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Podcasts > Tea Time With Tech Marketing Leaders

Become the Voice of the Customer

Kerry Guard • Wednesday, April 19, 2023 • 52 minutes to listen

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Ashish Malpani

A product marketing leader with 15+ years of accomplishments in leading product teams to design and launch successful solutions used by Fortune 500 customers and millions of end users worldwide. Experienced product marketer with a background in developing buyer persona specific messaging, competitive analysis, developing and delivering sales training, producing sales tools/collateral for products and driving product launch plans & budgets. Effective business leader managing strategic relationships and business development efforts with key strategic alliances. Academic learning from top 15 schools; Purdue University (MSE) and University of Texas at Austin (MBA).


Thank you for joining me today. I'm so sorry, do not have my co host with me Little Miss Elizabeth, but you got me you got me and I'm so grateful you're here.

And what a wonderful conversation I'm having I've had and I get to share with you. It's just a warm conversation, the person who joined me just is so calm and intentional. And it just comes through in such a thoughtful way. That it's just, it's just so warm.I that's just the word I'm gonna latch on to for this and I'm so excited to share it with you.

Ashish Malpani joins me he is the head of Global Product Marketing for Progress.

A little bit about Ashish. Before I tell you about the show. He's a product marketing leader with 15 plus years of accomplishments in leading product teams to design and launch for solutions that have been used by Fortune 500 customers and millions of end users worldwide. As an experienced product marketer with a background in developing buyer persona specific messaging, competitive analysis, developing and delivering sales training, producing sales tools, collateral for products and delivering product launch plans, and budgets, effective business leader managing strategic relationships and business development efforts and key strategic alliances, academic learning from top 15 schools, Purdue University and University of Texas, Austin.

So they that I think is so fascinating with Ashish and some of the other product marketers I've had on had on also Sadie Hawkins a wonderful conversation if you're interested in Product Marketing, as well as a few other folks which I'll link in the show notes, but marketers who are more focused on demand gen. And go to market strategies are not necessarily thinking about the product function and how the product can also fuel marketing and so product marketers tend to think about the product first.

Even more, so even more. So product marketers tend to think about the customer. First how the product is going to help the customer and then how you bring that to market. And that's really what as she shows up and walks me through today. And how content can really be at the the engine of marketing when it is done with the customer voice. intentionality. It's so good. Like I said, it's such a warm conversation to go out.

Go grab a cup of tea, go grab a cup of tea, hop on your headphones and take a listen.


Kerry: Hello, Ashish, thank you for joining me on Tea Time with tech marketing leaders.

Ashish: Yeah, glad to be here. Super excited for our conversation today.

Kerry: Yes, me too. Super excited to have you. And we're we got we're sweater twins today because it's, we're recording this in December and Burr. Yeah.

Ashish: It is actually called for Texas weather. Yeah. So yeah, we do get occasionally cold waves. But this is what it is.

Kerry:  Oh, yeah. I'm on an island. It's cold here. We have wind from the channel coming in. So what it's supposed to be 50 degrees. I don't buy it. With you, I'm with you. Well, for before we dive into the heart of our conversation today, which I'm very much looking forward to tell us your story. Ashish, what do you do? And how did you get there?

Ashish: Yeah, so I'm a product marketing leader. If you look at my background, I see kind of three distinct chapters. And in my background, my first few roles were really focused on applications engineering role, where I worked closely with our customers, helping them deploy the technology that we were producing, and bringing that learning back to the business. And from there, I transitioned into more of a product management function, really leading product management teams, and making sure that we are delivering the right sort of products for that address the customers pain points. And when I did that, I mean, I kind of took a look at myself and said, you know, what is that I love the most I mean, the answer was that I love the most being the voice of customer back to the business. It were really understand. It's not just what we can solve, but what is the overall challenge that our customers have. And it may or may not be solved by our own product portfolio, right? So you know, what is really understanding the big picture story and then making sure that then we can take that input to drive amendments to the product roadmap, and that's something that I've really enjoyed. And that's how I transitioned into product marketing role. In my last couple roles. I've built part have marketing teams from ground up, and really kind of being the first or, you know, third product marketer on the job, and making sure that you know, we have a common vision, we understand how we are going to execute, but at the same time, what we are going to be measured against. So that is, for me product marketing, I see this as a central marketing function, not only working with product management and sales, but also working closely with demand and working closely with fear marketing, working closely with PR. So, you know, I see product marketing as kind of the central glue that supports all these functions as the business grows.

Kerry:  With the gateway association. So what we're going to talk about here, folks, but before we get there, before we get there, and really dig into how you see Product Marketing being the centre, tell us what's one challenge you're currently facing?

