AMA: Product Marketing with one of HubSpot's most senior product marketing experts, Ari Plaut

lalexander
HubSpot Employee

On Thursday, June 25, we're lucky to be joined by Ari Plaut, a Principal Product Marketing Manager who's worked on launching a wide array of HubSpot hubs and tools over his 7+ years at HubSpot.

 

Ask him anything about positioning your product, preparing months in advance for major launches, and project managing dozens of stakeholders on your product, marketing, sales, and services teams.

 

He'll be answering your questions on Thursday, but please feel free to drop your questions below now.

 

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13 Replies 13
lalexander
HubSpot Employee

Tagging in a couple of folks who I know were interested in related marketing topics: @SkylerSchmanski @LBeresford-Ward @Rolf @Pagenoi 

And a few others I bet would be interested as well! @nmclain @DaniPerales @skalka @jtAccusoft @ernopyykko @mbh 

lalexander
HubSpot Employee

Plus these members of our community!

@Ryan_ @benesch_e @jhuang @rapril @cbmoldov @DigiUpDiva @dhilsonjr @TH1 @willsmith 

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Rolf
Contributor

Hi Ari, I'm always looking forward to your part of the monthly updates! Great to be able to ask you one of my burning questions directly.

 

One month ago we announced that our company is acquired by another firm in the same industry. As our product lines complement each other's perfectly, we're not competitors. On January 1, 2021, our company will cease to exist and become one with the acquiring party.

 

We're now talking about merging processes and systems. Though this is not the time and place for details, it might be useful to mention that they want us to move to their combination of Dynamics CRM and WordPress.

 

We don't want to make that move. Obviously.

 

So, my question is a practical one: What is your advice on merging two companies in HubSpot? We use Marketing Enterprise, Sales Pro, CRM, and CMS Pro since 2013 and are pretty much married to it. Even my graduation thesis was (partly) based on the HubSpot methodology.

 

Any help, hints, tips, advice on bringing another company onboard into our HubSpot environment, and integrate their commercial team (about 25 people) successfully is useful to us.

 

I have a general idea of how to do this in a factual sense. But I will need to convince them that moving to HubSpot requires as little effort as possible and leads to the greatest gains possible.

 

Not sure if this is in your array of expertise, but I gotta try 🙂

 

One last note: Magically, this other party has very little understanding of online marketing. They're based in Germany and are entirely traditionally focused on events. Talking about online marketing while they have such a huge knowledge gap also makes this a very tough discussion.

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Pagenoi
Contributor

Rolf,

I am in a similar situation to you, my company often acquires smaller companies that are essentially in our space, but wouldn't really be considered outright competitors. Most, if not all, of them, are in some form of contract with a third party web hosting company that uses white-labeled WordPress sites. It's often really difficult to convince them to move away from WordPress, especially any of the technical support. Personally, I think it requires way fewer technical hours to manage a Hubspot site but there is still a lot of pushback.

 

I generally try to focus on the positives of the HS platform, like the email integration and automation that can be set based on pages visited or forms filled out. My industry, in general, isn't very technologically advanced so it's often an uphill battle. I am interested in hearing the expert opinion on this as well.

ariplaut
HubSpot Employee

Hey @Rolf  --

 

These are great questions, really appreciate your asking them (and honored that you recognized me from the videos  -- any feedback welcome!!)

That's a really hard conversation; a company's tech stack is part of their identity, and so deeply embedded in their systems and processes. Switching software platforms means unwinding years of technical debt. Plus, on a personal level, switching software means that all the employees of the other company immediately go from "experts" to "beginners." That's a tough sell. Let me ask around HubSpot, and see if I can find you a better resource.

 

From a marketing perspective, I'm going through this process as we speak as well. HubSpot acquired a company called PieSync last year, and we're working on integrating their team and tech into HubSpot's. My biggest takeaway so far is to be open to learning, and to find areas of alignment. The day HubSpot bought PieSync, we were no longer two separate companies; we're now on the same team, working towards the same goals.

 

For example: I work on launching integrations at HubSpot. The PieSync team has successfully sold integration/syncing software for years. They're an absolute goldmine. The questions I'm asking myself: What can I learn from them? What tests have they run on their website? What buyer personas have they built out? What use cases are most compelling? What sales materials do they rely on? When we start by finding common ground, it makes it that much easier to resolve conflicts later on.

 

- Ari

 

Rolf
Contributor

Hey @ariplaut, that is great advice! Thank you.

 

I guess I should be asking more questions instead of showing them how great HubSpot is. Because the standard reply is "our tools can probably do that too."

 

And like you mention, the tech stack you're used to working with defines so much about the business. Because they don't have a SEO strategy, don't employ SEA, no nurturing, etcetera, because there is no online marketing knowledgee, asking them questions could help in defining gaps within their tools.

 

We shall see. Thank you again for your time!

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Pagenoi
Contributor

Good Morning Ari,

 

I have probably the same question that I have for pretty much every marketing expert, about content cannibalization. My company has three main brands, CiraConnect (our SAAS), RealManage (Community Management supported by CiraConnect), and GrandManors (Similar to RealManage, but a higher level of support - basically called out "white-gloved" service). 

