marketing condition, a lot of folks and we hear this a lot in startup, I certainly came from that that world myself and so maybe I lean towards that a little bit too much. But we hear from a lot of startup founders that they wrestle a little bit with the like, 'do I do it myself? Or do I delegate this?'. And a lot of times I think product marketers wrestle with that same thing where they take the quarterbacking approach maybe a little bit too literally, and they believe that they're constantly chasing people down and constantly doing things for other teams. I think a lot of that can be delegated out, here at HubSpot we use like a very centralised launch plan, we have we weekly or potentially bi-weekly check-ins and the timeframe really depends on how close we are to that actual launch. And we rely on those other teams to kind of own their respective updates. And we, of course, work with them to make sure that stuff is getting done because that is part of being kind of the quarterback of the launch, so to speak. But being the quarterback of the launch doesn't necessarily mean that you need to do it for other people.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  19:06

Yeah. Okay, that leads me nicely on to the next question. So I guess in many ways, product marketing can kind of be quite an overwhelming role, there's a lot of reliance on other teams and there's just a lot going on day to day with such variety, if and when you get overwhelmed or you feel unfocused because there's so much going on, is there anything that you do or tell yourself to regain that composure?

Jeffrey Vocell  19:33

Yeah, great question. So I personally love listening to music. I'm a big fan of just alternative music and also kind of some instrumentals. So you know when I can and when I'm not in meetings or have a day that's kind of a focused day, blocked out. I love to throw on some headphones and put on some music, and really focus in on some tasks. I try to tackle the highest impact tasks first. And I try to, even though my to-do list feels like it's miles long, I try to define a few key priorities for that day. And if I can even get a few of those key priorities done, then that day will feel very successful to me. And so maybe that's making progress on a specific launch or ensuring that founder reviews have happened for positioning or whatever the case may be. I'm trying to really push forward, generally up to three key priorities for any given day. And just by the way, just because they're bigger priorities doesn't necessarily mean that each one of them has to involve a tonne of effort or a long period of time to complete. One example could be like doing some competitive analysis. And we certainly have access to some tools that can help streamline that. But it also, of course, requires some manual work as well. And that could be something that I could check off, and there's some gratification, of course, from checking off things on your to-do list, and the minute that you start checking off a few of those things, you start feeling more productive, and it really kind of starts this snowball effect, so to speak, to focus you in on the rest of your list. So if you have to start your day with, you know, checking off the to-do list for a few smaller things that you need to get done and then attacking some of those bigger things, then that's fine. But I would say there's truly a snowball effect and a really good cadence to getting the ball rolling. And getting your day started with checking some things off, making sure that you're making good progress on some key initiatives. And whatever you do to like disconnect from maybe meetings or whatever else is eating up a lot of your time or bandwidth, whether that's chat apps like Slack or email, taking a break from those things is also worthwhile.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  22:36

The gratification of checking things off your to-do list could not ring more true for me either. I'm literally the type of person if I've done something that was supposed to be on my to-do list, but I didn't write on my to-do list, I'll write it after I've done it just so I can highlight it off. It has a positive effect on me. Okay, next up, every product marketers worst nightmare. If hypothetically, your work hours were chopped in half as of tomorrow, where would you spend that remaining time you have left?

Jeffrey Vocell  23:12

Yeah, I think this is my worst nightmare. So, yeah, this one's tough. I think at the end of the day in my specific position, I would focus a lot of time on alignment and collaboration. And it's because as a product marketer, you cannot do your job in a vacuum. You're not going to be successful if you're not consistently interfacing with other teams throughout maybe marketing or throughout other teams throughout the entire company as well. And you need to ensure that there's clear alignment, clear collaboration between maybe you and the sales enablement team or you and the customer marketing team or you and maybe the finance team or the sales operations team. And without that, a launch can really fall apart pretty quickly. At the end of the day, I think that's where I would spend a lot of my time. I would also spend a fair amount of my time making sure that positioning, again, just going back to the fundamentals, making sure that positioning is really solid. So if I had to pick just two things, those would be them. But yeah, it would be tough to get everything done with half of the time. That would be quite the challenge.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  24:45

Yeah, let's hope it never actually happens.