Ashish: I think the biggest challenge of info product marketing is for the business to understand the role of Product Marketing, right, where, you know, what, usually I've seen in my background is product marketing is often looked through the lens of content or content generation. And then that is primarily okay, you know, you guys take care of what what do we put on the web page, you guys create assets. and off you go, right, I mean, that that has been the mentality. But I think, as companies mature, going from really a startup to as they mature, they realise that, you know, their web presence, their content creation, is not up to the mark, as well, as you know, their digital presence is not really driving demand gen. And this is when you know, the role of Product Marketing becomes really crucial. And I think, for me, that is the biggest challenge that I've seen, you know, as the company grows from a smaller startup to become somewhat like a mid sized company, and then grows beyond

Kerry:  that it asked, and not because I'm saying one's more important than the other or trying to cause reps here. We're all on the same team, folks. But what but from your standpoint, from when you are talking about because you're talking to startups here, especially in the cybersecurity space for you, in your opinion, what, it's sort of that chicken before the cart before the horse thing? What does come first you start with marketing and get stuff out in the market and see what happens? Or do you need that product marketer to come in first to set the stage? And then build out your marketing engine? You know, what sort of, in your opinion, in your best practice, what do you see work best?

Ashish: I think it also depends on the microclimate, right, you know, and the company's goals for, let's say, for that year and beyond. When I say macro climate, if, you know, we are in a climate right now, where we are seeing companies feeling the recessionary pressures. And what that means is, you know, they are going to having to do with what they got, rather than really expanding and doubling down on things, when you take roll it back couple years ago, where it was growth at any cost. And what that may meant was it really, you are taking everything that you could do to really expand and reach out to as many prospects as possible. So it, I mean, for me, it really depends on what the company needs at that stage. And if it's, you know, if you're looking for really driving growth, then yes, Product Marketing, is probably the first hire from a CMOS perspective. But if, you know, if the CMO is gonna get measured on just the number of leads generated and MQLs generated, then they are going to probably invest in bringing on a growth marketing leader than the product marketing leader. So it is a balance that the CMO has to strike and really understand where the company is going what's needed to really grow the business. And what is the macroeconomic claim?

Kerry:  It sounds like to depends on the CMO and what the CMO brings to the table in terms of skill set, because if they have sort of a background in content, because in the startup realm, when you're hired on as that first marketer, no matter what your, what your title is, you are a jack of all trades, you're wearing many hats, and so figuring out what you need to offset, if you're in more of that dimension, I can get stuff up and running, but I need more of that voice of that customer, I need more of that content than bringing in your sort of counterpart of a product marketer might be really useful, or the other way around your product marketer, who's also a CMO and you have a lot of that skill set of being the voice of the customer, but you need to offset that now get that message out to the world. So I also think it depends on what you as the that first marketing hire really brings to the table as well.

Ashish: Yeah, definitely. I mean, and, you know, this is where you can clearly differentiate, you know, a CMO who has the product marketing background versus who's just relied on their deputies to really drive product marketing right where yes, when you know when you have bring in a Cmo who's really focused on driving demand gen, then that is, this is where they're going to invest. And with bare minimum content, maybe, you know, leverage external agencies to really bring in some content, but then that content may not capture what, what the customers want what what we want to promote from Inside Out perspective. So, yeah, I mean, when, versus you know, you have a CMO who has a product marketing background, then they understand, but then the bigger challenge is, does the rest of the company understand what product marketing can really do? It? Where from from a skill set perspective? I mean, are you all I mean, is the rest of the company just looking at you saying, I need content content content? In go? Right, go? Right, go? Right. I mean, is that the deal? Or is it you know, it's like, I'm looking for really solid positioning, I mean, looking for strong messaging that is going out for every product, every service that we launched. So it all depends on how the CMO is able to convince internally and the value of Product Marketing.

Kerry:  That makes sense? No, I think that's important. In terms of how you see Product Marketing fit, like once you do sort of get it up and running, are you bringing that that first product marketer for you? It sounds like it all starts at being that voice of the customer, that capture that?

Ashish: Yeah, and voice of the customer and the go to market motion, right? I mean, every company has, let's say, a bunch of products. But maybe the customers are not buying those individual products. They're probably buying like a set of products. An example would be in my background at first point, and we had, let's say three different products under the Data Protection portfolio, and which is what we were selling it, the customers often like part are the legacy customers bought the DLP product, but then, you know, as the new products were introduced, we kind of revamped our data protection portfolio, and then that becomes kind of a solution, right? Where, so what is the go to market motion? And then do you need somebody to take care of the go to market motion really act as a subject matter expert for that entire solution, and really become the voice of customer back to the business? And that's how I have always structured the teams.

Kerry:  So you have two people on your team, not just two people, but to you know, two people, your team one for the subject matter expertise and one for the voice of the customer? And then they collaborate? Is that how you do it? Or is it one person doing both functions?