 

With CiraConnect it's easy enough to optimize for different kinds of searches but for both RealManage and GrandManors their keywords and target markets are often the same. The brands were separated before I joined the team and I am not sure they really understood the difficulties having it branded separately would create. The main differences in their target markets are that GrandManors communities often have dedicated full-time staff, Community Managers, and Maintenance teams, and they are often larger and more expensive homes. RealManage on the other hand provides the same services but without the dedicated staff, many communities will share a single community manager or have contracted maintenance through a third-party, these can be much smaller HOA's and Condo communities. 

 

I have always been a major proponent of the EAT marketing method and I focus heavily on content, blogs, downloadable assets, white papers, and case studies to create brand recognition through consistent authoritative content. The problem is often that the two service brands, RealManage and GrandManors, have similar content and I am worried that they end up competing against each other, especially in terms of SERP placement. Do you have any suggestions for how to avoid content cannibalization and how to market these similar brands so that they don't compete with each other.

ariplaut
HubSpot Employee

Hi @Pagenoi  -

 

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pzarcone
Member

Hey Ari, 

 

Thank you for doing this.  Appreciate your time.

 

My question for you is: How do you define Product Marketing at Hubspot? I know some product marketing teams work on the narrative and positioning only, and others are more of project managers since there are so many things to coordinate. How do you manage to put a lot of time into the positioning while managing your website team, ads team, and anyone else involved in the launch?

 

Thanks,

Pete

ariplaut
HubSpot Employee

Pete - 

 

I feel like this question encapsulates the challenge of product marketing to a T:

How do you manage to put a lot of time into the positioning while managing your website team, ads team, and anyone else involved in the launch?

 

At HubSpot, product marketing is in charge of:

 

  1. Creating and telling the story of your products (including positioning).
  2. Defining the buyer or buyers for your product and enabling sales to effectively sell to them.
  3. Creating and executing a product-centric marketing plan. That includes orchestrating launches, but it's a lot more than 

In terms of balancing positioning and project management, that dynamic has changed as we've grown. When I joined product marketing at HubSpot in 2016, we were 3-4 people on a marketing team of under 100. Since there was less specialization, our role was less "orchestration" and more "execution." In other words, when we launched a new product, PMM would be in charge of the thought leadership, blog posts, sales enablement, etc. As we've grown, specialized teams have sprung up in each of those areas. So we've ceded a lot of that execution to the experts, and taken on the role of quarterback/orchestrator of launches. The trick to cross-functional launch alignment is tight process. We send weekly emails to the whole marketing team; run weekly launch standups with all our stakeholders; track all our deliverables and deadlines from a single doc; etc. 

 

Recently, we've brought on a project manager to help with the process. In truth, PMMs are great at telling product stories, but we're not project management experts. I'm excited to see how our new project manager levels up our process even more. 

 

What about you @pzarcone ? What does your PMM function look like?

DanielWolter
HubSpot Employee

Hi Team,

I hope you all had a great week. Thank you very much @ariplaut and @HadarS  for looping me into this conversation. Loving the input that has been provided by you all.
I thought to share some insight from my perspective regarding the situation you described @Rolf and @Pagenoi . As a Sales Rep at HubSpot working within the DACH market I only too well know the position you are finding yourselves in.
We speak with multiple businesses' day in and day out that have grown into very complex tool landscapes that are more than difficult to handle, maintain and utilize for day-to-day work. The talk track we see us up against with is very similar to what you described in your posts @Rolf and @Pagenoi  .

What I have noticed is, that selling HubSpot from a tool perspective is very difficult as often the knowledge gap is just too big and it ends up in frustration on both sides.
A very good technique to use, and this is what you already mentioned @Rolf, is to get a better understanding of the status quo. We usually walk prospects through a Discovery Call before moving into a demo to ask about what is working well, what isn't and how the future should look like in an ideal world. 
One of the most important aspects here is to unlock current pain-points. Yes, I actually mean pain-points. It does sound harsh if you read it at first glance but looking at it from a value perspective it is vital for positioning any type of tool and/or strategy. 
Unlocking these pain-points usually does not happen by asking one question on top-level. It takes a couple of rounds and a couple of questions before we humans naturally give a valuable answer.
Once you have identified these pain-points you can then work on positioning solutions (e.g. other tools and functions).
What should also be taken into account is with whom you are actually talking to. Talking to the Techies or Power Users of the current tool landscape quite often resembles in complex conversations around the tools themselves and it is very difficult to sell value here.
Identifying a champion or a decision-maker that has some current pain-points makes it much easier to move into the right direction.

I'd be more than happy to share some further insights and/or knowledge via a Zoom-Call if needed 🙂

Wishing you all a great weekend!

Cheers,
Dan

Rolf
Contributor

Hi @DanielWolter,

 

Thank you for your great response! Moving the conversation away from " the tool"  is a great start to get to some common ground. Though the knowledge gap and their entire market approach are so big and traditional that it's as if we're speaking different languages...which we actually do (German vs Dutch), so that makes it all the more difficult.

 

I'd love to continue this conversation with you on a Zoom call. Not sure if I can share my details here or if you have access to them already.

 

Cheers,

Rolf

DanielWolter
HubSpot Employee

Hi @Rolf ,

Please excuse my late reply - I was on holiday and enjoyed some sun the past weeks.
I'd love to jump on a call with you to discuss in detail. Feel free to book a time that suits you best via the following link: 

Meeting with Daniel

Looking forward to talking to you.

Best,
Dan