Vanessa Thompson

Vanessa ThompsonShare

Senior Director, Product Marketing, Twilio
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Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioApril 22

The one thing I have learned in the pandemic is that a presentation isnt just slides, its so much more than this now. Its everything about how you show up on the camera, and engage with the audience, as well as your presentation.

Thinking about how to build the presentation specifically, I'd say choose an arc. There are some really common standard ones floating around in the industry. There is also a cultural aspect to which arc will go over well in your company. Watch for the typical arc your executive team uses when presenting, because it's likely they have a preferred arc style even if they don't know it. Map your presentation to their preferred style, this will reduce your friction when trying to communicate new ideas.

Better Mouse Trap Arc (Problem, poor alternatives, ideal solution)
“I get your pain” “the alternatives suck” “we have the best answer” “this will give you real results”

Challenger Sale Arc (Challenge customer’s understanding and educate them)
Warmer -> The Reframe -> Rational Drowning -> Emotional Impact -> A New Way ->
Your Solution

Nancy Duarte Arc (Journey to bliss, based on famous speeches like MLK’s ‘I have a dream’)
What is: current state, What could be: future state

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioApril 22

This is a tough one because every PMM at every company operates differently.
If there are things that you are personally responsible for delivering, then measure those things first. Blog post views and/or Sign-ups are two key ones. Some other ancillary ones you can measure are PR coverage, and pipeline generated.

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioApril 22

Our org structure is pretty straightforward:

  • We have PMM teams aligned to our major product areas, Messaging, Voice, Video, Email, Account Security, Flex (Contact Center), and IoT. 
  • We also have a Platform PMM team. Because we are a developer platform, there are a number of horizontal features that our developers need, CLI, Functions, Assets, that span all of our products. 
  • We also have Industry marketing embedded in Product Marketing. This helps us get better at an end to end offering for the verticals we are targeting. 

Our PMMs operate relatively independently on feature launches, but the main initiative we convergeon is enabling our sellers on use cases. We went through a big effort last year to train our field teams on the nine major customer usage patterns we see in the field. Every month we deliver a new use case content bundle to make sure we are keeping our content fresh. This is a great opportunity for PMMs that don't usually work together to build a narrative that is centered around a holistic customer problem.

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioApril 22

Because Twilio is an API-First product, getting the technical folks up to speed is a huge part of what makes us successful because they are the ones interacting with our main buyer, developers! This is a little different than a B2B launch. Generally though, there are three pillars to how I think about this: 

  • Sales/Customer Facing team enablement - Keep your narrative tight. Make sure you are delivering no more than a 10 slide pitch and if you do nothing, you land the main product tagline, a crisp value prop, and the benefits. This is easy to overlook, because it can feel like a routine formula. I've found that for the most successful launches, we spend the most time getting the tagline right and that flows into everything else. Differentiated benefits, etc are important, but if your launch isn't memorable, then that doesn't really matter much. 
  • Technical team enablement - We like to have our PMs talk to our technical teams (solutions engineers, technical account managers, developer evangelists). This way, its technical expert to technical expert. We can support the PMs to deliver a ‘narrative’ if they need support there, but this is relatively self contained and our role in this forum is more of a program management one. If we do need to step in, it's usually when we need to make sure the value prop is coming through clearly with the PM in the demo and talk track. 
  • First-look Hackathon - This is a bit of a wildcard but i'll throw it in. We used to do these pretty regularly when we were smaller, but it's a great way to bring in sales teams, and customers that might be interested in your new product. If you have a target audience in mind and you already have some customers in this space, engaging the account teams and getting the customers excited about an early access hackathon, is a great way to accelerate early launch excitement.
Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioApril 22

Using a formula. Lets face it, product launches are a formula. You have a new thing, you position it, and take it to market. You can do all the research and testing in the world and you may not be successful. On the other hand, you might launch something in stealth mode, but Elon Musk tweets about it and suddenly you are everywhere (Clubhouse! Congrats to that team BTW).

What I'm saying is that you can't predict everything. And the biggest mistake I see companies making is spending years with products in beta testing and they never make it to GA or a formal launch because of nervousness around the launch. I spent years working with IBM on their new email experience. The user experience was awesome, I personally liked it a lot more than Microsoft Exchange and Gmail. But the team took years to bring it to market, and by the time they finally did, the bottom had fallen out of the IBM email business, so it didn't matter.

