Marketing Matters — Conversations with Tech Marketing Leaders
In the world of technology, marketing has become a foundational and complex discipline. From Product and Brand Marketing to Performance and Demand Generation Marketing, marketing tells the stories that break through the clutter and inspire audiences.
Join Dave every other week for a conversation with a marketing leader at Cloudflare, and throughout the industry, to understand more about marketing and the people who are shaping this discipline. What advice do they have for up-and-coming brands? How do they navigate the challenges associated with an increasingly noisy world? What's their superpower?
Learn from the experts on how to build great and enduring brands, engender trust and advocacy, and drive adoption and use of new products and technologies.
Hello and welcome to Marketing Matters, the Cloudflare TV show that explores the wide world of marketing and technology.
I'm Dave Steer. I work on product marketing at Cloudflare and I'm the host of Marketing Matters.
Today in the hot chair we have Suyog Deshpande.
Suyog is the head of product marketing at Amplitude, a really hot technology company and a product intelligence platform that helps product managers and marketers and really everybody else under the sun understand how customers are engaging with products.
Suyog, welcome. Thank you, Dave. Thanks for the opportunity.
One thing that you didn't mention is Cloudflare recently became Amplitude's customer, so welcome to the Amplitude family.
Thank you. We are so delighted to be a part of the family.
Thanks for having us and excited to use the product.
I'm going to be one of the product users and that will be great. So look, I am psyched to have you on the show since you're the first product marketer that we've had on Marketing Matters.
We've had a CMO, we've had a head of demand generation, which has been great, but you're part of my tribe.
I'm a PMM and we speak the same language.
So this show is going to be product marketer to product marketer and we'll go deep into that.
I gotta tell you, I'm biased. I think product marketing plays a central role in any company because it really determines how we take products and solutions to market.
And yet it's also one of the most difficult roles to understand because of all the functions, it tends to be different company by company by company.
So I'm pretty psyched for our audience to learn more from you about you, about leadership, about marketing generally, but also PMM specifically and sort of your unique flavor to it.
Also for the audience, I should note one very important thing.
You'll hear us use the term PMM. That stands for product marketing manager, but it's often used to describe the product marketing function as a whole.
So we might interchange the two, just so you know.
So with all that said, welcome to the show. Let me start by asking, tell us a little bit about you and your origin story.
How did you start your career in marketing and what advice do you have for people who want to start their career in PMM?
Yeah, for sure. Thanks again for having me. And my career in product marketing is pretty similar to a lot of other people where you don't start your career in product marketing, you have some other job, but eventually you evolve into becoming a product marketer.
And so my story starts with me starting in product design.
So my first job, in fact, second and third job were in product design. So my focus was on designing great products, talking to a lot of users, talking to customers, working with engineering teams to figure out what that product should be, what's our product vision, what are those UIs going to be looking like, and what's the experience like.
So that part of my job gave me great exposure to understanding the products and understanding the users.
I did that at Salesforce and once I started doing that, we acquired a company called XSpring and we launched a new cloud, then it was called Analytics Cloud or Wave.
I was part of the team that helped launch that product and once we launched, we realized that there's a need for our user base to understand how to build their apps on this product.
And so there was a need of this new role where you would work with the customers, you would work with the sales teams, and you would also have to understand the product really well so that you can help your customers build the right product.
And so Salesforce, in fact, created a new role for me as the first experienced architect at Salesforce that was kind of combining these three things and helping our customers build right products in the platform.
I did that for a year, worked with our Lighthouse customers and I started to notice there was a pattern.
When I was going to a telecom company and there were more than three or four telecom customers that we had as Lighthouse customers, I started to realize that people measure, telecom companies measure their business in a similar way.
Same way healthcare companies measure their business in a similar way.
And by the way, the product that I was working on is an analytics product and so I was dealing with data and dashboarding functionalities and so on.
So I started to realize that and instead of duplicating that effort time and again, I came up with this concept of accelerators or how can we make sure that our customers can get started on product very quickly.
If they're a telecom company, here are five things that you need to get started on the platform.
And I was talking to our marketing team about launching parallel campaigns in these verticals and the then marketing head for our product basically said, this is exactly what we want to do in marketing, so why don't you come and join the marketing team?
And so that's been my transition into marketing team.
I started in sales enablement because again, I was working closely with sales earlier, so started doing sales enablement, then moved into a role around messaging, positioning for these vertical apps and then finally at Salesforce, I did go to market.
