On Episode 65, we go even deeper on product marketing with Josh Martin. We talk about the value of data, balancing the demands of the day with planning for the future, plus he lets me in on the story behind his current company—Perfect Sense. It was a great discussion that makes, um, perfect sense. Enjoy!
Mark: It's hard to keep doing something when either A, you have bad data or no data at all and you get anecdotal feedback that people don't like the color of that, you know, website or people don't like the messaging. If you don't have data, you can't really make any solid decisions.
Josh: True. The other thing that's interesting there is data could also lead you astray or lead you to not be competitive. Right? To your point, I read a lot of best practices on marketing because I think it's interesting but you know, you look at marketing automation platforms and they'll say, the best time to send an email is Wednesday morning, whatever they say. Then everyone starts sending emails on Wednesday morning. How long is that information valid for? I was reading a book, I don't remember the name of it offhand. I think it's the Harvard Business Review book. I'm still reading it right now. They were talking about the value of information. Information is no longer valuable. It's knowledge that's valuable, right? Being able to take that data and insight and craft it to an impactful decision that you're going to make that isn't just, okay, I have to send an email Wednesday at eight o'clock because that's what these numbers are telling me I need to do.
Mark: Yeah, every organization is different, their audiences are different. Tuesday morning may be great for one organization, but Friday evening may be good for yours. Especially, if you do something that's oriented to the weekend. There could be any number of reasons for sending an email at any time of any day.
Josh: The most important thing is the person that wrote that content got you to click on it, that was what their objective was. I think bearing that in mind is also important whenever you're reading these kind of best practices.
Mark: I think one of the challenges in a role like yours is you were talking about balancing, looking into the future and what your tasks are for the day. Especially in a small organization, you probably have to do both. How do you balance that? How do you balance having a year-long marketing plan in part of your brain and, "I've got to get this task done today."
Josh: It's hard. I wish I could say it was easy and it's something that I think all marketers struggle with because you have your day to day campaigns that you're running. Product marketers suffer from it also. I'll take two answers to that. The product marketing piece of it, which is you have to understand buyer persona. You have to understand messaging, you have to understand the competitive environment. I think the challenge for a product marketer is really how do you get your arms around all of that? Because most organizations don't have a ton of product marketers, right? You're lucky if you have two and blessed if you have three, unless you're working for a thousand plus person company. Most of the places I've worked, I've either been an individual contributor and matrix into marketing or had a small team available to me. Trying to keep up to date every single day with what the competition is doing or talk to customers every single day about why they chose or prospects, why they didn't choose to buy your product.
Josh: Those are all really difficult, but you need to continue to collect that information while thinking about how that information will be deployed longer term. The reality is that some days you just can't think about the long-term and some days when really if you're really lucky and people... Or out of the office on vacation, maybe you do have the opportunity to do some of that thinking. For me, I tend to handle a lot of my day to day practical stuff in the office and then kind of thinking about all of those issues tends to happen either in the car on the way to and from work or you know, if I can't sleep at night, I start thinking about some of these longer term things. Then it's just having to map out.
Mark: Maybe that's why you can't sleep at night. Right?
Josh: It's probably both. Right? I think that's pretty true. Then how do you set small incremental goals that you think six months from now you can get somewhere or nine months or 12 months and trying to just chew them off every day a little bit at a time. It's hard and it's easy. Like you read some of these, again, some of these advice books on how to handle issues. On LinkedIn, you read all these articles about how someone achieved something. Every day is a battle, right? Every day you have to figure out what the priority is. Every day you have to decide if you're willing to trade off a little bit of the future or the present for the other alternative. Then for marketing, it's the same thing, right? How do you manage the size of your database? Do you want to invest in things like events? Do you want to build out relationships with influencers? How long are you willing to spend working with somebody to have an impact on the market?
Josh: I think all of these things have to be thought of in the lens of how does it impact the long-term. If I decide to buy a list, am I going to get blacklisted if I use it without validating it? Is it worth the risk of a long-term? If I get blacklisted, what are the challenges that I'm going to face? If I'm going to work with this influencer, what happens if they decide to partner with a competitor all of a sudden and now I've built their brand in the space or helped them build a brand in this particular space? Now they're working with somebody else. I think you can have that long-term perspective. Ask the questions about the long-term impact of your decisions with everything that you do, but it also shouldn't prevent you from doing things that you know are the right decisions in the short-term, assuming you're not kind of mortgaging your future.
