The Evolution of Advocate Marketing

Chapter 8:

Rob McEwen was in trouble. His junior gold mining company, Goldcorp, wasn’t turning a profit. It had produced a disappointing 50,000 ounces of gold per year from its promising Red Lake property in Northern Ontario, and would be out of cash in a few quarters. Raising more money from the public markets would be di cult given the low productivity of the mine.

His geologists were stumped. Several data points showed that there was likely a lot of gold on the property, but after years of searching, the rich veins were still left untapped. Perhaps the gold was much deeper underground. But where? It would cost a fortune and more time than was available to drill the number of deep search holes required to find it—and it was not clear that his engineering team had the technical expertise to find the high-grade ore at depth.

With these problems on his mind, he attended the renowned Birthing of Giants conference for CEOs and entrepreneurs at MIT. It was mid-1999, the time when the first open-source software companies challenged a then- dominant Microsoft in operating systems.

Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, took the stage and explained how he organized legions of volunteer software developers around the world to build a better operating system. The Linux project was a grassroots movement that felt like an exclusive tribe with a valuable mission to the volunteer developers. They could see the impact of their work on the project every day, and they earned social capital in the global developer community. Many of these developers worked harder on the Linux project on nights and weekends than they worked at their day jobs.

In Torvalds’ solution, Rob saw potential to solve his own problems. He had huge amounts of data on Red Lake, but did not have the time, money, or expertise to find what he was looking for. What if he could recruit the world’s armchair geologists to engage on the project?

Over the protests of his technical staff, Rob made available to the public all of the data he had on Red Lake. Then he announced a $450,000 prize for anyone who could locate the main vein of high-grade ore. The prize inspired thousands of virtual prospectors, and not just geologists—mathematicians, experts in 3-D visualization, data scientists, graduate students, military engineers, and even non-technical people submitted proposals.

Like the Linux developers, people from different realms of expertise began to work together to find the gold online, like a giant international treasure hunt. One collaboration between a geologic consulting firm and a leading-edge computer graphics company created a powerful 3D map of the property. The map showed the Goldcorp team where to drill.

They found over $6 billion worth of gold deposits over 110 sites. That’s at 2000–2001 prices—in 2017 terms, it’s more like $24 billion. More than half of those sites were com- pletely unknown to the Goldcorp geologists. The contest also cut the exploration time by several years. Goldcorp is now the second-largest gold mining company in the world, and the most profitable. These amazing results are all a result of Rob McEwen open-sourcing his proprietary mining data and mobilizing the world’s virtual prospectors to effectively do what his own team could not.

The story of Red Lake’s treasure shows us the future of how effective companies will operate. The division between employee and other stakeholders like customers, partners, platform developers, investors, and enthusiastic industry participants will be far less clear, and in some cases will vanish completely. After all, the world’s largest transpor- tation company, Uber, owns no cars, nor directly employs drivers. The world’s largest accommodation company, Airbnb, owns no hotels, and does not employ lodging staff. The world’s most robust encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has a tiny staff, and is maintained with an army of volunteers. The critical skill for success in this era of the social web is in building a system to discover, nurture, and mobilize communities of stakeholders. In other words, it is in building relationships.

Torvalds and the open-source movement has shown that, if organized properly, a global community of software developers can produce higher-quality software more efficiently. The advocate marketing pioneers featured in this book have shown that leveraging community is a better way to go to market as well. In fact, there is little that an employee can do that a properly organized and motivated member of the community could not do better.

What we see for the future is this: communities of enthu- siasts become so infused into companies that it becomes standard operating procedure to leverage them in every part of the business, as routine as engaging employees to accomplish a goal.

MARKETING AND BEYOND

Advocate marketing has the potential to transform a business far beyond the marketing department, into sales, customer success, product development—teams that bring tremendous value to an advocate marketing program. The more diverse the internal champion and stakeholder set, the more appealing the program to advocates. The technical- minded advocate, for example, relishes catching software bugs, being first to solve support questions in your community, having access to information and opportunities that align with your product team, and building their own professional brand. You might attract such an advocate with exclusive membership benefits, as well as offers to speak at an industry event or build a relationship with your PR team.

