Kevin Garcia

Kevin GarciaShare

Head of Product Marketing, Retool
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Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

As a rule of thumb, you should always test your messaging. The level of rigor and criteria for success should be sized appropriately the higher you go in the messaging hierarchy.

For this answer, I’ll use a pretty simple messaging hierarchy:

  • Company-level: Who are you and what do you do?
  • Use case-level: What problems do you solve?
  • Buyer-level: How do you deliver value to a specific buyer (e.g. CMO)?
  • Capability-level: How do you enable the buyer to get that value?

In every case, you will never regret testing the message with a customer on a call or email. You will always learn something, and if they love it you will gain conviction and ammo to defend that messaging.

  • Company-level
    • Rigor: Go super high. Use qualitative and quantitative research. Test with customers, analysts, and prospects. Spend the time to align with a broad set of internal stakeholders in GTM and Product.
    • Success: Strong positive signals from user research. Alignment to company strategy and differentiation. If you’re messaging is a key input when the company makes big decisions, it’s a huge success.
  • Use case-level/Buyer-level
    • Rigor: High. Quantitative can help you narrow the use case list and qualitative can drive the clarity you need to understand the ‘why.’ It’s most critical that this aligns with your executive team and GTM teams (these need to be the use cases that they actually see in the market).
    • Success: Strong positive signals in marketing and sales channels. Are people resonating with your pitch? Is the content focused on these use cases driving conversions? If your messaging helps accelerate people connecting with your solution, it’s a winner.
  • Capability-level
    • Rigor: Medium (can be low for small features). You really are aiming for clear and concise messaging at this level. Don’t go for flourish, go for clarity.
    • Success: People just get it. If a capability is well explained, your messaging should be the de-facto way that sales, product, and marketing use to describe it.
Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

Messaging is hard to get right. At its best, messaging is a clear and simple distillation of who you are, what you do, and why it matters. But in my experience, there are a few common themes that lead to missing the mark:


1. Trying to connect with too wide an audience. No messaging, no matter how clever or well-written, will resonate with every audience. The act of trying to make it work for every buyer persona, every company size, and every industry eventually leads to generic messaging that might broadly apply but is no longer impactful. Great messaging requires focus.


2. Developing messaging by committee. In an ideal world, your CEO, sales team, and customers would all be perfectly aligned on what messaging you should use. But in practice, this is rarely the case. Many teams will naturally resort to creating “Frankenstein” messaging that tries to marry everyone’s preferences…and it almost never goes well.


3. Trying to fit in every last detail. Think about buying a car. For those of us with a long commute, you might care most about gas mileage. A salesperson might try to also sell you on the backup camera, entertainment console, and sunroof, but those don’t solve your biggest problem—getting to work in a cost-effective manner. So now instead of looking more impressive, the car seems bloated, expensive, and irrelevant. Too much detail often works against you.

Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

Great question! A great GTM strategy is ultimately focused on driving 1 business metric forward. I'll share an example where a podcast made a lot of sense:

We researched our enterprise market to try to understand: Which audiences should we focus on within this broad category and what do those people want? After rigorous research, we discovered that the most relevant enterprises for Segment are those that are doubling down on digital experiences (new apps, new experiences, often called "Digital Transformation") And many of them mostly wanted to hear the inside story of how to get it done from people who had already transformed their businesses.

So when we thought about our most important GTM play, it became clear that if we wanted to increase sales velocity (1 business metric) we needed to give these people access to an inside look at how companies have digitally transformed using Segment.

When we asked customers and prospects how they would most want to digest this information, podcasts were the clear winner. And we're launching a podcast very soon to address this case.

Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

I’ve never met a PMM who was able to keep everyone happy. So I’d reframe away from that goal as much as possible. Instead, I like to focus on how to keep your messaging defensible early and often.

You’re right that everyone has opinions. But there are a few opinions that matter most:

  • Customers and prospects: They are the lifeblood of your business.
  • CEO (or business GM/leader): They own the company strategy and where you’re going next.



There is no better defense than real evidence that your messaging reflects how customers and prospects talk about their pains, their desired outcomes, and the product they want to buy. At the end of the day, this is what most internal teams are looking for. Sales want to say what these folks want to hear. Product wants to build what these folks want to buy.

You’ll notice that I jumped straight to the highest-ranking leader as the other priority. At the end of the day, I found that your messaging will never stick if you don’t have a champion in your leadership team. While the customer proof points serve to give you a bottoms-up defense, your leader can be the top-down champion that you need to keep stay the course and avoid getting drowned in opinions.

Finally, be open to people’s feedback. When they feel heard, when you connect what they’ve shared with what others have, they feel considered and included. And over time, this will lead to more champions and also a few nuggets of actually great feedback.

Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

You will never regret QA-ing your messaging with customers. Not only will it help you land on great messaging faster, but it will give you conviction as you defend your messaging across the organization.

It is different at every company, but at Segment each PMM follows a pretty simple path:

  • Develop the messaging
  • Test with customers, peers, and their core working group
  • Align with me and our VP of Marketing
  • Share broadly, refine. Repeat. 
Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

First of all, I feel your pain! With the company moving fast, it can sometimes feel that your messaging is always playing catch up.

