"No One Cares About Your Product"
A jarring claim for a product marketer, but one that holds a lot of truth as Ryan Yackel describes in this episode of the RevPartners podcast.
Ryan is the VP of Product Marketing at KeyFactor, the Leader in PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) as a Service and crypto agility solutions, and has mastered the art of storytelling traditionally applied to marketing and made it transferrable to product. Now he shares with the Pit Stops to Podium audience some quick, consumable concepts on how to view Product Marketing rightly through the lens of sales, marketing, and the product development.
Take 20 minutes to listen and digest and then head back to the races! 🏁🏆
Pit Stop Highlights
The illuminating role of Product Marketing
Product Marketing = the marketing activities associated with bringing a product to the market. Not simply talking about your product.
Like the headlights to a car, Product Marketing offers illuminating insights about the consumer and their values to the Sales, Marketing, and Product Development teams - shining light into where they actually need to go.
The feature-less focus of Product Marketing
Simply. The customer. Always. Not your company, and not your product. "You are the guide in the customer journey. The customer is the hero."
Your messaging and product releases should all center around what guidance you are providing to the hero on this grand journey as they calculate the three determinants of value - cost, speed, and risk.
"What they care about is that your product can prevent something from happening in terms of preventing risk that's in your organization. If it helps them solve any type of cost reduction. And, if you're trying to reduce costs and reduce spend, then they want to know how can your product accelerate their efforts in the marketplace."
Ryan's Remarks on Category Creation
Tread carefully! Although the concept of "Category Creation" is a hot topic in the product world these days, Ryan cautions Product Marketers on the cost and risk of delayed payoffs and of speaking another language than your customer entirely.
Item’s Mentioned In This Episode
Ryan's Reads: 1) Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller and 2) Play Bigger by authors Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney
Ryan's Hero: Superman and Batman as a close second. Check out Ryan's recommended show: Batman, the Animated Series.
You can follow Ryan Yackel on Linkedin! You can also reach him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in connecting over content design, product marketing, or rethinking your public infrastructure with KeyFactor.
BT: Hey everybody, welcome to Pit Stops to Podium the RevPartners Podcast, we talked to execs who have competed and won taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I am the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I am thrilled to have with me today my good friend, Ryan Yackel. Welcome Ryan.
RY: Hey man, how's it going? "We're good friends." Is that what you're saying, are we like best friends? I thought we're best friends?
RY: Okay, my bad.
BT: Well, Ryan currently serves as a VP of product marketing at a company called KeyFactor, who is the leader in PKI as a service in crypto agility solutions. Ryan, I have no idea what I just said. So how about you enlighten our audience as to what that means and who KeyFactor is?
RY: I can, yeah. Thank you for that lovely introduction. Yeah, so KeyFactor, as we said yeah we are leader of PKI service and crypto agility solutions. And what that means is at a high level is PKI stands for public key infrastructure. You may be thinking, "wow, that's also a mouthful." It's like, yeah, it is. But if you think about it, public infrastructure is something that's been around for actually really long time. And what it is, is it's a set of controls and infrastructure and software that basically helps you manage things called digital certificates. And so I know everyone here probably has gone to amazon.com in the last hour, maybe. And in the top left corner, you'll see a little thing that says, "Hey, this site is secure or not the HTTPS part, right?" Well, the reason why Amazon can say that is because they had this thing called a public digital certificate or SSL TLS certificate, right? That tells you, and me that his is trustworthy, right? Well, what's interesting is that companies have public certificates that are out there and there's also internal certificates are out there. So if you think about things that are on your laptop or things that are on like an IOT device or a virtual machine, all of these different things out there, all these different machines that are out there, they have identities that are associated with them. So if I can talk to your machine you can talk to my machine. We can talk to a database whatever that is, they're all controlled through digital certificates and digital keys and what we call is cryptography, right? And so what we do is we provide the ability for people to outsource their PKI as a service to KeyFactor so we can host all the infrastructure for you and also have you manage all those digital certificates and keys at scale across your enterprise. And so we work with the global 2000 companies that are out there and we help them secure all those machines and identities that they have in this other organization so that they're not vulnerable to a breach or an outage that could happen. And then an example of that is it usually anytime you have a service that goes down, let's say a website goes
down or Spotify recently had this happen. Google had this happen but usually what happens is it's due to an expired certificate. So we help you manage all those certificates, all those keys to make sure you don't experience a very costly outage or breach or any downtime associated with that. So hopefully that kind of clears it up.
BT: It definitely helps and it's a great example as to why if you use one of the best product marketers I know which you probably don't love hearing me brag on you but I will.
