The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 9 months ago

176. How to Rock Product Marketing w/ Ajit Ghuman

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Ajit Ghuman , Head of Product Marketing at Narvar and author of Price To Scale . Join us for a conversation about Ajit’s pricing philosophy, the effect that price has on customer satisfaction, and why the truth is better than feeling good.

What You’ll Learn

- The role of product marketing, perfectly summarized

- Why pricing is too often an afterthought

- How to make pricing decisions upstream

- The importance of truth telling

Show Agenda and Timestamps

- About Ajit Ghuman & Narvar [3:40]

- The role of product marketing [5:30]

- A pricing philosophy that works [8:55]

- The relationship between price & customer satisfaction [14:15]

- Why truth trumps feeling good [22:28]

- Paying it forward: shout-outs [27:16]

- Sam’s Corner [29:40]

... the salesacker podcast. Today on the show we've got a jetcoman. A jeep is a product marketing expert and he tells us what is product marketing, which I frankly apparently appreciated because nobody'd given me such a concise and effective answer before. He's also written a book called price to scale. He's a pricing expert as well, so it's a great conversation. We go into pricing strategy and theory and I really enjoyed it. Now, before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors. We've got three sponsors. The first is outreach. Outreach on outreaches the place to learn how outreach does outreach. So head on over to Ourach ditio forward slash on outreach. You will find out how outreach uses their own tool to follow up with leads, to turn leads into revenue, to run account PAS plays, to manage the team, all of that using the platform that they've built. So go over to outreach, that ioh Ford slash on outreach to see what they've got going on. Second sponsor is pavilion. Pavilion is the key to getting more out of your career. Our private membership connects you with a network of thousands of like minded peers and resources where you can tap into leadership opportunities, training, mentorship and other services made for high growth leaders like you. Pavilion University now features str acceleration school for people that want to learn how to do sales development, frontline manager school for people that want to learn how to be frontline managers and to manage teams, semo school for people that want to learn how to be chief marketing officers. See our school and many more. Unlock your professional potential. Go to join pavilioncom to learn more. Finally, we're brought to you by blue board. Blue Board is really an incredible company, because what they do is they are the world's leading experiential sales recognition platform that offers top reps your choice of hand curated experiences. You can learn how to surf, you can learn how to climb a mountain, you can eat a delicious, delicious meal at a Michelin rated restaurant. You can do yoga under the tropical fronds of palm trees...

...and Bali. You can swim with whale, sharks and Cobbo. All of these things instead of just an Amazon Gift Card. Isn't it cool? I think it's amazing. So for President's Club, Blueboard can offer you individual bucket list trips of all the places that I just talked about, or luxury home goods. You can finally get that tannings bed. Put a tanning bed in your living room. Why don't you do that? You should do that. I think you should do that. Treat your reps like the Rock Stars they are. After you pick your favorite experience winning reps. partner with a dedicated blueboard concierge. They plan all that, they do all of the planning. It's like an American Express Black Card, but for your for your sales reps. it's just absolutely incredible and you get a concierge to manage your life for you. Check them out at PODCAST DOT blue boardcom. Now let's listen to my conversation without Jeet Guman. Hey, everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the sales hacker podcast. Today on the show we've got a jet GUMAN. A JEET is the author of price to scale and is assass product marketing veteran, helping firms such as NARV OUR MEDALIA help shift and feeds I differentiate their products, grow revenue and when he likes to write on all things product marketing and as a contributor to the Forbes Communications Council and share birdcom he is also featured in share bird's list of top fifty product marketing mentors for two thousand and twenty one. He has a masters and management science from Stanford and a Bachelor's and electronics and communication engineering from Delhi University. Age Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me on Tim we're excited to have you. So we like to start with the baseball card, which is really helping us contextualize your expertise understand where you work with. The company does so your head of product marketing for Narva are what does narv Ore do? So Sam Narva is a customer engagement platform for post purchase ECOMMERCE experiences. So the world's largest brands like a Coolhan, Patagonia, and actually many of their top brands like bed bad than beyond, will use Narva on their post purchase side of the ECOMMERCE journey to communicate with customers as to the status of their orders, where customers can...

