4 Keys to Better Product Marketing

This week on Digital Conversations, Billy is joined by Daniel Kuperman head of Product Marketing for Jira Align at Atlassian. Daniel teaches best practices to creating product marketing and positioning that is easily adoptable internally and externally.

Guest: Daniel Kuperman – I am passionate about helping B2B companies tell their stories in ways that resonate with buyers, partners, and analysts. Transforming complex product offerings into clear value propositions is something I thrive on as well as everything that supports an effective go-to-market strategy (sales enablement, demand generation, and all in between).
Those who work with me like my sense of humor, my nerdy inclination to Star Wars, and candor. I like to mentor employees (whether you report to me or not is irrelevant) and remove obstacles so they can be successful. Connect with him on LinkedIn!


Billy: Alright everyone, welcome to Digital Conversations. I am your host Billy Bateman. Today I am joined by Daniel Kuperman, head of product marketing for Jira Align at Atlassian. Daniel, thank you so much for joining me.

Daniel: Great to be here, Billy. Thank you for having me.

Billy: Yeah, I’m excited to have you on. We’re going to talk about product marketing today, if you didn’t guess from Daniel’s title. And but before we get into it, Daniel, just tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today with Atlassian.

Daniel: Yeah, sure thing, sure thing. So as you said, I lead the product marketing team at Atlassian focus on Jira Align, which is one of our many, many products. And many people seeing these or hearing these may have heard of Atlassian, especially tied to JIRA, which is the product that actually started Atlassian, and is the most widely used across software teams to manage their projects. But Atlassian in general, is bigger than than JIRA, there’s a dozen product lines. And it’s interesting because the mission of the company that we say it is to help to unleash the potential of every team, right? It’s like, let’s make teams productive. So we have products for software developer like JIRA Align, we have products for the DevOps teams, and we have tools like Trello, that everyone can use. Marketing teams use and everything.

So this is what Atlassian is in general, I’m fairly new at a company actually. So I’ve been here for a couple months. And prior to that, I was at another company called Snowflake, which some folks may have heard about. One of those great unicorns, great IPO recently, but I’ve been in product marketing for the past, I don’t know 15 or so years, and always working on b2b tech SaaS company. So this transition to Atlassian was just like another great transition over my career on helping launch new products and make people happy.

Billy: Awesome, man. Awesome. Okay, let’s get into it. One of the things we talked about before we got on to record a podcast is one of the things that you thought you had some great insights. And I think this is really interesting, because it is a challenge, especially the bigger the organization is, is once you’ve got changes in messaging and strategy for a product marketing. How do you get that messaging implemented throughout the whole funnel? It’s easy to change the website. But how does it how do you get that all the way down to the sales team?

Daniel: So one of the interesting things about product marketing, and if you ask people who’ve been around product marketers, and you say, What does product marketing do? Right, one of the first things that comes out of people’s mouths is like messaging and positioning. And this is great. And one of the key areas of weakness, I’d say, in a lot of product marketers out there and myself included, because I’ve made the mistake many times early in my career is creating messaging and positioning that is not used by the rest of the company. So if no one uses, like, did you actually do anything? One of those great things, right. And it happens, because in many cases, we might be just isolated from what is happening outside the company, and what it’s happening outside our own departments.

So we create is great messaging and positioning go through this exercise when he writes something. And we have the document, right, and we share the document. And we hope that people are going to read the document, and they’re going to Oh, yeah, I love and I’m gonna apply, I’m going to use it right away. That’s actually not the reality, like no one wants to read your document, say, Yes, I’m gonna do that.

So, the art to product marketing is not coming up with a messaging or positioning, that is the best ever, but he’s actually helping your entire company adopt the right messaging and positioning, right. So as a product marketer, you got to work with people. Such as your sales counterparts, you’ve got to work with people in support. You got to work with people in the marketing team. You’ve to work with the sales engineers. And once everyone is working around the same message the same fundamentals. Then you start seeing the reaction where people start adopting that.

The best rolled out, revamps of messaging imposition I’ve been part of they actually started from the top with the CEO. Once the CEO is talking about that new direction, or the story. Or how we’re positioning it. Once you have the sales executives talking about it. And once you have that then everyone’s like this for real. Yes, that’s why we have these on the website. Right. So that’s one of the elements of having like that top down approach. Now, there’s a corollary to that. If the message does not work, when you’re in front of a customer, it doesn’t matter what the CEO says. It’s not gonna work. So that’s why you got to work both ways. There’s a top down and a bottom up approach.

And for people who are trying to go through this process today, I would say, the best starting point for creating the messaging is actually trying that yourself with a customer. So it could be customer advisory boards, it could be, what I love to do is just like sitting down with sales reps, and going on sales calls, and trying the message out yourself, right.