Ashish: So for me, when if you look at dissect the team, right? I mean, product marketing needs their own leadership, right? Or, or if your go to market motion, right? If you look at solution versus product versus service, then you need a single owner for that portfolio, whether it's, and I expect that person to become the lead product marketer lead, SME and become the voice of customer. But then, of course, as I said, there are other parts of the business that you have to support, right, where it's, you know, really driving the demand and engine and providing content. So I definitely expect content marketing, to be part of this product marketing, bigger umbrella and Product Marketing. Right. So, you know, ideally, if you look at, you know, when you collaborate with product management, you have a train roadmap that you're driving from, from product management perspective. Now, how can you, let's say you have a few new launches that are coming to the rest of the year? How do you take that, align it with your campaigns? How do you take that align with your kind of field marketing, where if you're doing trade shows, if you're going and have speaking engagements, how do you take that and really amplify the noise, and say that, you know, this is the new feature, this is how we want to communicate about it. Here's the campaign that would capture X percentage of additional prospects. And here is what we are doing from PR perspective, here is what we are doing from a field marketing perspective. So I, you know, product marketing role is really to align that. And then of course, the content marketing piece definitely fills in with the right set of content in there.

Kerry:  It sounds like pillars, like you're sort of creating the initial pillars of what, you know, starting with the messaging of what it is we want to say, which going back to the voice of the customer. I imagine it's more. And I think you said this, whether we said it now or before when we were talking, it's more solutions based. So it's not leading with the product, what the product can do. It's talking about what the clear problem that the audience is having and how you're going to meet them. What with the product in that way.

Ashish: Yeah. And as I said, That's why if you look at kind of a typical ratio of product management versus product marketing, right to product management, you're going to have somebody responsible for each individual products. And from a product marketing perspective, I've always looked at my teams as aligned with the go to market motion. And so what that means is, you know, maybe they're, you know, the ratio is, you know, Three product market managers to one product marketer, right? Where maybe that those three products combined create a solution that the product marketer is responsible for. But then that doesn't mean that they're not going to support individual product level messaging in creating creation of the sales content, the website content and whatnot. But ultimately, I see them as the responsible for that. The bigger portfolio?

Kerry:  Got it? And so how do they fit into the bigger organisation? So if you were talking about how, how product marketing is really the support or the Centre for all the other functions? In what, in what way?

Ashish: Yeah, so when I look at kind of Product Marketing responsibility, right, I mean, I see six different buckets. The first one is really become the voice of customer know, understand your customers, you know, who are your buyers? Win, then really, are we engaging with, let's say, Executive Advisory boards, are we engaging with user groups, that's number one. Number two, is really make sure that there is a GTM alignment for the product portfolio with and then it aligns with how we are looking to drive the business growth. And that means that when, of course, you are going to devise like content strategy, that that supports it. And then the third function is definitely creating content. If you look at the buyers journey, there is awareness, consideration and decision assets, where you really go from, you know, blogs or infographics all the way to buyer checklists, case studies, when all these assets have to be developed to the product marketing functions. Now, let's look at kind of, if you, you know, you have to have a strong partnership with product and sales teams. So when I say product, it means product management and product marketers working closely together, to really introduce new offerings to the market, making sure that you know, we are looking at an understanding of how our customers are deploying it and making sure that you're doing competitive research to win loss, analysis, pricing, all those functions. And I expect them in a book, like product management manager and the product marketers to do this together. And really drive thought leadership. And the important piece of the thought leadership is not just you know, publishing content and writing blogs, but really driving that analyst relations function. And really making sure that you're not just providing information out to the analyst, but you're actively soliciting their feedback. And then making sure that you know, you have alignment on the messaging, you have alignment on the roadmap, and they understand the analyst community understands how you are growing as a business. And the last piece of the story, when

Kerry: you say analyst relations, is that an in in that part of the company analyst? Or is that

Ashish: I mean, like gardeners and foresters and IDCs of the world, right? Where they're really making sure that, you know, you're getting their point of view from their customer engagements. And then you know, they can get really good data from, you know, what they are seeing what what are their customers asking for, when they let's say, look, to buy a firewall versus the or they look are going adopting a multi cloud solution, what is that they're looking to do. And really getting that feedback, and making sure that your roadmap evolves with what, you know, that is your important piece of the becoming the voice of customers as well. And then, of course, the last piece of the puzzle is sales enablement, making sure that you have the right set of tools created for your sales, you actively participate in sales conversations, drive sales plays, I mean, maybe there is, you know, cross sell upsell opportunities, maybe we you know, we are launching a new offering, and they're offering can really, you know, have a jumpstart for that offering and drive, you know, more product attach rate. And so all those parts of the sales plays in I think that is definitely in their product marketing responsibility.