...build a closer relationship with the brands and also then use Narva, a sort of easy plug in to get access to a lot of easy, convenient returne methods on the way back. Amazing. And how? So? How again, never you don't have to share anything confidential. How big is the company? You know, roughly from Aur perspective, from a funding perspective, from an full time employee perspective. How should we how big should we think about? Nor far being right so now is series c between fifty two hundred million in revenue and roughly three hundred employees across America, Europe and Japan. Wow. So I have a question before we dive in your background a little bit, which is the role of product marketing has, I think, is one of those roles, like revenue operations, that is in strong favor right now and you know a lot of folks are focused on it. When you describe what is product marketing to other people, how do you describe it? What are the specific activities that are responsible, that go into being the head of product marketing? Right what I do is I just firstly is like a summary sentence that I'd use for it and then we can dive into the activity. So, in summary, I would say it's really the responsibility for owning product differentiation in the market and making the differentiation more clear. That, in a nutshell, is product marketing, but as you dive double flick into it, for a Bob Organization it would be things like training the sales team on competitive and everything competitive is really about differentiation and how they can use the unique value of the product and convey the value in context to the market. There are activities like positioning, that's more up up the value chain, strategy, packaging the product, pricing the product, all of that is again and in context of how the buyer will receive the product, in context of other offerings. So it's making it evident to the buyer about the value of the product in...

...context of the market. That is the most helpful explanation anyone's ever given me, so I appreciate it. Very clear. So tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into product marketing and also, you know you went to tell the university. So would just be interested in like, had you grow up? Had you end up in the bay area? Walker a little bit about your personal history. Yeah, for sure. So I'm in a military brand. I've been. I grew up in twelve different cities in India. saw a lot of variety. India itself is a pretty diverse country from one state to the next. And two thousand and eight year after graduating from my Undergrad College, I read the book crossing the Chasm and that really got me excited about Silicon Valley and I really wanted to bring new products to market. I just wanted to be in the in the weeds, and now I'm here. So I, you know, came to Stanford. Was Lucky after Stanford to get a job at Medalia, which ended up is now, when I post type, your company close to five billion in revenue, sorry, five billion in valuation, and that's where I saw the churning of a company, going from hundred employees to a thousand. I believe it was bootstrapped for a long time and then quickly we got around two hundred and fifty million in revenue from Seco and we got a very unique enterprise sales team that would call it cell like would be mad at Med Aali would say this is the Olympics of sales, and I got to be part of an opportunity to join a product marketing team, to enable that team and work on the positioning of the product. There was the genesis of my product marketing career in the valley, and then I've been at a few other startups, including feeds I reputationcom help shift and nonnarmer. Awesome. I love it and we never want to lose that. I think that that idea that there are certain places that that call to people from all over the world. You know, it's just it's really cool that you read cross in the chasm and iron Silicon Valley.

That's fantastic. To doing the dream. Yeah, good, hopefully and hopefully avoiding fires. So you mentioned that part of Product Marketing is differentiation and pricing and packaging and you wrote a book all about pricing. So walk us through just you know, from a high level perspective, what your philosophy or perspective is on pricing. And then, of course, you know that the obvious question. What are the common mistakes that you see companies make when it comes to pricing? Right? So, I said, I wrote the book when I couldn't really find enough literature on the soft topic of software pricing up on a lot of general content, and what I realize at the time was that we learn a lot of things, things in Grad school or in Undergrad which is very analytical and you think that pricing is going to be very complex. But the thing I realized, number one philosophical thing that I've really leaned on on pricing is that it's really not the price point that's important, at least is as far as it is about SAS be to be SASS products or even be to c SAS products. Is More about how that is structured and how the value is made apparent, because it's many of these products the value is not immediately clear and the upfront work of positioning and packaging makes the pricing a lot more easier to justify. So that's the philosophical thing that I learned, that it's really up the value chain where the price justification happened and not the analytical approaches. And then the most common mistakes, I would say, are two. One is most of the Times even product marketers will think that this is a complex activity. So it's really not. Let's so much content out there with the five strategies for pricing, the ten strategies to do this, it kind of becomes overwhelming and isn't really cohesively put together so that was one of my goals and because of that there's a mental block between organization.

