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It’s not so complicated: Getting started in Product Marketing with Div Manickam
When we think about Product Marketing, a part of it is messaging and positioning.
As Div Manickam shared with us, this comes down to finding who your customers are, what are their pain points, and what unique differentiation you can offer as a product.
So it’s not about features or functionality, because your customers will not translate and understand what you are offering.
In this episode, you’ll hear about:
- Identifying the customers’ pain points to define your messaging and positioning
- Buyer personas and how to define them
- A 5-step buyer journey from Discovery to Advocacy
- Product launches, aligning stakeholders and OKRs
- OKRs as a way to align what you do with what you want to achieve
And all these in less than 15 min.
Div Manickam: Hi everyone, my name is Div Manickam, and mentor at GrowthMentor, and excited to be here. I am a mindful soul and a believer in simplicity and looking forward to sharing my experiences here in Product Marketing, career growth, authentic leadership, mindfulness, essentialism, stress and anxiety, and belonging.
Spyros Tsoukalas: Div, welcome to the GrowthMentor Podcast. I’m excited to talk to you to talk with you about product marketing. So, let’s hit it. Could you share something with us that we might not know about product marketing?
Div Manickam: There is a lot that we don’t know about product marketing. I think to start off, we all assume that product marketing is one thing, depending on who you ask. I like to think of Product Marketing as there’s a secret recipe. If you can crack the code to figuring out that recipe for success, then as product marketing as PMM, we’re off to a good start. That also means that the product or the company is also on the right path to success. So finding the true essence of Product Marketing, what are the ingredients for PMM recipe messaging, positioning, buyer persona, and product launch are all things that we can discuss further in the session today.
Spyros Tsoukalas: I know you have this unique angle, let’s call it a framework that you follow splitting the process into a few steps. Would you like to elaborate on those? Like the first step is messaging and positioning? Is that right?
Div Manickam: Yes, that’s right. When we think about product marketing, I think one of the reasons why we are brought into the company is so that we can help with messaging and positioning. What it comes down to is finding who your customer is, what are their pain points, what is their value, and the unique differentiation that you have to offer, as a product as a solution for solving those pain points. See, it’s not about the features and functionality, as great as those features are if you have a feature-first mindset, you are not going to be successful, because your customers are not going to be able to translate and understand or resonate with what you have to offer. So think about the pain points, and then bring that together. That’s where the messaging and positioning framework comes in handy because you can actually distill it down to the decision-makers, the influencers. What is the value that you have to offer them?
Spyros Tsoukalas: Would you like to dive a little deeper into how you explore these areas of customer pain points?
Div Manickam: If we think about the customer pain points, there are a few things that are important. First, is understanding their intent. What is the intent? What is the customer really trying to understand? I always like to ask questions, and I do this in my product marketing class as well. What is your biggest pain point? Right? And ask that question, instead of just asking, what is your biggest pain point, they might come up with an answer, but they might not be the right one yet. So I always like to ask what keeps you up at night? Or, is the solution that we have a painkiller or a vitamin? And just understanding that perspective, I think opens up doors to better understand what their day in their life looks like. What are the challenges that they face? Also, challenges that they have is what your product and your solution offer something that is relevant to them and something that’s urgent and pervasive. So that’s what I would like to uncover in the messaging and positioning framework.
Spyros Tsoukalas: How do you move to the next step, which is the buyer persona and the buyer journey?
