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Podcasts > Tea Time With Tech Marketing Leaders

Your Product Marketing Toolkit—From Research to Reality

Kerry Guard • Tuesday, October 18, 2022 • 50 minutes to listen

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Transcript

Opening

Hello, I'm Kerry Guard, and welcome to Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

Welcome back to season 13.

It's been a bit of a wild west these last two years as companies reacted to the pandemic and remote work, and now that the dust is settling, it's a reality for companies, which is you all got to take a minute and review our careers. Take a step back, note what we love about what we do, and find where we want to go next. Which is why this conversation with Yoni Solomon is perfect timing.

Yoni is the CMO of Uptime. But his journey to chief marketing officer was unique because his career was built on the product marketing side. The beauty of this conversation as we dig into what product marketing is and how he uses his unique experience and perspective of product-led growth as a CMO. Maybe you're on the product side trying to figure out what's next. Maybe you're a marketing manager, and this inspires you to investigate product marketing, who knows? What's important is that it's an opportunity for us all to take a bait and see what our options are.

In this conversation, Yoni shares his product marketing toolkit, and regardless of which side of the marketing fence you're on, you will want to take notes on this powerful framework.

Yoni Solomon is the CMO of Uptime. He has been recognized as one of the Tech's most influential product marketers by Forbes and the product marketing Alliance, which named his team at G2 2019 Product Marketing Team of the Year. As I said, you'll want to take notes on this episode if you're making dinner, going for a walk, or doing a monotonous task. Don't worry; we will have the transcript ready shortly for you to quickly skim and grab that framework.

Here's my conversation with Yoni.

Conversation

Kerry Guard: Yoni, thank you for joining me on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

Yoni Solomon: It's very good to be here.

Kerry Guard: So good to have you stoked for a conversation. Before we get there, though, this will lend itself nicely to our conversation. Tell us about your journey. What's your story, Yoni? What do you do? And how did you get there?

Yoni Solomon: So you know, the TLDR. My name is Yoni Solomon. I'm the CMO of Uptime.com. I spent the last 10-plus years in marketing, specifically product marketing for a highly disruptive and engaging SAS brand, and most recently, G2, where I was a director of product marketing. Over the last decade, I've honed my product marketing toolkit skills, messaging, positioning, pricing, packaging, and campaign launching. I've gotten to launch various products across mobile marketing technology to see reviews at power reviews to B2B reviews, G2, and now website and uptime monitoring software at uptime.com. And I'm excited to talk to you today about this fun and exciting journey from product marketing to being a head of marketing and shedding some light on the idea that product marketers can certainly step into those shoes and become some solid CMOS in their own right.

Kerry Guard: Did you go from product marketing directly into being CMO? Before being CMO, did you transition into product marketing or other marketing avenues? Or was it the straight jump?

Yoni Solomon: Let me take you back. I started my first job out of school at Vibes, a mobile marketing technology leader that's been around since 1998. They were building out their marketing team. I started as a customer success associate, and suddenly a need popped up. They needed someone to write some copy on the website, they were looking to relaunch their website, and I wasn't looking for it at the time. I never imagined I'd find my way into marketing. I knew I wanted to get there. I just didn't know if that role would be possible for me. But I thought to myself that I knew the tool well, our platform, and I use it daily. I know the persona because I'm on the phone with them, talking to them. I'm running their reports, and I can write a little bit. Let me take a crack at this. Let me write some website copy, and that's how I found my way into marketing from the get-go.

But I think what was fun about joining that team so early in its process of building out a marketing organization was that I could be a generalist for about five and a half years, really honing the rest of my marketing toolkit, if you will. Some of those roles were marketing ops. When we implemented Marketo, marketing automation was new and showing a little bit, so getting to understand the nuances of how automation works and how to connect different data sources to run campaigns and build segments started to fill some of those areas. I did a lot of thought leadership and content writing and started to fill that area of expertise. I did a lot of analyst relations as well. I spent five-plus years there, or why don't we say three and a half of those years were spent very much as a marketing manager generalist, getting to play in all of these different areas for a good period of time, before finding my niche in product marketing, starting to launch products consistently working on messaging and positioning. And so it was from there on, why don't we say, for the last seven years, where I've been very focused on product marketing, which led to me heading to GE2 to build a great product marketing team there before moving on to Uptime as CMO. So it was a bit of a jump from product marketing to head of marketing. But a lot of that journey was built on the foundation of getting to play in all these different marketing areas that we know and love.

