Naman Khan

Naman KhanShare

Chief Marketing Officer, Blend
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Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendJuly 7

There is a ramp plan that I like & have used many times, both for myself and members of the team. Like most things that are awesome, it takes the form of a very simple looking table.

3 Columns:

  • People: Meet with stakeholders and the team I will be working with, understanding their needs & determine how to best work with each person
  • Product: Learn the product, value prop, messaging, pitch and know how to do a killer demo
  • Business: Understand the buyer journey, key metrics, market and all the "math camp" things

4 Rows:

  • 30 Day: List of activities I will do in my first 30 days for each column
  • 60 Day: List of activities I will do in my next 30 days (more advanced)
  • 90 Day: List of activities I will do in my next 30 days (even more advanced)
  • Deliverables: These are "contained projects" I will take ownership of each month, so that while I'm learning things, I'm also shipping things.

This plan is focused on successfully ramping during the first 90 days, its not focused on making a big impact during th first 90 days. This is because you are only the "newbie" for a limited period of time. The first 90 days are the time to ask all the questions, re-ask the same questions and have people spend hours explaining it all to you. This is not time that will come back, so its important to take advantage of it. TLDR: Don't short circuit your ramp, it will be the investment that will make the big impact possible. If your stakeholders see you asking insightful questions, ramping well on the business and mastering the product in the first 90 days, you're already winning.

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

There are 3 that I couldn’t live without:

Total Project Manager (TPM): This is the “quarterback” of the launch, they own the master launch plan, ensure dependencies are captured, establish alignment & drive accountability. When I was at Salesforce, we assigned a TPM for Dreamforce every year from within the PMM team and it was a key to a successful launch across the exec keynote, breakout sessions, analyst briefings, web & more.

Workstream DACI: This is a comprehensive list of the various work streams that comprise a product launch, such as Core Messaging Development, Core Content Development, Sales Enablement, Launch Event etc. Each workstream has its own DACI which provides clarity on who the DRI is (protip: ensure that there is only one person who is the A=Accountable for the DACI to work!). We used a Workstream DACI at Dropbox for our major launch event & user conference in September 2019 and it worked well, keeping the core team and stakeholders aligned throughout the process.

Weekly Standup: This is a simple operational meeting that over delivers! The TPM typically runs this weekly meeting which consists of short updates from each workstream DRI, with reference to the workback schedule for that specific workstream. In addition to providing a great way to keep each other updated on progress, ask questions and solve problems, it is also brings people together as a team and helps move everyone is the same direction. Also, knowing that you have to provide an update every week helps keep work moving forward

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

In terms of similarities, I think the craft of Product Marketing stays the same across B2C & B2B (SMB & ENT). The functional competencies required are generally consistent: Target Market Definition, Audience Definition, Pain Point/Needs Definition, Value Prop Definition, Core Messaging & Positioning, Core Content Development, Launch Planning etc. In fact, I have found that PMM’s with B2C backgrounds that move to B2B perform exceptionally well! One theory is that Product Marketing has been a long standing function at B2C companies, starting at Proctor & Gamble, where PMM’s were business owners functioning as the GM of the product line (ie, a PMM at P&G could tell you the impact of moving a box of Tide detergent on the shelf by 2cm to the annual contribution margin) whereas Product Marketing in B2B is relatively new in comparison.

In terms of differences, I think the buyer journey changes significantly across B2C and B2B as well as across SMB & ENT. As a B2C PMM, your target user is likely also the buyer which will influence your messaging, pricing, feature packaging, content development and more. As a B2B PMM within an ENT target audience, you might need to sub segment your audiences across Business Decision Makers and End Users, effecting your messaging, content & more. In terms of messaging, I strongly believe in creating unique messaging frameworks for each target audience. With this approach, there should be no messaging conflicts. For example, when I was a PMM at Microsoft, we would define value propositions for Microsoft Office with separate messaging frameworks for Consumers, SMB’s and ENT, we would even go deeper with specific versions for various industries, all to ensure that we were getting as close as possible to the specific needs of the target audience. Keeping the customer in mind, you might find that different audiences have different needs and you’ll need to define different RTB’s (reasons to believe) from your product truths to inform your messaging!

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

I’m a big believer in customer research as a part of the overall launch plan. It’s tempting to make decisions based on “I think” or “I like” but in most cases, the PMM is not the target audience so it’s important to balance a convicted point of view with actual customer signal. 

At Dropbox, we work with our Customer Intelligence team to do quant & qual research across areas like: value prop definition, messaging, creative brand and even perform research early in the pre-build phase to help inform the product roadmap in partnership with Product.  

We also have a program called “real world Wednesdays” where we are able to connect with customers directly which is awesome. 

We also do research, including conjoint studies, to inform our packaging & pricing when we are making SKU plan changes as part of a launch.

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

First, I would start with the customer in mind, develop a clear understanding of who they are & what they care most about. If your target customer is an IT Leader in a large enterprise, they might be more open to regular updates & even expect them from their vendors. At Microsoft, we would send weekly updates to these customer audiences including detailed product updates, it was the right cadence for this audience as they really valued constant information in their function. If however your customer is a Decision Maker at a mid size company, they are likely more focused on growing & retaining clients and may not appreciate constant product information from you, in fact it might annoy them, cause them to opt out of email updates or worse!

