Saturday, December 31, 2016

Common Product Marketing Interview Questions

A few days ago someone asked me on Quora to answer the following question.

What are the typical case interview questions you get asked for a product marketing role at tech companies?

It got me thinking about some common Product Marketing Interview questions. I've interviewed a good number of product marketers during my time at LinkedIn. Here are a few common ones. 

1. Questions to see where your skill set really is within product marketing. It's hard to really understand what kind of product marketing someone has done until you start asking them questions. 
2. Questions to test your product and industry expertise. 
3. Questions to test your communication skills. I've said it often that your ability to communicate internally and externally is what makes or breaks a PMM.
4. Questions to test your strategic thinking. It's a very strategic position. If you click on the Quora link above I share one of my favorite case questions. 

Here are a few other good resources.

Product Marketing Interview Questions: 6 Questions You Need To Ask


Monday, November 28, 2016

The Ultimate Way to Say Thank You at Work

"Nice work on this one." That was the five word email that made not just the day, but the week of a friend of mine. He's a young patent attorney who writes patents for major tech companies in Silicon Valley. His client was not known for lavish praise or lengthy emails and he sent that five word email to him just after finishing up a patent application. That email alone would have probably been enough to put a smile on his face that day, but what really made the difference was that when he got that email his boss was also copied on it.

Not only did he feel the gratification knowing that his client was happy with his work, he looked good in front of his boss, the person who arguably has the most impact on his ability to grow and advance in his career at his firm.

In the United States we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday creates many reminders to say thanks. In my family on Thanksgiving day, we all go around the table before we eat and say what we are grateful for. While I’ll admit that most of the things discussed at the table are on a personal level, this holiday can be an opportunity for you to express appreciation to those in your professional life as well.

In the professional world one of the most impactful and underrated ways you can say thank you at work is to not just direct it at the person to whom you are grateful, but to send it to their direct manager. Here are three tips on how to do this.

  • Be specific. Don’t just say “thanks for a great year.” Highlight a specific project or a moment where you were particularly grateful for their help.
  • Thank the boss as well. While you might be primarily grateful for the work or help from a specific employee their boss can take at least a little bit of credit. You can say something like. “I wanted to thank you for all the hard work your team put in on this project, I’d like to specifically call out the work on the part of the project that Sue did, she really knocked it out of the park.” 
  • Say thanks for the little things too. Don’t wait for some massive milestone to be hit. At that point they’ll probably be getting thank you’s and praise from all over the organization. Look for the quiet, unsung tasks that can be so critical but often go unnoticed.

If you do this, these emails will be cherished by those that receive them. Don’t be surprised if they even end up in their performance evaluations as well.

While you're craving turkey and feeling the holiday spirit, take a few minutes, write an email and make someone’s day, week or even month by saying thank you.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Meet My New Assistant, Calendly

I've always told myself that once I have a personal assistant, I'll know I've made it career wise. I despise scheduling meetings, it takes up way too much time. Since I started working, I've been looking forward to the day someone else schedules my meetings.

I'm happy to announce that I now have a personal assistant, it's Calendly. Ok, so it's not a human, but it's software that has taken the pain out of scheduling meetings.

I schedule a lot of meetings. To schedule a meeting with a co-worker is pretty straightforward and easy with our internal systems, but try to set up a meeting with someone not at your company and it's a lot more work. I'm meeting with people every week outside of my company, people in the industry, students or even catching up with different professional contacts. The time is takes to set up these meetings adds up.

Calendly makes this really easy and is saving me at least 30 minutes a week. This is how it works.

Step 1. Sign up for Calendly
Step 2. Sync it with your calendar
Step 3. Set up different types of meetings that you have, filling in each one with important details like, what time of day you prefer, call-in information and a ton more. See examples of all my meetings.

screenshot of calendly schedule page
Step 4. When someone wants to meet with you send them a link and it will show them when you are available to meet by automatically checking your calendar and seamlessly creating an invite with all the right details you pre-populated like where meet or what number to call.
screenshot of calendly meeting page
If you get a lot of people requesting to meet with you, this is a must have tool. It's not often a piece of software comes along and has such a quick impact on my work, but Calendly really has saved me time.

