Are you exploring product marketing? How should you break into the product marketing roles? In this episode, Saranya Ramamurthy, the Product Marketing Director of inFeedo, explains why she shifted from consultant work to product marketing. Saranya also shared her efforts in structuring her product marketing team and the role of the designer in marketing. Her magic touch in her position made an amazing impact on her leadership team. Let’s join Saranya Ramamurthy today and learn how she made a difference as a product marketing director of inFeedo.
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Product Marketing: Saranya Ramamurthy’s Journey Into Her Role, Efforts To Build A Product Marketing Team, And The Role Of A Designer In Marketing
Thank you once again for taking the time to tune into the show. I hope you’re enjoying it. I sincerely request that if you love it, please refer to your peers and your friends. If you can take a minute or even less to rate on whatever platform that use, that’ll be great. The more important thing, and what I’m excited about right now, is I’m getting to host another B2B go-to-market leader. This time it is Saranya Ramamurthy, who is the Director Head of Product Marketing at inFeedo. Welcome to the show, Saranya.
Vijay, thank you so much for hosting me.
I’m excited to have you. I know you’re based out of India. You are the fifth guest, so we are starting to see more guests coming from India, which is a great thing. Something that I’ve started noticing and observing is the go-to-market maturity in Indian organizations is definitely on the rise, which is exciting. I’m sure we’ll dive more into this as we talk.
There’s a lot of advocacy going on, so definitely on the rise.
The standard question that I always taught and ask the guests on my show is how do you view and define go-to-market?
If you simply ask this to anyone, there’s a textbook definition. If you ask a product marketing manager, they would say product market managers are the ones who are building the product and taking the product to the market. I would like to add a little nuance here. I would probably approach it like this. It’s about educating your ICP, which is your ideal customer persona, about the solution you crafted for their pain point. It’s pure, clean 100% education, in my opinion. It’s about knowing your ICP, knowing their problems, knowing which channels they’re active on, and delivering that message with an educational note. Once you’ve educated them, and if the persona is confident that it’ll solve one of their pressing problems, and it is also one of their priorities, they buy it. For me, education is everything.
This is an interesting perspective. I’ve not spoken or had a lot of product marketing folks on the show. It’s funny I say that because I started my marketing journey and career in product marketing. I’ve seen that evolution. When I started back in the day at Microsoft, I was super excited, and enthusiastic, because my job title said Go-to-market. I was eager to find out what that was.
As I learned over the last decade or so, working at large and small companies, something that I’ve noticed is go-to-market, first of all, the definition so varied. Also, something that started percolating and became more and more clear to me is that go-to-market is not just within the realm of product marketing, even though that’s part of the job responsibility. If you see the job spec, they say go-to-market aspects and activities.
What I would like us to deep dive into is first of all, the role of product marketing in go-to-market, but then also the gaps. I have a few thoughts, but I want to pause and get your thoughts because I’m sure you must have seen this in different organizations. You are at leading brands. What are your thoughts on go-to-market specifically when it comes to product marketing?
Go-to-market is product marketing. That’s how we are seeing it in India. It’s part of what we do, and maybe what we do here is define the messaging and the ICPs and tighten them for the market. Taking it to the market or doing the ads is something that an integrated marketing team or segment marketing team would do. PMN scope is validating the ICPs problem which is the first part of PMF in itself. If you have a new product that you want to launch in the existing market, or you want to launch an existing product in the new market, for example, you start with a problem validation. That is an important GTM exercise. It’s a pre-GTM exercise, I would say.
Once you’ve validated your ICP’s priorities, for example, your ICP could have this unmet need that you have defined, but they might probably have ten-plus unmet needs. Where do you stand? What is their priority and how is their willingness to pay a price for a solution like yours? This is the PMF stage, and during the GTM stage, we take all the learnings and craft the messaging for it. That’s a very important step. That is your delivery, educating.
For me, it is education, because I’ve done most of my job in TMF. Right now what I’m doing is educating that I know you have a problem like this, and I have this solution for you. This is what we do in a product marketing function related to GTM. After defining the channels and what communication goes on each of these channels, there’s a different team that takes it over.
