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Product marketing questions week #84

Trending Questions | B2B | Personas | product launch

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In the meantime, put your PMA membership into action to check out the latest from Maggie McCann, Director of Product Marketing at Centro, who shared her insights on bridging the communication gap between sales & marketing.

But before you go - let's dive headfirst into the key topics that had the spotlight shone on them in the Slack community last week 🔦

Not a member of the Slack community yet? What are you waiting for? Sign up now for real-time responses from fellow product marketers, free of charge.

Q: Is it ever possible to do user/ buyer personas, without ever interviewing them? For example, can I do a user/ buyer persona by observing competitors?

A: "You can. But don’t stop there: persona work should be evolving all the time. Based on pure secondary research, your insights will be “good guess” at the best. Make sure you analyze campaign results to see if your hypotheses are proven or disproved and adjust your target personas and the value prop accordingly."

Carolyn Bao, VP of Marketing at Moomoo Inc

"If you can interview do the interviews. They give you the soundbytes and in your personas' words. Observing and secondary means someone else has interpreted the data."

Melanie Karunaratne, VP of Marketing at Ivanti

"If you can’t do interviews, try to gather insights where your buyers are talking: communities, sales calls, online reviews sites, etc. Take the same questions you would ask in an interview and search for the answers where they are already talking about their needs and problems. Quick and organic way to get started on personas - and then you can interview to go deeper. I do think interviews are really important for persona work so you should push to do them. Keep it simple, people are more willing to chat with you than you think!"

Lauren Culbertson, Cofounder & CEO of LoopVOC

"I'm not going to say it's PMM malpractice to not interview, but I would never want to put my name on a persona output where I didn't have primary research done in-house or though a trusted third party."

Brady Jensen, Principal Consultant, Aggregate Insights

Q: How would you go about deciding the best name for a product (not an invented name)? Here's my example: we are designing an 'intelligent' cap lamp for underground miners, but it's more than just a lamp to see in the dark... it's a personal safety device that can help miners communicate to the surface by pressing buttons that send alarms/notifications.  We have one major competitor, who calls these devices "cap lamps" but we are toying with the idea of calling it a "Personal Safety Device" in order to differentiate it from being just a regular cap lamp. There's internal debate going on, and the customer feedback we received is that miners are used to calling these things cap lamps and it might be hard to make them change that terminology. What do you think?

A: "Cynthia, naming products is SO hard! What stage is this product at? Is this a full launch? Do you already have other products? Who will be purchasing this product (e.g., the miner himself or the company they work for)? The first step in naming a product is to define the brand personality and “voice” which you might want to tailor depending on who the buyer/user is.

"A few quick tips:

  • Write out an elevator pitch for the product (this will help surface words related to the product).
  • Look into “idioms”.
  • Make a list of specific words related to mining jargon."

Eliana Ghantous, Product Innovation at InferLink Corporation

"I think you need to fit cap lamp or something similar into it. That is what they know them as. Otherwise when people say they need a cap lamp your product won't come up.  It could be "safety cap lamp"  something like that."

Martin Bakal, Product Marketing Director at OpenLegacy

"Speak the customer’s lingo. It saves lot of marketing and sales calories plus it shows affinity. Though “Personal Safety Device” is a great positioning, it covers a large surface area wherein lamp could be a subset. What I mean is it is unnecessary cognitive load on buyers.

"I am sure you’d have spent sometime immersing yourself in the target community. Pick on their sub-culture’s lingua franca and nick-names etc.

"Plough it back to drawing board. And filter them by: does it sound cool, easy to spell/pronounce, right syllable count etc."

Prashanth Kale, Product Marketing Manager at STL

Q: Hey guys! For a product launch plan (GTM), would you add/ remove anything from this list or reshuffle it?

Buyer Persona, the product, Primary & Secondary launch objectives, how does the product solves the persona pain points, key launch message, product use-cases, key benefits, beta testing, sample headlines, channel-wise marketing strategy, competitors.

A: "If you are launching a B2B product, I would include your Ideal Customer Profile in addition to buyer and influencer personas.

I would define an Ideal Customer Profile for B2B in terms of firmographics: industry, segment, size of company (e.g. # of employees), company stage - attributes that define the type of company that would most benefit for your solution. Personas are those individuals within the company who make or influence the buying decision. I often create personas for those who will be part of the buying decision."

