560: The Role of the Product Marketing Manager w/ Jess Forrester

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we talk to Jess Forrester, a mission-driven leader with 8+ years of experience managing projects at the intersections of product development, business strategy, market research, and marketing communications.

Looking for a guaranteed way to createcontent that resonates with your audience? Start a podcast, interview your ideal clientsand let them choose the topic of the interview, because if your ideal clientscare about the topic, there's a good chance the rest of your audience willcare about it too. Learn more at sweet fish Mediacom. You're listening tothe be tob growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping be to be executivesachieve explosive growth. What you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources? You've come to the right place. I'm Jonathan Green and I'm James Carberry. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to the BEDB growth show.We are here today with Jess Forester and we're going to be talking about productmarketing. Jess, how you doing today? Hey, grant, James. Thankyou I am. I'm really excited to chat with you today, Jess. We just had a really good conversation offline before we started recording and Ithink you've got some really valuable insights around...

...this, this idea that going tobe valuable to our listeners. Before we do, I'd love to just howour listeners get a little bit of context on you and why this is anarea that you're so passionate about. Can you tell us a little bit aboutyour background and how you and have gained the expertise that you have now inproduct marketing? Surey, absolutely so. I've been at the intersections of businessand technology for the eight years I've spent as a marketer. I was ata nonprofit research company or research association, did some freelance work where I workedreally closely with web developer and finally an Education Media Company focused on and techand recruiting. And as a tech Geek, I found myself wanting to solve marketingproblems by working with engineers and I found out I was able to dosome powerful stuff that way. I also found that a lot of people whoare interested in the tech side of marketing grow into the marketing operations path andthat was not very interesting to me.

Okay, I was much more interestedin strategic leadership and and strategy and picking the brains of really smart people andand leveraging their expertise to to make some cool stuff happen for business growth.All right, so so. If, just if we're talking to someone whomaybe they're new to their marketing role or they're not as from that. Youknow, I think we've all heard the term product marketing, but I thinka lot of people are defining it in different ways. How how do youdefine product marketing? And then we're going to dive into a turn that yourefer to offline. You kept saying PMM, which is a product marketing manager.I want to talk a little bit about that role as well, butbefore we do that, talk to us about kind of your definition of productmarketing. Yeah, so I think the easiest way to explain it is inthe context of product manager, which I think people are more familiar with.So product manager is the person in charge of a software web based product.So you have teams for UX and business...

...and engineering, and then in themiddle of that, making decisions related to the product and managing those projects isthe product manager or the PM. The product marketing manager works really closely withthat person at that same intersection and also have to communicate with those same teamsand collaborate with them in order to do the marketing that's necessary to get thatproduct into the market place. So if the product managers key role is inbuilding the right product for the market. The product marketing managers roll is inpackaging that product in a way that the market is receptive to and figuring outhow to distribute it to get it there. Got It. Okay. So it'smore where the product manager is overseeing the the UX, the design,what the product looks and feels like, where the product marketing manager is morefiguring out the distribution of how do we actually get this product in front ofthe people that are are going to get...

...the most value from it? Yeah, exactly. I think the easiest way I've heard it explained as if theproduct manager is described as the CEO of product the product marketing manager is theCMO of product. Got It is we were talking off on. You hadmentioned some very specific benefits of hiring a product marketing manager. Can you goover a few of those worth yeah, so this role really grew because productmanagers were asking for them and they're doing all this work to to build productsthat answer an audience need. But there's a ton of work that also goesinto the packaging and delivery of the product after it's built. Go to marketplans, which will get to in a minute. So product marketing drastically increasesthe chance that your product will reach the market successfully. It reduces the likelihoodof a failed launch, which is expensive. You'll get faster product adoption, you'lldeliver a much better experience that encourages and validates or users and keep themengaging your product, which keeps making you...

