Jeffrey Vocell

Jeffrey VocellShare

VP of Product Marketing
Content
Product Marketing Subteams
The Product Marketing Experts
The Product Marketing Experts
Hosted by Jeffrey Vocell
A deep dive into the craft of Product Marketing with the best Product Marketers in the world. Each week we sit down with Product Marketing experts at some of the fastest growing technology companies in the world. Hosted by Jeffrey Vocell, Director of Product Marketing at Iterable and brought to you by Sharebird.com, the leading Product Marketing question and answer site.
76 Episodes
Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMDecember 12

The best way I've found is to start small, and grow over-time. To explain that further, when a brand-new product marketer starts I will typically walk through step-by-step the messaging process with them at a granular feature level just to get them some repetition practicing. After doing that a number of times, I'll let them take on some of those (very) small releases on their own and will read messaging (i.e. blog content, in-app messaging, etc) ahead of time to make sure they're on the right track. 

Once a new product marketer feels comfortable handling the smallest scale feature-releases and messaging, I'll ask them to take on a component of a larger launch (i.e. customer marketing). This gives them a defined chunk of work for a larger launch, without being overwhelming and is still contained. Much like I mentioned above, I'll still read through their copy ahead of time to ensure it's hitting the right tone. 

After time of essentially repeating this process throughout multiple aspects of a launch or campaign, then a PMM should be ready to try this on their own. As a manager, it's important to be available for help - but it's also critical to let your team push themselves and rise to a challenge. 

Lastly, while the process above has worked very well for me at HubSpot it's always supplemented with core book recommendations like Positioning, and then follow-up discussions around the book and key concepts. I've found that these things combined can be a really effective way to bring someone who may not have any formal product marketing experience onto the team and coach them on how to write great messaging. Good luck!

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMSeptember 2

I think every product marketing team should! Ultimately, at Iterable we have 3 key documents:

  • Product GTM Launch Plan - This is a spreadsheet that includes every team involved in a launch, what set of activities are being done, where they are in the development process, and more. It's really a central resource for the entire launch.
  • Positioning & Campaign Kick-Off - This document should be filled out first before everything else. It includes all of the foundational details that will help create positioning, and what should go into your launch campaign (in the spreadsheet mentioned above).
  • GTM Launch Process - This is a step-by-step process for how to do every single element of a launch, and what's required to move between the four phases. If a new PMM comes onto the team, or an executive is curious about how we handle launches, this document comes in really valuable.

Ultimately the core GTM plan has to include every aspect of bringing your product to market - pricing/packaging, positioning/messaging, launch campaign, enablement, and promotion. And it needs to include or involve all of the teams that touch every aspect of that work as well.

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMSeptember 2

Yes! At HubSpot we had a template for this, and I’ve created one at Iterable as well. I think there are a few phases of a launch that include different people from your organization.

Phase 1: Research - Every product launch HAS to start with research. This is a phase I find many PMMs skip, but the importance can’t be overstated - it’s where you get all the detail that will inform all your next steps. Typically this phase includes PMM, PM, Customer Marketing (if you’re surveying existing customers), and CSMs (if you’re talking to existing customers).

Phase 2: Execution - Typically this is when the product team is building a product/feature, and as a PMM you should be working on positioning, messaging, launch plan, and beginning to get buy-in across teams. Towards the middle-to-end of this phase you’ll want to get Sales & Services/Support Enablement, Customer Marketing, Demand Gen, Brand/PR, Content Marketing, PM, and Analytics/BI all bought-in. Ideally you can start a cross functional meeting with a representative from each of these groups to discuss the launch.

Phase 3: (Public) Beta - Generally when a product goes to public beta, it’s not too far away from a full launch. Your positioning should be finalized, your launch plan should be buttoned up, and you should be having those cross-functional meetings more frequently now that the launch is approaching you’ll need to get approval, and begin to plan actual go-live times.

Phase 4: Launch - Plan a launch day “war room” with all of the key stakeholders needed from the teams mentioned in Phase 2. I’d also make sure executives are included here.

Also as a PMM, you should think about what the post-launch growth plan looks like (again, for large launches). It’s very likely you’ll need help from many of the teams I’ve mentioned here so you can keep up the momentum by having this plan early and getting their buy-in.

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMDecember 11

This is a great question. As product marketers, I think we often confuse this terminology, and due to the common use of these terms it amplifies the perception they are different. From my point of view, there are differences between positioning and messaging which I’ll cover here, but everything else you mentioned — story, pitch, etc — is either an output of positioning and messaging, or is one and the same.



First, positioning is an internal resource that covers how your product is uniquely different from other solutions on the market and addresses key buyer pain points. At HubSpot, we believe that this positioning comes to life through a story and is often written in narrative form.



Messaging, on the other hand, is the external-facing version of that positioning. Messaging needs to carry the essence of your positioning but should be more concise and oriented around driving the activity you want (free user signups, conversions, etc). At HubSpot, we’ll usually create a pitch deck that carries the messaging of our product/launch but exists as a separate document used by various teams.

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMDecember 11

At HubSpot we have a “master” positioning guide that exists for every core product and is shared on a central wiki that everyone can access. This positioning guide helps inform the work of marketers, sales enablement, and many other customer-facing teams. To ensure alignment we work closely with these other teams, such as sales enablement, to build assets like “Demo Like a Pro” that carry our positioning and messaging and transform it into an actual sample demo from a sales rep. This is just one example, but we typically carry this across departments to ensure messaging stays consistent.