Eileen Licitra, Product Marketing Strategist at Inside Out Marketing  

"I would definitely add:

  • Buyer's journey
  • Needed launch collateral (decks, web pages etc)
  • Implementation plan
  • Post-implementation plan

"My recommendation is to have a document plan for those phases, even if it's just a one page bulleted list of steps. How an implementation is structured will vary drastically across different kinds of technology, and I also made an assumption that is a B2B technology product.

"For the implementation, especially for a new product, there should be agreed upon, internal expectations for what an implementation should look like, starting with how long should it take? Who is the customers going to be working with, and who are their escalation points?

"Post-signing, what is the first step? A kick-off call, sharing documents, gathering data on existing systems? Who do we want on that call from their side? What do we want to accomplish week one, week two, month one, month two, etc. Similarly, there should be a document for post-implementation - what do we anticipate adoption/engagement/usage to be like month 1 vs month 6? How many users should we have, how often should we check in with them. Is customer marketing/training teams going to send out a drip email to new customers suggesting they try out different features, product areas?

"With new products, such documents may well be guesstimates, and they may be totally wrong, but 6 months post-launch when you do an analysis of how successful a launch was, being able to measure against expectations, and try to figure out why actual was different from planned will help make adjustments for the next 6 months.  The more they are documented the smoother the post launch process will be.

"[...] to me, you can (and perhaps should) have multiple personas but one ICP. Personas are composites summaries and characteristics of specific people and the roles they play in the prospects decision making process, especially the pains and problems they have, and how you want to address that personas need. An ICP doesn't necessarily have to be a human (which a persona generally is) though it can be, but could also be a company profile. The ICP documents the combined factors you've determined define which opportunities should correlate to a high probability of successful sale - that jackpot customer that ticks all the boxes that get sales people jazzed.

"You may only have one ICP, though there may be times when you'd have more than one. Depending on the kind of sale, I would expect most b2b technology products to have at least 4 personas - the everyday user &/or beneficiary of the technology, that person's manager, that person's division head, and the budget holder/finance."

Geoffrey Palmer, Research Director at DoubleCheck Research

"I would add pricing to this."

Gaurav Harode, Founder at Enablix

"USP (unique selling point)."

Yitzy Tannenbaum, Product Marketing Manager at AlgoSec

Q: For those of you interviewing for new positions these days - what is your experience getting "homework" as part of the interview process? I seem to be getting homework assignments that can double for doing the job you are trying to get hired for....how much detail do you provide?  Especially interested in strategies from folks who got hired!

A: "Back when I was interviewing in Aug-Sept, I received take home assignments for most of the companies that I went past the phone screen for. Some examples:

  • One asked for a GTM plan for a potential new product they were introducing.
  • One asked for copy that would potentially turn into a datasheet for positioning a product (choice of using theirs or a product I owned).
  • One was a stand-and-deliver presentation that covered 3 themes: about me, an interesting project I worked on, and a prompt asking how I would improve migrations from an older version to a new version of the product.

I think these were fairly reasonable asks for the level that I was going for (PMM). I have received some assignments that I felt were asking a bit too much or would take way too much time/require internal information to perform."

Valerie Tsai, Product Marketing at RingCentral

"Recruitment assignments have become very common, thats what I see..especially in mid-sized companies. Some of them have been ridiculous, i.e, expecting an external candidate to understand product, plan strategy, give budgets and provide detailed steps of all activities with rationale - something a CMO/ VP of Marketing would need 6 months minimum to deliver."

Nikhil Mirashi, Lead Product Marketing Manager at Freshworks

"I have not been hired yet, but have had multiple round interviews for PMM jobs with assignments. In all cases these assignments took me days to do...some of that might be on me, but honestly I agree that the scope of some of these requests when you are not privy to all the company info takes a lot of time and effort.

"Unfortunately after all the time on the projects and being told how impressive and thorough, etc I have not been offered job. I learned a lesson today the hard way because I sacrificed 2 days with my sister because I cut our long weekend visit short to work on an assignment which got me the next interview, only to be given another assignment that the company then pulled the plug on the process today after I had already spent a few days time.