Just as a cross-departmental advocate experience will grow a program because it’s more targeted to the motivations of the individual advocate, the teams contributing from across the organization also benefit. The developer now has quick, easy access to beta testers and end users to run his ideas past; the media relations manager can source same-day quotes; the salesperson has a new pool of happy, reference-able customers who are ready, willing, and able to share their story with prospects. The more diverse and embedded advocate marketing is across a business, the higher the return on investment for both company and advocate.

Below is a department-by-department look at how advocate marketing can positively impact each team.

EVENTS

If there’s a single sweet spot for advocate marketing, it’s events. Whether they are small face-to-face events like user groups, or massive industry events like the Marketing Nation Summit, advocates and events are the ideal mix of happy customers and a high-energy social setting.

The best advocate marketing plans for large events are rooted in the overall event plan, which is typically the responsibility of an event marketing manager and should be available upon request. Study the overall goals and objectives for the event and align your advocate marketing efforts to support the top-line goals.

Is there a share of voice (SOV) metric? Plan a Tweetup.

Are booth staff hoping to scan 2,000 badges? Incentivize advocates to drive traffic to the booth.

Are there on-site sales meetings planned? Determine which advocates in attendance would be best to have on call, should the opportunity arise for an in-person reference.

Always align your advocate marketing plan to the master event plan to ensure you’re delivering the right value at the right time, and raising your success profile within the organization. With all the event metrics in mind, however, don’t forget to make the plan engaging. Events are the perfect venue for a highly gamified advocate experience.

ADVOCACY IN ACTION: CISCO EMEAR

Cisco EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia) had a vision for their program. They’re an example of being primed and ready to dive headfirst into the deep end of advocacy. They embrace the advocacy mindset internally.

A large part of Cisco’s strategy is structured around events advocacy. When they launched their program earlier this year, it coincided with Cisco Live—their flagship event—an annual event with thousands of attendees. This year, the event was held in Berlin.

The launch of Cisco’s advocacy marketing program was linked directly to Cisco Live so that they were telling a cohesive story to advocates. Anyone who had registered to attend Cisco Live was also invited into the program, so there was cohesion between an onsite experience and the virtual experience of the advocacy program. Marrying the virtual and in-person aspects of an advocacy program is key for events marketing. The most successful programs incorporate an online aspect.

Relationships can, of course, be developed to a certain point online, but until you get on the phone, or see someone on a webinar or in person, your relationship will be suspended in that virtual space. As an advocate marketer, your mission is to look every single one of your advocates in the eyes at some point. With Cisco Live, they mapped out an exciting gamified experience in their advocacy program, so that folks in the advocacy program received a next-level experience.

Advocates entered a big, inflatable dome with an open top, and inside the dome was a huge wraparound television screen playing videos on a loop about advocacy, why it mattered to Cisco, and what the program was about.

It was white-glove, with staff circulating trays of champagne. Registered advocates were allowed into the VIP area. If you weren’t yet an advocate, you could register for the program and then enter this exclusive area. Cisco did a great job of amplifying what they were doing around advocacy, making current advocates feel special with exclusive VIP gamification onsite, and recruiting new advocates onsite, as well, with their advocacy dome.

Cisco Live is a high-budget, high-profile, company-wide event. The advocacy team strategically put advocacy on the map at Cisco. They had a splashy presence, and anyone at Cisco who didn’t know the full scope of the advocacy commitment inside the business certainly saw it at Cisco Live.

Advocacy should be used to complement existing event plans, so that all events have some sort of an event plan or an event marketing plan. By leveraging and engaging advocates aligned with that plan, you’re helping the business meet their goals, and helping meet their objectives for that spend, which, again, is important for such events.

PRODUCT

A company is only as good as the product or service it delivers to its customers. The best way to ensure your product meets expectations is through constant market feedback. However, getting authentic product feedback from your customers can be like pulling teeth. Why rely on surveys, focus groups, and beta programs when a powerful advocate program can give you real-time feedback in a fraction of the time—from your ideal customers?

CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Most companies say customer experience is a priority, but their teams aren’t prepared or coordinated enough to make that priority a reality. It starts with a strong alignment between customer success and advocate marketing.

“Advocacy will be the future of marketing because it isn’t about simply trying something new—it’s about results. It’s clear that allowing your customers to speak for you is what drives marketing, because prospects want to hear from people like them.”

—VALERIO BATTELLI, CUSTOMER MARKETING EXECUTIVE, CISCO

This partnership has the power to unlock the true potential of your customers: genuine advocacy that will help you grow your business faster, not just through up-sell and cross-sell revenue, but through second-order revenue generated by advocacy.

CS teams can use an advocate marketing program to educate and motivate customers to become more successful, which will turn them into even stronger advocates. Posting product tips, case studies, and other helpful content can show advocates how to get the most value from your product, and speed up the onboarding process. Asking advocates to share their success stories and product tricks through your program will make it easier for CS to find and communicate stories with your content and marketing teams.

EVOLUTION DEPARTMENT BY DEPARTMENT

In this book, we’ve explored the ways in which advocate marketing has established itself as the road to success for future-facing businesses. The field, however, is essentially in its youth. What will advocate marketing look like as an adolescent concept, or when fully mature? How will this evolution translate to each department within your organization?

SALES AND MARKETING

To enjoy the full distribution potential of advocates, the advocate marketing platforms of today need to enlarge to embrace much more casual participants than deeply engaged stakeholders like customers.

The power of using advocates in sales and marketing lies in reducing prospects’ fear of making a decision; this is done through trust, authenticity, and transparency. We see these platforms evolving so that they become the virtual equivalent of an intimate customer dinner, where highly relevant customer advocates are seated next to potential buyers and perform the conversion work directly.

Anyone who is enthusiastic about the idea behind a company should be invited in to the community and be encouraged to participate. As one experienced chief marketing officer told us about how he instructs his team on purchasing new software, “Before you become a customer, you should first be a member.” The community will be the main place to understand the experience of becoming a customer, not the company website, email nurturing, or live customer conference.

We see the trend continuing with advocates playing a deeper role in all areas of distribution strategy and tactics. In everything from developing new positioning and messaging, to the creation of ads and the delineation of new pricing and packaging, winning companies will figure out how to get their advocates involved at the outset, and how to make them work well with their in-house staff.

CUSTOMER SUCCESS

There is a rich tradition of users helping users on support boards, going back to the 1990s. Oftentimes the best way to solve a tactical problem is to find people online who have solved that problem, and post a solution. By applying game mechanics intelligently, some companies have dramatically cut their costs of technical support.

We see support use cases as a small fraction of the full potential of this idea. The customer success movement is about companies taking full ownership over the value received by customers. This is much more impactful than how, for example, a piece of software is used tactically. In order to take maximum advantage of a technology, a company needs to staff its rollout and ongoing management properly, integrate it into its value chains, and have the right metrics for success. These are items that the advocate community can play an important role in achieving for other customers.

We can see the root of this approach in local user groups, where users of products meet to discuss how they can improve their performance using those products. For many of the technology companies we serve at Influitive, these meetings appear spontaneously, without the prodding of company management. In fact, even though we have a vibrant advocate community, local user groups were initially created outside of it until we figured out how to bring them in. The common element to the local user group is geography—they are local, so people can meet face to face for a high-quality, high-bandwidth information exchange experience.

We anticipate that there will be many more of these types of groups, that some academics call phyles, with more axes of classification than geography. Industry, use case, and situations can be much more relevant than where the company happens to be physically located. For example, at Influitive, our companies tend to cluster around the identity of the advocate: educators, human resources professionals, office managers, chief financial officers. A use case, such as the generation of referral leads in the case of our own software, is an area where birds of a feather may flock together. All of these phyles can be most efficiently and effectively organized within the advocate community.

Increasing sophistication in customer success processes and technology has enabled better forecasting of when a customer is not experiencing sufficient value and may churn, or cease renewal of their subscription. Today, this will trigger some sort of an alert, and an account manager might call up the customer to see how things are going. For a variety of reasons, those calls often go answered.