Kerry Guard: You mentioned, I think it was four or five key product marketing elements of your toolkit, and I want to pull those apart. But before we get there, what's one challenge you currently face?

Yoni Solomon: Sure, it is how to take the product marketing skills that I know and love that pertain to product launches in messaging for specific features and capabilities. How do I take that very specific skill and spread it across the entire organization to create a fantastic and polished experience anywhere that you are something I love, for instance, about Apple is that you never arrive at an apple page that isn't beautifully crafted and immaculate, even their login forms are gorgeous.

Every single piece of the company has marketing fingerprints all over it to deliver an outstanding experience. And so I think that's the big challenge for me now. We've gone through a rebrand which we can certainly talk about, and we've gone through a pricing and packaging revamp. We could talk about that too, but I think it's how I create from when someone searches for website monitoring online to when they subscribe as a customer. They're engaging with our G2 profile, website, platform, and other places where we live on the internet and how I create a uniform, beautiful, elegant experience for those prospects or customers anywhere.

Kerry Guard: It's so true. The minute you land on an Apple anything, whether it's on their website, outside their website, or even in their store, you don't need to see an apple logo; you know where you are.

Yoni Solomon: It's always perfect. It's always on brand, down to the fonts on the packaging of the phones, the buds, or whatever you're buying. Everything is so perfectly crafted. I think that's a big challenge for us, especially startups and CMOs. When things are moving so fast, we don't have as many resources as we think. The expectations around just a polished, really good-looking experience anywhere that your customers or prospects are making the stakes pretty high.

Kerry Guard: I imagine, though, and I feel this too, as a small business, if you can get those elements right now and take the time to figure out what those are. When you don't have as many moving pieces in terms of scale because as you scale, the moving pieces get much more complex, and then it feels like moving titanic versus a tugboat. And like in those rebranding moments, it feels like this is the perfect time for you to lay that groundwork of exactly who you are as uptime and bring that through the organization. Then, as you scale, that will perpetuate through an ideally perfect world.

Yoni Solomon: Because if you don't nail down those brand guidelines early, the more stuff you're launching, the whole year digging a deeper hole for yourself of all of this work, you then need to go back and re-correct and repolish and refine. We've established a brand style guide on the other side of our rebrand. Across the board, I'm seeing some good uniformity, and we want to ensure that we're updating that style guide and constantly looking at the titles on our blog. These little details that we think only matter to our eyes, but when someone is popping onto your website or checking you out elsewhere, they're looking for all of those things now. If you stand out today in a SAS landscape where dozens, if not hundreds, of companies, look and sound just like you in every category, you must be buttoned up and polished from end to end.

Kerry Guard: I want to discuss the five things you mentioned in your toolkit. Let's break those down for a minute because I think in everything we just talked about in terms of your challenge, those are the foundational pieces to building that brand. Alright, let's talk messaging and positioning.

Yoni Solomon: The first big primary tool, especially from the product marketing toolkit, I use and live and breathe every day. As product marketers, it's our job to fundamentally understand how our products work and who they're for the problems they solve. It's our job also to understand that our audiences are different cohorts of customers and prospects and users well and to connect essentially the tools and the problems we're solving to those who could use those tools to solve those problems. And so upon joining uptime, for instance, one of the most important things that I could start with right off the bat was a total rebrand of the company that was going to encompass a website relaunch. Before we started to get into any brand-new work, I wanted to tackle the messaging and positioning, understand how we were presenting today, and whether that resonated with customers. And so I had customer interviews, of course, and started to listen to recordings and build this analytical and anecdotal data to help me better understand whether we're positioned correctly.

One of the most interesting exercises I went through for messaging and positioning that I recommend to anyone on this call was going and scraping. Let me see G2 Trustpilot, Capterra, Software Advice, and maybe one or two other review sites. I took every single review, quote, or piece of content ever written about Uptime that a customer had shared and popped it into a presentation. I started to sort by different topic clusters. And before I knew it, I started to bake out five distinct value propositions based on these groupings of reviews, which I didn't know at the time. But those value propositions ended up making their way into our message house, our foundational messaging document. And that ended up being the core positioning we used to relaunch the entire website, meaning even down to our tagline of uptime means peace of mind. It came directly from several reviews where peace of mind kept popping up. And so a good product marketer doesn't need to create any of this stuff in a vacuum. It shouldn't be me in an ivory tower being whimsical and spinning up tails over things that I think sound and resonate best. Go to your customers, read their reviews, and talk to them more often. You're going to find the perfect way to position and message your company, and that was one of the toolkits I applied to Uptime upon joining.

