In episode 14 of our Insider series, we [virtually] sat down with Andrew McCotter-Bicknell, a Product Marketing Manager over at ZoomInfo, about his journey into the industry, his day-to-day, and his experience of going through an acquisition.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 00:00
Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Product Marketing Insider podcast brought to you by Product Marketing Alliance. My name’s Bryony Pearce and I’m the Content Manager here at PMA. This week’s pod’s sponsored by the Product Marketing Festival. For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, it’ll be coming to a screen near you between June 8th and June 14th, and will featuring headline acts from companies like Amazon, Uber, Adobe and Facebook, talking about everything from research all the way through to optimisation. To get your ticket, just head over to the site, festival.productmarketingalliance.com. To help establish and elevate the role of product marketing we’re on a mission to speak to 50 PMMs and pick their brains on everything from their journey into the industry, which teams they interact with most, what skills they believe are critical for the role, and a whole load more. To do just that, with me today is Andrew McCotter-Bicknell, a Product marketing Manager over at ZoomInfo powered by DiscoverOrg. So let’s get stuck right in. Welcome to show the Andrew, could I get you to kick off by giving everyone a bit of an intro into you, your role, and ZoomInfo.
Andrew McCotter 00:08
Sure. So I'm Andy McCotter-Bicknell and I'm on the product marketing team here at ZoomInfo powered by DiscoverOrg, which is still a very new thing for me to be saying because in that name, we have two brands. We have ZoomInfo, and we have DiscoverOrg. And back in February, we were two individual organisations that were actually competing in the sales and marketing intelligence space. So we each had our own individual platforms and each of those platforms housed millions of different contact and company records that we would then sell to other b2b organisations to help them win more business and find their ideal customer profiles. So we were competing against each other pretty hard, but we both had, even though it was very similar products, we had different claims to fame, so to speak. So on the DiscoverOrg side, it was really all about quality, we had really high-quality data, but we didn't have that much of it. Whereas on the ZoomInfo side, they had a tonne of data, a massive database, but not really as high in quality as DiscoverOrg. So it really only made sense at the end of the day that we would come together and become one organisation to kind of round out each other's weaknesses. And so that happened in February of this year, and once that happened our teams got ready to work to create a new combined platform, and really the focus was all about quality, quantity and depth. And then we only just released it this past September and re-branded and so now we're ZoomInfo powered by DiscoverOrg. So very exciting stuff.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 01:43
And how did you find the process of going through that acquisition?
Andrew McCotter 01:46
Oh, it was very hectic and very exciting. I mean, all the above kind of what you would imagine with the idea of having two I would say pretty decently sized organisations, it was about 500 employees from each individual organisation coming together, with different perspectives on how to market a similar solution. So it was definitely an interesting few months once we got to get to know each other. But at the end of the day, all of our goals were very much the same, we wanted each other to be successful, we wanted the product to be successful. And once we found that common ground, it was really easy to set aside those competitive feelings that we initially harboured and we were able to work together really well.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 02:35
And is that the first time you've gone through something like that?
Andrew McCotter 02:38
So I've been at ZoomInfo for about a year and a half now, and DiscoverOrg went through a similar acquisition of an organisation called RainKing, and that was in I think 2016, and at the time, I think each organisation was maybe 200 employees each. And so at the time, it was DiscoverOrg versus RainKing, DiscoverOrg acquired RainKing and then it was ZoomInfo that was the big competitor. And so each organisation grew to around 500 employees, and then that acquisition happened. So this was definitely the largest acquisition that I think DiscoverOrg ever went through. But yeah, I would definitely say that it's happened before just on different kind of scales.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 03:29
Yeah. And in terms of roles within Product Marketing and yourself specifically, have they changed much since this merger?
