Want to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of go-to-market strategy, where every decision presents a new puzzle to solve?

In this episode, Kevin Tate, Chief Revenue Officer at Kivo and go-to-market executive with 25 years of sales and marketing experience reflects on the importance of patience in the marketing world, emphasizing the need for long-term strategies over short-term fixes, the importance of adapting sales approaches to virtual interactions, and The critical role of intuition in decision-making. From sealing big deals to tackling tough challenges, Kevin’s insights will inspire you to conquer your marketing hurdles.

Listen to the podcast here


From Positioning to Engagement: A CRO’s Take on Crafting Winning Marketing Strategies and Driving Business Growth

My signature question which my audience loves. And this is what I get started with, with my guests as well, which is, how do you view and define a good market?

Well, that’s a good one to start with. And again, thanks for having me. You know, it’s, I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day of go-to-market. And so it’s fun to kind of take a step back and think about the meta question. So what is go to market, I think of go to market as the combination of sales and marketing and business development activities that ultimately drive the business, right? And so there’s a bunch of people and activities that springs to mind when you say that, but I think it’s also it’s the strategy, and it’s the people and the systems and the budgets and the and the processes that support all of that, too. And so, I like to think of go to market as the front of the boat, if you will. But it’s also the rudder that’s trying to steer that boat, you know, through the market and navigate those waters. And so there’s a lot that goes into that.

I like that analogy. It’s the boat analogy. It’s pretty good. It’s very visual, people get that.

The time anyone’s ever used the boat analogy. I’m sure. So yeah, we’ll see. Um, that one. Yeah,

So you did mention sales, marketing, and biz-dev. Something that caught my attention is how there is no product or even customer success in there. 

That’s a really good, great, and customer success should be in there for sure. But I think it’s one way I like to think about go-to-market and its relationship to the business and an oversimplification. But if you zoom way, way out on a business, you might describe it as making a compelling promise that the product can keep. And if you really just start, you know, underlining and taking apart all those different words that make a compelling promise part. That’s all the sales and marketing and positioning, and how do you start the conversations? And how do you, you know, couch, your feature benefits, everything goes into, and it’s, it’s got to be compelling, right, and you’ve got to be making it to people for whom it matters. And then that second part of the sentence that the product or service can keep, that is where I think about what the product actually does, how customer success delivers that value, how you’re able to structure the company to deliver it in a way that’s, you know, profitable, or keeps you in business, all the things that go into keeping that promise. And so like to kind of zoom back and think about it some level, that’s really, you’re gonna make a compelling promise. And hopefully, you’re gonna keep it and everything else is kind of in the service of that. 

I like the way you structured it into tools, really simple concept. I mean, simple sense, as simple as it can get, but very hard to execute. Convey your compelling promise, and then keep the promise it’s those two things. Right. And that’s the go to market piece. And, yeah, I mean, listen to and I hear this conversation and topic and definitions from a lot of the guests. There’s no right or wrong answer for sure. I mean, a lot of gray areas. The only reason I keep bringing it back into product, or as you mentioned and pointed out it can be a service as well, is it starts with that. But some folks say that, yes, you do have to think about how you define and create the product or service. But how you go to market is not the product piece.

Well, your points are a great one too. And I think, especially in the last few years, I’ve done a lot of work with product-led growth companies, which is such an interesting point. So it mix of that right and how we think about the product, perhaps to sort of abuse my earlier analogy, the product in that way is making its own promise. And in fact, it’s trying to keep that promise through you know, what might be very little interaction from the go-to-market team. And so I think it’s it’s probably been heard some of these lines, especially compared to 5-10 years ago? 

Yeah, for sure. So that’s a product lead growth, go-to-market motion that you’re referring to. And the other one that comes to mind is either in the very early phases like it’s just a concept or idea in someone’s mind. And then the go-to-market team, especially product marketing, if you have someone in Product Marketing, they would work very closely with the product in understanding and bringing the market insights. Right. So there is that piece of it’s not going to market but thinking about how we go to market, right from the early days.

Yeah. And I’m glad you brought that up. Because in the post, we’ll talk about this more. But I think of Product Marketing as really the crux, right? It’s sort of where the two parts of that sentence meet. It’s where you’re trying to, you know, every day and every week and do every release, and do every quarterly planning figure out how do I make sure I’m balancing that promise and how I keep it. So I love product marketing, I feel like it’s it’s the most fun. 

Fantastic, I’m sure we’ll dig into that specific topic more because that’s very near and dear to my heart. Let’s zoom out a bit. Why don’t you share with our listeners, your career story, your professional journey along the way, and all the transitions? And what led you to what you’re doing today?

Yeah, wow, I know more about me. Well, so you know, I started as a technical solution consultant, and then also working very closely with product marketing, back in the early days of the internet, so I mean, like 96,97. And, and that was a really interesting sort of trial by fire, right, we were doing what was then called dynamic publishing, and then became known as E-commerce and, and to be at the center of that technical revolution and business revolution and getting to work with these companies who were really trying to figure out an input to work the promise and potential of the internet. I just kind of fell in love with it. So, I have spent my career now leading some versions of sales and marketing both for startup companies and stale and scale-up companies for about 25 years. And I found that I really like working on emerging markets, and fast-moving technologies, where those things are reshaping how work is done, or how value is captured. And, and it’s not clear how it’s gonna play out, you know, so even as a small company, you might have an opportunity to help figure that out and shape that. And that’s, that’s sort of what excites me.

Really cool. Yeah, I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile, clearly. I mean, your first job is very interesting golf pro international robot testing, budgeting. 

And yeah, that was my very first startup. So I got out of school. And I started working with a friend I’d met. actually working at the coffee house that was building robotic golf caddies to carry your clubs around the course. incredibly complicated little things that never quite worked. But it’s hard to even talk about how sort of unreliable GPS and things like that were in 1995. But you know, I got to kind of do everything. I’m soldering boards, and I’m flashing EEPROMs and building robots and then putting on hats with antennae in them and going and showing the robots to investors. It was awesome. But and I and I got, again, a real trial by fire around, like, what Startup life and culture and technology was about. And yeah, that was that I think that’s really what planted the seed. And I got to work with really great smart people who were doing things that seemed, you know, maybe a little crazy. And so yeah, it’s super, super fun. And what you see, I think, is a version of that, that has now played out across a lot of different emerging industries. I’ve gotten to work in big data and the Internet of Things, in MarTech. And just recently, about six months ago, I made another kind of big industry move and got into life sciences and biotech. I’ve never worked in life sciences at all. And it’s been fascinating to figure out you know, what’s the same and what’s different in terms of how technology and business and productivity work together and Life Sciences?

I’m sure we’ll get into that. But something that caught my attention is you study a career in sales and then something got in your mind where you got pulled into or you went to the quote-unquote dark side the marketing

I liked it the marketing’s the dark side in this scenario. Yeah, you know, that’s a good question. And there was a pretty specific turn there. So we were in the Bay Area for many years and then we left in 2003, I moved up to Portland, Oregon, where we are now maps behind me. And then I got a job at a company called a unit crew working for the VP of marketing there, Chris Reid. I had thought I wanted to be in sales or business development because that’s what I’ve been doing for a while. And Chris sort of enticed me with a very smart and very strategic approach to how you run and lead the go-to-market motion by industry. So I got hired to run the retail industry, which was the largest for our hiring

management system. And that really opened my eyes to how much of the strategic positioning and messaging and role that marketing played in working with sometimes even leading the sales and go-to-market motion and that sort of symbiotic relationship. I really enjoyed that. He was a great, great person to learn from. And I feel like, since then, I’ve not had a role where marketing wasn’t sort of front and center, even if I was running both sales and marketing. 

Very cool. Yeah. And very impressed. I mean, you, as you mentioned, right, you work at small companies, startups, you’ve looked at really large companies. I mean, I see big brands in there. Kronos. Yes. And then SurveyMonkey. Yeah.

Survey Monkey. And yeah, it was clear a bit recently, which was just acquired by HubSpot. So yeah. So small companies and big companies and companies. 

Yeah. And then clear video, the CMO at Clearbit. Anyone and everyone in sales and marketing know they should better know what Clearbit does clear bits. Great. Very cool. And then so what do you do today? You mentioned you are at Kivo.

