What used to work had to be shifted, adjusted, and changed to fit the new landscape. What could possibly be next? Now, we're telling you to throw out your 2020 blueprint. The Product Marketing Community brought together an all-star cast of inspiring thought leaders to take us in the right direction for 2021. During this webinar, our Editor-in-Chief, Megan Heuer, talked to the CMOs of Gong, Drift, and Lessonly, and the VP of Marketing at HubSpot about what it means to throw out what we once knew and what we'll need to relearn.
Expectations and Challenges to Overcome as Product Marketers
Megan kicks off the webinar with our product marketing thought leaders, sharing insight into what they're looking forward to in 2021. People are changing how they engage with products and companies to understand and coexist in this new remote and virtual environment; 2020 forced adjustments that brought about opportunities to grow marketing efforts.
While there are growth opportunities, those don't come without the challenges we'll continue to face next year. As Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP of Marketing at HubSpot, mentions, the economic shift has hit industries and companies very differently. As a product marketer, you will now more than ever have to be an expert on whom you're selling to, not just an expert about what you're selling. While some industries have taken a massive hit during this time, some industries are thriving and accelerating.
Understanding your audience's microregions is important so that you know what their buying power and engagement journey will look like with you, whether they're able to purchase now or much later on. Focus on thought leadership and education until your buyers are ready, and you'll be able to establish trust and build on that in the meantime.
We've seen buyer personas completely change over the past year. The analysis you may have done of your buyer personas in previous years may no longer be relevant, as many buyers' lives and expectations have shifted. Take a more in-depth look into these personas, understand how their day-to-day tasks may have changed, and see how you can better serve them or if you can now support a wider audience than you previously did.
Product Marketing Trends and Changes for 2021
Trends are going to look quite different this coming year. We may see some trends that could even be a complete, 180-degree shift from what we've been doing. In the webinar, we took a deep dive into what the CMOs and marketing execs of these larger tech organizations expect come January. At Lessonly, one initiative they've already taken was to move the product marketing team into revenue enablement as one central location for sales, product marketing, enablement, and sales engineers. They also see product-led growth through the introduction of different go-to-market models.
“We’ve found huge success with slotting the product marketing org within the Revenue Enablement team. They are the hub to the sales, marketing and CX spokes.” Kyle Lacy, CMO at Lessonly
This year is showing more than ever that product marketing isn't just working with the product team. Product marketing is beginning to be in the spotlight of some of these more prominent organizations, which means product marketing leaders have to be more interconnected to the other organization's teams to be a part of the revenue machine as a whole.
However, most of the focus for 2021 may not be on net new revenue; instead, generating revenue from existing customers. As we continue to see the challenge in bringing on new customers and organizations continue to face challenges in committing to new software or contracts, the alignment and partnership of sales, customer success, and product marketing will be more critical than ever.
We see one particular theme of these trends: where does product marketing reside? Meghan from HubSpot made a great point: While this has always been a debate and will continue to change, product marketing belongs where it aligns best with what the strategy is at that moment.
For example, if your organization is product-led, product marketing should fit closely with the product team. On the other hand, if your organization focuses on understanding buyer and customer personas, it would be essential to work directly with the go-to-market teams. This doesn't mean that your product marketing team needs to stay connected to just one group.
You can easily embed your team members within multiple teams, regardless of whom they're directly reporting to. The essential factor in choosing where to place product marketing comes with knowing why you're making that choice; tradeoffs come with that choice as structure influences your strategy.
Product Marketing Accomplishments Throughout 2020 and Into 2021
2020 was a challenging year, but there were some incredible accomplishments from product marketing leaders and their teams across many organizations. As product marketing advances in these companies we spoke with, we saw that this past year allowed them to have a more defined explanation of what product marketing was within that organization.
Tricia Gellman, CMO at Drift, shared that her product marketing team created a presentation that showcased:
• What they do
• Why they do it
• What the difference is between product marketing and any other team
• What they want to do in the future as the team grows
This was a great approach and truly insightful because those questions would yield different answers for every organization.
At Gong, Udi mentioned that they've been investing time into pricing and packaging. While that may sound mundane, they've brought in some experts who bring a new level of expertise to product marketing through their passion for pricing and packaging. Through this new step, Udi is excited to see where it takes Gong and how an xx% revenue uptick can be added on to the same product with the same customers.
Change can be an unsettling thing for an established team, but it can also be a spark of new partnerships across your company, new allies for your work, and better, more precise approaches," Megan Keaney Anderson, HubSpot "As a manager, making that transition easier for your team will mean being pointed about what tactics and obligations you are leaving in the past to make room for that new strategy. Innovation without omission isn't innovation at all.
Product Marketing Skills You Might Be Missing
Lightning round! Megan Heuer asked our marketing executives what skills product marketers are missing and how they can succeed in this new landscape. Here are some of the essential skills you'll need to set yourself apart as a product marketer:
• Adaptability/Agility - Product marketers must be good at positioning, differentiation, distribution strategy, and analytics, but they also have to adapt to change with the world we're currently in. Like Meghan of HubSpot mentioned, a good product marketer knows a little about a lot, like a mini CMO of a product line.
• Empathy/Listening - Product marketers need to realize that, to be in a leadership role, you need to have empathy and listen to customers, but, as importantly, listen to your employees. With the changes we've seen this year, you may even have employees who work remotely whom you may have never met in person. Employees are maxed out, too. As a leader, establish a strong relationship with your employees and clearly understand the priorities between them. We've been given a chance to build a more genuine human connection with our employees during these challenging times.
“Empathy is the most important skill you can hone as a product marketer. Listen. Engage. Support. You are the center point of marketing and sales strategy.” Kyle Lacy, CMO at Lessonly
• Pricing Mentality - With so many new go-to-market models coming out in 2021, having a strong pricing mentality will be a substantial competitive advantage moving into next year.
• Demonstrating Business Value/Impact - It's no longer enough to talk about what you've done. Product marketers must be able to explain what has happened because of their product marketing work. Are you able to show these accomplishments and how much of the pipeline you're contributing to? Do you understand how to dive into the financial metrics your product marketing work has affected?
Measuring Product Marketing Success and Business Outcomes in the New Year
Building on the required skillset of "demonstrating business value/ impact," we wanted to dive into how we'll measure product marketing outcomes in the new year. Revenue is most likely at the top of those KPIs for most of us as marketers. It brings importance to understanding what impact you have directly on revenue generation as a product marketer. With the more macro revenue goal comes understanding the micro goals and opportunities of growing that revenue further. Charting the tangible and concrete metrics will allow you to build strategies to meet those goals.
Defining how product marketing affects the business can show your entire organization how your team is truly making a difference, especially in an organization where the product marketing team is new. Aligning the product marketing roles with the goals that are being met can bring recognized value to your team. Strengthening your product marketing team for 2021 can take your organization to the next level.
Throw out your 2020 product marketing blueprints and incorporate the insights from this panel! A big thank you to Megan Heuer, our community Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director of Winning by Design, for being our fabulous host; Udi Ledergor, CMO of Gong; Tricia Gellman, CMO of Drift; Kyle Lacy, CMO of Lessonly; and Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP of Marketing at HubSpot for a great webinar and inspiring steps to take for product marketing success.