This week on product marketing insider we’re joined by Beth Bourg, Director of Product Marketing at Appify. She shares insights from her 20-year career in marketing including some of the similarities and differences in being a PMM at companies big and small, her view on the PM-PMM relationship, top three soft skills, tips for aspiring PMMs, and more.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 0:03
Hello everyone and welcome to the Product Marketing Insider podcast. My name's Lawrence Chapman and I'm a copywriter here at PMA.
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Today I'm delighted to be joined by Beth Bourg, Director of Product Marketing at Appify. Beth specializes in a range of areas including product marketing, sales and field enablement, field marketing, demand Gen, content creation, strategy, and many more. Thanks so much for joining me, Beth.
Beth Bourg 0:57
Thanks, Lawrence. Happy to be here.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 1:00
Oh, we're happy to have you on the show. Thanks so much. Would it be possible to start off for you to give us a brief insight into your current role at Appify, please?
Beth Bourg 1:10
Sure. So I actually am pretty new to Appify, I joined the team a couple of months ago. It is a very small startup, Series A startup specializing in a no-code platform for the mobile workforce. We define that as being basically anyone who's out in the field doing work, and we're designing a bunch of different software apps to make their jobs easier, and basically move them into the digital age.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 1:42
Okay, that sounds great. What is it that made you want to become a product marketer in the first place?
Beth Bourg 1:47
You know, it's funny, I fell into it by accident a little bit, my career in marketing and high tech has spanned 20 years. I officially became one of the product marketing rank and file members, about 10 years ago, I would say, now. So about half my career has been more in the product marketing role.
Really, it became that way because I joined Adobe about halfway through my career, and the way that things are structured there are a little bit different than maybe a more typical product marketing role at a small to medium-sized company. So, when you work under one of the products themselves, instead of under the corporate marketing umbrella, basically everyone becomes a product marketer because you're working directly for one product.
And so, you may be doing different jobs underneath that umbrella, but you all kind of roll-up under the product marketing team. It happens sort of by accident that way and when I first joined that company, I was actually doing a lot of different things, not even product marketing related, but when you have that title, it becomes a different thing, depending on what company you're at, basically.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 3:17
Okay. And since that initial exposure into product marketing, can you talk us through almost your career path from then until now?
Beth Bourg 3:30
Sure, yeah. So when I first started out, as I said, my career has spanned 20 years, it's taken me from Silicon Valley, back to the east coast, and then back to Silicon Valley.
I've focused around different areas, as you said before, I used to do demand Gen and field marketing, I've done evangelism, I've done partner marketing, competitive strategy, industry marketing, and more recently have run analyst relations and communications and PR. What I like about product marketing is I kind of look at marketing as two different sides. There's the field and demand Gen side where you're really working directly with the sales team and the go-to-market team.
Then there's more of the corporate marketing side, where you're really about the brand and thought leadership and looking at that side of the house. What I kind of like about product marketing is it actually tows the line, you work with both sides and probably, on some level, fall more into the corporate marketing side of the house versus maybe more the typical demand Gen.
But you really need both skillsets to be successful. Because I've had all different sides of marketing, it kind of became a natural fit in a way for me to come in, and then really hone in on "Okay, now that you've done and worked for all these different types of tech companies", I worked for very small companies of 10 people where I was a team of one in marketing up to Adobe, like I said, which is the biggest company I've worked for, and you get a really good sense of how to market and what the product really means and how to do that.
That's really essential for a successful product marketer. I think the background and culmination of all these different jobs kind of naturally pushed me in this direction.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 5:47
Yeah, sure, I can imagine as well, with in excess of 20 years experience, and, as you say, working for Adobe, a massive company, and then going with a startup and smaller company, that you've picked up different skills, and you've almost been able to in many ways pop everything together, and you've taken one skill from one place and then mixed it with another skill from another place.
But what would you say you've noticed, almost like your core skill as a product marketing specialist would be that you've picked up along the way if you have to pinpoint one area of product marketing?