RY: I hate hearing people brag about this-- It's not something I like.
BT: Well, I think what you have done is you've mastered kind of the art of storytelling that's, you know, traditionally applied to that marketing silo and been able to apply it into a product lens that's typically very dry. And so it's a pretty nice marriage that you've been able to create.
RY: Enterprise sales can be very dry at times.
BT: Yes. Especially when you're doing testing like we used to do. Well, right. Before we get into our big idea for today, one of the traditions we have at this podcast is to get to know our guests beyond work. So what are three fun facts
that our audience should know about you as a person?
RY: Alright. So first one is I love Superman.
I've been a diehard Superman fan all my life. I can remember back when I was in sixth grade, turn on Smallville, one of the best four shows ever to be created that's out there. I remember I got a really awesome, very gaudy silver embezzled, Superman chain. I used to wear it around in middle school. I thought it was really cool. I love Superman. I've got two little girls that may interrupt us, or may not. I've told them not to come in here. We'll see about that. And the last one is what
was the last one that I had mentioned? I can't remember.
BT: You share a birthday with somebody.
RY: Oh, that's right. Harry Potter. Yeah. I share a birthday with Harry Potter.
BT: What day is that again? I should know this as your best friend but I apologize.
RY: I know, you've missed it a couple of times, but it's okay. We'll make it up.
BT: All right. Well, let's transition to the big idea which I love. It's counterintuitive with your title. Nobody cares about your product. So help me understand what that means, given what you do and where you're selling. So how would you define that? And then we'll get into some of those concrete points, but just at a high level, what do you mean by that statement?
RY: Yeah. So what I mean by that is, and yeah, you're right. My title is product marketing. So you think that, oh, what all I do is I just talk about our products, you know, every day, the reality is product marketing basically equals the marketing activities associated with bringing a product to the market, which is different than talking about your product. So I don't talk, we talk about our product on our website and in collateral and things like that. But if that's all I did every day, I'd be a very bad product marketer.
BT: Yeah so I think that's a good starting point. Let's get more like a practical application to what you were just describing. So let's look at it through the lens of like, from a go-to-market standpoint, as you think about how you interact. So as product marketing, you're interacting with sales, you're interacting with marketing, interacting with product, and there's a kind of continuous feedback loop that you're able to create as it relates to, like, let's talk about sales to start out with, and it relates to the, you know, from a go-to-market motion, but ultimately into those engagements with clients, you know, I think the temptation is feature functionality. And what you're, what you're describing is that's not what you should be pitching. That's not what customers care about.
RY: Right. That's something you can get to, but it's not something you want to lead with. Like nobody cares that your
product does, you know, X widget thing or can report on this or can report on that. Right? What they care about is that
your product can prevent something from happening in terms of preventing risk that's in your organization. It helps them helps you solve any type of cost reduction. If you're trying to reduce costs, reduce spend, and then also they want to know about how can your product accelerate, what they're doing in the marketplace. Those are like the three
things you think about. It's like cost, speed and risks. Those are usually the areas that I always frame, every product release and every thing that we do also align back to the different personas that we have that care about those things. And so anytime that we do a product release or we're thinking about like, what are we, what do we want to get across in our messaging? The thing we think about is like, okay, what is the thing that you do? That's number one. Or what is it, the thing that we're going to be releasing, whatever it is, right. The next thing is like, why it matters or what, okay. So what if we do X thing? Okay, well, why does it matter for you Mr. Customer, Mr. Persona? Okay. And then what's the value out of why it cares. And then after that, all the features and functionality has helped you get to the state of, okay, I really want that. And I see value in that, but if you can't show a business value to them immediately, and very, very quickly, all you become is just another widget that's out there that has, oh, you have this user access control and you have global fields and you have this nice pie chart and you have whatever that nobody cares about that they care more about what's the business value that you have. And then outside of that, then you get into the product. And, and a big thing that I'll just say too, is that when we redid a lot of our messaging this past year, that was a big problem that we had in our organization, which was, we want to talk about PIK as a service. Immediately. Like, oh, well you have your PKI on prem. Well, isn't it great? Just move it to us and you can do all this. Yeah. But the problem was we didn't set the tone in terms of what's the problems that you're having in your organization. What's the context that makes you even care about this thing, right? How are or what are the, what's the, what are the business issues that you're running into that make it worthy for you to even think about changing up your solution? What's the value out of changing your solution and then painting this idea that here's where you currently are in this old state. And then here's where you get to in the new bliss. And we did what we did recently in our, in our sales kickoff was I presented the same called the customer journey,
which really gets back into the, the hero journey. So everything about a hero journey is it's very, Donald Miller does a great job at this. I don't know if you've heard, you know, Don Miller. He does a, he's got a company called
BT: Story Brand.