There is been so much talk of AI lately, that this is a good reminder that great software can be better than AI.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Key Skills for Successful Product Marketers

What are the key skills someone needs to be good a Product Marketer? I first asked that question when I was about 18 months into my first job out of college and was ready to figure out what my next role should be. I had started in a web analyst role, but figured out it was not for me. I was drawn to Product Marketing for a variety of reasons and started trying to figure out what it would take. I had the chance to sit down with a dozen or so Product Marketers I had worked with at my company and ask them that question. Fast forward a few years and I've now spent a number of years in Product Marketing and at a few different reputable tech companies. This is my personal take on....what it takes.

product marketing skills meme

1. Strong communicator. This means you must be able to easily communicate in varied situations. You can easily switch your communication style to handle diverse groups like executives, engineers, marketers, designers etc. This includes the ability to be very diplomatic and very persuasive if the situation requires it.

2. Very collaborative. Product Marketers are often the liaison between product and the sales team, support team and maybe other groups. It's your job to make sure everyone is up to speed and the right people are involved. A collaborative mindset is a must!

3. Quick learner. One quarter you may be doing a in-depth research study, the next you might be training the sales team. Few product marketers do the same thing each quarter you must evolve as the business evolves. It's impossible to be a deep expert on all you will be asked to do, so you must learn fast.

4. See what others don't see. This could apply to seeing a feature that needs to be built, that others will need some convincing to make it happen. It might be a gap in the industry you can get your product to fill. It could be an emerging trend that you can use in your marketing. No matter what it is, you must always be looking and willing to make some bets. This includes having decent analytical chops for a marketer.

5. Presentation skills. When I first tried to get into Product Marketing through an internal transfer, I got rejected. The feedback I got was to boost my presentation skills. Product Marketers needs to be able to present in a compelling way. They are master storytellers that can get their ideas across to an executive, on stage in a keynote or to the sales team. If you dread or are a terrible presenter, it might no be the job for you.

I hope this helps, this is very slanted towards B2B software companies in the bay area, but hopefully you've found this helpful.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to Get a Entry Level Marketing Job

In 2009, I got my first job out of college in marketing for a great tech company in the bay area. Up until the day I started, I thought it could all be some cruel joke. That's how lucky I felt to get a job in a field I was interested in, in that economy. I remember my future manager saying to me, "You'll have to do some menial excel work for the first six months, but I'll teach you a lot." That sounded great to me.

In hindsight, there was some luck involved that got me there, but I also was prepared. Now that I'm further along in the marketing profession, I've seen some patterns in the kinds of candidates who get entry level marketing jobs.

1. They brand yourself for success. If you want to be a marketer, but you are not representing yourself well online, no one is going to trust you to do it for their company. That means a great LinkedIn profile (of course), privacy settings locked down on your social media accounts and when someone googles your name there is relevant professional content ready.

2. They are more than entry level. Do you know what's better than training someone from someone with a head start. Get Google adwords certified, read some books on marketing, learn how to use key marketing software or manage a friend's small business social media account for free. If you're still in school, get a marketing internship. Any relevant experience will make you a more attractive entry level marketing candidate. Make it sure it's on your resume.

3. They focus on specific types of marketing jobs. Can you answer the question, "What kind of marketing jobs are you interested in?". If not, get to work. Research the kind of entry level marketing jobs that are out there. Tailor your resume to the jobs you like the best.

4. They are willing to start from the bottom. Your first marketing job may not be your dream job, but if it's a step in the right direction, that's progress. Lower you expectations and be willing to do a job even if some of it may seem menial, as long as it's pointing you in the right direction.

Best of luck in your job search! If you have any other questions about how to get an entry level marketing job, please feel free to reach out, or comment below!

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Impact of an Emergency Fund on Your Career

A month or so ago I woke up at 6:30am to make my son a bottle when my phone started blowing up with text messages. One said "no way!" another just said "Microsoft". I read between the lines and quickly opened my work email to read about how Microsoft had just bought LinkedIn. As I sped read the email, my first thought was about whether or not I would lose my job.

I paused after this thought to gauge my feelings and surprisingly enough I felt very calm. A big part of why I felt that was because after I finished my MBA, my wife and I made it a priority to have an emergency fund of 6 months of our expenses.

