Giving Thanks for the Twist Image Podcast

It is the season for giving thanks so I want to take a minute to express some gratitude for what I think is one of the best resources out there for marketers.  It doesn’t matter if you are focused on outbound, inbound, sales, PR, social, or product, the Twist Image Podcast, hosted by Mitch Joel, is guaranteed to make you better at what you do.

How’s that?

By providing you a weekly update on what’s working today for marketers and what you should be thinking about next. By letting you hear directly from thought leaders like Avinash Kaushik, Mark W. Schaefer, Jeremiah Owyang, Ben Casnocha, David Weinberger, Seth Godin and many more. And by letting you hear from the authors about upcoming books so you can figure out what to read next (and what to skip).

The most impressive part? The Twist Image Podcast has been released weekly since May of 2006.

Just think about that for a moment. Putting together 333 episodes of marketing advice for FREE is not only a ridiculously amount of work but also takes some serious dedication.

Definitely worth some thanks!

If you have not been listening to the podcast, here’s a few of my favorites from 2012 that I would recommend you check out:

  1. SPOS #329 – Avinash Kaushik Digs Deep Into Facebook Marketing – Want to really understand Facebook as a marketing platform? Start here.
  2. POS #313 – From Economics To Likeonomics With Rohit Bhargava – Do you care if people really like your company? Hear why you should with this podcast.
  3. SPOS #310 – The Startup Of You With Ben Casnocha – Startup thinking isn’t just for companies. Learn from the the author of the book on how you should be thinking more like a startup when it comes to your career.
  4. SPOS #308 – Return On Influence With Mark W. Schaefer – Want to understand online influence and sites like Klout? This podcast is for you.
  5. SPOS #306 – Truth In Marketing With Jonathan Salem Baskin – Let the truth set your marketing free.
  6. SPOS #304 – Creating Brand Movements With Scott Goodson – Learn how you can move your company beyond the brand and into something much bigger – a movement.
  7. SPOS #301 – Knowing Things With David Weinberger – some deep thoughts on knowledge and the internet and how’s it changing over the last twenty years.
  8. SPOS #297 – The Hard Work Of Creativity With Julie Burstein – Understanding the processing and work that goes into being creative.
  9. SPOS #296 – The Art Of The Pitch With Peter Coughter – All marketing professionals have to sell their ideas. Learn how a master of pitching  ideas approaches the task.
  10. SPOS #295 – Mobile Marketing Impact With Gary Schwartz – mobile and marketing. Need I say anything else?
  11. SPOS #289 – Content Marketing With Joe Pulizzi – Want to understand content marketing and how it may work for your business  Start with this podcast.
And as a bonus, Seth Godin has been on the podcast several times and is always worth a listen for his insights and ideas. So here are a few more to add to your listening list:


The End of Product Marketing

I would like to introduce our guest blogger Dave Wolpert who has a very interesting opinion on the state of Product Marketing to share. Dave is the Founder and Principal of Swordfish Communications, a product marketing and content marketing services firm in Austin, Texas. Previously, he was a product marketer at, BroadJump, Convio, and LibreDigital. You can also find Swordfish on Twitter at @SwordfishComm. Enjoy the post and looking forward to hearing your thoughts. 

The product marketing function in tech companies is heading for extinction. The work product marketers currently do will continue to be performed, but by different people.

Preparing for the Asteroid Impact

To simplify the Pragmatic Marketing Framework, product marketing provides two broad functions, which can be loosely grouped under inbound and outbound activities. Both of these functions will continue to be of critical importance, but will eventually be de-coupled and performed by others.

On the inbound side, product marketers represent the “voice of the customer” to various groups within their company. Tactically, that means they solicit input from both current and prospective customers, as well as survey competitors and the market-at-large, through a variety of channels. They then synthesize that information and present it to the appropriate internal stakeholders to guide decision-making.

Of course, this is precisely a part of what most product managers do today. And, moving forward, I believe they’ll do it more often to feed progressively faster product development cycles.

On the outbound side, product marketers typically create a spectrum of marketing collateral, from product-focused website copy to white papers. Unfortunately, most product marketers aren’t the best writers, so this work is increasingly “insourced” to a MarCom group or outsourced to marketing agencies or individual copywriters (a.k.a. content marketers).

Product marketers also create “sales tools,” such as PowerPoint decks and sales proposal content. But this is increasingly outsourced, too. Sales can build their own sales decks, and MarCom can make them visually compelling; most copywriters can write persuasive proposal content.

You see where this is going. As product managers become the primary conduit for collecting customer and market insights, and the content creation piece is insourced or outsourced to those with better writing and design skills than the typical product marketer possesses, what is left for product marketers to do?

