Victoria Chernova

Victoria ChernovaShare

Director, Product Marketing, Gong
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Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongSeptember 21

A full stack PMM requires the perfect mix of “left brain / right brain.” But there’s a reason why “whole brain” isn’t as popular of a cliché. I believe that anyone can build on their existing skills to succeed as a full stack PMM—whether that’s a data-driven person developing their creative/storytelling muscle or vice versa.

In general, the most successful PMMs I’ve seen exhibit these 4 traits; they’re:

  • Evidence-based: They use quantitative and qualitative insights from the market, competitors, and customers to inform their GTM strategy, segmentation, positioning, and product recommendations.
  • Customer-centric: They have a deep understanding of customer and market needs, ensuring customer empathy in all their work.
  • Unifying: PMM uniquely sits between product, sales/CS, and marketing, driving collaboration between teams with product expertise at their core.
  • Storytellers: Given their deep understanding of their target audience, pains, and product solutions, they can craft compelling narratives that serve as blueprints for other teams creating messaging and assets.
Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongDecember 7

Not exactly sure what you mean by analyzing, but building the customer journey for your GTM strategy is essential for ensuring the right segment gets the right message via the right channel. It’s also how you can identify which assets (or bill of materials) to prioritize for the launch.

I’d start with your GTM strategy: Who’s your target audience (including different segments), what are you trying to make them do (objectives), and how will you get them there (channels + assets)?

I’m a visual learner, so I like to build a flow chart for each audience segment to map out their journey. Each journey should culminate with your primary goal. Some questions to think through as you build these out:

  • Based on previous launches or internal marketing knowledge, which channels are most effective in reaching this specific segment?
  • How many touch points do you need to get your audience to achieve your goals?
  • What is the happy path (ideal flow) for each step? What can you do if someone falls off the path?
  • Finally, what type of content is most compelling given your audience, message, and channels? I would lean into other content and marketing teammates to build your bill of materials.
Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongDecember 7

I’ve seen both approaches, but it depends on your business, selling motion, and product team culture on which approach is best for your company. I'll share some takeaways from my experiences at Asana and Gong. 

At Asana, PMM and product aligned on an annual launch calendar with 3-4 major launches. Launches for smaller feature releases and improvements were coordinated between the PMM and PM. This decentralized approach allowed the PMM to be more strategic when positioning features, which oftentimes meant bundling; coordinating across PMMs to create an overarching story to target audiences. The downsides of this approach are that customers sometimes have to wait to get value from new functionality, and it relies heavily on the rapport between the PMM and PM.

At Gong, our product team is quite prolific, so we have a monthly release cadence that aligns GTM teams with product. In other words, we release features when they’re ready but only during a designated 1 week release window every month. On top of this release process, PMMs also create larger launch moments for Tier 1 and 2 features. The upsides of this approach are that customers get value right away, and Gong is perceived as a company with high product velocity. The downside of this approach is that it's challenging to pull through a common narrative when shipping 5-10 disparate features each month. This also makes it more challenging for the field to understand how to plug these new features into their sales motion.

There are tradeoffs to both, so it’s important to understand what you should optimize for, based on your business. #1 optimizes for clarity (both for customers and the field), and #2 optimizes for product velocity and faster customer value.

Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongJune 8

One area where I've seen PMM historically drive a ton of value is with market and competitive insights. By bringing insights from the market, competitive landscape, buyers, and/or analysts, PMM can ensure that product has considered all inputs when they narrow down on their target user, pain points, and finally solutioning.

Here is a deck we've used internally to help build collaboration between PM & PMM. If you're still struggling with being brought in too late, my advice is to focus on 1-2 deliverables that could really drive value for your product org. Pilot that with a product group or PM, and then go from there.

Timing is hard. This requires coordination on the CMO/CPO level. The business and product orgs would need to align on a few major product launches for the year, and aim for a general launch date range. I still say “general” because it's really hard to predict how product development will go, and it's always important to prioritize what's best for the customer.

For other feature launches, I recommend giving your PM more visibility into the marketing calendar. For example, if there's a major opportunity coming up to promote their product (an upcoming event or roadshow), it would also be in their best interest to aim for that date. Again, it still depends on the development process, but that can align PMM and PM on timing.

Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongDecember 7

Here are a few considerations and actions you can take to build support across the team:

  1. Tie your launch goals to the greater Marketing team goals. It’s important to connect the dots on how your launch can help your marketing teammates accomplish their goals as well. For major initiatives, make sure your marketing leadership team is bought in and understand the potential impact. You have to PMM your product internally first :)
  2. Make folks feel like thought partners. I love holding brainstorm sessions and pre-kick offs with content and channel owners. Not only does this get them bought in, but you get a bunch of creative ideas out of it. People are much more compelled to execute a plan if they've been brought in throughout the process. 
  3. Be organized and make folks feel recognized. As PMMs we often quarterback huge multi-channel launches, but we rely on others to execute much of the plan. Come to your kick off prepared with a clear GTM strategy, workback schedule, and customer journey & bill of materials (that you’ve already co-created with folks ahead of the meeting!). Create a great culture around launches, and folks will be more excited to work with you in the future.
Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongSeptember 21

For longer term roadmaps (a year out), I think about how to grow the company’s TAM. What are potential new personas, industries, or use cases we’re already seeing organic traction in and could build on if we had supporting product functionality?

