Suyog Deshpande

Suyog DeshpandeShare

Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, Samsara
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Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraMay 12

Product Marketing is about product and sales success so your OKRs should align with company, CMO and product OKRs. However, I think these 3 serve as a good 

"PMM OKR template"

1. Build a POV and become the hub of market intelligence: Think of this as all PMM programs: Competitive intel, Voice of Customer, Analyst Relations, 

2. Bridge the gap between product and sales: Product launches, sales enablement, technical and release marketing, Roadmaps, CABs

3. Win in your core market: Your ranking, Customer advocacy, SOV, Content hubs, Thought leadership, Pipegen, ACV, Website 

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraMay 12

First 100 days in a job quite important. The First 100 days are your opportunity to ask questions, make some bold moves, build trusted relationships, and set the tone. I would focus on the following things:

Build a solid understanding of your industry and target market: As a PMM, you need to bring unique perspectives to the table. PMMs are fortunate that they get to interact with customers, sales, analysts, product managers and gain insights about competitors. In the first 30-60 days, I will focus on understanding things like market opportunity, competitive differentiation, why people buy us? or why they don't buy us?, TAM, Your core market, your adjacent markets. Trust me, invest your time in understanding these things better and you will get payoff in the next 12-18 months. So, although this will never be part of your initial projects, make sure you save time to build your own point of view o the market. 

Think of your lack of knowledge for processes/tools more as a "fresh perspective" you can bring to the team: As a PMM leader, it is important that you invest in building scalable processes and you invest in building some foundational templates. So, while it's important to understand current processes/tools/SLAs, don't be afraid to propose new things that could save hours and hours of your team. People who are already following set processes tend to miss out on improvement opportunities. You can add tremendous value here. One of the best pieces of advice I got was from a PMM leader at Salesforce. When I was moving to a new company, she cautioned me to stay away from saying that the things are really broken (in her words - that the kitchen sink is dirty). Be mindful that the team has been using/working/following their own processes that may not be the best, but they got work done.

Focus on building relationships: You have a blank slate. Use it wisely. Build solid relationships with sales, product leaders, CS leaders, your team, your managers, extended marketing org. Try to listen before jumping to conclusions. It's difficult to do it during COVID time but casual coffees and happy hours can forge good relationships with your colleagues. 

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 18

Salespeople are NOT your customers, they are team members: This will change how you look at your marketing strategy and deliverables. It is fair to say that the content product marketers develop will be consumed, used and delivered by sales. However, the content should resonate with your prospects and customers.

Invest resources in thought leadership content: Thought leadership may not yield pipeline right away. However, if you invest in thought leadership consistently, you will see it impacting the pipeline over a longer run. Additionally, it helps you create a set of fans that love to consume and share your content. That’s the beginning of your community marketing. If you are a small company in category creation mode, thought leadership helps you become a hub for the content around that category, boosting your chances to become the category king. Don’t forget, the thought leadership content will be consumed by your customers as well and it will improve renewals and upsell opportunities for you.

Learn and try new things: Tech industry has a lot of really smart marketers who are trying new things and are also sharing them with curious minds (Sharebird!). Learn from people outside your company. If you just learn from people within your company, you could easily focus on what worked best in the past. 

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 19

Not just product marketing but overall marketing has relatively higher turnover compared to other functions. This is true for CMO vs other CXOs as well.

If it is initiated by the candidate, then in most cases, it would be fair to say that the job market is hot and we all should be happy. Of course, I am not considering people who left jobs because they did not like their manager or their company. That problem is hard to generalize and answer.

If the move is initiated by the company - then the first suspect is mismatch in expectations. Marketing is not magic and it will not cure the revenue problem overnight. So, if you hear that the company is hiring marketers because sales isn’t doing well, be very cautious. Marketing is only one factor in revenue however, it is a very visible factor and subjective enough to be the scapegoat.

Second reason is that the company hired a wrong type of marketer for their needs. Hiring a demand gen person before a content marketer or PMM is bad move in B2B. Make sure that either the company has the required support structure (or willingness to invest immediately) to help you succeed.

Third but an important reason is that you deploy a big playbook at one go. As marketers we all have playbooks but if we deploy all plays at one go, marketing investments will spread thin and it will be really hard to show financial outcomes from marketing investments. Pick a couple of plays and invest in them. Replace some of them the next quarter.