So to take, for example, the feature launcher of product launch, most of the time people will be discussing how what is the value to the buyer? What is the value to a user? How do we position the product? But we never ever really discussed the monetization up front and often leave this decision to either the Rep who's the first time rep selling a product, or a sales operation person, which leaves money on the table and is also often a decision that's not revisited. So we tend to make very defaultage decision sales, for sales per users. So will also sell per user and that that leaves a lot of money on the table actually, and a lot of businesses don't really are not able to look do this exercise from a first principle's perspective. I have so many different questions because I run a business and think about pricing all the time. So I guess first question is, how should we come up with a price for a piece of software? Is there first is there an APTOMOM? So I read, you know, Tomas jungles rather a blog post one time saying like what he figured out is that the optomo is one is a fixed kind of retainer fee with a variable usage fee on top of it. Do you have a point of view on like the OPTOMO pricing framework? That's right, the number one. First of all, I love Tomas. I have included and synthesize a lot of my learnings from his work in the book. I would say that's still a little bit downstream. That refers to the pricing structure itself. So that's like that's called a two part tariff, where you have something fixed and a variable on all. But I would say the value is created even earlier at the packaging stage, and the packaging stage is where you're looking at. Hey, I have, let's, an enterprise segment, I have a come martial segment, and these are my different packages for these segments. And sometimes for an enterprise segment you may further make a Chinese menu of your product list and you might want to unbundle your product further to attach value to different things that enable a much better upsell or cross cell motion. I think once the blocks, the value blocks that a...

...buyer will buy into are defined clearly and mapped to the buyer, after that is when you will look at these two decisions. One is the pricing structure, which is what you were referring to, and then the second is of crucial metric, is the pricing metric itself. Specially in SASS. So many companies will have user based pricing. Now with Amazon or twill you you'll have p SMS pricing or per API call, and it's becomes really important to align that with a customer. These are three main decisions I would say are very important. In the fourth main decision is the price point, but that's almost the last decision I would say is important in the pricing metric. I'll give you an example at a company I worked at before help shift, to show who was the head of revenue there. He made a decision earlier on to price the product based on monthly active users for a customer service platform rather than on a per agent basis. That service cloud or most customer service tools will use that simple change that he started selling thatustomer service platform. Do Gaming companies got him ten x more revenue then had he gone the default way of saying, Oh, it's just ninety bucks per use it. So there are some decisions that are made up the chain that are so much more important than the decision of the pricing structure of the pricing point. How have you, and I know this is a there's probably a few different ways to think about this question, but just generally speaking, what is your perspective on the relationship of first price in general to customer satisfaction, either churn, but even just nps right, just like whether or not my question being like, have you seen that higher price upsets people more, or are people in different and then have you seen any changes in customers set? You know you could. You could imagine that there's, quote unquote, money on the table because there are monetization...

...paths you aren't pursuing, but you could also imagine that those monetization paths are annoying and frustrating to the customer. And so how have you? What is, how should companies think about that, that relationship? I think there is a little bit of a dance that happens in says companies or even software companies in general. Is, first you are a small company, you don't have a brand and you try to create a pricing that you think will not annoy customers. As to your point, even then, sometimes what you realize is is as they like your product, they unreally bothered by a higher price. Enterprise customers may actually be suspicious or very low price. That's undercutting anchor prices in the industry. If you're anchoring based on you may have anchor prices based on what sales for cells or genders, cells or any other key player in the industry. If you see a price that's much cheaper, that also causes suspicion. So that's one. But then, as the brand becomes bigger, it becomes so much more easier to justify the price and it is almost treatemental to a important brand to be under priced. You know popular brands like you know your apple, apple kind of brand. In a software environment, beat to the environment, you would not price it the same as your competitors. In that case you become a premium brand. So there is a dynamic between the brand, the strength of the brand and which phase of the startup you're in, early phase, mid Phace, late stage. As to how how that interplace with the price itself, I would say more often than not, having a lower price point is more of a detriment than a higher price point because, especially in certain segments like enterprise. They may not even consider your solution if it's too lower price point. Think about segments like financial services, healthcare government. The price points there are even higher than, let's a retail or hospitality, which may be more price comparative segments. So it really depends...