Kerry:  And product marketing has their hands in everything, ya know, and

Ashish: You know, as I said earlier, right, where the, how do you go from evangelising, your product roadmap, all the way down to the events that you go to the campaigns that you launch to the press releases in the media presence that you do all of this, if you're if you have an alignment there, that means that you are actually taking what you have going from the product perspective and really amplifying all that you're doing. And that would definitely for me, that definitely yields a whole lot of results that you would not see otherwise.

Kerry: So does it so if I'm trying to start back at the beginning, so you have so obviously what you're past the startup phase, you have a working product but there needs to be a new feature added or there's a new new product created within umbrella of the of the company. So it's the first stop Engineering, or is it with product? Was it? Where does it all begin? Yeah. From concept to actually like in the market sort of magical to me? That's,

Ashish: That's a good question. I mean, for me, it begins with product management. I mean, that's why you really need to have a strong product management function, who understands the rigour and you know, and is really good at execution from an execution perspective to get that product out to the market. But even before we do that, right, I expect product management and product marketing to work together and say, if you were to launch this from an ad, really concept stage, what would the press release look like? Are we first in this? What is if we you know, we, of course, we are going to do let's say beta programme? What are our customers going to say about this product? Or people who've tried are going to say about this product? What is the typical code look like? Are we forced to this? Or are we best at this? Are we reducing the time? Are we reducing the expense? What are we doing, why this product is needed from our customers perspective. So really, at the concept stage, you have to start knowing you have to think about how you're going to go to market well, and then once that is done, I mean, once we have an agreement there, then of course, product management manager's role is to really build the business case. Maybe product marketer gives an input there. But then as that gets close to the launch timeframe, I expect product marketer to be really involved in that in kind of everyday discussions, and making sure that, you know, the messaging brief that they've developed that messaging brief alliance with the product managers vision of what this product is going to do, right from there to how do you do you really launch the new product? What are the goals for the launch, I mean, all of the all of these need to have an alignment between product management and product marketing. And if there is an alignment, that you're going to see a much more successful launch. And we all have been in places where we've done disastrous launch, and then we've done really good launches. So I mean, so and that is my learning from that I didn't where you have to have the right product market fit. And if you have that, and you have an alignment, that product is going to be successful in the market.

Kerry: So there's a lot of functions here. So you really breaking the team down product management, product marketing, and then how does it get to the actual mark? And you mentioned sales, but we haven't talked too much about is the relationship between product marketing and marketing from lead gen demand gen. Like the the more out, I want to say outreach part of it, the outbound

Ashish: Yeah. Yeah. So the way I see this happen, right, I mean, as I said, I expect product marketing to become the subject matter experts. So they need to be aware of what are the trends happening in your customer base, you know, and my background is cybersecurity. So it's easy. I mean, you know, that everybody publishes, you know, top trends at the beginning of the year. And, personally, I do not, you know, kind of give too much weightage to it, but I mean, it gives you a good indication of what people are going to be talking about for the rest of the year. And, really, when you understand that, for me, you know, then product marketing needs to take that, I mean, they have to have their own point of view, saying, This is what our customers really want to hear from us. Then give, give that to the growth marketing team or the campaign's team, help them come up with the, the campaigns that they will launch, for example, it can be cybersecurity skills, shortage. I mean, this is like a perennial issue, where we've talked about, yeah, you know, 300,000 600,000, you know, shortage of skilled shortage of skilled workers from cybersecurity perspective. So how do you address it? And, you know, everybody has their own spin on it, I mean, add more managed services, add products that consolidate, I mean, you know, platforms, whatever the deal is, so, for me, so the way it should work is, you know, Product Marketing says, if the skills gap is an important issue for our customers, then the growth marketing team can take that as an input and maybe create a campaign that says, you solve your skill. Are you facing a skills gap in cybersecurity, solve it, blah, right? I mean, so I'll solve it SDR, solve it, managed services, whatever, whatever the deal is, that maybe there is a better way to come up with a team, but then growth marketing team who's responsible for campaigns that's how I see them working together. Once that happens. Of course, the growth marketing team can identify what assets are needed in order to support that campaign, you know, from awareness, consideration, decision stages perspective. And then the product marketing team then builds those assets gives us the growth marketing team, help them run the campaign, but also monitor the performance of these assets. are we really seeing for example, right? And when we say I have 100 people who kind of silicate looked at the awareness acid, we are going to we expect about 40 odd to really go look at the consideration acid. And then out of that, like 10 to look at the decision acid. If that is let's say, that's our buyers journey map, are we seeing that? Are we seeing that downloads? Are we seeing that same person actually going and reviewing all these assets? So I think that feedback loop is very important when it comes to from a campaigns perspective and really understanding that how your assets are performing, are they really supporting the buyer journey that you envision to begin with? And if if not, then, you know, how do you tweak it? How do you add new assets? How do you tweak the existing assets. So all of that has to be a constant engagement between the growth marketing team and the product marketing team.