Andrew McCotter 03:37
Yeah, so it's actually been interesting like. Because the company has essentially doubled, once we all came together in February, it was pretty much all hands on deck for this combined platform. So I think typically in product marketing, you're working on a number of different projects and releases you know, new features new updates to the existing product that your organisation has. But now, we had to set aside those individual projects to work on this one massive one for half a year. So that was definitely a big shift from what I was used to and what other folks on my product marketing team were used to as well. And so we're actually just now getting back into the swing of being like, "Okay, well, now we have this really nice combined platform, how can we make it even better than when we first launched?", and so we're getting back into that cycle of different individual updates and features and having different product marketers owning some of those things that we're going to market with.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 04:38
And in terms of geography, where are the two businesses based, and how does that work?
Andrew McCotter 04:43
Yeah, so that's another crazy thing that happens with mergers and acquisitions. So DiscoverOrg is headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, which is just 15 minutes north of Portland, Oregon, and ZoomInfo is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. And I mentioned the RainKing organisation that DiscoverOrg acquired back in 2016, they have offices in Bethesda, and I think ZoomInfo acquired a company called Datanyze back in 2018, and they had offices internationally. And so that's been another, definitely, a new kind of challenge when you go through these different mergers and acquisitions is making sure that you stay organised and that you understand who's responsible for what. And luckily, I think our teams have been very good about communicating and staying organised and making sure that we're respectful of each other's time zones, you know things like not scheduling meetings when other people are going to sleep. But yeah, it's definitely been something that we've had to learn as we've been going along.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 05:46
And then how does that look now? Do you have weekly catch-ups, bi-weekly catch-ups, and is it in the diary or is it just kind of ad hoc?
Andrew McCotter 05:54
Yeah, so we have weekly different pass down meetings just between different departments. And so I would say that, because obviously you have different conversations from like you would say product management, and luckily Product Management is all US-based. And so we would have meetings between product management and product marketing. And then on the product marketing side, we have different meetings that we then translate those same messages to the broader marketing and customer-facing teams, which are luckily all US-based. A lot of the folks that are internationally based. They are in operations or in web design, and so you don't really have to schedule as many meetings with them, you usually just write up an email and you can send that over. And then they can just pick it up and then make sure that they can send it to you the next day and you can check it over and so on so forth.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 06:54
Okay, sounds good. And then going back to pre-ZoomInfo, what did your career path look like?
Andrew McCotter 07:01
So it's honestly very similar to what it is now, I would say that my outlook on product marketing has just really solidified with this merger, I guess you could say, just because DiscoverOrg was very, very deliberate about the things that they were going to market with. And that was I think why DiscoverOrg saw so much success historically. And so it was that deliberate intention of seeing something that the market needed and then delivering it. And I think that we brought kind of that magic into the ZoomInfo powered by DiscoverOrg platform. So it's that same reading exactly what the market wants, whether that's through a win-loss reporting, or that's through just making sure that you're keeping your ear to the ground with different analysts that are talking about the industry, and then making sure that you just deliver on the things that your buyers are looking for, and at a rapid pace.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 08:03
And then going back to the start of your career, what is it that made you want to become a product manager in the first place?
Andrew McCotter 08:09
Yeah, so I actually started out in sales, in an SDR type of role. I went to school for marketing, but sales is just how I entered into the marketplace, it started my career. And then once I saw DiscoverOrg, I was like, "Oh, my God, this tool would be so great for me to use, just as a salesperson", and it's something that I think a lot of organisations are missing, and it could really benefit so many different people just in that sales process. And so luckily, they were looking for a product marketer when I found them, and I was able to switch my career path away from sales, but I've definitely been leaning on that sales perspective quite a bit as a product marketer to make sure that, once we're building content or collateral or writing copy that we can talk about it in a way that still respects sales and respects that whole process. Because at the end of the day, they're the ones who are making the revenue.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 09:11
Yeah, I guess as well do you find having come from that background, do you find it easier to translate the benefits and get your points across from that side?
Andrew McCotter 09:18
Absolutely yeah, and I definitely think that's really important for anyone in product marketing, to have that open line of communication with sales. Because it's so easy to get stuck in that repetitive loop of just talking about marketing type stuff, like, "Oh, yeah, this makes sense to me as a marketer", but at the end of the day, the people who are talking to the customers or the prospects, they're the ones who have such great insight as to what other people are looking for. And so as long as you have that communication with your customer-facing teams, I think those product marketers or whoever's building the content, or the messaging, they're certainly much better off.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 09:59
And how do you find that, I know it's a bit of a problem for some product marketers - extracting that kind of information from the sales teams and the customer-facing teams can be quite tough, how does that work for you?
