A presentation from Diana Smith, former Head of Product Marketing, Segment

Diana covers the evolution of the product marketing team at Segment as it grew from 10 to 400 people.

Diana shares how she built out the team, changed their focus, added team members, and delineated their responsibilities over time.

Liking what you see? Take a read how to scale product marketing teams from the ground up here.

Full Transcript:

Diana Smith  0:04
How many of you get this question? A lot?

What is it you say you do here? I got this question every single time a new VP of product candidate came in to interview at segment, every single time they asked me this question, I'm sure you get it a lot. It's not surprising, because as product marketers, we can fill the space between marketing product and sales we can live anywhere in in that space. So it's not surprising people want to know, where particularly are you right now. In

my opinion, product marketers are like superheroes.

We can swoop

in to solve a bunch of different business problems. You know, whether it's top of the funnel with acquisition, bottom funnel retention, we can help make sure that product roadmap is going to actually resonate with the market. There's so many things we can do based on our deep knowledge of the customer. I

think this is a good thing.

Diana Smith  1:00
To be effective as a product marketer at a very fast growing company that's scaling over time. I think the key is not to try to do all those things at once, but to focus on what you're doing and change over time, your focus, as your company needs change, to focus really on what is the business problem that the whole company has, and to dive in and solve that one and then adapt when that change that problem is solved.

Diana Smith  1:31
In short, your job is to find the gap

Diana Smith   1:33
as a product marketer or product marketing leader, figure out what's not getting done that you could go in and add value. That's the thesis of my talk. To introduce myself, after re did a little bit My name is Diana Smith and I lead the product marketing team at segment. When I first joined segment, I went to the marketing team meeting, I looked around and I was the only one there. I was the first marketer about five years ago and have grown the company Today we have know what now when I walk into our lunch room, I hardly know anyone. We're close to 500 people now. And for those of you just a little background on segment, what we do, we provide customer data infrastructure that helps companies clean, collect and control their data. So this means that instead of integrating lots of different tools you might want to use for marketing, automation, analytics, data warehousing, you know, pendo was speaking earlier. Instead of integrating them all one by one, you could use segment to collect your data once and integrate all these different tools and also make sure that data is clean and correct. That's just a little bit about us. And over time, from the being the first marketer at segment to now leading a team of close to nine product marketers have learned a lot and I'm excited to share with you the lessons along that journey. First is finding a gap. How do you find where you're going to focus on second is knowing your customers and third is loving yourself. Perhaps our most unintuitive lesson of the day, but I promise, it's important that we'll get there later.

Diana Smith   3:07
Finding the gap.

Diana Smith   3:10
When you think about your strategy as a PMM, or PMM leader, you have to think about what's not getting done. There's if you're at a high growth growing company, there's probably a tonne that's not getting done. You're like tripping over

Diana Smith  3:22
low hanging fruit all over the halls.

Diana Smith   3:25
You know, this might be the product team is actually acting more like engineering managers, they're not thinking a lot about the customer. And if there's a real market for what they're building, that might be the gap. The gap might be that the marketing team has no idea what to write in their campaigns. They don't know what's going to resonate with the market. There's a lot of different gaps that could be there. And then also, you want to layer that on what's the top need for your organisation? What is the biggest challenge? Is it growing top line revenue and top line leads? Maybe you have a churn issue, whatever that core business problem is your entire company's facing. That's what product market should be focused on. In an ideal world, you're sitting perfectly in this, you know Venn diagram. Time Series is still called a Venn diagram, I think so. We are perfectly in between marketing and product and sales. This is just never going to be the case. In a better sense, you want to be

Diana Smith  4:19

about where in this Venn diagram, your focus, you know,

Diana Smith   4:23
where are your appendages sticking out, I like to think of it as an amoeba. And this is what the internet gave me for Amoeba. So let you enjoy that. And you want to be deliberate about where it is you're focusing here. For some examples, top of the funnel, if that's the biggest issue, user acquisition, you want to be really focused on your messaging and positioning when someone hits your site. How are they going to know why they should buy your product, you might not be focused on validation who are customers who can have that social proof for your product? Maybe the The problem is with sales and they don't know how to go to the market and sell your product. They're being killed by competitors, you would be focusing on something different if that was your biggest issue. So walk you through how this changed at different times at segments so that you can understand why we changed focus and just give you a template of how this could be done somewhere. And the main message is, it's okay to shift it's okay to change as time goes on. So early days in the series, a when I was always the only one around on the marketing team,

Diana Smith  5:33
the main thing we

were trying to do is get people to pay us.