Div Manickam: Without the buyer persona and the buyer journey, I think we will be lost in product marketing. I would like to define the buyer persona as understanding who is that audience that you want to go after. Right? We can always say, Oh, our solution is for everybody. Anybody that means it doesn’t help anyone. So think about who that niche audience is, and what is it that you’re uniquely solving for them. If you can find who that audience is, that’s your buyer persona, right? It’s not just a title. It’s not just the role that you’re looking for. You’re looking for industries, you’re looking for market segments, you’re trying to better get to the point of, do I really know who the solution is going to matter for and who are those customers that really care about the solution, this product right? That’s what we’re trying to get to when we think about buyer persona. Once you know who that buyer persona is, then map out just like we would do a customer journey map out a buyer journey, and map out the buyer journey. I have five pieces of it right? You can five elements if you will, discover, learn, try, and buy an advocate. Oftentimes when you think about any buyer journey or any funnel that you think about in marketing you have your consideration, you have your awareness consideration, and decision phases here are broken into five because that makes it much more interconnected and more relatable for that buyer, right? There’s a phase where I’m going to discover the product, I’m going to find out, Oh, I have a problem, I need a solution for this problem. There’s a learning phase where I’m exploring and trying to learn what are the options out there for me, then I’ll try, this is where you’re going to bring and map your content to the steps. So your try is probably your demo, demos that you have at the buy phase, this is the decision-making phase where it’s between you and maybe one or two other competitors, or maybe the status quo to do nothing. This is your opportunity to have the right customer reviews to have the right case studies. So you can actually support and back up why they should choose you over some other vendor out there. It doesn’t end there. Because as product marketing, our role is to make sure that we have advocated for life. These are your customer success stories, the ones that will go on top of the mountain and say, hey, just check out how awesome Growth Mentors are. Like you have people like that, that’s what we’re looking for when it comes to that buyer journey. So as product marketing, think about that discovery where they find you, and all the way to they are you’re the ones that are creating that word of mouth for you. So find that unique proposition. Then it’s all about the stories you tell because stories matter. That’s what we’re trying to get to right our stories are what will build that momentum for us.
Spyros Tsoukalas: In order to move from step one, messaging and positioning to step two, you first identify the customer pain points, you map them out, and then you start transforming them into buyer personas like who are those people where they are, what they do, what’s their role? What’s your industry? And then finding the least audience, you start mapping out how to approach them, and what are the steps that somebody should be going through in order to get them through the journey that we want to get them through? Okay, so how do we transition to the next step?
Div Manickam: When you have figured out who your buyer is, and what their journey looks like, this is where your launch and your OKRs come in handy. At the end of the day, whatever we do, if we don’t know what we’re working towards, or what success looks like, then it might as well be that we’re throwing darts at the wall and hoping something will stick. And so here is where you would bring OKRs where you would make sure you’re prioritizing the launch in the right way to bring the right resources together to have the right timing right. If every launch is a tier one launch, then we’re already setting ourselves up for failure, because we don’t have the resources all the time ever, we have to prioritize and prioritization is a big part. And when you are planning that product launch, make sure you’re bringing the right stakeholders into the process early on. Oftentimes, we think, let me figure out the whole process. Let me put together a go-to-market plan, and then go to their respective teams and then figure out how they are going to add value. No, bring them into the process first, have them be part of the conversation, because then they will be just as excited as you are to be part of the entire end-to-end process. Your stakeholders, product marketing, sales, customer success, engineering, you name it, pretty much anybody and everybody in the company that has a role to play in this product launch should be part of the conversation. I’ve had situations where we have done a product launch and then customer support or professional services or other teams would come up and say, hey, great that we just did a launch I just found out because I read the press release. That is a total no-no when it comes to product launches. So you want to make sure you have defined your OKRs you actually have to buy in from these stakeholders, the right product has to give you the thumbs up, go, or no go. Sales has to do the same thing. Customer Success, support training anybody and everybody that needs to be part of this need to give you that, go ahead. So, getting their consensus, and getting them ready is just as important. And don’t think that the launch is done the day you do the announcement because that’s another mistake that we often do. How we measure, how we define what a launch is, is just as important put together a 30, 90, and 180-day metric plan, these are the milestones we want to hit once we launch. Somebody should track it and oftentimes is product marketing, we launch one and then we have to launch the next one. And so there isn’t any follow-through. So this is another important thing that will help either make or break your launch. Make sure you have an accountability partner or maybe a product launch manager. That’s one role that helped us when, as the team grew that we realized that we were launching left, right, and center. How do we make sure we have somebody that’s going to hold us all accountable, and a product launch manager helped kind of streamline those processes? So, think about your OKRs, think about who you need in this launch, and champion them and bring them on board right your leadership team. Everybody should be on board. And just as excited as you are, and your product managers. So, that’s what step three is all about.
