October 21, 2020
Ep. #4, SPIFFE and SPIRE with Sunil James of HPE
In episode 4 of The Kubelist Podcast, Marc speaks with Sunil James of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. They discuss the SPIFFE and SPIRE projects...
My name is Indy. I'm really thrilled to be here today to talk to you and kick us off around this awesome topic, which is product marketing. Just to ground us, I figured I'd start by: giving a brief definition of what I, as a product marketer, consider product marketing and what I've also seen across the board, help you think about product marketing as a mindset to begin with, help you define what metrics should look like, how to set goals for yourself, and how to get the most out of product marketing. That sound good? OK, let's get started.
Please raise your hand if you either have heard the statement or agree with the statement. OK. I've heard it a bunch in my career so far as a product marketer. I've worked a lot with developer tools, as Ryan was mentioning. Both at Salesforce, at Box, MuleSoft, at Google Cloud as well. I've always heard this in conversation, especially with product leaders or from developers themselves, a lot of times they tell you that too. Is it really true? Do Developers hate marketing? I'm not quite sure.
If you think about the number of developers you see on the street, almost invariably they're wearing either some type of swag for a product that they have. It could be a fashion brand, but most times it's something that's from a developer tools company. Sure, those T-shirts are free, they're soft, they feel good. It's always nice to have something like that and people respond to it.
I think it takes a special relationship with a company and a brand for you to wear it on your chest or slap a sticker on your laptop. I don't think there's any higher endorsement.
I think this is something that Nike would pay for. Clorox even. If you put a Clorox sticker on your laptop, they'd be pretty happy I'm sure.
I think that begets a certain truth which is that I don't think developers hate marketing, they hate bad marketing. Who doesn't hate bad marketing? Robocalls, are you kidding me? Head On, apply to forehead. Is that an old commercial? It might be. Really annoying though. I think developers respond really poorly to bad marketing. For marketing, especially when you're focused on that audience, what's really bad marketing, where web marketing doesn't hit the mark, is if you're inauthentic or if you are basically just phoning it in.
I've been at companies where we had an enterprise product that we were catering to IT decision makers and then we were saying "Just maybe move this word around and it'll work. The strategy will work everywhere, no matter what the audience." That doesn't work with developers. They will light you up if they get a sense of any degree of inauthenticity in your marketing or any fakeness. It's not a good look, trust me.
That's why marketing matters. Because on the other hand, if you do get them in your camp, if you get them to wear your shirt, if you do get them to put your sticker on your laptop, there's no higher brand of endorsement. Even if you're in a business where you are marketing to decision makers, IT decision makers.
Invariably those IT decision makers, those executives will always say "What should we use for this tool? What should we use for our infrastructure?" They will go to that developer and if he or she says "I heard about the company and they're a rock."That's the feedback loop that you want to do. That's why developer marketing matters, and that's why product marketing and getting it right works and really matters.
Product marketing, what is product marketing? The way I think about product marketing is that it sits at the intersection of these three functions at your organization. Product, sales and marketing. Let's start with product. Product, I think the relationship you want to foster is one where you are basically the trusted advisor as a marketer to the product organization.
If engineering and product build the plot of what you're building, marketing is going to deliver the narrative. It's just like in the movies, one doesn't work without the other. That's why it's really important to foster a two-way conversation between product and marketing. Sales, I have been at a bunch of enterprise companies and this is definitely more true on the enterprise side than it might be on the consumer side, whichever way you're orienting yourself. Sales at the end of day is the front line to what you're doing as a developer tool and a company.
You want to equip them with materials that are authentic, that really are able to convey the value proposition of your product and how they help a developer be better at their jobs. It's really essential to have that relationship with sales as well.
It's sales' best friend. Then finally, marketing. You may be a company where you don't even have one marketer. Of course the product marketer will have a relationship, a direct relationship with marketing. Whether you're an organization, large or small, I think what's really important to know is that product marketing -- again, just because you're so cross-functional -- will probably spend more time with either product and sales than marketing. Communication is of the essence.
