Linda Sonne-Harrison

Linda Sonne-HarrisonShare

My clients call me a "Product Marketing Black Belt." At Giant Stride Marketing Group, I work with B2B software companies from scrappy startups to established market leaders. I enjoy getting up to s...more
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Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 10

Congratulations on considering a career in product marketing. I "carried a bag" (literally) and it was an invaluable experience.

The good news is that you have a ton of useful knowledge: customer needs, your customers' buying groups and personas, their buying process, and more. You probably have some true empathy for customer pains that your product can solve. Skills that you may need to build up:

- Writing. Lots of it.

- Critical thinking and analytical skills. Product marketers have to see beyond the deal and the customer to look at the bigger picture. 

-Cross-functional collaboration. Product marketing's success depends on many other teams doing stuff.

Skills you may need to develop:

- Understanding of marketing technology and measurement approaches. 

- Understanding market research and quantitative analysis

 

Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 3

I use different templates depending on the company, nature of the product, and relative importance of the launch (see related question on this topic), but the elements I would include:

  • List of new features, with SHORT descriptions that include functional capabilities as well as business value. What someone would say conversationally if they had to describe what’s new and explain why a customer should care.
  • Elevator pitch/ buyer personas, if different from before
  • Use cases
  • Demo script/ screenshots to support the items above
  • Presentation, or slides to insert into an existing sales presentation
  • Discovery / qualification questions to use with customers
  • Competitive positioning
  • Common objections to expect, with answers
Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 20

This sounds like a classic case of product family positioning, where you would define a common positioning for what makes Shopify unique across both products. And then absolutely, you would do separate competitive positioning for each product edition based on the needs of the customers it serves and the competitive environment. 

Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 16

Glad that you're already planning to 1:1's. Taking the time to understand your stakeholders' perspectives is an important first step in building trust. I don't have a standard list of questions. I come in with observations (what I learned prior to engaging with my client or from previous stakeholder converations) and ask both closed- and open-ended questions. Examples: "This message is for CMOs, but traditionally you have sold to product managers. What are the things your sales team will need to do to reach CMOs, besides just having different messaging." Versus, "What headline would you want to see the press using in 3 months?"

Prepare for each 1:1 by doing your research on the person and his or her role in the company. Come in with 25% more questions than you think you'll have time to ask. End by asking them if there's anything that you can help with immediately. Follow up on any requests you get.

Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 29

The first step is executive alignment. When I start an engagement with a client, I do a thorough messaging audit including internal stakeholders, customers, and sometimes analysts. I analyze my findings, present them to the key stakeholders, and get their buy-in before beginning the actual messaging process. It's also important to note that some of these key stakeholders don't know what positioning and messaging are. They may not care. You'll need to educate them. Positioning is how your product fits in the world (product-market-fit) and different from alternatives. Messaging is the product's story to the outside world. 

Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 20

Pricing–and ownership of pricing–is often a loaded topic for companies. My view is that product marketing, not product management, should own pricing. (Of course I am biased because I am a product marketer!) Why? Product management’s primary focus should be on the vision for the product. Product marketing is responsible for bringing that product to market. Pricing is an integral part of a go-to-market strategy, one of the 4 P’s.

At the highest level, pricing is driven by:

  1. Company: Marginal cost to produce/ operate, overall business strategy
  2. Customer: The value that customers perceive that they could realize by solving the problem that your product solves
  3. Competitor: The amount that customers would pay to competitors or substitutes to solve that problem

Of course, product management and product marketing both have responsibilities in all three C’s. Product management is typically more involved in #1 (along with Finance), product marketing in #2 and #3 (along with Sales).

Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 9

Good question! Over my career, I have seen release cycles shrink a lot and fewer and fewer requests for datasheets!

My advice:

1. Minimize the number of "sources of truth." If you can get away with just having a web page, do it. If you need printed collateral, what about a piece that explains the value proposition and includes a QR code for a web page that shows the details? Likewise, makie sure that internal information is stored in as few places as possible. 

2. Set a threshold for the number or signifance of features that would trigger a datasheet update. P1/ P2/ P3 releases. 

3. Streamline the production process as much as possible, so updates aren't as painful. 

Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 1

There’s no single career path that leads to a product marketing position. In B2B SaaS companies, I have seen successful transitions to product marketing from product management, sales engineering, consulting, corporate marketing, consumer brand management, and customer success. I have also seen failed transitions from all of these roles.

Regardless of your prior work experience, I think a successful product marketer will need to exhibit all of these skills:

  • An interest and ability to understand the product you’re marketing. You don’t have to know how to code it; you don’t always have to be able to use every capability; but you have to be able to demo it and deeply understand the problems it addresses.
  • Empathy, especially when it comes to being able to look at the world through a customer’s eyes. Product marketers also need to have empathy for their sales teams, development teams, and the rest of the marketing organization.
  • Strong communications skills, both written and verbal. No matter how big the organization is, product marketers are constantly having to win over customers and internal stakeholders, verbally and in writing. And they’re constantly having to align their stakeholders on competing priorities.
  • Perseverance: Success in product marketing depends on the success of others in the organization—sales, demand gen teams, product management, and engineering. You’re often fighting some strong headwinds.
  • Critical thinking: Product marketing has to be able to turn “what” into “so what.” It can be like solving a 3D puzzle with 10 people handing you pieces from different sections in random order.
Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupOctober 12

Medium- to large-sized companies typically have a sales enablement team that focuses on this exact problem. In a smaller company, sales enablement often falls on product marketing. In that case, how can you make sales enablement work? 

  1. Collaborate closely with sales leadership. Make sure that the sales tools you're producing will actually help sellers.
  2. Make sure that your sales tools are self-explanatory (in spite of recommendation #4). Include clear and concise messaging, answers to any questions or objections they may encounter, and frequently asked questions. Include detailed speaker notes on presentations. (I can't believe I have to say this, but I see slides delivered with no notes all the time!)
  3. For anything that you expect a seller to read out loud, read it out loud yourself. Multiple times. Get rid of tech jargon and wordy descriptions that don't roll off the tongue. 
  4. Test sales tools with a few key sellers before rolling them out.
  5. Do a live training. Recruit a seller to co-present with you and encourage questions. Record the session for those who can't make it. 
  6. Answer your email and Slack messages when people ask for help! Better yet, create Slack groups dedicated to specific types of sales tools (e.g. competitive-plays, sales-play-1).
  7. Encourage feedback and release new versions on a regular basis (but not so frequently that people lose track of what the latest version is).
Linda Sonne-Harrison
President, Giant Stride Marketing GroupSeptember 21

Hi,

I have found that sources of competitive insights differ quite a bit from market category to market category. It's looking at the totality of information - what you find publicly, win-loss data, information from customers or analysts, etc. - that is the path to insights. 

I don't use a "framework" to get clarity on the competitive position but look at:

- What matters to customers? 

- What does my product have that other products don't?

- Where is my product particularly strong? 

For a visual view (especially to communicate with executives and sales leaders), a Harvey ball type chart is useful, that is a matrix of competitors comparing features and functionality for each of the criteria that buyers typically evaluate. 

Credentials & Highlights
President at Giant Stride Marketing Group
Knows About Enterprise Product Marketing, Establishing Product Marketing, Go-To-Market Strategy, ...more