Kerry: So you mentioned early on that product marketing is more than content. And you've touched on it a bit. But it still feels very content heavy, right, from figuring out what the messaging is based on the customer voice based off of what's happening from the analyst side based off of your sort of like in research mode of gathering all this information, but then it's the messaging piece of where that information goes. And then it's handed off to these different elements, whether that's sales or or the growth marketing side is that and then it's analysed to say, is it working? What's working? What's not working? How are we going to tweak it based off of the buyers journey? But it sounds like the heart of what holds it all together? Is content?

Ashish: No, definitely. I mean, you know, content creation is the primary responsibility. But the point is, it's not the only responsibility. Right? So if you were to take a step back and say, you know, from a from product managers look at it, look at the products from let's say, the users perspective, right, they are trying to make the whoever's using the product, their life easier. Product Marketing, on the other hand, they are looking at it from the buyers perspective. Who is our buyer? What are they want? I mean, how can we align to what their concerns are an example would be really looking at Canada, same thing in different verticals, right. Health care in us is different than health care in UK is different than healthcare in you know, rest of the world. Right. So you really understand the nuances as a product marketer, right? You know, you when you talk to the healthcare here, security leader in the healthcare space in us, versus, you know, you have to bring in, let's say, NHS in the conversation when you're talking to somebody in UK, for example, financial services. Now, cyber insurance has become really prominent for financial services, customers. So how does subscribing or buying are really partnering with you help them reduce their cyber insurance premiums, that is the conversation to bring in. So this is where I see product marketing, having the biggest impact is really understanding the buyer, becoming the voice of customer and making sure that whatever you're doing is tailored to that industry. To that, to that vertical to that geography.

Kerry: I think that's really important. I love what you're talking about from a geography standpoint. Yes, I can attest living in the UK right now that healthcare is very different. And there are pros and cons to both. There are many things that I miss about the US and when he thinks he should not. So yes, I think that geography piece is important. localising it as well as globalising it, depending on what you're talking about, from a cybersecurity standpoint, when you're looking at the geography have it? Is there a nuance that you've come in touch with, depending on different parts of the world? Or is it is it really become global? I mean, healthcare is definitely a good example. Fintech is also a good exam, because you're talking about different currencies, but how does how does that relate to cyber?

Ashish: Yeah, so regulations play a big part when it comes to cyber, right? I mean, especially now look at privacy regulations, GDPR in Europe versus, like, you know, USCA, the California privacy regulations versus the other Now, other states in us are doing it, other countries within the world are doing it. So maybe, of course, regulations become a big part. How are the customers really consuming your product line? Right? I mean, in some cases, they, let's say, in Europe, maybe there is, you know, some people like bigger companies buy to buy direct, but the smaller companies rely on managed offering, you know, let's say for somebody from oranger, somebody else that were to give them that level of service when they cannot find that staff to do it themselves. Versus in AsiaPac, where, you know, you have manpower at your disposal. So then you're, let's say buying and investing into the product itself. I mean, it's depending on the depending on the geography and kind of the local constraints versus local kind of availability of talent, the buying motions differ. And this is how then you have to adopt your even go to market approach, especially in the cybersecurity space. One thing that is kind of common across the world is, you know, there are in cybersecurity, we call it, you have good days and bad days, then, of course, there are bad days when something big happens. So when we saw the solar winds issue, we saw the log for the attack being a vulnerability being exploited. So, all of these are going to happen no matter what, and they have worldwide implications. So, but you as a good product marketer, then you have to understand, what does it really mean for my customers in my region? How can I tailor that message to them, and make sure that my sales team can take it when they have a conversation with their future prospects, customers? whatnot?

Kerry: Yes, I love that. I think that's so important. And I loved how you talked about the different regions and how it really depends on their, their country and what they have going on. When you're talking about Asia versus Europe? That's a really good example. From a voice of a customer standpoint. How do you actually go about finding the voice of the customer? You mentioned community, you mentioned looking at the you know, gardeners of the world, can you take a little bit more into your approach to investigating that and how you go about it yourself, or were with your