What if, instead, the person calling was someone who has a similar industry, use case, and situation, a peer who can show how to generate a lot more value from the service? We see this as the future of customer success, powered mostly by advocates who participate because they believe in the mission, enjoy seeing their impact and value the social capital inside and outside of the advo- cate community.

PRODUCT AND ENGINEERING

Rob McEwen found his gold with an army of armchair geologists and engineers. The open-source movement is powered mainly by volunteer software developers. Carl Pei’s OnePlus Forums helped design the game changing OnePlus One smartphone. One of the best-selling new flavors of potato chips in Canada was sourced by a Frito-Lay advocate who came up with the idea for a poutine flavor. Smart companies are tapping into their communities of enthusiasts for ideation and development of products. This is a trend we predict will accelerate.

We talked earlier about CarbonBlack, which has created a number of different committees where advocates can par- ticipate in product development. For example, the Design Committee is limited to a couple of dozen participants, who meet with the chief technology o cer and team of product managers, designers, and engineers to collaboratively work on the next generation of product features. This is a level deeper than what we have typically seen in the past, which is mainly around ideation.

The best companies are putting their advocates into the lab to work hand-in-hand with technical staff. Companies that do this will not only build better products, but have a chance to create something that changes the nature of competition through faster learning and iteration.

STRATEGY, OPERATIONS, AND FINANCE

Of all the functions of a company, strategy, operations, and finance are closest to its core. It can be di cult to imagine how these core functions may be better performed by the advocate community than employees—yet we are seeing precisely such innovation.

Today, Lego enjoys one of the most valuable and beloved brands in the world. Their entertainment empire extends from branded toys to mobile apps, from feature films gross- ing hundreds of millions of dollars to theme parks and retail locations all over the world. It’s hard to imagine that this once-humble, near-bankrupt producer of plastic bricks could be mentioned in the same breath as Disney, yet it’s an apt comparison today.

There are multiple virtual and real-life communities at Lego that open-source their strategy to determine the markets they should compete in, and how to compete in those markets. There is a site called Lego Ideas, where anybody can suggest new products, services, and busi- ness lines. Winning proposals provide an opportunity to work with Lego executives. The award-winning and profitable Architecture line of Lego bricks, which is tar- geted at adults and sells for more than twice the price of Lego for kids, was the brainchild of a Lego advocate who created Lego masterpieces for fun and convinced top management that there was a profitable segment in adults.

Lego’s brilliant CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, appointed in 2003, receives a lot of credit for his genius strategy. He in turn credits his communities of advocates with its creation.

Opening the company strategy to customer advocates encouraged even more innovation by making the company more transparent and trustworthy. An innovation site in Japan, Cuusoo, not only sources ideas, but pays royalties to the customer-innovators for life. The revenue-sharing model forced openness about company financials that built an even greater sense of community with its innovators. Cuusoo drove some of Lego’s greatest contributors to its financial success with joint licensing deals with brands from Disney, LucasFilm, and Minecraft, all suggested and voted on by members of Lego strategic innovation communities.

Can company operations be better performed by the com- munity? In the future, we see this being an instinct or reflex. The first people to consult on solving operational problems will be the advocate community.

MANAGING COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

In the future, we foresee advocate engagement platforms that sense the different a liations of advocates and pro- vide the ideal experience for them that cuts across lines. Social media feeds are increasingly adapting to participants depending on their situation, and they provide a useful metaphor that may work well for the disparate communities in which advocates participate. Hierarchies are valuable tools for managing highly complex initiatives like global enterprise-wide advocacy, but ultimately, success is about the advocate user experience, which can cut across that hierarchy in multiple directions.

We also envision more of the benefits of advocacy shared with the advocates themselves, through stock owner- ship organized by a Blockchain mechanism. After all, they drive a lot of value for the companies and products that they care about, and having ownership encourages a long-term, more strategic approach to advocacy, as opposed to simple quid quo pro. Would this ownership cause advocates to be less effective because their integrity is compromised?