Jeffrey Vocell  24:47

Exactly.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  24:49

So we touched on the curiosity before, what aspects of product marketing would you say you're most curious about?

Jeffrey Vocell  25:00

I'm curious about a lot of things actually. Well, first and foremost, I think product marketing is starting to gain a lot more notoriety. It's starting to become more of a prevalent function within a lot of organisations, which is great to see. But I think how each company defines product marketing still isn't like totally standardised. And so just even, you know, figuring out what different product marketers do. You may have the same title as another product marketer at another company, but your actual day to day work and actual responsibilities of what you do may be totally different. And so that's something that kind of fascinates me as I think about growing a team here at HubSpot. And as I think about expanding our roles. The other piece here is, HubSpot started as a single product company. We started with our marketing product that is called Marketing Hub, and we've expanded into multiple products. So we now have a CRM, we have customer service tools. We also have the sales enablement and sales productivity tools. So we've expanded into multiple markets and as a result of that, we've started to think quite a bit about solutions, something that we're always calling solutions marketing. And I've heard that term across other organisations and other tech companies as well. And for at least from what I found a lot of teams, a lot of solutions marketing's teams are a part of the product marketing team as well. And they fundamentally do product marketing, but they maybe do it by vertical or by persona. And they're not maybe focused on one specific product like for HubSpot, that would translate into maybe Marketing Hub. They're focused on how overall solutions can be applied to the finance sector or the nonprofit sector. And so that's actually one kind of evolution I think of product marketing that really fascinates me. And I'm curious to see how product marketers evolve more into that. I view solutions marketing as almost kind of a senior function of product marketing, that you kind of grow into and you design very specific solutions around and it should be complimentary. They shouldn't be competitive.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  27:43

Yeah, I think that's one as well, I can't remember who it was now, but I did a podcast not too long ago. And I think they were mentioning solutions marketing and how they were going or looking to go into like a reorg in the not too distant future. And that was one way that they were looking to kind of structure and split out their product marketing department. So think their view I think is those two departments would kind of merge and become one. But yeah like you say it'll be interesting to see how that progresses in the future.

Jeffrey Vocell  28:13

For sure, yeah. I think there's a lot of like really exciting trends right now in product marketing, really exciting developments happening. But that's one that I'm particularly excited about.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  28:22

Yeah. And then next up, what would you say the best lesson is that you've learned during your time in the product marketing industry?

Jeffrey Vocell  28:34

Yeah, this is a great question. I would say one of the best lessons I've learned is the importance of concise and clear copy. When I tend to write, this is just kind of a natural habit of mine maybe, when I tend to write I'm a little bit too verbose and tend to write pretty long form. And so from what I've learned, just based on myself, and based off my habits is, I'll like write a V1, or maybe somebody would call it a draft of maybe positioning or something. And then typically, a V2 or V3, or some version later on down the line we'll aim to cut a lot of that out. And I'll do that specifically with positioning as well. And it's important, because as you look at a lot of the analytics for product pages, or different content that product marketing has created or owns you'll tend to find that - I was recently looking at some heat maps for the product pages that we have for HubSpot, and a lot of folks do look at the headlines or the H1s for product pages, but they don't spend a tonne of time there either. And so you can't have a full paragraph there because nobody's going to fundamentally read that all. And I think certainly when I started my career, I didn't place enough emphasis on that, I was trying to communicate the entire value. And I would do so in a way that was a bit more wordy than I've learned to do now. And I've primarily learned that by looking at a lot of data and analytics and also doing some like testing preemptively. So we at HubSpot at least are fortunate to be in a position where we have a lot of free users of our CRM and a lot of paid users of our various products, where we can actually test messaging in-app and get a lot of views on some of that messaging or where we can run surveys and test messaging in that way. So we can proactively see how people are responding to it and proactively get feedback on messaging before deploying, essentially out through a launch or out to the broader market. And I think that's ultimately led to a lot of great copy, great messaging. And it's also led to our team making more informed decisions beyond just messaging as well and using data across various aspects of our roles.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  31:49

And then out of curiosity what does the process look like at HubSpot, so if for example you're writing copy, and you've got your kind of V1, V2, V3, etc. I presume at HubSpot do you have a team of copywriters? Is that something that you'll join forces with and it'll kind of go over to them before anything's done with it? And how much if at all, do they have any say in the copy that product marketers write?

