Adam Kerin

Adam KerinShare

SVP of Marketing, Truework
Product marketing and developer marketing formerly of Stripe, Google Cloud AI, and NVIDIA. An engineer turned marketeer, Adam started off as a computer engineer at Intel before pivoting to product ...more
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Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

I’ll caveat this answer largely depends on your company’s goals, existing team structure, and culture. One should never parachute into a new company with a rigid 30/60/90 plan or assume the recipe for success in your last role will apply here.

First month = Big picture

Learn both your people and your products. Overload on 1:1s, get your hands dirty with the product, and speak to customers. “First seek to understand, then to be understood.”

First quarter = Build the basics

Hiring plan, messaging and positioning frameworks, etc. This could also be establishing the norms like announcement tiers and turnaround times or requirements like customer references before launch.

First year = Boom!

Once you have the understanding and foundation, this is when you can really start to have a more meaningful impact within the company. While you may play catch-up your first quarter launching products ready long before you arrived, the subsequent months are when you can demonstrate the value of a PMM to influence product and sales strategies if involved earlier. Definitely seek smaller wins earlier before this to establish some trust and credibility, but plan to get the basics established before steering the ship.

Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

Perhaps surprisingly, I believe the core deliverables and thinking of a PMM are easiest to improve. These are strategy frameworks, effective messaging and positioning, etc. You’ll learn most by doing, and get better with time, especially with retros to look back on previous launches and strategies.

The most important and hardest skill to improve is influencing stakeholders outside of marketing. This skill will only grow importance the higher you go in the organization.

I’ve seen excellent marketers and otherwise great leaders struggle to influence the technical orgs which, depending on company culture, may hold more sway in a tech-led organization. Delighting internal stakeholders and delighting customers are not always perfectly aligned. For example, I’ve seen a situation where a PM wanted us to announce a product pre-maturely, so they could list it for their performance review.

The best marketing leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working with are able and willing to challenge internal thinking to always put the user first.

Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

The two startups I joined as the first PMM were ~100 employees and both were for technical software products.

In this space, my perspective is the founding and technical teams should be maniacally focused on building for a target customer or segment. Once they’ve established those early adopters, PMM can be the one to help that product-market-fit scale to the next customer or next segment.

I think PMMs are more impactful at a smaller organization, simply because you own a bigger portion of the GTM efforts than at a larger company.

Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

I expect that this small and less experienced team is also more reactionary and tactical rather than proactive and strategic. That’s OK to a degree when in fire-fighting and startup mode, but product marketing can help improve this with your overall launch and GTM process.

Start by aligning with leadership on the major objectives for the year as a company , sales, or product team. Then map out how product marketing will help drive these goals through adoption, market perception, etc. Finally determine all the potential launches, campaigns, initiatives, and partnerships needed to achieve these goals. Articulating all these objectives and building broader support will help set your “north star,” guiding your priorities and the team direction.

Startups tend to value speed, but the pre-work is still a must for an effective GTM strategy. A misconception from stakeholders who haven’t experienced high-impact product marketing is that we just write a make a flashy blog post and sales deck shortly before launch. Use this process to show how valuable the prep is to getting to that actual product announcement. The accurate messaging and positioning doesn’t come from a thesaurus, but from market and customer research upfront.

I used to run in ultra marathons and 24-hour obstacle races. The way I built up that endurance was with the mantra, “today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can do what others can't.” I think the best GTM strategies are also born from significant effort and prep long before launch day.

Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

Perhaps similar to HoneyBook, Truework has one core platform, but the fit within different industry verticals is completely different. Different features are the key selling points, there are different buying personas, and a different sales pitch all means we want different PMMs focused on these different segments.

For example, today we have one PMM focused on the mortgage industry, and we’re hiring for another to lead all things in consumer lending (e.g. personal and auto loans). While each customer offers loans and uses our core platform, the capabilities within that platform have different value prop, and thus different messaging. The competitors in each space are also not the same, with drastically different pricing and features, leading to different positioning.

I’m assuming there may be very different features sets, campaigns, and sales pitches needed for HoneyBook as well. For example, your B2C customers may be attracted to a very different set of features (e.g. online payments and scheduling) compared to your B2B customers (e.g. invoicing and contracts). If so, that may be a better use of the next head count rather than a functional specialist.

Another indicator could come from your company's growth. For example, our Sales department is growing massively, so much so that they are paying anyone up to $60k for successful referrals. To make sure marketing doesn’t become a bottleneck to onboarding and training these account execs, we’re hiring a Sales Enablement specialist.

Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

As an individual contributor today, you can demonstrate your ability to manage projects and influence and lead people who do not directly report to you. This could be collaborating and convincing the product team of a new feature to win a new segment, or in effectively managing the many pieces and stakeholders behind a good product launch.

Also ensure you’re actively managing your career with those mentors or managers who will shape it. Share your goals with your boss. Ask what they would need to see from you to be considered for such a promotion.

Unfortunately, there is no single course or even degree like an MBA, that signals someone is ready and capable of effective people management.

The more your scope and sphere of influence can grow as an individual contributor, the more likely I think it is you’ll be tapped for that management role when the team growth supports it.

Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

I’ve been the first PMM at two startups now. It's been pleasantly surprising how impactful some of the basic PMM tools are when applied for the first time, and how quickly you can see their impact.

Things as foundational as customer interviews, launch trackers, and announcement tiers have an oversized impact at a company that’s likely never done it before. While these were likely table-stakes in your previous roles, don’t underestimate how much they help discipline and quality to the team's GTM efforts.

It also never fails to surprise just how quickly you feel your impact at a startup. At a large company you may spend more time doing “internal marketing” with cross-functional stakeholders to gain buy-in for a given plan. At a startup, much more time goes to building and doing. With fewer layers of bureaucracy and approval, you can go from idea to impact in a week, not a quarter. This has been one of the most rewarding aspects of small startups.

Adam Kerin
Adam Kerin
SVP of Marketing, TrueworkJanuary 18

While a large company will have a dedicated individual or even team to a particular function, like competitive analysis or social media, at a startup you may be the one-stop-shop for all things marketing.

At Truework for example, we’re building the entire marketing org from scratch. I jokingly signed one mail as “the Product Marketing, Partner Marketing, Content Creation, Social Media, Press Relations, Analyst Relations, Sales Enablement, Events, and Web Team.”

The challenge of this is obviously juggling what would be ten different jobs at a large company. It’s also difficult accepting quality typically below a standard you’ve set at a large company, where you have the extra time and resources. With so much to do, “perfect is the enemy of good enough,” and it’s more about optimizing for the system as a whole rather than a single asset.

The reward is experiencing that breadth. If your goal is to lead marketing or be CMO, this is an accelerated crash-course to live nearly every job function, albeit in a part-time capacity.

We’ve since hired dedicated experts in Demand Gen and Sales Enablement, while we are still hiring for a product marketer and content marketer to help us scale out.

Credentials & Highlights
SVP of Marketing at Truework
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In San Francisco, CA
Knows About Product Marketing 30/60/90 Day Plan, Product Marketing Career Path, Building a Produc...more