Andrew McCotter 10:09
Yeah, honestly I would say that that's one of the things that I've tried to really build up and strengthen within myself, because as I said, I started out in an SDR role, so I wasn't really getting any demos per se, but I was still talking a lot to people who would be using potentially the product that I was selling at the time. But now, in this product marketing role, we have these weekly sales or customer success meetings where we're pretty much pitching everything that's new that's coming into the platform or into our integrations. And it's those times where I'm really able to see what the sales teams need in order to be successful. And so when I first came into product marketing, because I was completely new I was trying to shape my conversational language into something that would be more marketable or marketing specific. And you don't get very great feedback from a group of salespeople when you're talking specifically about marketing type stuff. And so that's definitely been something that I've had to really shape as I've been in product marketing is that even though we all have the same kind of thing that we're pitching, you have to be able to pitch it in different ways so that it benefits people in their own respective field.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 11:30
Yeah. Awesome. And then if there is such a thing, what does a standard day in your role look like?
Andrew McCotter 11:43
I would say definitely when February rolled around earlier this year, then it was pretty much all about this combined platform, creating the messaging for it and making sure that it made sense, which again, was like quality, quantity depth of data. Okay, so we needed to make sure that any content that we're making surrounding the combined platform was really focused around those main themes. And I really think that my product marketing team knocked it out of the park with that, we really honed that message and made sure that it was consistent across all content and collateral, and messaging. So that was the big thing it was every day, we were working on the combined platform to make sure that everyone understands the messaging and make sure that all of our customer-facing representatives were well informed of the platform itself. So now that's shifted gears quite a bit ever since we released the platform. We're still maintaining all the content creation, and filling in any gaps that might have appeared since we launched but now we're starting to go back into that cycle of, "okay, we've kind of done the data piece, we've really explored and made sure that we, again, filled in all of our gaps and all of our weaknesses, so what's the next step?", and so now what we're trying to do is, we're trying to figure out, "Okay, let's make in-market products that make that data actionable". And so it's trying to take a new spin on the main product that ZoomInfo powered by DiscoverOrg has unveiled to the market. And so we're trying to again, we're taking exactly what we built with the combined platform, and we're trying to build off of it with our own respective projects now.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 13:25
And to just go back to the messaging aspect of it, what would you say some of the main positioning and messaging challenges you faced were after announcing the combination of the two brands?
Andrew McCotter 13:36
So like I said before, we had those individual strengths and weaknesses between the two organisations, DiscoverOrg being really high-quality data, ZoomInfo being a lot of data. And so as you can imagine, with each of those organisations, the sales department specifically, when they're talking to customers, they have these kinds of cadences that they have been leaning on for years and years and years. And so one of the challenges was just making sure that our talk track and our messaging that we push to the sales team was that it covered pretty much all the bases that the new platform laid down the foundation for. So it wasn't just the quality, it wasn't just the quantity, it was the quality, quantity and depth. And so I think that's really important when you're putting out any sort of game-changing platform or product, it's that it's changing not just the way that other people are looking at the product or the industry, but it's changing the way the organisation itself is looking at that product or service. So that was one of the things that we really needed to make sure we were hammering home. So we did a lot of internal training on not just walking through the platform, but how do you position this thing and how can you tailor it so that you're positioning it to the customer in the way that they want it.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 15:02
Awesome. And then in terms of your go-to-market process, has that changed much since the merge?
Andrew McCotter 15:11
I wouldn't say it's changed too much. It really comes down to two main ways that we receive our information for what's coming down the pipe. So I mentioned that we, the product marketing and customer marketing teams here at ZoomInfo, we conduct quarterly win-loss churn reports. And so we'll send different surveys out to different customers or prospects that have gone through that process, and they'll let us know what went well and what didn't go well. And then what maybe were they looking for in the product that we didn't have? And so we'll get that information, and we can feed that to our product management team and they can determine if it's something that can realistically be spun up or, we also have like a group of really well-informed executives who are trying to survey this industry of sales and marketing intelligence and determine what's the next best thing that this platform can do or that people can use this platform for? And so we usually either get some sort of information from the wind loss churn reports, or we'll get some sort of information from our executives and then move with that.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 16:23
Okay, sounds good. And then how far do you typically try to plan in advance?