So basically responsible for pipeline generation, making sure we are running the right sales place, targeting the right segments, targeting right geos, basically measuring business and taking right actions to help us generate more pipeline.
And then I did that for two years and then Amplitude came across and that was a really great company, loved what they were doing, they were in a category creation mode, really liked the people and the culture of the company, especially like the products and so decided to move and join Amplitude.
That's fantastic. I really like the concept of the accelerators.
I've heard it talked about in terms of how quickly can you enable somebody to see the value proposition for whatever product or service that you have and it's just great to hear that you are one of the originators of that idea.
And I think that Amplitude really focuses on as well. Tell us a little bit more about Amplitude, because I think I gave a very high level version of what the company does.
Yeah, no, actually you captured it really well, but Amplitude is a product intelligence platform that helps you understand the behavior of your customers within the product.
So we help you analyze their behavior so that you can design better products, you can craft better product strategy, you can understand the friction points in your product that helps you then convert, engage, acquire, retain your existing customers.
So think of this in this term, basically product is a revenue center and it's being underutilized.
We all know the amount of money that's spent on customer acquisition, but a lot of times companies forget that once you acquire a customer, there's a new funnel that starts and that funnel is the product experience funnel.
You want to deliver amazing product experiences, you want to make sure you understand the friction points within your products, you understand what are those certain features that help you retain or increase the customer lifetime value of your customers.
And once you start doing that, there's a tremendous potential to grow your existing customer base.
You can upsell, you can have a lot of cross-sell products, your customers become your advocates, but understanding that customer data and knowing where your customers are facing challenges within your product and then redoing your product strategy is extremely important.
And that's what AmpliBrew helps companies do.
So again, the nutshell of this is we are the product intelligence platform and we help you analyze the customer behavior within the product.
And it's really just, I'm sure it's sort of a super power for a marketer or a product person to really understand the journey that the customer is going through, especially when products and services can have multiple pathways and journeys.
Yeah, absolutely. We have this concept of leaky bucket, which is you can keep filling your bucket, but if you have a bunch of holes in your bucket, you're never going to be able to really create a sustainable business.
And that's what happens with your customer base as well.
You keep acquiring, but many of those customers actually leave the product.
And so all the money that you're spending in acquisition, you're not getting any ROI.
There's a study that within three days, over close to 80% of the users leave the product forever.
So third day of downloading your app.
And so you're losing major chunk of your business within the three days of acquiring a customer.
Yeah, well, think of all the investment that you went through to acquire the customer and have them try the product for the first time, only to lose 80% of them within XX days.
Okay, so let's shift gears a little bit.
I really want to understand from you more about product marketing, because I think that's one of the benefits that our audience can get from the show, just a deeper understanding of it.
So to some, product marketing, I think, is an elusive discipline.
So when you're chattering away at a party, and you're talking to a friend of yours, and they ask you what you do, and you say, like, I'm head of PMM.
And they say, what is PMM?
And you say, that stands for product marketing manager. And then I say, okay, what does that mean?
How do you explain what product marketing is? Yeah, and you get that question quite often, right?
You are a product marketing leader, and you know a lot of people have different ideas about product marketing.
And so I'm going to present my idea.
Product marketing is basically our core function is to bring products to market.
So all the product, amazing product, that your product engineering org is designing, you need to make sure they're delivered in the right way to the product, not to the market.
And so that means creating narratives for your sales teams, so that they can sell more efficiently.
Creating narratives for your user base, so they can adopt and start using your features more effectively.
Creating narrative out in the market, so that your prospects can clearly differentiate your product from the rest of the players in the market, and make a wise decision, and hopefully choose your product.
So I think product marketing is about designing that narrative of taking products to the market.
But then if I'm at a party, and if I'm a couple of wines down, I'm going to be a little more philosophical about this, and present this as basically product marketing is that triangle, is that space.
If we put three things, which is product, sales, and customers, as the three vertices, the space is the product marketing.
And depending on where your company is in terms of maturity, in terms of the immediate needs and goals for that year, that space can be very fluid.
So in some companies, product marketing functions are going to focus a lot more on sales enablement.
In some companies, the need is to launch a lot more products, so they are closer to the product side of the world.
In some companies, they have created the value, they have delivered the products, but they need to generate a lot more customer advocates.