...on the segment that is being sold to and the life cycle place of a company. That makes a lot of sense. You've talked a lot about kind of like moving upstream and not being downstream. Just when you're defining that when it comes to pricing strategy or packaging strategy. Talk to us a little bit about what you mean and what the Basic Foundation of principles that we have to have correctly and play are. Sounds good. So upstream. The decisions made upstream are always who is our customer? What do they care about, and basically refining that to an ideal customer profile. I mean this is mostly marketing and sales on one but I'm just surprised how many companies don't do this work. They don't have clear in their mind who their customer segments are going to be. Then they don't have it clear in the mind what is their unique value proposition for each of those segments and how they differentiate. Having that clear goes such a long way into making sure then you have them, you're going to build the right packages for them and then you're going to be able to package it the rice right way because you have a sense of value. Many times, you know, having a product and immediately saying, Oh, I'm going to create a good, better, best model for the pricing without necessarily understanding my segments. That can be problematic and in my book I provide an example of gain sights story where gainsight had a good, better best model for their commercial segment or their enterprise segment, and only the Middle Tier would always be chosen because the reps didn't really find the other two were differentiated and they had a lot of shelfware as a result. Like people would buy a particular package and they won't really use a lot of features. So Tho some of the features were under utilized, they didn't have a successful cross cell upsell path and it caused a lot of confusion with the sales team and caused sales productivity issues just because some of those upstream work and thought process had not been put...

...into the pricing. It was done really fast. So this was. This was something I learned from Johnny Cheng, who had worked there and kind of fixed all of these issues few years ago. So if a company is trying to figure out right we're in the market, I run a company. We have a price for for our membership at Pavilion. Yep. What is the exercise that we need to embark on to figure out are we charging the right amount of should be rag prices? I've actually been to speaking with some of the folks at Pavilion Right now and I've and I've been providing feedback on on the on the plat process, and what I would say is to have the discussion about customer segments and their key use cases, to then think about what the packaging structure should be. So I know pavilion has membership feed that you basically include all of the offerings within that today. Is that correct? That is correct. Right, and I wonder if there is value to differ minding different persona. So let's say there is an hur personas spending on professional development. There is a head of revenue persona WHO's also spending on professional development, but maybe in a different way. Maybe they have different budgets to this. Maybe they have different objectives and seeing if some of this can be unbundled and some of this can be created in some of a base fee. So I know pavilion is coming from the place of memberships. You kept adding a lot of services over time and now you have a much stronger product, you have a much more wide set of services and you probably reaches larger set of buyers today than you did two years ago. That would mean that it's time to go upstream and relook at segments and understand them better so that you could see and test whether more unbundled from this current structure packaging would help you access other buyers and also build much stronger upsell path and cross cell paths. I love it. Yeah, I mean not that this needs to be about my company,...

...but but first I have a philosophy that I don't I don't like, you know, people hitting pay walls all the time, like I just want them to have like a seamless, really good experience. And then the second is that, you know, some people say, quote unquote, it's expensive, like in it just it's all about perhaps it's all about product marketing, like you said, it's about like me or the team doing the exercise of really understanding so fociation. Yeah, I really love what you have done with the CMO school, the Crow School, the rising executive program there is a lot of good actually inherent in the there's a lot of good positioning that has gone in to create that, create that set up, and I was, you know, my epiphany was when I received the pitch was well, I think a CMO might be just in interested to have her top directors go to the CMO school. I think that has a lot of value just in itself. The seatro school has a lot of value for ourvp sales type of exact just in itself. And so the question I was just wondering is, is this value being communicated appropriately? Well, that's a it's a definitely the right question to wonder. We've done it again and this does but I'm enjoying the conversation. But the point is the way I've tried to think about it is I've tried to think about it really just from the basic framework of unit economics and saying yes, I could potentially charge more for this, but if it drives turned down by x percent, than I am getting paid for it in that way. But there might still be a modetization path that's still that still also drives down turn but still unlock some people's ability to sort of like access and offering in a unique way that maybe even makes them feel good to pay more. Who knows? Right, let's shift topics a little bit in there in the final few minutes that we have together, and this is this is a question about your philosophy. So you've talked a lot about in the past. It's better to be honest than to feel good. That truth. Trump's feeling good. Talk to us a little bit about about this, this perspective...