Andrew McCotter 16:32
So that's another really funny question, just because in February, obviously, we were planning six months ahead of time and so we had a lot of time and we were really heads down working on it. But then, once that happened, we didn't really have as much time to consider what we're going to do afterwards. And so now we're kind of in that mode where we're like, 'okay, now we can get back into the cycle of individual releases'. So, right now it's every four to six weeks we have something new coming down the pipe. And we're preparing really rapidly, and we're making sure that everything is buttoned up. And I think our goal is to have some sort of more formal roadmap where you can see a couple of months out. But at this moment just given the scale of the release that just occurred in early September, we're trying to make sure that we can go to market with other really profitable features and products that people are looking for. And making sure that they know it's not just the new platform, but we're going to continue to build on that success.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 17:39
Yeah, sounds good. So in terms of your direct team, what does that look like in terms of size and structure and roles?
Andrew McCotter 17:48
When we were starting off, before any sort of acquisition, it was just a team of two really, so it was myself and a manager we were the product marketing team at DiscoverOrg. And then once we came together we pretty much doubled in size, we're about a team of four, and I think we have a couple of open recs right now. So it's been really exciting for me personally to get so many other product marketers just to be able to communicate and work with. Again, because the number of releases that we have has pretty much doubled or tripled since q4 of 2018, so obviously, we need more support. And so I would definitely say that having those other folks on the team will definitely help and make sure that we can be more organised and have more foresight down the road.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 18:37
Yeah for sure. And then in terms of teams outside of product marketing, like sales, product, operations, for example, which departments would you say you interact with most on a day to day basis? And what would you say your setup with them's like?
Andrew McCotter 18:51
So product management, I would say number one is they're the folks that we usually get most of the new product and feature information from and so I would say them number one. And that's usually who I'm going to ask questions or trying to get clarifying points from when it comes to existing products or things that are coming down the road. So they're number one. But then I would also say, our sales enablement teams really have a strong presence with Product Marketing as well, because at the end of the day, they're really shifting into growing as well as the product marketing team here at ZoomInfo. So they're taking on a lot of the sales training, whether that's a new hire, or whether it's the weekly releases, they're the ones who usually translate that to the sales teams now. And so whether it's us receiving the information from the product management team on a weekly basis, or it's us translating that information to the sales enablement teams in that same week, those are usually the two departments that we really spend the most time with.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 19:56
And how does that communication happen? So would you say it's more structured meeting in the diary type of thing or random desk drops?
Andrew McCotter 20:04
Yeah, I would say that for product management, it's definitely more formal just because we have a really large, and I really don't know how to explain it, but we have product managers really in so many different offices, that it has to be more formalised in order to get everyone involved, to make sure that all the products can properly get laid out for us product marketers, and anyone else who attends those meetings. And so those are definitely more formal. Whereas for sales enablement, I have a number of sales enablement teammates here in the Vancouver office, and so that's a little bit easier to just kind of ad hoc it and just make sure that they have what they need. But we do have weekly meetings with that team as well that we're able to work off with.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 20:55
Okay, cool. And then in an absolute dream world is there anything you'd change about those relationships to be better?
Andrew McCotter 21:02
Honestly, no. When it comes to product management, I think that in order to have that really succinct and descriptive, or detailed description of everything that's coming down the pipe, I think that you need to have that really strong designated time for releasing that information and messaging to product marketing. And so especially when the size of the team is considered, so the sales enablement team it's probably five or six people compared to product management, which is well over a dozen people. And so when you consider that size you have to make sure that it's laid out way more formally than with the sales enablement team. So no, I wouldn't really say I would change anything about that.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 21:50
That's a good position to be in. So sticking with product management, would you say there's a lot of crossover between the role of a product marketer and a product manager, in ZoomInfo?