The answer is likely no, especially if the incentives are modest enough. We also believe that mechanisms will evolve that rate the effectiveness and trustworthiness of advocates, as a form of whu e—a virtual currency that correlates to contributions to society in author Cory Doc- torow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

We already rate the accuracy of advocates in our own minds, so it feels natural that we will see those mechanisms extended. On sites like Quora, Stack Overflow, and Reddit, this social capital is already being tracked and managed.

Marshall McLuhan instructs us to take every medium to its logical extreme to predict what it will flip into, as radio flipped into television and television flipped into YouTube. If a much larger population in the world is advocating, the quality of those advocates become crucial to understand.

When a company has a corporate-wide initiative to build advocates and mobilize them, organizational design becomes important for success. Who should be responsible for the success of the overall initiative? How can it be ensured that the overall program is cohesive, yet responsive to the needs of all divisions, departments, and geographies?

The GE rollout of its Six Sigma Quality Initiative points the way for how to manage advocate marketing in the largest of companies. First, there should be someone accountable for overall advocate engagement across all divisions, stake- holder types, and geographies. This Chief Advocacy Officer, reporting to the CEO, ensures that the power of advocates is being implemented everywhere, and the company is achieving its advocacy goals, moving up the capability maturity model.

Just as in major enterprise rollouts like Six Sigma, the com- plexity can be mind-boggling. If there are sub-communities for geographic locations, divisions, and stakeholders, how best to handle, for example, the needs of Japanese partners for a startup division of a large company, if there are advo- cate communities for Japan, partners, and the division?

There are no easy answers here. Often, the solution has already been identified through other global enterprise initiatives and how they are managed. It’s the job of the Chief Advocacy Officer to figure out the best approach.

Visit the link to get your copy today!

Author: Mark Organ, CEO, Influitive 

9 perceptions of B2B Marketing that Should Scare You

It’s becoming increasingly urgent for B2B marketing organizations to embrace revenue responsibility and act as a profit center.  But how your marketing team acts is just part of the equation.  How you are perceived by others in the organization can be equally damaging to your ability to drive real results.

So in the spirit of Halloween, here are 10 festering perceptions of B2B marketing that, if you hear them internally, should scare you.

1. Marketing just owns the top of the sales funnel, the first half of the buyer’s journey
This mentality leads to constant friction between sales and marketing, and a lack of full-funnel ownership and accountability down the chain in your marketing organizations.  Rather than split the pipeline horizontally, split it vertically.  Create responsibility for sales and marketing across every stage of the sales funnel and buying process to improve accountability and results.

2. More leads are better
Quantity does not equal value, but many organizations are measured by the “up and to the right” chart each month of net-new leads.  The more you perpetuate the “marketing of more”, the less likely you can focus on the real tactics and metrics that drive pipeline performance.  Sometimes less leads, and better leads, are better.

3. Less sales content is better for sales
You may have seen the same stats I have indicating up to 90 percent of sales content goes unused.  Unfortunately many organizations translate that into a need to deliver less content to sales.  This leads to a significant watering-down of content that makes it far less relevant to far more of your prospects.  The answer is more precise content for each member of your customer’s buying committee at each stage of the buying process.  More precise storytelling means greater velocity and consensus-building among your prospects.

4. Budget = impact
Gone are the days when media budget equates to status among marketing leaders.  Spend money if you need to, especially if it gets the right prospects profitably into your pipeline.  But technology, content and process are replacing media as the coin of the realm for B2B marketers.  Focus on pipeline contribution, not budget, as your focus.

5. Growth hacking & agile marketing is all we need
I’m all for improving your tactical marketing performance and making rapid adjustments to improve results.  But agile marketing too often is promoted at the expense of having a dedicated strategy.  And in nearly every instance, growth hacking simply means daily fire drills without ever establishing precedents and sustainable, predictable campaigns and results.

6. Traditional marketing methods no longer work
My favorite marketing book to this day is still Scientific Advertising.  It was written in 1921 and is as relevant today as it was then.  Traditional does not mean archaic.  New doesn’t mean better either.  World-class marketing organizations embrace the new and traditional without bias or prejudice.

