Jon Rooney

Jon RooneyShare

Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity
Product marketing leader with marketing strategy, product management and client services experience at the world's largest software company, the world's largest consulting firm, hyper-growth techno...more
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Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleAugust 22

For new senior PMM hires (like Sr. Director/Director team leads), I think of 30-60-90 plans to follow a basic flow: assess (30 days), design (60 days), run (90 days). 

During the "assess" phase, a senior PMM has to listen, observe and learn as much as possible: meet the team and figure out the current state of how basic stuff (sales decks, product launches, campaign content/strategy, analyst relations) gets done. Learn the product cold, not just the demos but how to actually use it. Watch how teams (whether PMMs or PMs or Sales Engineers) demo the product - how consistent are those? How do customers react? How does our demo pitch compare to competitors? Same thing with sales pitches - how many homegrown/Frankenstein pitch decks are floating around? What seems to land and what doesn't? How are reps - particularly in a fast growing environments when new reps are joining all the time - getting enabled on the product? How are they grabbing assets when they need them? Go through the same onboarding as a new sales rep. And, once you have a little bit of grounding, do ridealongs with reps - even if it's just Zoom calls. Attend a QBR or two if you can. Watch demos/keynotes/etc from competitors to help you understand the landscape - how differentiated is everyone? Could you infer your company's positioning from the space left over from how competitors position or is the landscape pretty murky. Finally, understand the current marketing machine and how it works. How does content end up on the website and how/why does it change? What's the demand gen hand-off with sales and how is marketing being measured? Why do we invest indo certain events, how do they get executed and what do we hope to get out of them? Who defines campain themes? Who reviews and has to approve copy/content/press releases/analyst presentations? How are launches planned and executed?

For the "design" phase, map out how PMM works with sales, product and the rest of marketing and lay out what should stay the same and what needs to change. Engage with all relevant stakeholders on what you think needs to change and why (particularly, how these changes will make their lives easier and help them meet their goals). This is the hardest part, no doubt, but if everything was operating perfectly they probably wouldn't have needed to bring you on in the first place. Ladder up these changes to the top level GTM goals (revenue growth, product usage/activation, net customer retention) and explain how these changes will help meet those goals. Then map it all out with everyone, making sure it's all as simple and straightforward as possible so that everyone will be ready ready to implement these changes.

Finally, during the "run" phase, put it all in practice with a growth mindset of measure and iterate. Go in with the assumption that you didn't get everything right so be ready to tweak things - whether it's as simple as adding another reviewer for web copy updates or as major as who should be an analyst spokesperson for a major launch. Cover your own responsibilites but also stay close to team doing new things in new ways so you can both support them and get firsthand feedback on what's working and what's not. Synthesize that feedback, adjust and run again. 

Of course, in the midst of all of this in your first 90 days you'll have tasks and firedrills flying at you from all over the place - it's critical that you juggle both and don't lose sight of methodical assess-design-run work or else you'll end up as a reactive "short-order cook" rather than as a strategic partner to the other functions. This is an awful place for PMM to land and it doesn't really help the business or your team. Don't let that happen. 

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

I don’t count internal debate/discussion or “inside the building” opinions to be testing per se, so I assume you mean external validation. In the realm of enterprise software (which is where I’m coming from), I’ve found 4 ways (best run in parallel then rationalized) to test messaging once you have some initial draft/hypothesis messaging to test:

  1. Hopefully your company has some sort of beta/early access program to validate new capabilities and products - usually managed by product. What customers say organically and unprompted during this beta/early access process (what actual words they use to describe what problems they’re trying to solve, how your solution works - or doesn’t - and how it helps them - or doesn’t) is the single most useful signal I’ve gotten for crafting messaging, particularly for something new. So as a PMM, join all of the calls and just listen. Don’t put your draft messaging in front of the customers for feedback, just listen carefully to what the customer’s going through and how they describe it. Chances are, their words (when rationalized across a handful of beta deployments) will give you the foundation you need to write compelling messaging for launch.
  2. If you have budget, contract out for market research to be done with target personas in which the problem statement, solution/product description and value proposition is presented (even without screenshots or any type of demo) then ranked/scored both with and without your company name being attached to it. The key here is ensuring that the customer panel is selected correctly (this is super easy to do wrong and thus invalidate the entire exercise) and the information presented is clear and differentiated enough to provide specific feedback (so don’t ask about overarching things like “digital transformation” - get specific).
  3. If you don’t have budget - and you sell enterprise software through standard procurement processes - get your hands on as many RFPs as possible and read them carefully. Make note of how exactly customers talk about what they need and be sure to make note of words and phrases that show up over and over again. You’re probably obscuring the value of what your product actually does in vague descriptors or cliches. What you pull out of reading a bunch of RFPs will improve your messaging, no doubt.
  4. Again, this is more for enterprise software, and I know this might seem like a no-brainer, but reach out early and often for feedback from industry analysts (Gartner, IDC, Forrester, 451, Red Monk, etc). They talk to customers and likely every one of your competitors, plus most have practitioner backgrounds, so they know their stuff and have ideas to share. Lots of vendors make the mistake of treating analysts transactionally and developing adversarial relationships around rankings and such. That’s a huge mistake and, if that’s where your head’s at, change it today. If you genuinely approach analysts for their thoughts and ideas (so present for 10% of the time, listen for 90% of the time) you’ll be surprised at how frank many of these analysts will be and how helpful their feedback can be. Don’t take it all for gospel - be sure to triangulate and synthesize - but it’s a great input when gathered correctly.
Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

Some years ago, I was running a PMM team at Splunk when we introduced a new product that was a persona-driven solution for IT built on top of the core platform - it even featured machine learning capabilities before AIOps was a thing (Gartner was calling it ITOA at the time). To date, we had had a ton of success with IT practitioners and buyers but we saw an opportunity to move up the value stack and deliver something more purpose-built. When we drafted the value prop hypothesis and initial messaging, we realized it sounded a lot like a category of solutions (Business Systems Management or BSM) from legacy vendors (BMC, CA, HP, etc) that had promised a lot but failed to deliver a few years earlier. So we had to thread the needle that “yes, this new product actually does all the great stuff that BSM vendors promised and more - but it’s NOT BSM, because of the approach, etc, etc.” So we did all the methodical research laid out in the other answer - analyst feedback (they were adamant that we don’t position this like BSM 2.0), 3rd party panelling and, especially, beta customer research as part of a formal New Product Introduction (NPI) process. Nurturing those beta customers to be reference customers and putting those testimonials at the center of our launch was key to landing the messaging, as what customers say resonates much more than what vendors say (naturally).

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

Everyone having a natural gift for messaging is an amazing coincidence, indeed :) Per "ways of testing question", the best approach is backing your messaging with methodical research that shows validation by customers, prospects and industry analysts/influencers. You still need to do your homework about competitive messaging and gather feedback internally from sales / field folks in particular. But formulate hypothesis / draft messaging (and gather internal feedback for that) then do your research per above, giving read outs but not keeping the blue-sky ideation phase going indefinitely, then defend it based on the merits of your findings and your synthesis as a PMM.

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

I’ll (mercifully) go away from tech here: My go-to example is Thomas Moser, which makes really high-end, handmade furniture in Maine, has limited distribution and sells their designs at a decidedly premium price point. Years ago, before owning even a single chair was remotely in my budget, I came across one of their catalogs and thought “super cool, but I can get a chair for $20 at IKEA.” Then friends registered for a set of chairs for their wedding and, having chipped in for a portion, I was added to their mailing list and got sucked into the brand via their voice, narrative, design and overall approach. You’re not buying a chair, you’re investing in functional, handmade art made by artisans in New England for your heirs. A chair not for the person you are today, but the person you could be. Super well done and I still think about those catalogs in terms of messaging/storytelling. I also love how the Criterion Collection has created their brand and managed their product line through big technological and behavioral upheaval, from the super collectable Criterion Collection DVDs (I’m Gen X, so those DVDs are totally in my wheelhouse) to their current streaming service which, while not for everyone, has a dedicated audience. Their YouTube channel also has a ton of great content that reinforces their brand and voice. Also, while there are some inexplicably amazing official Twitter accounts out there (I’m looking at you @NJGov), I can’t recommend @MoonPie enough. So, so great.