Yeah, so I jumped into Kivo, which is quite a startup been around for a few years. But it’s a productivity software for life sciences companies, specifically teams that are developing drugs, or medical devices, and bringing those drugs to market, which involves a lot of working with regulatory agencies, and managing clinical trials and, and doing all that with a level of precision and compliance. That is super important. That means there’s a lot of documentation and process and audit trails, which software really helps with, it also happens to be an area where it was paper for a long time. And the electronic or online solutions that a lot of teams are still using, were some of the first that came around. So a lot of people are still using solutions for this that were, you know, came out before the iPhone was invented. So there’s a real opportunity to bring new tools and intuitive, intuitive solutions to it. And that’s that’s what we’re doing at Kivo. So it’s been super fun. I’ve had to learn a million acronyms. It’s been such a learning curve for me around life sciences and Regulatory Affairs and all the things that go into that work. But that’s kind of what I like, I like diving in and understanding how this business, this segment works. And now how do we take some of the things that we’ve learned and, and use that to make it work better? 

Yeah, so Farmar regulatory, it takes me back to I think, when I was doing my internship or a project, while I was at Cornell University, doing an MBA internship project was around, I think, working with a pharma company who were doing their clinical trials. Oh, yeah, helping them or recommending a go-to-market?

Oh, wow. Yeah, you are in it. You’re in it. You know, how complicated these trials are? And how long do they take? 

Yeah, you know!

And that has been an interesting thing, you know, probably a bunch of different vectors to look at life sciences versus some of these other industries. But let’s take the last two. So when I was at Clearbit, working in the market, a lot of times the companies that we were working with, and the timescales on which they were thinking about growing their business and making investments in technology, we’re quarters, right? I mean, you know, we need this because we’ve got something planned. And so you are often talking about their plan in terms of quarters, perhaps years in, in life sciences, it takes 10-15 years a decade brings something from the lab to the market. So it’s just a completely different timescale. And there’s so many chapters that happen for those companies, and the teams and the technology and the priorities. And so that’s been an adjustment for me understanding the timing of when, when those things are a priority, and how you know, systems like chemo can help when so yeah, it’s been fascinating.

Now, that’s a good seg. That is going to be my next topic, which is who you serve. Who are the customers of Kivo? And how would you think about the go-to-market for Kivo? 

Yeah, sure. So, yeah, from a market segments standpoint, think of it as you know, these emerging, so say, I don’t know, less than 200 person, most often in Pharma and medical device companies. The personas are fascinating because typically it’s the leaders of the regulatory team and the clinical operations team who are working on those clinical trials and working with partners on that. And then the quality team and quality, the management of quality and processes, and is so important in this industry. And so usually those three personas are who we’re working with. Now, it’s what keeps it interesting is, that depending on the size, and stage of the company, you could have one person wearing all three hats, or each of those could be many person departments, each with their own budgets systems, and priorities. And so a lot of what we end up doing is trying to figure out where are you on that journey. And what are the systems or processes you’re using today, and how they’re helping you or, in a lot of cases getting in your way as you try to work together? So a lot of our go-to-market is kind of back to what I said before about some of the older technologies, a lot of it just trying to show what’s possible now and finding ways to when the time is right. Get some attention from one of those roles and say, Hey, did you know you could be doing this, right? Because this is really different than what you could do even five years ago, much less 15 years ago. And, so that is often how our conversations start. And so I’m trying to, you know, how it is when you’re running marketing, you’re trying to find the tea leaves and figure out what’s driving that our VP of Marketing Gianna at Kivo has done such a great job of instrumenting our funnel and awareness and lead generation activities. And so, you know, she’s able to bring to us, okay, this is how we’re getting on different radars of these different personas and starting these conversations. And of course, what’s the, you know, what’s the cost structure and the, you know, customer acquisition cost profiles and all that. And it’s, she’s been so great to work with on that. And then I, as I take that to the sales side, I can say, Okay, well, and then what happens with those conversations? And so, yeah, that’s a bit about how we go to market.

Very cool. Something that it’s related to one of the guests that I had recently on the podcast. So he started a company, a startup, using AI, so he could help streamline the whole clinical trials process. 

Oh, yeah, what company was that?

The company, like I can share more details offline. That’s cool. And while talking to him, he was talking about all the challenges, essentially, with those same personas that you mentioned. And by doing that, he also mentioned about, again, just going back to one of the channels to explore, what he started doing or posting on LinkedIn. I mean, he’s he goes to events, he meets does the best, he speaks there, and so on to drive awareness and bring attention and build a pipeline, something that really caught his attention of late is posting on LinkedIn. Now, prior to my conversation with him, I would imagine anyone from the far mine regulatory and regulatory roles to be active on LinkedIn. But to him is seeing traction on LinkedIn even for traditional.

Yeah, well, we are as well. It’s so funny. We were just looking at this yesterday, as we think about our go to market plan for 2024. And, you know, the value of social advertising and awareness debate would take us many, many podcasts. Right. But I think what we’re seeing, which we saw in Martec, as well, is that for awareness and being in the consideration set when the time is right, LinkedIn, I would say LinkedIn more than other social channels. I mean, I think people see some types of success with you know, Instagram or Facebook, I think with LinkedIn, that is where the earliest mindshare opportunities are in the funnel, and being and creating that awareness. For us. To your point, the timing is so important. And so I don’t know when it’s going to be time for a regulatory Regulatory Affairs leader to think about a new system. It could be this year, next year, the next year, but I do hope that when the time is right, they’ll think of the key though, and we can be a part of that conversation. So we think of LinkedIn and that as that, by contrast, I don’t think of LinkedIn as the place to try to drive people to your form to you know, start a sales process. It’s just, it’s just not quite a CTA environment or call to action.

Yeah, for sure. I mean, as you and I know, it’s only maybe 5 or Max 10% of your target audience and the segments in the quote-unquote, demand capture phase. Yeah, I mean, 90% of your target segment and audience and personas are not even looking to buy. 

Yeah. I do think also, to your point, though, it’s where the conversation is, and not to get all, you know, 2010, 2012 with our terminology here, but as we think about joining the market conversation and being a part of, of going to where the people are, that’s where the people are. And so, finding a way to do that in a way that’s genuine, and isn’t just, you know, looking for an opportunity to say, that’s great. If you heard about Kivo, you know, that’s what we tried to, and actually be a part of the real conversations and the things that people care about in the industry, and then, you know, trust that you will also be a part of the conversation when it turns to solutions. 

So for sure, very cool. Yeah, this has been great. So yeah, I mean, a lot of great points and directions that we went over there. And to your point earlier, right, you mentioned you didn’t want to go into more like a 2010-2012 conversation. For me. I mean, this is where I feel that not just marketing, but even go-to-market teams are not thinking in terms of basics. At the end of the day, all these are basics. Versus go-to-market teams are so much under pressure of hate, deliver, deliver, deliver, we need to hit metrics. 


Versus someone who’s really thinking, okay, yeah, I can make all those phone calls or send all these emails. But then let me take a step back and try to understand again, going back to your point, where does my audience really hang out? 

Yeah, right. 

Yeah. And I think you’re ready to get someone on a call. It says, It’s not about me, it’s about them and serving them, and guiding them to my brand. 

Yeah. Well, but it makes me think, oh, and I’ll nerd out on this for a minute, if you’ll if you’ll forgive me. But as marketers, especially in performance-driven markets, we so want the spend, and the results to be deterministic and linear. And it’s easy to say, Okay, I spent all over here and I got dollar 50 out, and at some level, that does need to be true. And certainly, you want to do the metrics by channel and so on. Right. At the same time, I think in my experience, and we were just looking at this and Kivo, we’ve been fortunate we’ve had a very large increase in our pipeline, and our prospective opportunities. 

And when we look at all the things we did, it’s all the things right, it was the show and the launch, and the webinars we did and the social momentum and the advertising. And there’s an emergent property of that, that is momentum and buzz and pipeline. And so I don’t think it’s entirely you know, well do all the things and hope it’ll just, again, emerge. But it’s also not entirely deterministic, it’d be very hard to take that apart and say dollar by dollar, which led to a deal that didn’t, so I think embracing that a little bit and saying we’re going to, we’re going to push in the right direction and trust start the right kinds of conversations. And we’re going to do with confidence in the channel in the spend. But we’re also probably going to be a little surprised at what pops and what doesn’t and that’s okay. 

Yeah, exactly. I think yeah, just to close out on that, again, not to another on this topic, right? I mean, a couple of things to keep in mind, especially for marketing and even sales to doing some of the lead gen, or demand gen programs, a couple of things is to carve out time and set aside at least three months, don’t expect to see movement week or week or month or month, at least three months. 


That’s one thing, and really wish and hope and pray that you have a CEO and a CFO who will stand by that mindset that you cannot measure each and everything and show hey, here’s the ROI. 