And so focus can shift a little bit towards customer marketing. But you're still playing in that space.
And basically, to let those foreground items shine, you need to have the background work really well.
And product marketing is that background that works really well to tie those three vertices.
A really great way of explaining it. I think the next time I'm at a party, I know that we can't have parties these days because we're all sheltered in place.
But when we all physically can be together, I think that will be a really great way to explain what our function does.
And I like how one of the things that you started with was sort of talking about the narrative and the PMM as the owner of sort of the message.
I think that's one of the superpowers that a marketer generally, but really a PMM has, which is how to tell a good story.
How do you approach storytelling in your job? Yeah, I think we, as product marketers, are telling stories all day, internally, externally.
It's not just that messaging doc.
We are constantly telling stories. And I mentioned this, which is we are telling stories by articulating benefits of products into the sales organization.
We call that sales enablement. You're helping your sales team understand the product, the benefits, the customer competitive defenses really well.
So that creating that narrative, telling that story into the sales organization, that sales enablement part of it.
We're telling customer stories back to the product.
So the way we are informing roadmaps is not just come with some new ideas.
We talk to customers, we understand their pain points, and we bring those pain points back into the product organization.
So you're telling the story of your customers into the product organization.
You're telling the story of your company out in the market through press releases, or you're telling the story of your product to analysts through your analyst relation function.
So if I look at all the things that we do all day, I think storytelling is a major part of our role.
And we keep doing that all day. In fact, one of the most common representations is the demo.
Just think about this. There are demos out there in the world, which are just click -throughs.
Nobody wants to see click -throughs.
Unless and until there is a solid story, there is an engaging that 30 -second, one-minute pitch behind that story, the demo is not going to fly well.
And so even a demo, even a very, very much like a technical product representation has to be a story.
Now, specifically, I think coming to the messaging, which is considered the core part in terms of storytelling, at high level, we look at this as a story that addresses three whys.
The first why is the why of the problem area.
In our case, why product intelligence? We have a ton of choices. We're going through these digital transformations.
There are several different things that we can do, but why you should be focusing on product intelligence.
That's the first why we should address. The second why is obviously why amplitude.
And then finally, we have to generate that curiosity and that urgency.
And so the third why is about why now. And so if I look at the messaging deck, if it's addressing those three whys, I think we are pretty good in terms of story.
Sure, the words need to be massaged. Some words need to change. But if you're at a high level addressing those three whys, we think we've done pretty well in terms of that messaging.
The three whys is such a critical way to sort of enter and explore how to tell a story.
And it's such a great framework for anyone who is tuning in.
I definitely encourage you to Google the three whys and find frameworks because that really helps you construct a narrative that not only people can follow along, but it's super compelling.
Appreciate that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And it's a popular thing out there. It's just something that you forget to apply when you're creating the messaging deck.
So just being intentional about it and making sure that's part of your checklist is important.
I'll just add one more thing, which is around micro-stories or things that you are doing as part of demand-gen function.
Even a nurture campaign, maybe six touchpoints, eight touchpoints, it itself is a story.
You're sending those six emails. They have to be a story that takes your customer from awareness to understanding your products, to understanding the ROI, and then buying it.
And so those things, or the ABM, which is super popular now, is very much a personal story that you're delivering to a customer.
And so those kind of things, the smaller initiatives, or the very much demand-gen focused initiatives, are also micro-stories.
Yeah, one of the things in a previous life that I used to do with teams is for the nurture emails, and for folks who don't know what this is, you, as a marketer, might create three to four or four to five emails that can sequentially be sent to somebody.
What I used to do is have everybody print the email out and put it up on a wall and look at it on the wall, each one, and say, does this actually take people through a journey?
And it was nothing like looking at all of them together as sort of a story sequence to make sure that that story actually came alive.
I am going to steal that idea. Steal it.
I probably stole it from somebody else. So good ideas are all about stealing and then being inspired by other things.
One of the things that you said earlier on that I want to double click into, which I think is super important, is how to understand the customer and how to get deep insights about what their wants and needs are.
And I think the challenge I think that marketers have is there are just so many different ways to understand the customer, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
In a past episode, I used to talk about traveling to focus groups and sitting behind the double-plane windows and eating M&Ms and watching focus groups.
Tell me a little bit about how you approach understanding the customer. Oh, yeah, yeah.
You said it right, right? There are two ways at high level, the quantitative way and the qualitative way.
