Harsha Kalapala

Harsha KalapalaShare

Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia
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Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartApril 16

Copied over from a similar question:

There are a lot of things you could do - and it's easy to get distracted as a product marketer.

First 30 days - Listen, listen, listen. Ask a TON of questions. Hold back from providing ideas unless you are really sure about it. Help others behind the scenes on ongoing projects with work you are good at - like writing or editing copy, preparing slides, etc. Help them look good and make allies. This is also a great way to learn the business. Talk to customers - jump in on existing calls and ask good questions. Get familiar with basic analytics and KPIs - need to know what needle to move and what drives it.

30-60 days - Make a success plan & set concrete expectations. Create a list of things you are going to focus on to make the most impact on the business. Separate quick wins from strategic work. Have a healthy debate with your boss and cross-functional leaders in sales, product, and customer success. Focus on your first big win that can be accomplished in under 30 days. Get an A in that even if you let everything else fail or push to the next 30 days. Figure out which fires you are going to let burn. Also, do most of your work in the open - it's often not a good idea to wait for the "big reveal". Surprises are not your friends. We tend to miss out on helpful feedback others can provide when we are missing context - this is critical during the early days.

60-90 days - Create momentum. Ask leadership for informal feedback - how you are doing and where you can tweak things. Once aligned, I would focus on the next big win while delivering smaller, tangible outcomes that line up with your success plan. The most important thing a product marketer should be doing through this journey is saying "no" enough. Smaller companies tend to see everything that is not about generating leads to be product marketing's job. While you could make that argument, it is important to say no to those seemingly urgent things and let those fires burn. Jumping on things because the CEO/CMO said so without considering the tradeoffs to your current priorities can be your biggest enemy.

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartApril 16

There are a lot of things you could do - and it's easy to get distracted as a product marketer. 

First 30 days - Listen, listen, listen. Ask a TON of questions. Hold back from providing ideas unless you are really sure about it. Help others behind the scenes on ongoing projects with work you are good at - like writing or editing copy, preparing slides, etc. Help them look good and make allies. This is also a great way to learn the business. Talk to customers - jump in on existing calls and ask good questions. Get familiar with basic analytics and KPIs - need to know what needle to move and what drives it. 

30-60 days - Make a success plan & set concrete expectations. Create a list of things you are going to focus on to make the most impact on the business. Separate quick wins from strategic work. Have a healthy debate with your boss and cross-functional leaders in sales, product, and customer success. Focus on your first big win that can be accomplished in under 30 days. Get an A in that even if you let everything else fail or push to the next 30 days. Figure out which fires you are going to let burn. Also, do most of your work in the open - it's often not a good idea to wait for the "big reveal". Surprises are not your friends. We tend to miss out on helpful feedback others can provide when we are missing context - this is critical during the early days. 

60-90 days - Create momentum. Ask leadership for informal feedback - how you are doing and where you can tweak things. Once aligned, I would focus on the next big win while delivering smaller, tangible outcomes that line up with your success plan. The most important thing a product marketer should be doing through this journey is saying "no" enough. Smaller companies tend to see everything that is not about generating leads to be product marketing's job. While you could make that argument, it is important to say no to those seemingly urgent things and let those fires burn. Jumping on things because the CEO/CMO said so without considering the tradeoffs to your current priorities can be your biggest enemy. 

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartApril 16

You can't change/improve what you don't fully understand. When you join a smaller team where product marketing didn't formally exist before, it is important to recognize that product marketing always existed, but was probably executed as a team sport. It may have been carried by the product manager, the CEO, the CMO, or a content marketing lead. 

I would always begin by learning what worked and didn't work with product-marketing related efforts (which likely was not seen a product marketing work), and understand who is close to these efforts and outcomes. Make sure they understand you are their ally, and you are here to build upon their past efforts. Product marketers will have a hard time succeeding without building allies and support within the team. 

To bring along the exec/management team, it is important to be clear about what new insight and perspective you bring to the table. Listen first, and then suggest frameworks and ideas to change things that make an immediate impact. Quick action and small wins early on are much more appreciated than strategy and discussions - especially in smaller orgs. 

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartApril 16

The first step to engaging other teams is to make sure they are a key contributor to the go-to-market plan, and they are not just on the receiving end being told what to do. I
try to understand the organizational goals of a launch, and also pay attention to what are the success metrics/criteria for each team involved. Every team involved in a GTM plan has to get a win out of it. It's also important to understand teams = people. I get people excited by bringing them along the journey, sharing the why behind key decisions. This really helps people on teams like engineering and design, who are typically removed from the customer-facing activities see the potential outcome of their work and get fired up about it. 

Product management is a critical partner to work with the entire way. I have had success engaging PM teams by being involved with product development from the early concept and research stage. Being engaged with customer conversations early on helps you develop strong positioning well before you reach the actual launch. One exercise that always makes a big impact is to write a mock press release along with the product team well before the product is made. Imagine you launched the product today - what story would you tell the world? That informs product development as well - and is a great way to build the right product.

