Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 263: Q & A with Geoff Webb @isolvedhcm
By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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Join us as we talk about blurring the lines between not just online and offline, but marketing, product, and sales– Specifically what PLG is and as a product marketing leader, what it means to you, the relationship between product and problem, and creating a seamless experience.
Listen in now, read below or watch the video!
Matt: All right. Well, welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. So happy to have you joining us. I am your host, Matt Heinz. For those of you are watching live on LinkedIn, live on YouTube. Thank you very much for joining us in the middle of your work day. We’re getting very close here, Geoff, to the end of the month for some people were getting close to the end of the, I call this the SaaS fiscal year. It’s the February through January fiscal year, that a lot of people have moved to. So October, end of Q3, for those of you doing that. Hope, you’re all hitting your number and staying on top of the numbers you need to hit for the year and for the quarter.
If you are listening to this on demand, if you’re watching this on demand on LinkedIn, thank you much for checking it out. If you are listening to the audio only version on our podcast and our podcast feed, thank you so much for listening. We are a little over 300 episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio over the last several years, and you can catch all of our episodes past, present and future on demand at salespipelineradio.com. Before we get going today and introduce our guest, we want to thank our sponsor, really excited to continue to be working with Sendoso. So we are a customer of Sendoso. They have been a great partner of ours for years. And honestly as we get more digitally focused more of our marketing, more of our sales efforts go digital. I think that authentic human connection still makes a difference and brands that embrace that physical virtual and hybrid strategy, they’re building meaningful connections and growing revenue. Sendoso has done a phenomenal job of building some content case studies, success stories focused on how people are really breaking through and staying connected with their prospects pun intended because the event they just produced called connected had some great content on it. We were really excited to be a part of that, and it is now available on demand. So if you want to check out all of the content from connected all for free, go to sendoso.com/connected-2021. Some great content up there, that’ll help you really think about this hybrid world and hybrid in person online, off line. We’re going to talk a lot about sort of blurring lines today, Geoff, between not just online and offline, but marketing, product, sales. Very excited to have with us today our guest Geoff Webb, he is a longtime product marketing executive with time at Micro Focused NetIQ Pros, and is now the vice president of solution product and marketing strategy for iSolved. That was a mouthful. Geoff, thank you very much for joining me.
Geoff: Thanks man. It’s taken me a while to get so we can go through it slowly.
Matt: Well, speaking of getting there, you will recognize that our guest today, if you find him on LinkedIn, you’ll see that he actually lives deep in the heart of Texas, but his accent sort of gives away the fact that he is a proud University of Liverpool graduate as well. You were joking before we got started about what are the things. We had a client years and years ago that was from Canada and had moved to Texas. And literally they said like, “we come down here, there isn’t as much hockey, different kinds of food, and we’re really trying to be like the locals, which means we’re eating barbecue and going to high school football games”. Which I thought was hilarious and pretty true. But anyway, excited to have you on, I know we’re going to talk a little bit about this intersection between product and marketing. And I think even just your title, like in mean we see a lot of people, I literally this morning was talking to a client about a VP of revenue and product marketing role that she’s trying to fill. Solutions, product, and marketing strategy. Talk a little bit about that role and just operationally day to day, how you are integrating those together for iSolve.
Geoff: Absolutely. You know, and I think it’s a really interesting thing role. I think it’s a natural development of what was traditional product marketing over the years. That role and those teams have, have expanded in their, I don’t just say influence, but in the role they play within the business. And it is absolutely to form a linkage, a very clear linkage that goes both ways between the things that the business builds. The technology that the services they offer, what they bring to market, and the value that those things deliver to their customers in both directions. So in other words, to help the product organization be very clear about where they should be focusing, where the opportunities are, what the challenges are that customers face and how they should be solving them, prioritizing that work and help the broader market and the rest of our business understand this is the value we deliver to our constituents, to our markets, to our customers and to our users. So it is a combination of almost a role of building and telling the story, but also translating the process between things you build and things that people want. And to help the organization understand that’s not necessarily framed in the same way between a product perspective and a value perspective.
Matt: I’m really glad you brought that up. Cause I mean, I could argue that this is not even just a chicken and egg situation. It’s not well as product first customer first. To me, it’s sort of always customer first, right? I mean, like businesses are born because there is a problem to be solved. And that doesn’t go away. I think there are some companies that get very enamored with their product and their product roadmap and sort of lose sight of the customer and the problem. And I think that as you look at companies that over generations have been sustainably successful. Those are the companies that obsess about customers and problems. Like talk a little bit about that. How even though we call it product marketing, like it’s really sort of the opposite to make the product successful and sustainable.
Geoff: It absolutely is. And you know, and I have this conversation many, many times. In fact, I feel like I have it every couple of days with somebody, which is, it’s not about the product, right? And product marketing as it has evolved, it’s evolved not just as an academic exercise, but as a reflection of how businesses are being successful and what the markets and the audiences are expecting. It’s never about the product. It’s always about the value that the thing delivers to the users, to the customers, to the buyers and so on. And you have to start with that perspective. If, you start with the we’ve built something great, let’s go tell the world about it. You will fail. The worst thing that you ever hear is build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. It simply will not. There probably is a sufficiently good mass trap out there already. So why don’t you understand the problem people are having trapping mice before you start building new mouse traps? If I can extend that metaphor way beyond the problem.
