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 create content that resonates with your audience? Start a podcast, interview your ideal clients and let them choose the topic of the interview, because if your ideal clients care about the topic, there's a good chance the rest of your audience will care about it too. Learn more at sweet fish Mediacom. You're listening to the be tob growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping be to be executives achieve 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 product marketing. Jess, how you doing today? Hey, grant, James. Thank you 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 I think you've got some really valuable insights around...

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

Okay, I was much more interested in strategic leadership and and strategy and picking the brains of really smart people and and 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 who maybe they're new to their marketing role or they're not as from that. You know, I think we've all heard the term product marketing, but I think a lot of people are defining it in different ways. How how do you define product marketing? And then we're going to dive into a turn that you refer to offline. You kept saying PMM, which is a product marketing manager. I want to talk a little bit about that role as well, but before we do that, talk to us about kind of your definition of product marketing. Yeah, so I think the easiest way to explain it is in the 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 the middle of that, making decisions related to the product and managing those projects is the product manager or the PM. The product marketing manager works really closely with that person at that same intersection and also have to communicate with those same teams and collaborate with them in order to do the marketing that's necessary to get that product into the market place. So if the product managers key role is in building the right product for the market. The product marketing managers roll is in packaging that product in a way that the market is receptive to and figuring out how to distribute it to get it there. Got It. Okay. So it's more where the product manager is overseeing the the UX, the design, what the product looks and feels like, where the product marketing manager is more figuring out the distribution of how do we actually get this product in front of the 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 the product manager is described as the CEO of product the product marketing manager is the CMO of product. Got It is we were talking off on. You had mentioned some very specific benefits of hiring a product marketing manager. Can you go over a few of those worth yeah, so this role really grew because product managers were asking for them and they're doing all this work to to build products that answer an audience need. But there's a ton of work that also goes into the packaging and delivery of the product after it's built. Go to market plans, which will get to in a minute. So product marketing drastically increases the chance that your product will reach the market successfully. It reduces the likelihood of a failed launch, which is expensive. You'll get faster product adoption, you'll deliver a much better experience that encourages and validates or users and keep them engaging your product, which keeps making you...

...money. I love it. I love it. And so, in getting to kind of some of the more granular elements of what product marketers need to know and and really what companies need to know if they're if they're looking to bring a product marketer on, they're thinking, okay, what is this person going to do? What skill set do they need to have? You mentioned go to market planning. Talk to us a little bit more about that. Yeah, so before I get to go to market planning, more foundationally, product marketing managers need to have a really 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. So the product manager is building the product, but you need to figure out how to translate those benefits to the market, which is, I think, a that's a usual marketing role. But on top of that, PMM's which is the abbreviation for product marketing manager. Pmms have to be able to participate in the usual environment that that product teams are...

...used to working in. So you have to be able to speak the language of UX and engineering. You don't necessarily have to code, although I think a lot of markers can code at least a little bit at this point, but you really do have to have an interest and an understanding of what's possible through technology. You have to be able to operate in an adult work environment, so you should be familiar with things like scrum and sprints and user stories and whatever project management tools your teams are using to manage their processes, because you want to be able to seamlessly fit 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 maybe they've never been in product marketing before, but they tend to make a good fit in that role based on, you know, other roles they've played? Yeah, definitely. I think that if you are a person who works really well with people, if you find that your first way to solve a problem is 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 a people and project management role and definitely techy people, people who are just interested in that space, people who are more entrepreneurial will fit in really well on a role like this. Gotta was there a more just around. I want to talk about go to market plaining and I want to talk about user interviews, both of those being critical roles for product marketer. Yeah, love for you to dive into both of those fours. Yeah, so operating within that agile framework means that a huge part of your role will be constant go to market strategies for specific products and for product features. There for people who are maybe less familiar with agile, they're operating within sprints which are two to three weeks where they actually build something. So in order to keep up with that schedule you're doing constant research and constant planning in order to be able to make sure that each time something goes into the market place. You're not going to have a go to market strategy for...

...every single sprint, but you'll put together a plan when you're either launching a new product, launching a new feature of 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 decent chunk of your job, is that sometimes past go to market efforts failed or products or features are launched without go to market effort, and so you might have to create a new plan to take an existing product or feature and introduce it, to reintroduce it to your teer existing audience in order to make sure that you you get the adoption that you need. So your job, when doing this is develop a strategy to reach the market, leveraging the combined talents and expertise of these different teams that we were talking about. So you get to ask really, really cool questions like how could we develop the product itself in a way that's more likely to reach the market? So this might include building a preview or trial period into the...

...product. It might include building a product or building social components into the product. So dropbox is probably the best known example of this. The share with a friend promotions that they built into the functionality the product itself. Dropbox is a great example of a company who successes linked really closely to their their go to market strategy. So, like any marketing plan, you have to figure out your brand positioning, your value proposition, messaging, your channel strategy and your market strategy, which is where you're pricing. Research typically comes in in the case of pricing. Most of us aren't experts, so you need to get an idea of whether there's a market for your product at the the offering price you intend, and then you have to just continually test to figure out the best pricing model and messaging to meet the market. Got It. So, Jeff, I would imagine user interviews play into that because you want to you essentially want to be able to use the verbage that your market is is using, because that's the type of messaging that's going to attract them. Is...

...that? Is that the primary component of user interviews, or is there's a much more to it? Yeah, so, for Goo to market strategy and positioning, interviews make a really big difference. 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 in house that they only work with for those couple projects each year, and then they use AB testing and analytics for the majority of their research. As a PMM you need something a little bit richer, but you are operating on that short timeline, so a lot of different methods could accomplish your goal to to better understand your audience behavior, their beliefs, their relationship with your product. But yeah, I want to make the case for interviews. I think people shy 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 have to do, but that all marketers could really benefit from as part of their research repertoire. So ideally you talk to...

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

...think interviews are helpful in keeping you more focused, because you just have no choice but to go in with an action plan. So to form that plan you're going to work with that same cross 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 order to both to channel their expertise but also so that they have more buy in and interest in the results of that research. The last thing you want to do is, you know, put out a report and have you be the only one considering that, because there's just really rich, cool stuff that comes out of this. So Erica Hall wrote a book that's called just enough research. So she you suggest that the most important question you need to ask is the one that sheds light on the greatest area of risk. So if you take that big bubble, that's everything you don't know, and then you work with this really smart project team and...

...figure out what questions you still have that have the potential to do the most damage with their answers, come up with those questions with that team and and that's a good place to start with your interviews. And then if you were to say the ultimate goal of what these 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 risk moving forward. But there's there's a bunch of other benefits to them. You become much more your role as a PMM is to be voice of the customer during the product build. So you can do that much more authentically when you're literally hearing the voice of the customer on a regular basis. Yeah, but you can build some really good relationships with users and clients this way. This is getting a little in the weeds, but there's that. If you've read thinking fast and slow, there's that. There's this system, one reverse psychology thing happening there where. And if you do a favor for someone, your brain says I usually do favors for people...

I like. So if I did someone a favor, I must like them. So it's you're actually really strengthening relationships with the people who agree to spend this time with you in yourself also oats, speaking of which I know it's very tempting as marketers, but do not use this time and space to ask for a testimonial. I always want to, 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's somebody that wants to die deeper on this with you or just kind of stay connected with you on social what's the best way for them to go about doing that? You can find me on Linkedin Jess Forester. I'm probably the only one with product marketing in my headline, but it's also JFO rr as my linkedin handle, and I'd be more than happy to to answer any questions about either hiring a PMM or if you're someone who's interested in in shifting into this career path, I'd be one of happy...

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

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