Full transcript:

Emma Bilardi - PMA  0:00

Hi everyone, and welcome to Product Marketing Life brought to you by Product Marketing Alliance. This week, we're joined by Tom Girdler, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Precisely and we'll be discussing activating a sales organization on a use case. Welcome to the show, Tom.

Tom Girdler  0:16

Thanks very much, Emma, thanks for having me.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  0:18

No problem. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Precisely?

Tom Girdler  0:23

Sure, absolutely. First and foremost, I am a husband and father to a six-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl. I love the great outdoors and I kid myself and my family that I'm some kind of chef - well, I at least I think I am not sure the kids do. In terms of marketing, I've worked my way around various marketing and product management roles, both on the agency side and client-side.

Eventually, I settled on product marketing, I kind of fell into it, rather than being led to it by design, and someone recommended me for a role. I like the way that central to the product marketing role is really understanding the market, conversing for lots of stakeholders, orchestrating across lots of different teams and crafting stories and really seeing the engagement and end results from those stories is what excites me. I spent time in the automotive industry, charity, and tech industries, and tech is really where I found my interest.

That brings me up to today, where I'm a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Precisely, we're a software and data company and we help organizations gain accuracy, consistency, and context from their data. My role there is really a full-stack PMM role, I look after a set of products around what we call location intelligence capabilities, and also, I look after some industry programs.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  1:55

Awesome. So we're going to be talking a little bit about use cases today. So for anyone who doesn't know, could you explain what a use case is?

Tom Girdler  2:04

Absolutely. The use case, that wonderful term that we all like to refer to, especially those of us in tech companies. It really is a term that is used to describe a specific situation in which a product or service could be used. It's intrinsically linked to the problem you're looking to solve.

But there are really two types of use cases, I think it's important to mention, especially for those folks from a more technical product development side, there are those use cases that business analysts write to articulate feature and function developments that are then passed off to engineering teams to create within product.

The other side is used to identify the customer problem at a more macro level, and importantly, how your product or service overcomes that problem. This is the marketing-led side. The use case in this essence is such a powerful tool as it enables you to be truly market-orientated in your product stories and messaging.

So given people buy the same product for different reasons, use cases can vary depending on specific circumstances. I was just thinking about this earlier, there are loads of examples, but something that came to mind for me, because my wife actually just bought some were Dr. Martin boots. And so on one hand, Dr. Martin boots are a workman's boot, and they're anchored in that tradition, on the other hand, they've become a hugely popular fashion icon, really. So different uses, same product, that's an important aspect to mention.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  3:37

Okay, so can you talk us through some of the benefits of use cases that you've seen in the product marketing and sales domain?

Tom Girdler  3:43

Sure, to link to the last question Emma, use cases help your business articulate where you provide value, and help customers arrive at the right solution for their problem. So when they're taken to market, effectively, they can shorten the sales cycle, again, increase the opportunity for conversion.

And a well-defined use case anchored in the evidence that you can deliver on it is a powerful tool, which will direct customers to your product. From that perspective, it's critical to the go-to-market activity of both marketing and sales teams. I also think it's important to mention here again, that not everyone uses a product for exactly the same reason.

So use case definition enables you to articulate these different ways of using your product and nurture customers along the buyer journey through personalization of messaging aligned to that use case. So helping people arrive at the right way of utilizing your product.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  4:45

So how do you make sure that your teams are aligned and everyone's sort of on the same page when it comes to use cases?

Tom Girdler  4:53

Yeah, that's a great question it's so critical, if we're to enable the organization well, take a consistent story to market. So picking up on that word alignment, firstly it's important that the use case development is anchored in the culture of your organization. So markets and products move quickly, how we use and interact with products change over time.

And the problems and the use cases change around products, that's Dr. Martins example, they weren't a cool trendy fashion item at one moment in time, they were more of a functional boot for work people in the workplace. Whether we're buying a type of shoe or piece of software it's critical organizations are reviewing and evaluating use cases with customers.

So ensuring there is a recognized value of use cases means that it's so much easier to align around the use case and really get teams behind it and enable them because they understand the value, they understand what can be achieved through a well-articulated use case.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  6:06

So how often should you be building use cases as a product marketer?

Tom Girdler  6:11

Well, I wish I could tell you there is a set formula on when to build a use case but I guess in a similar way to the question of how often should messaging be updated, which is something I was asked about recently, it just depends, it depends on the customer and market dynamics.