In cases where your product and business evolve quickly, I recommend anchoring your messaging on the elements that remain most constant:

  • The market trends around you
  • The top pain(s) your audience feels
  • The top use cases your company solves

If you work for a mobile attribution company, your product might change every day. But the growing number of digital touchpoints (trend), difficulty connecting all of the dots (pain), and the desire to effectively manage your marketing budget (use case) will stick around a long time. So anchor campaigns on what won’t change.

An example from Segment is our “What good is bad data?” campaign. Does it talk about our product directly? No. Does it address our differentiated features? Lightly. But it does speak to a pain that a lot of technical audiences experience, so it has worked as a multi-quarter campaign across both brand and demand generation.

Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

1. Make talking to customers integral to their role. By keeping your team as connected as possible to the customer, they will develop 1) sharper intuition and 2) a network of customers they can tap into for feedback on future projects. 


2. Give them space to develop messaging that matters. Clean, clear, concise messaging is not every PMMs strong skill. You need to let people work through their messaging, test it in the wild, and hear broad feedback for them to learn quickly what works best.


3. Create a culture of peer review to scale best practices. Each PMM is going through different messaging journeys. By creating a culture of check-ins and sharing within the team, you allow them to share learnings and avoid pitfalls. It sharpens the whole team and brings them closer. 


4. Give them the context, not the answer. It is so easy as a leader to try and force a certain messaging framework through the whole team. But it ends up creating really shallow messaging skills in the long term. A better approach is to offer your team the full context you have. You'll be surprised at how quickly they will arrive at the same messaging values and you've empowered them to add value without you needing to hover. 

Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

When you don’t have your own network to tap into, you should get creative to find one.

People congregate with like-minded folks on social media, forums, blog newsletters, slack communities, meetups, etc. Find them and see how they talk about their work, their problems, their solutions. 

After some digging, you’ll develop pattern recognition on where you can add value. Build a voice with this existing audience in a way that adds value, that goes beyond “look at me” and is much more about “look at this big problem and our approach to solving it.”

You'll find natural pull when the messaging resonates. Keep going!

Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolApril 17

AI/ML means a lot of things to a lot of businesses. Some companies have high data maturity where AI/ML tools are a vehicle for data science teams to create proprietary value for the business. Others are fairly low on their data maturity (which is fine!) and they want out-of-the-box AI/ML for fairly simple use cases, usually around personalization.

The best messaging technique here is clarity. Do the work for the prospect. Is this product for advanced or basic users? Technical users? Does it require a data lake? By being really clear about where the product and solution fit, you give the right people the opportunity to raise their hands.

Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Head of Product Marketing, RetoolMay 4

First of all, you're not alone! I've definitely fumbled my way through several interviews. Rather than offering really general advice, I'd like to get specific. When I think about interviews, I think of two ways you can impress a hiring manager:

  1. Substance - You show that you're qualified for the role and would add value to the team/business
  2. Style - You show that you're a great communicator and are someone that the team wants to work with

I think there is A LOT of high-level advice for both that exists on the internet, so I'm going to focus on tactical things that you can do the week before your interview.

Substance

  1. Read their website, their docs, their latest funding announcement, and their last blog post
  2. Write down your top 3 best product marketing experiences onto sticky notes that only include: what you launched, what audience you were going after, and what impact it had in the business (specific numbers)
  3. Write down your biggest lesson you've learned from messing up onto a sticky note that only includes: what went wrong, the impact, and a specific action you took to fix it/prevent it from happening again
  4. Record yourself on your phone describing the last product you worked on. Watch the video 24-hours later and decide what needs to improve.
  5. Record yourself on your phone describing the product the company sells. Watch the video 24-hours later and decide what needs to improve.
  6. Write down 3 questions that you NEED to know the answer to if you were an investor that was curious about their strategy or product (e.g. "Does the company intend to stay focused on developers or do you intend to eventually sell to non-technical teams?).

1, 4, and 5 help you learn what you don't know and feel confident in the interview. 2 and 3 help you be thoughtful and structured when retelling your experiences. And 6 is crucial. I don't hire PMMs that aren't curious/passionate about the space we're in. Asking substantive questions is a HUGE signal that you're a great thinker.

Style

  1. Record yourself on your phone giving a 30-second opener about yourself that includes: highlights from your career, why you're interested in their company, and one thing that you read about them that stands out to you. Watch the video 24-hours later and decide what needs to improve.
  2. Practice talking about your last product as if you were talking to: a coworker, a stranger at a conference, a stranger at a music festival.
  3. If you tend to be shy/quiet in interviews, watch standup comedy and take notes about how they respond to their audience and keep the conversation going. 
  4. If you tend to be talkative/intense in interviews, watch TED talks and take notes about how they balance passion with objectivity/calmness.
  5. Write down your top 3 favorite co-workers ever onto sticky notes that only include: their title, how they worked with you, and what they did that made you want to work with them.

1 and 2 are all about getting comfortable talking about yourself so you can cater to your interviewer on the fly. 3 and 4 are all about remembering the qualities that help you feel more like yourself in the interview. 5 is all about gratitude. Hiring managers are building teams. They want to work with someone who can build meaningful relationships with others. PMMs that are proud of the people they've worked with give me great signals about cross-functional collaboration and long-term success.

Credentials & Highlights
Head of Product Marketing at Retool
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Lives In San Francisco, California
Knows About Market Research, Self-Serve Product Marketing, Competitive Positioning, Messaging, Pr...more