7 Reasons Why All Product Marketers Should Write

Jason Baptiste recently wrote a wonderful post on the OnStartUps blog titled, Why Every Entrepreneur Should Write and 9 Tips To Get Started. While the post was aimed at the startup/entrepreneurial world, I think it can be easily extended to all product marketers. Being an effective communicator is a core marketing skill and an even more important one for product marketers.

Being able to develop a story and then translate it across all the various channels – media, web, blogs, social – is what in my mind sets apart a good product marketer from and a great one.

Following Jason’s 7 entrepreneurial reasons for writing, here’s my take on why all product marketers should write:

  • You Will Meet Other Smart People – this one is pretty straight forward but may be a surprise for some. Writing and publishing online gives you a chance to interact with people and build relationships beyond your standard network. Bottom line, having a diverse network of smart marketers is always a good thing.
  • Your Experiences Will Provide Insightful Knowledge – the most successful marketers I know have had two things in common. They never stopped learning and they were always generous with advice. We all have successes and failures that others can learn from and sharing helps the overall marketing community.
  • You Will Establish Domain Expertise – no question about it this is an important one. Whether you on the executive path or just getting started, there is now an expectation that you will have a “digital ready” skill set. Case in point, Hubspot’s recent article, How to crush the competition with inbound marketing, calls out the need for hiring digital ready marketers. 
  • It Helps Build Dedication – Unfortunately, writing is hard. By dedicating the time necessary to write, rewrite, and publish, you are building a habit. This is a step towards becoming a life long learner and a better product marketer.
  • Your Communication Skills Will Get Exponentially Better – how can you not want to be a better communicator? Whether it is trying to draft powerful product messaging or to communicate with your sales team or customers, the better the writing the better the results. In a recent HBR article, Eight Ways to Communicate Your Strategy More Effectively, Georgia Everse points out that not all not all messages are created equal and that you must choose different approaches based on your purpose. Wether you are trying to inspire, educate, or enforce, your message must be “simple, but deep in meaning.” The only way to get better at writing these types of messages is to practice. I can’t think of a better way to sum it up than with this thought on communications from Simon Sinek

  • You Will Build An Audience That Will Give You Candid Feedback – have a new idea or a concept you would like help developing?As you start to build a following, you will more opportunity to bounce ideas off your audience and ask for help.
  • It is A Rapid Accelerator Of Serendipity – you never know when that random comment or feedback could turn into a something more – maybe a new friend, maybe a speaking gig, maybe a new career opportunity. All I know is that if you don’t get out there and do the work, the odds of something happening are greatly reduced. 

Last, it is worth pointing out that by writing and publishing, you continually get a chance for others to get to know you and see what a good communicator you are. You might really be a good writer, but without something to point, you are asking people to take your word for instead of being able to see your words on their own.

Image credit:  aless&ro

A Marketing Reminder From Nokia – Stay Paranoid

Outstanding article in this week’s BusinessWeek on the fall of Nokia. It is a fascinating tale of complacency and complete disregard for a changing marketplace.

From the article,

Nokia’s initial reaction to the iPhone is the most embarrassing example of what went wrong. When Steve Jobs unveiled the device in January 2007, “it was widely disregarded,” says former manager Dave Grannan, who now runs Burlington (Mass.)-based voice recognition company Vlingo. “The attitude was that we’d tried touchscreens before, and people didn’t like them.”

…As iPhone sales took off, Nokia remained strangely detached, say a dozen current and former executives. The company didn’t sit still, exactly. It opened its own app store, Ovi—but never put marketing muscle behind it. With no runaway hit like the iPhone, app developers largely ignored it. When Elop euthanized the Ovi brand name on May 16, it had 50,000 apps; Apple had 500,000. “It was an ignorant complacency, not an arrogant complacency,” says Nokia human resources head Juha Akras.

It would be one thing if Nokia was unable to respond to the shift driven by Apple and Google but in reality, it sounds as if the company just chose to ignore all signs of change. They assumed that customers would keep buying their products no matter how the market was changing.

Nokia never stepped away to look at the marketplace through their customers’ eyes.

If you don’t have time to read the full article, Andrew Grove’s famous quote sums up what happened at Nokia in one sentence, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

Image Credit:  Alicakes*

What is this About?

Here’s a deceptively difficult question for you to ponder (inspired by Steven Pressfield’s excellent latest book, “Do the Work“),

What is this about?

If you are working on developing a new product, can you answer? Can you do it without a ten page PowerPoint deck? How about to someone not familiar with your product line or industry? If you only had 10 seconds to explain in front of a room of potential customers buyers could you convince them?