What you touched upon is an important, but one piece of the go-to-market. The first step is product marketing, and typically what I’ve seen is product marketing in conjunction with product management peers would do the problem discovery, validation, and come up with a hypothesis for the product market fit. The product marketing function would then run with, “Now that we believe this is our hypothesis, this is the problem we are going to solve for this persona, in this market and for these channels, now we start creating content.” There is also the sales enablement piece that has to happen and a lot of other things.
Beyond product marketing, that’s the initial step for go-to-market, and then it goes to sales. You got SDRs. You have other aspects, and then there’s customer success. Once a product is sold or bought by the customer, based on the product problem hypothesis. Now, are we ensuring that the customer is seeing value? First of all, are we onboarding them in the right way so that they can see the value? For me, go-to-market is a more expanded view. It starts with product management and product marketing, but then there’s a much bigger view that spans across product, marketing, sales, and customer success as well.
A lot of alignment is required in there. This is just one part of it that you’ve covered in the first bit. Imagine you are doing an ad and somebody’s landing on your website and becoming a lead, you put in a message, and the sales talks about something different. There’s a total missing. That’s why this has to be extremely connected. From the messaging that they see on the ads to the website landing page to what the SDR talks about, and what the AE gives as a demo. Onboarding them on a pilot program or onboarding them on a trial package, whatever it is since they should see the benefit that we have promised in the messaging.
I’m sure we’ll cover a lot more of these nuggets in detail. Let’s step back, zoom out, and then tell our audience who Saranya is. What is your journey like, and how did you end up in what you’re doing now?
I’ve been a marketer for decades now. I’ve worked with both SaaS companies and agencies, a good blend of both B2B and B2C. I worked on social media marketing, regional marketing, GTM, and product marketing for a combination of both B2B and B2C companies. If you look at SaaS companies that I work for, it includes Freshworks, Zoho, and Airmeet. From an agency experience, I’ve worked with brands like Facebook, Vodafone, and Lenovo. Regionally, these companies were focusing on markets like APAC, the UK and the EU. At Zoho, the predominant focus was the UK and EU. At Freshworks, I was looking at both APAC and North American markets.
During my agency experience, I’ve got a good market until about the Middle East and Africa market. This is predominantly it. I joined as a consultant for a software reseller. That’s where my foundation came from. I slightly moved away to an agency environment to get the skills of all the things that a marketer should do, all the creative skills, and then dive back into the SaaS space. That’s my journey overall.
This is something that I’ve started seeing. Founders in India, when they think about a software company, they’re not just talking about the Indian footprint or the Asian footprint, but it’s more about how we go global. That vision or that pursuit is translating to different functions as well, including product marketing. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen over the years. It’s cool that you got to work in agencies and got firsthand experience in how the different parts of the regions worldwide, like marketing in the Middle East, are entirely different from how you market in APAC versus how you would market in North America.
A lot of regional nuances to note here.
You started your work as a consultant, and then you shifted to the agency. What specifically were you doing in an agency?
At an agency, I was predominantly doing marketing strategy and social media strategy. This is for all B2C companies. With Vodafone, we worked on their social media, and at Lenovo, we looked at their video marketing. With Facebook, it was more of a strategic partnership. We helped them with all their top 50 customers, ad creators, ad copies, strategic narrators, etc. It’s a mix of all things with agencies. It is just for you to dive into or explore all the creative possibilities, and all that you could do as a marketer. All things operations did all things creatives at agencies.
You shifted to product marketing. Was that like a natural transition? How was the shift and why did you choose product marketing?
Since I already had a software foundation, it wasn’t hard for me to move into product marketing. The role that I entered right after my agency experience is the role of a first marketer in the UK and EU team. The company wanted to explore a new market, and they wanted a full-stack marketer. They don’t want anybody that is doing ads. They don’t want anyone who’s looking at copies, messaging, or just an events person doing events for them. Even one of their primary demand-generation channels. They wanted a full-stack marketer with a primary focus on copy messaging and positioning. It was a right fit for me because I gathered all of that from agencies and the software foundational experience. It was a very smooth transition in my opinion.