7. Events cost too much money, are a waste of time & don’t generate pipeline
Our research this year has shown that events and trade shows are among the highest performers for B2B marketers.  The longer your sales cycle, the more important they are at building awareness, trust, preference and pipeline.  Yes they can take a lot of time and money to execute well.   But cost and and time is all relative.  Impact and results is what matters.

8. The more marketing technology, the better
Some companies do a fantastic job managing a highly complex ecosystem of sales & marketing technology.  Unfortunately those companies too often are the exception to the rule.  Many companies buy technology that looks interesting, that in a silo sounds valuable, but is rarely integrated and often delivers a fraction of its potential value to the organization.  In too many cases, too much technology becomes a burden to progress and results.  Choose technology wisely, integrate it fully, evaluate its impact regularly.

9. Direct mail is too expensive
Define expensive.  Does direct mail cost more than shooting email out of a cannon?  Sure.  But with the right prospects is it worth it, can it stand out and differentiate you and get the response you’re looking for? Absolutely.

Author: Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing – Visit https://www.heinzmarketing.com/2017/10/nine-perceptions-b2b-marketing-scare/ to learn more.

5 Steps to becoming a Revenue Catalyst

Samantha Stone (@samanthastone) www.unleashpossible.com Founder, the Marketing Advisory Network

Product marketing is hard work. Not only must we be an expert on our offering, but we also have to deeply understand market dynamics and competitor moves. We must understand the past, have a pulse on the present, and breakout the crystal ball to predict the future.

Yet, the demand generation function often eclipses product marketing in terms of internal awareness and resource prioritization. How do we elevate the role of product marketing so it too can be recognized as a revenue catalyst?

Over the years I’ve found these five practices most important in meeting the revenue mission head on.

  1. We have to build credibility with sales. It doesn’t matter how much research we conduct, if sales doesn’t have visibility into our process, they won’t believe the results. Sit in on prospect meetings. Hang out and listen while sales teams are making phone calls. Join forecast reviews. Do whatever you can to understand what the sales team is facing, and find opportunities to show your empathy, but more critically your knowledge. Don’t just talk theory, tell stories of actual buyer discussions. It’s amazing how one anecdote will change sales action and build trust.

Tip: Once a week take a sales person to lunch. Don’t have an agenda, just talk about recent engagements with buyers that you’ve both had. Great ideas often begin on            lunch napkins.

  1. Document & train on personas. Those organizations that embrace qualitative and quantitative persona research are more successful. Product marketers know this. Yet, time is a premium and personas get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list or are allowed to get stale. Sadly, I don’t have a time machine that can make building personas less work, but I can assure you that the effort is completely worthwhile.

Tip: Some of your greatest insights will be shadowing your buyers in their day to day environment. You’ll see first- hand how they work, and you may even uncover new opportunities to serve them.  

  1. End the feature wars, elevate differentiation. It’s almost impossible to sell value when buyers and your team are focused on features and functions. While it is critical to understand the capabilities of competitive products, messaging must elevate the discussion to value differentiation.

 Tip: When documenting your differentiation confirm that it is truly unique to you, that it is difficult to replicate and you can prove it is true, and most important, be sure it is something the buyer cares about. 

  1. You are sick of hearing this but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s too important to gloss over. We have to map the buyer’s journey. But more than mapping it, we have to act upon the insights by building a sales enablement library that supports each stage of the process. And we have to train the sales team to understand how to use each of the tools that we develop.

Tip: Include buyers in the review cycle for major assets. It’s easy to get caught up with internal review cycles, but external feedback by the intended audience can turn a mediocre asset into a must leverage tool.

  1. Measure the right things. It’s easy to get lost by measuring activity, instead of impact. As product marketers we have to go beyond day to day revenue contribution, and also hold ourselves accountable to long-term strategic goals. These might include new segment penetration KPIs, market share objectives, or improvements to win rate or average deal size.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to measure things that are not fully in your control. Cross functional collaboration is the key to sustainable growth.

I hope these tips have inspired you to let your inner revenue catalyst shine!