Mark: I know you participate in a product marketing group in Northern Virginia and you mentioned that you have taken some pragmatic marketing courses. Is that something you encourage other product marketers to do to broaden their field of view from beyond their own company and experience?
Josh: Definitely. I'll talk about product marketing or product pragmatic marketing first because that to me was really eye-opening and setting up frameworks. Some of the work that they do is excellent. All the work they do is excellent but some things I've decided to deploy in my day to day life and some I haven't because again, some of it is theoretical and hard to actually achieve on a day to day basis and some of it is really useful. The most important thing that it does is it lets product marketers and even product people speak the same language because otherwise everyone has different experiences. Everyone has different background, everyone has different expectations. If people understand the frameworks that you're working from. Product development, win loss analysis, product requirements, market analysis, we can all agree that those are the key areas that we have to focus on. Then we can have a baseline to have communication.
Josh: If we have different expectations of what product is and what marketing is and what product marketing is, it's really hard to get on the same page. That to me is the most important value of those. They have great teachers also. There's a lot of benefit of being exposed. Then you also get the opportunity at those sessions and in the product meetups to talk to other people about the challenges they're facing every day. We all work in really competitive environments, but what I found from a product perspective and even marketing, right? Marketo meetups because people are really willing and able to share their advice and best practices with you in a practical way, right? Without fear of, "This person might be a competitor or this person is going to take this advice and try to use it in a way that may be detrimental to me."
Josh: At least in the area that I work in right now in product marketing in Northern Virginia, I've found the community to be incredibly open to discussing pros and cons of their job, ways that they've overcome major challenges. You get to hear that real boots on the ground like, "I just dealt with this. My boss is not listening to me. What do I do?" Or something grander like, "My company was acquired, how should I deal with that?"
Mark: There's a vibrant community down there too. I know I've had a couple of clients in that area and it's, boy getting from point A to point B in Northern Virginia is not easy if you're in a car, which is your only choice.
Josh: It is very difficult, which is one of the reasons that I switched jobs probably since we last spoke because the commute, even though it was only 20 miles was about an hour a day and I just couldn't do it anymore.
Mark: It's rough being in the car. Now I just have about a 10 or 15 foot commute, which I really enjoy.
Josh: You are making everyone listening jealous, I'm sure with that, Mark. We all aspire to not have those commutes that we have to deal with.
Mark: Tell me about the company where you are now. I think many of my listeners have content management systems and they'd be interested in learning about your company.
Josh: Sure. The company I work for is called Perfect Sense. We have a content management system called Brightspot. The company was founded by former AOL executives because I don't know if most people know this, but AOL, most of its offices were here in the Northern Virginia area. The tech community that you mentioned before is really filled with these former AOL executives that kind of filtered out and shaped the community down here. They were publishers, right? David Gang, who's the CEO and one of the co-founders was a publisher. That's why AOL really was and was focused on, was creating content and community for people. As he built out Perfect Sense, his goal was to develop a product company with services orientation to help publishers publishing in new and different way. Most of the CMS solutions that existed 10 years ago when the company was founded and really subsequent to that are focused on heavy IT involvement in the process.
Josh: You want to change something on the front end of your website, you can go call your consultant or you can call your developer and they'll get to it when they get a chance because they're focused on other important issues. You really didn't get a lot of control over the system. We decided to take a different approach and we built a publisher first content management system, which allows publishers to add content teams. Whoever is working within the CMS to create content, to very easily have access to strong suite of tools and front end systems that allow them the ability to create content, to edit content, to publish content and to manipulate the front end of their website all within a system of controls, right? The admin of the CMS or the admin or the website can limit who has access to certain things and who has access to certain capabilities and functions. The purpose of it is to provide this environment where you can very easily create, edit and augment content and get it on the web quickly because we all know that the number of pieces of content being created is only getting going up and up and up.
Josh: The real value that you can drive right now is capturing someone's attention with compelling content. One of the ways to do that is through timely delivery of that content through multiple channels. We allow content teams and editors and publishers to get that content out faster and get it out in different languages and to get it out to different channels and publish that without having to rely on IT because IT has other things to do rather than just change a headline or updating the URL. We found really good success with the interface that we provide. We power many properties that you may be familiar with Sotheby's is one example. Johnson & Johnson is another. We recently just launched The San Diego Union-Tribune, just relaunched its site on Brightspot. We're finding really good success with a lot of these large global brands and also creating a product for them in market because we want to recognize that there is a better option at WordPress. Right. You don't need a free solution. Without a really good editorial experience, you need something that can help you get from point A to point B.