Now you are the Director of Product Market at inFeedo. Are you the head of product marketing over there?
What is your charter? What is your responsibility at inFeedo?
Multiple things. I’m the first product marketer, and I’ve set up a team of five product marketers doing different things. inFeedo has two products. 1 looks at employee engagement, the other 1 is an employee support platform. We are looking at all things GTM, messaging, positioning, pricing, and sales enablement. Sales enablement is a very crucial piece because it’s a sales-led organization. We wanted a dedicated person to look at enabling the SDRs and AEs.
There is a product too which is a 0 to 1 product. It’s a very new product in the market. We are supporting the launch of the product, getting and exploring new markets, and how we launch this in the existing market. Launching also interesting sales plays like cross-selling, how do we capitalize from the existing customers that we already have? These are some things that we are doing away from the usual charter, like enablement of customer advocacy, AR and VR, etc. That’s the usual pillar, but these are some things that we’ve been touching about.
When I work with my clients, I help them either build or execute and accelerate any of these 6 to 8 product marketing programs. Starts with positioning and messaging. We have the customer insights. Do you have a good customer insights program in place? There is the sales enablement, as you mentioned, especially for sales lead organizations, you need sales enablement. You have a new product launch, a new market launch, and two related but entirely different concepts and approaches.
We then have how you build and do you have a good product content program in place? Adding onto that is how are you tracking and evolving product adoption within your customer base. The final piece is customer expansion, which you mentioned about cross-selling and upselling. Would you agree with these or would you expand with all these categories?
They are good. The important piece that we might probably have to add here is customer advocacy as a piece as well. More than intelligence, PMMs usually do advocacy as well. Go and ask them how they do their products. This is a building customer proof for your product. This is also a part of product marketing responsibility. That’s something that I observe as a trend in India. I don’t know how is it in the US, but that is one thing. The other one is AR and VR. That’s also one of the biggest pillars, talking to analysts and constantly keeping in touch with them, having a relationship with them, and informing them about what’s coming in the product. Keeping them posted about what’s coming in the product, and if there are any features that we could do with them.
That’s also one of the important things that we would cover under PMM. That’s predominantly it. You’ve covered it all. If you work in a very scaled-up organization, you will have timelines for these, like launching the new products in the market, exploring a new market in itself. Right now, we are doing all of these things. All you said, we are doing all of those things because inFeedo is in that stage, so we are a new product marketing team, so we have different spots taking care of different things at the moment.
How did you structure your product marketing team? You said you have five product marketers. What is your thought process in how you structured? What is your research methodology how do you build the product marketing organization, and then how do you structure the organization?
If you ask me, my usual way of looking at it is there should be one person who takes care of all things product launches and feature launches. There is one person who is dedicated to enablement and for customer advocacy and customer proof, anything customer intel, market intel, or intelligence comes from this third person. The fourth person takes care of AR and VR. That’s how I would probably segregate. Looking at the budgets that we have and the areas that we want to invest in this is how I’ve done it now.
I have a couple of people under engagement as a product, one person is closely aligning with the product and doing all things that the product wants, the product marketing to do, and the other person closely aligning with sales and customer success and the GTM organizations to enable them to grow and sell. That’s something this person’s doing. It’s an in-and-out enablement role. There is this third role, a little mature role. It’s an all-in-one end-to-end PMM role for a new product. This person does anything around product enablement, sales enablement, and customer enablement. Once we launch this particular customer and implement the solution in the customer please, how do we increase our options for that organization until then?
Starting from launching the product to going to the customer please and increasing adoption of the product usage. That’s something that we do on that part. We also have a generalist who does all things PMM for both products. There’s a designer to look at the design needs of the PMM organization, that’s how you’ve structured it now. There are some gaps. At inFeedo the interesting part is customer advocacy is handled by the content marketing team. Unlike the organizations that I’ve worked with in the past, Freshworks, Zoho, or Airmeet, here, customer advocacy is handled by content marketing. That’s one thing less for us to worry about at this point. That’s how I’m looking at it because there are a lot of things going on. AR and VR are something that I’m doing myself.