Kerry Guard: I love that we're doing our brand study right now. We didn't do the reviews; we did the review sites a little bit because we are on the clutch. And so we were able to dig into some of those. We talked to our existing customers because there is no better place they're still with us. Why tell us why you work with our teammates and our employees? We did two very big deep dives there. The information you find is fascinating because, to your point, the ivory tower you sit in is the people who started the company and built it versus what's happening on the ground or sometimes two, sometimes they aligned, sometimes they're a bit different. Finding that happy medium between the two is fun.

Yoni Solomon: It's so fun. Getting that message and positioning if you can be in an ivory tower and spin up something beautiful, but beware because if it doesn't resonate with the audience, if you didn't ground that in the things that they were feeling or the problems that they were looking to solve, that's when you start to launch landing pages or emails that just have zeros across the board. They don't convert, which becomes a very awkward conversation for you and your team when suddenly nothing is moving the way that it should. There are five key sections for those out there looking to go through a messaging process for the company. If it's a SaaS product, start with a product demo. Get an idea of how the tool looks, feels, and works. It will be hard to message anything if you haven't used it or seen it in action.

The second piece is followed up with some market research. Understand your total addressable market and who the buyers are. Are they different from the end users of the tool? Make sure that you understand the segments and the regions involved in your total addressable market as well. Number three: no one likes to do this, but we all have competitors. Do a bit of competitive research. We don't live in a vacuum where we're the only ones doing all this stuff all the time, really understand how they position themselves, what holes you could poke in their stories from a competitive standpoint, and then turn that around. We all don't like to do this because we are very protective over our companies and our brands, but really have an honest conversation about what holes a clever product marketer on the other side of the fence might be poking in your system and your tools. The last two pieces are customer voice: live interviews, recordings, or reviews. There are many ways to do that, but infuse your messaging with the customer's voice to ensure it resonates.

The last piece that often goes ignored is that I like to hop into my CRM as a last step and take a look at some of the accounts, whether they be prospects or customers, some of the roles and titles when I last note, just to make sure that we have the kind of people in our systems that we're trying to market to. The last thing I want to do is spin up a whole launch with messaging and positioning around a persona that doesn't exist for us. So check your own CRM, dive into some of those deals, and if you can get all five things in order, you should end up with some rock-solid positioning primed to convert.

Kerry Guard: I imagine the sales team loves this. Because we're finding, too, when you get more specific about who your audience is, and you can understand that, then the people who are coming in are the people who do want to work with you. It's less sales work for them to sift through.

Yoni Solomon: Totally. It also makes the sales team so much more comfortable on calls when folks come through because personalization isn't just a buzzword, especially today. Everyone expects to hop on a call and for you to understand who they are and what they need. The more information you can arm your messaging and positioning with, and then take that and distill it down to battle cards and email templates for your sales team, you will have a uniform experience back to experience. By the way, have consistent messaging and presentment on the website, all the way through to those sales conversations and demos they're having on the other side.

Kerry Guard: It's that seamless messaging if everybody's saying the same thing. If they show up to customer success or a different salesperson, or there's messaging on the website, everybody's saying the same thing. It's not disjointed in terms of my lasting experience.

Yoni Solomon: It's what my brilliant wife likes to say; everyone reads from the same book, and that's what we want. It's my favorite quote too.

Kerry Guard: So, messaging and positioning, anything else that you feel people need to know to be successful in exhibits? If you don't get that figured out and everything else, I'm assuming that you build on top of that will not go as well?

Yoni Solomon: Yes. The House of Cards, if you will crumbles if you don't get that foundation done the right way because that messaging and positioning gets transformed into external messaging on the website. And that's your website and the copy in your presentations, the copy in your emails, the copy in your ads, but it's all sourced from the same material. And then the last thing that I would highlight is adjacent to messaging and positioning when we call it product presentment. If you're in SAS, think through the visuals, screenshots, GIFs, and how you will convey your product story visually across your site. As a product marketer, I always like to over-index the copy and the messaging. Sometimes I haven't focused as much on the visuals as I should when the visuals are the most important thing. It's what everyone looks at first before they read any of the words. And so just make sure that as a head of marketing or product marketer, you're balancing both of those accordingly.