For a quarterly roadmap, I think about how I can influence the highest impact products already on the roadmap. Here’s a template you can use to identify opportunities to add value throughout the product development process.

Quite honestly I haven’t been at an org yet where folks outside of the executive staff had influence over the 3 year vision.

Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongSeptember 21

Building on an earlier question, for a longer term roadmap (6-12 months out), I would get ahead of product’s planning process. One way PMM has been able to add value at Gong is by conducting market research ahead of half-yearly and annual planning.

For shorter term influence, I would work in lockstep with your PM early in the product discovery process. Here’s a template you can use to find opportunities to add value throughout the product development process.

Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongDecember 7

Goals depend on the type of business, the GTM strategy for the product, and selling motion. I will highlight a few examples from my past companies (including B2C and B2B).

But first, some advice that’s really helped me throughout my career:

  1. Tie your goals to marketing team goals, and even better, to the business
  2. Set northstar metrics (usually lagging indicators), and corresponding leading indicators to ensure you’re on track
  3. Align goals with key cross-functional partners: Adoption goals with product; revenue with other marketing channel owners; sales-related metrics with enablement

I found that doing the above helps set your team and the launch up for success—even if you don’t meet every single KPI you’ve set.

Now for some examples. 

At Udemy, I worked on the B2C side of the house, so we primarily launched consumer products (online courses). As a marketing team, our primary goals were monthly revenue, so launches would roll up into that. We’d set a monthly revenue goal for the new product, which was based on historical data from previous successful courses we had launched.

As leading indicators, we’d track visits & click throughs on the course landing page—which helped us understand if awareness was the issue (visits) or landing page content (clicks). These were variables we could still control.

At Asana, our team owned several self-serve motions:

  1. Non-users signing up for Asana; 
  2. Free users moving from a freemium account to paid, and 
  3. Paid users upgrading their account from a basic plan to a more premium version.

Asana offered a 30-day free trial for all 3 motions, which made it the lowest barrier to entry for a signup (and trials had a strong conversion rate). Therefore, many of our launches drove trial starts; this was the northstar metric we optimized for. Leading indicators included other campaign metrics like landing page visits and clicks, email opens and CTR, in-product channel views & clicks. Very quickly, we were able to identify which channels drove the most trials (email & in-product for existing users), and zero in on their performance to ensure we were on track.

On the other side of the B2B spectrum, Gong is primarily a sales-led motion. When we launch new features, there’s a scaled customer campaign motion, as well as field enablement. Depending on the product, we’ll either launch strictly to the existing customer base or to prospective customers as well.

My team focuses on platform and core product, so I can highlight some of the KPIs we’ve used for launches. For northstar metrics, I like to set:

  1. Campaign goals; 
  2. Product adoption; and
  3. Field enablement KPIs

We use Gong at Gong, no surprise here, so we can actually track when our product messaging is being used by field teams with customers. We call this “field adoption.” We can even take it one step further by correlating field adoption with sales metrics like win rate or sales stage conversion. A very cool way of measuring messaging impact. 

Field adoption is a bit of a lagging indicator, so a leading indicator would tell you if your sales or CS teams are actually finding your messaging and resources. For that, a CMS can be helpful to track engagement and downloads of your content.

A lagging indicator for product adoption could be daily/weekly/monthly users (depending on the nature of your product), or the # of users or companies that have completed an important action. Leading indicators could be visits to that particular product or taking the first step in completing said important action.

Campaign goals could include driving demo requests from your target audience; leading indicators would be channel metrics like landing page views and click throughs, email opens and click throughs, etc.

Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongSeptember 21

A market requirements document (usually a spreadsheet) has been effective. When working with product, I’ve found that presenting requests as pain points, and preferably through actual customer quotes, is more compelling than feature requests. I would then score these pains based on how frequently customers have brought them up (volume), how painful they are (a simple high, medium, low will do), and which personas are affected. Then I’d add the competitive coverage - is this currently a gap for us, or an opportunity to differentiate since our competitors don’t solve for these pains today?

The data behind the pain points is most important. Depending on your goals, this can be gathered through customer surveys, qualitative research with customers or non-customers, aggregate data from recorded customer calls, or consolidated feedback from sales/CS teams.

Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Director, Product Marketing, GongJune 8

This is always a gray area :)

At Gong, most UX copy is owned by the product writing team, except for naming "Tier 1" products. Together with that team, we established a list of criteria that qualifies features or products as "Tier 1;" such as, the feature/product changes core product pillar messaging, or requires customer change management, or changes how we sell or demo the product. These are really dependent on your business.

For in-app cues (like announcement banners/modals, etc), we've established a RASCI model based on the objectives of the copy / in-app cue. I highly recommend starting here.

For example, if the objectives are awareness, monetization, activation, adoption—then PMM is the "Responsible/R," product design "Supports" on visual cues by handing the latest designs to the brand design team to stylize, PM is "Consulted," and product writing is "Informed."

When the objectives are to educate, support the UX, or onboard new users—then product writing is the "R," PMM is the "I."

Even this framework isn't perfect, but aligning on a RASCI for the various types of in-app copy/cues that exist is a very helpful first step.

Credentials & Highlights
Director, Product Marketing at Gong
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Top 10 Product Marketing Contributor
Lives In San Francisco, California, United States
Knows About Influencing the Product Roadmap, Messaging, Product Marketing vs Product Management
Work With Victoria
Vice President, Product Marketing
Remote or San Francisco, CA
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