As far as quantitative is concerned, I think the base minimum is to understand the transactional data and understand which customers are paying the most.
What kind of segment of customers are using your product the best way?
Where do you see most adoption? Where do you see high win rates?
Slice and dice that data by geography, by segment, by company type, by geolocation.
There are multiple ways you can slice and dice. And the idea there is to figure out your ideal customer profile.
There is a pattern that will emerge when you start to work through this data and figure out where is your target market.
So that's, I think, the base minimum.
And super easy to do with all the analytics products out there.
Simple Salesforce reports help a lot in this analysis. The second level of quantitative is understanding the behavioral data.
And that's where actually the amplitude comes.
It's important to understand where are the users dropping off in that flow.
What kind of users convert to becoming power users? What kind of users give you a large overall customer lifetime value?
So solving and understanding these problems through customer behavioral data is another level that you have to understand your customers.
Now, coming to the qualitative side, which is always the tough part side of it.
And I think it goes back to starting with understanding what's in it for the customer.
Why should they interview with you?
Or why should 30 minutes of their time be spent on a discussion with you?
So once you understand that and figure that out and create a win-win situation, I think you can create that channel and have a lot of conversations with customers.
Couple of ways in which me and my team do it here is once we get a win-loss report, we immediately try to contact the salesperson and understand the dynamics of that deal.
And it helps when you contact them immediately because it's fresh in their mind.
So understanding those are super helpful.
Sometimes they themselves bring it up, which is, hey, we won this deal and these were the other customers and the customer competitors and the customer is willing to talk about why they chose us.
And that's an easy channel to then have a conversation.
We also listen to a lot of sales and CS recorded calls. So we have all the calls recorded at amplitude, external calls.
And so we listen to them. They provide great insights for teams.
The other avenues are sitting in user research studies.
So design teams always conduct these. Just being an observer helps a lot. And then, as I said, what's in it for them?
So giving them opportunities to either learn something new.
So we host customer workshops on thought leadership. We have these worksheets that we work with customers to fill out and come up with a solution for their problem.
So things like that naturally help to build better relationship with customer and understand their problems that they're not stating right away.
A 30 minutes call is not going to be, here are my 10 problems. But once you start to build that relationship and train them on certain things, they're going to surface those problems and you can understand the customers much better.
I think one of the interesting things that you just brought up is implicitly, it's very difficult to just ask anybody a specific question and get a specific answer.
I think there's the old adage. I think it was the Henry Ford adage. You asked me how to build a car, I would have built a fast horse or whatever that adage is.
And there are multiple ways to listen to what people want and need. And whether or not you're in B2C or B2B, you're talking to people and they have wants and needs.
And you have to employ a lot of different ways to do it so that you can see patterns emerge.
And some of those can come quantitatively. And I think your platform enables people to do that.
And some happen qualitatively just by having conversations with salespeople and with customers, et cetera.
Yeah, yeah. And then your point about joining a focus group or doing a customer advisory board, those come a little much later in the life cycle.
But having that relationship, having those conversations is where it starts.
Great. Well, I'm going to shift gears a little bit.
One of the things that's super important, I think, to me and the people watching the show is a little bit about leadership.
And I think the technology industry is unique because it brings together leaders from multiple areas, product engineering, sales, marketing, and so on, to work together as teams to build products and ship products and bring them to market.
And so I'd love to know from you, what are your pro tips to fellow PMMs on how to best work with product managers and engineers?
Yeah, it's an ongoing discussion, right, Dave? Like this is top of mind for many product marketers.
And so I think it starts with us acknowledging that there's going to be inherent tension between these different functions within the companies.
And if we approach that tension correctly, it's going to result in a better outcome for your customers.
So first, just acknowledging and making sure that we don't take those tensions personally and those feedback and criticisms personally and realize that everybody's working towards better outcomes for your customers.
That's sort of like the first step, listening and acknowledging that this is given.
It happens in every single company.
The other opportunities that you have is to involve product engineering people early on in big cross-functional projects.
So typically this is, let's say, tier one launches if you're doing packaging revamp within a company.
It's much better that product leaders are involved early on.
It's not FYI, it is their product.
So making sure that we are all doing this together is important. A simple thing, we started doing kickoff meetings for every project and identify owners, people who need to be informed and have a Slack channel for that particular time period.
That itself has helped us do better collaboration with the product engineering team.