Matt: I love it. I look, I love it. And I think we’re all very enamored with our status quo and it takes a lot to get us off of them and like incremental improvements. Hey, listen, you know what’s better than eight-minute abs, seven-minute abs, seven minutes. It’s like a minute. I really don’t care. I’m already on a system. I not going to move to another system for a minute. Right? And that’s my bad analogy there. But I think that it’s a good point. Let’s talk about the progression of this, cause I think a lot of times like a company will start not with a product, but observing a problem in an audience that is big enough that they think there’s a market. You get something launched, and then all of a sudden you’ve got customers that say, wow, that’s great. What if it had X? What if it had Y? I would actually buy it for my enterprise company if it had Z feature. How do you balance feedback from customers individually, which are valid, with making sure you’re staying focused on a core addressable market? Cause I think we probably both seen examples of Franken products that emerge from putting points solutions on products that lose their way.
Geoff: Absolutely. The most terrifying thing you can ever hear when you ask, well who’s this for, and what does it do? Is it’s for everybody and it does everything. That means it’s for no one and it does nothing. That’s part of the role of marketing and the sort of the connection between products, the product world, product management, engineering, production, whatever, and the marketing function and how that sort of symbiotic relationship really should operate efficiently. Which is a clear understanding of what problems we’re solving in the market and then a capacity to dig in and go why is that a problem? It’s not just good enough to understand there’s a problem. You have to understand why is that a problem? What are the implications of that problem to the people that have that?
What are the potential solutions that they have? How many people have that problem, and then what is it worth to them to solve that problem? And if you can bring that sort of information together with a good understanding of the other aspect of that, which is, this is our vision and our perspective for how we want to build the platform, the technology, the product, the services, whatever it is. And so to marry those things, now you have a working business plan for how you’re going to go to market and solve problems in a way that addresses a sufficiently large market with enough value, with something that’s important enough to them to actually have them hand over money to you rather than to somebody else solving a different problem. That’s the key to that sort of marriage, again, between product management, product marketing. You think about traditional management that always start with the basic core statement of there is a problem in the market, such that this group of people have this problem that need to solve it like this, and would like to engage with this kind of product to solve it. And you must, must, must start with that perspective, not with a we’ve built something. I wonder if someone can use it.
Matt: So, if I could go back about 10 minutes when we started and actually start telling the number of times you said product versus problem, I think you said problem more often. So, if you think about this, we call it product marketing, but if we called it problem marketing, it might actually be a little truer. And remind folks where the real fulcrum is here. Talking on Sales Pipeline Radio today with our guest Geoff Webb, he is the head of many things, including problem marketing at iSolved. And Geoff we can’t really have anyone on who’s a product marketing expert and not talk about the latest fraud, the acronym that we have in our B2B space, which is PLG product led growth. I’m sure that you have heard this a couple times, a couple 80, 90, a hundred times. What, what the heck is PLG and as a product marketing leader, what does it mean to you?
Geoff: Yeah, well actually, let me give you another perspective. We tend to think of ourselves, certainly about my team and many of the folks that we work with as solution marketing. That’s a great way to think of this thing is what we take to market as a solution to a set of problems and being clear on what those are is really important. The product led growth, sorry, PLG product led growth functions businesses’ strategies. Really, this is a very natural extension of a couple of things that are going on in the world right now. The objective is very simple. Build a product that engages your user base in such a way that they naturally become advocates. They naturally engage other parts of the organization. And what you see is a sort of an explosive growth within a customer or within a user group of use of your product driven by the value that the product delivers. If the product has certain attributes, it’s really easy to use, it delivers value very quickly, it’s very natural and simple to sort of evangelize about, then you can see explosive growth. And there’s a whole bunch of examples of those sort of things, especially amongst some of the collaboration tools, for example, that are very natural. One group’s using it, they’re finding it has a lot of value. Another group starts to look at that and go, well, actually we could bring that on board. And so what you’re seeing is a real focus that is entirely healthy on ensuring that you can deliver value to the constituents you’re serving, the customers, the users, and so on very quickly, in a way that’s very easy. That’s a good thing. Everybody should be doing that.
And then the second part is really the sort of consumerization of technology where people will test things out themselves, bring it into the workplace, show somebody, a small group starts to use it, and suddenly that explodes. I think one of the ones I love on that example of that is actually oddly enough the standing desks. You usually find that one person goes and buys a standing desk in the office environment, suddenly there’s five, next thing a thousand people buying them.
And then the third trend, that’s really driven this, in my opinion, it has been a rise of the power of the employee to shape the work environment. The sort of this very hierarchical perspective of how things should be done and how things should be supported has really been turned on its head. It’s certainly in the past few years, and definitely in the past couple of years around employees having much, much more power and say. From our organization from the perspective of iSolved as an HCM provider, our whole focus and the focus of this whole market has been on how do you give a better employee experience so that people are better engaged and so on. And product led growth technologies are a very natural outgrowth of that sort of drive to deliver exceptional employee experience.