Yeah, the position you’re absolutely right. The patience piece is hard. And I think we’ve all been in situations where you find yourself despite best intentions, sort of week by week, you know, hand wringing over the numbers and say, well, and then you start trying to change and pull levers to your point weekly, and it’s things just don’t change weekly. And so making sure you go to your time scales and the patients and support them is super key. 

Yeah. Very cool. All right. Switching gears here. We’d love to hear your take lessons and reflections on a go-to-market success story. And go to market failure story. I’ll let you pick which one you want to go with. But if you look at either Kivo or even your previous role, yeah, a success and a failure story.

Okay, so I’ve got two that that kind of kind of fit together and are top of mind because literally happening this week. Yeah. So one company found Kivo and loved what we did online set up a meeting and had two meetings with them. They signed up for a year-plus subscription all within eight days. That and yeah, and we have a relatively significant average deal size so that was just fun to watch. Right? You know, call it product market fit and timing all fitting together. But from a marketing standpoint, go to the market name put something really satisfying about just click Yep. You know that, that that’s what we are, that’s the promise and that’s fulfilling it. Yeah. Same time working on an opportunity where if we go back to our three personas, one of those department leaders brought us into an opportunity. And because Kivo serves sort of all three. Now we’ve got all three departments and this pretty sizable company. Now they’re all in the conversation. So picture 16 people representing four different departments, including IT, all with different agendas and budgets and existing

systems and overlapping timelines. And, that’s not to say there isn’t an opportunity there. But as a go-to-market leader I’m very much aware of, okay, we’ve really increased our surface area and the complexity of this. And I can kind of hear that original person saying, I just needed XYZ, right? And so I’m trying to really internalize that and think, Well, how do we balance it? Sure, it’s great to have deals with more, you know, more surface area, larger customers, and larger, larger opportunity, but not if it introduces the cost and complexity that slows everything down or even kills a deal when you could have just solved someone’s need in eight days. And so really trying to think about that and from a positioning and packaging standpoint, and, you know, does that mean, you need to take a unified product and really talk about it as component, parts, even if technically, that’s not as if that’s not required, but it makes it easier to buy based on how companies are structured. So those are some of the things we’re really internalizing as I look at. Yeah, what’s a challenge and an opportunity? That’s become very complicated. 

That’s your success and a failure. It’s not a failure. It’s more of a learning story, I would say. 

Yeah! Frustration. How’s that one? Actually? Yeah. Well, we’ll circle back in two months. And I’ll tell you whether or not it was really a failure. I hope not.

Yes, for sure. That’s a good one. And then anything that comes to your mind, jumps out from your time at Kivo.

Gosh, you know, we worked with so many clever, and it continues to work with so many smart and innovative customers there. I will say one of the one of the things that was fun to watch. And there’s still a bit of, you know, Alchemy required to do this. But we got to see companies and discos in the success category, got to see companies use a combination of really good company data, which was the role that Clearbit played to personalize the website experience, a little not overly done, you know, not like hey, VJ, welcome back. You’re here on Tuesday, and it’s super creepy, no, but like in just a, hey, you’re a small company, I’m going to show you small company stuff, you’re a big company, I’m going to show you big company example. And then match that with a level of personalization on the outreach and follow-up. And really smart awareness targeting through the social channels. So you know, people from that company that are enrolled, let’s make sure we get some Eric, they really stitched it together through a combination of precise data and smart targeting of the systems. And it had a huge effect. And back to that kind of emergent piece, it’d be very hard to say exactly which part made the 5-10 x difference. What I saw a 5-10 x kinds of differences and the effectiveness of people spent and that was really cool to see. So I guess I’d say there’s, as much as it feels like, a lot of these spending strategies and optimizations have been at play for a long time. There’s still a frontier out there, where really good data personalization and targeting can make a huge impact.

Yep, and that’s a holy grail in marketing. Right? I mean, showing the right message to the right person at the right time. Take the right action. 


Sounds easy.

It sounds easy. Yeah. But it is it is very hard to do at scale, as you well know. So yeah, for sure.

Going back to product marketing, I know we briefly touched on that early on in our conversation. So going back to product marketing, I felt that glow or that energy pop up when you brought up the term product marketing. 

So yeah. For me, I guess it’s when I think about product marketing, that I think about the positioning and messaging of both the company and the product, right? And this, you know, this sort of tall ladder of how given the market situation and the buyer psychology. What space do you want to occupy, if you will, at the company and the product and often at the sort of sub-product and component level, and really trying to stitch that together and figure out how to tell stories around that and how to make those stories interesting. You know, there’s almost always this part where you go through that whole exercise and you get down to like It’s this four bullet point, you know, it comes down to our reliability, scalability and flexibility and like, oh, sweet, and then you look at the next day, like, that’s the most boring three words in the world. Okay? We tell an interesting story now like, what is it? Who cares? Why does it matter? And so, for me you know, it’s kind of a never-ending puzzle of unlocking curiosity in the buyer’s mind, even if they’re not actively looking for what you’re you’re, you know, offering them just curiosity that will last so that actually were saying earlier when the time is right. They go: Oh, yeah. You know, Kivo piqued my curiosity. Curiosity is so much more powerful and Kivo appears to have reliable and scalable infrastructure. That’s just, so anyway, yeah.

For sure. I mean, the way I think about product marketing is like 6 or 7, 8 categories, you have the positioning and messaging. Even prior to that is the customer insights.

How do you have a solid customer insights program? Yeah, and then following up to that, depending on your if it’s if your sales lead, you’ll have sales enablement? Yep. Then there is the new product launch. There’s a new market entry or market expansion. And continuing on that spectrum, you have product content, product at auction, and even then customer expansion. 

Yeah, yeah!

The entire spectrum.

And they all fit together, and it never ends. And it’s all overlapping. I mean, there are so many fun ways to try to structure or bring a lens to that to that activity. I often go all the way back to Crossing the Chasm for some of this positioning, and this, of all the things in that book, I think this whole product concept is a really powerful one. And one that again, just sort of never goes away. And being honest with yourself about, you’re never really presenting the whole product, the customer always has to bring something to it. Even if it’s only the energy to learn how your product works. They are part of that recipe. And just the more honest you can be about what it feels like to be in their shoes. I think the better and, and that’s at the heart of I think a lot of the best product marketing.

Yeah, for sure. And glad you mentioned Crossing the Chasm. I think that’s a classic book for anyone in the go-to-market.

It’s a good one. 

And yeah, I mean, just a side promo. I had Geoffrey Moore on the podcast, 

Did you really?

Spoke with him a couple of weeks or about a month ago. And his podcast is going to come out next week or two? 

No way. Oh, wow. Well, now? Now, I feel really honored. Thank you for having me.

All right. Now this is a good whole product. I mean, so many of these things. So coming back to product marketing. So where do you think are the one two or three challenges in those six, or eight categories that we mentioned specifically when it comes to Kivo?

So it’s a good question. So one of our biggest challenges slash opportunities, kind of back to the legacy systems, and how much things have changed with respect to these online tools are people not necessarily knowing that new options are available. Right. So a lot of the there without, you know, getting into deep specifics, there tend to be a bunch of sort of do-it-yourself tools or file sharing things and ways of organizing using spreadsheets. And then there’s a handful of big, big enterprise systems that cost you know, six figures and take six months to implement. And they’re there for a long time, there wasn’t much in between. Key offers a different path, we offer a fundamentally different approach to this thing. So that’s kind of number one is like how do you, you know, how do you find the right way to say, hey, there’s something new over here and this and maybe, maybe you’d kind of written it off as well, one day, we’ll do that they could be today because there are new options available. So So that’s, that’s a big one. The other is, I think, finding ways and I think it is challenging and complicated, especially workflow-driven, like b2b product, how do you bring those real differentiators are really, you know, cool, cool bits? How do you bring those to the front of the conversation? Right? How do you find a way in the second sentence, or even the first sentence to say something that someone Oh, how do you do that? Right, again, sparking that curiosity? Because so often the first six sentences are yes, yes. Yes, of course, you have part 11 compliant document management e-signature, and yes, of course, you generate audit trails that didn’t collect you just so how do you how do you skip to the good part? Right, generate some curiosity and then come back. And you know, in the case of Kivo, these are very complicated systems and processes and to a point before, we’ve got at least three real personas that we’re talking to, and they have different hot buttons and different things. So how do I, how do you plant those seeds or spark that curiosity across those personas, is it an interesting thing to think about? 

Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, it goes back to, I would say it starts with a customer insight program, constantly being in touch with those different personas in the case of Kivo. And then tying it back to positioning and messaging and seeing what is resonating and what is started instant feedback. 