In my roles as a product marketer, whether I was at a small company or a big one, I was essentially the router for information. I'd sit in product sprints or sprint reviews, figure out what we were building and then immediately communicate the value proposition and then pass it on to folks across channels. Brand, web and whatnot. It's really important to build that relationship, because no matter what your size, product marketing is the one that's going to be that channel and that router of information. Put together, it's a really valuable discipline and even a mindset.
Even if you don't have all these functions all baked and whatnot, just having that mindset of a product marketer is really valuable. It's the closest thing to being a general manager for some of these areas that you have. Not only are you thinking about "What are you building? How are you going to sell it?" but also "How are you going to sell it and why?" These are all areas that you need to think about whether you are a marketer , you want to hire a marketer, or if you're a founder as well.
No matter the size, this is a mindset that you need to espouse. You need to talk and think like a product marketer.
We've talked a lot about the framing. Let's talk about "How do you actually frame success and define it?" In my career, I think I've seen product marketing being used in many different ways. Invariably, no matter what the situation, there were always three things that helped me do my job. They helped me think about how I wanted to do my job and lead my team. Funnels, stars and metrics. Cryptic labels, let me get right to them.
Funnels, does this look familiar? It's a sales funnel. I think a lot of people who have seen or been in the sales process have seen this. Top of the funnel is everything on our awareness and interest. Middle of the funnel is consideration and preference, and making sure that people get to use your product and try it. Eventually, bottom of the funnel is when you make that sale or when people sign over a purchase order or a check to you. Developer marketing and funnels and product marketing for developers is not that much different.
Funnels, turns out, are also great for developer marketing. That's because you're able to, instead of driving to a sale, sometimes-- I don't know if your product is free, or you have different versions of it, but I think for a developer when you're working with them as the audience, what you're trying to get is not to try to convert them. They're not necessarily the decision maker or the buyer, but they will be the user and the adopter of your solution.
What you want to do, the one nuance between the sales funnel and developer marketing funnel is that you want to drive towards the bottom of the funnel. You drive towards adoption and advocacy.
What's great about a funnel is that you can also make it work the same way as you do for your main sales activities. You can have it snap to specific goals, you can also have associated programming content that snaps to each of it. The cool thing about funnels and what has always been helpful for me as I explained this to my stakeholders, is that you can dose it by intent. If you have an awareness problem, you can start with top-level funnel activities. If you have more of a problem around or issues around getting conversions and getting people to do "Hello worlds" with your product and whatnot, focus on the middle of the funnel.
To illustrate that let me talk to you about what we did at Box. I was at Box for about three years. I see Jeremy over there, peace. Both Jeremy and I were working on the platform team at Box. Our biggest issue with developers is that they thought that we were Dropbox. That happens. When you have a name that's very similar and you actually do almost the same thing, it's pretty tricky. Developers know that Dropbox had this huge sway with consumers and a lot of eyeballs. But with enterprise developers, we were able to convert them and hone in on this value proposition. We were able to help them get into enterprise accounts because we had the right platform, the right APIs and the right approach to making something really robust that was enterprise-grade. This is how we looked at our funnel when we were at Box. We were able to snap to different elements.
I'd like to tell you that we had this all baked out, that Jeremy and I presented this to our VPs from the day one. I would love to tell you that, but the truth was we stumbled on it. We tried a lot of things. Early on in my career and especially working with leadership and for people who did not really know what they wanted, our CEO at Box, Aaron Levy said "We want 10,000 developers." We didn't know why or when, but that's what he wanted. I think we had to stumble on how to get there. I'd like to tell you that we did this and we had really thought it through, but we stumbled on it and was more like random acts of marketing.
At the end of the day it came together all pretty well. I think the results spoke for themselves. Within two years we spun up our own developer conference that was just as big as our customer conference, and we also did some cool things. We took a bunch of our integration partners and put them on the [U.S. Highway] 101. To the point where their investors would call them like "Breezy, I just saw your logo on the 101. What's up with that?"