Ashish: The voice of customer has to be really a strategic initiative within the business. And it's hard to do when you're a smaller company and with bigger companies can really afford to do and spend some time. And so where, what what I see really, you know, is companies spend money and effort on is measuring that NPS score, right Net Promoter Score, are Do we have enough? Kind of, you know, detractors or do we have, you know, promoters, who are kind of who like our product versus who dislike our product. So NPS becomes an kind of good indication of where your market views you as a, as a bigger brand, or where your customers who as a bigger brand, but voice of customer for me is way bigger than that. And this is something that I did at HIV global, where we actually spend time talking to customers, and without having me without talking about our product without talking about our what we have going on, really get in front of the customer. And ask them start with a simple question, what keeps you up at night? What is that, in your day to day responsibility, you think can be done better? And, and through those kinds of open ended questions, you really get some meaningful insights that you can then kind of double click on and say, somebody says, I have too many alerts that I'm seeing from coming in my sock, then what does it mean? I mean, do you have fewer number of people? Or do you have kind of you have configured your tools so that everything is getting alerted, then you can kind of go down and dig deeper and really understand what that customer really means, when they are talking about a particular pain point. And then bring that learning back to the business and saying, okay, you know, this is what they said, This is what is our interpretation? Do you agree, and if they do, and then of course, close the loop with the customer saying, if you were to do this, maybe an additional feature, maybe a new product, maybe a new service? Would that address the pain point that you've brought up in your voice of customer interview, for example. And this is, like, as I said, it's an opening ageing, open ended engagement, where you are having that dialogue there. And, you know, I've done it, I've been the successful voice of customer interviews, you can find some insights, maybe you find entries into the adjacent markets that you've never thought about. Maybe somebody's saying, you know, I have I have this, you know, identity that I'm carrying around, what else can I do with it, I don't just opening doors or logging onto the network is the least of my concerns. But I want to do a lot more, maybe there is an opportunity for you to really move into a different market. Same thing, you know, from other parts of cybersecurity. If you if you do that effectively, and have somebody trained to do that. I think you're gonna get a lot more insights from your customer base that will impact not just your product roadmap, but also raise the bar in terms of how the industry views you, as a thought leader, as as kind of the leader in this space.

Kerry: How many people do you generally talk to when you're doing this kind of research? Are you are you talking it sounds like it's ongoing too, but in terms of getting like an initial gut check of what the pain points are, and to know that you have enough people saying the same similar things, or are you really just talking to one person and you and going off of that, I feel like that's probably not the case. But

Ashish: Yeah, I mean, that's that's not the case, you have to have a good sample size. And that depends on the time that you have the people that you have. And you know, how much that arrow? How much kind of can you spend doing this research? I mean, in an ideal world, you would go to a customer site and look at what they're doing from their own business perspective, right? It's not just a phone conversation, right? I mean, you know, in this case, I mean, I would go to you and say, Carrie, tell me what your day looks like, and what do you do? And and then say that, okay, have you thought about changing this? And this your in your routine? And maybe that would yield a better result? For example, right? So something like that? I mean, you would, that's the resource commitment, you have to have to do effective voice of customer interviews, where you are actually stepping into your customers shoes, and looking at what what they do on the day to day function? What are their challenges beyond in some cases, maybe that's something that you cannot address, right. But maybe there is an potential, they know, you see a potential opportunity to partner with somebody. And together, your solution would make really deliver a lot more value for your customer than just a standalone solution that you have. So I mean, all these are possibilities coming out of that voice of customer interview. But as I said, it's a function of how many how many people do you have? How much time do you have how much how many resources and dollars, you're willing to commit to doing this research?

Kerry: I imagine if you can, ideally, you would talk to multiple people within the within a company. So especially if you're going to cite like you're not Yeah, exactly.

Ashish: I mean, you you would, you would do that. And, you know, not just one person, but talk to multiple people. And then that becomes your voice of customer interview for that company. And you repeat that process, let's say four or five times, to at least get your baseline.

Kerry: Yeah. Wow, that'd be so much data. Hope you so much fun. I'm such a nerd. That sounds great. And then what do you so you take that, and you bring it back to the business? And does that inform? With? I want to back up for a second? Because you said that you actually make recommendations? So is this is this almost like? It sounds like you're crossing a bit into customer six, like a customer success team? Almost. Are you sort of, are you joining customer success? Yeah.

Ashish: I mean, you have to have, like, you know, in this case, you have to have somebody who's leading the function, or leading this engagement. And that, you know, in most cases, that would fall under Product Marketing. But then you have to have somebody really driving, I mean, you have to have product management in there, you have to have customer success. So anybody who's touching the customer has to be part of the team to really understand what is what is the customer saying, right? I mean, it. And I started, as I said, I started my journey as an Application Engineer with the, you know, you when you, you know, back in the day where you said, you know, yeah, hit any key on the key key via keyboard to, you know, progress. And the customer is like, you know, I can't find any key on the keyboard. Can you tell me which, where that is? Right. So, I mean, and we have a lot of examples of, you know, things like that, that lead to real product innovations where we actually listen to the customer. And, you know, then, you know, either you change the verbiage or you said, you know, or did something different to make sure that the customers understood what you're asking them to do.