Can you reiterate the customer advocacy? Who is responsible for customer advocacy at, inFeedo?
It’s content marketing.
Content marketing is fair enough. It’s primarily around case studies and success stories. That’s the angle that you’re taking for customer advocacy at inFeedo.
It’s a history and that person is very comfortable, very senior enough. I don’t think I can get somebody that senior enough to look at customer advocacy and the PMM team at this point. I’m super comfortable that she’s handling this for us.
You also mentioned about designer. Does a designer report to you within product marketing, or it’s adjacent?
The designer reports to me.
That’s unique. That’s a very interesting setup. For me, when I speak with other go-to-market leaders, I also peek into how they’re thinking about building their organizations and teams. Something that stood out for me, and that has to be called out, especially for product marketing, you need to have someone in design closely working with you. A good thing you’re already starting in that direction from the get-go.
That’s very important. That’s been a major miss in my previous organizations. I made sure that the designer came under the PMM purview so that everybody was comfortable getting the work done from them. It’s very important to have a designer in the house.
Something that I’ve seen, and this is a constant I keep getting from the audience and other folks I speak with, especially when it comes to design. What is your guidance and playbook? Just pick an example. Maybe it’s a product launch or a customer expansion program. How are you guiding your team in interacting with the designer on your team?
One thing that I’ve taken as an added responsibility is rebranding. inFeedo needs a little bit of rebranding in terms of how we present ourselves to the world. This is something that we have taken up with a consultant. The consultant will define a playbook for us. Right now we don’t have a playbook. We only have the colors and the font for now. We don’t have any styles on what photographs or illustrations to use, what style do we use. Every time, it’s me and the VP of marketing sitting and defining this process. Why it is very important that every time a designer starts a design work, they always start from scratch. There is no reference for them to go back. No playbooks or no brand guidelines for them to refer to.
They always start from scratch, which in turn takes a lot of time. For example, if they need to do a deck, they would take 2 or 3 days, unlike if they had brand guidelines, they would only take half a day. We invested in this effort rebranding that’s happening in this quarter in OND, October, November, December. It’s expected that the consultant will give us the brand guidelines with all the prerequisites that we already discussed, and that will act as a guide for the design. That’s something that we are looking at. All intel and insights from the CXOs would be passed on to the consultant and then we would arrive at something together. That’s a project that I’ve taken up. I don’t think this is under product marketing purview, it’s branding. We don’t have a branding person internally. I’ve taken that as a side gig.
Typically it’s under Marcom or brand who would typically do this, but sounds like you just mentioned it because no one’s taking that responsibility, just brand with that. You’re working with your VP of marketing around brand and design as well.
We’re looking at it as product branding because of the product brand. We are the ones who are naming these products. We are the ones who are naming these bots and naming any new products that we are launching in the market. If that’s the case, then we could also probably be a key contributor with branding until we have the senior branding person in-house.
What is the whole that the branding consultant is doing? Is it around the style guide, the content writing style guide, or is it something beyond and more than that?
It’s the design style guide. Messaging, positioning, and all of it will be done by us. All the content guides will be made by the content marketing and product marketing together. He would be looking at all things design. It will have that essential kit. It has a brand guideline like this of your website should look like, this sales skill should look like, and this of the social post should look like so it gives you all the guidelines possible.
For consistency across all channels, which is good. Saranya, that’s a great insight. Thank you for sharing how you thought about how you built your product marketing team and organization as well as the role of the designer in your marketing overall. Something else related to that is how you track and measure the impact of product marketing, like KPIs. You mentioned your quarterly offset and things like that. Talk to us about how you think about KPIs and how you show impact to the leadership team.