We really ended up finding a real intent and a sweet spot for us, which was, we were the enterprise startup that helped other enterprise startups. I'd like to tell you again that we knew that that was our intent, but that was not the case. What I'm here to tell you today is think about your intent before you engage in marketing activities because that will really help you move the needle and get to where you want to be super fast.
That's where stars come in. More specifically, STaRS. This is a framework I came across just reading a business book and like any business book, you can sum it up in one slide. So I'll save you the read, but it's a book called The First 90 Days. It's like mandatory reading in business school. It's one of these books that tells you that any job that you're in, it really pays off to take stock of what the situation is. Are you in a startup situation? How many of you would consider yourselves startups? A lot of you. How many if you are in a mode where you need to grow or maybe turn things around, realign? All these are different situations that you can prescribe specific tactics on.
Let me illustrate that with what we did at MuleSoft. When I joined MuleSoft, MuleSoft had made its name on open source and was a huge and very popular product there. They made a pivot to enterprise and as a result of that they neglected their developer base. So, that's where my team came in. Our mission, if you will, was to turn things around. This diagram is a lot to process, but let me walk you through it very quickly.
What we tried to do was take a holistic view of what was going on, both from a marketing programs content and even a product onboarding standpoint. We took that holistic view and said "What are the areas where we need to grease the skids a little bit more?" Some of those were marketing activities, redoing the website, redoing the documentation. Some of them were more around product onboarding, but having marketing help steer that as the product marketer.
Remember what I said about being a GM? Having a holistic view. This is a project that our team led just because we had that 360 view of everything. It ended up being pretty positive because by doing things like using solutions like a walk me to help with product onboarding, we were able to increase product engagement by about 54%. "Hello worlds," getting to those things. Then by doing other things around revamping our documentation and revamping the website, we were also able to drive engagement and traffic on the website as well. I just talked about metrics.
It does pay off to also think about metrics beforehand as well, but only after you've designed your objectives. If I were to bring it all together, if you think about the funnel and if you think about your goals, the intent that you're trying to hit and the metrics, I think the metrics will yield themselves automatically. I think even if you have an awareness problem, obviously you want to get to website visits, trials, sign ups and whatnot. If you're trying to get consideration, you want to goose up your daily actives, your monthly actives, those type of metrics as well as "Hello Worlds." W hat's great about this system is that it tells you not only the "Why," but also the "What" and the "How" if you go to market.
If anything, that's the mindset that I want you to walk away with is, whether you have a product marketer or not or whether you have a marketing team or not, I think it's good business for you to think about things in a way that's holistic. Then that way you know what you want to get out of marketing.
W hen we were able to bring this framework to bear, I was sitting across our founder, our technical officer and whatnot, they were all saying "This makes sense, now let's look at how things performed." We were able to move the needle across a bunch of things. Both website traffic, our forum growth and whatnot, by basically activating all these different channels but really being deliberate about what we were doing and why.
A couple of examples, there are hard metrics like what I just showed, but also soft metrics. An illustration of this was at our user conference. We used our relationship with engineering and product to come up with these really cool activations around the conference. We were able to move the needle and shift perception from analysts. Ray Wong is a top analyst at this firm called Constellation Research, super influential in this space. He totally geeked out on what we did with IoT and integrations, which was MuleSoft's calling card.
Don't think about just hard metrics like website visits and all those things, things that sometimes can be manipulated or can be goosed up artificially, you want to leave a lasting impression with the folks that you're trying to reach as well. That's what gets them to put their sticker on your laptop. That's what gets them to wear your shirt.
Putting it together, get into the product marketing mindset, but before you do that, think about what really matters. Think about how you want to structure things. Think about why you're doing what you're doing and why you're going to prioritize one project over another, and how are you going to measure success? If you do that, then I think you are really poised for success. You can negotiate success as both a founder, or your marketer can negotiate success with you. To me, that's one of the most valuable things that I've learned in my time so far, having that approach is what's going to help you move the needle on what you do.
To conclude, there's no better time to do this. If you think about where the future is going, developer tools are really the building blocks. Most of the building blocks will be digital and these are all things that you're trying to do. There's no better time to be in the space. Thank you.