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Product marketing questions week #37

Trending Questions | Product Marketing

Whether you want to launch your own podcast show, see how other product marketing teams are structured, build a PMM team from the ground up or succinctly explain the difference between products and solutions, we’ve got all the tried and tested answers you need right here.

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Q: I'm looking for some guidance on marketing strategies for new features for a SaaS solution that’s behind the market. Since we're playing catch up, I'm struggling to decide how 'loud' to go about the new feature. Does anyone have suggestions/examples of what they've done?

A: Here’s some advice from the VP of Marketing over at Roon Labs, Dipin Sehdev:

Depending on the impact of the features I’d take two approaches:

  1. We are listening to our community and users - here is what is new; or
  2. The service just got better and it cost you nothing

The strategy will depend on the impact on users - does the feature affect a small segment of users or every user? Even though a similar feature is available through other companies, did your team do something different or unique?

And here are a couple of other nuggets that came in:

“I think a good idea is to play up why your version of the feature is somehow better. Do you have a key differentiator that could tie features together and give added benefit?”

- Nick Ziech-Lopez, Senior Product Owner at MessageGears

“Catch up or not, there must be some uniqueness to your approach to the features. There’s some way to tell the story that makes it your strength. That’s what I’d amplify. The market doesn’t need to know or care about catch up, the buyer needs to know about what matters to them.”

- Jam Khan, VP of Product Management & Marketing at Thales

Q: Has anyone started a podcast and has recommendations on:

  • Why you should not start one?
  • How do you drive traffic to it?
  • What podcast equipment do you have?
  • Did you outsource editing or do it in-house?
  • How many you had in the queue before you launched it to the public?
  • Any other tips, words of advice, caution, etc?

A: Yes! We have two - Product Marketing Life and Product Marketing Insider, so here are our learnings…

Why shouldn’t you start one? If it’s not what your audience wants. When conducting our persona interviews, we asked people how they preferred to consume content and the vast majority pegged podcasts as their number one choice. Then, after we launched, the numbers confirmed those preferences.

How do you drive traffic to it? We share all our shows in Slack, across social media, and in our email and Slack newsletters - tip, when you’re sharing on social, remember to tag your guests! We also upload the transcript as a blog post, along with the audio, to hopefully benefit from some SEO juice, and then we drop the guests a note letting them know as soon as it’s live so they can share it with their network too.

What podcast equipment do you have? We run ours using nothing but Zoom and a USB microphone (Audio-technica, ATR2100-USB).

Did you outsource editing or do it in-house? We have a videographer we use for lots of our videos and he stitches our intro and exit together and puts some music in the background. For little edits though (like the odd cut midway through the pod) we just do it ourselves using Audacity.

How many you had in the queue before you launched it to the public? We wait until we have three episodes published.

Any other tips, words of advice, caution, etc.? Tons! We could write a whole blog dedicated to them but to save derailing the entire round-up, here are just a handful:

  • If you have guests on the show, make sure they’re in a quiet environment with a stable internet connection.

  • We share some top-line questions with all our guests in advance so they can prepare, but don’t just stick to those questions - keep it conversational and bounce off their answers.

  • Make sure the shows you publish are what people actually want to hear about - and that means putting your PMM hat on and asking!

  • Be selective with your guests - not everyone’s great on a podcast and that’s absolutely okay, but you want the show to flow smoothly for those listening so make sure the people you invite on are comfortable on air.

Q: For those with multiple PMMs on the team, especially at companies with 100-500 people, how is the team structured? Is there a PMM per each sellable product (SKU)? Does a PMM focus on a specific part of the customer journey? Do PMMs focus on key, larger features, even if they’re part of a single product and not sold individually? Do they focus on a specific segment or industry, but for the same product? I’d love to understand other people’s structures.

A: Spoiler alert, we asked a question almost identical to this in this year’s State of Product Marketing survey so watch this space for an uber robust answer based on 100s, if not 1,000s, of real-life examples.

Anyhoo, back to the question at hand...here’s how Jennifer Milne, the Product Marketing Lead at Formlabs, team’s structured:

“We have four hardware SKUs, but then 10s of resin SKUs and packages, etc. We probably have around 100 SKUs in total and they're always slicing and dicing to invent new packages. We are around 600 people strong as an org and have four people in our product marketing team.
“At our size, it has not made sense to assign our product marketers to own specific products, unfortunately. I tried it, but it fell apart quite quickly because our work is so variable. We might launch a new hardware product every 2-3 years, but we launch a new material every 1-2 months. As such, I need my team to be agile so I can assign a product marketer as a resource when a product on the roadmap is ready to go-to-market.
“We have instead defined center of gravities for each person, so an area where they are particularly skilled. Right now one person is great at messaging + positioning, another at sales enablement, and another leads user research. Basically, when products need launching, we divide and conquer, and when things are slower we work in our domains of expertise and/or look for projects in line with the skills they want to grow.”

And here’s what things look like for Madelyn Wing, the Director of Product Marketing at CallRail:

“I have two PMMS focused on specific SKUs (one manages three, the other only one), another two PMMs focused on specific industries (50% of our business comes from one industry so one does just that, the other manages all other industries that make up the other 50%), one focused on just sales enablement, and then another that is just focused on a super high-impact part of the customer journey: onboarding and activation. The latter two take the messaging/positioning/strategies from the other four and tailor it to their specific needs.”