While answering this, I am not considering company wide layoffs, acquisitions or macroeconomic factors.

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 19

Know your ARR/Pipegen numbers and analytics tools: Get comfortable with building reports and dashboards. Know how to run reports and play around with that data. You will start uncovering interesting things - ex: we are weak in a certain market segment or we tend to have higher win rate for certain industries or deal cycles are longer for certain regions - Each of these insights can lead you to move from being tactical to being strategic.

Learn, experiment and gain new skills: So, am I suggesting you to do project management product launches? Yes. It is ok to do that if that is the business need. I will worry when it starts becoming a pattern and you do more project management that product marketing. In that case, have a conversation with your manager. Understand why this is happening? Is it because the company doesn’t have a project manager and you are the best one to do it OR is it because you are seen as a better fit for the project manager role. Both of these are solvable but your course of actions would be very different.

Focus on some initiatives that may not be urgent but are very important: You will have unique advantage when these initiatives become urgent. Don’t think only about this quarter, think of the next and the one after that. Don’t compromise your on-going projects but still give some thoughts to the company priorities for the upcoming quarters. I am sure your management would be happy to discuss company priorities for the upcoming quarters. Company priorities are typically set 90 days in advance so that the rest of teams can craft their’s based on the company's priorities.

A lot of people say know your customer but it is not easy for a junior PMM to ask to be part of a customer visit or CAB or sales call (been there!). One way to learn about your customers and in fact the most efficient way I found is to do win-loss interviews & analysis. Get your hands on as many win-loss reports as you can. Don't know where to find - go to Salesforce and run report and add loss reason (or something similar) field. Learn why customers buy or don't buy our products. Ask sales, what went well or what went wrong?  

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 19

First, you can not decouple analytical skills from brand marketing skills. They are not mutually exclusive. You are right that there is more emphasis on analytical skills in job description for product marketers. Primarily because analytical skills are easier to evaluate. They are also critical because analytical mindset helps you have a solid foundation for your marketing strategy (including brand marketing). However, these strategies come to life with creativity. You can not undermine creative skills and just focus on analytics skills while hiring.

Examples of brand marketing playing a role in product marketing -

 
Brand campaigns - they are planned jointly between demand gen, product marketing and brand marketing

Positioning - brand helps reinforce your product positioning. Think of ads that support company positioning.

Non technical content marketing - producing interactive and engaging content

Customer community - Depends on what your community needs are build if it building creative ways to engage the community, then you could play a vital role. Salesforce did an amazing job with Trailhead.

Many B2C and B2B2C companies are seeing that these two marketing streams are coming together. So, if you are planning to switch from brand to product marketing, those comapnies can provide you a good platform for success. 

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 18

It is different in different companies but you will most likely see the content divison as follows - 

Product Marketing content: Product focused, long-form, strategic, longer shelf life, consumed by sales (in addition to customers), not all content PMMs do is technical or semi-technical but between content and product marketing, product marketing would be responsible for technical content.

Examples: Sales collaterals, whitepapers, customer case studies (jointly with content team), ROI studies, product messaging, data sheets, Analyst deck (jointly with product managers), Relase marketing

Content Marketing content: High velocity, Short-form, engaging, interactive, time sensitive, focus on likeability

Examples: Tweets, Customer testimonials, press releases (jointly with PMM if the presss release is about a launch), infographics, blog posts, content supporting brand campaign

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 18

There are multiple entry paths for product marketing

If you are fresh out of college (MBA) and want to switch to product marketing - Problem solving (Can you identify the right problem and can you analyze the problem to identify the root cause?), Creativity (Will you bring a fresh perspective to the table?), Presentation skills (Can you articulate your POV?) and Coachability (Can you work with the team, seek their guidance and learn fast)

If you want to move within an organization - Your career has 3 pillars - function, industry and seniority. It is much easier to change one at a time. So, if you are planning to move to product marketing from a different function, then don’t try to negotiate on level or industry. It is hard to succeed when two of these factors change at one time. Additionally, the hiring manager will have to take a huge risk, and we know the market is hot!