Beth Bourg 6:33
Yeah, I think the common thread has really been the writing. Every company has a slightly different style, you have different buyers, obviously, different products but it's really essential to get down in the weeds - every day as part of my job - and write about the product and writing to make sure that you're writing to the essential person who's going to buy, so the buyer personas and the use cases, and your target industries or target lines of business. And something that I think is essential for any marketer is writing. So it's a natural fit there. It definitely is the common thread for sure.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 7:20
Okay, awesome. If there is such a thing, I mean, I ask this question time and time again, I'm sure the listeners will be very familiar with this question, and if it isn't something that applies, then by all means, just shoot me down. But is there such a thing as a standard day for a product marketer? And if so, what does this look like?
Beth Bourg 7:46
Not a bad question, but I would say it's funny in my role right now, at Appify, there is no typical day. I would say more commonly is typical conversations I have with different team members. I probably talk to someone on the sales side, every day, someone in customer success every day. So the interactions are very common.
But in terms of having a typical day, there is no typical day. But in a bigger company, where you have more of a focus area, it probably is a little bit different. One of the things I did notice is, when I was at Adobe, for example, I was on a team where we focussed really solely around enabling the field and sales enablement, field enablement.
I was on a team of four to five but we were on a greater team, inside the greater product marketing group of 40, that scaled to about 80 people while I was there over several years. And those 80 people, there were certain people that focussed just on the trial of the product, and others that focussed just around the pricing - how to price the product. And others that focussed just on the website, for example. So we had all these different specialized areas, and then your day becomes a lot more typical because you have much more of a focus.
However, now that I've transitioned back into the start-up world, which I did a few years ago, and I've worked at a couple of different series A start-ups since then, you have to know about all of it. So the days aren't typical like they would be maybe at a more structured place, but you have to know about everything so that you can structure it accordingly when you need to, but yeah, there's no real typical day.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 9:49
Okay, to be fair that’s a pattern that I'm coming across, the more product marketers that I speak to it sounds like no, there's absolutely no pattern whatsoever and I suppose that's a good thing really, isn't it? Because, after all, we don't want to be going into work every day knowing exactly what's around the corner, we need a little bit of excitement, should we say?
Beth Bourg 10:10
That's true, it makes it more fun and exciting for sure.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 10:13
Absolutely. So in terms of your current team that you're working with at Appify, can you just let us know a little bit more about what that looks like in terms of numbers and roles within the team itself?
Beth Bourg 10:26
Yeah so as I said, we're a series A company, so we're small and growing, we've raised about $12 million to date, I am a team of two in marketing. When I joined the team, we doubled in size, which was fun and interesting, because I had previously been at another series A company that went to Series B and when I joined, I was a team of one, and then they scaled up to about five. At that company, I actually did have a team, I was in charge of much more on the corporate marketing side.
So even though I had a product marketing title, I had a designer working for me, a graphic designer, I had a writer reporting under me, we had an intern, and I had also marketing operations reporting under me for a while. It was a very different setup, because as I said, in a smaller company, you make it work. Here as the director right now, I have no direct reports at the moment, I see that changing as we grow and get bigger. We'll see about that timeline into next year.
But the team itself is very heavily focused around engineering and sales, there's about 50 or so employees total. A majority of them, obviously, in engineering, and I now have a counterpart on the product marketing side, who's a product manager that I work with directly. I work with my counterpart in marketing.
Again, we're pretty segmented in that way. He's definitely more focused on the field marketing and lead gen side, whereas I'm more on the corporate marketing side. And then we interface, especially myself, very heavily with the sales teams, and the go-to-market side, as well as our customer success team. One of my main focuses right now is really getting to the heart of our customer and telling their stories.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 12:34
Okay, that lends quite nicely to the next question then. So in terms of the teams outside of marketing, say, for instance, sales, product, operations, etc. which departments would you say that you interact with most? And what is your relationship with them like?