Kerry Guard: I do the opposite of the other way around. We would start with the visual of the images, and I'm not a wordsmith. It's nice to find that balance and people using the full breadth of your team to do that. We're talking about this house of cards to get your messaging and positioning situated. What comes next?

Yoni Solomon: Now let's talk about every marketer's favorite topics: pricing and packaging. It's big, and it's scary, probably because there are a lot of unknowns around it. It takes a certain degree of trial and error and an even greater risk before you can truly get your packaging. And there's no one-size-fits-all; it all depends on your industry and the type of service you're providing. If messaging and positioning of the rebrand were the number one most important thing upon coming to uptime, I would say pricing and packaging were one.

When I joined Uptime, we had fixed SAS plans that we were offering to our users. Much to their frustration, what they wanted was more flexibility from our tool. At times, I've certainly felt like this is a SAS user. You can feel very pigeonholed between these defined SAS plans where suddenly, if you need, I'm in the middle of a negotiation, or I need a few more marketing contacts added to my marketing automation too. I might have to upgrade to an entirely higher land that's full of pricing and tools that I don't need, and it just creates friction within your experience.

Kerry Guard: The other thing that bothers me is when they give you a certain number of seats, you hire one more person that tips you into the next bucket, and then you’re paying.

Yoni Solomon: And then you're off to enterprise.

Kerry Guard: And that's for one extra person. I agree when it comes to SAS. So what does that mean in flexibility? We're talking about seats, and you're talking about features.

Yoni Solomon: Seats are one of those as well.For our system, we have a variety of features, like monitoring checks for your website and alerts that are triggered to your phone when downtime happens. User accounts are part of that as well. And again, this is part of creating a beautiful uniform experience, not just across your marketing but across your product, which is incredibly important. We moved away from these four fixed SAS plans that we were offering to a unit-based model that allows folks to pop into our platform, essentially pick and plug. I need more alert credits, ten more user seats, and just checkout right there without having to work through sales. It's a marketing campaign wrapped in a product if you will. I got to work with the team to blow up those pricing packages and move to this flexible model, and we also released that. So that was my second big foray upon joining Uptime.

Kerry Guard: And that one was fun. I've heard from product marketers, the VP of marketing, and marketing managers talk about messaging and positioning. I feel that I can go to either side. I've heard it on both sides, but I haven't heard from any marketing managers or the VP of marketing. People talk about pricing and packaging, a product marketing role, and responsibility.

Yoni Solomon: Totally. And that was a great opportunity for me to bring some of those product marketing chops into this role. I got another thing in my toolkit that covers our needs here. It was also my first experience not just putting together messaging and positioning in the launch, which we'll discuss next for this pricing and new model we had. I also did product management around it. I got to work with developers. I got to live within Figma and create specs, and those specs all require copy because now we're breaking apart all of the different units we sell individually. They all need a headline, and they all need some positioning. They did all of this foundational stuff in our messaging documents that live on the website. Now I have to refine this and distill it into platform messaging and how I present each of these different things we offer individually. How are we going to package them? How many units? What's the cost? It forced me as a product marketer to go down the rabbit hole on that launch to provide end-to-end support, product management, and the subsequent messaging and marketing and bring it to life.

Kerry Guard: That sounds like a huge undertaking.

Yoni Solomon: It was big but fun, too, because the most important thing we do as marketers is to listen to our users. We hear again and again, “hey, I have to update to and upgrade to an enterprise plan for one more account.” This is crazy. In that experience you just talked about, we were listening to our users and finding the right experience to deliver back to them. It was a big one; the rebrand and the messaging revamp, plus pricing and packaging, was about six or seven months of work.

Kerry Guard: I bet. It's not just pricing and packaging that impacts the product itself on how it's built.

Yoni Solomon: And how we enable our teams, thinking about our support and sales teams who are used to selling our tools in a very certain way, a complete revamp of our pricing page, and trying to find the right way to present that story. It touched everything. Pricing and packaging are big and mysterious things. We'll let product marketing worry about it. But I think all of us as marketers, whether we're in demand gen, brand content, or SEO, is getting close and understanding what we're selling, how much it costs, how it's packaged, and who we're selling it to. This is fundamental that makes all of us better marketers because it informs the ad copy we're rolling out across SEO and SEM, which will inform the content we're writing and how we're presenting our new pricing and blogs. It's going to impact sales demos and the way that we position ourselves up front, and so again, just seeing the connective tissue between all of this stuff to build again this uniform, consistent experience that anywhere you are, anywhere you're learning about uptime, you're getting the same information. It's consistent, polished, and elegant.