Spyros Tsoukalas: Could you elaborate a little more on how you use OKRs and metrics in practice? Because that’s something that I have personally felt that’s kind of fluffy. But many people talk about metrics. So, can you help me understand how to use them?
Div Manickam: So I’ll give you an example. And I’m a big advocate for OKRs. So much so that I even have my personal OKRs every year, and I was just working on what my 2023 OKR should look like because it gives you focus and clarity. In the end that’s what OKRs are for, right? Their objectives and key results. And if they are fluffy and not hitting the point, what do I do with them? Or what is my role in having an impact or influence that okay, then it’s probably missing the point. So when I’ve looked at it, I have looked at OKRs threefold, especially for the product marketing team to align first with the company, right? What are the company goals and make sure that my OKRs are aligned with them. So here, when I’m thinking about launches, maybe there are integrated marketing programs that I’m running cross-functional. That’s a company objective that I will be aligned with. When I’m thinking about making sure this launch is effective, maybe there is a certification, because this is a whole new market that we are going after. The sales team is not even ready or confident that they can actually make this work. So there might be certification. So bringing that into the business. That’s the second one, right? Thinking about the business. Third is employees. If you’re bringing all aspects of the company together, then make sure you have that cross-functional collaboration. Making sure you have the right data points to bring this together is just as key. That’s where you would think about bringing your employees together. I’ve aligned OKRs. I always keep to just three objectives, because anything beyond that is not even sustainable. Making sure you have that focus, making sure you have clarity of what you’re trying to achieve is important. Think about what’s important for this launch, and how do you establish those OKRs within product marketing? Because we are a cross-functional team? This could be sales enablement. OKRs. Maybe asset utilization, maybe sales confidence, that’s something that I want to measure. That could be a metric I’m looking at. When it comes to product adoption, maybe active users, how many users are using the product? Is this something I want to measure or maybe retention? If I’m a SaaS business retention is a big part. Or maybe churn is something that I want to look at, right? Defining what those OKRs and I always like to think about finding and making sure you have shared OKRs across product sales and marketing. If you have one, okay, if a product, one for sales and one for marketing, and they’re all three in three different directions, then you as product marketing are going to struggle, because maybe some of these are short-term goals that are more sales driven. Some of these are long-term goals that are more product-driven. So you’re going to be split in between. That’s one that I would encourage you to really pay attention to. The best is just to have these leaders sit together and make sure that you have that alignment doesn’t mean that you are only going to want to focus on one. OKRs or quarterly based so you can actually focus on a few of those the first quarter and then kind of streamline the process. There’s a really good TED talk that I always encourage my classes to watch one from John Doerr about the secret success of having the right OKRs and the right metrics, and I’ll share that link with you as well.
Spyros Tsoukalas: Last question for today. What are your favorite tools during this process? If you could briefly mention them?
Div Manickam: Well, for me, I think the focus is the only tool that I have kept very close to heart because that has given me the sheer determination and commitment that this is what I want to get done. One of the reasons why I think, around this time last year was when I decided that I wanted to be a mentor for life, and about a year now I’ve been mentoring, I have that sheer commitment that is exactly what I want to do. That is something that I will continue to push you in 2023. So, the focus is the only tool that I can recommend for everybody.
Spyros Tsoukalas: That’s very deep. Div, thank you very much for sharing your know-how and expertise. It was great having you today on the GrowthMentor Podcast.
Div Manickam: Me too. Thank you, Spyros.
In this episode
Div Manickam is a mindful soul and a believer in simplicity. Like an alchemist, Div loves the magic of bringing two worlds together. From frameworks in product marketing to mentoring, she enjoys sharing her experiences on authentic leadership, mindfulness, product marketing and mental wellbeing.
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