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Saturday, November 4, 2017

How Product Marketers can Build a Competitive Intelligence Program

A big part of my job at Zoom has to build out a formal competitive intelligence program. I had done competitive work before, but this was my first time building a whole program from scratch. As I usually do, I consulted a few experts. Here are the three experts I spoke to that shared some great ideas that I was able to implement into my program. 

Ken Porter Director Competitive Intelligence at Adaptive Insights
Jason Smith CEO of Klue
Peter Mertens Product Marketing at Sprout Social

Below are a few tips for anyone else getting a program off the ground that I picked up for the people mentioned above and through my own experience.  



Image result for competitive funny

1. Have a one stop shop. This could be a wiki or google site, really does not matter, but what matters is consistency. Your company needs to know where to find the latest competitive information. I built a simple google site for our team at Zoom. This saves me a ton of time. Everything I create is on the wiki and everyone knows to look there first before asking me a competitive question.

2. Select your main competitors. Even if your industry is not large or competitive, it helps to focus in on the main competitors. In our industry there are literally 100's of different competitors, but only a handful really matter. It'll be hard to do a good job if you don't focus. Select main competitors you'll be up to speed on and let the team know that they'll be on their own for the rest. As you get more time and resources you can always expand your list, but it will be hard to build a good program if you're stretched to thin from the start.

3. No competitor bashing or feature wars. While a Product Marketer likely won't do this, assets you create can be used to do both. It's important that there is a training/sales enablement element to help the sales team deal with competitors. Otherwise, especially for new reps, it's too easy to go down those paths which will not help your company sell more. 

4. Automate how you stay on top of your competitors. As much as possible, try to make sure relevant information gets pushed to you about your competitors. Here is a list of my favorite methods. 

Google news alerts
Page monitor chrome extension
Klue
Feedly
Wayback machine

5. Other tools that help. Here is another list or tools/products that can help you with your competitive efforts. 

Glassdoor- When checking out the glassdoor of your competitors you might find some nuggets of good intel or at least some FUD. 

3rd Party Review Sites- Sites like G2crowd, TrustRadius and Gartner Peer Insights provide a ton of information on the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. New reviews are posted all the time. 

PointDrives- If you have LinkedIn Sales Navigator, use PointDrives to create public facing competitive assets. It will let you know who is looking at it and sending a customization web page will help prevent it from getting into the wrong hands. 

Salesforce- A few simple fields asking about which competitors were in the deal will help you do win/loss analysis and figure out where you might be able to help out your company from a competitive perspective. 

6. Tap into your company. Any Product Marketer that thinks they need to know more than anyone else about every competitor is in for a real challenge, but if you leverage the expertise in your company you're much more likely to have a successful program. Find the competitive experts on your sales, support or sales engineering team and build relationships with them. A lot of people like talking shop. Find ways to highlight their expertise to the rest of the company and they'll always be eager to work with you.
 
This is a work in progress, but hopefully give you a few ideas on how to build a competitive intelligence program as a Product Marketer.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why BYU Students Should Start Their Careers in Silicon Valley

First off, this is not an anti-Utah post. I've got lots of friends and family in the Beehive State and nothing but love for BYU. I will always cheer on the great state of Utah and hope it continues to become an economic and technology powerhouse. Heck, my kid’s 529 accounts are in Utah because I’m bullish on the whole state. 

 
That being said, I felt compelled to write this post because BYU students are frequently reaching out to me to get my opinion. I’ve noticed lately that the exuberance for the technology scene in Utah (with good reason) is keeping them from seeing some of the reasons why they might want to start their careers in Silicon Valley.

Even, though the title says BYU, this could apply to any student in Utah or any other state for that matter that is considering launching their career in Silicon Valley.

Here are a bunch of reasons why you should start your career in Silicon Valley.

It's going to get harder later. It is so expensive to live here especially for single income families. The odds of you deciding 10 years into your career that you're ready to give Silicon Valley a shot are slim to none. If you're going to do it, the best chances are while you're young and have a low burn rate. You're not going to want to leave your 5 bedroom house in Lehi for a more expensive two-bedroom cottage in Palo Alto with 4 kids.

It will broaden your worldview. Silicon Valley is just a special place. It will broaden your worldview, it will change what you think is possible, you'll meet a much broader variety of people.  

More companies. When it comes to amazing fast-growing technology companies Utah has a good handful but Silicon Valley still rules the roost. There are a ton of options of places to work when it comes to world-class companies with worldwide brand recognition.

The network. I was lucky enough to start my career at Salesforce. 8 years after starting at Salesforce I can now look at my network and see that I know people at just about every major or fast-growing company in Silicon Valley from the people I met in my first job. That network has helped me in getting other jobs and helped me be better at what I do. I'll continue to benefit even more as my network as a whole progresses and people I know get bigger and more influential roles.

The halo effect. When a company does well, employees of that company often get more credit than they deserve. The same goes for when a company fails. There are immense benefits to starting your career at a company with a strong brand and a great reputation in Silicon Valley.