Kerry Guard: I'm looking at your pricing page. Next, I can't help myself, and I'm a visual person. It's big.

Yoni Solomon: There are a lot of components.

Kerry Guard: It's really helpful, though. As you talk about, which I think we're probably going to move into in a minute, what are we going to get to the funnel? When you have more components, you can walk people through that over time, as well as customer success in upselling. I imagine cross-selling is a huge payoff.

Yoni Solomon: Yes, definitely.

Kerry Guard: All right, next piece, the House of Cards. Launch.

Yoni Solomon: Let's talk about some launches. We've been doing a bit of that at Uptime as well.

Kerry Guard: What in terms of product marketing?

Yoni Solomon: It sounds a lot like what it is. Product marketing is focused on taking the capability of some solution or problem that we believe we consulted with technology and essentially going through a five-step process to subsequently bring that product to the right audience at the perfect time for them. I've spent the last decade or so launching products pretty consistently, with a five-step process that I've created. I can walk you through each of those stages and tell you a little about them, but before we hop into the process, I want to first just touch on why it's so important to have that process, to begin with, for folks on customer-facing teams, whether they be sales, support, or CS. More often than not, when there's no defined process in place, the way we roll out new things is totally up to whoever is rolling it out that day.

Many organizations that joined didn't have product marketing in place already. Some products were on the website; some products were not on the website. We sent an announcement email for some stuff, but we never told the internal teams that we had launched it. No one even knew that it was around. It is just like a smorgasbord, different people with different tactics. And so establishing a process right up front for how we will deliver new products to the market. It creates an element of just comfort and consistency with the people on the front lines. I always like to say I have never tried to hire product marketers who have never worked in sales or CS.

I started in CS at GE2. All my product marketers came from a CS or sales role because it builds your empathy muscle a little bit. When you're in the frontlines and carrying a bag, someone is coming at you to try to pull you into training for an hour to talk about something that you've never heard of before. We have to find a better way of internal enablement and communication, and so this five-step process is really there to help us do that. I'll walk you through all five stages and show you how we use those to constantly vet and revet and read our products and our messaging before we bring them to market. Stage one is ideation.

Ideation is typically done between product marketing and the product management organization. The product is coming to us to say, hey, we have found a problem in the market that may be a customer or prospect has brought to us or through research. We found an opportunity for it. But we believe that we can solve this problem with technology. Maybe that's a new product, a partnership, an integration, or even a feature enhancement to an existing product. This is where product management and product marketing come in. How real is this thing? What would we call it? Could we price and package it? Is it relevant to our customers? Before we ever leave stage one, let's make sure that this entire exercise will benefit our end users because otherwise, we're again sitting in the ivory tower spinning whimsical tails and just launching stuff for the sake of launching it, and no one uses it. So that's phase one of ideation. It's a lot of thinking and discussion and hopefully some. What do we call healthy debates between the product management and marketing teams?

Kerry Guard: I don't skip that step.

Yoni Solomon: Skip it at your own risk because then you go through this entire process where there's a lot of luck product launches, the most expensive thing a company can do. You're dedicating dev resources, and your expensive product management resources to the most expensive teams in the entire company are dedicated to building these products. You're pulling product marketers into a message and building resources and tools. Then you're going to pull sales and customer success into train them. You're going to email all of your customers like it's one of the most expensive and heavy lifts you can do from an internal line perspective and if it's for a product or that no one needs. It can be rough.

Kerry Guard: I think that's important. So what comes after ideation then, so you have this idea, you've added it, and you think it's from the available information that this is going to be a thing. What then?

Yoni Solomon: We think it's a good idea, we've proven it, we all high five, and we're like, “Awesome! Let's go to stage two. Stage two is build.”And two things are happening at the same time, and that same time in stage two, on the product management side, this capability, let's just call it a new product, is going to be put on the product roadmap. We're going to assign dev resources to it. We're actually going to start building this thing, but as they're building the product, we on the product marketing side are beginning to build our launch on the product marketing side.