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleFebruary 9

The early work Twilio did to quickly convey what the service did and who it's for then get developers to dig into the product and have an a-ha moment with a couple of lines of code was pretty great. All of it tic and tied back to the brand and voice of the company, which had a sort of open source community vibe despite being a commercial entity. 

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

At New Relic, the PMM team is organized by buying center/persona with a platform team that works on foundational capabilities and use cases. Rolling out new messaging is generally tied to a big event (user conference, sales kickoff, etc) and starts at the top, with delivery from the most senior leaders immediately backed by enablement (including certifying on company overview decks, etc) and content refreshes.

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

Selling to developers can be difficult, often because they have a ton of say over the decision but not explicitly the budget, but marketing to developers is simpler than people think. Quickly and concretely explain what your product does and how it works/fits in with other stacks (as much as developers love to claim that they're immune to marketing/branding - just look at the stickers on their laptops. C'mon - that's brand loyalty/affinity on par with pre-teen pop music fans) then get them into some demo/free trial/"doing the thing with your product" as quickly as possible with resources (docs, tooling, code samples) they can self-service on and then get out of their way (and watch). If your product can't convince them of it's awesomeness through hands-on experience you have a tough road ahead of you. But if it's got the goods, and you have visibility via a modern SaaS offering so you know who's doing what, then sales enablement becomes all about: 

  1. Reading the signals from inside the product of who's getting value and ripe for value capture becuase your product has already created value for them - developer marketing / advocacy gets them into the trials/usage - not tradtional SDRs/AEs generally. Devs don't want to talk to those folks.
  2. Navigating the org to find budget. If the decision lives in dev, budget could live in IT. So arming reps with the information they need to show who's already using the product a ton and finding out who can pay the bill. That's classic BANT stuff.
  3. Ensuring they're ongoing nurture/always on signals to the devs about what's coming, integrations, more tools/code samples, etc so that the fly wheel can continue on it's own. Dev advocacy / evangelism is critical here.

It's super important to not make Sales folks feel like they need to cram on all the technical knowledge to somehow pass as credible. Often when the decision maker is dev but an AE is most comfortable talking to IT (because IT has all the budget and buying experience), AE's will shy away here thinking they have to do the heavy lift to kick things off. They don't (or shouldn't) - devs getting value out of your stuff kicks things off. Good luck! 

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

Consistency is super critical and the modern agile/”move fast and break stuff” ethos does nothing but make that effort feel Sisyphean at times. If you’re in tech (particularly in an engineering-driven culture), you will fight this battle every day since, as the saying goes, everyone wants to build but no one wants to maintain. Two keys to staying ahead are 1) have as few core messages as possible and repeat them over and over again and 2) be vigilant about policing their usage in places over which you have more control/influence (website, videos, sales decks, keynotes, collateral, enablement, analyst decks, 10-Q’s/K’s, etc). Get really crisp on roles/responsibilities and work processes with folks who create copy and content (content marketing, demand gen, docs, sales enablement, etc.) so that they’re adapting messaging, not creating their own. That’s where problems start. Good luck, it's weeding a garden unfortunately - you can't set it and forget it.

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Vice President, Product Marketing, Unity | Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, OracleMarch 13

You need to consider competition before you even start your messaging. For me, messaging should build off of positioning and a strong positioning statement should encapsulate differentiated product strategy, including how this thing we’re offering is better than other stuff that’s out there. That’s how you keep your messaging from sounding vague and generic and ensure your company has a point of view on a space and problem set. I’ve seen a bit of a trend recently where PMs, especially, don’t want to go deep on competitors (as if to not sully their own novel ideas I guess?) and so competitive positioning is sometimes de-emphasized or is generated downstream, in a GTM team rather than baked into the rationalization for why to even build a thing in the first place. That’s nonsense - every one of your customers is scrutinizing your offering against your competitors so you need to know what’s up.

Credentials & Highlights
Vice President, Product Marketing at Unity
Formerly Splunk, New Relic, Microsoft, Oracle
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Lives In San Francisco, CA
Knows About Industry Product Marketing, Vertical Product Marketing, Messaging, Product Marketing ...more