Kerry: Yes. Oh, my God. I love that. Edie cavelike. Yeah, I could see myself doing that. What, Kay? I don't see it what's happening? No, I love this. I think what what we're saying what you're saying at the end of the day is she's just like, it doesn't matter who's necessarily doing the research depends on the function of every organisation set up a little bit differently, but figure out as a product marketer who who has that multi touch engagement with those customers on a regular basis, and join in and figure out what their pain is, and then take that back to the company and iterate across all functions, and do it through using content as the conduit essentially, free. Yeah.

Ashish: And definitely, I mean, ultimately, content becomes, you know, the, when you produce the right content, it shows that you've absorbed all this input, you've digested it. And then now you're turning it around and say, I heard you know, let's say, a financial services seaso. Talk about cyber insurance premiums. So I want to make sure that you know, when I reach out to them, or when I build something that is targeted for that vertical, that industry, that geography, it includes, let's say cyber insurance, and what how can we help you to either find the right cyber insurance or reduce your insurance premiums? Whatever that message is, right, you know, making sure that we talk about it. And so it becomes more relevant from the prospect perspective they can when they are going to their buyers journey, they can sit and understand that these guys really know what, what keeps me up at night. They are, they know what budgetary pressures I have. And then they have looks like they have the right solutions that would help me sleep at night better, you know, for the lack of better adoption.

Kerry: I love that I, you know, I think from what our conversation today, what I'm hearing is, it's got to start with product marketing, if it can, once you get to that scale up stage of where you're ready to go, you want to make sure that you have the right messaging that's entering all avenues of your company, through the voice of the audience coming essentially, from the voice of your customer, out into out into the world and using product from the centre to figure out what that is. And then really partnering with all these different parts of the company. I mean, it's it's how man, I just don't understand as one person, or even like two or three people. I mean, that's a lot. It's a lot of touch points, a lot of people, the more people you're involved with throughout the day, the less hours. Yeah, definitely any work. So,

Ashish: I mean, as I said, I mean, I see this as a bigger responsibility for the product marketing team. But then, based on the business priorities based on what's needed, maybe the macroeconomic climate, you know, your strengths from the team, you can decide what is that you want to execute on today versus tomorrow versus day after it, you cannot do everything at one shot. I mean, they're just practically impossible. And this is, this is what happens. I mean, coming back to kind of the your challenges question, right? Where then you paint that vision, people want you to do everything, and they don't understand that, you know, you have limited hours, of course, I mean, if I had an unlimited team, I would go into everything. That's, that's feasible, but that's not the case. So you have to really figure out what is the priority of your current task list? And then how do you kind of you have build that vision and say that here is what my product marketing organisation is going to look like, let's say six months, and year from now. And here are the steps that I'm going to take in order to get there. Right. And good example of that will be like your analyst relations programme, right? If you are just starting out the analyst relations programme, I mean, all most companies do is like really throw in a have briefing with the analyst, tell them what we're doing, tell them you know, have them talk to a customer, and have our customers write like Gartner peer insights, reviews and whatnot. But it needs to be much more, right. I mean, if you want, you want to be at a stage where the analysts can recommend somebody back to you saying, These guys have expertise in this thing. If you're looking for a desperately solving this particular problem, then I would encourage you to talk to these guys, right? I mean, so you want to get to that stage where the analysts see what your expertise is from from the rest of the market. And they are actually recommending your customers to you. And if that happens, I mean, that is definitely the success, right? So but it cannot be done in one day, right? You have to build up to it. And you know, as a good product marketing leader, you're going to find a way to really build up to that. And in, but what that means from really understanding how the team performs, right? When How do you measure the impact of product marketing to the business. And for me, there are four buckets that are looking at how effective you are in, you know, influencing your prospects slash customers, how effective you are in driving that lead gen, how effective you are in sales enablement, and how effective you are in really establishing that product level leadership. And if you're even putting the right level of OKRs in those four buckets, and really measuring your product marketing teams performance across these four buckets is what would demonstrate the value back to the business. But at the same time, help your team to really become the owners become the subject matter experts and really, you know, take a step forward and not just looked at as you know, just content creation engine.

Kerry: Last question for you, Ashish, just bring this because this analyst piece I could talk about all day in terms of OKRs from your standpoint as a product marketer, because you kept talking about how effective product marketing is within these buckets from from a lead gen standpoint, as you know, marketing sort of as a whole takes responsibility for that where you drove this many leads at this that this cost per lead as an example, right. So how in terms of well, product marketing specifically is if Active in each of these buckets, what OKRs? Are you looking at?