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioOctober 27

1) A (first call) pitch deck. This is a fantastic unifying asset that will help you hone your narrative and it can also serve as an educational tool for the sales team. You can use the pitch to walk through your logic and approach and then refine it based on specific feedback from your sales team.
2) A mid-funnel eBook. It might sound a little strange that this is on the line up so high, but now that we are all working from home, the selling cycle is a bit different. Leaving a prospect with something they can consume on their own time is critical to move the sales cycle along. The benefit for you as a PMM in building an asset like this is that you get to keep refining your narrative, while expanding on some of the specific benefits.
3) A two-page leave behind. This is an asset where you can focus on your value prop, customer benefits, and highlight the success of current customers.
4) A short and pithy internal asset that covers detailed discovery and objection handling. Starting the conversation can be the most challenging for a rep so giving them really solid evidence and empathetic discovery questions can give them confidence to ask the tough questions.
5) A high-level competitive landscape. Do you know the major companies you are competing against and why you are better positioned? It's never a good idea to get caught up in what your competitors are doing, you should always be focused on your customers. But it's good hygiene to know what gotchas to look out for from a competitive perspective.

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioOctober 27

This is a great question too. Competitive is one part of the “swiss army knife” of skills a product marketer needs in their skill belt (others being, storytelling/narrative building, relationship building, public speaking, data analysis, etc).

My approach is that every product marketer needs to have a pulse on what is happening in their competitive environment. At Twilio, we currently don't have dedicated resources for competitive so we started at the macro-level and worked our way down.
1) Competitive landscape. How is your company/product positioned vs the competitor? Build a high level presentation that shows your key differentiators vs your key competitors in your market. If you have a defined set of market segments, then also make sure you cover differentiation by segment.
2) Objection handling and FUD against top competitors. You should know who the main competitors you face are and it's likely that there are some specific questions that you can focus on to both educate your sales team on how to handle objections as well as get your prospects/customers to focus on what matters and why your solution is more favorable.
3) Ad-hoc requests. Things come up like new product announcements and acquisitions and you need to act a bit like a journalist writing your hot take when these things happen. Quickly document your thoughts on the announcement and get some objection handling to your sales team before they ask. If you do, you will be crushing it on your trusted advisor goals!
4) Battlecards. These are awesome if you can carve out the time. If you don't have dedicated resources it can be tough but for major competitors that come up a lot in sales discussions it is likely well worth your time to build a detailed battlecard (including feature comparison matrix) so that your team has a full picture of what you do vs the competitor.
5) For extra credit - a point person. We had a product marketer put up their hand to say they really like competitive and they wanted to build their skills with cross functional projects. This person took on the competitive role internally, and they send out a monthly competitive overview to the sales team.

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioApril 22

Our CMO always says, “Market your Marketing!” I love that because it's so true. The best thing we can do for our product launches is to bring the creativity and excitement to a launch. The more out of the box and memorable you can make the launch when you are sharing the launch news with your internal teams, the more excitement you will build. And in your case of company enablement, i’d also say that getting folks inside the company as excited about your launch as your prospective customers is just as important, if not more important!

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioApril 22

Making it memorable. One of the most memorable launches that I remember wasn't even one that my team did. It was one of our other awesome PMMs. We were launching our new CLI (Command Line Interface). If you have ever seen a developer coding, to the uninitiated, it looks like a black screen with a bunch of colored text. The PMM got black mugs and printed the date of the launch on the mugs using the same font as in the CLI. She planted the cups all around the office and then people started asking what they were. Then the cascading communications went out about the launch. Then the mic dropped and then folks knew what was happening. This was back when we were in the office, but I thought it was a really fun and creative way to run a launch.

Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Senior Director, Product Marketing, TwilioOctober 27

I love this question, <3 Developers! The fundamentals of sales enablement dont change, it's more the way you communicate the needs of your audience to your sales team that changes. If we unpack developers and what they want, then it makes it really easy to figure out how to approach sales enablement.

1) Developers will question to the end. They will question every word on every slide and understand it as a direction or intention. So make sure that any presentation or pitch you build for your sales team is fully accurate and defensible. A developer will ask about every permutation of the concept you lay out so you need to educate and prepare your sales team to handle any random question that might come at them during a pitch.
2) Developers are the architects of ideas. Developers are often the masterminds of a new innovation or invention in a company. So you need to take them most of the way there. Can you make it super easy for them to find the information they need to start working with your APIs? Do you have an easy to clone github repo? Do you have a step-by-step tutorial for them? Do you have a demo video ready to go? Even if a developer does sit through a sales pitch, you need to give them a carrot so make sure that there is always an actionable CTA at the end of a presentation AND that the sales team knows how to answer any questions on the set up or even do the demo themselves.
3) Developers want to dive in - yesterday. If you announce something, assume it is 1000% ready to go because developers want to get their hands on it right away. If you are doing enablement around a product launch, you should make sure that you have a tight workback schedule and that your enablement happens well BEFORE your launch so that your sales team is empowered and educated to answer any questions that come up from developers.

Credentials & Highlights
Senior Director, Product Marketing at Twilio
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In San Francisco
Knows About Analyst Relationships, Developer Product Marketing, Competitive Positioning, Product ...more