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMDecember 11

I love this question because I’ve seen many product marketers create positioning and messaging solely based on gut instinct. To truly answer this question though, I think you need to back-up before positioning and messaging is even written. Before writing anything you should ask yourself what data you have to inform your unique POV — such as analyst reports, research your company has created, or third-party studies. This data should inform how you create positioning and messaging. Once you have written, then my recommendation is to test various statements on high-traffic pages like a product page or in-app resource. We try to do this as much as possible within HubSpot to inform the positioning and messaging we bring to the market, all backed by the data we begin the process with.

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMDecember 11

I think it’s hard to showcase messaging in an interview unless you’re specifically bringing up documented work. At HubSpot, we like to give candidates an exercise before an interview that typically ties into positioning and messaging. Oftentimes this exercise will tie back to a recently released product or feature, and we’ll ask the candidate how they would position the product and bring that positioning to life through a launch campaign. This approach has actually worked really well and taught us some new ways of approaching messaging that we hadn’t considered before. Once a new PMM comes on-board, we have standard templates for positioning we use and will share them with product marketers so they can see how a particular product came to life and what the process was like. In an interview, I think there are numerous questions you can ask to understand the adeptness of creating positioning or messaging, but from what I’ve seen it’s ideal to have an exercise and actually put those skills to the test.

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMDecember 11

I’m not sure there really are exercises. Once we have research, then we can plug it into our positioning template and answer a bunch of questions within that template (i.e. “what is the shift in the market/world that the buyer is experiencing?). Once all of those questions are answered, then it’s relatively seamless to come-up with a narrative based on that pre-work, and thus messaging. The important point is that any messaging — given it’s designed to be broadly applicable — still carries the core of your positioning work. If you have a creative team on-staff or even just an individual who’s great at thinking outside of the box as them to take a look at your positioning and this about how it could be transformed to address the widest cross-section of your audience. Having another perspective can be really valuable here to test concepts and push ideas forward that ultimately help you write great messaging.

Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMSeptember 2

This is something I discuss with a lot of product marketing leaders because we naturally want to figure out how to do better. I’ll offer 3 mistakes I see a fair amount - but if you have a particular challenge, reach out to me on LinkedIn and I’m happy to help.

  • Communication: Regardless of the size of your organiztion, you should be communicating relevant updates to all the stakeholders. In some cases, that may mean the entire company or a broader project team - or even an entire team like marketing, or sales. Oftentimes I see PMMs send an email and expect that everyone is then on the same page. Empathy is incredibly important to our roles, so understand that if you have CSMs, they are likely on the phone most of the day with customers. Your sales team is likely in meetings with prospects most of the day. So they may not have time to fully read and comprehend your email - so offering other ways and channels of communicating this can be important.
  • Deep understanding of the buyer/market: Product marketing is a unique group that sits at the intersection of so many teams, and as a result, often gets pulled in a lot of different directions. Because of that, sometimes it can be easy to de-prioritize listening to customer/prospect calls on Gong, or reading that latest thought leadership article, or even writing your own and getting feedback. But the act of doing these things will keep you connected to your market and is so important. Especially now with buying patterns and habits changing, the landscape is evolving quickly so it's more important than ever to do this. On Monday I spent the morning listening to some call recordings in Gong and then distilled the takeaways for my team and put them in our shared Slack channel. This is a way to ensure we're all on the same page and also learning from one another.
  • Considering a launch a one-time, or one-day, event: I still do this from time-to-time as well to be candid. Big launches should be more than a single day event, it should be a series intended to educate and inform the market (and reach your business goals), and ideally it starts ahead of the launch with training your internal teams on the launch as well. A lot of PMMs think of a launch at a specific day and time, rather than a series of content or events that help grow momentum and your voice in the market.
Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing, | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMSeptember 2

It depends on the launch, but I will usually do a mix of these:

Customer Research: Talk with existing customers, or survey your existing customer base (or a segment of it) if a solution your launching is directly related or adjacent to an existing product you have. If you need deep insight into the pain points a customer is facing a 1:1 conversation would likely be best. There’s no magic number of conversation to have - but once you start noticing trends in a lot of answers you can generally stop. In my experience it’s usually between 10-15, but can be more or less. If you are launching your first product, or entering a totally new market - refer to the other research types as well.

Stakeholder Research: Talk with internal stakeholders across teams. Ideally people who are customer-facing and hear feedback from customers day-in, and day-out. They can be a wealth of knowledge and give you really good feedback.

Analyst Research: If you work with Analysts they can be a great resource for insight into questions coming-up from buyers, and help you consider different product directions or messaging.

Market Research: Using various tools like QuestionPro, or SurveyMonkey, you can reach people in your target market that are not existing customers. This can be a fantastic resource to get broader insight into the pain points and challenges your buyers face, what they’re looking for, and trends in their business.

For a really large launch, I will usually do all four of the above and will lean very deeply into market research, and customer research. As launches get smaller, I will scale back the amount of research.

Also, I’d be remiss not to say if there are analyst reports or industry reports already published - read them! Use a filetype search in Google to dig-up some reports, look on sites like G2 or TrustRadius for actual user reviews to learn what people are experiencing (and potentially where your solution fits in). Lastly, look at what your competitors are doing. I want to be clear that I don’t advocate for following competition, but you should be aware of what they’re doing and how they are talking about their company/product so you can differentiate your company. Some of these “passive” methods of research can fill gaps, or replace some of the options above as well.

Credentials & Highlights
VP of Product Marketing
Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBM
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Top 10 Product Marketing Contributor
Lives In Boxford, MA
Knows About Customer Research, Product Launches, Sales Enablement, SMB Product Marketing, B2B Pro...more