I'm also going to say that you're going to do a great service by just knowing your product really well.
So a lot of times product marketers actually don't know the product that well.
That bothers me. So knowing your product really well is going to help you a lot in establishing trust.
So you're never going to know a product as well as a product manager of the depth and the limitations of your product as well as engineers.
But just knowing it and speaking their language is going to help you a lot.
What else? You can add a tremendous amount of value by providing them competitive intelligence, TAN analysis, win-loss analysis, involving them in analyst briefings or inquiries, pricing, packaging discussions.
These are great avenues to start involving and having a joint project plan together for the entire company.
That's great. I love one of the things that you said within that, which is understanding the product.
One of the things that I talk a lot about and I try to practice as much as possible is be a user of the product.
Like be technically curious if you're working on a technology product.
If you're working on a consumer product, use the product. For example, when I worked at eBay, I was an active eBay buyer and seller.
It was in part just so that I could be a buyer and seller on eBay, but it was also because I wanted to see how our product was changing and how it was working and the pain points that people were having.
Absolutely. I think that's a great suggestion. One thing we did here at Amplitude is to assign actually product PMM buddies to different product leaders.
We have different pillars. Think of these as product teams. We have a PMM buddy into those organizations.
What that helps us is to first streamline the conversation, but then those individual PMMs are also focusing a lot on that product expertise.
Somebody's focusing more on data management, someone's focusing more on, let's say, targeting part of the product and they are coming up with insights, looking at the market.
Having that bridge and having one channel for product and product marketers to communicate definitely helps.
That's great. Look, I knew that when I invited you on that you and I, you know, PMM, the PMM could speak for a very long time, but we're going to have to shift us over to the lightning round.
And I have a set of questions that I'm going to ask you.
For our audience to get to know you better, they are short questions.
I want you to think of like whatever comes top of your mind. And maybe some things will be kind of surprising.
We'll see. Are you ready? Yeah, let's go. Okay.
What has been your favorite advertising campaign in the past year? Has to be Burger King.
Unusual, but just look at what they're doing with digital and with technology.
It's amazing. Things like burn that ad or like Whopper secret or they're using location to your tags.
It's just amazing how they're using their mobile app for driving traffic to their outlets.
And shameless plug, they are Amplitude customers and we invited them on stage last Amplify, which is our biggest product conference that's happening this year on October 14th.
So that presentation is recorded. It's one of my favorite presentations ever.
So I recommend everybody looking at that. Oh, please send it over to me.
I'll tweet it out. Okay, question number two. What is one trait that you think every marketer needs to have?
Ah, I'm going to say data-driven strategies.
Storytelling is great, but what happens is a lot of times I see too many marketers proposing a solution that is desperately looking for a problem.
I want to make sure that people understand like the data and figure out where are the gaps and propose the right solution.
So fair enough. All right. This is a super serious question.
Oxford comma or no Oxford comma? Huh? Oxford comma. I studied in India.
I studied British English. And then I remember that funny example. I love my parents, Barack and Michelle Obama.
Yeah. I mean, I'm religiously on that side. I have no Oxford comma.
Okay, next question. What marketing metric matters the most, do you think? The most is going to be on these sustainable revenue.
And that's always the non-star. But I think for product marketing teams, particularly win rates can be an interesting metric to own.
Nobody in the company owns that metric. And so it might be an interesting thing to see how product marketing could own and improve the win rates.
Because we support the entire funnel, right? We are doing thought leadership.
We are doing solution marketing. We're doing a lot of customer marketing, ROI studies, case studies.
So you support the entire funnel. And the result of that is the win rate.
With you on that one. Okay, another super serious question.
What's more important? The retweet button or the mute button? I'm going to say mute.
I'm part of hundreds of family groups that send good morning messages with an image.
And without mute button, my morning would be destroyed. All right, final question.
What's your favorite hashtag? Traveler. Right now, especially travel.
I love to see photos and crave for travel. Hear, hear. Thank you so much.
Well, that about wraps up our latest segment of Marketing Matters on Cloudflare TV.
Thank you for being a great guest. It was great to hear your perspective.
It was great to talk to fellow PMM. I've learned a lot. And so thank you all for tuning in.
We'd love to hear your feedback on the show. You can email me at dsteer at Cloudflare.com or on Twitter at Dave Steer.
Thank you for watching and see you on the Internets.