It’s almost like looking at it from a product launch perspective, you got to do like an Early Access Program, or a beta program, whatever you’re calling it, right, you’re gonna try that message, test it out, see how that works. You’re gonna find out that some things are good, some things are not good, come back. Then when you’re having those conversations with the CEO with the VP of Sales, you can talk to them and say, well, I’ve sat through like 15, 50 sales calls. And this is what happened.

Now is not just like, Well, why does this resonate? Why do we think this is great is it has, it actually has legs, right? So it’s really putting together like that, that process in your mind. And it can be daunting at first, especially if you’re in a larger organization. But that’s where you start, like recruiting people to help you to do that. And the best folks for that are like sales enablement. So if you have a good partnership with the sales enablement team, they can also help you on what are the best ways for a status message to pair up with the sales engineers, after the sales reps, and get the message tested, feel tested. And then you go back and you start, like rolling that out from the top down.

Billy: I love what you’re saying, because I think it is the right way. Especially like get on those sales calls, get on those demos. And really see how it resonates when the rubber meets the road? Does it resonate to the point where somebody. Says send me the contract, or I’m going to pull out my credit card. Because if it doesn’t work there, and it’s just created in the black box.  I think everyone can sniff that out when it’s been created in your black box is the product marketer.

You’re like, Oh, this is gonna be awesome. And you talk to one or two people, and they loved it, but it really doesn’t resonate. You’re right, the sales guys sniff that out quick, and they’re not gonna adopt. So when you’re creating your new positioning, as a product marketer, is that really where you start is is going on either watching a sales call or sitting in on them or being part of it.

Daniel: Yeah, so there’s a many areas of input you’d say right is you’re thinking about this. Sales calls, listen to customers, this is like the best way for you to see what is resonating. What a customer is looking for, what is working, what is not working. The other area of input, right is understanding also for existing customers. Why did he buy, like what is happening today that you’re in love with the product, also looking at, what else is happening in the market.

And it’s also a balancing act, because you want to make sure that you were talking to the needs of the customers today. But you also want to make sure that you painting the vision for the future. So you’re not just boxed in. And that’s why it’s important to also start looking at what else is happening in the market with competitors, adjacent products, what are the analysts saying?

So you can always put yourself a little bit ahead of where everyone else is and painting that picture to the customer of where you want to take them with you. Right? There’s also a fine line between Are you selling them what you have in the truck today? Are you selling them what you’re still building for tomorrow? And some people like to really go visionary there, right and start talking about like, How great is going to be you know, we’re gonna solve your problems. And it’s okay in certain situations. But if you’re talking to let’s say, a customer who wants to use them now, not wait for next year, you may have a disappointed customer.

So setting that expectation is extremely important. And that’s why is it called product marketing. Because we are in between the marketing folks that can think creatively that can help with the messaging also, and how do we get the communications out? And the product folks, which are like, this is what we have today. Right? Yeah.

So we need to have the balancing act and start thinking about, okay, how do we help customers think about the future, but understanding what you have now and how he’s going to take them there. And that’s the art of working in a messaging that takes you there. To your point before about the sales team, it’s funny, because we as product marketing experts sometimes spend a lot of time on things such as sales tax. Then you sit down with a sales rep, and you see that they’re not using the sales that you created. Right, that’s the first red flag. Okay, something is wrong.

So, there’s a lot of little signals you’re gonna see throughout the organization that’s gonna tell you, if what you created, is resonating internally, resonating externally? Are people buying it? Are people using it? Do they really believe in it? Those are the signals as a product marketing, professional and marketing professional in general, you want to start looking at and see, okay, Are we rolling things out in the proper way? And is everyone adopting it? If not, let’s pull the back and understand why that is.

Billy: Awesome. I love your point about striking the balance between what you have in the truck today versus what’s coming. Because we’ve all been sold what’s coming, and then kind of been told, it’s today but it’s not once you buy, or it’s, it’s tomorrow, but tomorrow was six months down the road. So managing those expectations, I think is key because in SaaS, we have this great opportunity to update and make the product better every day, if not multiple times a day. But it still takes time. There’s that temptation.

So I want to shift gears with you just a little bit and talk about product adoption. Let’s approach this even with your own team. I’ll lay out an example for you. We, when we first started, we use Trello. Because it was free, we could get onto it easily. But once we started growing our team, we were on Office 365. We decided to move everything over to Planner just because it was there for everyone and it is unlimited. Probably not as good as Trello honestly, in functionality, but from a business standpoint, that was the decision made.

And it was tough to get adoption within our own team. And I think it was just kind of like, you have no choice like you have to use it was how that adoption happened. Now there are better ways for it to happen and but I wanted to get your insights for how do you get teams to really adopt and organizations to really adopt products?

Daniel: That’s a great question. Because the problem everyone has, right like, and a lot of products come in organically. And suddenly someone says Why are you using this? Or this is not the standard? Or, Oh, I got a better price from this one here. The problem with adoption also of products? I think, based on my experience, it comes down to the people that are using a product, right? Or they using this primarily for their own personal gain? Or is it for the company or the function that they work in?