Now, I have not had this emergency fund for that long, but already it has impacted my career in a positive way by giving me peace of mind as my company goes through big changes. I had enough going through my mind that day without having to worry about feeding my family if the worst case scenario would have happened, which it did not, thankfully.

Here are a few more ways having an emergency fund could impact your career.

1. It can make you more willing to take risks. I believe you'll take more intelligent risks within your company if you're not constantly worried about getting fired and not being able to pay the bills. It can also give you the confidence to take on a new role or maybe quit to try a different company that's more risky.

2. It can prevent you from getting into an ethical mess. Fear of losing your job for financial reasons is stronger motivation than you might think to turn a blind eye to an illegal or unethical situation at work. If you feel financially confident to walk away, you'll be less likely to compromise your values if that unfortunate situation arises.

3. It can relieve stress, which makes you more productive. For the majority of Americans money is a significant source or stress. If you can take that out of the equation you can be a better, happier and more productive employee.

Just a few thoughts, if you have other ideas on how an emergency fund could impact your career, please share in the comments.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Summary: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout (Through a technology marketing perspective)

One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. In the book, the main character goes on a journey and multiple times along the journey he stops and gets pretty comfortable in a certain location or job, but each time he gets comfortable he eventually proactively abandons the comfort and continues on his journey to achieve bigger and better things.

I really enjoy Product Marketing a lot. I think it’s great fit for my skill set, but I just changed roles to the LinkedIn Sales Solutions Marketing Communications team. I’m following the principles from the Alchemist, abandoning what’s comfortable in an effort to grow and challenge myself. As part of that process, I asked my new manager if she recommend any books to help me in my new role. She recommended the marketing classic Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind Paperback – December 13, 2000 by Al Ries  (Author), Jack Trout  (Author), Philip Kotler (Foreword)

Here is a summary, notes and thoughts reading the book. My thoughts from a tech marketing perspective are in italics.

The authors make the point the society is over communicated. It’s harder than ever to change people’s mind, especially through a weak medium like advertising. The book was clearly written before the internet age, so it struck me that if it was a big problem when it was written, it’s a HUGE problem now.

Often, we look to the product for positioning, but in reality we should be thinking about what is already inside the prospect's mind. To succeed in positioning it’s got to be simple and related to what’s already in the customer’s mind or what they believe.

In positioning, there is huge first-mover advantage. In my opinion in technology, it’s not who is first, but the first to critical mass. Apple did not create the smartphone, but were the first to get critical mass. Facebook was not the first social network. Though, you might argue that MySpace had critical mass…..

It’s really hard to displace the leader who holds the number one position in the mind of the consumer. I think this is just as true in technology, it takes a long time or massively disruptive tech. Look at Microsoft. It is still the leader in so many categories, even with often inferior products.

If you’re going to do it, you must relate to the leader. The famous example is from Avis.

Typically, it’s a mistake to challenge the leader head on. Even Google with its almost infinite amount of money and brainpower could not take on Facebook head on with Google+.

Advice for market leaders
-Market leaders should not boast. This makes me think all of the chest pounding that happens after a Gartner Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave comes out.

-Use a multi-brand strategy for new products. This is easier in a CPG company where the products are not related. At LinkedIn for example, we have products for recruiters, marketers and salespeople all built off the same social network, so it’s much harder to have a completely separate brand because they are all part of the same foundational network.
-Embrace new technologies. Duh.

Advice for followers
-Narrow your appeal. The first company that came to mind was Instagram, they only did pictures and that enabled them to not only compete, but eventually get bought by Facebook.

-Find a hole where you can be first. (Volkswagen “Think small” campaign”

Repositioning the competition
-Make people see the competitor in a different light. Salesforce did this effectively with the no-software campaign. It helped position Oracle as old and slow.

-Descriptive name is best. Zendesk is an interesting example. Alluding to a happy helpdesk.

-Names that will not limit expansion. The challenges of this I experienced first hand at Salesforce when I was marketing the Service Cloud. Company would say, I don’t need a sales product because of the name Salesforce. In hindsight we should have leaned exclusively on the product name instead of trying to leverage the company’s name.

-For non-product, names hard to oppose. “Clean Air Act”

-Don’t use initials for a name.

-Better to make a new name, then get a free ride on another brand. A brand can only occupy one position. This is challenge for us at LinkedIn.

Lastly, here are a few questions you should think about long and hard if you’re thinking of creating some new positioning.