Yeah, I will, you know, and to that point, and this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. So in previous roles, you know, just to pick on one, one of my roles, I had 85-90, folks on the sales team, we’re all using, you know, online, online meeting software, the records and tracks everything. And so in the back of my mind was always, oh, I really need to, you know, make time to watch those recordings and listen to what customers are saying. And there was never enough time to and we tried and to your point, you create a customer insight and feedback loop. But it’s all very abstract, right? And it’s sort of oh, look at the themes that are coming up. And it’s really hard to get a tangible visceral sense of Kibo. Like I said, things are very busy. I’m talking to Alan about customer calls with the product, and hearing what they think about it 15 to 20 times a week right now. And it’s incredible. I mean, just the sheer amount of, you know, pattern recognition, opportunity and like, what lights them up and what confuses them, and what’s unexpected, and what seems to be a gap. So, you know, I don’t know quite how to bottle some of that. But I think perhaps stating the obvious there’s, there’s really no substitute for just time spent with prospects and customers in front of the product together. 

No, for sure, I think that was my biggest lesson, I took the end, from my first product marketing role about a decade or more than a decade back at Microsoft we can structure a perfect pitch deck. In fact, it takes me reminds me of the conversation I was having with my boss. He was like a product marketing director and he said, go test it out with the first sales. I mean, not first, but the topmost right for him. And I go talk to him. I mean, within five years, he just cuts me down. He just cuts my ego and says, By the way, do you honestly think you can pitch and get a customer to not follow you along? Seriously? Yes, put me in the spot. That’s great. Right. I’ve been there. I’ve been there. Actually. Customers. Yeah, I mean, sitting in Delhi, you can only think and craft.

Yeah, no, it is. It is so hard. But also it’s what makes it fun. Right? So yeah.

Exactly. Pretty cool. Ah, yeah. Let’s see, what are like, the one or two things that people reach out to you for Kevin, I mean, in terms of, hey, I’m struggling with maybe some parts of God market or marketing or something. And then they think, Hey, Kevin, he’s a great guy, I need to reach out to him.

You know, I get pulled into the positioning and messaging piece a lot. So I’ve had a couple of points in my career where I was doing, you know, some independent consulting projects. And that’s a lot of what it tended to be, hey, we’re, you know, we’re so close to it. We’ve kind of got we’ve got the curse of knowledge here. Help us understand quickly. What does the market look like? What’s our position on that? What story? Are we really telling? How different is that story? How could we shape it in a way that, again, isn’t making a promise we can’t keep but boy is a lot sharper? In terms of the conversation that starts, I’ve gotten to do a lot of that work. It’s hard work. You know, it’s sometimes it feels like the answers are more insightful or actionable than others. But I really enjoy that work. And, and it’s so different. Well, on the one hand, the components and the specifics are so different based on the market and the product, but on the other hand, is sheer just cycling, so the fundamentals and the structure are often very much the same. So you get to do some pattern recognition. 

Yeah, for sure. I’ll see that as well. Right? I mean, people pull me in and as you in your previous roles as an independent consultant, they pull you in, because you’ve got that external perspective, and they don’t have the and you don’t have the curse of the knowledge. That’s but the challenge is, we can guide as consultants and advisors we will guide but at the same time, it takes months and quarters to see if it’s resonating or not. 

Yeah, no, it’s true. It’s True, and perhaps your experience has been the same. Rarely, you know, just a super generalized rarely is the answer from that exercise, hey, you need to tell a bigger story to more people about more things, it’s almost always you need to zoom in on this part over here for these and spend twice as much time on that, which almost always comes with a Oh, but you’ll have to give up these types of deals or this that and it’s really hard to make those, you know, Do this twice as much and this half as much kind of decisions. But it’s almost always that right? 

Yep, for sure. Again, takes me back to the conversation. I was having Geoffrey Moore and he was on the board of one of the companies and I asked him, Okay, what changed? And why did the trajectory of the company change? And he said, to your point exactly that which is the CEO took a bold decision to say, hey, we will not go after XYZ and only focus on a specific segment and persona. 

Yeah, those are hard choices. Those are hard choices. There is a book that comes to mind. Richard Remelt has written a couple of books. Now the first one was good strategy, bad strategy. His most recent one was called the crux. He may have more, but I think they’re great. And what I really like about them is the cut right to this is going to be the hardest part. And all the other stuff you kind of talk about because you’re avoiding the harder part. You know, like, Oh, do we wish they just talk about the hardest part? Because once you’ve got the kernel, as he turns it into a good strategy, or you’ve understood the crux of your primary obstacle to achieving that strategy, everything else kind of falls into place. So a big fan of his books.

Very cool. And then when it comes to again, go to market, what are a couple of things that are keeping you curious or interested? I mean, yeah, I mean, we know ChatGPT and everything. 

One thing that I have been thinking about recently and haven’t had time to think about as much as I’d like is I feel like selling over Zoom, or Teams, or whatever, which is 99% of it now and B2B has changed, has changed the game more than we realize, or perhaps in ways we’re really just starting to realize, right, because they’re not like face to face, knees. They’re also not like being on the phone. And so the way engaging your presentation is, how engaging you are, how you choose to spend that time whether or not people have their cameras on how you architect a sales process, and the role that these meetings play and the role that follows up play. It’s, it’s all been rewritten. And you know, whether you’re taking a challenge or sales approach, or you use something like the Sandler method to do great discovery, like, all those smart approaches need to be sort of readapted for what is a zoom-based selling process? And I feel like we’re still really early actually, in internalizing that and putting that to best work.

No! For sure, especially when it comes to the smaller deal size and the mid-market. deal size. 

Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah. And the difference for your company, if you can close, say, 15-20k deals in 1 meeting versus 2 or 10 meetings is huge. That’s a How do you do that? And, and so anyway, I just feel like that’s, I haven’t read that book yet. Like, what’s what’s really happening now in the way that people buy and sell?

Very cool. And then, yeah, I mean, heading to more of the finish line, and last couple of questions where I know you need to jump on to other things. So you did mention one person, like, I believe, I don’t recall his name, but he was an EVP or VP. Yeah, who shaved your career? So who are like the one two or three people who really played a key role, like a mentor or someone you look up to? And go back to maybe?

Yeah, it’s a good question. I think. Without a doubt, the company I mentioned that I spent seven years at during the early days of the Internet was called Fort Point and Fort Point Partners, and the brothers who were the CO CEOs, Matt and Jamie Roche were incredibly influential. I mean, I was there from 22 to 29. And they have taught me how to be in business. I didn’t realize that at the time, but they also taught me how to be respectful of customers build meaningful teams, and help people have lives at work. And so, so that was a huge influence that I didn’t even appreciate until I was a little bit older. 

I think another person, I have to call out through this, this journey through all these different companies and stages and adventures is, is my wife, Jen, she, you know, because what same thing kind of happens every time right? Dive into some new company, a new industry, and all excited about it, I’m gonna learn this whole thing. And then you’ll fast forward, you know, four or five, six months later, I’m just beating my head against the wall, because I’m really trying to figure out this position and make a mark, you know, and she, one is very supportive. And says, you know, by the way, you chose this, you choose this every time you like this part. Yeah. Don’t forget that you like this part. And then and by the way, you can do it. And so she’s been an incredibly helpful and supportive partner through what has been, you know, a lot of different careers packed into one career. 

So very cool. Very cool. So when this podcast episode comes out, make sure she listens to this. 

There you go. Thank you.

Very cool stuff. And then yeah, the final question for you, Kevin, is if you want to turn back, clock, turn back time, and go back to day one of your go-to-market journey. What advice would you give to yourself?

I think I’d tell myself to follow my intuition a bit more, or not be afraid to follow my intuition. And, and by that, I don’t mean that I was right, more than I thought. It’s not that it’s more realizing that especially in the scaling companies and these emerging markets, there’s such power that comes from the conviction of saying, we’re gonna go that way. And here we go. And that has a huge impact internally, and also externally, as companies see your conviction and direction. And then it’s, it’s too easy to get kind of stuck, even paralyzed and trying to figure out exactly which way to go when you’re only 70-80 %. Sure. And I’d tell my younger self. Yeah, 70%. Just go. And that client gets a 100. 

Yeah, for sure. Intuition. And funny, you said that the reason for being off late, maybe over the last 6 or 12 months, I’ve been doing a bit of reacher research and study around how people build intuition. And it comes down to a couple of things and principles, right? One is, at the end of the day, you’re building pattern recognition. 


Based on the data and output or results and experiences. Early on in your career, you don’t have that much to build off of, then maybe over the next decade or so after you start your career. That’s when you start building your own instincts. 

