Steve Feyer

Steve FeyerShare

Product Marketing Director, Eightfold
I like to grow new technology categories. Current: AI for talent management, hiring & diversity.
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Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiJanuary 11

This is a tough one for me because I've tried several things in the last few years that DON'T work. I've used several different "message map" formats, and you can find a lot of examples online. The online formats are good, very professional, well-structured. They are useful ways to think about what you are saying & why you're saying it.


But I find that my audiences internally struggle to use them, no matter the exact format. Even reinforcing with video training, quizzes, prizes, etc., hardly moves the needle.


Moving into this year I'm trying 3 new tactics and we'll see if they get more consistent results:

1) Collateral

2) Storytelling

3) Selling paths


1) COLLATERAL. Rather than focus sellers on a formal template, I just tell them to speak from our publicly available materials. For reps, I am advising them to review our website and make sure they have their own way to talk through the message flow there. For our internal business development reps specifically, I'm advising them to refer to a specific piece of market collateral we made last year. This piece contains a complete high-level pitch for the product: leadership proof points, basic message, 6 differentiating features, 3 brief customer stories. So I tell the BDRs to use it as their "cheat sheet". This seems to have worked so far.


2) STORYTELLING. I buy into the idea that people remember a story better than a series of bullet points, and can relay it more convincingly. So I am turning customer stories (and a few made-up stories, think of the "in a world..." movie trailer format) into speeches that reps can give.


3) SELLING PATHS. I am laying out specific paths that tell our sellers a strictly defined way to sell a product through all the steps from engagement to close. Think of an "if they are X persona, say Y; if they ask about A, say B" format. The challenge is not boiling the ocean but so far we're on a reasonable path. I'll report back in 6 months how effective this has been! And if I can I'll share a template.

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiApril 6

We use a formal leveling rubric to evaluate levels. This is used across all market-facing roles, other than sales reps. To summarize a few of the key differences across levels:

SENIOR MANAGER

  • A Senior Manager independent works cross-functionally; a Manager does not.
  • A Senior Manager can independently update their task list to reflect company/department goals; a Manager cannot without help.
  • A Senior Manager can independently learn and reflect industry best practice; a Manager has to be trained.
  • A Senior Manager can deliver feedback; a Manager cannot.
  • A Senior Manager can work with colleagues cross-functionally to share tasks according to expertise; a Manager cannot identify new ways to share tasks.

DIRECTOR

  • A Director works with departmental leadership to develop processes and partnerships for cross-functional work; a Senior Manager only works within existing structures.
  • A Director turns strategic goals into tasks shared across their team/department and can aggregate tasks into a project delivery; a Senior Manager works at task level.
  • A Director can motivate, engage and coach teammates; a Senior Manager does not have this skill or expectation.
  • A Director proactively seeks and uses industry best practices; a Senior Manager can use this information independently but may not seek it.
  • A Director learns and reflects differences across geographies and cultures; a Senior Manager may not operate outside their regional office.
  • A Director defines and gains approval for initiatives that can deliver company/department goals; a Senior Manager works from a task list that flows from such initiatives.
  • A Director can evaluate talent performance and assist in placing staff in appropriate roles, even if the individual does not have direct reports at this time; a Senior Manager is not expected to have talent management skills.

In general, I would not consider giving someone a director title if they haven't managed staff before; they're just not experienced enough. This doesn't mean they'll have a team here (which describes me--I'm in an IC role now and have managed people in the past).

Something I look at when interviewing people: Someone who is talking about their work exclusively at a task level ("I wrote a great white paper") is probably a Manager, possibly Senior. Someone who can connect that to the strategy ("I needed to increase demand, so I wrote a white paper which provided the necessary increase") is a Senior Manager/Director.

There's a lot more to think about in this discussion--just some of my key notes.

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiNovember 9

I had a PMM candidate tell me that he was not comfortable presenting to audiences. Obviously a deal-breaker there. Every PMM needs to present.

I've reviewed resumes or LinkedIn pages which were poorly written. Not someone I am going to call, as every PMM needs to write well. If writing isn't your strength, make sure that you have a friend review your personal materials so you get the chance to impress with your other qualities.