Andrew McCotter 22:03
So I would say that that depends on the organisation. With ZoomInfo, there isn't as much crossover as I think other organisations. And that is actually a new thing that changed. So when I initially got hired here at ZoomInfo, Product Marketing rolled up through the product department, and then that shifted when the acquisition took place, and now I'm on the marketing team. And so, honestly, it's been good for me because I got the best of both worlds and so I know how to talk with the product managers. But then at the same time, I know I can talk every single day with the Demand Gen team, customer marketing team, marketing operations, and so having that kind of dichotomy has really helped me for sure be able to talk to either audience and make sure that I can give and get different information that will benefit everyone.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 22:53
Yeah, absolutely. And then what would you say the top three skills are that have helped you get where you are today?
Andrew McCotter 23:03
Do you mind if I answer this in a way that it's positioning my team? Because definitely when it comes to this release that happened earlier in September, it was definitely a team thing and I definitely want to make sure they're highlighted. So, organisation number one, as in being organised. And with the acquisition that took place, and adding in two or three new offices, it can be really easy to have that really mess things up, and add a lot of question marks to the typical go-to-market process that I was used to. But honestly, once the first week was over and we realised what the goal was, which was to make a new platform, we all got super buttoned up and we made sure that all the goals were laid out and that we were all aligned and then two months out before the release of the platform, we had this massive Google spreadsheet where everyone on the marketing and go to market teams were a part of it. And it had like every single asset and collateral that we were building and that we were collaborating on we had, who was responsible for it, who's contributed for it, and then that all really helped once launch day came because then we were able to put forth so much supporting material for all of our different audiences. And so, organisation I would definitely say number one, and then I think I mentioned this earlier, but being intentional. That's another thing that my team has been really good about. It's understanding kind of like what the platform or what the audience needs, and then making a deliberate choice to execute on that idea. So if we see something that our product is missing, or that our audience might be missing from those win-loss churn reports, then we decided to take advantage of that information and then move forward with it. So I think that's very important. And also, I would just say that being friendly with each other, even though it's kind of a basic thing, it's super important for two organisations that are going through a merger or an acquisition of this size, to keep in mind that if you're friendly with each other, that any sort of competitive ill will feelings, those totally get tossed by the wayside. And I think that my team did a really, really great job of making sure that we were all super friendly with each other, and that we recognise that we had the same goals at the end of the day. And this goes not really just for anyone going through a merger or an acquisition, but as a product marketer, you go through and talk to so many different departments, it's really a super cross-functional role, and so if you're friendly and you're approachable, then people can come to you and ask questions and then they'll be set up for success. And that ultimately sets the entire organisation up for success. And then if you're friendly to the people who are feeding you information, they'll be more than likely to continue to work with you and make sure that you're set up for success. So I definitely say it's organisation, being intentional and just being friendly.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 26:18
And in terms of the cross-functional element of the role, would you say that's something you like about it?
Andrew McCotter 26:24
Yeah absolutely. I think I kind of touched on it earlier, but I think it's really easy for anyone in their own respective department to get closed in on your perspective of what the organisation needs or what the product means. And without that cross-functional element, it's really difficult to see from other perspectives, like IE marketing, marketing versus sales, it's really tough for a marketer to really understand what the customers are asking about and what their pain points are when it comes to the platform if we're not talking to the people who are talking to the customers, and that goes for anyone in any other role as well. So I definitely think that that's an important aspect not just for product marketing but for anyone in an organisation that's trying to understand the strengths and weaknesses of what they're going to market with.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 27:21
Yeah. And then in terms of collateral out of curiosity, how does that work for you does that sit within product marketing in terms of creation or does that go over to the marketer?