Jeffrey Vocell  32:12

Yeah, great question. So typically speaking, V1 is done by the individual PMM. And possibly the PMMs manager will help out as well. I would say between V1 and 2, it stays pretty close to the product marketing team. Because typically, those versions are relatively rough. And we're still kind of ideating and still figuring out what is the right value prop to go with? What's the best way to communicate that? Things like that essentially. And typically between like V2, V3 we'll then start to communicate it to marketing leadership. And so that means some of the VPs across the team. So Meghan Keaney Anderson who was recently noted as one of the top 50 influencers by PMA. She's great and I've personally learned a tonne from her. So, you know, she will generally speaking, look at a lot of that positioning as well. And it will then go up to our CMO, Kipp Bodnar, who will look at it and by the way, at each of these kinds of checkpoints, so to speak, there will be feedback. And we will of course, react and revise based off a lot of that feedback. And then as a final check-in it will go to our founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah for feedback, especially for key launches. So we denote our launches and in four key priority categories. So P1 or priority one is our largest launch. And so, for example, when we launched Service Hub, which has been our newest hub product, that was a priority one launch because that's the kind of biggest launch that you can have so to speak. And priority four launches are very small, like incremental launches. We typically won't write positioning for a priority four launch anyway, because it's typically a very small update within an existing app. And so it won't necessarily need new positioning. It just needs a small kind of copy tweak or something to that nature. We'll typically only write positioning for our P1 and P2 launches and our executive team and our leadership team reviews those for those larger launches. To answer your question, though, about copywriters. I think that's part of the distinction between, at least here at HubSpot, that's part of the distinction between positioning and messaging. And whereas the PM  will fundamentally create the positioning and is responsible for the positioning. And we work very closely with the copywriting team and the creative team to create that messaging. So we'll essentially turn our positioning over to them and turn that narrative over to them and then we will work very closely with them to craft what that messaging is so it's kind of this joint process to create that.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  35:58

Okay, thank you. That's really interesting. And then the penultimate question. What do you think the biggest problem that the industry faces either right now or in the future is?

Jeffrey Vocell  36:10

Um, it's a great question. I think for product marketers, a lot is being asked of us. Recently we are, from all the product marketers I talk to, we're gaining more responsibility. One of the biggest, I would say challenges or problems that we face right now is there's probably no clean way to prove the overall value of product marketing outside of a specific product launch. There are very clear metrics, or at least I hope they're very clear metrics, for everybody listening to us, that you have for a product launch, whether that's revenue or new users that you're generating or whatever the case may be. But outside of a product launch, how do you measure the overall success of a product marketer? We certainly have some thoughts on that here at HubSpot, I personally have some thoughts on that. But I don't think there is any industry-wide accepted norm for this. If you are a product marketer who is responsible for a product line or specific app or specific feature, then maybe that's a little bit easier because you could look at adoption of that specific feature, you could look at sales of that specific product. But if you're responsible for a broader cross-section of tools, or maybe you're not just responsible for one product, but responsible for multiple, I think that question becomes a little bit more fuzzy, a little bit more murky. So, overall, like as we think about more investment, CMOS and broader marketing teams and product teams as well putting more investment into product marketing, I think that will require more definition around how product marketing is being measured, and the value that's being generated as a result of that. Again, a lot of organisations can clearly see that from launches, but outside of launches, what does that exactly look like?

Bryony Pearce - PMA  38:31

Yeah. So you mentioned you/HubSpot have thoughts on these KPIs outside of launches. Is this something you've got in place already, and if so, are you able to share what those KPIs are?

