The basics

Name: Cam Davies
Location: Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
Title: Senior Manager, Product Marketing
Company: OTTO Motors
Education: Advertising Diploma, Bachelor’s Degree
Social handles: Twitter, LinkedIn

Tell us about your path into the tech world and your product marketing role.

Straight out of school I moved from Kitchener-Waterloo to downtown Toronto and started working in sales for a large media company. I wore a suit everyday and thought that I was building the career and life that I wanted for myself. Nagging thoughts turned into sleepless Sunday nights and, a few years in, I found myself very unfulfilled. I needed to change.

I moved back to Kitchener-Waterloo to try and get a job in the burgeoning local tech community and I was fortunate to find a job in sales for growing start-up. After six months, I transferred to the marketing team to write case studies and other content about how our customers were using our products. It was in that job that I was introduced to product marketing by the director of product and I soon joined his team in my first official product marketing role.

I believe that my first-hand experience in both sales and marketing have equipped me with good insight into how to add value as a product marketer.

How did you learn about product marketing and gain specific skills?

Product marketing is so broad and everything on the accountabilities list is so nuanced that I don’t think there’s a definitive list of skills to learn. Instead, I believe that product marketing is a mindset and a practice of continuous critique. You are always asking yourself, “does this make sense from the customer’s perspective?” and “have I explored this in every possible way to really nail the message?” I love and hate that product marketing is never ‘done’ and that there’s always room for improvement and learning.

I have a three-pronged approach to the job:

  1. I read a lot of business books and blogs about sales, marketing, and product management to form a gut feel about how we’re doing with our current go-to-market approach; 
  2. I talk with sales, marketing, product, and engineering to get a level-set on current challenges, upcoming product releases, and to gather feedback and input on what we can do better;
  3. I talk with our market to test assumptions and ideas. This is the prong that is most effective. I put on my “product team” hat and that usually gives me carte blanche to ask seemingly objective questions then drill into their current understanding of the category, our product, and the competitive landscape so I fully understand their worldview.

To capture everything, I like to use CEB’s Commercial Insight framework to create messages and I couple that with Pragmatic Marketing’s Marketecture framework to strengthen product messaging foundations.

What challenges are you currently facing as a product marketer in your current role?

The product line that I’m currently at the helm of marketing houses market-leading technology and strong market validation from fortune 500 companies and we are now transitioning from technology into product; and that is rife with challenges.

The most challenging is that the product that we’ve built can be used in dozens of applications across a dozens of industries. It’s very hard to say we make X for Y unlike Z. That makes creating sales enablement material really tough. Instead, I often find myself allocating resources to whichever sales person asks the nicest to help uncover and build-up some of the assets that they need.

The second biggest challenge is prioritization of what is both urgent and important. Because our product is so new and the category is getting defined so quickly, I don’t have a nice library of assets for the teams to use. I often have to make judgement calls on what can be done, what needs to be reprioritized, and what will have to wait.

What’s a particularly fulfilling project you’ve worked on?

In order to test some assumptions and get a solid grasp of the voice of our customer, I took on the part-time role of salesperson to companies located within an hour’s drive of our office. The experience was invaluable as a product marketer and it is still paying dividends in the form of real pipeline, referrals, opportunities to exhibit and speak at events, and the ability to add the well-informed VOC to internal conversations; not to mention credibility with the sales and marketing teams. With support from teammates on the product, marketing, and sales teams, we even hosted our own local networking event and product demonstration at a brewery that brought qualified prospects together for a focused conversation about our products.

What’s your secret to staying productive?

Getting up early, (re)organizing my day, and setting goals.

With a two-year-old, a newborn, and a mentally taxing job, I like to save my evenings to wind-down, recharge, and spend time with the family. To make sure I feel prepared for each day, I get up at 5:45am to get a grasp on emerging topics, catch-up on Slack, email, and shared file feedback, and generally know what I need to accomplish that day.

To keep track of everything and easily prioritize, I have a master to-do list on a Trello card that is a checklist of other Trello cards.

What’s your favorite recent read?

My three favourite books that I think are fundamental reads are:

  1. The Challenger Sale / Challenger Customer. This is a great framework from CEB to make sure you’re getting to the heart of the message and the value you intend to deliver to your customer.
  2. Why Johnny Can’t Brand. Loosely anchored on Pragmatic Marketing’s classic Positioning Statement, WJCB introduces the Dominant Selling Idea and the five points of the star that you need to properly execute your message.
  3. Start With Why. Most people in marketing likely know the Ted Talk and the book goes into a bit more detail, specifically the interesting ways of how the brain interprets messages.

What’s the future look like for product marketing?

I believe that, as a category, tech companies are maturing beyond simply being ‘disruptive’ to focus on differentiating with great user experiences and the creation of deep customer value. With this shift comes the rise of UX and Product Marketing as critical leadership roles inside companies.

What’s your advice to someone interested in breaking into product marketing?

Get as much cross-functional and customer-facing experience as possible. Those that can translate customer need into business value will win. Those with the voice of customer can veto any opinion. Be humble. Be curious. Stand for the customer or stand for nothing at all.

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