Collect gold coins and redeem them at the right time: Every time you work cross functionally or help people from other department (in this case product marketing), you collect a virtual gold coin (or say a goodwill coin). Earn enough of them before you decide to redeem them. You can redeem one coin but then don't expect a big reward. As you redeem, make sure you still stay net positive. That will help you succeed even after you redeem. Know that the hiring manager would be taking considerable risk by hiring someone without PMM experience. Help them help you.

You have collected enough coins, now how to redeem? First, identify an entry point where you can prove your value quickly - if you are an engineer then technical marketing could be a good entry point. If you are in sales then sales enablement could be a good entry point. If you are in customer success, either adoption marketing or customer marketing could be a good entry point. Once you are in, then try to expand your work areas to adjacent domains - you can go from technical to release marketing to messaging OR you can go from sales enablement to solutions marketing to go to market. It all depends on business needs, so don’t plan too much on how your PMM role will take shape. If you are passionate about product marketing and you see a manager willing to invest in your success, go for the first opportunity you get.

There is a ton to do and learn in product marketing. Land and expand!

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 19

It is tough. If you are planning to move internally, it starts with finding a sponsor - someone who is willing to take risk for you. That is not going to happen automatically. 

I answered a similar question so posting that reply. 

There are multiple entry paths into product marketing

If you are fresh out of college (MBA) and want to switch to product marketing - - Problem solving (Can you identify the right problem and can you analyze the problem to identify the root cause?), Creativity (Will you bring a fresh perspective to the table?), Presentation skills (Can you articulate your POV?) and Coachability (Can you work with the team, seek their guidance and learn fast)

If you want to move within an organization - Your career has 3 pillars - function, industry and seniority. It is much easier to change one at a time. So, if you are planning to move to product marketing from a different function, then don’t try to negotiate on level or industry. It is hard to succeed when two of these factors change at one time. Additionally, the hiring manager will have to take a huge risk, and we know the market is hot!

Collect gold coins and redeem them at the right time: Every time you work cross functionally or help people from other department (in this case product marketing), you collect a virtual gold coin (or say a goodwill coin). Earn enough of them before you decide to redeem them. You can redeem one coin but then don't expect a big reward. As you redeem, make ure you still stay net positive. That will help you succeed even after you redeem. Know that the hiring manager would be taking considerable risk by hiring someone without PMM experience. Help them help you.

So, how to go about it? First, identify an entry point where you can prove your value quickly - if you are an engineer then technical marketing could be a good entry point. If you are in sales then sales enablement could be a good entry point. If you are in customer success, either adoption marketing or customer marketing could be good entry points. Once you are in, then try to expand your work areas to adjacent domains - you can go from technical to release marketing to messaging OR you can go from sales enablement to solutions marketing to go to market. It all depends on business needs, so don’t plan too much. If you are passionate about product marketing and you see a manager willing to invest in your success, go for the first opportunity you get.

There is a ton to do and learn in product marketing. So, land and expand!

Spcifically for the associate role, try shadowing other PMMs. Ask them if you can spend a day shadowing them. Ask if there are any projects that you could do with them. Know your strengths and apply them to those projects. Certifiactions and volunteer work experience can also help.

Suyog Deshpande
Suyog Deshpande
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing, SamsaraNovember 18

There is no one path but let’s unpack what it means to be a director. It isn’t that the directors know exponentially more or they suddenly become better decision makers.

When we all start our careers, we search for the right answers. In fact, we are judged by our ability to find the right answers. However, as we grow, we acknowledge that we don’t and won’t know the answers to all the questions asked of us. At that point, the ability to ask the right questions (of yourself and of the team) takes priority over the ability to answer the questions.

Additionally, directors+ are able to connect their work with the work of colleagues outside their functional area. They drive joint-outcomes for the company and not just for their function.

Finally, you should be ok to let go some things - including the thrill you get from sharing your work. Someone on your team will most likely do that and you should feel proud and happy about it.

One more thing, don't work to only please execs within your organization. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't seek feedback but focus on business goals than what would make "X" happy?. I have seen several people who only focus on making execs happy. Execs are smart enough to see through that. You are more likely to fall into this trap as you become director+ as you are going to get more exposure to execs. Stay away from that temptation. 

Credentials & Highlights
Sr. Director | Head Of Product & Partner Marketing at Samsara
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Top 10 Product Marketing Contributor
Lives In Fremont, California
Knows About Messaging, Product Marketing Career Path, Product Marketing Interviews, Product Marke...more