Jeffrey Vocell  38:44

Yeah. So I'll back up a step and say for launches, you have very specific goals that we work on. So we work with how our marketing, sales and product ops teams respectively, to come up with a kind of unified business goal for specific launches, and that might be a revenue specific goal, that might be generating leads or MQLs, or whatever the case may be. It really depends on what the product is. So just last year, for example, we launched free email within our free CRM. And so clearly for that launch, we're not looking to necessarily generate MQLs because this is a free tool. So we're looking to generate users and adoption. And so the goals for that launch were very much centred around that. Whereas for a paid product, I would say it's much more kind of revenue-focused. A lot of goals are certainly tied to those launches. I just want to be clear about that because certainly, we have multiple product lines, we have product markers working across all of those product lines, and launch is consistently happening on different cycles for each of those product lines. So all of our product marketers right now are working on various launches. And so I would be remiss to say that we are not measured to some extent at least based off those launches. Outside of launches though we're looking at internal NPS looking at like, how easy is this person to work with? How are they ushering along a product launch we talked about or even a campaign? We talked about quarterbacking a launch and we can look at very specific steps within that to say, was that able to achieve its full vision? Or did it get cut short? And why did it get cut short? So we do a lot of like internal communication and surveying and discussions around, did something truly reach its full potential? And it's difficult because it's not KPIs in a sense where it's hard and fast metrics where you either hit a revenue target or you don't. Some of this is qualitative, where it's based off conversations and multiple people's feelings or thoughts on a specific topic. But ultimately it does lead to more informed decisions and feedback for the various product marketers on the team. And that's one of the ways we look at the various levels we have of product marketers. So it starts at Associate Product Marketing Manager and goes all the way up to Principal Product Marketing Manager. And so we expect different things from those different levels, whereas an Associate Product Marketer is working on positioning for typically like a P3 or P4 type launch. Or they're working on one key aspect of a launch, such as internal enablement. And we're looking at, how many HubSpotters, as we call ourselves, how many got involved in that internal enablement? How many were sharing the word about a launch? How many were excited to talk about that in sales calls? And we'll look at that based off the sales analytics tools that we have access to, versus maybe a senior PMM or principal PMM, how did they do wrangling an overall launch or overall campaign effort? So even outside of launches, a lot of our product marketers are working on various campaigns that are revenue-driving, or have some driver that may not necessarily be a product launch specifically and we're looking at metrics there as well.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  43:02

Yeah. And I guess regardless of the product marketing role, would you say these KPIs constantly evolve anyway and would tie-up, so if the company's objectives change, maybe the product marketers KPIs will change in line with those kinds of new objectives?

Jeffrey Vocell  43:17

100% Yes. So, one of the things I just feel fortunate about working here at HubSpot is our senior leadership team, from Brian Halligan and Dharmesh all the way throughout all of our C level executives, they create a document at the end of each year for the following year that they call the M spot, M spot stands for mission, strategy, priorities, omissions and targets. And based off that document we can clearly... and by the way that document is for the overarching company, so they're setting the direction for the company. And that document is already out internally for 2020. And so we know what the direction is, and we know what the goals are for 2020 for the overall organisation. And we will then like ladder up to that essentially, and set our own goals and we can align ourselves with that. And that will change quarter by quarter. If one goal is maybe a sales goal, and we have a big launch in a specific quarter, then we will, the next quarter, we could certainly adjust to be something a little bit more specific. So we do certainly adjust and flex and it's not necessarily on a quarterly basis. It can also be on a PMM by PMM basis because again, we are focused on different tools, different personas, different apps, some are free, some are paid. So there can be varying goals that ultimately all ladder up to this broader direction. So we're all aligned.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  45:04

Yeah. Okay. Awesome. Thank you for that. And then you mentioned a few questions ago in one of your answers that a lot is asked of us product marketers, and they're being given more and more responsibility in recent years. It kind of leads me nicely on to my last question in that one problem a lot of product marketers can have, especially people who are new to the industry is saying no, and it's kind of a catch 22 sometimes. Sometimes, and I've heard this a few times in previous podcasts, you can go from people not understanding the role and value of product marketing to people then understanding the role and value of product marketing, but then you get so many inbound requests because they finally understand how much you can do to help them. So is there anything that you say you still struggle to say no to?