Andrew McCotter 27:31
Yeah, so this is another thing I guess I should say has shifted a little bit, so with DiscoverOrg we had one person in content marketing who was making the blogs and the eBooks, she did a great job, and once we moved and took on this ZoomInfo powered by DiscoverOrg title, we picked up an additional seven or eight content marketers and so our ability to pump out really good, relevant collateral and content has increased like crazy. And so whereas that might have been something that product marketing might have stepped in on, we now have a content marketing team that can help that. And so what we've really been doing lately is we've been building out different data sheets or positioning briefs for our reps. And then with that information, that high-level information that we're feeding our reps and our marketing team, they're able to take that information and then go and build different landing pages, different animation scripts or different ebooks and take what they see with that information and own it.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 28:37
And then outside of the recent merger, what does the process of introducing and implementing new products or features look like?
Andrew McCotter 28:49
So we would get that information from our product management team, lately what the big theme has been is actionable data. It's not just making the data a little bit better, it's being actionable. So we would get that information from our product management team and then the product marketing team, myself and my co-workers, we would build all the respective collateral for that launch. And then we would make sure that we share that with all of our other supporting teams to make sure that everything is built out, we have landing pages, we have supporting video, we have different data sheets, positioning brief, white papers, case studies, all that good stuff. And then when it finally comes down to it about two weeks before launch, we usually create some sort of course in our content management platform. And every single rep has to go through this course and they read up on the different collateral that's been created. And then they take a little quiz and if they pass they're pretty much certified to go ahead and pitch that new product. And so that's the process of going to market with our new feature rollouts that have been going on the past few months.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 30:14
In your opinion, what, if anything, do you think needs to change about product marketing?
Andrew McCotter 30:18
I think the typical thing that I see organisations struggling with when it comes to a consistent KPI or something that you can tie to a product marketing performance. And I think that in most cases, organisations just have a checklist of, 'Okay, so product marketers are responsible for messaging or positioning', so, 'did they create messaging or positioning?' thumbs up, good, and that's great, but in most cases, there's not really a way through that process to see if that's successful or not. And so whether that's tying revenue into a new product launch that a product marketer or team is responsible for or tying MQLs or number of demos booked. I think that that should be the more consistent thing that other organisations are trying to their product marketers performance. And I think that would definitely allow product marketers to be able to have more metrics behind their performance and make sure they're successful.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 31:32
Yeah, I guess that would help as well with, especially having had a few conversations about it in these podcasts, one big thing is people having to justify the value of the role, maybe something like that would help to kind of eradicate those barriers.
Andrew McCotter 31:46
I know absolutely. And that's something as a combined organisation that we're starting to roll out and it's been awesome so far, having that ownership and being able to really tie some sort of metric to your performance. I would definitely recommend that for other organisations as well.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 32:05
And the penultimate question, having just been through this recent merger, what are your recommendations for any other organisations that are going through something like that?
Andrew McCotter 32:16
I would definitely say just to make sure that, depending on the scale of the merger or acquisition, so if it's a large one, then I would say make sure that your messaging and positioning is consistent, and that it all ties back to your ultimate value prop. And so for us, the positioning messaging had to shift slightly into this trifecta of quantity, quality and depth. And everything that we came to market with was consistent with that message. And so just make sure that whatever the merger was, that it's beneficial to that singular message that you're putting forward.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 33:00
Yep, sounds good. And then final question, if there are any new or aspiring product marketers listening to this right now, what would your advice to them be?
Andrew McCotter 33:09
I would definitely say just make sure number one that you're approachable and that you're able to help and say yes to as many things as you can. And to just make sure that you're willing to sit down and learn and not be afraid to make mistakes. Because like I said, when I first started in product marketing, I wasn't exactly sure of what the role was between sales and marketing and product marketing. And so it's taken a lot of just getting back up and trying a new kind of thing, a new way of presenting a message to the sales team or to the marketing team, and sometimes they don't stick and so you just have to make sure that you understand from your organization's perspective what's needed out of product marketing, because I think it's different for everyone. And so it took me a little bit to hone that perspective. But as long as you're able to kind of get back up after you've tried something if it doesn't work or works, and you're able to come to your own conclusion of how Product Marketing can be successful, then I think you'll be much better off.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 34:18
Okay, awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time today Andrew, it's been really interesting speaking about the merger in particular.
Andrew McCotter 34:23
Yeah, thank you so much for having me.
Bryony Pearce - PMA 34:25