What to our prospects already believe?

Am I a leader or follower? Be honest…

Where are the positioning gaps in our industry, what could we own?


Here are two other summaries I found very helpful. One from QuickMBA and the other from Professor Mathur on Slideshare.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Two for One, Fast Food Deal or Key to Productivity?

Lately my time has become a bit more constrained. I'm not trying to point the finger, but our 10 month old son might have something to do with it. I've found that I've been deploying one specific productivity tactic to try to get everything done that I want to. It's all about the two for one.

Here are a few examples of how it works for me.

Surfing. It's fun, it's exercise and sometimes when he's in town, it's bonding with my brother.

Commuting. It gets me to work and I listen to podcasts to learn or be entertained, as well as use that time to call family/friends to catch up.

There is even a three for one or more. Here is my favorite example.

Night time reading. Steph and I read a book together before we go to bed. It's not just any book it's a book that helps our spiritual development, it's in Spanish which helps our languages skills and we do it together which is a great bonding time.

Not every activity in your life needs to accomplish multiple objectives, but if you look at everything you do, there are probably some chances to fit in more if you look for the two for one.

Have an awesome two for one? Please share in the comments.

Friday, March 18, 2016

What Makes a Great Tech Product Marketer

A few months ago I was working on a product keynote for one of our events. I shared some of my ideas with my manager and the first thing she asked me was "What's the story?". This is not the first time she has asked me that question. In fact, I've noticed a pattern. Whether it's a product launch, an internal business case or a blog post, she pushes me and the rest of our team to incorporate a story into whatever we are doing. In my opinion, the ability to tell a compelling story is something that can make a tech Product Marketer great. This got me thinking about what else makes a great tech Product Marketer. I reached out to some leaders in tech Product Marketing to hear what they think and wanted to share their expertise with all of you. Whether you're a student considering Product Marketing as a career or a Product Marketer right now, I think you'll be inspired by what they have to say.

Product marketing word cloud of best PMMs

"A great product marketer is someone who can create a genuine “movement” around their product. Internally, they act as the product’s champion and work tirelessly to understand their market, and nail the product’s messaging, value prop and all other modalities to get stakeholder teams (product, sales, 
leadership) stoked up about going to market. 
Externally, they are the product’s ambassador—helping prospects envision a world where the product can truly make them a better version of themselves, and authentically channeling that success via the customer’s voice." 

Indy Sen, Google

“Product marketers adapt quickly and drive for results amidst ever changing tech organizations and industries. They empathize with the unique needs of their customers and address those needs throughout every stage of the customer journey.”

Kari Ann Sewell- Symantec

"A great product marketer stays close to the customer. Understanding how your customers use your product, learning their pain points, and what more they want from your offering informs great product strategy and marketing."

Corinne Roberts, Campaign Monitor

"A great product marketer is a skilled translator, synthesizer, and story-teller. Her goal in every activity - whether it's working with customers, writing content, or improving sales effectiveness - is to find the point where her product uniquely satisfies a potential customers' specific need. To do that, you must understand your product, your market, and your customers from multiple points of view.

Grant Shirk, Vera

"Great tech product marketers understand how technology can enhance the customer's life. Engineers often fall in love with their "babies" but great tech product marketers have the vision of what features will ultimately matter to the customer. They create the emotional connection between the product and the customer."

Gabriel Jaquier, Dell

"I don't know if I qualify as a great product marketer, but I do have one quality in abundance that I think any great one (tech or otherwise) should possess: Empathy. It's a product marketer's job to practice empathy, and then strategically and continually insert it into the development and GTM processes. This is equally important in cultivating a deep, nuanced understanding of customers and in applying to internal dynamics with eng, design, and product counterparts. Empathy is a key soft skill that will never let a product marketer down. (Word of caution, though: It must often be paired with data!)"

Omar Garriott,

"We product marketers used to dub ourselves 'mini CEOs' of our products. While lifecycle ownership is indeed pertinent, the best product marketers position themselves as hubs, conduits and conductors. This is the only way to achieve velocity and quality at the same time. Conductors produce beautiful symphonies because they empower each section of the orchestra, not because they try and play every instrument themselves."

