Liz Tassey (she/her)

Liz Tassey (she/her)Share

VP of Marketing, Blueocean.ai
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Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.ai
Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 8

A good competitive intelligence function starts with great listening. Engaging your frontline (both sales AND customer success...why you are losing deals is good insight, but why you are losing customers is incredibly powerful), win/loss reports, gleaning insights from your customer experience and brand tracking programs, dark funnel data, first party research when possible....

Establishing listening upfront will help you then get a clearer picture of where you need to focus. Which competitors in which segments should you focus on, where / how are they winning. This is where layering in some 1st party research can be helpful. And then being really clear about which deliverables and training will be most helpful to your stakeholders (e.g. Sales) - and getting into a motion where you build those out and socialize (e.g FUD respose docs, trap setting, strong differentiated messaging backed by product truths, etc)

Another key part of the function should be around competitive alerts and wallows. Having a structure where you can deep dive quickly into a competitive move (e.g. acquisition, new announcement, etc.) and get out a perspective and guidance to your front lines so they know how to react if a customer brings it up. This is often a big pain point in a highly competitive industry, so may be a good place to focus first.

Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 8

Wow I love this idea! A couple of thoughts:

  1. Customer-obsession: This is probably the #1 skill/perspective that we can help other teams embrace. Is this driving value for the customer, is this something they can easily understand, are we solving the pain point in a unique and differentiated way, etc.
  2. Value orientation: This is captured a bit in the customer-obsession point, but if the entire company can have a great focus on value (building value, communicating value, helping the customer realize the value), that can be a powerful turning point for a business.
  3. Establishing Framework / Driving Clarity: I dont think this is a unique skill to PMM, but we cannot operate without the ability to establish a framework for how to approach a problem or opportunity...and with that comes the skill of driving clarity. I sometimes coach my team on "be the person at the whiteboard" - when there is churn on what to go do, how to approach, etc. how do you help drive clarity and create a framework for getting everyone aligned and moving forward. This is critical as companies grow bigger and become more complex.
  4. Storytelling: I don't mean "on the stage delivering a keynote" story telling...but more - how do you craft a story that engages your audience (internal or external) and gets them to the outcome you want. E.g. when you are in front of the company getting them excited / motivated about the latest capability or a new initiative. Or storytelling around data to drive prioritization and alignment for your roadmap or product vision. Storytelling is core to our human nature, and having some perspective on "what story do I want to tell" can really help accelerate what you are doing as your "day job."
Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 8

Brand is more than just a logo or color palette or tag line. Brand is the combination of customer touchpoints that create meaning and belonging for that customer...Brand attracts the customer in the first place, for sure, but brand shows up in how the product delivers on its promise, how customer support handled your issues, how easy it was to purchase. Imagine if you had expectations of a Nordstrom experience, but then got Wal-Mart. It's not that Wal-Mart is bad, but the misalignm of expectations and experience creates dissonance for the customer that can damage the relationship. Now, if you had set Wal-Mart expectations, and got Wal-mart experiences, then the customer is happy - they got exactly what they expected and wanted.

So to that end, I think it's important the product marketing and brand marketing are tighly connected. Brand marketing will be setting the expectations in the marketplace for customers, and PMM should be a big part of helping to inform those expectations so the experiences are aligned. Then, PMM via working with product, sales, other marketing touchpoints, can ensure there is a consistent experience for that customer that delivers on those expectations.

Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 8

I would recommend doing a listening tour with your key stakeholder teams in the organization (product, sales, growth, enablement, partner) to help inform your priorities, as budget items could be almost limitless. It's also important to understand the state of your product and where it might need the most help, to help prioritize your asks. E.g you might need to invest more in awareness / thought leadership content or third party validation research, or maybe you have needs lower in the funnel such as demo and video creation.

Some good buckets could be: content creation (white papers, webinars, etc.), videos / demos, customer evidence, event sponsorships, research (pricing, naming, thought leadership, competitive, etc.), sales readiness (decks, demos, sales process / methodology guidance and training, RFP templates), launch (could be captured in other buckets but may include 1st party events, press events, content creation).

Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 8

I think it's a balance, but if I had to choose, leaning in to those soft skills is a great strategy when you are starting out.  

It's really important to go into a new team / company with a really strong growth mindset and a relationship building / collaboration ethos. Be curious, meet with your key stakeholders to really understand how PMM can be a good partner, learn about the business and what's working / what's not (this will lean in on data/business acumen for sure), learn the customer and the product, and start to build a view of where the business could best use your help. (To be clear, this type approach should be continued throughout your tenure, not just when you start. It's easy to fall into the "heads down, get the work done" as you get established, but continuing to connect with your stakeholders with a growth mindset approach, and building those relationships is a core part of the job, no matter how long in role).

Then, as you start to build an informed picture of the landscape and where PMM can lean in and help, you can start identifying the quick wins to gain credibility, drive impact and build momentum. And this is where maybe some of your harder skills will come in E.g using data to help prioritize what to focus on first (as you'll likely get lots of asks from everyone during your listening tour!) and set goals/ KPIs for those quick wins you will pursue, so you can measure impact.   

Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 8
  1. Messaging and storytelling: this continues to be the hallmark of a great PMM. In particular, really leaning in on differentiation and value to the customer (not speeds and feeds) while also simplifying concepts down in a memorable way that makes it easy for sales to land, marketing to build copy and content, and ultimately, the customer to understand. I sometimes joke that PMMs like ALL the words...but we don't need to use them ALL the time. Being able to really tell a compelling story that connects with the customer, and romances the product in the way that customers can say "Yes! I can see how this will help me" is a key skill.
  2. Business / data acumen: Knowing the business, what are the key levers, how do you actually make revenue, ability to dig into where you have pipeline or conversion issues, etc. Having this business / data acument is really important for narrowing in on where you will focus, and ultimately your ability to drive impact that matters. This also plays a role in effective pricing / packaging strategies and understand the right levers to drive value for the business.
  3. Relationship building / collaboration: PMM is at the cross roads of multiple functions - sales, Growth, product, partner, enablement (which is why it's so fun!). The ability to build relationships with those functions, understand their goals / motivations, be conversant enough in their space to identify ways to align, and then work effectively to drive the right actions is critical to PMM success.
  4. Communication: There is a lot of complexity to the PMM role. Your ability to communicate ideas, represent data in a way that is meaningful and actionable, and inspire teams to rally behind a shared vision is a top skill in my opinion.

I like to define PMM excellence in the following way: You are the master of three truths. 1) The product truths - what the product does / doesnt do, how it delivers value to the customer, how it stacks up vs. the competition, etc 2) The customer truths - what are the needs, pain points, outcomes that the customer cares about and how you can adress them in productive ways and 3) Market truths - where is the opportunity in the market, what trends should we be paying attention to, what is the competition doing (or might do), etc. And the combining those truths into an integrated GTM that drives the right outcomes for the business.  

So if you buy that definition, the hard and soft skills that map to mastering those truths are critical. 

Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 8

I love the data debate. A couple of my favorite quotes:

"If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything" - Ronald Coase.

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses" - maybe Henry Ford

I dont think it's an either-or answer. Data is obviously incredibly important, as it can be the objective source of "truth" and the rise of machine learning and AI have made data more powerful and helpful than ever. But as you think about how data is used in decision making, I think it's important to decide what is "data" -- is it "hard" numbers like conversion, click thru, average deal size, people saying yes to this feature or no to that feature, etc. Or, is it experience data representing the feelings, needs, wants of customers as they engage with a brand? Or is it the insights of skilled, seasoned professionals who are processing thousands of data points at once and it shows up as "intuition" (If you've read Blink, you will know exactly what I mean)?

If you have too narrow a view of data, you run the risk of missing an opportunity (e.g. building a car instead of finding faster horses), so I like to have a more expansive view. And if you take data at face value without considering how it was gathered, analyzed or presented, you can draw inaccurate conclusions.

So, I don't think it's either-or. I love data and heavily rely on it for decisions - with an overlay of human discussion and assessment. But I also don't always have enough of it (at least traditional sources) and have to rely on other inputs. A couple of principles I like to follow:

  1. If you dont have the data you wish you did, make your decisions but have them backed by stated, educated hypotheses. This will help you make sense of the outcomes of your decisions, regardless of how much data you had.
  2. Get really clear on the questions you need answered to make an educated decision. Then determine the data you need to answer those questions. Often we have tons of data, but not sure what it is telling us.
  3. Get alignment on what data matters, the method for gathering it, how it will factor into decisions, and where will you be ok NOT having all the data. The biggest challenge in making data-driver OR data-informed decisions is the lack of "single source of truth." Teams will spend hours debating the data, while missing opportunities to win / keep customers.
Liz Tassey (she/her)
VP of Marketing, Blueocean.aiJuly 7
  1. Not knowing the product: I've known PMMs who had never...used...the product. For real. This is job #1 - get familiar with the product, build and do demos with customers, spend time with the product managers understanding the roadmap, what's been the history, what is the vision for where the product is headed. This is a critical first step in building a credible relationship with product. I often "indoctrinate" new PMMs to the team by getting them on booth duty right away, so they learn the product and get exposure to customers early on. You can't be a thought partner to Product without knowing the product in and out, and seeing how it lands with customers.
  2. Lack of data / insights backing a holistic POV: l I used to caution folks to not walk in like "Molly Marketing" (no offense to the Mollys out there) with all the answers and a perspective that "the product doesn't do xyz and that's why we're not winning." Deeply understanding the customer's needs and pain points, where does the product deliver and it is breaking down, having robust data points around deals lost / churn, competitive advantages , etc. is critical in being a good, credible partner to product. It's also important to have a holistic view of where things might not be working and to show where you are rolling up your sleeves (e.g. maybe the product is fine but we have an enablement issue) - you are there to make the product successful together, not to point fingers.
  3. Lack of a growth mindset: Making assumptions or starting to provide opinions off the bat is a good way to put off your product manager partners AND it doesn't get you to a winning, differentiated roadmap. Be curious about the process that went into determining the roadmap - what is the approach, how are priorities determined, what insights were leveraged, where were that gaps that maybe you as a PMM can help fill.
  4. Lack of aligned approach: Having different criteria, data inputs and measures of success can make it pretty hard to build the relationship with Product and successfully influence the roadmap. Following #3 and leading with a growth mindset, you can then be in a good position to get to a collective point of view on what data will you look at and how will you evaluate priorities...then it becomes a lot easier (and more objective) to start talking about what actually goes into the roadmap. 
Credentials & Highlights
VP of Marketing at Blueocean.ai
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In Seattle, WA
Knows About Consumer Product Marketing, Solutions and Platform Product Marketing, Sales Enablemen...more