RY: Story Brand, right. Yeah. And, and this has done a lot of, it's been around for a while, but essentially getting back
to nobody cares about your product. It's also, nobody cares about your company either. They care about you. Like they care that you care about them. And so the, when, when a lot of times when people come in, they want to talk about how
great their company is, all, you know, the great logo slide, and here's our, we, our trajectory or whatever they want to build all this credibility and all these things, right? Which is fine. But if they're not, if they're already talking to you, then they already probably did a lot of the research on why they think you're credible, right? But if all you do is then talk about your products and all you do is talk about how cool the company is how they can, they can like, you know, save you, whatever.
That's the wrong way to think about it. You always want to think about it in terms of like you are the guide in the customer journey, in the hero's journey, the customer is the hero, right? You are the guide that helps them win, whatever problem they're doing. So that the light shines on the customer, not KeyFactor. It shines on, you know, whoever the company name is and helps them achieve this new bliss in their organization. So that it's not KeyFactor doing it for them.
BT: Yeah. It's a paradigm shift for sure. And putting the spotlight on the customer and not on the company. So don't start with you, start with them, how you can partner alongside them from a tier point value creation - current state, future state. "Here's how we help you get there as a guide." Let's transition to, we talked about from a sales perspective, let's move into marketing and then we'll do product. And within like a marketing lens, let's talk about it from a content perspective. So how does product marketing inform content creation?
RY: Yeah. And I would say it's, I would say it informs the entire Demand Generation team where content is a part of that. So my, I mean, if you look at, if you were just to go and look at my name or my colleague, Brian Sanders, our name
and how it's attached to - You'll notice we're attached to almost everything that is going on, content related, whether it's a website, whether it's a press release, it's a webinar, it's a video, it's a, a white paper, an ebook it's SEO that we're doing all that stuff. We do that together as a team to build content, but here's the deal: demand gen uses all of that so that they can be successful in driving demand. And so we don't go and do that in a silo.
But the reality is that the demand gen team cannot do what they want to do effectively without product marketing. Product marketing is basically the headlights to a car. If you think about a car, you're driving a car. And if that's the demand gen team, they need to know where to go. They need to know like, should I take this ally? Should I take this back road? Should I get on the highway? Should we stop? Should we slow down? Should we change out the tires? Whatever it is, right? But all that product marketing does is shine light into where you actually need to go. And so that all comes down to building up the correct personas. If you don't have the correct personas and you're sending messages to the wrong persona, that's bad. If you're sending a bunch of ads and a bunch of content pieces, the wrong persona, that's bad. How do they know that they talked to product marketing, because we know our customers and we know what they, we should know what they want, and what they want to consume, right? When you're sending out emails. And you're like, why isn't this click? Why isn't- why aren't people opening the email? Or why aren't they interacting with all the things I'm
saying of why they should be even entertaining a reach out from KeyFactor? Well, they get all that from us. We give the messaging, the positioning, the value ad, the value cards they know to like actually create those things. Without us they can't do any of that, right? Now the business can't run without demand gen. So I'm not just saying, "Hey, look, how awesome product marketing is." I'm not saying that what I'm saying is a lot of people start in the demand gen focused marketing area and they just go, let's just start doing stuff, you know? Let's do social, let's do this, let's do that, whatever.
Without having a framework to align to, to figure out what should we be saying? What- who should we be targeting? Is this messaging resonating? Do we have the right personas? Do we have the right ICP, right? All of that comes from
a product marketing from demand gen perspective. And so what we do is we try to scale our, we try to, we try to help the demand gen team and equip them with all the things they need to know. So they're- they can drive the car the correct way, right? And then we're also building content that's gonna be unique and going to grab attention from people when they actually figure out who Key Factor is. So there's like a double thing that goes on there with us interacting with the Demand Gen team and also the product, the product marketing team together.
BT: I appreciate you using the car analogy in light of our pit stops are a podium concept. So well played.
RY: I didn't even, dude you know what I didn't even think about that.
BT: It, you know, the way that I think about that, at least if I were to distill it down in my layman's terms, is that you're providing context to the content. And so you're giving clarity as to what you're creating and why. Let's move on to the last bullet. And that's really more on the product side. So we talked about sales in terms of value creation, not focusing on feature functionality. We just talked about marketing in terms of how it impacts and informs your demand gen strategy. And then let's lastly, talk about product. And so, you know, there's a kind of a great debate on like category creation or, you know, improving the category that already exists. This is more of a kind of a tee I'm serving you up with one here. So what's your thought or opinion on where products should be focused in light of the category?