If you’d asked me a couple of months ago, my definition would probably be different but now my ideology changed a little bit. inFeedo gave a little bit of change in my thought process. To define it simply, product marketing wouldn’t have one universal KPI to chase because we are intersecting with multiple cross-functional teams. We are intersecting with sales and impacting revenue. We are intersecting with products and impacting adoption. Awareness, adoption, activation, and all of these KPIs. We are also doing a lot of awareness-related stuff. We are building pipe with growth marketing. We are helping with messaging for new advertisements or any change in the messaging pillars, etc. It’s about the goals that we own in that particular quarter, along with the cross-functional stakeholders.
For example, if the product’s focus is to drive activation for a particular feature at the end of this quarter, so many customers should be activated for this new feature. That means a product marketers, one of the KPIs would be around activating. We take a shared goal so that there is no alignment mismatch. You go to a cross-functional stakeholder. There’s been a lot of times in the past that I go to a cross-functional stakeholder and ask for something that I want to do, and it’s not even there in their KPIs. It’s not their job. They need not do this.
Right now it’s very easy because we all do shared KPIs, we all take shared KPIs. From a sales enablement perspective, we take KPIs on win rate conversions. It could be MQL to SAL conversions, any improvements there. It could also be a number like I need to do DLSs for so many deals so that we help the sales sell faster and smarter. That’s predominantly it. It’s multiple KPIs and each board will take multiple KPIs basis their alignment with product sales or growth marketing teams.
How do you track the two angles to this, which is you are giving your priorities to your product marketing reports and the designer to ensure that the KPIs are being tracked and you’re making progress? At the same time, you need to report progress to the cross-functional peers and the leadership team.
I should do that. For example, if I have a launch person in the team and they take a launch or activation. The bloated KPI is also my KPI. What does the launch help? It helps customer expansion and customer enablement. I’ll take a bloated KPI and the team takes an operational KPI or tactical KPI. Whatever the product wants to. There is part two, which is the enablement KPI, whatever the enablement per person has as a goal, building pipe, helping the SDRs to have a better MQL-SAL conversion and having a better win rate in the mid-market and enterprise segment or whatever it is. I’ll have a bloated or a combined KPI, all things covered, that will be my KPI two. Product will be my KPI 1, sales will be my KPI 2, I thought would be any strategic projects that we are doing, launching a new product in the new market, launching an existing product in the new market, or anything of that. All of it aligns with the company’s goals.
How you’re spending a budget? Do you have a budget or is most of the budget typically with the demand and the media side of things?
Product marketing here doesn’t have an exclusive budget. We have a shared budget as a marketing team. Basis priority, for example, how we got a branding consultant this quarter. That’s because two other stakeholders from demand had to let go of their priority projects. It’s us discussing and debating which is more important to the organization now. It’s just the overall marketing budget that we shared.
Talking about KPIs is something that I’ve seen, and obviously, you can relate to this. Product marketing plays a key role in go-to-market, but then the KPIs or the needle that they move, it takes 1 or even 2 quarters for them to see the impact that plays out. How are you beating the drum rightly so that your team is doing the right things and working on the right priorities, and how are you ensuring that the budget or the people are not taken away while people are waiting to see the results of product marketing activities?
This is how my VP of marketing puts it. Every other activity has a leading indicator and a lagging indicator. A lagging indicator could have multiple leading indicators to it. There are phases of this project that we need to define. At the end of phase one, I should operationally complete this task. At the end of phase two, I should have completed this task. At the end of the project itself, that’s when we start implementing this or rolling this out entirely and then start creeping the benefit of lagging indicators. This is how my VP of marketing puts it.
I would probably say that it’s not that difficult to have a metric-centric KPI for a quarter. It’s not all things are lagging. For example, if you say my sales lifecycle is huge, and that’s why I feel like all the things that I’m doing in DLSS will not probably help. Most of the deals like in the early stages and it not convert in this quarter. If I have a win rate conversion KPI, I would not need it. It’s impossible because we’re built on a pipe and there are a lot of deals in the closing stages in this quarter tool.
We can frame a KPI in such a way that we could put a metric that could also be achievable, and we can go back to the leadership and tell them that so far it’s worked that way. We’ve taken KPIs for two quarters and it’s worked well for us to date except for the branding project, which is not the product marketing project. It’s something that we are doing for awareness and better branding purposes.
