Jennifer Kuvlesky

Jennifer KuvleskyShare

Director of Product Marketing, Snow Software
I've worked in the B2B IT industry for over 15 years and have had the good fortune to have a varied career having experiences in product management, product marketing, and customer success and serv...more
Content
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 14

In my response, I'm assuming your company will be selling to professional services firms. I'd start with these questions:  

  • Where are the dollars spent for professional services? What are the segments/industries/geographies/largest firms?
  • Who is serving those segments? How are they solving the problem your app solves/will solve? Also think about how firms are solving the problem today (spreadsheets/DIY/manpower).
  • Are there significant markets not being served by alternatives? Why?
  • For markets being served, what do users like or dislike about current offerings on the market (primary research and reviews)
  • Who are the user and buyer personas? What problems do they have? Are they willing to pay for a solution to their problem? Where does the problem you solve align with their order of priorities? (primary and internet research)
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 14

The good news is sales people notice when materials are out of date, and will let you know it is time for a refresh. :) Joking aside, here are some proactive tips on how to keep materials up to date.

Market research: With Google alerts, you can capture trends, survey results and news for the topics your personas care about. If you subscribed to analyst research, be sure to have a look at new research on a regular basis. As PMMs, we write about many of these trends in blogs, and use updated stats in sales presentations and prospecting emails. You could make it a policy to refresh sales content on a quarterly basis (or at least check to see if you need to) and then communicate to the field the new changes.

Personas: In my opinion, persona research needs to be refreshed less frequently. Some triggers that could require a refresh:

  • Your product has a major new feature that could serve a different persona
  • In analyzing wins/leads, you find that your primary persona has shifted
  • There is a disruption in the market which could cause responsibilities/buying centers to shift

Competitive: Competitive should be kept up to date as much as possible. You don't want your sales team caught off gaurd. Competitive intel often comes from your field teams, so it is critical to have good relationships with the field and a mechanism to capture this intel. Usually the best way to capture sales intel is via 1:1 interviews or having monthly listening meetings. (We are implementing a listening tool soon, so that might provide additional insights.) 

It's also beneficial to have a person or team focused on capturing competitive insights from across the organization (PM, PMM, field, and external research such as product reviews and documentation). At Snow we are blessed to have someone on our product insights team focused on doing just that. Publishing up to date battlecards and competitive newsletters are ways to keep the field informed. It is even better attend sales meetings to review recent findings and have the field share their win stories with their colleagues.

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 14

This one is tough because it is a lot easier to speak to people you have a relationship with than total strangers! We speak to our customers a lot but they are biased with how we solve their problems. We can also rely on speaking with 'friendly' customers and avoid speaking to customers who are not so happy with us. 

Without speaking to people we don't know, we won't get to learn about perspectives of solving a particular problem, and we may fail to learn about other problems that need to be solved. 

My advice is to speak to customers and non-customers to obtain a more comprehensive view of your target audience.

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 14

There are situations where multiple personas might make sense. If you are just getting started, I'd focus on your primary persona and get that right. Does your product solve problems that multiple personas have? If so, you could extend your messaging to that persona. But don't assume the same message for your primary persona will land with your secondary persona. Do the persona research or risk throwing away marketing dollars.

I had a product several years ago and the primary persona was the sysadmin. We built some functionalty to deeply montior SQL server and decided to also sell this product to DBAs. In the initial launch, we used the same message for both personas. FAIL. Lesson learned - do the persona and messaging work.

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 14

In my experience, the best way to communicate with sales people is to speak with them. They are so busy, and I find they don't read emails from PMMs, especially emails not directed to them personally. 

In my opinion, the best way to share competitive materials is in a short team meeting, through the sales engineering/solution consulting teams and by directly responding to questions they have (where you can send links to prepared materials). 

It also helps to be very clear about your competitive differentiation, and have sellers share stories of how they've won. Hearing best practices from others in the field is important, as the field often has some of the best competitve intel. 

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 16

I think your plan is a good way of moving forward. If money is no object, you could obtain a panel, and do a survey, and then contact those who seem to fit the profile for a deeper interview. 

I've used LinkedIn for reaching out to target personas and asking them for 30 minutes of their time to chat. If you leverage partners in your GTM, they may have some contacts to connect with.

I've also learned about this resource recently, but have not yet used them. Userinterviews.com.

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 14

Understanding your buyer persona, and their priorities will help you better understand your ideal customer profile. Your marketing team does not want to waste $ on generating leads that go no where, and your sales team wants leads they can easily convert. Are these complaints that exist at your organization today?

There are only so many budget dollars available. If the problem you solve is not one of the highest priorities of your buyer, then it will make selling challenging, especially in tough times.

Often, the priorities of buyers and champions/users are different. For instance, we just did a survey and found the top priorities of managers compared to the CIO for SaaS management were not aligned. 

My advice is to build a hypothesis by looking into your closed won and closed lost opportunities. Who are your buyers and champions? Are they the same in won and lost ops? At a high level, what are the priorities of each persona? Are they vastly different? If so, you hopefully will have enough data to convince your organization to do more research. 

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 13

In my experience, the main difference between UX and product marketing qualatative research is that UX teams are generally trying to understand user behavior for a specific product or feature where product marketers are trying to understand frustrations, motivations, problems, buying dynamics, etc. for both users and buyers for a speciifc product area or solution.

PMM, UX and PM teams could do a better job of collaborating as all teams need to have a shared understanding of 

  • the user personas, persona problems, frustrations and priorities
  • user value, buyer value and willingness to pay

A good resource I've been exposed to on the topic of product research is Product Discovery, by Martin Christensen and Marcus Castenfors. There are some good frameworks outlined in this book. 

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 14

Start first by understanding what problems your product or service solves and the personas who are willing to pay for the problem to be solved. Then look at the alternatives in the market for solving those problems (products, services and DIY/free offerings) and how your product or service differentiates (or could differentiate by understanding your core competencies) against those alternatives.

For instance, one company I worked at entered a well known market by providing a low cost, easy-to-use product. The competitors at that time offered tools targeted to enterprises with all the bells and whistles that were both expensive and required lengthy services engagements. Being low cost, the new company couldn't wine and dine executives and focused on marketing to end users with a price point that wouldn't require a lot of approvals. Through this strategy, they were able to land and then expand to other areas of the business, and were eventually seen as mission critical in some enterprises as their share of wallet in the organization grew.

Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Director of Product Marketing, Snow SoftwareNovember 13

The most common mistake I've seen in developing VoC programs is thinking too narrowly about the customers' voice. Often, VoC programs start with marketing or customer success with the goal of obtaining advocates for case studies, reviews and references. Advocates can be leveraged for so much more; for example:

  • Participants in UX research
  • Beta participants
  • Participating in persona interviews or providing feedback on messaging

In addition to obtaining case studies and references, VoC programs can be used to help product marketing and product teams understand:

  • your product's ideal customer profile by understanding pain points and purchase triggers and correlating this to ARR
  • what common phrases your customers use when describing their problem, and what they find useful about your solution. You can then compare these terms with what is on your website to adjust messaging for features and pain points your customers feel are most important. 
  • frustrations with your current offering by analyzing support cases, product reviews and NPS feedback

In developing your program, I encourage you to think about every function in your organization that could benefit from hearing the voice of the customer, and what impact they could make with that data. 

Credentials & Highlights
Director of Product Marketing at Snow Software
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In Austin