You’ll be better off if you go back to Utah. If you look at a lot of senior leadership of companies in Utah, you'll often see that they have spent time in Silicon Valley. The skills that you develop at companies in Silicon Valley are valued throughout the world. I've seen it play out time and time again where BYU grads come out to Silicon Valley to work for a few years, then go back to Utah getting paid much more and a much higher position because Utah companies value the Silicon Valley experience.

There are only really two major cons to living here. First is that housing is ridiculously expensive. If the primary way in which you are going to measure early career success is the size of your house, you should really not move here. Also, for a lot of people they have better access to friends and family in Utah, which is a very valid reason to stay in any place.

Utah is a fantastic place to work, but the reality is that Silicon Valley will continue to rule the tech world for the foreseeable future and there are immense career benefits to spending some of the early stages of your career in Silicon Valley.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Product Marketing Interview Case Questions

The inspiration for this post came from an answer I gave in Quora.

The most common type of case question I typically ask would involved a new product launch. I’d usually give them a few minutes to outline what they would be thinking about for a launch. This question is very helpful in gauging how much they understand our company and business. For example, at LinkedIn we have some unique ways to market and the sharpest candidates factored that into their GTM plans. It was also helpful is seeing if they have or could run a launch.

Another case question would be asking how you would figure out how to improve an existing product, or decide whether to build a new product. I'd give some parameters, a few clues about the product or market. This would be a question for a very product development product marketing role. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Want to find an inspirational leader to work for? Ask this question.

I originally published this post on Linkedin

My first job out of college was working for Salesforce. (I know, I lucked out big time, but that’s another story) My boss’s boss was a VP named Bill Macaitis. Everyone working for him really respected and admired him. Every few weeks he would swing by my desk and ask me “What can I do to make you happier? Is there anything you need? How can I help?”. He is one of the most inspiring marketing executives I’ve worked for not just because he cared, but he also got the job done. He went on to be the CMO of Zendesk, then Slack.

I did not know how good I had it at the time. A few jobs later, I know now that it’s very hard to find people like that to work for. Luckily, there is one question you can ask in the interview process that will give you a really good idea of how inspirational an executive might be to work for.

The question is “does anyone work for this executive now that has worked for them in the past?”.

Inspirational leaders are followed. In Bill’s case, I know people that have worked for him for the past four companies in a row he has worked for. At my current company Zoom, when our founder Eric Yuan left Cisco Webex to start Zoom he had 40 engineers follow him. I’ve seen this play out over and over again, especially in Silicon Valley.

I’ve also seen executives who manage very large organizations, even hiring a lot of people, that never seemed to attract people that had worked with them previously. Now, I’m not saying that every executive that has never had a repeat employee is bound to be terrible. There are lots of reasons why that might be the case; being young in your career, staying at a company for a long time, relocating and a lot of other factors could impact the likelihood that an executive is followed from company to company. I can assure you though that if a leader has been followed by former employees to multiple companies, there is something special going on.

Life is too short to work for people that do not inspire us, I hope this question makes it a little easier for professionals to find leaders to work for that inspire them. Also, with enough sleuthing around LinkedIn, you can probably figure out if an executive has been followed without even having to ask.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What Is the Career Path for a Product Marketing Manager?

This post I wrote originally in a response to a question on Quora


General Manager, CMO or CEO are the most common. I’d also add that I’ve seen a fair number of Product Marketers leave the corporate world to become entrepreneurs. The kinds of people that are drawn to Product Marketing often have some of the same skills that will help them as an entrepreneur. Lastly, I’d just say it’s often such a fun, strategic and full of learning role, it can prepare you well in a lot of different career paths you choose. I know a former Product Marketer that became a press secretary for a presidential candidate! Choose your own adventure!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Product Marketing Panel: How to Prioritize When Everything Is Important

This will be a short one. Yesterday I spoke on a panel of Product Marketers trying to answer the question....How to Prioritize When Everything Is Important. It was a lot of fun, there were some great responses form the other panelists and great questions from the audience. Enjoy!

 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to Find Fast Growing Companies near Where You Live

There is a plethora of articles advocating ambitious young people to join fast growing start ups to accelerate their careers. Here is a great example from the muse. One thing that always bothered me is how hard it was to find these companies, especially near where you live. I think I've found the most simple and straightforward way to do it. I must warn you, this does require a LinkedIn Sales Navigator license, but it could save you a lot of time. It's at least worth a free trial.

1. Use a website like this one to figure out all the zip codes that would be in the area you'd be willing to work. For example, if you don't want to commute more than 30 minutes, you should find all the zip codes within a 30 minute drive.

zip codes of fast growing companies


2. Log into Sales Navigator, hit the magnified class at the top, then select accounts on the left hand side. 


3. Select the region drop down and pick by zip code. 


4. Add the zip codes you'd be willing to work in, separated by commas


5. Then scroll down to the company growth slider and put it to your preferred %, my recommendation is 20% and up. 

how to find fast growing companies

You'll now have a list of fast growing companies where you live. You can add other filters like company size, or industry to narrow down even further. 

I hope this helps you find the kind of companies you're looking for, best of luck!