Yeah, yeah, exactly. 

Right. I mean, you can learn and research and accelerate the learning from others. But that end of the day, it’s I mean, it’s almost bringing to my mind. It’s like a machine learning model. 

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and to your point being, having the confidence or the opportunity early in our careers, to just say, you know, I don’t know, I haven’t seen this entity before. I’m gonna go ask someone who might know. And that’s okay. You know, being willing to ask for help and ask for advice, which you know, is sometimes hard to do.

So, very cool. Excellent. Thank you for your time. Wonderful conversation. Kevin. Thank you and good luck to you and the team at Kivo.

Thank you. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.


Have you ever wondered how marketing strategies evolve in the face of rapidly changing buyer landscapes? In this episode, Priya Doty, a seasoned product marketing leader, shares the challenges and triumphs of shaping a team to meet the evolving needs of the market. Learn how she transformed a business unit by aligning it with the cloud, the challenges faced, and the strategies that shaped success. From the intricacies of product launches to the art of effective messaging, get ready for a deep dive into the complexities and triumphs of go-to-market strategies.

Listen to the podcast here

Strategizing Go-to-Market Triumphs: Customer Insights, Positioning Strategies, and Sales Enablement Tactics.

The signature question: Yeah, fantastic. So given your varied experience across large companies, startups, different roles, product marketing, and, even CMO kind of roles? So how do you view and define go to market?

Well, this is where it gets really interesting, because the core of it is, like, it’s a process, right? It’s a process of getting the product into the hands of customers, and doing that at scale and doing it profitably. And that is what I ultimately think of as a go-to-market. But, you know, saying that it’s a process makes it sound, almost too scientific maybe. And if you actually go and you look at the industry, and even just, you know, the world, in general, customers may always need the same products, but the way that they consume the product, the way that they get the product that changes all the time. So when I started my career, the way that a customer would receive the product, you know, maybe would be primarily sales lead, and now it’s moved to partner lead or product lead, digitally lead, and in the future, it might be more driven by mobile or driven by some other channels. 

So I think that’s what’s really interesting about go to market, because there’s a tendency we have, as professionals, to want to break things down into methodologies and frameworks and say to ourselves that, you know, if we know this framework, we know what go to market is. But the reality is that every challenge you have is a little different, you know, and it’s it requires some creativity, it requires some testing, to figure out what the right thing is. And over time, there are these big discontinuous jumps in the way that products are delivered, you know, starting with the advent of digital web-based solutions, moving from that to mobile, moving from that to social moving from that to cloud. And you know, now where we find ourselves with AI, eventually becoming essentially a platform of distribution. So I think that’s also a really fat, you know, an interesting factor about go to market, which is why, you know, what keeps our jobs challenging, right? 

Yeah, for sure. And for me, as you’re stating your views and perception about how you view go to market, one word that caught my attention, and which is very key, and I just want to emphasize that for the listeners, which is process a lot of people when they hear that word, it’s very project management, or like a program management kind of thing. And that’s the perception at least I get And a lot of folks get that. But the key thing I want to emphasize and for the listener to take away is it it’s a process in the sense is iterative, right? So think of it as I mean, if you look at like a tech, in the case of a tech product, you have a version one, version two, version three, and so on. 

And same thing goes with go to market in terms of like, how we are positioning, who are you targeting? How is the messaging coming across? Is it coming across or not? And the different channels in which your effort records blog, or sales, lead event community, and so many of these combinations? So it’s an iterative thing. It also depends on the stage of the company stage of the product stage of the market, and so on. 

All Yeah, all of that, all of that. I mean, I think half of the battle for a smaller company is actually creating a process in the first place. And half the battle for a large company is sometimes testing, you know, multiple iterations, feedbacks, versions, and things like that. So yeah, but you know, I guess, I think in a very sort of methodical way that

That sticks, so with that big picture, let’s actually take a step back, why don’t you share with the listeners your broad story as to how you started your career in the professional? And what got you to where you are today?

Got it? Well, I guess I always start this discussion by saying that I started as a techie, I started as a developer. And I say that because that is at the core of who I am. I mean, I’m not writing code today. But that’s how I started. And so the way I think about technology, why I care about it, is because it’s always had the power to change people’s lives. And that was true when I started and it’s true today, and the interplay of technology and people is what makes me excited about working on it. The other thing that I could say is that, because I like technology, because I like change, I’ve always been at heart, I’ve always been an intrapreneur, which I essentially define as somebody who can make change within an existing organization. 

And so, you know, as I’ve grown in my career, I’ve mostly worked in larger companies. But I’ve also had stints at smaller companies. But the continuous thing has been this sense of like, okay, how can I help start something new at a bigger company, or transform something at a bigger company? And when it comes to the bigger companies, I’ve had, you know, experiences at every place from IBM, where I was product marketing, and CMO of a larger server division, CA Technologies, Samsung, UPS, Verizon, so lots of big names. But you know, like I just told you, I just wrapped up a stint at a startup, called Neuroblade where I was CMO for this data analytics startup. And so it’s, you know, my career has taken a lot of Divergent Paths. 

You know, at one point, I actually also worked in the ad agency world at Ogilvy. But what I’ve always enjoyed is, again, seeing the technology up close and personal, and just kind of understanding how to make people’s lives or companies, jobs, and sort of customers better off. So yeah, that’s, that’s a little bit about my journey. It has not been a completely linear journey. But I have definitely moved and progressed, you know, that path from individual contributor to manager to director to VP to CMO. And you know what I think at every step, it’s been an interesting jump in terms of the learning.

Yeah, no, definitely a very, very accomplished career path for sure. And there are so many things that I want to dig into over there. But let’s just focus on two one is something that stands out is a thread of how you’re shifting it from adjacent roles or in HS in companies. So for example, like delighted to work at Leo Burnett, and then Thomson Reuters to Verizon, IBM, in between Agosti. And like, you’ve clearly evolved from a very product-centric, product-oriented to going all the way to like a brand and community. So what is the thought process like and what are your learnings initiative, different product or brand to now product-centric? Cm?

Yeah, that’s a really interesting, interesting question. So I started Yeah, I started in tech, and like, you know, more product, like you said, and what I loved about product, again, was the idea that you could help customers solve their problems. And I was doing everything from, you know, writing PRD documents to briefing engineering and handling pre-sales for customers, and a lot of the things you would do as, you know, a product, you know, product manager or product leader, yeah. And when I decided to make the jump over to Ogilvy, it was actually a bit of a leap, right? Because the common thing that I had was the strategy. I knew how to do marketing strategy.

And I had that working for me, I understood, you know, financial statements and numbers, but I didn’t know anything about marketing, communications, or branding. So, I had a very creative side to me, which is why I wrote and that piece of It was missing on the pure product side for me. So Ogilvy was a great experience because I always think of it as almost like a second business school. And for people out there who are interested in a career in marketing, you know, I would almost suggest they try the consulting route. Because to get an amazing experience, and you know, learn a little bit about a lot of things. And then once you’ve figured out what you like, you can go into what you like. And so that’s kind of what I did. I spent, you know, about four years at Ogilvy, I did brand strategy work for Samsung, and I did digital strategy for UPS on the UPS account in a couple of other projects. But what I realized was I had learned a lot, and I liked the product, sort of branding, product marketing, product strategy, whatever you want to call it, that’s about when I went back into the tech side. 

And so I had a chance to work at CA and that CA I was in, one of the software divisions, was a $2 billion division, I was hired by a VP of product marketing, who at the time was sort of building out her team, and it was an awesome opportunity to just kind of come in and help her build it, then ultimately work with a GM who was in the process of transforming the unit. Ultimately, that whole division as well as CA as a total got sold to Broadcom It was a really cool experience to kind of be a part of that transformation and helped to transform the way we marketed and told our story to customers, then you know, and then from there, I went to IBM, where I took over a CMO VP for a large server division. So over $7 billion, I think much more than that, and practicality. And you know, that was again, a chance to be a part of a big division that had a lot of impact on the ecosystem of the server of IBM Z, you know, there was a lot of impact in terms of the just the, the breadth of the product and the type of customers that we were dealing with. And then yeah, and then I took a little bit of a leap of faith to try something new at a startup and get to see kind of the other side of the world and learn a little bit about data analytics and the world of chips startups. 