For example, I can download a Chrome browser extension, because I like to take a look at let’s say different time zones, or whatever it is, or for clipping things or recording a podcast? But I’m the only one using this right? Yep, well, my power in keeping that tool is going to be somewhat limited, versus everyone in the team use using the same tool for something that’s collaborative, right?

The more people using the tool in a collaborative manner, the higher the sticking factory is, of course, because you yank it out from one person, he disrupts the entire workflow. So part of this is understanding what is the value that the product is bringing? Is it a one person thing or is a team thing? Is that a cross team aspect of that tool? And one of the reasons, just looking at Atlassian products itself why our products get so sticky and why it keeps growing because you start with one department or solely spreads out to another department, it spreads out to another department, right? A great example of that is a product that we have Confluence, which is like an internal wiki that a lot of companies use.

Typically starts with the development team, where they put Oh, here’s my roadmap. Here are my pages, and then someone in marketing might look at it like, Oh, yeah, like, I want to use that as well. Then you share that page with someone else or share the pictures on other person, you start, like creating that system of work. Once you have enough people telling others, like, this is how I work, this is the tool I use, it becomes gradually more difficult to yank that out. The other part of that, I think, is having that relationship with whoever is the purchasing power of the company. Is it the IT team that decides tools and systems? Does a CIO of the company is your VP whatever your organization is? Showing the person to the department what is the value of the tool your bringing to your team?

So in your case for example, let’s use Office 365? Well, first of all, like, Is it going to give me the same collaboration thing? Like, are we all cool? Moving over to that, because what happens is, if people don’t like the move, you may have now the shadow IT that people call it the shadow products like. Whoever purchases office things, everyone is using it? Because I have now 65 register users. When if they walked around the office, they would see everyone who’s using Trello, or everyone is using something else. What’s going on with that? So that’s the thing in my view, is thinking about individual users versus team versus cross team collaboration, and then getting like that stickiness factor. So if you yank it out, like I can’t live without this, right? It’s a tough thing to do.

Billy: Yeah, no, you’re right is hard to yank something out and replace it with something, even if it’s about the same. It’s got to be better, usually. Or it’s just brute force and making them adopt. I like it, man. Before we break, any anything else you want to hit on that? You’re like if Billy was really smart. He would have asked me about this.

Daniel: You’re really smart, Billy, and I think you asked me great questions. I think that there’s an interesting point here to make, because those questions are actually related, right? The positioning and everything. And the product users, right? So if I’m listening to this now. Billy talking to Daniel, I’m like, Okay, this is great. I understand the positioning and some of the things I need to do. Now, there’s an internal tool and everything, but how do I combine those two things? Right, which I think is the next level. Which is knowing that I need to focus on not the individual person, but I need to focus on let’s say, the broader team to really adopt my product.

How do I combine those two things, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. Which is the buyer personas aspect of the whole app, that whole work. Because I’m positioning, not for everyone. I need to position my product for a specific person. Or a very defined group of people. Because the positioning exercise in itself means when you listen to what I have to say. When you look at my marketing website. My materials or when you’re talking to someone. You got to immediately put my company my solution in an area.

Am I buying a car? Am I buying a motorcycle? If I’m buying a car am I buying a hybrid car? If I’m buying a electric car. Is that a fazla? Or is that a Prius. All of those is helping the person on the other end positioning you inside a specific buckets that they have for that particular solution or particular space?

So if I’m trying to sell you a product, and I want to make sure that it sticks, and I want to make sure that not only you, Billy, but your entire company’s using that product, who else do I need to talk to from a messaging perspective? So everyone is like, Oh, yeah, I want this. Oh, yeah, I want that. That’s where you may have to have specific messaging for the person who is actually going to be the administrator of the product. The person who’s going to be implementing it, or the person who is going to be like managing it. An executive level.

If you’re talking about let’s say, a work management team product like Trello, or something like that, you may have to target the manager or the VP person with a different message or different capabilities of the product than the person who is actually typing things in and entering and creating the carts. And this is where it can get fuzzy. But the more you segment and you focus on those very key personas, the better your messaging is going to be when you roll that out to your company and to the outside world.

Billy: I love man, you’re 100% right. Especially when you sell to different people within an organization to use a product, you’ve got to have a different message for all of them and they all have a different problem or need they need met. Being able to speak to that goes a long way and get in adoption. Okay? Yeah, awesome, Daniel. It’s been really insightful. Thank you for joining me. If people want to reach out and continue the conversation what’s the best way for them to contact you.

Daniel: Hit me up on LinkedIn you can find me at you know Daniel Kuperman. Search LinkedIn for that I my Twitter as well like at Daniel Kuperman, no spaces altogether. You can find me there too.

Billy: Okay. Awesome. Thank you, Daniel. And we’ll chat later.