We caught up with Martin Aguinis, Product Marketing Manager of Flutter - a Google UI toolkit - a couple of weeks after he picked up the Rising Star in Product Marketing award.
From the launch of his very first company at the tender age of eight to his greatest success stories now at Google, he gave us a great glimpse into his product marketing journey and how aspiring readers can follow in his footsteps.
Enough from us, over to Martin.
Q: Why did you decide to become a product marketer in the first place?
A: I feel like I wanted to be a product marketing manager from when I was a child, I was just looking for ways to connect people with products and make them happy.
When I was eight-years-old I created my first company called Perfect Toys, where I would sell toys and essentially pitch to people with enticing reasons as to why they should purchase them and I think I carried this energy with me ever since; focusing on the human elements of products.
When we’re looking at product marketing, you’re essentially looking at competitor analysis, positioning and market research, so you’re ensuring the product really fits the user’s needs which is a really rewarding thing to me.
Q: Can you talk us through what attracted you to the role?
A: I’ve always thrived in entrepreneurial environments. My current role is essentially a very high growth start-up CMO role but with all the resources from Google, and I was really attracted to the product itself, Flutter, from the early days, because I struggled with selecting tools to build apps myself when I started my own app-based businesses before Google.
Flutter was aspiring to solve this by creating a solution where you have truly native apps from one code base, so being able to drive this product from an unknown technology that was only used internally at Google when I joined, to run with it was exciting.
I was able to establish all our marketing foundations - from building up a new website to a pitch deck to a tagline and even to conducting market research with early adopters to inform our engineers about the tool they were building.
After two years, Flutter is the #1 fastest-growing skill among software engineers according to LinkedIn and #2 most loved toolkit worldwide, but my work itself continues to be very scrappy. I’m still the only marketer for Flutter and I’m able to take risks on new campaigns and initiatives and launch things quickly.
For example, just yesterday I launched a brand new showcase page on our website at flutter.dev/showcase with brands like eBay, Capital One and Alibaba, to demonstrate the richness of app stories that have come from our technology. So being able to put those things together and launching them in a very entrepreneurial environment still continues to show.
Q: Out of curiosity, how long have you been with Google for?
A: I’ve been with them for about three years. I started working at YouTube and then moved onto Flutter.
Q: How did you first get into product marketing?
A: I’ve been a PMM essentially since I was a kid, at least as a passion, and that actually continued into university which is where I started my first business. It was a ride-sharing app for university students and during that time the product was on fire in a good way - especially since this was before the Uber era, so a lot of users were fascinated by the ability to hale a ride via this app.
My focus wasn’t just on designing the right product and the app itself though, it was also on going around and ensuring it’s what users wanted in universities. So essentially, running the business included mostly marketing on that end.
Then I went on to form a few other app-based businesses and eventually I decided I wanted to double down on this marketing passion at a larger technology company to broaden the impact I could have, and that’s when I started at YouTube and Google.
Something I’ve realised is that so many people will take your phone call as long as you have a reason to contact them. And also, I definitely wouldn’t be here today without the help and career advice I got from mentors, so I think one thing that characterised my career path was not being scared of going to LinkedIn and finding people I looked up to and asking them questions on how they got there.
If I want to get to a certain point in a certain industry, I look to people who have gotten there already because they have an incredible amount of knowledge and everyone loves passing on learnings, at least most people do, which is one thing I’ve been doing throughout my career and that I think has given me a lot of opportunities, or at least opened up that initial door to the opportunities I’ve gotten today.
Q: If there is such a thing, can you talk us through a standard day in your role?
A: So if you asked me this last month and this month it might already be a different answer because the product’s growing so quickly.
On a typical day I wake up between 6-7am, commute to work and take advantage of that early morning to get on top of emails before my meetings and new emails come in. Then in the morning, I like to sync with our cross-functional leads - so our product manager, UX, engineering manager - to make sure we’re all aligned on upcoming campaigns and launches.
I’ll also take some time during the day to code because I think it’s really important to keep up with the tool that I am marketing. I’ll admit, I’m not a great coder, but I think it’s important to at least keep up with it as much as I can.
I also have meetings with our regional teams to ensure we are aligned. Since I’m part of Google, we have folks all over the world, including APAC and EMEA, who help scale out our initiatives.
I’ll also line up our external communications, like upcoming blogs and social media, to make sure our copy and scheduling looks good.
Also, since our team puts out many videos such as case studies and technical tutorials, I oftentimes edit and prepare those for publishing to make sure they fit what we want and where we’re launching them. They can be found at youtube.com/FlutterDev.
I’ll typically leave the office between 6-7pm, but if we’ve got an upcoming event or launch then who knows how long I’ll stay.
It sounds like you’ve got a lot of variety in there!
Yeah. So when I first started my role was research heavy. Because Flutter was so new, I spent lots of hours on early adopter research studies, persona development, and segmentation work. Now it’s become a lot more external-facing since we are scaling so quickly.
Q: And is the variety you have day-to-day something you enjoy about the role?
A: Absolutely. Every hour I feel I am wearing different marketing hats: ads, videos, branding, events. That’s the fascinating part about product marketing - there are so many different definitions of it, but it certainly encompasses so much more than just sales or making pitch decks.
Q: What are the three skills that have helped you get where you are today?
A: The first one, which is something I spoke about during the opening keynote at the summit, is focusing on the fundamentals. I think it’s really important as a product marketer to take a step back and make sure you have really clear and crisp communication about what your product is and that you’re continually refreshing that.