More generally, I always want to be sure that a PMM can "get their hands dirty" delivering the work. PMMs often have the same background and general intelligence as consultants, but it's not a consulting job. You don't succeeed at product marketing by issuing recommendations and then expecting someone else to deliver on them---it's all you, buddy! So I try to probe about how a candidate has actually delivered the accomplishments that are on their resume. If digging in reveals that they weren't a tactical & practical player at some point, I will pass.

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiMay 23

I don't believe that any technical skills are required in product marketing. However there are a few caveats to that blanket statement.

  • You should be as technically proficient as your target customer. So if you sell to developers, then you should have enough technical background to speak intelligently to those professionals. This doesn't mean you actually need to be a great developer, just that you understand the needs of great developers.
  • If your company is highly data-driven and does not have visual reporting software, you may need to know basic SQL or another database language to run queries. This is mostly true of small startups--as companies grow this function should become specialized and automated.
  • You need to be capable with applications generally. This doesn't mean you actually need to know how to administer Hubspot or Dynamics, just that you can understand something explained to you by a sales rep or demand marketer. It is very helpful to have a little experience doing something in a visual interface: running a WordPress site, administering Salesforce, etc. If you're marketing software, you should be more comfortable with software than the average person.
  • You need to be capable of learning to use your own product, at least at the level of a typical economic buyer.

To thrive in product marketing, you need to be an excellent writer, presenter and business strategist. People who value their technical capabilities above these skills should be product managers--I think they're likely to become frustrated by their duties in product marketing.

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiJanuary 11

I don't think there is a single answer here---it is the fundamental messaging & content marketing concern! As you know, we all see hundreds of commercial and noncommercial messages every day (I've seen an estimate that the average American views 3000 advertisements daily). Breaking through is HARD.


But I have a few thoughts and a framework to offer.


First the thoughts:


KEEP IT SHORT: Your message is better if it's brief and to the point. I'm amazed how often I get inbound email with 6 paragraphs of run-on sentences! Five words is better than 10, 10 is better than 20, etc., almost without exception. Your revision process should always cut down. When I pull these AMA answers into another content format, I'll probably cut them in half and make them better by doing so.


MESSENGER>MESSAGE: The world's best marketers don't say anything themselves, they let others say it for them. This is harder than doing it yourself! My generic advice here is to find 50 "influencers" for your product/market on Twitter, LinkedIn, networking groups, etc. Cultivate them, retweet them, meet them, get to know them, brief them. Keep track of your progress and do this daily. Eventually some of these folks will spread your message when you have something to share.


This doesn't mean the message is unimportant. I'm suggesting that instead of spending an hour tweaking your data sheet, your time is better spent researching influencers on Twitter. Start by following Matt Heinz to learn more about how to do this well---he's great!


All that said, I have a framework I try to use to decide if my message can break through. It's an acronym I call the MEDICAL Method.


A good message---any format, and length---should do 7 things that I remember with the acronym MEDICAL. That message should be:


* Memorable (won't be forgotten right away)

* Exciting (attention grabbing!)

* Differentiated (not just the same thing others are saying)

* Informative (has useful, relevant info, not just "copy")

* Consistent (in line with your brand)

* Actionable (offers something for the reader to do next)

* Localized (targeted to the right audience: persona, geography, industry, etc.)


I run through this checklist anytime I produce something to see if I have done all 7. Usually my first draft is missing 1-2 of these things so I focus on those to make it better and more effective. It's a shorthand that I've found useful even if it doesn't answer exactly HOW to do these things.


I'm sure other writers and marketers have their own "gut check" techniques. Here's mine and I'm interested to learn if it resonates at all with you.


That's it for my AMA, thank you all for the great questions!

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiJanuary 11

I use surveys and interviews too, but in general I don't do a whole lot of testing or any "A/B" comparison of two messages. I'll put something out, and if it isn't converting leads or getting used by sellers then I'll try something else.


Now let me caution here, my approach can work because I have solutions with high-dollar sales, consultative sales processes, and sales cycles that last for months. So if I have a suboptimal message at launch, I won't "miss the window" to sell my product. I don't have to buy TV ads or print manuals that will take 8 weeks to ship from Asia to my market.


If you have a more transactional product, a physical product, or a highly competitive market, I am sure you'll need to optimize before launch more than I do!


So all those cautions aside, I try a few things:

1) Run materials by internal experts for comment.

2) Run materials by trusted customers for comment (don't overuse the same person! It's a constant temptation).

3) Focus groups.