RY: Yeah, so I, I have strong opinions on this because I think currently right now, well, first of all, marketing is one of the
worst disciplines out there creating like new ideas, like every, every two weeks. Like if you go on LinkedIn, you see like a
new marketing tactic, that's like the silver bullet to solve everything, right? I, I see that more out of that department than any other department out there, product management, sales, even rev. I mean, it is, it's crazy how many new things
people are being told to think about change, okay?
BT: It's like weight loss.
RY: I know seriously, seriously, and you know what, I'm gullible enough to even fall into. That's funny I was like, I'm
trying to lose some weight. And I was looking into like diets and things like that. And like exercises. The reality is there's so many, there's, there's only so many ways you can do a pushup. There's only so many ways you can do AB workouts.
There really is, unless you get crazy and do it. And it's like, okay, what's the benefit of you even doing it that way. But there really is like, you go online, you find all these things all the best way to do this best way to do that. And you find out a lot of things are just regurgitated from two years ago. And it's, it's nothing new. It's just time has elapsed where people are just going to give you a new idea. So I always be cautious of that, but the one thing that's a big thing right now is this idea of category creation, which is, it came from this book, mostly. And I'm sure it was before this, a book called Play Bigger. And it's all about saying that, listen, you know, the top companies in the world, they created a category and they own the category. And when you own the category, you own the narrative. And that allows you to be untouchable basically. And you will be the defacto person in that, in that category. The problem with that and there's actually
people that April Dunford talks about this too. She's a great marketing, a product marketing positioning, a person that's out there. She talks about how, yes, you can do that. However, if you want to create a new category from scratch, no one's ever heard of (A) it's risky and (B) it is, it's going to cost a lot of money. And you're not going to see the payoff on that for at least a year and a half out if it even works or not. So, one thing that I just caution people is like (A) like it is risky to do, and it's going to cost money and you're not going to see immediate payoffs. You got to get everyone on
board with your company that you're going to do this, by the way. And in the short attention span we have these days,
I don't know if a lot of C-suites are going to agree that that they're going to be ready to do that. Right? So that's one thing.
The other thing though, is that if you want to do that, that's great. Go for it. And if there's a lot of green field opportunity, do it. The second thing though, is this is if there's already an existing category, there's already an existing consensus of where you are, where you fit. I think it is completely irrational to say, we're going to forget that category and not talk about whatever, but we're going to position. We're going to create our own category so that we can beat out all this other competition. The problem with that is that if your consumer or your customer knows all this language, okay, they understand this and you say, "Well, we're just gonna create a new category." What you're doing is you're not automatically speaking the language of the customer anymore. And so you start to alienate people right away. So what I always suggest is you have to do an analysis. You're going to create a category, or you're going to position better within
an existing category. And so usually when, the way you find out, I mean, most of the time you find out if a category is created, that you should be positioning within, usually refers back to what the market is saying. And it refers back to analysts refers back to what are the, how are the people that are eventually going to have enough buying your software and B2B sales. If they're talking to analysts and they're speaking the language back to them, whatever that is, that's probably your category and either position and be differentiated in that category to beat out the competition, because it's not impossible to take over somebody that was already either first entrant to that category. When you have a laser focus on differentiating within that category. So you can always do that.
BT: Right. That makes sense. It's, there's our focus component. Don't get distracted. Don't feel like you have to
do something just because that's, what you think is the right thing to do. There's plenty of Greenfield, even within an existing category. And it almost gets back to what you described in the, when we talk about marketing of the guide concept of, you know, the really the hero is the customer. So listen to what the, the voice of the customer and what they need, and don't put yourself as a hero by just creating a category for the sake of creating category. Well, Ryan, this has been really helpful. I really enjoy learning more about how you view the role that product marketing can play and being that kind of hub between sales, marketing, and product. If our audience wants to engage with you further, how can they not only connect with you, but also with Key Factor?
RY: Yeah. So I'm on LinkedIn. It's just Ryan Yackles. So go ahead and check me out there. My email is ryan.Yackel@keyfactor.com. If you want to email me happy to do that, then just go to keyfactor.com. If you want to see kind of how we built up our content, even on the website if there's any ideas that you think I missed, I'd love to hear them love to hear what you have to say, but then also if you're ever in the need for rethinking your public infrastructure, we're the people to go to.
BT: All right, Ryan well hey thanks a lot for the time. I appreciate you sharing some insights with our audience.