Ashish: Yeah. So if you look in a drilling down into these four buckets, right, and when you look at how effective you are in driving customer influence, do you really understand why we are winning? What is win law? Understand the win loss analysis? Do you understand what is our market share compared to our competitors? Do you understand? And really drive that AR and thought leadership effectively to move the needle to the right, so that you're driving? You're fueling brand recognition as well, when you look at lead? Gen, right. I mean, your goal is to really increase the MQL in influenced by the PMM content. So how do you? Are you really driving effective campaign themes and trends? Or how are your assets performing? I mean, really measuring that is the right OKR. When you look at sales enablement, I mean, really look at, you know, the assets that you produce, how are they utilised? I mean, do you have enough downloads? Do you are you really to boosting the sales confidence after driving sales enablement? You know, maybe do a survey before and after and saying, are you comfortable in pitching this product? After, you know, after the sales enablement, and see where wherever that needle has moved, if you know, let's say, it stays at 30%. That means you know, something's wrong with your sales enablement approach, and then you have to revisit it. How do you? What is your sales performance look like? And from product leadership perspective, I mean, how do you effectively drive and help upsell cross sell? I mean, how do you effectively do product launches? What are the goals for product launches that you've identified? And are you effectively meeting them? In all those are potential OKRs for me to measure the impact of the product marketing team?

Kerry: Thank you so much before we close out here, she's really quick questions for you. Because you're more than you're more than a product marketer to get to know you. Have you picked up a new hobbies these last few years, given the change of the world?

Ashish: Not so much of new hobby with just, you know, clearing through my backlog at this point. You know, outside of just product marketing, for me is a storytelling, right? I mean, I, I like telling stories, and whether they're, for my professional work, or even outside, I'm an author, and I've published in a fictional novels as well. So and then I am an avid traveller, I mean, I've been to 48 odd countries twice, just for vacation. And together with my family. And there's, of course, I mean, what we do together is, you know, after every destination that we visit, we create, like an actual paper photo book of that, and with the right level of, you know, kind of where we are in there in terms of what we did. And, you know, I have a huge backup of that I needed to be there, it needed to clear and that's something that's, you know, it's an ongoing work as we speak, and then I'm kind of making sure that I am able to do that.

Kerry: I love the plan. I'm gonna I'm gonna link to the books you've written, because that's awesome. And then for travelling, that actually leads perfectly into my next question, which is, if you could travel to anywhere in the world without any challenges, red tape, vaccination passes, long lines, where would you go?

Ashish: Um, I mean, I don't think I can pick one particular country. I mean, I mean, as I said, I've been to like, 50 odd countries. I mean, I've loved you know, like really, doing a hot air balloon ride or locks are in Egypt to, you know, kind of swimming with sharks and in Galapagos Islands, to really, you know, kind of getting close to Komodo dragons in Indonesia. So, yeah, I mean, it's every, I mean, I have so many stories, from my travel experiences, that we can we can definitely spend another episode here. But yeah, I mean, I, yeah, I don't, I don't think I can pick one particular country. Just I mean, every country is so unique and different. And the food and just the experience, I mean, it's, it can't be that you have to, you have to come in, you cannot go all the way to what locals do but you know, doing like in Medina, and in Colombia, there is this longest like cable ride that goes over the slums, where Pablo Escobar used to kind of run his operations. And of course, you know, when we when we took that cable car ride, everybody knew that we are not locals. And you know, everybody's like, you know, what the hell are you doing here? And we barely spoke Spanish, but you know, we said you know, we're gonna do it and we did it. I mean, it was kind of at the edge of the seat experience, but it was fun. Yeah, after you have a great story, I mean, you know, we've got stuck in a boat in the middle of Indian Ocean in Indonesia, where there is like, just kind of life of Pisces right where we started up In the air, in the sky, and our boat got stuck in the current, and we were running out of gas and, and the entire family was there, there were like 10 of us. And it was like, if something happens, you know, we are screwed. But somehow we managed to kind of pull back and go around the currents and then Overland. And as we landed on the crowd, everybody was like, Okay, I am so glad I'm so yeah, we there are definitely a lot of stories from my travels. So yeah, I mean, I'm, you know, any, anytime there is an opportunity for me to go explore a new culture, new country, I'm the first one to take it. And of course, you know, my family is kind of seen where we are. We are kind of really the travellers who go any, any place. Try anything, you know, and, you know, try to see for the local experience looks like

Kerry: I love that. Oh, I'm gonna end it there. Because that's just too good. Ashish. I'm so grateful. Thank you for joining me. Yeah,

Ashish: Thank you. I mean, it was a pleasure talking to you.


That was my conversation with Ashish Milani. If you'd like to learn more about product marketing, how she should purchase it. And if you'd like to read his book, The 10th Son, please, please go check him out on LinkedIn. His link is in the show notes. Because in the show notes, if you liked this conversation as much as I did, and found it as warm and inviting as I did, please like, subscribe, and share. Ashish, I'm so thankful you join me what a wonderful conversation.

This episode is brought to you by MKG Marketing the digital marketing agency that helps complex tech companies like cybersecurity, grow their businesses and fuel their mission through SEO, digital ads, and analytics.

Hosted by Kerry Guard, CEO co-founder MKG Marketing. Music Mix and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

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