Matt: I love all that. The word I keyed in on there was experience. I think that when you think about just, I mean, we spend a lot of time talking about sort of sales and marketing collaboration and creating a seamless sales and marketing experience. And if you add product in there, I think you’ve got this sort of Holy Trinity that really can create a rocket fuel opportunity in your business. Like people don’t want to be sold to, they don’t want to be marketed too. They want to really be pushed in a direction they’re not ready for. And that’s the product as well. We probably all, both of us, as well as everyone watching and listening have had product experiences where we feel like we’re getting pushed to upsell. We feel like we’re getting pushed to convert to buy something more. We don’t want to be sold to, but we love to buy. We love to solve our problems. We want to fix things, right. And I think that if we have a seamless experience across the departments across the business, so they don’t see this as well, this is okay, because this is iSolved marketing, and I know our sales is run by a different department. So it’s okay. There’s a different message. I guarantee your buyers are not thinking that. So if you create that seamless experience across the customer facing teams, as well as the customer facing products and services, and you get that right, and you go back to our first part of this conversation, you focus all of that message, not on the product, but on the problems. And on the reasons on the customer-centric reasons why this makes sense now, all of a sudden we’re getting somewhere.
Geoff: Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s been one of the interesting challenges again, and I’ve just referenced very quickly in our space because this has been one that also has been turned completely on its head. The last couple of years have seen a complete change in the way that employees think about their relationship with their employer. And that’s forced organizations to completely rethink about how they interact with their employees. How do they engage with them? How do they make sure that their experience is a good one? How do they empower employees to make good decisions instead of enforcing them from, again, this very sort of top down very hierarchical perspective, because employees are now looking for a different kind of experience when they’re evaluating who they want to work for who do they want to stay with and so on. And so, it’s a case of how do we give people the tools to do their job? How do we give them the tools to collaborate, work with each other? How do we give them the tools to not only that, but to develop within their career, how do they, how do they take control of their own training, their own career development, their goal setting and so on, and have a better employee experience? And the challenge for product organizations of every kind, every kind is to recognize that trend and understand what it means to the things that they break into market. Because it means that now the criteria for valuation of value has shifted potentially very dramatically and certainly quickly.
Matt: Well, you’ve got a couple things happening. You’ve got a consumer and a buyer who increasingly wants to operate independently, who is comfortable and educated enough to make some of their own decisions, follow their own path. And increasingly now we’ve had this labor shortage for a while that doesn’t seem to be alleviating. And I’ve seen some economists that say, okay, well just get used to this because it’s not coming back. So if you have fewer people to put in your customer success team, if you have fewer people to pick up the phone and call your customer, how do you merge that opportunity with your customer’s interest in being more so else directed? To me this is, I don’t know, what to call it product led growth. I don’t know what you call that, but like that seems like a real opportunity for years to come.
Geoff: It is, it is. And I think it’s recognizing again that how people buy is changing. I think we’ve seen this for a long time. You know as a marketing leader, we’ve been in marketing departments I’ve run and worked in, we’ve been navigating this change for quite a long time, which is that the shift to self-education, to the shift to doing research, to relying on peers and sort of essentially assembling much of the information ahead of engaging with the company I want to buy from. I think the other thing that’s happening is that marketing organizations, in addition to helping educate their markets must now also help those markets understand how to buy. I think that one of the big challenges that businesses face is just the complexities of going through, making the selection process, figuring out how to buy, what are the integration points?
I think one of the interesting counterpoints to product led growth is there are absolutely technologies that are not particularly amenable to product led growth strategies because of the nature of the dependencies and interactions with other infrastructure that they have. If it’s very much a sort of an atomic set of value that can be delivered, you can drive product led growth. If it requires a lot of integration, if there are other sort of technology requirements, you have to approach it differently in that you have to enable your current users to evangelize the value without necessarily just giving them the tools to go ahead and tell somebody else to go install it, because it may not work that way.
Matt: Correct. Well, as usually run out of time really quickly on this show, Geoff I want to thank you for joining us. Where can people learn more about iSolved working? We learn more from you.
Geoff: So, I would do a couple things, obviously visit our website, isolvedhcm.com. End to end platform really for the entire, like other things we talked about, from hiring all the way through to development of the skillset to workforce management and so on. It’s an HCM platform and tool set and services, but for me follow me on LinkedIn. I’m always very interested in these kind of conversations. I have a great passion for this as an evolving discipline. So I’d love to talk more.
Matt: Love it. Well, thanks so much for taking the time. I know you’re busy. This has been fun. It’s been quick, but it’s been fun. Thank you for everyone for watching on LinkedIn. If you’re listening or watching on demand, thanks so much. Thanks again to our sponsor, Sendoso. We’ll see you next week, 11:30 Thursdays, 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. My name is Matt Heinz. We’ll see you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.
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