The risk with this approach is creating an environment where decisions are made by committee - which is not a productive situation. The way I avoid that is to be clear that everyone's input is being considered, but decisions are going to be made by a smaller set of people accountable for the success of the GTM plan.

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartApril 16

Product marketing's biggest challenge (no matter anywhere I go) is defining the scope and sticking to it. Anything under the sun that is not Demand Gen or SEO tends to be seen as a job for product marketing. If we don't get a handle and drive the definition of role as product marketers and clearly write down what we own, and just as important what we don't own, we will be working against the grain. You may be doing a lot of great work, but that is always relative to expectations. In a nutshell, setting expectations is everything. 

And it's not just with your boss and the exec team. It's important to position and sell the value and focus of product marketing for the rest of the org. Product marketing tends to be the team to go to when you don't know who else to ask about a marketing-related challenge. So it is very helpful to educate cross-functional teams like customer success, sales, and product on what it is that you own. 

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartApril 16

Tech is always a hard question for product marketers who don't have a ton of budget. I try to push for tools that are beneficial to more than product marketing. Tools that help me do my job better with my key partners - sales, CS, product. One way is to just get a seat to jump in on software they are already using. Some of my most helpful tools have been:

  • Appcues (partner with product and customer success)
  • Google analytics/Heap (helps you see what's working and where you need to focus)
  • DocSend (for sales enablement and content delivery)
  • Salesloft (for sales enablement)
  • Miro (for brainstorming and concepting)
  • Hemingway app (for copywriting)
  • Noun project (for icons)
  • Lingo (for quick access to logos, colors, fonts, graphics, etc.)
  • Skitch (for screenshots and quick edits like highlights, comments, blurring)

And my recent favorite - LOOM (for short training videos I can send to sales and CS)

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartMarch 22

You begin with the customer - either buyer, user, or both, depending on the objective of your messaging. We should definitely consult with internal experts in product, sales, customer success, and other customer-facing teams. However, it is important to take their input as one source of information.

Messaging is actually the middle step of product storytelling. The order of formulating a story starts with:

Positioning - How do we want our product to be perceived in the market? What unique value do we deliver relative to alternatives? What is our story?

Messaging - How do we communicate the value? How does our product help the user solve their problem? What buyer objections must our story overcome?

Copy - What words do we use to deliver the message? How do we describe the solution on multiple communication channels?

In summary, always start with the customer in mind, and start with the why. Check out this great piece on how people don’t buy products - they buy a better version of themselves.

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartDecember 14

When starting out, partner PMM work should be an experiment run under core product marketing. The fundamental principles are all the same. What changes in the environment in which you operate, your audience mix, and the non-traditional opportunities you can uncover to get creative in your GTM? Once you see traction and results with the experiments, and the product team is producing a roadmap of new partnerships, it is time to spin off a dedicated partner marketing function to stay ahead of the game. In many instances, the product team leads the calendar on partnerships, and companies are catching up on GTM activities. Flipping this and putting marketing planning ahead of product releases always ends up being a great asset to the company. 

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartNovember 2

Any new product should have a “product brief” associated with it to help not just sales, but any internal stakeholder to be on the same page about the purpose and positioning of the product. Enabling sales can be done effectively without ever involving a deck. My focus is on content and training vs. deck creation. The product brief contains things like a problem to solve, buyer personas addressed, why it is important now (urgency), competitive landscape or what you are replacing, discovery questions, customer stories, user quotes, ROI calculators where applicable, product FAQs, assets to send ahead or leave behind, outbound messaging sequences, demo recordings, modified product screenshots, and recordings of effective calls of other reps - to name a few.

Training reps on products starts with training on the specific pain points the product addresses for specific personas. Understanding what problem you solve, who you solve it for, and why it is important now is essential for sales to be effective. There should be a focus on lining up discovery questions to help the salesperson dig into the prospect’s unique situation before trying to pitch any new product.

Harsha Kalapala
Harsha Kalapala
Vice President, Product Marketing, AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartMarch 22

Don’t overcomplicate it. Just find the fastest way to talk to customers. You could set up a formal feedback session with surveys, incentives, and all the jazz - which still gives you biased feedback. Or... you can just hop on an already scheduled customer call TODAY and casually ask customers for their quick qualitative feedback.

Here is a sample message to your customer success folks:

Hey {CSM name] - I am just trying to get a quick and casual reaction from our customers on this new messaging I’m putting together for an upcoming launch. Do you have any calls with customers this week where you don’t anticipate using the full scheduled time? If so can I please hop on it with you and ask for their help once you take care of business? This will be a huge help!

Here is a sample script to ask to customers live on a call:

Hey {customer name} - I’m here to ask for your help. I am working on some marketing content for a new product launch coming up. I can let you in on the secret early if you promise to keep it yourself until launch, and share your quick reaction? This will only take a couple of minutes and will really help me out.

For quantitative feedback, there are great tools out there like Wynter.com to get reliable feedback from your target audience. 

Credentials & Highlights
Vice President, Product Marketing at AlertMedia
Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, Walmart
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Lives In Austin, Texas
Knows About Analyst Relationships, Brand Strategy, Building a Product Marketing Team, B2B Product...more