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5 lessons learned over 1 year as Product Marketer at Alan

5 lessons learned over 1 year as Product Marketer at Alan
Updated on
10 May 2023
Updated on
10 May 2023
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I have recently celebrated my so-called Alanniversary: 1 year since I joined Alan Product Marketing team. It was certainly a year of exponential change for me as a professional, as I had to fully change my mindset to adjust from operating in a more traditional corporate environment to a high-growth fast-speed scale-up world, and at the same time - from a more strategic long-term marketing focus to a more experimental product marketing, much closer to daily life of product & sales.

Here are my TOP 5 lessons learned about marketing in a high growth environment: from launching a project & communicating about it to training sales, managing change & building a feedback loop.

1. Big launch: agile project management & experience-driven mindset

One of the largest projects I led was a launch of a content management platform Showpad across our Sales & Marketing teams - building everything from A to Z, onboarding & driving adoption among 80+ AEs over 3 months with 60%+ using the tool weekly. To give some context on the complexity of the project:

  • It was a complete bet: we had no idea how to do it & if it is going to work at all: Will sales use it? Will marketing use it? Will it bring value to both?

  • Ambition was high: instead of launching a 2 month pilot with 20 AEs , we decided to go bold & gradually roll-out the platform to all the crews, so everyone could equally benefit from the solutions straight away.

  • Timing was tough: We started the implementation at the beginning of sales season, which made pressure high to launch it on a very short schedule to leverage the solution still before the season end & at the same time, adoption effort - quite challenging to fight for sales attention during busy season.

In Russia we have a saying “The eyes are afraid but the hands are doing it anyway”, - that is how I certainly felt during the 1st weeks of launch. Thankfully, I quickly realised that the traditional approach to project management was not that useful considering high level of uncertainty combined with tight deadlines.

While I did always have a vision and North Star metric in mind, I relied on a more iterative & agile project management & “learning by doing”.

  • I focused on a gradual roll-out to different sales segments launching one segment at a time. It allowed me to closely focus on their specific needs, making sure it all works & the set-up is customised enough for the team. Only then would I move to the next segment handing over ownership of follow up & support to my allocated & trained ambassadors.

  • Conducting short experiments to see what works best & betting only on things that do work. I applied this logic to everything from building a content library to defining training & adoption strategy for different sales segments.

For example, considering the context, I made a big bet on an async training focusing on essentials only, trusting that our sales are smart enough & the product is intuitive enough so they could figure it out all on their own. While it was certainly against the guidance we received from the implementation team on the vendor side, it worked for us.

🗣 "Very well documented, super clear"

We even experimented with async training distribution method based on team preferences: some busiest teams just received daily 5 min reminders to watch a video training straight to their calendars, and they just loved it!

🗣 "Delightful and smooth onboarding - Easy to do, with only a few clicks"

2. Communication: Winning fight for attention with Structure & Delight

Imagine, you did all this huge groundwork for a launch, and you are about to announce your great results to your audience. In an ideal world, people would stop anything else at that particular moment & focus on your announcement, actively interacting with it, but reality is very much different. Will your announcement even be read at all? Not sure, it could be extremely difficult to get your message noticed.

Slack notification overdose is one of the consequences of high growth & async culture: sometimes people are just focused on their work & simply miss your ping. For this reason, it is important to__ take written communication seriously__: making it as easy as possible for the reader to capture the main idea with extreme structure & clarity.

  • Every time I write an announcement, I reread & spend another 10-15 min on formatting trying to cut in half eliminating unnecessary words (chat GPT helps to get to essentials).

  • In our product marketing team, we ask each other for feedback to test how the message works: is it clear & logical enough? We do the same to iterate on a continuous basis to improve the format of different deliverables, such as reports.

  • The golden rule is: 1 message = 1 key idea that should fit in one tweet that can be added right on top of the message using TLDR (too long didn't read).

.. And we go the extra mile to make it delightful for end-users to catch & keep the attention of our stakeholders with a sparkle of creativity.

  • We love to use visuals, for example using colourful emojis to create easy-to-grasp visual reports & graphs for your stakeholders right in Slack.

  • We make it fun: jokes, memes, videos, & even songs (yes, you heard it right - some of the super creatives once even recorded a karaoke message to our sales). I have totally mastered my photo editing skills embedding faces of high performing sales into superhero & gladiator bodies.

  • We tell stories: many marketeers use storytelling for external narratives, however they still often forget about the value it can bring within your company. Your internal projects most likely have their own heroes who struggle from pains & are going through transformation journeys, which means these initiatives will certainly benefit from some top-notch storytelling. Compare by yourself a message to your sales:

    • From: “Please, share content via our new Content management platform from now onwards. Adoption is lower than we expected."