Diana Smith   5:37
Not Not many startups thinking about that, you know, these days is out of style. I'm seeing in the ideas, but we were an open source product. And we were trying to get people to buy our hosted version, which meant that we had to figure out how do we get these people to pay for the hosted version? What are the features that are going to make people want to pay, we already had a lot of interest from a niche audience of developers from I'm the Hacker News community, the Y Combinator community. So that wasn't as much of an issue. And we didn't have product managers at the time, we just had engineers. So I was kind of playing that person as well, trying to make sure that we weren't just building for ourselves, we were building for a clear audience. Fast forward to Series B, our main issue was tapping out of the initial very tech forward reads the same stuff, kind of audience, and we had to look at that chart and make it keep going up into the right. This meant that the shift for what product marketing needed to focus on was education. How do we help people know that this product which previously didn't exist, and there wasn't really anything like it on the market, that if you had a problem similar to this, that it could be solved the software? This is when we found out that too, right deep technical content and our position, it was really good to have product marketers focused on that because to get anyone in editorial, it's a bit more difficult for them. To get deep in the product. So this is where we focus in our key metric was top line signups how our educational programmes were driving into, into content and, and or sorry, into top of the funnel. The sales team was still pretty small at this time they all fit in. We were still in one office, we hadn't expanded globally, and they were learning through us Moses. sales enablement was not an issue at this time. When we moved on to series C, that's when our investors said okay, you've proved that you can grow and scale really quickly. Now show us that you can become a multi product organisation that you can generate higher deal sizes for each, you know, for each deal and by selling new products into your base. At this point, Product Marketing sort of focus really closely on aligning with the product team. incubating and launching and enabling the team to sell new products. Fast forward to today. A big the biggest issue we have is enabling the sale Sales Team to be really effective in terms of, we're hitting our top of funnel lead numbers, but we're having trouble making sure that we're turning those into revenue at the same rate that we want. Because we've hired so many people. And we need to go back to the basics of figuring out how do we simplify the message across all of our products? How do we make sure it's very clear what the message should be to the the Self Service segment versus the enterprise segment. And that's where we're focused a lot today. So whatever it is that you're focusing on, I mean, you do have to do a few different things as a product marketer, but my recommendation would be to try to make your metric and your Northstar as close to the biggest company meat as possible. And then communicate your focus, especially if it's changing when you're so cross functional in nature. If you don't tell folks what you're doing now, and if that might be different than what you were doing before and the why the Why is so important. They won't be able to fill those gaps either The second lesson is knowing your customer. This may sound like obvious to all of you in the room, all you product marketers, but I think it's so important because knowing your customer is the only way that you're going to drive credibility and value no matter where it is that you're focusing. You know any of those options I recommended before, and you need to constantly be curious and refine your understanding of your customer their problems, the alternatives they have in the market. This will help you build read messaging that actually resonates that they can connect with will help you influence the product roadmap if that's something you're having trouble doing. To get that seat at the table, and will also help your market your greater marketing team develop effective campaigns. There are so many tools at your disposal to know your customer better. My favourite is just talking to them. Customer interviews, figuring out what it is you're trying to learn setting up an interview programme riding along on deals Getting a direct customer expertise. I also love to recommend starting with existing data sets that you have at your company. You know, somebody's probably collecting NPS, there's a treasure trove of information and those comments, some will make you sad, but you know, they're very interesting. You might have a lot of deals closed one and loss analysis and Salesforce, you can analyse. You could talk to analysts, you could do competitive research, there's so many different things you can do to know your customers, it's really important to prioritise doing that, even if you feel like you have a lot of other things you need to do.

Diana Smith  10:39
It's not enough to know your customers and have all

these insights swimming

Diana Smith   10:42
around in your head. You need to synthesise and prioritise what's the most important thing what's the most important thing to know about our customer. And what's the most important asked to make to product for example, if everything's on fire, nothing is on fire as a product manager, the people you're trying to work with thanks. have so much data that's coming at them every day. You have to empathise with them and and know that the value you bring is if it's the clearest and most concise stack ranked recommendations based on all of your customer analysis. So I really recommend you think about how do you synthesise that research that you've done, and then iterate not just on the product, there's probably things that you learn, there's going to have impact for marketing, maybe there's a message you're sharing out into the market that's not resonating. Maybe there's an objection that the sales team is getting a lot that you could probably address with with a little different of approach. So make sure that you're not just giving these insights back to product but you're also taking a look in the mirror and say how could we do better based on what we've learned?