Jeffrey Vocell  45:50

Yeah, for sure. I'm bad at this in general, I will be very transparent and say that this is not my strongest suit. Just, personally speaking, I like to set goals for myself within a year, I don't like to call them resolutions because a lot of people give up resolutions, the gym is probably packed right now in January. And in February it will kind of ease out a bit so to speak. And so I like to set goals for myself for a given year just personally speaking and those goals certainly cover some professional things as well. And saying no to more things or learning to say no, in a better way, is certainly one of my goals for 2020. Just to be upfront and transparent here. That being said, what I have learned is that because product marketing is such a strategic function, we can get pulled into so many various things that it can be difficult and so there have been times in the past where some group, I don't want to call out any group or any individual in particular, but some group, because they know that we're responsible for positioning, they then pull us in and asked us to write copy for a specific email. And over time, I've learned to say no to some of those things to say, "Listen, hey, you have the positioning here, like you can base writing a lot of the copy based off that positioning. And I'm happy to be a resource that you can check with if you want another pair of eyes to review the copy that you wrote. But I don't necessarily need like me to write that myself because the positioning should act as essentially a guide for you to create whatever content you need, whether that's a blog post or an email, or whatever the case may be". And so I've learned to say no to some of those, like more ancillary requests, that are based on the resources that we as a team or as individuals are producing. And I'm still learning to maybe say no to meetings, but that is certainly another piece that I'm working on for 2020. And finding a way to make sure that I'm using my time strategically. And I want to be clear, I want to be in meetings that product marketing should be on and I can strategically add value to. But I want to be sure as well, that we're not just spending a lot of time in meetings and not able to make progress or help quarterback a campaign or a launch or some effort because we spent too much of our time in meetings as well.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  48:46

Yeah, meetings can be dangerous sometimes I find, because sometimes you go into meeting after meeting, after meeting, and then each meeting has X many takeaways that you need to go and act on. But then you go into another meeting. And then it's just a build-up of takeaways with no time to actually act on them, but I guess that's probably a problem in the industry, not just limited to product marketing.

Jeffrey Vocell  49:08

Yeah, you're entirely right. And a lot of it really depends on the meeting organiser, whether that's you or somebody else and the other people in the meeting and if you're a participant in a meeting, and you notice nobody else is taking notes, don't hesitate to like, step up and take notes and send out action items or whatever you want to call them afterwards. Because you're absolutely right, you can run from back to back to back meetings, and without somebody actively taking that step to record what the next steps are, and what the outcome of that meeting was, it can be really, really difficult to get to the end of that, and then you're kind of left scratching your head a little bit saying, "Oh, shoot, what was I supposed to do from that?". So yeah, I totally understand and I agree with you.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  50:01

Yeah, I guess that's well, that's a good point, it probably takes doing something like that though, to realise because I bet all of us, even to this day, have a lot of meetings that don't even need to exist. And I think until you actually do an exercise like that, and kind of take a step back and look back what did we learn coming out of that meeting or what takeaways or were there even any takeaways? And I think if you don't do something like that, you can probably sit in a recurring meeting for God knows how long until you actually realise it's a bit dud.

Jeffrey Vocell  50:28

Yeah and ideally, I hope every company's culture is this way. But ideally, regardless of whether you're a junior or senior, or work in a role where you feel like you have the influence to speak up. You should feel confident speaking up to whomever the organiser of the meeting is and say, like, "Do we really need this? Could this be an email? Could this be a quick five-minute conversation?". Because you're absolutely right, some meetings don't need to be meetings and they could be very quick decisions that need to be made. And maybe in a particular case, everyone needs to be in alignment to make the right decision that can quickly be done without an hour on the calendar so to speak.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  51:16

Yeah. Okay, great. Well, that's all my questions today. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you and having you on the show, Jeffrey, and thank you very much for giving up some of your time for us.

Jeffrey Vocell  51:26

Thank you so much, Bryony. I appreciate it. I appreciate everything that you are doing for the Product Marketing Alliance, and really enjoying being a part of the group in the Slack channel. So thank you so much for all that you're doing and the entire team.

Bryony Pearce - PMA  51:43

Are you're very welcome. It's very nice to hear those words. 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. That's again and have a great morning, afternoon or evening wherever you are.

Written by:

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce

Bryony's the CMO for Product Marketing Alliance. She's been with the company since day dot and leads our marketing, courses, content, community, and customer success teams

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Product Marketing Life [podcast]: Jeffrey Vocell