Name: Elizabeth Brigham
Location: Chicago, IL
Title: Head of Product Marketing, Software
Company: Morningstar Inc
Education: BA English, Davidson College; MBA, marketing and corporate strategy, University of Michigan
Social handles: Twitter
Tell us about your path into the tech world and your product marketing role.
I was in grad school from 07-09; I remember Apple coming to Ross and telling us about this new thing called the App Store. They were just about to release the SDK and we were participating in a case competition to pitch the best app for the store. My team pitched a travel guide app that was free to download, but had in app purchases that would pop up when you arrived at a museum or point of interest. While we won the competition, we didn’t have the foresight to realize this could have been a legit business. Then I wrote my master thesis on bloggers and their potential to change marketing. With those two experiences and an internship at Disney.com, I was hooked on the possibility of how much technology would change our lives in the decades to come. What an understatement that is!
After three-ish years as a product manager at Disney Parks and Resorts online learning how to translate the in-park guest experience into immersive digital experiences online, how to partner with creatives and imagineers, I decided to expand my experience to the B2B side and work for a smaller enterprise tech company called Jive. I was drawn to the product marketing role as it was pitched to me as a pathway to the GM of a business unit or P&L, and boasted a balance of both strategy and creative thinking. The role also afforded me the opportunity to expand my cross-functional leadership skills. At the time, Jive was launching a series of new solutions in the cloud, so I had the opportunity to help transition our customers to a new platform, work with early adopters and tackle the mountain of objections to this new way of operating. I fell in love with the product marketing discipline as I had the opportunity to develop strategy, engage with sales and our clients, partner with product to develop the roadmap that solved problems in the market and ultimately build new businesses.
How did you know product marketing was for you?
I’m an ENFJ. I love to work on challenging problems with dedicated teams, create something new, launch it into the wild and see what works. For me, technology products are the perfect fit for someone who loves to test, learn and iterate. I also enjoy having accountability for business development, pipeline and ultimately closed business. While I’ve never had a quota, pipeline and closed business are the clearest metrics for me to see that my strategies are working.
How did you learn about product marketing and gain specific skills?
While I was technically a product manager at Disney Parks, it’s nearly impossible to avoid becoming imbued with the marketing ethos at one of the world’s greatest brands – how are we segmenting the market, how are we addressing the needs of that segment, and most importantly, how are we immersing our guests in compelling stories from the first time they engage with us to when they walk through the gates at the Magic Kingdom? I raised my hand for many of the projects people were reticent to take on, including getting on a plane every other week and working with our partners at Disneyland Paris when I didn’t speak French or have any background on business in EMEA. That was my boot camp. From there, I grew even more comfortable with ambiguity, tight timelines, building relationships across functions as quickly as possible and translating that to nearly any situation I walked into. After Disney, I moved to enterprise tech both for public companies (Jive) working across every industry vertical and a startup (Timshel) that powered the technology behind the Clinton campaign.
At Jive, I worked through 3+ years of many leadership changes and focus areas for product marketing. Initially, I was required to be more on the sales support side, but this afforded me the opportunity to be on the road ~70% of my time, pitching alongside field sales reps prospecting into the world’s largest banks, to the newest Sand Hill Road-funded startups. Nothing trains you faster than testing your value props hundreds of times in front of many different people with varying levels of interest.
By working with little to no budget at Timshel, I honed my scrappy skills with a team who was willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in. Every week we tested and learned quickly by meticulously monitoring every bit of data we had coming in from our website, social and other channels. In today’s world, we all need to be marketing scientists and I get a thrill from testing hypotheses, seeing what works (or doesn’t) and building something better the next time.
How would you describe product marketing? To a peer? To your parents?
But, in short, Product marketing is the strategy, science and art of bringing a product to market and building a sustainable business around it.
In your words, how is product marketing different from product management or traditional marketing?
Product marketers deeply understand the market, potential buyers and customers such that: we can develop stories to empower sales to sell our products; direct marketing on who our buyers are and what they most value; guide product management to build products that the market will buy; and, partner with support to ensure we’re delivering an experience that matches the promises we’re making to the market.
Product management deeply understands product users such that we can deliver solutions for acute pains these users are facing. Product management generally has a deeper technical knowledge of the product and can provide guidance to product marketing around what’s feasible to develop and deliver on the roadmap.
Traditional marketing is responsible for translating a product marketing strategy into action to generate demand. These marketers are masters of the buyer’s journey and understanding which messages align to which medium. They also have a strong handle on spend per channel and how to maximize ROI.
Tell us about your current role as Head of Product Marketing for Morningstar
As Head of Product Marketing, Software at Morningstar Inc, I lead a team responsible for developing the discipline of tech product marketing for the company, managing cross functional teams across sales, product, marketing and support, developing go-to-market strategies for existing and new cloud products, enabling sales and working with our marketing partners to develop demand generation campaigns.
What challenges are you currently facing as a product marketer in your current role?
Tech product marketing is a relatively new discipline at the company and across the tech scene in Chicago. One of the greatest challenges and opportunities we have is to build and fly the plane at the same time – the market never sleeps and won’t wait for us to build up our infrastructure. While we don’t want to be hasty, we also need to continue to embrace a culture of entrepreneurship. I’m excited to be at a company where the spirit of entrepreneurship is deeply valued.
What’s a particularly fulfilling project you’ve worked on?
I’ve only been in the role about 90 days, but am proud of the progress we’ve made to organize the teams and to leverage new frameworks for taking new products to market. I’m grateful for all of the expertise on the financial services industry here. Everyone has been more than willing to answer any questions I have and get me up to speed quickly.
What’s your secret to staying productive?
Agile mindset – breaking up work into digestible chunks with defined due dates and teams that are committed to working together. And, a whiteboard.
Also, having small children has forced me to be extremely productive in the time I have at work. My husband and I have strict policies around no phones at the dinner table. Our time with our kids before and after work before they go to bed is the most important aspect of my day.
What’s your favorite recent read?
I’ve been reading “Musicophilia” by Oliver Sacks. I’m a huge music fan and this book walks through several case studies of people who have different (and sometimes strange) neurological reactions to music. His writing style is akin to Malcolm Gladwell’s so it’s a good read on the “L” into work.
Why do you think product marketing is an important function?
At its core, product marketing is focused on extreme empathy and understanding of a target market – what their pains are, how they’re solving the problem today, and what they’re willing to pay for to ease that pain. Without that understanding, you might have a great product, but not a business.
What do you think the future of product marketing looks like?
Product Marketing will continue to require intense curiosity and a “get sh*t done with a team of people” attitude. As we continue to evolve, much like all of marketing, we will need to have a strong interest and knowledge of how to leverage data science, especially on the research side, as a key tool to our success. Similarly, from a tech perspective, we will continue to need to be more savvy and have deeper technical knowledge. We can’t just expect product management to toss some bullets and a product spec list over the wall. We need to get our hands dirty, and talk to customers and prospects about how they’re using or will use our products.
What’s your advice to someone interested in breaking into product marketing?
Before you think about jumping into product marketing, think about what type of company or brand you want to align yourself with. As a product marketer, you have to immerse yourself in your market, prospects and buyers, competitors and LOVE the product. If you don’t love it, how will you convince others to?
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
If anyone is interested in speaking further about product marketing, I’m happy to follow up!
Want to be featured in our “Coffee with a Product Marketer” series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.