What is this about?

Ok, so now that you get the point, take a look at how you are talking about your product in your marketing campaigns, advertisements, web sites, sales decks, blogs. Does the message still come through? Do the sub-points add or strengthen the overall message? Ultimately, are you building the overall story or watering it down?

Talk to your customers. Ask them how they describe what you do? Does it align to your story? Does what you think is valuable and different align with their assessments? Does your “special sauce” really taste special?

Now take a look at your competitor’s marketing, advertisements, web sites, blogs. Does what they are saying compare to your story? Do the differences jump off the page or do you need to go down a level or two?

Like what you find?

If not, return to the start and ask, “What is this about?” Fix from there.

Image Credit:  Colin_K

What Proven Winners Can Teach You: Marketing Lessons from the Garden

Let me start with a little disclaimer:

I am not a gardener and I most likely will never be one. While I do visit Home Depot regularly, I spend as little time as possible in the garden section. Over the last few years, the majority of plants we have purchased for our home landscaping have met a disastrous end under the Texas sun.

This should now be history after I came across the best marketing sign I have ever seen at in the Garden Center:

(click to see full size image)

While there were lots of little signs all over the garden section with little instructions of where and when the different plants needed sun, this one stood on on many levels:

  • Clear end-cap placement
  • Distinctive packaging
  • Positively strong and recognizable product name (who ever got fired for buying PROVEN WINNERS)

And most important was the clear, crisp messaging with strong value points. Rest assured that these flowers are heat resistance, fit anywhere in your garden, need little maintenance, and play well with the rest of your plants. With these features is there any wonder they are the #1 plant brand?

I am sure I paid a premium for these Proven Winners but the feeling that I was getting some extra value for my purchase (plus a flower that might hang around a bit longer) was worth it in my book.  I also know that their Product + Packaging + Placement +Promotion found the perfect buyer, the clueless plant persona, at the exact right time.

Excellent execution!


Stop Thinking as a Marketer. Start Thinking as a Publisher.

Earlier this week, I attended the Forrester Technology Marketing Executive Council in San Francisco. The purpose of this spring meeting was to discuss some innovative approaches to improve the effectiveness of marketing programs.

While many ideas were shared, the one theme that came back was the use of creative content to increase the number of sales conversations and to accelerate the buying process.

In his presentation “Organizing, Creating, And Maximizing Rich B2B Content”, Joe Chernov VP Content Marketing at Eloqua, challenged us to stop thinking as marketers and start thinking as publishers. In particular, Joe shared his passion for building ‘remarkable’ content. Content that is informative, memorable and fun such as this blog tree – a combination of a list and infographic – that got the ‘influencers’ engaged in the conversation and helped generate some great results for Eloqua.

Here’s what happened,

  • 700+ tweets
  • 40x average blog views
  • 9 of AdAge top 50 bloggers blogged, tweeted or commented
  • 176 inbound links
  • 49 viewers became sales qualified opportunities

Joe also shared with us his breakdown of content type and metrics based on the various stages of the buying process – a great reference for anyone looking at implementing and measuring the effectiveness of their content marketing strategy

Claudine Bianchi, Navisite CMO, then shared with us a very unique use of videos. While most B2B organizations focus on creating promotional videos for their websites and YouTube pages, Navisite is using videos as meetings follow up with key prospects, basically recording the outcome of the meeting in a ‘white board’ session and sending the video via a service called visiblegains, allowing them to track when the video is viewed and/or passed along within the organization.

Per Claudine,

Using the video adds a critical human element and is great way to differentiate while ensuring the outcomes of the meeting are being shared consistently across all parties involved in the buying decision process.

Simply brilliant.

While we continue to look for innovative ways to engage with our prospects and customers, as marketers, we should never forget that it is our responsibility to tell our story. And the use of creative content can really help us on that journey.


Image Credit:  Vin Crosbie

Why HubSpot is Winning

I am a converted HubSpot customer.

I use their software to increase the number of inbound warm leads and convert more qualified visitors into sales opportunities.

They call it Inbound Marketing. I call it my Life Saver Marketing platform.

It’s easy to use and at a tip of a finger, I can blog, optimize keywords, create new promo landing pages, send emails or check who is talking about us on the social sphere – all from a single tool. Most importantly, with its seamless integration with salesforce.com, Hubspot offers a complete closed loop reporting providing both marketing and sales with a single source of truth. That’s huge from an accountability and time saving standpoint.

But this is not what most impresses me.