I’d also focus on establishing clarity on what “small” and “big” launches mean to your stakeholders using a Launch Tier Framework (LTF). We developed this type of framework recently at Dropbox and it has helped immensely to align our stakeholders across Product, Campaigns, PR/AR & more to position items from the product roadmap into a common framework & determine what the resulting launch strategy should look like (here is an example from our friends at Intercom). You might find that there are numerous smaller “P3” features shipping in Q2 that you can pull together with a compelling value prop narrative to create a large launch moment, including a launch event, press outreach, web updates, blog, email nurture etc. Or, you might find that the “P3” features are divergent and opt instead to do several smaller launch moments consisting of web & email only (assuming your target audience is accepting of multiple launch updates!). With an aligned framework in place, you’ll be in a great place with your stakeholders as you will have a defensible model on which to rank a specific product/feature & also understand the types of launch tactics that are warranted for the target customer.

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

One way to do this is build a launch plan that eliminates the “Big Bang” altogether :).

When building your launch plan, craft a “Season of Launch” instead of a plan that is centered around a single moment in time (ie, when your product/feature is announced or generally available) and ensure your resources are allocated thoughtfully across the “Season of Launch” time frame. Also, your launch plan should ideally define goals that map to broader company goals (ie, awareness uplift, usage & adoption, revenue, retention etc) and it will be super tough to move those metrics with a “Big Bang” approach centered on a single point in time.

You should certainly rely on your launch day to drive top of funnel awareness but you’ll need a set of integrated follow on tactics such as paid digital, email nurture, influencers, partnerships & more to move prospects through the consideration & acquisition funnel. You should be able to leverage core content from your launch day throughout your “Season of Launch” (ie, keynote deck as input to sales enablement, launch video cut downs for paid digital, customer speakers for case studies, demo’s for sales toolkit).

Overall, ensuring that your launch plan is resourced to drive a drumbeat of marketing tactics over time, aligned to your customers buyer journey & in support of high impact goals will take the focus off of the launch day itself & move focus to the business impact you will drive with your “Season of Launch”!

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

At Dropbox, PMM maps to the Product/Design/Engineering organization and reports into Marketing. Our pricing teams report into an adjacent team to Marketing and we have PMM's aligned to work on packaging. For the PMM team, we also focus on balancing the work we do with Product across "pre build" where we provide the voice of the customer (ie, target segment & audience, challenges/pain points, competitive landscape, market opportunity etc) to help inform product roadmap & the work we do with our sales partners "post build" on sales content, enablement etc. 

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

With the increase in remote work overall, it is becoming much more the norm for functions like PMM to be remote as well whereas even 5 years ago it was less common to have a PMM role based remotely. With any remote based role, I think making a greater effort to connect with your stakeholders becomes super important, this is especially true of PMM. So much of a PMM’s role is driving alignment across key stakeholders like Product & Sales, and it becomes more challenging if you don’t have a solid relationship to build upon. Making a greater effort to adapt your work processes, communication style, ensuring you deliver on commitments & meet expectations, over communicate and let people get to know you are all ways to build that connection!

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

PR can be a major component of a launch plan & your marketing mix. At Dropbox, our PR teams engage with the major media outlets that cover Dropbox, like Fast Company, Wired, Fortune etc to help them understand what we are launching, what it means to the market, how it adds value to our customers & more. We support our PR partners, who are awesome, during the launch process to ensure we are telling a consistent story across our sales teams, customers as well as the press. If done well, the application of this consistent messaging approach can have a strong amplification effect in the market! Imagine your target customer is hearing Message A from you in a launch email, then hearing Message A again while watching a video of the keynote, then reading Message A reiterated again in an article written by an influential reporter. Companies like Salesforce do a great job at this with messaging like “Salesforce is the customer success platform” and are able to differentiate themselves from their competitors, despite the fact that many offer similar product functionality.

Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Chief Marketing Officer, BlendMarch 17

Great question! Far too often, major product launches end up being HQ centric, with launch events at HQ, customers on stage that are from the same city at HQ, execs that are all based in HQ etc. The irony is that for most SaaS companies, the majority of their customers are nowhere near the HQ!

During my time as a PMM at Microsoft, I was able to be part of some awesome international launch moments that reflected a non-HQ centric model, also at Salesforce I think we did a great job and internationalizing our launches. Here are some learnings from those experiences:

HQ should provides several core launch components:

  • Core messaging 
  • Core content & brand identity 
  • Core campaign framework (including mandatory tactics)

International regions should be empowered to:

  • Execute local launch events (with local speakers, local customers etc)
  • Execute local campaign tactics (ie, local influencers, local analysts etc)
  • Execute local media strategy (using core messaging & branding) 

Overall, I’m a huge believer in empowering international regions to drive local campaign strategies with HQ providing a Core BoM to ensure a baseline of consistent messaging & brand identity. Of course, there is a broad spectrum of how centralized vs. decentralized this model is and it may vary across organizations (ie, Salesforce World Tour in Sydney Australia is incredibly consistent with Dreamforce in San Francisco, but just enough local content & campaign promotion to not feel like a US launch event!)

Credentials & Highlights
Chief Marketing Officer at Blend
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In Belvedere Tiburon, California
Knows About Consumer Product Marketing, Competitive Positioning, Product Launches, Solutions and ...more