My answer: nothing.

Aren’t You Forgetting Some Things?

Sure, someone still has to perform the bit roles product marketers play (organize the infamous quarterly sales trainings, plan product launches, define positioning, and so on). But these ancillary roles don’t collectively constitute a full-time job. And again, much of it can—and in some cases should—be sourced to others.

Why can’t Sales organize their own training? Why can’t MarCom or other marketing team members plan a product launch? (After all, launches increasingly involve activities that others manage, like events, social media and PR.) And isn’t product positioning fluid, anyway, often defined evolutionarily by Sales based on what resonates with prospects?

You might be thinking that it’s advantageous to centralize all these roles with one person. I disagree. Part of my frustration as a former staff product marketer was that I was constantly asked to do too much, too quickly, while delivering consistently excellent work. (To wit, check out this exhaustive list of typical primary and secondary product marketer functions.) With so many good outsourcing options available, why would any company want to overload their staff and sacrifice quality?

What Happens Next

The product marketing extinction event won’t be as dramatic or as quick as a giant asteroid hitting the earth. Instead, the role of the product marketer will be peeled back in stages.

This has already begun. At many companies, product management has already replaced the inbound function I described earlier. At others, product marketers have evolved into field marketers by focusing mainly on sales tools that are only used internally; development of externally-facing content marketing tools, like technical white papers, are sourced to others.

Eventually, all the strategically important roles product marketers traditionally play will be stripped. This will inevitably result in reduced wages and, ultimately, product marketers disappearing by forced or voluntary attrition.

Survival is Possible

Will any product marketers survive the mass extinction event I’m forecasting? Only those with an exceedingly rare combination of talents: someone who is exceptional at customer interaction, and who is a superb writer, and who excels at understanding the needs of the Sales team, and whose technical knowledge is comparable to that of the product managers. I’ve met very few such individuals over the years. Ones that good are often promoted to Director or VP roles in their organizations, go off to be independent consultants, or start their own companies.

I paint a gloomy forecast, but if there’s a silver lining in my argument it’s this: individuals with any of these superstar skills will always be in demand. Their job title and department they report to might change, but in the end, companies will find a place for those with valuable skills.

So don’t obsess over how to build a career in product marketing, because that whole field is on the endangered species list. Rather, focus on advancing the skill sets that an ideal product marketer would have. That’s the best way to survive.


Image Credit:  viking_79

How Not to Start Your Story Courtesy of Buick

product storytelling introduction

When it comes to introducing your product to a potential customer, you have one shot to start things off on the right foot. This is your chance to start your story, create awareness and generate some excitement. However, the last thing you want to do is set the stage with a giant question mark.

I caught a Buick commercial over the weekend (video below) that I think highlights exactly what you don’t want to do. Before the ad gets going, the audio begins with these three words,

With AVAILABLE features….“.

When I hear this, I assume that whatever comes next is an upsell offering and I immediately start to wonder what’s wrong with the base? If they have to start with the upsell just to get my attention, then the base product must not be very interesting or must have something wrong with it, right?

Or could it be that they hoped I missed this subtlety and that I will assume that you get all these great features for their low entry price hence making the product seem more attractive?

No matter what they were hoping to have happen, the result is that they have begun their story on a sour note that may result in a lack of future consideration.

First impressions count. Don’t blow it by sending a mixed message out of the gate.

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

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

Content Isn’t King Unless They Say It Is

Last week I attended a content marketing meet-up here in Austin (AustinContent) and got to hear Simon Salt speak on the subject.  It was a great discussion covering many topics from book publishing to Blog World (BTW, Simon has a book coming out on location based marketing that that sounds fascinating).

One of the themes discussed was the importance of planning a content strategy.  There was an overwhelming agreement within the group that taking the time to develop an overall strategy was essential to delivering results (and for that matter, determining what the results should be).  Social media may get all the hype but talking for talk sake doesn’t pay the bills.

Producing good content takes effort and decisions around the “Why, Who, What, Where, and When“. April Dunford captured this challenge yesterday on her blog using a case study as an example.  April writes,

You need to decide which parts of your value proposition the story will highlight, how to structure the story to best bring those points out, what quotes you will want to re-use from the story, what proof-points you would like to have to back up the value, etc. If you don’t clearly lay that out before the story gets written up, it’s going to be a crappy story.

Creating content around your brand and product offering is only a good idea if the end user finds it valuable.  White papers, webinars, blog posts, videos, email campains, etc. all must be aimed in the same direction otherwise, you may just end up adding to the noise.

Targeting the right content, at the right customer, through the right channel, at the right time does not happen by accident.