As a product marketer, I am really fascinated by how this company is marketing, selling and enabling its customers. And the recent announcement of the $32 million Series D round from Salesforce.com, Google and Sequoia is no surprise to me. Here is why and what we can all learn from it:

  • They have a clear understanding of the space they play in. Rather than competing with the big players in the marketing automation software market, they took early on a different approach by building an easy-to-use, multi-purpose one size fit all platform focused on generating more leads and targeted to the SMB space.
  • They are careful with only taking on board customers they can satisfy. Yes you read this correctly. When I bought HubSpot, they were very open with the limitations of their email marketing offering. That’s actually what sealed the deal for me. They were the most transparent vendor I had ever dealt with.  Honesty pays!
  • They are maniacally focused on the success of their customers. They don’t stop to show the love with the PO. They will do anything to get you, the new customer, up-to-speed and delivering value back to your organization. They understand the power of happy customers. And one way they do it very well is by providing their customers with many avenues to share feedback and become a beta tester.

Even more fascinating is the strong marketing community they’ve been able to build. In the last month alone, they’ve generated over 30,000 leads (yes that’s in one month) and their marketing blog, webinars, resources etc are a great source of tips and best practices for any marketer. Most importantly they’ve set themselves as a trusted source before potential buyers even consider investing in their software. This is a huge competitive advantage that they’ve developed and can leverage through their customers’ buying cycle journey.

Now, I am a big believer that @bhalligan and @dharmesh have been planning all along to take over the larger players in the marketing automation and other adjacent markets. People who still believe that HubSpot is only going to have an infuence on the SMB space are dead wrong. And for a simple reason – they solve a critical problem that marketing organizations – irrelevant of size – are all facing: do more with less and be more accountable. And their platform just do that. Better than anyone else I have seen in the market.

It’s only a question of time before we see them expanding in the larger accounts. Something I am pretty sure Salesforce.com, Google and Sequoia would agree with.

What’s your take on HubSpot winning strategy?

PS: I really encourage you to review the presentation on Agile Marketing: The HubSpot Way that Kirsten Knipp presented at the last ProductCamp Austin. Another fascinating example of how HubSpot is leading the pack.

Image Credit:  sleepychinchilla

Sales and Marketing: Till Death Do Us Part

I have recently come across some really good analysis on the alignment gap between sales and marketing.

In his article “3 Reasons Your Marketing & Sales Departments Aren’t ClickingCarlos Hidalgo is making a critical observation. Marketing and sales organizations typically don’t have a common viewpoint on what alignment should be based:

“The truth is that the right thing around which marketing and sales teams should align is their buyers. Today’s B2B buyer is looking to engage with their vendors and have a relevant 1-1 dialogue. They don’t care about the internal squabbles that may occur between marketing and sales teams. They want to feel attended to. So, marketing and sales need to collaborate on how to have the dialogue with the buyer.

This sentiment is echoed in an excellent research report from Forrester Analyst Jeff Ernst B2B Sales and Marketing Alignment Starts with the Customer (note: you will need to be Forrester customer to access the report. Alternatively read Jeff’s thoughts on his blog).

In particular, Jeff recommends the following to overcome the obstacles of alignment:

  • Develop a common understand of the buyers’ needs
  • Map activities around the customer’s buying process
  • Align marketing and sales initiatives around the customer

I could not agree more.

Marketing is all about moving the customers through their buying cycle journey and only by starting with this common understanding will the so called ‘great divide’ between sales and marketing become history.

I would also like to urge my fellow marketers to stop focusing on what makes us different from our sales counterparts and rather focus on how together we can provide the best buying experience to our customers.

We are all sales people. We are all marketers. Stop the blame game. Start working on your synergies. Till death do us part.

Image Credit:  Flickr

Finding the Voice of the Customer with Jose Briones

One of the toughest challenges of going to a conference is picking which sessions to attend. Usually, there are time slots during the day when there is nothing jumping and other times where you wish you could be in three places at once.

I recently missed hearing Dr. Jose Briones speak and after seeing his presentation, realized I missed out on a good one. Jose’s presentation, My Boss Told Me To Get The Voice of the Customer, Now What?, covered the challenges of gathering customer feedback and introduces a new approach to improve your results.

I was able to catch-up with Jose after the conference and do a quick video interview (apologies, the camera briefly loses focus in the middle of the video):

What really grabbed my attention about Jose’s presentation was that fact that he called out the different approaches one needs to take with a VOC depending on where the product is in the development life-cycle. The gist being that if it is new innovation you need to take a different approach than an update to an existing product.

Really appreciate Jose talking the time to share his thoughts on the topic and look forward to hearing more. The entire presentation is available below and you can find more about Jose online and on Twitter.