Not everything is a success or a failure when it comes to go-to-market. Why don’t you share with the audience 1 go-to-market success story and 1 go-to-market failure story either inFeedo, Airmeet, Zoho or whichever brands that you are part of?
I’ll go a little confidential here. This company that I worked with had a couple of products. Imagine product A is our flagship product. Product B is the one that is new, very young, and isn’t giving much revenue to the company. It’s easy to call it the least favorite product. I was the PMM for this least favorite product, unfortunately, but I’m happy. We were able to do a lot of experiments there. We were running multiple validations in existing markets, and we were also running PMFs to enter into new markets.
While doing the research around the market on the competition, looking at our product sales in the last two years, we figured that 50% of the accounts that are using product B are also product A users. They are using this product together. We also spoke to a few of these customers and validated multiple things on the problems that Product A solves for Product B solves for. Also, we’ve validated this beautiful narrative that ties both product A and product B USPs. This is something that we’ve not done because the data gave us this, and then we started getting on calls with these customers and started validating this narrative, and it was all successful.
We figured out that with the help of product A, they were able to solve a functional pain point. At a functional level, there is a pain point, and the product A was able to solve for it. With both products, they were able to expand it a little further and create more visibility cross-functionally. It had some org-level impact. With Product A, there was a functional-level impact, and with Product B, there was an org-level impact. This was a huge narrative for us. That gave us a good reason for us to go behind the product A install base.
In weeks, we launched a cross-sell play. That’s a sales motion that we launched with a very lean effort we were a three-member PMM team and only one head of marketing and I focusing on this initiative. The sales members were already busy selling the flagship product. How do we motivate and train them? We launched this cross-sell like we launched all the training, we launched co-laterals, content pieces, and everything around it. We had a brand list that we went behind and we created a pipe of $1.5 million in just one quarter. All with the existing resources.
We even ask for extra budgets, everything organic. We even ask for extra team members, focus team members. The beauty here is that we have built this enterprise and mid-market pipe in the future with converts. It’s less likely to churn according to the data that we had as well. The learnings here are the sales motion that we are looking to create, the narrative that we are trying to craft, and the PMF that we are trying to find, everything is right in front of us. We need not start with a clean slate or a narrative, open an empty document, and start putting down data. There is something that you can get from your customer conversations or prospect conversations. You need not start a playbook without having an idea of what is making an impact and what’s not because there is already a lot of data in front of you, a lot of intel that is in front of you. That has been an eye-opener for me to rely on data.
That was a success story. The insight that he got was Product B elevated Product A functional impact, and Product B elevated it to a cross-functional and organizational impact. How did you arrive at that insight? What places were you looking at for the data?
We never combined product A and product B in the first place. We were looking at this as a product separately. At inFeedo as well, we are trying too hard to bring a story together for engagement and support as a product, but it’s not blending. Now, we never looked at a blended use case, but we knew that some benefits could happen, so we strengthened the integrations a little bit. Even during the validation stage and after validating, we came back, strengthened the use cases a little bit, and then it became a little more effective. Still, we were able to see the narrative through. It just has to happen. You need to discover, sit with data, understand, and see if there is a story behind every number that you’re seeing.
What were the data sources? Where were you looking for this?
These are our internal sources because it’s just our products.
Was it CRM or was it product adoption metrics?
It’s our internal analytics tool.
Switching gears a bit over here. What about the go-to-market failure story and the lessons that you learned from there?
A lot of interesting things there as well. We all have our successes and failures. A lot of failures. When you start, you fail the most. For me, also, it’s the same. When I switched to the SaaS company, that’s when I understood this is not how SaaS companies work. Agencies could probably work this way. That is the trend. I’m not a big fan of riding behind trends. From your agency experience, you could probably rely too much on trends, but in a SaaS company, it wouldn’t work that way. It failed me in a lot of places, I’m saying this because right now I’m working for an AI company, which is a trend these days.