...that you have and how it's helped to hurt you over the course of your career. Right, this is an interesting, different sort of kind of life philosophy based question, but it also goes to into personalities a little bit. So I would say, you know, there is a five personality spectrum. I'm probably more on the the spectrum that's called agreeableness versus disagreeableness. So I don't easily buy into what I hear. I kind of have to analyze something from first principles to see if I really believe something or not, which goes to the truth versus feel good, and I feel like, at least in making some personal life decisions or doing a business just the facts of the situation, even if they might not be good, are you so important to actually figure out what to do next? It's the same. A simple thing in life is you know you're being overweight. Why are you overweight? Well, I know why I'm overweight. Is because I overeat and the feel good portion is people can tell you it's fine. You know most people are like this, but at the back of your mind you know what the truth is. You know what the cause of this situation is that you're in, and that's you know, that's one like basic example everybody can relate to. But in companies things, as companies grow, that truth can be hard, too hard to gage. Maybe at a found a level it's easier to gage, but at other organization other motivations take over that can maybe hold a company back. Then it was always focused on doing the right, right thing for the business at any given time. Is there a great example of in a business context, of you know, sort of group think? First, his independent thinking, where you know that you've experienced where you bucked the convention and it was it was clear as the right decision I would say it's often detrimental to an individual in a business professionally to buck convention all the time. But let me think of a one example. Okay, so this is an example. I would say is actually an example that hurt me, but unfortunately I ended up...

...being right. So I would not name the company. But in a company I worked on a few with a few years ago, and I write the story in my book. Our CEO came from a much bigger environment and you're having a discussion about how to position the company and they were. Their point was, well, we're just like crm and we were nothing like crm. We were a different software and we're trying to make the argument that even in the category we were playing in, we should go by what we do well and try to position and anchor ourselves based on that. So, you know, discussion like that, I did speak, you know, so so called truth to power. It didn't really go well for me. The company didn't change its strategy or positioning for a long time. As a product marketed, I felt ham fisted for the next year and a half I was there because the company did not define its ICP properly. As a result, we had an enterprise sales team that did not know who to go after. They not know what the value proposition was and we stopped making any money after a certain period of time. So there were a whole year we made zero dollars in revenue of new account growth. We didn't realize that we had made a pivot. So our strategy was all over the place and eventually, after I left that CEO what removed. The see you after that got removed and the I guess the investors are having a hard time of what to make next of that company. That's just one example where it's seeking is so important in in any company, as to what the situation is, rather than, you know, the letting our egos get in the way. That's true. You have to combine that with, you know, to your point, right, emotional intelligence in Eq so that we pursue the truth. There is still benefit, I think, to harmony. You know, it doesn't mean that we always have to have group thing, but there's a you know, Max Lefkin and a few other people are like so focused on I've just heard people that are focused...

...more on conflict and having like a culture of debate. Maybe the way it is an Amazon and that can be exhausting. You know it is. You have to have like the right emotional temperament if you want to be fighting all the time I did. It's been amazing to have you on the show. First of all, just remind us what's the name of the book so we can go buy price to scale. So if you search for software pricing or SASS pricing on Amazon, you'll find it awesome. And then, you know, the last part before we go is we like to pay it forward a little bit. We like to hear a couple, maybe one or two or three people that you think are really important that we should know about, maybe because they've had a big influence on you, maybe because they were your old boss or mentor who are some people that you think we should know about? Yeah, you know, that's a really good question. Some of the folks that have at least molded me into my career the way I operate, whether they they know it or not. One is my first boss in broader marketing, Sam Ken Enger. He works for a company Orde Simpler. Now he's the head of marketing. Learned a lot from him when I joined, not just you know, it was not a just a tutorial on BMM, but also how to work in the US. I was young and, coming from India, had a chip on my shoulder at the time. I used to keep telling me how a chip on your shoulder and I think I finally understood what he was saying now, and so the really but really grateful to have a person who was able to give me a shot. Another boss was micheld have in the same company. Really Great Person. If anybody in the valley gets to work with her, amazing, amazing person, and I mean I would all like I cannot use, you know, this opportunity and not call called my dad out. Everything I do is as a profession is modeled from my childhood, based on how I've seen my own dad. He was a, you know, a technical person in the army, became a major general and I've learned the value of professional competence more than anything else from him. So if anything, anything is not working out, basically I default to let's...