Q & A with Travis Kaufman from Aptrinsic

Bio:
Travis Kaufman joins Aptrinsic as Vice President of Product Growth. Prior to Aptrinsic, Travis led
product leadership roles at Leadspace and Marketo where he shaped the direction of B2B marketing
technology. Travis brings over 15 years experience delivering innovative products to market across
the marketing and sales tech landscapes including AI, social media marketing, display advertising
and CRM sales forecasting.

1. What do you believe are the primary responsibilities for a Product Marketer?

A Product Marketer is responsible for all go-to-market aspects of their product. They are tasked
with defining their product, pricing, promotion and distribution. For SaaS companies, the degree
to which a Product Marketer is held accountable for the success of each of these areas varies
widely based on the size of the company and their go-to-market strategy.
With the traditional sales led go-to-market strategy, the sales leader is responsible for the
revenue numbers associated with product success. With a product led go-to-market, where
your product is delivered through a low-touch limited time free trial or freemium offer, the
product leader is responsible for revenue.
The core of the Product Marketing role, which we see rapidly evolving into Product Growth is
the ability to identify and understand market needs and pain points. This knowledge is essential
to influence what their product needs to do in order to address those needs and ultimately
create a successful business.

2. What one company calls a product manager, another calls a product marketing
manager. In a nutshell, what’s the difference between a Product Manager and a
Product Marketer?

When Richard Gere walked up to Julia Roberts in the 1990 film Pretty Woman he asked “What’s
your name?”… and she replied “What do you want it to be?” This dialog between two fictional
characters is very similar to the role product people face today. Every business has defined
departments and stakeholders that address very concrete areas.

In the case of SaaS companies there is R&D, the people who write the code and build the
product. There are the business teams; marketing/sales/finance/operations; the people
responsible for acquiring and supporting customers and the health of the business. You’ve also
got customers; the people who have a problem that your product solves.

Each of these stakeholders have a relationship and overlapping boundaries. And as such, each
company may naturally have talent in bridging one or more of these areas without anyone with a
formal product title. For example, your sales team may have a solid understanding of the
customers needs and ability to communicate those needs to the R&D team. Your finance team
may have a good grasp of the costs associated with building and maintaining the new product in
order to properly allocate funds and measure ROI.

However, there is usually a gap in one or more of these overlapping areas and this is where
product comes in. Product often operates as a bridge between these different stakeholders and
fills in gaps the organization may have in balancing the needs of these different, but related
stakeholders. So, like Julia Roberts’ character, the product person is called “whatever the
organization wants it to be.”

Someone with the role of product manager will typically have skills that help bridge the gap
between customers needs and R&D teams. Defining and communicating the product
capabilities in a form the R&D team need to build the product and managing the full software
development lifecycle. Someone with the role of product marketer will have skills to help bridge
gaps between customers needs and the business. Helping customers understand the benefits
of the product or identifying the best vehicle to reach new customers.

I’m a big fan of the work Dan Schmidt has created in the form of The Product Management
Triangle . Dan shares that depending on the gaps a company needs filled will determine if the
product person will have a “product manager” vs. “ product marketer” title.

3. How can Product Marketers directly influence revenue growth, customer retention
and awareness?

This is one of the most exciting times to be a product marketer. Product marketing is inherently
aligned with customer acquisition and retention outcomes. So much so, that we now see the
emergence of “Product growth manager” roles within organizations. The most impactful thing a
product growth manager can do is to select the right market and customer problem for their
product company to solve.

Identifying the market need and core competency of your organization to uniquely address that
market need shows itself in the form of faster revenue growth, reduced customer acquisition
costs and higher customer lifetime value. Unfortunately just declaring the market need and core
competency isn’t enough to grow your business. You need to create inspiring messaging that
resonates with your customer and arm your marketing team so they can increase awareness.

Your sales team needs to be educated on the customer problem and benefits of your solution
over the alternatives. Your operations and support teams need to be able to serve your
customers so their satisfaction with you product and company align with their expectations.
Outside of enabling your customer facing teams on the benefits of your product, you can also
create a direct contribution to growth through the use of product experience platforms such as
Aptrinsic. With visibility into your customers product usage, you can create tailored
walkthroughs and guides within your product to increase adoption and help customers realize
the intrinsic value of your product.