So, yeah before, I definitely want to dive into like how the links and the intricacies that you had to deal with, and and handle when you worked as a CMO at a large company like IBM. But prior to that, I think I want to go back to the time how you landed at Ogilvy, mainly because I completely endorse your view and recommendation that folks who are really committed to and want to grow in marketing, definitely have to be involved on the more heard side of things like brands where you can’t really measure but that’s really key, like how do you tell the story? Why doesn’t a brand even exist in the first place? And for more major brands, things like I mean accounts that you mentioned about Samsung and use, what was the role that you played there and why it mattered, right? And as you’re talking about that Korea will help are also saying or sharing how you broke into and got on the radar of your hiring manager at Ogilvy because you’re on a very product-centric career path till then. So what do you make a decision? 

Okay, so, yes. So how I broke into Ogilvy was, like I mentioned through the strategy route, you know, so I would say, look for something you have in common, that they are looking for some skill that can be transferable. And in my case, it was strategy. I had a business school degree, and I understood, you know, go-to-market strategy from my time at Verizon. And so I was able to take that skill that they needed, which was a marketing strategist for the UPS account. And that got me in the door. Okay, the minute I got in the door, I was part of the UPS account. And that meant that there was a team of about 15 or 20 people probably more. And they had a whole circle, right there were the people who were the creatives, there were the strategists and planners, the account people, media, you know, events, the classic advertising buyers, all kinds of different people demand gen people, right? And so I was part of this circle of people. But because I was curious to learn about marketing, I really spent more than just the time on my particular particular function I really tried to learn everybody’s function and understand what they were doing so that I could learn more to write. So that’s probably one piece of advice if you can just get in the door, then you can start to learn from your colleagues and understand what they are doing. 

One of the projects I took on, which was really useful was I helped to launch UPS My Choice. And so this is a brand that is really interesting, and I think it actually follows a similar pattern to a number of b2b brands, at least at the time that I was working with it. They have a core b2b Focus, most of the b2b focus, they generate sales and revenue using sponsorships, right? So they sponsor large, large football or NASCAR, whatever. They use sponsorship packages, the hospitality packages in order to generate business. So most of the advertising work that we did at Ogilvy was actually focused on the small and medium business sector, which were the people, the everyday mom-and-pop shops, the small businesses, everything from one person all the way up to, you know, four or 500 people. 

And for those people, you can imagine there are 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of small businesses around the world. And so our job at Ogilvy was to help brand ups for those people and get them excited about using ups. Like a lot of other B2B brands, customers didn’t always know all of the services that UPS offered. And so one of our jobs was to get people to understand the breadth of the services. But it was also to create a little bit more heart around ups so that people felt more connection to the company. So that was really the role of the brand. In terms of my role on the team, I helped to launch a new mobile app called UPS My Choice, which I believe still exists today. But when we launched it, it was brand new, it was the first V to C mobile app that UPS had ever launched. They had no idea what they were doing in b2c. Yeah. And our team had a goal of having a million subscribers in six months, sorry, in a year. Okay, we hit that goal in six months. 


And I believe today, if you were to go look at UPS, my choice, it has 67 or 65 million subscribers worldwide. So this product was designed to basically remove a pain point in the experience of buying and sort of receiving products by giving the customer more control over the delivery delivery process. And back to your question about lessons learned. And back to the original point, we were talking about a go-to-market, this was a totally new way to deliver a product for UPS, no pun intended, because this was a mobile product. We went to market with only digital and social channels.

Can also see how your product background really helped in shaping that app, for sure.

Indeed, but again, it was all digital, it was all mobile and social channels, a ton of experimentation, you know, testing and learning from different channels, figuring out what worked and what didn’t, and using that to optimize, and grow the number of subscribers that we did. So that that was you know, kind of learning, I guess, is you know, to your point, the experimentation. But I think if I step back, I think the bigger learning in these agencies is for these larger companies. And even for smaller companies, the branding is actually incredibly important. And if you really take a step back, and you look at, you look at brands that do well, there’s a strong correlation between having a brand that people relate to, and feel good about and have some understanding of with market share with relevance with all kinds of different things. So that is true. Across the board, whether you’re selling you know, diapers, mobile phones, or even servers.

Yeah, know, for sure. And clearly, the larger, more mature companies, understand the value of the brand. But for me when I’m doing this because just a quick background on what I do, I am a product marketing-oriented, go-to-market consultant. And so and I’ve made even with younger, smaller companies. So for example, yesterday, I was in a conversation with a co-founder, and CEO of a really early-stage precede not even seed-funded precede startup. And just I was just emphasizing the role and importance of brand and shaping your story and how you want to proceed. Even as you come out of stealth mode. It has to be from those early days. 

Absolutely. And like, I’ll tell you like just the work that I did just recently with neuro blade, you know, I was so impressed with that team because they understood the need to have a brand and in their mind having a nice you know, and so, we we kind of fused the concept of the brand and the product category built together. So, you know, what we did is we had the, you know, the branding, the look and the feel you know all of that, but we also had the brand values, the brand personality. And at the same time we built the category, we said we wanted to be compute made for analytics, essentially, instead of having a GPU which handles AI-based processing, we were going to have an SPU sequel processing unit that was going to handle analytics. 

But so we were building the category and the branding at once. And the value of that is that you know, sometimes I feel like Product Marketing tends to get very bogged down in the features, the functions, you know, the demos, all of the things we need to do to sell. But we don’t spend enough time thinking about how to tell a story how to make it cool and how to make it stick. And so there’s, there’s a happy medium between those two, where if I were going to go talk to that founder that you were talking to, yesterday, I would tell them, like don’t be scared, you know, it doesn’t have to be a Superbowl ad. It’s about knowing what you stand for. It’s about knowing, you know, what, what is your look and feel? How are you going to behave? And then, you know, hopefully, building a category that is valuable and interesting at the same time and sort of doing that together?

Yeah, for sure. I mean, we were having that discussion, right? I mean, and nowadays, obviously, a lot of the founders are so hell-bent on building a category. And I say it’s good category thinking is good. But hold on, don’t don’t just jump the ship yet. Because it’s a lot of effort, and a lot of involvement is this the time to invest in building a category, you as a founder, and especially early stage startup, first of all, is going to take a lot of money and a lot of your time, are you shifting your money and time away from trying to figure out and build product market fit, because that’s what your priority should be first, before thinking what category it’s good to think about the category. But it’s a much bigger discussion as to when is a good time to think about category. Right? I know, we’re going down this rabbit hole. But just to come back. Come back to the bigger picture over here, again, the role of the brand role of what go to market is, has to be evolving. The point over here is it has to start right from your pre-launch days and continue even if they are as large as UPS or a Samsung would play.

And you can do little things right like your brand, if you have a strong sense of the brand. The brand can be who the founder is, what they stand for, or maybe it’s the founder and the co-founders, and what they stand for, and what they look for in their employees. And that might be the beginnings of a brand, that can actually translate into, you know, how employees feel an affinity with your company, how, you know, potential customers feel affinity with your company. And it can be as simple as you know, the poster or the t-shirt you have, you know, in the early days, all the way to again, you know, the big Superbowl ad and the hospitality suites and whatever. Like it doesn’t exist on the spectrum, right? But it’s, it’s what people will remember about about your company is not is that and not the other things.

For sure. So great discussion there. In terms of how companies, it doesn’t matter what stage or what size, you’re at, how they should be thinking about, go to market and brand. Right, so bringing everything back closer to home, and what a deep dive into your stint at IBM. And if you can share how you brought together like product marketing, product background brand communication, and what was the charter at IBM? And what are the challenges, because you’re switching from an individual contributor to the director, a senior director, and then now you’re like a CMO at a business unit. What is that?

Yeah, well, I think first of all, let’s just talk a little bit about the role and the scope. And then we can talk about some other stuff. So the role itself was to be CMO of a business unit, which was approximately $7 billion, which was IBM Z, and pieces of IBM Cloud. This is all in the infrastructure and cloud space. And the role had an interesting dynamic, because at IBM, you know, a central business unit owner, like myself had a team direct, you know, they have direct teams of product marketers and product marketing professionals. But in reality, there are five to six times that number of people in matrix organizations. So it’s the entire suite of everybody from people in product functions and go-to-market sales functions and enablement, Field Marketing, demand generation, communications, analyst relations, and you name it. So yeah, my scope was basically to be that person.