How their behavior, how the market customer behavior pains and needs are evolving. Also, I think it depends on the level of innovation around use cases. There are some use cases made to fix problems that customers didn't realize they had until a company created a use case. People are like, 'yep, that's me'.

It reminds me a little bit of the telco industry and makes me think about 5G now, even 4G, I remember the days of being absolutely delighted with my 3G handset, it was the best thing ever, I could go on the internet through my phone, what else would I ever need to do with my phone? But now we're being told that we're going to need 5G. I'm like, "Well, 4G is great, I've got video calling on that".

Despite right now that not being a realistic need to most people on the street, we're being given that messaging by these mobile network operators. And I'm sure, eventually, we'll all say, 'yeah, we needed that, we absolutely needed to run these applications that could only be run in a 5G context'.

Even in those scenarios, user testing, research, and focus groups are heavily leaned in to get to the heart or the customer propensity to use the technology. So in essence, there's no hard or fast rule on how often, it comes down to knowing your market and knowing your level of use case innovation, and fundamentally being ready to react and ready to create.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  8:07

Sure, so, do you have any tips for creating effective use cases?

Tom Girdler  8:14

Sure, for me, there are really three stages here. In terms of use case creation, you need to first identify the use case, validate the use case, and then create it. So, identifying the use case starts with understanding the problem, the pain of the customer, then there is a need to establish the opportunity through scoping the addressable market, how much opportunity is there within the market?

And then looking at the competitive environment as well. Then we need to understand who we are targeting through segmentation and persona identification, but how do we quantify the opportunity? Understanding the revenue opportunity and the goals upfront is absolutely critical in terms of use case creation. In my experience, ensuring this is identified from the offset can enable you to unlock support and create focus.

So unlock support, unlock resources from your organization. If you can say, "we know that this use case has this opportunity", then you know you're going to be able to rally the teams across the organization behind you. So it's so important you've got that value identified.

And then, of course, a clear and succinct articulation of the use case is key. Then, moving on to the validate stage dimension, I mentioned these three stages. Next, validate, this is where we begin to socialize and refine a use case. To do this it's important to engage a selection of sellers from across the core set of groups including a selection of SMEs - this enables great insight but also the early inclusion of sales again, in my experience really helps provide them with a sense of ownership before the use case has even gone to market.

If they're bought into it, they're on the journey, they're part of the team. Next exposing to the customer, through customer focus groups or interviews, helps build that true market orientation. And then following on from that, speaking to market analysts in a space is always so valuable.

These guys are often advising the market, these analysts, advising customers. So again, this helps back that market-oriented perspective, which is so key to create an effective use case. So we've identified, we've validated so now onto that third and final stage for me, which is really about creation, and this is where we build the market-facing messaging, which is a critical task for activating sellers and the market.

It takes time to spin that Rubik's cube of messaging as we refer to, to refine and to validate, then aligned to that, I suggest a content gap analysis is always a great thing to perform, reviewing where there are content needs across the buyer journey, and also actually the enablement journey. And then finally, allowing the right market-facing and enablement content to be created. Those are my three tips around use case creation.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  11:37

Great tips thank you very much. So once the use case is created, can you offer any thoughts or advice on how best to activate the sales team on it?

Tom Girdler  11:52

There are two areas to pick on here for me; enable the use case, and institutionalize the use case. Firstly, the enablement aspect. So in order to execute on effective enablement, we need to be clear about who the audience is just like we do when we're going to market. Understanding the different sellers’ personas here will support, will personalize learning journeys.

For example, if I'm an account development executive, I'm likely to be more interested in making sure I have a strong sales choreography, which is aligned to the objective of my outbound calling campaign. But equally, if I'm a solution engineer, I'm going to want to understand how to tell the story through aligned demos.

Following on three key topics, we want to cover in our enablement journey would be the opportunity and the narrative, what is the use case story to the customer? And the content, what content is available to take to market? Then who am I taking the story to? Who are the target market, the personas, and what is the competitive backdrop?

Finally, what tactics would be used to deliver enablement? For example, anchor enablement sessions, webinars to introduce the use case, email drips after enablement sessions drawing out the highlights. Sounds so simple, but so very effective in my experience - sellers, let's hope they're listening to the whole enablement session, but some of them won't be and some of them will want that follow-up. So it's really important we do follow up and tease out those high-level takeaways.