Both the products are powered by AI at inFeedo, and I also used to work for a company called Airmeet, which was into virtual events during the pandemic, which was the trend then. I will tell you why I hate trends right now because trends could come and go but the product should already have a larger purpose, and it has to look at the larger problem that it should solve. For example, during the pandemic, the trend was virtual events. We use virtual events, we abused the term virtual events, literally. It evolved into a hybrid, once things started opening up a little bit. Everybody was talking about, “Let’s chuck virtual events. Let’s go into a hybrid.” Now it has completely changed, and I’m sure like every other virtual event looking at a different route altogether.
The trend is not here to stay. The flip side of the trend is also like, what if my current ICP is the HR leader, what if they don’t get this trend? They don’t know this, they need a masterclass. Or what if their staff are not trained to use an AI? What if it scares them? Everybody’s talking like, “What if it’s complex?” There are also multiple platforms like Lyndon and all of these learning sources and communities that talk about these trends, both positively and negatively. What if when they’re talking about the negative things about AI or virtual events, it would impact my ICP’s decision-making as well?
When somebody talks about the flip side of AI in an HR community, I would get more questions during my calls with the customers. The most important part here is if you’re looking at enterprise and mid-market as your customer segment, you clearly shouldn’t go behind trend because they would not rely on a fleeting trend. They know that it’s going to change. Now is AI, and next is something else. They always go behind a trustworthy product and trustworthy founding team. That’s why I’m totally against it.
The second thing that has failed me is the timing, both of these. We launched a focused team effort with the proper dedicated budgets. I told you about the cross-sell motion, which was a clean effort, with no budgets, but we still did it. This was dedicated. We got the budgets, we got the focus team as well dedicated to selling into a vertical, but this is when the companies were heavily downsizing, restructuring, and cost-cutting.
Cost cutting was an advantage for us because we wanted to replace a costly alternative. Still, now, nobody was evaluating all our bonds were not answered. Nobody was in the mindset ready to spend that time to replace a solution, give that implementation time extra. That’s also something that failed me. Trend timing, both are my villains at this point.
Timing and trend for sure. You mentioned something that caught my attention. A really important factor in how to become a better marketer. How often do you meet with customers and in what format or what context?
After the pandemic meeting them in a physical event has reduced. We are meeting them more virtually now. It could be every week we get on sales calls. We get validation interviews with customers to validate an idea or a solution. It’s not just you going on a call with them to understand them. It is also in the communities. You can go and be a part of the communities that they are most active in, especially HR communities. There are plenty of communities. There is a channel called Slack channel called People. There are a lot of HR communities on LinkedIn where they put their day-to-day problems. That’s where you consume this content.
It’s also important for you to consume raw content. When you’re going on a call, maybe you’re posting like, “Do you like this? Are you okay with this? Is this your problem?” We ask a lot of pointed questions, but when you go to communities, you tend to get raw data on how their day-to-day is looking. That’s also one of the avenues that I usually go on. The third could be any recorded calls. Even if I’m not able to catch up with customers in person, I go on customer calls, listen to them, understand their pain points, and admit their needs. Come back to my drawing board and make changes or tweaks in the messaging, if any.
Do you have any specific cadence or frequency for each of these weekly?
I do this daily. My 10:00 to 11:00 is blocked to know the customer.
That’s what I was hoping to hear. I’m glad that you said it’s daily. I want to give guidance to the audience as to how they should be planning the day and week when it comes to knowing the customers.
My 10:00 to 11:00 is to prepare and know the customer. It has links to all the communities that I follow. I can pick, go, and check if there are any new messages in there. Read anything or listen to a new chorus call. That’s all I do.
Based on what you shared, you’ve got a very good product marketing DNA and a product marketing muscle based on how you structure the organization, the right people in the right seats, and their prioritizing customer knowledge or insights. Given all these things, what would you put as the top 1, 2, 3 challenges for product marketing? Where is the biggest shot for gaps?