4. What role does a Product Marketer play towards helping an organization become
market-driven?

As mentioned earlier, the core contribution of the Product Marketer is to identify and understand
market needs and pain points. With this understanding in hand, they are one of the greatest
forces to help an organization become market-driven.

One of the best, and unfortunately under utilized tools to help an organization become
market-driven is the creation of an ideal customer profile (ICP) along with analysis of how those
that match the ICP actually use your product.

All too often, product marketing leads will create a well intended and thoughtful presentation
articulating the characteristics of their buyer and user personas. There will be a “mock” photo of
the persona, calling out the details of their role and responsibility, demographics, pain points,
influencers, hopes and dreams; all in effort to help educate the organization on what makes
their customer tick. Targeted messaging is then created to support marketing programs and the
persona presentation is socialized with other customer facing teams.

This is typically where the exercise stops leaving your ICP and market personas being no more
than a presentation that doesn’t come to life in your everyday operations. To really make your
organization more market-driven you need to validate the needs and wants of those personas
over-time based on what capabilities of your product they use (and more telling, what they don’t
use). To do this effectively you need to be able to analyze your product usage data based on
the same characteristics that make up your target personas. Armed with this information you
can create more holistic persona definitions, measure your organizations success with those
personas and identify new personas and adjacent markets that find value in your product.

5. What challenges do Product Marketers face both within their organizations and
externally as they look to help their companies become market-driven?

The road to product success and being market-driven is full of challenges. At the early stages
of a product’s life cycle, there may not be a strong understanding or clarity on who the target
market and buyer should be and as a result it can be challenging to identify which market to be
driven by. You may get traction with SMB customers who have very different feedback than
your Enterprise customers. New stakeholders outside of your target persona also emerge
opening up new opportunities into an adjacent market. At this stage it’s best to take some
educated bets and determine what success looks like in a given market and how long you as an
organization are going to focus there in order to keep your teams aligned on the needs of that
market.

I believe that being market-driven is the only way to succeed in creating products that
customers love. Now this does not mean that all of your product requirements are going to be
verbalized by your customers. On the contrary, many of the most disruptive and successful
products today did not come from a customer saying what they needed, but from the
understanding of the problems they faced and the ability to identify emerging technologies
which change how your customers solve that problem. It’s this balance that product leaders
must tackle when being market-driven is to not simply deliver what their customers are asking
for, but go beyond the ask and truly understand the problem they need addressed in order to
bring innovative and product defining solutions to market.

6. What metrics should a Product Marketer use to measure success?

For those of us in a SaaS industry, the ability for an organization to acquire and win new
customers and keep them long enough to generate a healthy customer lifetime value are
indicators of business success. There can be many things to measure along the customer’s
journey with your product. As a product leader, you need to be measuring to your company’s
north star metric.

This metric differs from business to business. Uber might focus on the number of rides given,
whereas an operational app like SFDC might measure Daily Active Users (DAU)/Monthly Active
Users (MAU) and focus on retention and expansion. A fast-growing startup will usually focus on
New Users (i.e., customer acquisition) and win rate. Your North Star metric is comprised of user
behavior associated with core feature usage that translate to business results.

You’ll want to track your north star metric over time and identify trends that can be identified as
acceptable variations. Most businesses have an element of seasonality and you want to be
able to understand your north star metric well enough to know if a change requires action or
should be expected. When there are changes that cannot be explained by seasonality, you will
want to have the next level of metrics available that influence your north star metric.

Let’s take Uber again as an example. If the number of rides given (north star metric) in a given
time period drops and it’s not due to seasonality, the next level of detail to investigate is the # of
active drivers (supply) and the # of riders requesting a ride (demand). If either of these metrics
drops significantly, it can impact the # of rides given.
The same is true of enterprise software. You need to have your product instrumented so that
you have your north star and supporting metrics at your fingertips so you can quickly make
informed decisions.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Travis and Aptrinsic , feel free to join them for a webinar
on 1/31 where he will be sharing best practices on how to increase the adoption of newly
released product capabilities by creating a release experience
(https://www.eventbrite.com/e/webinar-from-release-notes-to-release-experiences-tickets-42370
700907).