...money. I love it. Ilove it. And so, in getting to kind of some of the moregranular elements of what product marketers need to know and and really what companies needto know if they're if they're looking to bring a product marketer on, they'rethinking, okay, what is this person going to do? What skill setdo they need to have? You mentioned go to market planning. Talk tous a little bit more about that. Yeah, so before I get togo to market planning, more foundationally, product marketing managers need to have areally solid foundation of traditional business strategy concepts like market research and brand positioning.The huge part of your roles. It is a strategic leadership role. Sothe product manager is building the product, but you need to figure out howto translate those benefits to the market, which is, I think, athat's a usual marketing role. But on top of that, PMM's which isthe abbreviation for product marketing manager. Pmms have to be able to participate inthe usual environment that that product teams are...

...used to working in. So youhave to be able to speak the language of UX and engineering. You don'tnecessarily have to code, although I think a lot of markers can code atleast a little bit at this point, but you really do have to havean interest and an understanding of what's possible through technology. You have to beable to operate in an adult work environment, so you should be familiar with thingslike scrum and sprints and user stories and whatever project management tools your teamsare using to manage their processes, because you want to be able to seamlesslyfit your marketing role into those processes so that you can really be in sync. Got It. Are there particular people within an organization jest that you maybethey've never been in product marketing before, but they tend to make a goodfit in that role based on, you know, other roles they've played?Yeah, definitely. I think that if you are a person who works reallywell with people, if you find that your first way to solve a problemis to find the smartest person in the...

...room, to solve that problems.This is probably a good role for you. Yeah, it's very much of apeople and project management role and definitely techy people, people who are justinterested in that space, people who are more entrepreneurial will fit in really wellon a role like this. Gotta was there a more just around. Iwant to talk about go to market plaining and I want to talk about userinterviews, both of those being critical roles for product marketer. Yeah, lovefor you to dive into both of those fours. Yeah, so operating withinthat agile framework means that a huge part of your role will be constant goto market strategies for specific products and for product features. There for people whoare maybe less familiar with agile, they're operating within sprints which are two tothree weeks where they actually build something. So in order to keep up withthat schedule you're doing constant research and constant planning in order to be able tomake sure that each time something goes into the market place. You're not goingto have a go to market strategy for...

...every single sprint, but you'll puttogether a plan when you're either launching a new product, launching a new featureof an existing product, taking an existing product or featured to a new audience. And the one people don't talk about but that ends up being a decentchunk of your job, is that sometimes past go to market efforts failed orproducts or features are launched without go to market effort, and so you mighthave to create a new plan to take an existing product or feature and introduceit, to reintroduce it to your teer existing audience in order to make surethat you you get the adoption that you need. So your job, whendoing this is develop a strategy to reach the market, leveraging the combined talentsand expertise of these different teams that we were talking about. So you getto ask really, really cool questions like how could we develop the product itselfin a way that's more likely to reach the market? So this might includebuilding a preview or trial period into the...

...product. It might include building aproduct or building social components into the product. So dropbox is probably the best knownexample of this. The share with a friend promotions that they built intothe functionality the product itself. Dropbox is a great example of a company whosuccesses linked really closely to their their go to market strategy. So, likeany marketing plan, you have to figure out your brand positioning, your valueproposition, messaging, your channel strategy and your market strategy, which is whereyou're pricing. Research typically comes in in the case of pricing. Most ofus aren't experts, so you need to get an idea of whether there's amarket for your product at the the offering price you intend, and then youhave to just continually test to figure out the best pricing model and messaging tomeet the market. Got It. So, Jeff, I would imagine user interviewsplay into that because you want to you essentially want to be able touse the verbage that your market is is using, because that's the type ofmessaging that's going to attract them. Is...

