Mary Sheehan

AMA: Adobe Head of Lightroom Product Marketing, Mary Sheehan on Product Launches

January 16 @ 10:00AM PST
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Adobe Head of Lightroom Product Marketing, Mary Sheehan on Product Launches
Top Questions
Have you ever been part of a launch where the eng/product team brought in product marketers or customers after work has kicked off (but before launch) and influenced feature development? What was that like?
Sometimes when product kicks off work they have assumptions about how people think about certain features. Marketing, support, and even customers can come to the table with real stories that may invalidate the assumptions product had early on in the feature dev process.
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
Yes, definitely. Although it’s not ideal, it can happen and you can make an impact in terms of helping them understand product feature prioritization, since they probably already have some idea of what they're building, and (hopefully) who they are solving a problem for. If there are a ton of potential feature options, say over 15, a good method to prioritize internally is the RICE model, which le ts teams rank features based on Reach, Impact, Confidence (that the feature will solve a problem) and Effort form the engineering team. If you have ten or fewer features you’re trying to test, I’d highly recommend the Kano method , which I used recently with the product team at SocialChorus. For each feature, you ask a series of 3 questions, whether they’d like to have the feature, not have it, and the importance of the feature. This gives you the ability to plot out the answers to see if they would be delighters to your audience, improve performance, are “must haves” or if they are actually detractors. At SC, this really helped us identify the features to *not* prioritize, which saved us countless hours of production. It was a great way for PMM to influence the feature development.
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Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
This is a great question! It's easy to get stuck with the same GTM checklist for every launch and feel like there's no creativity. An easy fix is to push the boundaries of what you normally do with a new visual approach or new mediums. Never tried a video before? Try it out now! I always love a good brainstorm session with people outside of those I normally work with on product launches. Grab your content marketer, the creative lead that you don't usually work with, and anyone else you like working with, and have a session on what you could do with a launch. I actually did this yesterday for a launch we're planning, and had everyone listen to a podcast from 99 Percent Invisible before we met. The podcast wasn't about our industry at all but really got us primed on the ways that we could be creative with our rollout. I'd also recommend looking at AdWeek and AdAge and seeing what the big brands are up to - this is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
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Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
Although I’ve managed over 250 launches, not a single one has gone perfectly. That may sound crazy, but know that most of the time when something goes wrong, only I or a small number of people internally catch it, and the customer is never the wiser. Also, as I mentioned in another post, once the launch is done, it's not over. There are plenty of ways for you to reach your launch goals with a "Rolling Thunder" technique of content momentum. Here are some common things that can go wrong with launches and how to prevent them: A team (or person) internally didn’t know the launch was happening, they’re furious. Prevent it: Build the RACI, have it approved, and constantly ask others if anyone is missing. Salvage it: Check to see if they were on the communications and point them to it. If not, explain your process and how you may have missed them. Apologize, but don’t grovel. Some marketing materials aren’t ready on time Prevent it: Manage the GTM checklist and hold collaborators and vendors accountable. Salvage it: Send out a list of what is finalized with all of the links to assets. Give deadlines you can hit on the remaining pieces of collateral. Understand how critical the late materials are, what is necessary to salvage, what can be cut, and what can wait until after launch. The website updates didn’t launch at the right time Prevent it: Micro-manage the day of launch checklist - make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re doing at exactly what time. Salvage it: What can I say, it happens! Try to get it up as soon as possible, find out what went wrong, and communicate a post-mortem. The press team flubbed - there's a typo, or something worse Prevent it: Make sure they are buttoned up on timing and messaging well before the launch. Make sure there is one point of contact. Salvage it: It really depends on how big of a flub. There are some things that are out of your control. If your external press team really dropped the ball somehow it may be time to look elsewhere. You sent the wrong email or direct mail Prevent it: All I can say is check everything twice - and before you “press send” on a large client or internal communication, make sure that someone who isn’t sleep-deprived from launch planning checks all your links, addresses, grammar, and other pertinent details. Salvage it: When I was at AdRoll, We once sent the wrong physical package to a group of clients in a sequence - it was a “welcome” box to a group of prospective clients, not new clients as intended. We sent a “we flubbed” email, and got a ton of great responses, and a high conversion rate on the campaign! Maybe it was a good idea after all ;)
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How do product marketers lead a product launch when roadmaps and priorities are constantly changing?
There is a lack of alignment at my company and our teams act in silos. Consequently, my roadmap and goals seem to change on a weekly if not bi-weekly basis because marketing keeps getting pulled in different directions. There needs to be some sort of roadmap and role that aligns sales with product, but I'm not sure if that should come from product marketing or not. I want to initiate this conversation, but I don't know if it's overstepping my role or not. Advice here?