Diana Smith  11:47
Our third

Diana Smith  11:48
lesson the one you may be most curious about. Love yourself, and I'll be more specific. Love your linky awkward teenage self. This was a Recommendation or you know, came about from an event where I heard one of our investors speaking His name is Ali rosani. And he is a partner at Y Combinator. He mentioned that startups are like awkward teenagers, they're growing faster in some areas and slower and other areas. And this creates growing pains, but some places might be more mature than other places. And that's totally okay, that's totally normal. And there's never going to be a time where you could cover everything that's going on, that you can,

Diana Smith  12:34
you know, boil that you can

manage all the potential things that you could do,

and you just have to be okay with that and a

high growth company that some things are going to be going better than others. What I've learned to embrace this craziness of growth is a few things. One, that giving clear ownership over the most important things is going to help your team focus. Then you want to watch out for the orphans. Whatever The things you're saying no to time and time again, write them down. And third, that no order structure is perfect. So don't spend too much time agonising over that. And I'll give you some examples. So throughout the time at segment, different things have been clear owners when I started as a first marketer, I was mostly focused on messaging positioning, demand, in some case studies, anything that wasn't completely on fire was an orphan.

As we got bigger,

Diana Smith   13:30
we started to have some lights specialisation in the product marketing team, where some people own different features that had metrics associated with that feature, whether its revenue or lead generation, and then they had a minor you know, their major was a feature that minor was in something, sales enablement related something like competitive or sales content. At that point, we realised

Diana Smith  13:52
AR and PR was becoming an orphan we were we were

Diana Smith   13:54
doing it I was doing it not very well, and we realised that was actually something super important to drive our Growth into the enterprise. And that was something we had to focus on hiring next.

Diana Smith  14:05

essentially, I say this to to say,

when you're

Diana Smith  14:12
doing your best at high growth company, you need to ruthlessly prioritise what's the most important thing. And if you try to do everything, you're not going to do anything, well, just take note of what those things are that you can't do and whether or not they're really going to make a big impact if you could hire someone to do them. Another lesson I heard learn the hard way is that when you're trying to adopt these new orphans, and you're trying to

Diana Smith  14:37
grow as fast as possible, you might want to rush your hiring

process. I definitely recommend against this. You want to make sure that you're truly assessing if the candidates are going to be a good fit for your culture, and have the experience that you need. Pink flags will turn into red flags later in the hiring process. So don't hire too quickly. The orphan can be an orphan A little bit longer because it will take you more time to adjust your team if you don't pay more attention in the beginning of the hiring process, getting to the organisational structure. I've had so many conversations with different Product Marketing Leaders about this. What's yours? Like? What's mine? Like? What's the pros and cons? There's no perfect situation here. And that's okay. If you organise by product line, this is very common. You're going to have a great relationship with a product team, there's going to be 1pm to another PMM. And they'll have a great relationship to influence the roadmap. The problem is you may not be as good at doing cross

product messaging

across all your product lines, you need to make sure somebody's thinking

about that.

The flip side is true. If you

Diana Smith   15:48
align by customer segment, you may be really close to sales, they may feel really prepared, but you may lose a little bit of your influence on the product side.

Diana Smith  15:57
And then another common structure is go to market

Diana Smith   16:00
Where you have people more like solutions oriented folks, and then inbound Product Marketing oriented folks, the great thing about this is that you can cover more of the spectrum of the scope of what product marketing can do. But the con is that you might have to double up on some resources for some things, or some folks maybe in the solution side, may lose a bit of the technical product knowledge, and that that may need to be addressed as well. So this is to say, a line based on what's most important, but don't spend too much of your effort. really worrying about the product structure, you can change it if the needs change. And that's most of the lessons I want to share with you today. Just to recap, focus on where your gaps are as a company, they communicate what that focus is. Second, know your customer better than anyone else. This is how you're going to add value. And provide insights, no matter where it is you're focused on the many potential things you could be focused on as a product marketer. And third, know that some things will grow faster than others, some things you're not gonna be able to get to. That's okay. That's what makes working at a fast growing company fun. And that's, that's why, you know, I for one, like working at a company like segment. Thank you so much for your time. This has been an episode of scaling, Product Marketing at a high growth startup. I want to leave you with one quote from one of our customers. The CTO of glossier, which is a hip makeup company. For those of you who don't know, he said, we like to do pain driven development, where there is pain. We fix it. Along with that, and one last thing, because I can't help it. I'm a marketer. We have our big user conference next week. If you are really interested in thinking about how data can help you improve Prove your customer experience or you have product managers or analysts that want to learn about this. Feel free to come to our event next week, right here in San Francisco, all about data.

Diana Smith  18:11
Thank you.