...that? Is that the primary componentof user interviews, or is there's a much more to it? Yeah,so, for Goo to market strategy and positioning, interviews make a really bigdifference. Most marketers do, I think, a few large studies a year.A lot of times they're outsource. They may use a researcher that's inhouse that they only work with for those couple projects each year, and thenthey use AB testing and analytics for the majority of their research. As aPMM you need something a little bit richer, but you are operating on that shorttimeline, so a lot of different methods could accomplish your goal to tobetter understand your audience behavior, their beliefs, their relationship with your product. Butyeah, I want to make the case for interviews. I think peopleshy away from them and because they think they're more complicated than they are,and they're really not. And I think this is something that pmm's really haveto do, but that all marketers could really benefit from as part of theirresearch repertoire. So ideally you talk to...

...at least five people per subset ofyour market for any good market strategy. And you made spend one of thoselarger research projects may be an outsource project identifying and defining those personas. SoI know for those of us who are used to asking questions and diving rightinto analytics, it sounds painfully slow to talk to people compared with asking thosekinds of questions. But for me I find this type of research to beto be some of the most productive work that I do, in part becauseyou don't go into a meeting with a person who's volunteering their time and thenwaste their time. Yeah, so a good data analyst knows to step backand make a plan before they dig into adobe analytics or whatever, and Ilove those tools. I'm not suggesting that you quit using a be testing oranalytics by any means. I use them all the time. But I alsoknow I'm not the only nerdy marketer guilty of opening up analytics and going downa black hole of curiosities. And I...

...think interviews are helpful in keeping youmore focused, because you just have no choice but to go in with anaction plan. So to form that plan you're going to work with that samecross functional team that you work with to build your go to market strategy.The more people that you can get involved in planning your interviews, the better. Ideally, you'd have someone from marketing, sales, UX and engineering in orderto both to channel their expertise but also so that they have more buyin and interest in the results of that research. The last thing you wantto do is, you know, put out a report and have you bethe only one considering that, because there's just really rich, cool stuff thatcomes out of this. So Erica Hall wrote a book that's called just enoughresearch. So she you suggest that the most important question you need to askis the one that sheds light on the greatest area of risk. So ifyou take that big bubble, that's everything you don't know, and then youwork with this really smart project team and...

...figure out what questions you still havethat have the potential to do the most damage with their answers, come upwith those questions with that team and and that's a good place to start withyour interviews. And then if you were to say the ultimate goal of whatthese interviews should accomplish, how would you boil that down? I mean,I think that would be it to shed light on the greatest area of riskmoving forward. But there's there's a bunch of other benefits to them. Youbecome much more your role as a PMM is to be voice of the customerduring the product build. So you can do that much more authentically when you'reliterally hearing the voice of the customer on a regular basis. Yeah, butyou can build some really good relationships with users and clients this way. Thisis getting a little in the weeds, but there's that. If you've readthinking fast and slow, there's that. There's this system, one reverse psychologything happening there where. And if you do a favor for someone, yourbrain says I usually do favors for people...

I like. So if I didsomeone a favor, I must like them. So it's you're actually really strengthening relationshipswith the people who agree to spend this time with you in yourself alsooats, speaking of which I know it's very tempting as marketers, but donot use this time and space to ask for a testimonial. I always wantto, but restraint is best. Starry to do good at the RESART.Appreciate I say appreciate you just this is this has been fantastic. If there'ssomebody that wants to die deeper on this with you or just kind of stayconnected with you on social what's the best way for them to go about doingthat? You can find me on Linkedin Jess Forester. I'm probably the onlyone with product marketing in my headline, but it's also JFO rr as mylinkedin handle, and I'd be more than happy to to answer any questions abouteither hiring a PMM or if you're someone who's interested in in shifting into thiscareer path, I'd be one of happy...

...to talk to you about it.Awesome, Jess well, thank you so much for your time today. Thishas been fantastic, so I really appreciate it. Thanks, James. Havea good one. If you've been getting valued from this podcast, you canhelp us reach more people by reviewing the show on itunes. Here's are youcan leave a review in less than a minute. Open your podcast APP andtap the surge icon in the bottom right corner. Type in fee to begrowth, then select our show. Once you're there, tap the reviews taband tell us what you think of the show. These reviews help us outa time. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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