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
There are 2 major questions here - one has to do with priorities changing (e.g. no strategy) and the other is indirectly about out of control roadmap timelines - I'll answer both below! Priorities changing Major Roadmap and priority changes are often a symptom of a weak strategy. It’s common for roadmap dates to slip, especially if they’re more than 3 mos out, but if you’re seeing wild changes with dates and it seems like there is no North Star, there is probably a lack of strategy. Start with the product team, ask what your strategy is - start with questions like: is this for new customers or existing? Are we improving on our existing product or building our new lines? If the answer is “all of the above” see if they can define this or point you to the pillars that are driving their product decisions. If you get major pushback or discover these just don’t exist, it might be time to go up the ladder to other execs to understand the strategy. Getting control of the roadmap timelines This is definitely a little art and science and requires some major relationship building on your part. I highly recommend setting up a bi-weekly GTM meeting with all your PMs, or if you're at a big company, the product leads, to get everyone on the same page. Develop your source of truth - create a visual roadmap on a spreadsheet that helps you understand what is coming and when. On the Y-axis, add in every feature with the owner that you know of. On the X-axis, create columns that reflect every week for the next 12-16 weeks. Fill in what you know, and then ask the PMs to populate. Check in on this at least every other week and update it in real-time. Ask questions like "how confident are you this date will hit? What are the risks?" This internal roadmap will help you first understand what is happening, which PMs are most likely to miss their deadlines, and also serve as a foundation to create any more visual roadmaps for sales and external use. 
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How do you think about the scope or deliverables for various launches?
Do you have a tiering system? What factors do you consider?
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
I definitely recommend tiering launches by the level of potential impact and therefore the level of activities. While starting the GTM plan, you need to decide how “big” you want to go. Time, resources, and budget all come into play here when you're thinking about the activities. Here's an example of how you can think about the tiers: Tier 1 - A product that is strategically important to the business that we want everyone—internally and externally—talking about. Example content: Go big with a client event, custom video content, press, and executive sponsorship internally. Tier 2 - A product or feature launch that will impact many customers. Example content: “The basics”—a blog post, new web page, sales collateral. Tier 3 - Products or features that are mostly an upgrade or affect a small subset of customers. Example content: A blog post announcement and an internal heads up in the internal sales bulletin.
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How do we approach the launch plan that was pre-decided and what changes in approaches would you recommend?
A product marketer jobs starts way before the product launch. However, it is difficult situation when the product launch is delayed from eng side.
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
I'd recommend to play the "new person card" and ask a lot of questions: what market problems does this solve? How did they ID these market problems? What customers or products have they talked to? What are competitors or doing? If they can’t answer these questions, there is likely room for you to come in and help and take ownership of the launch plan. Especially if it has been delayed, you can argue that now you have time to do some additional research / market validation to answer the above questions and you can drive the launch. Most PM teams are happy to have the help.
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Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
Post-launch momentum, what I call "Rolling Thunder," is one of my favorite topics! I think a lot of times people throw in their hats when the launch moment is done, but this is really when it's just beginning. A good strategy is to take some of the "core" assets you've created for the launch (e.g. a case study, presentation with new stats, a blog post) and to chop them up and use them in many ways. A good way to frame it is: How can you reuse and improve the content over and over again to hit your launch goals? For example, take your "stump" deck and use it at speaking events, and webinars. Take your launch blog series and turn it into a gated whitepaper or ebook. Take those great customer case study stats and quotes and share them across your company's social channels. As far as owners, I see Product Marketers as the Driver (See the DACI model) but not necessarily the person building each individual piece of content. Hopefully, you have partnerships with the marketing team or external vendors. But as a PMM, you are responsible for the goals at the end of the day, so make sure you're driving that plan along!
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Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
Ideally, it's a combination of the GM, product management and product marketing. The GM would set the overall business goals for the year or quarter including revenue. The PM often drives the product launch adoption and revenue goals for that product. PMM often builds the plan with the metrics to help back into those goals. The important thing is that if you see a gap, make sure that someone is owning all of these goals, otherwise, it will be meaningless to have launch metrics. 
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In your organization does the product marketing also work with a portfolio marketer?
In our organization we have Product Marketers assigned to audiences (customer segments) and products. It is difficult to align efforts and avoid duplication - have you seen a model like this work well and how?
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
Yes, we do. In fact, I think Adobe is probably the best example out there I've seen of Portfolio marketing. At a high level, they've divided the Adobe business into 3 business units: - Creativity & Design - Documents such as PDFs and our Adobe Sign - Marketing & Commerce - called Adobe Experience Cloud I work for Adobe Advertising Cloud which is under the Marketing & Commerce arm. What I think is really impressive is that we've had so many acquisitions in this overarching business line over the last ten years (TubeMogul, Magento, Marketo to name a few), and they all fold nicely underneath the Experience Cloud bucket. I'm pretty new at Adobe ( 2 months in!) so don't have all the details yet, but I think it's best to have one team that's focusing on the external presentation of this at a high level, and have the other products pitch in to them their proposal. Without that owner, though, who's in charge on naming and brand hierarchy, it could look really unorganized. Check out our website for more.
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Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16
At Adobe, it's been a pleasure so far to work with many cross-functional teams for a product launch. For my team, Adobe Advertising Cloud, which is on the B2B side, we work with the following teams: - Product / eng - Program management (which is the organizational arm and keeps eng timelines on track and helps with logistics) - UI design - Sales / AM teams - Business Development - Sales ops - Broader Adobe B2B marketing team For B2B, sales and field enablement is a major channel for us, so we put significant resources for this. 
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