    • To: "Learn how Manou smartly brought back an important prospect who was fading away, leveraging engagement insights as a true spy. Be one step ahead like Manou - use our new smart selling platform to fight customer concerns"

3. Sales enablement: from Pull Anytime to smart Just in Time push

OK, you spent the last couple of weeks working on an in-depth go-to-market playbook for your sales & preparing for the launch. You shared a catchy & clear announcement to your stakeholders & let’s say, they even noticed it. Now, you are confident that it is going to change their lives: all AEs will add this playbook page to their bookmarks & keep going back there to leverage it on a regular basis. Yes, sure 🙂

High-pace environments can be overwhelming: playbooks & new initiatives are launched on a weekly basis, and it could be hard to follow & way too easy to forget about it, especially if you are a busy salesperson who has 20 important prospects to talk to today.

One solution is to enable Sales in a smarter way moving from Pull Anytime (sharing the playbook you created with sales & moving on hoping they would be actively using it when they need this info) to Just in Time push (proactively sharing ONLY relevant part of the playbook with a person who needs it exactly when s/he needs it).

It might sound like magic, anyone can set up the basics in half an hour with some creativity. Good marketing tech stack will help you accelerate if you want to go next level.

  • Everything genius is simple, and we should not forget about the non-digital world. You can print one pagers with data insights/ references & post them around call booths where your sales are having client calls OR add these key insights on the TV screens in the office where they hang out.

  • There is a lot you can do with Slack by setting up notifications whenever your sales use certain keywords, such as “competitor name X ” OR “objection” in specific channels. You can receive all notifications all at a certain time to respond to them sharing exactly the right link at the right moment when it is needed the most.

  • Content management platforms like Showpad make it possible to achieve your vision with right in time content distribution by pushing content suggestions right in CRM (where sales almost live, without any disruption to the workflow) to make sure your they access it at the right time:

    • Prospection materials - whenever Sales contact the account that is part of a wider Tech Network, they are suggested to share an interactive 1 pager highlighting our performance, references & satisfaction in this particular network

    • Competitive intelligence - When your sales input the name of their competitor, you can push competitive battle-card link to prepare them better

    • Objections - You can also map all existing objections depending on the sales stage & type of prospect & then proactively push the answers to objections to your sales to anticipate possible objections & train your sales one step ahead

4. Change Management: Building spider-web networks for driving adoption

Unfortunately, proactively enabling sales at the right moments is not enough to drive adoption of new initiatives. Let’s be honest: no one likes change, especially when every deviation from an already efficient process is seen as creating friction.

To accelerate adoption, we build decentralized ownership at different levels & leverage the power of communities by creating strong links between these owners.

  • 1st of all, I closely rely on my product marketing teammates, who are focused on go-to-market for a specific sales segment & are actually embedded in the sales crew. While I physically can not be everywhere, all at once, each PMM has the sales segment they know well: they are much closer to the daily reality of their sales, and their message is always heard. Sounds like a win-win to me!

  • That is why they are my voice in the crew & they are the one driving customised adoption programs for their segment. I guide & coach them on a regular basis to make sure we move forward & show positive results, but they are the final owners of their segments.

  • Now, we are repeating exactly the same approach with sales, working directly with sales ambassadors representing each crew. We have created a private space for them to share tips & best practices with each other. I often suggest adoption boosting initiatives to my ambassadors, and in turn they decide by themselves what would work for their crew & fully own customisation / communication.

  • Having access to spider web networks with sales leadership is critical as well to ensure buy-in at a level above: I involve sales leads proactively when discussing strategic priorities or sharing impact / progress to ensure accountability. I can rely on their influential voice to highlight the importance of the topic to their team members when needed to accelerate the progress if lagging behind.

5.Feedback loop: Balancing between zoom in & zoom out

Let’s say you did it: a change is happening & you see it is working. You think your work is done & it is time to celebrate?

Maybe a little celebration will not hurt, but remember that it is just a quick break. The next big piece of work is just around the corner: building & maintaining a feedback loop to learn from experience & leverage these insights for an ongoing improvement of the product & process.

It does not matter if we are talking about creating a feedback loop for an individual initiative or about a holistic feedback loop on your Product to drive a roadmap, it is extremely important to find the right balance between zoom in detailed view & zoom out big picture view.

  • Zoom in is a detailed view of feedback coming from one particular source focusing 1st of all on the content & quantity.

  • Zoom out is a more high level view when you try to put these findings into perspective & think how this particular feedback is fitted in a bigger picture

Let’s take an example of the product feedback loop.

  • Zoom in, in this case, would be a Sales feedback loop - receiving certain number of tickets from your sales highlighting certain product blockers that need to be solved to uncover more new deals at acquisition, understanding well the context, problem & being able to assess its impact & urgency

  • Zoom out, would mean connecting the dots (leveraging strategic pillars of the product that already exists, financial performance & 5Y business plan trying to understand** if it all makes sense when put together) & breaking the silos between feedbacks coming from different sources: Sales, Research, Care, Data, Social Media, Engineering & more to see to understand if how it all fits together & how we can create more synergies within areas

Only by mastering both zoom in & zoom out & getting comfortable with jumping between both on, can we actually learn to uncover unique insights that would bring actual value for your project & company.

Published on 04/04/2023

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