Beth Bourg 12:55
Now that I do have a counterpart on the product side, that's been great. Ever since I started, which, obviously, again, was only two months ago, but I report right now to the CEO, Jen grant. She's our amazing CEO and she used to be a CMO. In her previous life, she was a Chief Marketing Officer at a couple of different companies. And so there is a lot of interaction with the executive team because of her background as well.
That's a big part of my day, right now is, I'll have weekly conversations with our CTO, who's our co-founder, I have weekly conversations with the product manager, as well. What's interesting about that is we have a big team in India so there is the late-night calls on their side or early morning calls to make sure that we're aligning to each other's time zones. Then, of course, interacting with sales and customer success, as well as the rest of the go-to-market team.
There's a lot of work with the inside sales and business development teams as well, as they're crafting emails and reaching out to customers I work with them quite a bit and we do now internal, more formal trainings with the go-to-market side of the house to make sure that they're trained up on all things product marketing.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 14:35
That's encouraging to hear that there's so much collaboration within the company to make sure that product marketing isn't just there, isn't just a box-ticking exercise to make sure that product marketing is always developing, it's always evolving. It's always nice to hear that it's almost like a function that's being invested in really, particularly at a startup as well.
Beth Bourg 15:03
It is. And it's very much a very typical product marketing role because even though we're a small company, we have a big need for really defining all of our different products and apps that we offer, as well as who we're selling to. So there's a big opportunity with our company, and one of the reasons I joined, it really is about segmenting out all the different areas that we sell to and the different people.
We're selling to very small companies up to enterprise, and we're selling both to the buyer, on the business side, as well as an IT role. So you really do need someone to come in and help segment out the messages, the buyers, the use cases, and really put together a very targeted content for each of those audiences.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 15:57
Okay, and we're in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, so it's absolutely not a dream world by any means, but, in a dream world, is there anything about those relationships that you'd change in the company at all?
Beth Bourg 16:20
Well, yes, I mean, obviously, the pandemic notwithstanding, because I joined two months ago, I have never met a lot of my team members in person. So I would definitely change that. I think I really love working with the team in India, they're so smart and really great to work with, of course, I would love to be able to interact with them in person, I think you can just glean so much more from each other when you have those opportunities.
Obviously, the pandemic is challenging in many ways, one of them being that face time that you don't have right now, like, I've never met my boss. But that would be probably the only thing I would change. Otherwise, I think it's a pretty symbiotic relationship.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 17:13
Yeah, I can see exactly what you mean, to be fair, I started here at PMA in April, and we have a team here in Manchester, and we've got a team in London, and it's identical. All the guys there in London, I feel like I've known them for a long time, but at the same time, I've never actually met them in person, so I can totally empathize with you on that level. It is very challenging.
Beth Bourg 17:43
So you totally understand. I think it takes a little bit longer to establish that level of trust. But this is probably something that we'll see more and more, as the shift with a global pandemic turns more companies into remote work or roles. So I think it's something we'll just have to kind of deal with. I think the sales side, they're used to being more territory-based and out of the loop in terms of not being tied to an office and so I think we can learn a lot from our friends and colleagues over on that side of the house.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 18:21
Yeah, absolutely. Looking at specific skills that you have used throughout your career so far, what would you say are the top three that have helped you to get where you are today? And which ones have you almost relied on throughout your 20-year career so far?
Beth Bourg 18:43
Yeah. So aside from the hard skills that you need - you need really good reading, writing, grammar, spelling, all that stuff with writing is super important. It's really hard to write content, if you just aren't that good of a writer, obviously. Editing is a huge part of my job as well, oftentimes, especially at even a small company, you get submissions from different folks on the team, and editing down and working with content that you didn't create takes a certain type of person to really just hone in and kind of make it your own.
Or not make it your own, keep it in that person's voice, and I've done, for example, a lot of ghostwriting. But in terms of the softer skills, it's really more about, for me anyway, what I've found has brought me success is one to be transparent. I'm not a different person in the office or at work than I am in my personal life, what you see is what you get, I'm very open and honest with everything that's going on.