Q: I recently accepted a job offer to be the first-ever PMM at a startup (but also not quite a startup since they are ~10 years in and are at the north of $30M in annual rev). My responsibility will be to head up and build out the product marketing function within the org (my background is a blend of different marketing roles, mainly focused on PMM and CRM/Lifecycle). I would truly appreciate some advice on what my approach should be in terms of building a PMM function from the ground up. Open to any and all advice!

A: First off, good luck with the new job! Second off, here are some pointers for you, and the first comes from Rene Hardtke, the Senior Director of Product Marketing over at Integrate Inc.:

I've been in this process for 1 year now. Similar company profile. They had one PMM when I joined to lead and build out the function. That person churned out content as requested by other departments. A few learnings:

  1. We aligned our team structure and headcount needs to the product/solution streams rather than PMM functions. This has allowed each PMM to specialize and integrate into the product teams.

  2. Assuming you have a marketing leader, I would put effort into making sure they are frequently elevating PMM to their peers on the sales side and at the leadership levels. I've found that many leaders don't know PMM and you need a voice at that level to educate and promote.

  3. Give your leadership a clearly defined strategy, what to expect and when. Get in front of key stakeholders. Start by asking them what they think PMM is and what responsibilities they see you having. Then, once you define your place (with that input) get out there to educate and promote what PMM is, the value you bring and how you provide that value.

I've found that PMM in this setting can be a very reactive experience. You have an opportunity to get out in front of that with some of these steps. Do what you can to define the rules of engagement with your function early and often.

Here’s Maren Conradi’s (a PMM at Raken) two cents’ worth:

“My advice would be start with relationships first. Build relationships with the key players in CS, Sales, Product, Marketing, Engineering and Design. Everyone has to come together to bring new products and features to market so having the trust and relationship with each team will be crucial.”

And here are a final few words of wisdom from Jam Khan, the VP of Product Management & Marketing at Thales:

“I’d also look into what areas of the funnel PMM is expected to impact. Top, mid or bottom of the funnel. I imagine your biggest impact will be mid-funnel. How will the impact of PMM be measured? How does leadership measure the impact? That will set you on the right course.”

Q: I’m curious to learn how others handle customer communications during a product launch? We are having a debate internally whether Marketing or Customer Success should own sending a release notification to customers (for a tier 2 launch).

A: The consensus here is marketing owns the actual creation of the messaging, and then either Customer Success or a CMS delivers it.

Q: I’m trying to explain the difference between Product and Solutions to my internal team. My simple metaphor/analogy has always been a car: "engine + chassis" without body is a Solution while the "ready to drive car" is a Product. Just to add, I think the "infotainment system" inside the car could be an example of a Solution. I need your help in better examples that bring out the differences intuitively. Please help me!

A: Great question and this one sparked some interesting responses. One person gave the analogy of the product being the tree and the solutions being the branches - which we quite liked.

Kislay Chandra, the Director of Product at Sprout Solutions, made a counter view that both Products and Solutions are the same:

“A product solves a problem. It might solve multiple problems at the same time, or it might just solve one problem really really well.”

And Todd Walker, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Techstars, flagged a few resources he found useful when having similar internal discussions:

Q: How often do you share updates with the commercial teams in your organization? What types of updates do you share and in what formats/channels, to keep up a steady cadence with them?

A: Here’s how Vanessa and Jennifer manage things in their orgs:

“I think a lot depends on how fast your organization moves and releases updates that are worth sharing. For us, we do a monthly cadence one-hour long meeting with Sales, Pre-Sales, and Customer Success separately.

“Our organization releases only a few times a year, so notable GTMs and/or releases don't happen quite so fast, so we rotate each meeting on a product basis. We spend time going over anything that is new, the differentiators, why they should be excited and the impact to our customers.

“In the second half of the meeting we give the opportunity for the teams to give us the feedback they've heard from the field/talking to customers so we can take that back to the development of the product (if necessary) and/or align our messaging better. I don't think it's perfect but there has been a history of a sour relationship between our product/commercial teams, so we're hoping these meetings can help with that.”

- Vanessa Sorenson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at CentralSquare Technologies

“We do bi-quarterly (every six weeks). A virtual 'product update' where I share a three-month view of the product roadmap and we have selected updates from product managers that feel most relevant given the types of questions we're getting, or upcoming launches, or reporting on recent launches.

“The purpose is purely to keep people in the know and reduce 1:1 questions being asked of the product team. Beyond that we'll do specific training in person for every launch, we do launch on a pretty regular cadence, there's likely something every other month. As Vanessa said, a good chunk of time is assigned for open questions. We can have ~200 on the call so we try to keep updates to 2-3 minutes and very need to know as this is an 'expensive meeting'!”

- Jennifer Milne, Product Marketing Lead at Formlabs

Written by:

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce

Bryony's the Head of Content here at Product Marketing Alliance and you'll find her behind most things written!

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Product marketing questions week #37