An example of when I did that is when I created a video called ‘Introducing Flutter’ when I first joined because the technology was really good, but there was no asset that described what Flutter was at a high level and that video ended up getting 1.6 million views which was the most views on that channel that year. It also continued to be referenced around the world and people would use the assets and the brands from the video in other ways, so I think that was a really good lesson on how I took a step back and the kind of impact that had.
The second one would be thinking about that 99%. What I mean by that is you most likely won’t reach 99% of your users in person for any product. Even when you have big events and conferences, a lot of the time, people aren’t actually there that are using your product, so how do you curate for those folks?
One example I always give is during our launch event last year, when we launched the full product, we actually had a pre and post-show where we’d take questions from online and we also set-up viewing parties around the world so that people all over could actually participate and not just the lucky 250 developers who were invited to the event itself. So really thinking about the global impact and ways to scale out your existing content as a marketer I think is a really good skill to have.
Finally, one of the most important ones is taking bold risks.
So the example I’ll give isn’t Flutter related, but as a “20% project” I did in my free time. I worked with the Google AI team to create videos in Spanish so that Latin American developers and users of TensorFlow could better understand the product.
I’m originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina so I speak Spanish, but it was definitely a risk putting myself out there and being vulnerable in a technical way, which is something I’m not used to.
The video ended up getting an incredible amount of interest to the point the TensorFlow team is now doing a roadshow in Latin America because they realised how many Speanish-speaking developers are interested in this. So taking a risk and really putting myself out there with TensorFlow really did pay off and that’s something I think all marketers should carry with them.
Q: In your opinion, what, if anything, do you think needs to change about product marketing?
A: I think maybe the definition. Everyone has their own definition of product marketing and that’s an interesting take away from the summit; understanding how other companies are defining product marketing.
Know the user. Know the magic. Connect the two. That’s how Google defines marketing and I think it’s a wonderful way to describe it because a lot of people think it’s just about sales or making something look more pretty, but there’s so much more to being a PMM. You’ve got to understand the product and connect it to the users and I think shifting overall perception of the true impact product marketers can have is something that needs to happen.
Q: How do we elevate the role of product marketing?
A: Data becomes our best friend. So really showing the direct impact as marketers from initiatives and top-level OKRs, even the bottom line, is the best way.
Whenever I launch something for Flutter, I will then look at our tool usage or website visits and directly correlate the campaign with the data. This immediately shows the direct impact of marketing to the rest of the team and key stakeholders. So elevate the role through data to demonstrate direct impact.
Q: How would you sum up what winning the Rising Star award meant to you?
A: It was truly humbling to be named the Rising Star in Product Marketing of 2019, especially since it’s only given to one person every year in the US. It was a really special moment for me.
I mean it was never an end goal of mine and was not something I thought I would win, but it’s been a great additional motivator to just really continue doing what I’m doing, giving back and passing along help so the next person can win.
Q: What’s been your greatest achievement at Google to-date?
A: Great question. I led the marketing for our beta and 1.0 launches for Flutter, and both reached millions of people and got company-wide Google recognition. However, I have to say that my initiatives which engage people around the world to share their stories are the ones I feel most proud of. These are the ones that really show the human behind the product itself.
There are a couple of examples I can give you of this. One was a campaign I launched called #MyFlutterStory which was an initiative for developers around the world to submit videos on how they’re building their products and this helped us focus on developers themselves and their stories, not just on the end result of the product they’re building.
It was really impactful to see someone from Angola and Tokyo and Sydney all connecting through this common language and through this common initiative. Hundreds of submissions came through and you can find this video online of some of them that we put together.
The second example of this human element that I’m very proud of was a contest I launched called Flutter Create. It was the first of its kind for this kind of contest and I spoke about taking risks earlier, this was something we did completely from scratch and had no idea how it would go.
We challenged people to build an app in under 5KB of code, which is less than half a second of an MP3 file. Even though we had this limitation we ended up getting almost 1,000 submissions across 60 different countries and the impact we saw here, and not just because of the winners, was genuinely pretty amazing.
One person reached out to me saying thank you and that their submission had turned into a full-time job.
The grand prize winner actually taught themselves how to code on Flutter three weeks’ before the contest ended and I met him in Shanghai and he’s a very humble person, he didn’t even tell his wife he won! But it was amazing to see some of these stories come through and I think that’s what I’d say is my greatest achievement because it really showed the amount of power and influence you can have on different people when you take a risk like this.
Q: Do you think you can attribute your current success with product marketing to a single or handful of events or people? Or would you say it’s a culmination of a whole load of things?
A: I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family, friends and coworkers. I’m very, very blessed to be surrounded by such an exceptional group of people and I’m always looking for ways to pay that forward.
Q: What are your thoughts on the San Fran summit as a whole?
A: Besides this award, I was really humbled to be given the opportunity to give the opening keynote at the summit, especially since we had VPs from Uber, OpenTable, Lyft and others in the audience.
In my talk, I actually opened up by saying how much of a privilege it is to have so many PMMs in one room and I really, really meant that. I’ve never been exposed to so many product marketers from so many industries at one time, so I think it was an exceptional opportunity to do that and learn from others and how they’re thinking about product marketing at their companies.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for any aspiring award winners in this category?
A: Focus on the work itself and the impact it's having and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Receiving an award like this is obviously a huge honour, but it shouldn’t be an end goal - it should be fuel that verifies you’re in the right direction and you should continue going. Just like when you’re studying for a test, you study as hard as you can and the grades will follow.