1) INTERNAL EXPERTS: I work with several industry leaders in contract management who have 20+ years of experience, and will include at least one of them in a review cycle for every message. Definitely use expert advice wherever you can get it.


2) CUSTOMERS: They are, by definition, experts at what your customers want to buy! I have customer advisory board meetings twice a year, and among other activities at these meetings use them as a chance to test a message.


3) FOCUS GROUPS: We email a few thousand users and offer a $50 gift card to join a 60-minute feedback session. We're looking to get 15-20 signups generally. On the focus group we ask pretty rapidfire questions looking for standardized answers ("on a 1-5 scale, do you agree with the following statement?") and also soliciting written comments.


At the end of the day, I don't worry much about getting the message "exactly right" because you can always keep tinkering and testing. But that has a diminishing return very quickly. Take some of that testing time and instead do more demand gen---you'll probably have a better overall outcome!

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiOctober 26

I have to partly disagree with Mike--PMM can be an excellent path to CRO/GM/President or to CEO, albeit with stops in between. I know people in the Valley who have this progression. Typically after succeeding as a PMM they take on responsibility for managing sales, and can then own the P&L for a business.

I think PMM is good preparation for these executive roles because it's strategic, customer-facing, and concerned with driving revenue.

There's a motto I've heard occasionally that "Marketing can run Sales, but Sales cannot run Marketing".

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiOctober 26

I say: "You don't have to deal with the sales people anymore. Just send them to me." Tears in their eyes...

[There is a 300 character minimum, but my answer was already complete so I'll fill this out with haiku.

Sales guy got too drunk

Who can save our key meeting?

Product marketing

Six cups of coffee

A CIO sips daily

Persona research

]

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiJanuary 11

Great question! But I'm going to blow up your premise right away: You can't prevent others from copying you. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? So instead of telling you how to dam up the ocean, let me suggest how you can turn this dynamic to your advantage.


I have the privilege of working on a market-leading product, Apttus Contract Management. I find that my competitors do copy what I do and write, sometimes very quickly and explicitly.


This forced me to think harder about the value proposition I offer. My software is used by corporate law departments, and very generally, I am telling law department leaders that they gain "speed, visibility and control" of their contracts with Apttus software. That's very true, but not specifically unique to my product. So focusing on this isn't differentiating.


Instead, I've shifted more to talking about aspects of my solution competitors can't copy, and tied this back to the "speed, visibility, control" arguments at the end. (This shift is ongoing!)


One example is that I'm writing about "smart contracts", encompassing AI and blockchain. These capabilities are things my product can offer but my competitors can't, so if they want to follow our message here they will start to get in trouble---our excellent reps will kill them in head-to-head competition.


I am also bringing in customer stories more and more. Competitors can't copy my customer success stories because they are my customers!


I'm also doing more with vertical solutions this year, whereas in the past our messaging has been more persona or broad-based.


I also think that moving focus to outcomes generally---even better if it's a customer story---will set your message apart. Suppose you provide 37% faster data processing with your product. If a competitor copies that, they'd look foolish.


If all else fails and they are explicitly cut-and-pasting your text, then hide a landmine. Put in some zero-width language or white-on-white text that would get your competitor's marketer in trouble! For example, you write "call [your company's phone number] to learn more". They may not catch it and would put it on their own site!


So in conclusion:

1) You can't prevent copying, so don't worry about it. Take it as a compliment. :-)

2) Message about product directions/capabilities your competitor is not able to match (I admit this is easier when you're a market leader/larger company).

3) Put your customer stories first & let your customers relay your message.

4) Specialize your message more; vertical (industry) focused messaging is a good option

5) If they are literally copying your text, get their lazy marketer in trouble by putting landmines in your text.

Steve Feyer
Steve Feyer
Product Marketing Director, Eightfold.aiAugust 21

I agree with everything Courtney wrote and would add that the sales materials need to train the sales team on a compelling event that will drive interest in the product. This could be externally driven or something you define yourself; you need to articulate how you are creating demand. I don't produce all the assets Courtney lists at launch and instead reserve some time in the weeks following the launch to evaluate how it's doing and hear sales feedback. If I need more materials, I will produce them then.

Credentials & Highlights
Product Marketing Director at Eightfold.ai
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In San Jose, California
Knows About Messaging, Product Marketing Career Path, Building a Product Marketing Team, Influenc...more