Image Credit:  Flickr

Harvard Business Review Gone Wrong: When You No Longer Preach What You Teach

Last weekend, while perusing the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble, I noticed that they were now selling full magazine subscriptions to the Harvard Business Review (HBR). I was surprised to see that the in-store price at B&N was only $69.  Last time I checked, HBR was usually north of $100 so this seemed like a great deal.

I didn’t pull the trigger at the time, but left thinking that at $69 it was too good a deal to pass up.

I had subscribed to the HBR in the past so it was no surprise that later in the week I received an offer in the mail to resubscribe to the magazine.  What was a surprise was the rate.

I was being offered a “corporate discount” that was the “LOWEST RATE WE ALLOW” for the bargain price of $79.


Technically, the $79 offer did include a free “bookmark” and “leadership guide” but why wasn’t the “LOWEST RATE WE ALLOW” the same or better than the in-store offer?  Why didn’t they offer me an option without the gifts for the same $69 price?  Oh, and as far as the “LOWEST RATE WE ALLOW”, right now Amazon is offering the same HBR  subscription for $79.

The fact that HBR would offer a total stranger, who has seen not been a subscriber, a better deal, at a much great cost to them (when you take into account B&N’s margin), makes no sense at all.

While I really did expect a different experience coming from the Harvard Business Review, as a marketer, I do understand the challenges of aligning the different market channels – web, retail, direct mail, etc.

Creating a customer experience across channels is hard work and I would say requires maniacal discipline.  Adam Richardson (writing on one of my favorite blogs, the Harvard Business Review Blog) talks about this challenge and why so few companies deliver when it comes providing a great customer experience.  Adam comments,

Crafting a great customer experience requires enormous amounts of collaboration across groups in a company that often work independently and at different stages of product development. In many cases marketing, product design, customer services, sales, advertising agency, retail partners must all be working in concert to create even a single touchpoint.

I wouldn’t say HBR lost me as a customer, but I don’t feel like their marketing channels are aligned and I am definitely not feeling special.

How to Crush a (Potential) Customer?

Editor’s Note: We are very excited to introduce today’s guest blogger, Tim Johnson. Tim has 20-plus years in product marketing and channel sales for systems management, security and SaaS vendors.  Author of the “It’s About Value” product marketing blog.  Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader and sometime maker of sawdust.  You can also find Tim on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Last summer, my son’s Cub Scout pack had a community service activity.  One of the other parents took some pictures and posted them to her Shutterfly account to share with the pack.  Because of BSA rules and parental concerns, the pictures were put into a private folder.  I had to create an account to get access to the pictures.  I don’t use Shutterfly so was a little bugged about having to create yet another account but the boys were really cute so what could I do?

Then the opt-in abuse started.  Shutterfly seems to think I am now their best friend.  Every two to four days I get another email screaming about some free or limited time special offer.  Here is a screen shot of what I got in October and November:

Free prints. Two more days for 40% off. 10 free cards.  Did you get your 10 free cards? Don’t miss out on your 10 free cards. Discounts, discounts DISCOUNTS!!!!

Not only do they not get it, they don’t know who I am and seem to think that carpet bombing me with special offers is going to get me to buy something.  After three months of not even visiting the site (let alone uploading a picture or buying anything), you’d think they’d get an inkling that I’m not a prospect.  All they know about me is my email address.

Short side bar on the “wisdom” of lots of special offers: Don’t do it. You get so many price points that a) nobody knows what they’re going to pay from one day to the next and b) customers will EXPECT a special offer and won’t buy without one – even when they are ready to buy.

Shutterfly’s antics have so alienated me that I went so far as to cancel my account and am recommending people against using it.

Moral of the story?

First and foremost – know your customer.

  • Take the time to understand their motivations for signing up with your company.
  • Take the time to LEARN about your customer by tracking what they do, how often they visit, etc.
  • Don’t make the mistake in thinking that one transaction is the predictor for all future behavior.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking that opening an email (or as in my case, marking it as ‘read’) means true interest.
    Geez, if you use Preview Mode in Outlook, just scrolling through your daily mails transmits that they have been opened.

Second, and just as important – Don’t be afraid to eliminate names/leads from your database.  If people don’t respond to your multiple offers (and you did create them based on well-researched personas, didn’t you?), then they are simply not a prospect and see no value in your offering.  Get over it, move on and stop pestering them.

Taking the time to learn about your prospects results in offers that generate traffic or business and will turn them into fans.  Not taking the time to understand turns prospects into enemies and runs the risk of being made an example (and not the good kind) in more than one Product Marketing blog.