Justin Topliff, Infusionsoft

This post was originally published on LinkedIn

Friday, March 4, 2016

How to Make a Great Software Product Keynote

A few months ago I was tasked with putting together our product keynote for LinkedIn's Sales Connect 2015. We had a new head of product we wanted to introduce as well as highlight some brand new functionality. 

Now I must admit, as a marketer, I really like putting together keynote presentations. It's always a challenge, but very rewarding to see your work on stage. Our presentation went well, except for a potentially keynote destroying technical glitch that was overcome by supreme presentation skills by our head of product. If you want the full story on how a knock knock jokes saved the keynote check out this article.

I wish this post was a step by step guide to making a great product keynote, but that would probably be impossible. Instead, you're going to get a list of resources, a few ideas and some inspiring examples to get you going.

man on stage during software keynote

Here is what I recommend…. 

First find some inspiration.
 I searched the internet for keynotes that were awesome. Also, asked our head of product and designer to share keynotes they thought were great. Here are a few we liked. 

Why not Apple keynotes? I think at this point there has been enough talk about Apple keynotes, so I did not spend much time looking at them. 

Think about what you have to work with.  A few questions you should ask yourself.

1. What's the message I want to get across?
2. How much time can I work on this?
3. What resources do I have? (i.e. designer)
4. Who is the audience?
5. What time is it at? What state of mind will the audience be in?

Tell a story. In general, I think you should tell a story right out of the gate as well as make sure there is a strong story line through the entire presentation. The first story could help set up the pain your product is trying to solve. Then another good option is to have a story about the user of your product. Don't show a list of features, but tell a story that shows the features while highlighting what they are trying to accomplish. We attempted this in our keynote that inspired this post. It's by no means a perfect example, but you can see how we tried to weave story into it. 

Make it engaging. 

There are a lot of tricks of the trade, but if your presentation is more than a few minutes, you'll need to make an extra effort to keep the audience engaged. Half way through our presentation we presented some awards to our audience members to keep the energy high. I recommend reading "Your Perfect Presentation" by Bill Hoogterp for more ideas.  Also the own the room training by Blue Planet Training was very helpful in putting together the whole presentation. 

Practice. Practice. Practice. 

If you want it to be perfect, you need to practice it many times. In our keynote after the technical glitch our head of product picked up where he left off without skipping a beat. It was because he had done the entire presentation at least 20 times. 18 of those times was in-front of me, so I was able to provide feedback each time. Nothing gives you confidence like experience. 

I hope this posts gives you a few ideas. If you feel like I missed anything, add it in the comments!

Friday, February 12, 2016

What Does a B2B Technology Product Marketer do?

It depends.

OK, I’m going to help you out a little bit more than that, but I must clarify before you read on that every company does Product Marketing a little bit differently. In fact, within a team or group at LinkedIn Product Marketers can have drastically different responsibilities or priorities than other parts of the company. The best I can do is give you some of the key areas that Product Marketers tend to work on and some of the key tasks. Any of the areas below could be a small or large part of your job, so I recommend clarifying in your interview process. 

meme it depends

Product development.
  • Determining if there is a market for a feature or product
  • Outlining the product requirements
  • Defining the messaging and positioning
Random Strategic Projects
  • In my experience random important projects get thrown on the lap of Product Marketers because they are typically strategically minding and work very well cross functionally. 
  • Work to understand your audience and customer, then implementing what you learned to improve your sales, marketing and product efforts. 
Market research
  • Regular customer satisfaction surveys, like a quarterly NPS study
  • One off research for new products, competitive analysis or segmentation of other strategic initiatives. 
Product/features launches
  • Play quarterback to organize sales, PR, marketing, product and support for smooth and effective feature or product launches. 
Sales enablement.
  • Product training at new hire orientation. 
  • Answer the sales team’s product questions on going
  • Training the sales team on new products or features as they come out
  • Gathering product feedback from the sales team
  • Communicating changes or updates to the product to the sales team
  • Understanding your competitors strengths, weaknesses and how to talk about them. 
  • Running or participating in customer events
  • Participating in external events as a thought leader for your company or product
Thought leadership
  • This could be writing all sorts of content, participating in webinars or being brought in during customer calls. 
From my anecdotal experience, Product Marketers have high job satisfaction. No day is the same. You get to be strategic, creative and analytical. If you think I missed anything, please add it to the comments.