I think we need a little bit more of that, especially in a pandemic, everyone's dealing with different things that we may or may not even be aware of. Accountability, really just taking responsibility for what you do and how you do it. And then having empathy as well, which I found as being a boss helped a lot. I'm not a person that rules with an iron fist or anything like that, it's more of a, let's make it a common goal that we're all moving towards.
I think if you can get people behind you in that way, and if you want everyone to succeed, and they want to succeed just as much, that's when you really do have true success. Not scaring people or leading by fear. It's really about, let's all come together and do this together.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 20:58
Yeah, absolutely, you need to be pulling in the same direction because ultimately, it's just going to make the task at hand 10 times harder if you're not being transparent, if you're not holding yourself accountable for your actions, if you're not showing empathy towards others, eventually if you are in a senior position and you lack those skills, people won't respect you for it. So three really important features that you've highlighted and brought to the table. Absolutely.
So, in terms of the crossover between what you do, and what a PM does at your company, could you just take us through that a little bit - is there crossover between your role and what the PM does at Appify?
Beth Bourg 21:53
There's not a lot of crossover at the moment, I think that's changing, now that I've been hired, and we have a product manager role as well. I think it depends on the company. But right now, because we have a team in India, that's very heavily engineering, and the PM sits over there as well, he's really interacting with that team more directly, and on a daily basis, whereas then I will interact with him, I will interact with our CTO, and some others as well on the team.
But there is a pretty clear delineation between our two roles. Mostly because, then I sit on the other side, so I can interact with sales and the business development and kind of the go-to-market side. Because of I think also just time zones and being in different countries, it does make it a little bit more clearly marked there.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 22:58
Okay. In terms of the role of a PM and a PMM, just looking at that from your perspective, where do you see that beginning and ending at the company? And do you think there should be lines in terms of their responsibilities?
Beth Bourg 23:17
Yeah, so the way I've always thought about it is sort of the same way I approach collateral development or assets. It's funny, being at these smaller companies, and joining early stage, there's a starter pack of say collateral and assets that you would need to develop, right?
So, you need the solution brief on the company, and then the product data sheet, and I kind of look at those things as complimentary to each other, the solution brief is kind of the business focused overview of the company, meant for a non-technical audience, and then the product datasheet would be the overview that you would give for the technical person. I look at product marketing and product management very similarly.
I have a more of a business focused role and the PM has more of a technical focused role. We basically complement each other. I don't come from a technical background at all, I came from a creative background in college so having someone with a technical background really helps me because then it's my job to say, 'okay, based on the requirements that you've given me and what we know about the product and what it can do, and who's buying it, it's my job to then translate all that technical jargon into something that the buyer understands'.
A good PMM will come in and do that translation successfully and effectively. I look at them very separate but almost two sides of the same coin.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 25:00
Okay, that makes total sense, absolutely. In terms of just looking at the actual process of actually introducing new products and features, what does the process itself look like, at your current company? And how does this compare to the previous places where you've been working?
Beth Bourg 25:20
Yeah, so obviously, it's going to be very different from some past experiences. Because of our size, it's not as much of a formal process. But there is the typical planning and communication, internal training, product rollout, etc, that's typical of obviously, a typical product launch. Whereas at Adobe, I was at Adobe at a time where things were transitioning from more of a package typical software offering to the cloud.
So I went from working on a team there that was doing product launches every two years, which is a very different thing than doing product launches every six weeks, with a cloud product. Now, obviously, everything's cloud, everything's moving, and at Appify, we're all cloud based here, just as every company is now, of course, and so it's a very different type of process.