We're now getting our messaging and positioning in place. We're going to start some customer interviews. We're researching those five stages of messaging betting that talked about what's going to begin here. We're going to start to think about what the product should be called, how we would package it, what our launch plan should be, we should be scoping this launch, and if this is a tier one launch. We will be creating every tool and resource and doing seeded media campaigns. Are we throwing the whole kitchen sink behind this? Or is this a tier three smaller product update that only requires an in-app message and a quick email to sales and support? How much weight are we putting behind this thing? But by the end of stage two, we should have a product ready to be tested, along with some bare-bones messaging and positioning for some clarity on how we would talk and price and package this thing.

Kerry Guard: And that makes them love how you're talking about the build from the sense of the actual product itself. But thinking about an extension of that, is the packaging and the pricing an extension of the product itself?

Yoni Solomon: We can't just build a product without thinking about how we roll it out. Because at the end of the day, no one's using it, which creates an awkward conversation with your product management team and your SLT when they're like, “Hey, you spent all this time building this thing. We don't have a single use. Why don't sales know this exist?” So really getting our ducks in a row before we move into stage three, which is all about the soft launch.

Kerry Guard: Before you get there, one quick question. It sounds like you're on a parallel path in the build stage, and this isn't a waterfall; you're not waiting for the product to be built and packed. And then you're creating the messaging and the packaging with it. You're the dev teams going and the product teams going at the same time.

Yoni Solomon: We are working towards a soft launch because we can't get in front of customers to test anything if all we have is the tool. I think that soft launch, beta testing, is an opportunity for us to test product naming and messaging to tie up ideas for pricing. We shouldn't just ask a customer, “hey, can you click around and tell me if this works?” I want to say, “ hey, customer, this is what we're calling it. These are the problems that we think it solves.” Does this make sense to you? Because if the messaging doesn't resonate, even if we built this amazing product, the last thing that I want to do is launch an amazing capability with messaging. It's totally off. Your campaign comes back with all zeros. I'm using that as the first litmus test to say, “hey, customer, are we on the right track here?” Before we email a million people about this exact messaging. Does that make sense?

Kerry Guard: Yes. And I imagine people being part of the beta. There's a bit of, "Oh, I get to impact the product. I'm one of the first in here. " I feel that it's a bit of a badge of honor to be totally that. How do you find those people? Do you have a handful of people you always go to for these things? Do you do a soft launch in terms of marketing? How do you get people into the beta?

Yoni Solomon: Yes, in a perfect world, depending on the company's size. I am for ten beta testers per new product. We're working alongside product management, and they're always going to have their go-to in terms of folks that they've just worked with again and again, that have sharp eyes for usability, which is fantastic. But when it comes to these invites, I try to break it out by cohort. So, depending on what the launch is, let's take a look at our customer base. Let's build ourselves a segment if this is for a certain type of role or title for a company of this size and an end-user. Let's see if we can find five to ten of these people, and those invites will typically come from product management. People are more likely to say yes to product managers than marketers for stuff like this. But then marketing certainly hops on the call, and we'll start to ask some of those questions, and it turns into this dual session of right up front we lead with usability testing.

We walk them through the tool, and we see if they can navigate it easily and if it solves all the jobs to be done that they had in mind, and then I can come in with some of my questions to make sure that messaging, positioning, and naming are right. It's a surprise because they expect to be asked about the product. They're not always expecting to be consulted on marketing. They like having a voice in the room to say, and I think that name is pretty good. I asked about naming a lot. It's always the funniest one, and some people come up with wacky names, and others will sit there for five to ten minutes and say, "I can't think of anything else to call this. I think you nailed it. " So that's always kind of fun to do back and forth.

Kerry Guard: Do you let do in the beta, the soft launch, the beta testing, that's not paid, and that's just you sitting down people doing demos and showing them? Or do you give them the product for them to try out? What's sort of the experience for the tester on that side?

Yoni Solomon: It's not paid. They're hopping on more often than not because they asked for a tool like this. So, when you do ideation, most, if not all, of those ideas should come from your customer. Again, we're building tools for real people to take us out of the ivory tower. And so, more often than not, the idea or the problem is coming from them, which is why they're more likely to hop on for some usability testing because the narrative is, "Hey, we took your feedback seriously. "We built something you think you'd like to take a look at." It's not paid in any way. But certainly, they feel they have spit skin in the game. If this idea came from them in the first place.

Kerry Guard: All right. So you beta-tested, and it passed. It's checked all the boxes. It's a thing. It's moving forward. So what's next?