And then, you know, the thing is, like, when you move from sort of more of an individual contributor or director level to VP level, really the big difference is that the things you focus on change. So, at that level, you’re, it’s assumed that you know how to do the job. So what it becomes is, number one, it’s about building relationships with other people. across the table from you, your peers and product, your peers in sales, and all of these types of people. Number two, it is about managing the people around you building the talent, motivating them, and holding them accountable for delivery. And essentially leading them through any that’s going on. Number three is you have to set the direction. So you have to set the direction, the vision, the strategy, and all of the measurement on the back end of you know, is this working is this successful. And the fourth then is any sort of involvement on day-to-day projects in terms of, you know, overseeing them, making sure that they’re working and all of the day-to-day that goes on. So it’s it really changes if you know, if I think about those four components, you’re going to have elements of all of those as a director, and you know, even as a manager, even as an individual contributor, but the balance and the proportion changes over time. And so it, it starts to blend a little bit more where your day becomes as many meetings, as many people discussions, as it is, you know, some quiet time to think about strategy, as it is, you know, time with, you know, with projects and people. 


So that’s cut. That’s kind of the lay of the land. And what reminded me now from here, what else would we like to dig into here?

Yeah, so just expanding on that, like, what were the challenges, especially when it came to your day-to-day and quarterly in terms of what were you responsible for, in delivery, like OKRs KPIs? And how were you shaping the team towards that? 

So, I mean, at the end of the day, the OKR, and KPIs were always, you know, what is the revenue? Right, and making the revenue numbers? And I think there’s often a debate over, you know, is it the marketing pipeline? Is it the sales-generated pipeline is it both, I think, ultimately, marketing should be responsible for all pipelines. And, of course, there are going to be varying degrees of how much is generated purely through marketing, and how much is generated purely through sales, right? So once we get over that, and we say that our goal is, you know, revenue, great, everybody will say that the obviously the devil is really in the details. And a lot of what my team was responsible for, was transforming the platform and keeping it relevant. So going back to this notion of change, and going back to this notion of, you know, the way buyers consume things change, you know, we were really having to get a handle on the cloud. So early on, when I came into the role, you know, I came into a role where a lot of, the activities were happening. And they were dispersed, you know, we weren’t selling as a platform, we were marketing pieces of the hardware and pieces of the software. 

And we weren’t marketing marketing them together, which was actually the way the buyers purchased. And so one of the first things I did was kind of combine the campaigns. But then the second thing I did was really look and see what was happening in the buyer’s mind. We did a deep piece of research with the buyers to understand what was going on. What were they thinking, how are they buying? Right? Did they see us versus the competitors? And we use that research to inform basically, the way we manage the business for the next, you know, two, three years, which was to start to shift towards a cloud and hybrid cloud sort of mindset. That was not an easy transition, actually. Because the majority of the people in the business unit at the time didn’t have that mindset. So we almost as a marketing team had to start thinking as change agents. We all went through cloud training, and we all took a look at our language. And we started changing the way we spoke to talk about it like cloud, right? And we started to work and shape with our product teams. You know, okay, if our goal is to start to position ourselves as adjacent to the cloud or tied to the hybrid cloud, we started to work with the product teams to shape. 

You know, we would say let’s, let’s think about the next launch. Let’s think about the next milestone. How can we create excitement in the customer’s mind about this particular type of thing? So I think like that was that was the strategy and the direction and the guidance that you had to kind of not just do the day to day and like, keep the, you know, keep the shed thing running, but it was how do you shape this business unit to go forward?

Yeah. So yeah. As you’re articulating that and explaining to the listener what you did, and the scope and how you’re shifting? A couple of things that I wanted to highlight is definitely thinking of like six or even eight product marketing programs in terms of customer insights. You mentioned understanding your customer doing market research, which I would presume would involve focus groups primarily as well. A secondary interview. Right and you shifted to like, I would presume you must have done a positioning and messaging exercise. 


When you said shifting the message into cloud and cloud-related, right, what does that really mean? So that’s the positioning and messaging exercise. And then you talk about enablement, sales enablement, field enablement. 


From that, it would be a new product launch as well as a new market entry. 


From there, I would go and what comes to my mind is product content, and product adoption programs across all these six to eight programs. 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yes. All of the above. Yes. We, if you think about, like, what the pieces were of this were, it was the, you know, the branding upfront, which led to an understanding of our core brand values, the positioning, and messaging, and then the positioning and messaging, once that was established, that was kind of locked. Okay. And then there were numerous product launches. From there, there were numerous sales campaigns and sales sales places. From there, it almost spawned numerous different product programs, that kind of led to their own things, you know, so we had a big, gigantic product launch, we had smaller pricing launches, we had specific sales plays, but the, you know, the kind of the underlying theme was, how are we going to get in front of our customers, and show them that things are changing and show them that things are different? And I think that, you know, the customers too, started to pick up on it and adopt it over time. So it was interesting to to be part of the customer councils, and to see and hear from them. What was landing with them and how they were seeing it? 

Yeah, it goes back to Yeah, once you log a positioning and messaging exercise, after doing your customer insights program, you still need to go out and test within stores, and then maybe on social media channels, and then eventually, on like a more static, like a web page.

Yeah, absolutely. And we like when we did when we launched the IBM Z 15. You know, that was a billion-dollar program, revenue project, and marketing, you know, I think all of the events that we did with sales that generated something like 30, or 40, maybe even 50% of the revenue. So testing, the messaging mattered a whole heck of a lot. And I would say at the final stage, at least, in b2b, most of the testing was at the analyst, and the sales and customer level. So in the consumer world, I think you can do more of your testing with lead consumers. And you can use market research, and that can work. Even if you’re doing like a product that’s digitally driven, and b2b, you can test it, you know, just do some digital testing and AV testing to see what’s working better. So that’s also an option. But in our case, you know, I think the analyst, community, the sales community, the customer community was like kind of the final, the final sort of tests.

Tests that are testing grounds. Yeah, fantastic. Yeah, I mean, without knowing we got into like a go-to-market success story. So thank you. Yeah, and just switching gears as you and I know, Priya everything is not a success story, we all enter and conquer failure. So what would you characterize or share as a go-to-market failure story and your learnings from that?

So I have an interesting one, actually, because this is something I’m going to share with your listeners that I don’t think most people have ever done. So I had a role at Verizon, where I was in charge of the product portfolio. What that meant was having an understanding of every product development project that existed at Verizon at the time, and having to approve that project, as it went through its ideation, concepting, early business case, business case, and so on, and so forth, all the way to go to market all the way to doing a 360 review to see had it been successful. So over the course of that, I have probably seen three to 400 projects side by side, and seeing, you know, what worked and what didn’t, it was a kind of an interesting experience, because I don’t think, you know, most of the times when you work in a big company, you know, you work on different projects, but you rarely get the chance to like actually scientifically look back and see what worked and what didn’t. 

So what I can say from that experience, is that the things that did work and didn’t work, really came down to the four P’s time and time again, you know, product motion place, pricing, and of course, the target. And if you know, the one that always stuck in my mind the most was there was a case of there was a portal that was being developed for an SMB customer base. And there was a demanding sort of an ask for you know, let’s move this forward. And we know this is going to work and these consultants have told us that this is a good idea and really ended up becoming a build it and they will come situation because the product was built and you know over objections from the people who were doing the market research, and the product was built And they came back and they said, you know, we found that actually, we were targeting the wrong sub-segment within SMB. 

And unfortunately, that’s a very common thing that happens in product market fit, you know, you go out to market thinking that it’s going to target one customer, and you find out that it’s a totally different customer segment. And maybe it’s more serendipitous than you thought. So I think that’s, that’s probably the one consistent lesson that I’ve seen is just, it’s not always what you expect. So the more testing you can do, the better. 

Yeah, So in this case, looks like the product was launched, even though the market research team was pushing on emphasizing that, hey, guys, you are launching it, it’s good. But you’re launching it and targeting the incorrect segment. Understood. So what do you think led to that decision of not reading and actually acknowledging the signals coming from market research?

Ah, so this is where we get into more political conversation, right? So this is hubris, right? Every product manager will feel that their product is perfect. It’s their baby. And they can see all the positives, they know all the things they’ve done to work on it. And they, you know, no one can tell them that it’s not a good product. So I think this is where having to go to market professionals, who can play the devil’s advocate who can give you feedback, neutral feedback from the market, you know, neutral feedback about the size of the market, the fit of the market. It matters a lot. Yeah.

For sure. 

We all have blinders on, unfortunately. And we do it in marketing, too, right? We think I have an idea. And I think it’s great. Therefore, it’s a great campaign idea. But I’m an audience have one, right? We all do it.

Yeah. I think there are different approaches or different thought processes. I mean, if you’re approaching from, hey, let’s get it out there test, get feedback, and iterate that that’s one way to do it. But more often than not, especially in larger organizations. They’re really slow. And as you mentioned, it’s very political. In nature. And hubris. Ego hates my word, let’s just get it out. Versus having the humility and accepting it’s not the right decision.