"My advice -  from now on when given an assignment I am asking for their expectation on the amount of time to complete. I give everything 200% of my energy and I am not sacrificing that much anymore for interviewing process...there has to be balance and it has to be within reason. No one likes to feel taken advantage of."

Sharon Rosa-Bohrer, Product Marketing Executive

"Usually it has been free consulting/writing and I won't do them anymore unless it is a company I am in love with. So far JJP nor Stern Pinball have asked me to interview and they are the only ones I would do it for. That said, if the request is for me to do it on anything I choose, and not the company products, I am more likely to do it because I know it is not pure free consulting."

Keith Brooks, CEO at B2B Whisperer

"Yeah, the last 5 out of 6 interviews, I was asked to work on fairly extensive assignments. They included putting together a 2-year marketing plan, GTM strategy along with sample copies for most of the tactics, Product Launch plan etc. I must admit that I have been taken for a ride in the name of screening. I would have earned $3k-$k for that kind of work.

"This kind of behaviour is based on certain wrong assumptions. It shows they are not mindful of others' time and energy. Sometimes they don’t even give feedback or tell you what they did not like. It looked like free crowdsourcing “everything” marketing from pool. Mind you, I was applying for Head/Director roles.

"It’s too theoretical and not-so-meaningful anchor for any kind of assessment."

Prashanth Kale, Product Marketing Manager at STL

A: "I will answer the q’s I have worked through myself

"2) yes - this can give you a baseline so your interviews can go deeper. That way you are optimizing your spend on interviews (which are more expensive) to go deep into issues and opportunities that you’ve already identified via public feedback forums like review sites.

"3) sample size depends on your total population AND how many ways you want to slice the data. Statistically speaking, central limit theorem says that 30 samples is the smallest amount to be significant (this is an oversimplification but the point is, it’s less than you would think). But- that is 30 samples from a homogeneous population (customers that look alike). If you want to compare industries, you’d want a strong sample from each industry. My best advice is to talk to your market research firm about this though - they are the experts and can help you explain the math behind sampling quotas.

"4) yes, but this can also be done internally if you have bandwidth - it’s a trade off analysis of your team’s time vs cost of interviews (which can be expensive). You can also split up what you outsource - for example, There are benefits to knowledge gained if your team does the interviews themselves, and you can outsource the analysis piece, which tends to be the heavy lift.

"5) 1000 interviews would be priiiiiicy. Usually interviews are anywhere from $200 - $2000 each, depending on the analysis you want back. Surveys are cheaper and you can get more responses. I doubt you need 1000 but I would need to know more about your market and segments.

"6) yes! This is not always the case, but 99% of the time your hypothesis can help to drive deeper insights from the interviews. And you can structure questions that go outside of that hypothesis too, so you aren’t thinking too narrowly. Just make sure your hypothesis is data driven (which goes back to using those App Store reviews)."

Lauren Culbertson, Cofounder & CEO of LoopVOC

"To your last question about total sample size (e.g.,1,000) - it depends. Your total sample size needs to be large enough that you can slice it up in all the ways you'll want to. And you'll need enough in each slice that you are confident in the findings.Your research partner will help you with these decisions. Just make sure you have thought thru your research objectives and what a successful project looks like - be specific. They'll create sampling and analytical plans to get you there.

"I've posted the following list before, but it applies here too. These are the list of things to have thought through and gotten agreement on before you start your research or bring in a partner. The answers will help you scope (and focus) the project.

• What is the background / current situation? Goal is to share a recap of what got you to the point where you decided you need research.

• What is the business objective? This provides the broader context for the research.

• What are the research objectives? All the research inputs (e.g., interview guide, questionnaire, sampling plan, analysis plan, etc.) will be evaluated against these objectives.

• Who will be included in the sampling plan (e.g., customers, prospects). The definition must be very precise, e.g., how do you define a ‘prospect’?

• What decisions will you need to make with the insight?

• How will you know if the project was a success?"

Renee Cameron, Founder & Chief Strategist at Reframe Strategies

Written by:

Stephanie Whalley

Stephanie Whalley

Steph is Senior Copywriter here at PMA and you can usually find her crafting content, writing words and sniffing out typos (or making a cup of tea!)

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Product marketing questions week #84