For a larger product launch, there is communication, we work with PR, we'll eventually be working with analysts and others externally as well, but a lot of it right now is working with the early customers, and the product team to really figure out 'Okay, what exactly is this product? What is it going to look like?'. Doing some more formal trainings for the internal side, the sales enablement side, and then figuring out how to launch it and using the website as our sounding board there, for sure.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 27:05
Okay. Just looking at product marketing on almost a grand scale, if you like, whilst 2020 has been an absolute Kamikaze year really, product marketing has enjoyed a greatly successful 12 months, more people are staying in the industry, more people want to enter the industry. But, in your opinion, is there anything that needs to change about product marketing to make it even better than it already is?
Beth Bourg 27:45
I was thinking about this question before we chatted today, it's interesting, I think, in my role right now working at a startup, and in previous startups I've been at, the product marketing role becomes much bigger than just typical product marketing.
I think anyone who's worked at a smaller company, even a medium-sized company is laughing along with me, because they know exactly what I'm talking about. In previous roles, I've interacted with analysts, I've run PR, I've overseen our corporate branding, because, as I mentioned earlier, product marketing kind of tows the line between that corporate side and more the field side, there probably needs to be a lot more alignment with the rest of, especially the corporate marketing side.
I think, too often we think of those things as very separate. Because I've been at smaller companies where I've had to oversee both sides, it's actually made me a stronger product marketer, because I'm thinking about one, what are we delivering today, but what do we want to deliver tomorrow? And on the evangelism side, on the thought leadership side, really thinking from a product marketing perspective, how we can position our company.
Right now, I'm excited to be at Appify to position our company as one, a leader in a new way of thinking for software with our no-code platform, but also, thinking about it from positioning our company as a thought leader, and early entry into the space, but also then, thinking about it from the side of, we're actually delivering real value to our customers today, too. How do I tell that story today?
It's a fun area to be in because I get to play in both both areas where typically, that would be more of the CEO or CMOs role to 'okay, I'm going to talk to analysts about what we're doing 18 to 24 months out and over here on the product marketing side, they're just talking about what we delivered yesterday or what we're delivering tomorrow'. But one of the reasons I like being at a smaller company, and especially in startups is that you get to play in both spaces.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 30:18
Okay. And last, but by no means least, because it has been a really riveting chat. I've really enjoyed speaking with you. Just to round things off, Beth, if there are any new or aspiring product marketers listening, what would your advice to them be to make sure that they get the most out of their experience as a product marketer?
Beth Bourg 30:41
I really like this question. Partially, because my advice would be different depending on the company that you're at. I remember being at Adobe, for example, and when we had a change in management, someone came in and said, "Well, where would you want to focus if you could have your choice?" I didn't realise that at that time, I was being asked exactly what I wanted my next job to be, because I hadn't had a chance to think about it. I also was like, "Wait a minute, I don't even know what's available, what's on the table?".
I think what I learned from that was to really ask a lot of questions, especially early on in your career. If you're at a company, a bigger company, as I said, the idea of you may not have oversight or responsibility for every single aspect of product marketing, you may only be focused on one or two areas, but really get a chance to know and learn about the other areas as well.
Sometimes you're just focused on the trial or pricing or maybe a key buyer persona or use case, but asking a lot of questions, attending all the meetings, and listening as much as you can to learn because later on, when you're asked to do the entire piece and oversee the entire product launch, you can't just sit back and say, "Well, I only know how to do pricing, or I only know how to do the communication side, or I've only done the website".
And so I think that's what I've taken away from this is, I've been lucky to work at both small and large companies and that skill set that you develop at each one is super important for taking on a bigger role and having more success later on in your career.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 32:41
It's almost like cast the net and just pick up any skills that you can along the way, just grab anything.
Beth Bourg 32:51
Right, and if it seems interesting, volunteer. Most of the time, they'll say yes. And if they say no, then you can ask why, but it never hurts to ask.
Lawrence Chapman - PMA 33:03
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining me, again, Beth, it's been great having you on the show, and all the very best for 2021.
Beth Bourg 33:16
Yeah, thanks, Lawrence, and everyone, Happy New Year.
Bryony Pearce 33:22
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