The biggest shortfall is you might tend to phase a lot of delays in decision-making because there are a lot of stakeholders involved in making a product marketing decision. For example, if you’re exploring a new market, it is not just you, but you are a part. There are CXOs in the team, LT members, leadership in the team, product leadership, sales leadership, and multiple people. It’s effective to get all their point of view, but curating all those points of view and having a proper plan of action could probably be delayed. That is something that we need to be extremely patient on. It is going to delay. This is something that I’ve been trying to solve for a long time. That is one of the biggest disadvantages.
The second would probably be not all your ideas will be approved. Getting a buy-in is difficult. Until an analyst backs it with data, you back it with all the intelligence that is available in the market. Getting buy-ins is not a joke. You cannot probably have an idea now and toss it to your cross-functional leaders the next day. If you have an idea now, you do your research the next day and then invest a little more time in talking to cross-functional leaders and understanding their perspectives on this on day three. Going to them with that. We always need to spend that time doing that research. Buy-ins and delays in launching something or delays in crafting a plan of action is something that’s a disadvantage.
Those are all valid. It can apply to any other function as well. Since stakeholders are part of the decision-making process, that’s a given. When it comes to those 8 or 10 product marketing programs that we talked about earlier, where would you put your finger and say, “That’s a challenge that I want to invest in going forward?” The positioning and messaging, customer expansion, new product launch, new market launch, AR, VR, product content, and customer insights.
If you look at it inside every other part that you’re talking about, there is a challenge. There is one challenge or the other. For example, in sales enablement, you might probably craft a narrative. You might think that is this the best thing that you could probably do. While taking it to sales, there are a lot of objections that you might probably want to handle. They will not implement it. They would say we are comfortable with the older narrator. Why are we changing this now? What are the reasons we are changing it now? Even after training, they would still be very comfortable with old change management and getting that adoption for all the sales that you’re creating. You might create ten of such usual collaterals.
Everybody will be reacting fire on it whenever you put it on Slack, but still there is no usage then you can’t show any metrics to the leadership team as well. That is one of the challenges in sales anymore. There are multiple things under each of these parts. It’s part of our job to tackle all of these challenges. I’m so used to sailing within these challenges that I don’t even look at this as a challenge anymore. It’s a part and parcel of life. That’s why I said something irrelevant to product marketing.
If you’re open to it, I can share some advice as to how I tackle that specific sales enablement challenge. This is for my clients as well. One thing that I do is I typically get a champion within the sales team and ideally should be the top seller. Get his or her buy-in, and pilot the program with them. If you’re trying to do a new sales narrative, pilot it with that seller, and then maybe she or he would do that pitch and then show to the sales team, or in the annual or quarterly sales kickoff, they’ll say, “By the way, with this new narrative, I’m seeing so much more pipeline growth and traction. This is cool. You guys should take this on.” Let your salesperson be the champion on your behalf.
This is something that we did as well. We had a closed loop of sales leadership that was ready to try it for at least 2 calls a week and we gave 1 month. We got perspectives from all those four core leaders, curated all of them, got them on a call, and let them launch it. This is exactly what we did as well. Having a champion is valid in a proper deal scenario we should have a person inside that deal and also in this case as well.Brace yourself. It's completely normal to lose a battle. There are multiple battles that you'd be facing daily. But you'll only get stronger with time. So, product marketing grows on you. Click To Tweet
The last question to you is if you were to turn back the clock and look back at your career journey so far, what advice would you give to your younger self on day one of your go-to-market journey? This is more advice you can’t turn backlog and change anything, but then advice that you would want the audience to take away.
I don’t think I could save my angry self from any of the battles that I’ve faced. Maybe I would tell her to brace herself and it’s completely normal to lose a battle because there are multiple battles that you’d be facing on a day-to-day basis. We would be talking to sales or products, multiple battles, multiple buy-ins, and multiple decisions to be made. You would have battles and disagreements you will not probably have leadership sign-off or anything but you’ll only get stronger with time. Product marketing grows on you. You don’t get it, but you will get it someday. On day one, it’s not possible. As you grow, like PMM grows on you you will get stronger with time. That’s something I would tell my younger self and the audience as well.
Thank you so much for your time and for sharing all those insights, Saranya. Good luck to you and your team.
Thanks so much, Vijay.
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