Yoni Solomon: We've all high fives, got messaging rights, and got our product ready to go and vetted. Now we're moving into stage four, which is the GTM launch. If you took your whole company, blindfolded them, and asked them, "What stage do you most associate with a product launch?" Most people would say stage four because that's the fun, flashy stuff, but the keys are in the ignition. Press releases are going out, websites are being updated, and email blasts are going out. We're watching this thing, but I think the key with stage four is that the product launches that I've been involved with or have seen end up petering out. After maybe a couple of weeks, it peters out because most folks stop at stage four, which is alright, we've launched this thing, and press releases are out, let's move on to the next thing. That's not necessarily how people work. We have to tell them again, probably two or three more times, just for good measure. So, if we stop at stage four, we risk losing our buyers' attention, which is why stage five, which is go to market continued, which is the final stage, is so important. That's the continuous marketing that we will be doing around this capability, new thought leadership, new emails, and all sorts of new case studies and campaigns. We must build an ecosystem worth of content that is equally discoverable by customers and equally discoverable by Google to create life, attention, and awareness for this capability. And that's the five stages from end to end.

In theory, in stage five, go-to-market continues. We should continue talking to our customers to pick up feedback on what we can do to improve. Then we go back to ideation, and that's how we suddenly create this beautiful cycle of collecting feedback, moving into ideation, messaging, building, testing, and launching all over again.

Kerry Guard: What's the difference between a product and a feature?

Yoni Solomon: Sure, that's a good question. I get asked a lot. A product is something that you could sell as a standalone. Its own thing has its tagline on the pricing associated with it. A feature, for instance, is going to live under the product within your product hierarchy. You can make a feature enhancement to an existing product, and you could perhaps charge a bit more for that. But, more often than not, the things that you're selling as one-offs or associated with a package will be these primary products, and then the features will live under those.

Kerry Guard: So when I'm looking at your pricing page for Uptime, are those all individual features you've priced out or those different products?

Yoni Solomon: It creates a fascinating conundrum for this because prior to those fixed plans that we were talking about, you can argue that, at the time, you couldn't buy any of those things as one-offs. I would argue that the packages were almost the products, but now that we moved to this unit base piece, in its way, all of these former features that lived under a productized plan are now their products because you can buy each of them individually. They're a little bit of both. There's a lot of haziness as more customers move to unit-based pricing versus your typical SAS plans. I would consider them to be standalone products. The apps that are sold on a unit basis are all messaging. The alerts are going to be different than the monitoring checks. The reports are going to be different from the status pages. They are their own thing and require marketing, messaging, and pricing to bring them to life. So now we're essentially in the continued go-to-market phase for the dozens of individual products that live under the uptime price.

Kerry Guard: In terms of before, as a product marketer, I'm sure you worked under CMOs and marketing leaders who didn't have the product piece that you do. How do you feel it's different with you sitting in this toolbox and in that CMO seat? Or are you managing the product team and the marketing team, or maybe sales? I'm just trying to understand the impact of somebody with this toolkit versus not.

Yoni Solomon: I think marketing product marketing does best when it reports under marketing work. Bringing my product marketing toolkit to the table has helped us get closer to products and simultaneously bring these product launches to life. There is a lot of traditional CMOs that come from branded demand gen. Certainly, when I started my career in marketing, I was told and saw that the most direct path to marketing leadership was going to be through brand and demand, and I do think that those kinds of CMOS bring things to the table that I needed a little bit of time to learn. So I'm still learning a ton about search, really optimizing content, architecting, the funnel, all the stuff that's kind of living in the bones of a tried and true demand gen leader, where the brand folks sort of coming to the table with these beautiful, gorgeous ideas and differentiated campaigns for driving awareness. Every CMO who comes from one of those backgrounds brings something different. But I do think that the product marketing toolkit has certainly helped me with these immediate needs. Without time as pertains to the messaging and positioning and the pricing of patching and other stuff that we did.

Kerry Guard: You could bring in demand gen support and brand support. Now, underneath this umbrella and this beautiful framework that you have, they funnel up into that so beautifully from a messaging and positioning standpoint, as well as the go to market both in the soft launch, big launch, and then the continuous launch. There are ways those two elements could definitely be brought through easily.