Also, personalized journeys, learning journeys, which acknowledge different levels of knowledge of our sellers. It's really important. Not everybody's in the same space, in terms of the job they do, but also their level of knowledge.

Finally, it might sound like an odd one, but one that came to mind for me was competitions. For example, and we've done this, I've done this in the last couple of organizations, introduce a sales choreography competition. Maybe your organization uses a sales methodology, like the challenger framework, this could be a fun opportunity for sellers to record themselves performing a choreography of how they would approach a prospect and tell a story around this use case and ultimately compete then for a prize.

Next coming off that enablement stage, I think this is easily forgotten about and I know I have been guilty of this in the past but it is so important for us to try to remember this word institutionalize - institutionalize the use case. So how do we really get this ingrained in our teams, this is critical.

It's not a one drop and run scenario with a use case and enabling, it has to continue. I saw some recent research actually by Hubspot and they stated that 87% of new skills are lost within a month of sales training and that's just scary especially for any of us who are involved in trying to help sellers understand use cases.

The fact is people forget, we all forget, but how can we keep in the mind share of sellers? Well, we can have ongoing refresher sessions where we draw on win-loss stories to keep that drumbeat of communication going. We can make sure that we have messaging and content integrated across the buyer journey and fundamentally make sure content is accessible on an ongoing basis.

Another stat to throw in here that always really amazes me is one from Sirius Decision and they estimate that anywhere between 60% to 70% of B2B companies content goes untouched - 60 to 70% of a B2B company's content goes untouched. I mean that's again frightening for us product marketers out there...

Emma Bilardi - PMA  16:10

It's a depressing statistic.

Tom Girdler  16:12

It is a depressing statistic but clearly shows we've got work to do in terms of getting this content into the hands of sellers and fundamentally getting them engaged. So we really need to serve content in an intuitive way that is also integrated into sales tools like Outlook and Salesforce - this makes that content really accessible, no excuses for the sales team.

But it also helps to provide context on when the content should be used in the buyer journey and we can help our sellers understand that. Of course, ensuring the team are aware of field marketing initiatives is also important, it's really important so they can then help to amplify these with the market. That's really worthwhile and again just continues to encourage the sellers to take this use case, this story to market.

Finally, a great way to carry on the conversation is very simply by having use case focus channels in Slack or in Teams where people can refine and comment and provide feedback and ultimately help each other. I think that's important.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  17:31

Excellent so we normally like to wrap the show up with some sort of tips or advice but this has been such an actionable episode I think we've got so much out of this but I'm going to ask my final question anyway. Can you offer any sort of guidance or tips on how to measure the value of a use case?

Tom Girdler  17:49

Sure, arguably this is the most important aspect, if we do all this great workaround enabling an organization on a use case, if we can't measure the impact then it's not a great place to be. So how can we measure this success?

Some quick examples, we can look at engagement levels on the different pieces of content activity we've executed on whether it be webinars, courses, and the various pieces of content. But more importantly what is the impact on the business performance?

We could create a use case metrics dashboard that shows performance against KPIs such as marketing source, pipeline, and revenue - the usual suspects. But also we could get content metrics built into that as well but as part of that we can carry out review sessions looking at this dashboard as cross-functional teams.

But clearly understanding what is driving performance isn't purely based on reviewing metrics, we need to be having holistic conversations with a cross-functional team such as in knowledge sharing groups and perhaps there is content that is landing well, perhaps there is new competitive messaging which is gaining more mindshare.

So we need to be having these conversations with the sales and marketing teams. And finally, of course, the journey is never over much like our messaging initiatives, when it comes to articulating use cases and identifying use case opportunities we need to be continually listening to the market and optimizing use cases to create the use cases of tomorrow.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  19:36

Absolutely well thank you so much for joining us Tom it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you.

Tom Girdler  19:42

Thank you I appreciate it Emma, and I'd just say if anybody's out there who'd love to carry on the conversation, who has any thoughts or can add any more insight to what we've spoken about today I'd love to hear from you too, please feel free to look me up on LinkedIn, it'd be great to get your thoughts.

Emma Bilardi - PMA  19:58

Awesome, thanks a lot take care, Tom.

Tom Girdler  20:00

Thanks Emma, all the best.