Exactly. And in bigger companies, I think the biggest challenge is that you know, to get the machine running, you do have to do a year’s worth of work and business case development and approvals. And this, that, and the other. Even if you wanted to do that test and learn it never ends up being that way, you know, 

Alright, switching more to the fun side, and the lightest phase, you’re an author as well. So what made you draw good on that pattern? Right? The book is, Finding Warrior Pose.

Yes. So I wrote an indie novel called Finding Warrior Pose. It’s a yoga thriller. So it’s, you know, it’s it’s a thriller, but there’s this component of self-discovery and mystery and suspense in the story. And yeah, it’s how did and it’s available, you know, on hardcover, paperback, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. But, how I decided to write was actually, it was like, I got into writing, actually, when I worked in the ad agency because I had to do a lot of copywriting and things at the time. And I really loved it. So I had a chance to start writing creatively. I had a little time when I started writing it, and, it’s just something I enjoy doing, really. And I think as a marketer, you know, so often we tell, we tell people, we’re storytellers, and we’re going to explain things or educate customers. And this was a chance to really write a story and not a 32nd, or a five-minute story, but a, you know, 65,000-word story. So that’s, that’s, it was just a challenge, you know. And so I took on the challenge, and most of the people who’ve read the book have said that, you know, it’s something they can’t put down that they really enjoy it, but it’s fun. And I had fun writing it. So It makes me happy to hear that people had, you know, fun reading it, too. 

Yeah, I’m actually on chapter five or six. I mean, just at that point where it’s, so it’s a good read, for sure. And kudos to you for taking on that challenge or the mission of writing. And I would definitely emphasize and, and encourage, especially the marketers who are looking to up their game. Right, especially in the creative world of Creative Writing copywriting, for sure. So in your case, you mentioned being in an ad agency, Ogilvy So was it copywriting that led you to writing the book or writing that led you to copywriting or things were happening in a pattern not connected at all?

Actually, I mean, I’ve always been a writer I think it was it was the practice of having to do daily writing as a copywriter. That got me into thinking that I really enjoyed it. But now that I’m out of the agency world, I would say like most of the people who are in b2b, are writing copy for communications for prs. 


They are writing copy for websites. Yep. So there are plenty of places where you’re doing it all the time, you just don’t realize it. 


Yeah, because of the thought process, especially I’m sure, I would love to hear your thought process and your approach. Typically, there is how you get into the zone, even before you write and then you do the writing. And it’s not always that you are in the zone of writing, right? We you and I know about writer’s block, we all Okay, say, Hey, we’re going to open this laptop or a page, or a page or a book, and begin to write but then when we start to write, things don’t flow. Typically how I have addressed that Priya, is to read a good article, read a good book, and a few pages of a good book, and that gets me into the creative mode. And that’s what I do. So is that a similar process? Or I would like to hear your thought process like before you get into creative and copywriting. What is your routine like?

Oh, that’s a good question. I love the idea of using a little bit of inspiration as a way to do it, you definitely need focus. Yeah. But I usually find that. So there are two different styles of writing, right? There’s the people who need an outline. And they will brainstorm a little bit and they’ll write it out, you know, they’ll kind of figure out what they want to say. And then they’ll go write it. And then there’s the people who sort of just start typing and let it flow. And then they’ll kind of keep iterating and make it better. And there’s no good, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. So I tend to be more of the person who sort of designs the information. First, I think about what is it, I want to say, kind of give myself an outline. And then I start writing. And, usually, the first time you write something, you’re writing it for yourself. So you still need to go back and read it from the perspective of the reader. And then you’re going to improve it as you go. And so that’s it, I mean, but at the end of the day, good writing is a lot of editing. 

That is what I learned in my book, you know, when I wrote the book, is you got to be willing to kill off. I mean, I killed off characters, I killed off scenes, you know, there were so many things that I loved, that I killed, you just just got knocked out. And that’s something you learn very quickly in writing is, you have to be willing to let go of certain things that aren’t serving the story you want to tell. Even if you fell in love with them, you still have to let them go in a professional context, the way I would see that happening. This is a curse that plagues many of us product marketers the desire to fit every single thing we want to say and one very, very long run-on sentence. You know, don’t do that. Right? Figure out what the key things you want to get across, don’t try to be everything to every person and make every single faction of Product Marketing or product management happy with you just you know, just say the key things and the rest will follow.

Yes. For sure. In fact, that just reminds me I mean, even though it’s top of mind for me to ensure that the messaging of the copy will resonate with the target audience and the reader more often than not, we tend to make that mistake. So case in point as an example, just last week, I was working on a positioning doc for a brand new product for a company that’s doing like 100 billion revenue, and they’re trying to get a brand new product in the next six months. It’s like a big, big revamp, which means for me as a product marketer, and a consultant, helping the chief product officer, figure out okay, what should be the positioning, what should be the messaging, what should be the approach. As you and I know, Priya, one of the exercises that we do in a positioning document is what we call value teams to call out distinct capabilities, or at a brand level and a product level. And then we call out the value themes. And in one of the value themes, it was it was important for us to highlight enterprise-grade or enterprise-ready aspects of the product. 

And as I was writing that I was putting together like and writing down like three, four, or five capabilities. And once I wrote like version one, version two, and version three, and as I was reading it out to the chief product officer and her team, one thing that came out and stood out was it’s not a kitchen sink, we don’t need to mention each and every feature and itinerary capability. Right? And to your point, we should cut it out if it’s not serving the purpose at that time we should remove it.

I think the way to do it is to think about the form and the two. Right? So people are very simple. What is the form of this statement and what are the two? You could give them the narrative at the top. Everything in the bottom can flow down it could be bullet points it could be He couldn’t have your run-on sentence. But you just have to get the message across at the top, and then everything else, you know, can flip through. 

I know you’re coming up against time here, like the last couple of questions for you, you had a very impressive career and career growth over the last several companies’ roles and a tragic crease in go-to-market product marketing, product, and brand. So who are like, your inspiration, folks are mentors or role models that played a big role in your career? 

You know, I was always told by people to have mentors, I’ve never had mentors. So actually, the people who’ve played the biggest role in my growth have been, you know, people, there are a couple people I can think of, I don’t want to name them here. But there have been a couple of people that are like close colleagues, you know, people who I’ve worked with his peers, who I’ve become friends with, who are connectors, they’re people who know a lot of other people. They have connected me time and time again, into interesting opportunities to meet new people, or they’ve given me sound advice on a problem that I didn’t quite know the answer to. So, interestingly enough, it’s been lateral for me more than it has been, you know, a specific mentor. The one other person I can think of is I had a boss early on, and she just for me exemplified a calm, cool collected leader, who could keep moving things forward and never be sort of overly emotional. And so I’ve always looked up to her as somebody that I would like to emulate, you know, she just had this level of which, you know, she was never going to get overly stressed out over things. 

Very cool. Yeah, for sure. Each of us can relate to and identify with folks who have played or shaped our careers in so many ways.

I mean, listen, a career, it literally doesn’t exist without all of the people who you’ve worked with, and who have given you advice and helped you along the way. So in many ways, I’m a product of all of the people, you know, who have helped me along the way. 

Yeah, we’re really cool. And then a good segue into our closing section over here is what advice would you give to your younger self? If you were to turn back the clock? And when I say younger self on the day, one of your go-to-market journeys? 

Oh my gosh, okay. Well, day, one of the go-to-market journeys was probably day one of the first day out of college, because, you know, I started out implementing software at Deloitte and implementing, you know, ERPs and E-commerce and CRMs. The advice I would give my younger self is everything you do matters and everything you do counts, the advice that you know, the experiences that I had at Deloitte, actually implementing software, and seeing people wrestle with a change was more useful as I learned how to actually market software, and drive go to market, in many ways, understanding how they actually, you know, lived it. So I would say, there’s the sense of like, Oh, I’m still figuring out what I want to do. And maybe this will never matter. But actually, everything you do matters. Everything you do has an opportunity for learning, looking around, and learning from other people around you. And I wish I had known that sooner.

Fantastic. Great conversation for years. So thank you so much for the time and for sharing all the advice and insights and good luck to you. And yeah, we’ll stay in touch. So any closing thoughts, comments, or where people can find you and learn more about you?

Well, yeah, first of all, Vijay, thank you so much for having me on your podcast, you ask a lot of interesting questions. And I know you have a very deep experience in product marketing and go to market yourself and as your as do your listeners. So yeah, no closing thoughts. But folks can find me on LinkedIn, feel free to ping me and reach out. And if you’re interested in the book, you can find Finding Warrior Pose on Amazon, Kindle Barnes and Noble, and others. Thank you very much.