Yoni Solomon: And maybe I'm biased. But I would think that this idea of starting with demand gen hires your head of marketing certainly works when you're in your early stages. You need to get some leads in the door, and you need to convert. Still, when you make your head of marketing that first hire a product marketer as you said, everything can be built around that person, because the ads that you're running, the brand campaigns you're doing, even the content that you're writing, all needs to come from somewhere and needs to be sourced from someone who truly understands the product or audience, or how to connect the two with the problems that we're solving. And I think that when you start with a product marketer, as you said, it can feed into all of those different areas. Whereas if you start with someone who's coming from a demand gen perspective, they're still going to need a storyteller, they're still going to need someone who can understand the nuances of the pricing and packaging. There are different audience cohorts even to build segments and run campaigns. And so I'm certainly biased in this regard. But I love the idea of starting with the product marketer and then finding the right demand gen or growth talents, brand talent, SEO, and content so that everyone reads from the same book while working on all their activities.

Kerry Guard: I want to leave it there because I love that quote. But I have one last question for you. It sounds like it depends on the company and its stage of where it is. You've landed on Uptime at the perfect moment because they needed this rebrand to be that person in such a powerful way. It's that big picture to take that step back to figure out where their existing and potential customers are coming from and what they need, and then build this entire new launch around that. So where I feel like more enterprise, a bigger Titanic, so to speak, while a product manager, the CMO works, I don't see why it couldn't. But a different superpower comes, and there's more flexibility there. I think you landed at this beautiful moment in time. Companies that are listening and are having the same moment in time might want to consider a product marketer.

Yoni Solomon: And also marketers who are looking for their first head of marketing role. We look at how beautiful the website is or how much money they've raised. And we look for some of these more superficial things. Sometimes we're betting on opportunities, such as compensation and benefits. All that stuff is really important, but for you as a marketer, whatever walk of life it is, demand gen growth, content, SEO, events, field product marketing, look at the company's stage. Are they pre-series A or post-series A? Have they found product market fit yet? Are they a massive enterprise? All of those are going to require a different type of marketing leader to come in, like in those early stage days. I would lean into demand generation. We need to build some demand right up front, get some leads, and get those first users in, maybe as we scale up to series B. We now have a market-fit product, but we don't know how to discuss it very well. We need to find ourselves a product marketer to bridge that gap and give our brand a facelift or our messaging a facelift so that we can present in a more mature and aligned way. And then, as you're moving into the enterprise, you need a real brand visionary because now you're talking about global marketing, not just different audience cohorts, but different countries, like presenting well to investors and to the public. All of those are going to require marketers with a slightly different superpower. If you're looking for your first leadership role, vet the company to the stage that they're at, and ask yourself, "Do I have the tools in my toolkit that can be the perfect fit at the perfect time for this company?"

Kerry Guard: Oh, my God, this was so good. I know that we could keep talking. So we didn't cover all of this. You had some other things that you could certainly add, talking about funnel and content marketing, but I want to sit here with this. This is such good content for our audience and a great place to start, and it will have to have you back. I mean, I guess I'll just have to come back. I have to come back. Before we close out, I do have my first question because you are more than a CMO and a product marketer, and it's nice to know more about you. So are you ready? If you could do it with your team, maybe you're getting together soon, maybe things are starting to open up, maybe you're starting to get into the office, or maybe you're just doing something virtual, or not virtual, but like in-person events down the road. When you do see your people and you are all together, what song would you want to be playing and why?

Yoni Solomon: That is a good question. What song would we like to play? That is such a good question. Probably, Let It Be because it's been such a long time since we've all been together. We need some big unifying anthem that puts us all in a good place. I'm going to roll with Let It Be.

Kerry Guard: I could start crying just thinking about the songs. It was so good. Thank you so much for joining me.

Yoni Solomon: It was a pleasure.

Outro

And that was my conversation with Yoni Solomon. You can find him on LinkedIn. He advocates for mental health and wellness. Be sure to connect and follow. His link is in the show notes.

Thank you for listening to Tea Time with tech marketing leaders. If you enjoyed this conversation with Yoni, be sure to like, comment, subscribe, and share.

This podcast was brought to you by MKG Marketing, the world's premier marketing agency for cybersecurity vendors focusing on SEO, digital ads, and analytics.

It’s hosted by me, Kerry Guard - CEO and co-founder of MKG. Music mix and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

If you'd like to be a guest, please visit mkgmarketinginc.com to apply.

Yoni Solomon

Yoni Solomon is the VP of Product Marketing at Gympass. He's been recognized as one of tech's most influential product marketers by Forbes and the Product Marketing Alliance, which named his team at G2 2019's Product Marketing Team of the Year.

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