...just do the best work possible and let everything else leave being. Let it, let it go, let me world with figure it out. So whenever I'm in confused, I just make sure I learned my subject well and I try to deliver quality work. That's that's what I do and I've ordered it based on how my dad has taughting. I love that. I love that. Thank you, Mr Gooman, for for teaching a jet how to be professionally competent, as they say. If folks want to reach out to you, a cheat. What's the best way to get in touch? Linkedin. Linkedin is create a Jed cooman. Just find we will and folks want to reach out to me, you can. It's linkedincom force last the word in force last time. F Jacobs Age, will talk to you on Friday for Friday fundamentals. Thank you so much for being such a great guest on the show. Thanks so much, Sam. Thanks for having me. Everybody. It's SAM's corner. I love that conversation with a jet. Obviously we dove a little bit into my business, so that was an intentional I just you know, I have questions. Sometimes we awesome. So here's the big takeaway, I think. First of all, what is product marketing? I love that. Product marking is is how you position and differentiate your product in the market place. I mean that maybe that's obvious to you. Wasn't? It's not obvious to me. I didn't know what is it? It's about the things that set you apart from your competitors, the things that set you apart and make you unique in the market, and that includes, of course, pricing and packaging. And I jet's point is pricing is too often an afterthought and needs to be needs to be considered upstream when you are thinking about who the persona is, who the buyer is, how you talked that buyer, how you segment your market, what's important to the buyer, and I think thinking about pricing it really it's a strategic it's part of a strategic decision around how where your product sits in an ecosystem. I think that's important. It's important to think about. So I really like the quite the conversation and and...

...and the book is called price to scale, so look it up on Amazon. And then the other thing we talked about is just, you know, the importance of truth telling and starting from first principles and not just assuming that you're going to do whatever conventional wisdom tells you to do. So that's always a great message. Now, before we go, we want to thank our sponsors. We've got three. The first is outreach. Outreach on outreach is how our shows outreach. So go to outreach, out IO forwards, outreach. Hey, if you want to become part of a transformational gathering place for yourself or for your team and unlock your professional potential, get that promotion, get where you want to go in your career, go to join pavilion doc come. We've now got communities for finance, sales, marketing, customer success and CEOS. I'm running the CEEO pavilion. So if you're CEO out there running an operating company and you need a peer group and you don't want to spend Fiftyzero a year, how let your boy join Pavilioncom. Finally, Blue Board, the world's leading experiential sales recognition platform. You want to learn how to climb rocks, climb mountains, you want to go sailing across the ocean, you want to skydive, you want to go paragliding. You ever seen those people doing paragliding out in the out in the sound, out in the ocean? Is So fun. You can do that with Blue Board. It's way better than just a cash prize. So you've got to check them out. You know, if you're trying to plan for Presidents Club. They offer individual bucket list trips and luxury home boods. Check them out. PODCAST at Blue Boardcom. If you want to reach out to me, you can linkedincom. Forwards Lash the world in forks. Last Sam if Jacobs, have you joined the salesacker community at give it a shot. Any sales professional can joint. It's free, get immediate answers and share experiences with likeminded sales pros. Jump in and start a discussion with more than seventeenzero professionals at salesacercom. That's all I got for now. Give us five stars. If you haven't, if you don't like the show, don't write us. If you do like the show or have any feelings towards us at all that are positive, give us five stars. We do not accept four star reviews. We only accept five star reviews. Other than that, I will talk to you next time.

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