Women in Product Marketing // Career Profile: Alicia Carney from Kayako
The Women in Product Marketing series highlights and celebrates the hardworking women of our day. These particular women are doing incredible things in the field of product marketing. Considering helpful content about product marketing is few and far between, career profiles are a gold-mine to learn from world-class people in this field.
Each of the women in this series have something in common: a solid work ethic, a supportive nature of other women, grit, and a heavy dose of persistence that keeps them going despite the odds.
In this series, I talk to product marketer’s who are taking products to market, whipping up messaging frameworks and enabling teams across the globe.
Name: Alicia Carney
Location: London, UK
Title: Product Marketing Manager
Education: B.S. Experience Industry Management, Concentration in Travel Planning & Tourism Management, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Social handles: Twitter: @aliciaverbs, linkedin.com/in/aliciacarney, aliciacarney.com
Tell us about yourself?
San Francisco Bay Area native turned Londoner — definitely moved here for the great weather. That’s a joke. I have a Bachelor of Science in travel and tourism management, and I’ve spent the first six years of my career working with B2B and B2C tech startups and companies. I’m really into boxing, throwing dinner parties, solo travelling, and I’m addicted to Twitter.
Tell us about your path to tech & product marketing?
Although I had professional background in hospitality and restaurants, I started working in online marketing for Roger CPA Review right out of university. I absorbed the role of marketing on the job thanks to my close friend/mentor (now VP Marketing) Sara Popken who referred me for the entry-level position. After two years, I was poached by an early growth B2B expense software company called Tallie and tasked with helping to build their marketing function from the ground up. With tremendous leadership, particularly (now VP Product Management) Claire Milligan, I rose up to own all things growth at Tallie, from setting strategic foundations to our go-to-market strategy, to growing our partnerships and market share in a crowded space. I loved owning performance analytics and marketing optimization, and working across the business to solve tricky problems with the greater team.
By the time I left Tallie, I wasn’t actually familiar with the concept of “product marketing” despite the fact that everything I’d been doing was textbook product marketing. It was an intense working environment — one I’ll be forever grateful for — but one day I’d had enough. I quit, booked a flight to Paris, and traveled around for 3 months to clear my head and think about what I really wanted to do with my career. I was volunteering at a winery outside Montpellier when I came across Kayako’s position description for an open Product Marketing Manager role based out of London. I remember thinking, “Oh my god, this is everything I love about marketing. This is it.” I returned to San Francisco, consulted with the brilliant Lifecycle & Growth team at Jawbone for a few months, and moved over to London to help bring Kayako’s new customer service software product to market. The rest is history, I guess.
How did you know product marketing was for you?
If you genuinely love working with, and helping, people as much as you love working with data (and data scientists), then product marketing is for you. Over the course of my career, various projects have demanded that delicate balance of “expert generalist with the capacity to go deep into any topic, no matter how technical or complex.” And those are the projects that, at the end of the day, make me feel really fulfilled.
How did you learn about product marketing and gain specific skills?
Trial and error, baby. A core principle of product marketing is treating every project, every decision, every change big or small, like an experiment. Your career in product marketing is no different. You will find, over time, that perhaps you’re not great at everything that’s expected of a product marketer. In my career, I’ve always been stronger on the “people” side of the role — customer development programs, go-to-market planning, creating Voice of the Customer and beta programs, etc. I am naturally weaker on the quantitative side of things, so I’m constantly working to keep that muscle conditioned. Dive into data, ask questions from people whose strengths are your weaknesses. Find online or in person courses that help you level up your weak points. Everyone has them — the best performers don’t deny that. They hone their skills consistently over time!
How is product marketing different to traditional marketing?
Traditional marketing is all about brand awareness, market saturation, and performance marketing (ie. advertising, heavy social media, sales, leads, clicks, often easily quantifiable ROI, etc). In terms of metrics, you’d focus on the conversion funnel (website traffic, lead volume, associated annual revenues), as well as social media engagement metrics, webinar performance, retargeting/remarketing ad performance, etc.
Product marketers set the strategic foundations upon which campaigns and initiatives are laid. How do you position your product or service against a noisy market and really make it shine? What real life problems does your solution solve? What’s the best approach to pricing it strategically against the competition and the direction the market is moving? Does your value messaging resonate with your target customer today? And what about the customer you want to attract in 6–12 months? And on top of all that, are all of your company’s internal teams aligned in terms of product and voice? It’s challenging, fun, and rewarding to dig up research- and data-backed answers to all these questions. Product marketing success metrics usually revolve around the conversion funnel, as well as customer acquisition cost (CAC), lifetime customer value (LCV), churn rate, etc.
Why do you think product marketing still isn’t a separate discipline in lots of companies?
I think product marketing is still such an ambiguous function to a lot of companies — leaders either don’t know enough about product marketing to explicitly identify the need for PMMs, or strategic thinking and decision making is owned by the leadership team (along with a thousand other responsibilities on their plates).
Tips for developing go-to-market strategies?
I recently wrote a post about what product marketers can learn from product management. While this doesn’t directly address tips and tricks for building GTM strategies (honestly, that’s so dependent on the unique context of your business and your target markets), I do think the main points are critical to executing successful GTM strategies. Those main points are as follows:
- Always be listening. Own customer feedback programs. Control and manage stakeholder needs with grace and empathy, but also a clear vision on the key outcomes you need consensus on.
- Always be testing, especially your own assumptions. Overpromising is one of the worst mistakes you can make as a product marketer. Failure to meet expectations yields disappointment across the board, and perpetuates stereotypes of marketers being filled with hot air. Treat every project, initiative, and campaign you touch like an experiment, and communicate that far and wide internally above and below you.
- Lean into deeper, more technical product conversations. Product marketers can, and should, take on the task of participating in more technical product development conversations, and back up their input with findings from Voice of the Customer interviews. Deepening your contribution to product-shaping conversations means you can better champion your customers both within your organization and across your communities.
- Put the customer at the heart of your role, at the core of every decision. Focus on anything that puts your customer at the heart of your decisions, and you, and the business, will feel the benefit — all the way from customer happiness ratings to your bottom line.
How do you speak the voice of customer (ie. do you conduct monthly calls, update persona research, trawl through customer emails etc)?
We conduct weekly customer calls — I usually talk with 3–5 customers a week to discuss what’s gone well with their Kayako experience so far, what’s not gone well, what would they like to see added to the product, and so on. I also ask about their opinion on our approach to pricing, and whether or not our current iteration of product onboarding felt helpful in their early days post-conversion.
I developed our buyer personas through a 6-month research project. The building process required a marriage of market and user research, 20+ target vertical customer calls, and helping to carve out the direction of our long term roadmap. It’s important when building personas to also include “negative” personas — traffic/prospects you naturally attract (ie a legacy product you still support, but entirely different audience) to ensure that you’re able to a) filter them out/downgrade them from lead ranking and scoring, and b) provide appropriate user journeys for that persona as they navigate a website or product that is fundamentally not built with them in mind.
How do you think product marketers can measure their discipline?
In addition to the quantitative metrics I mentioned above, I think there are also more qualitative success metrics that you can pay attention to. For example, the first 12 months after we launched Kayako, our #1 goal was finding product/market fit. We were carefully testing our language on the website and in paid search experiments, and conducting tons of customer feedback sessions trying to gauge what stuck and, more importantly, what bits of our value messaging we were hearing echoed back to us in these interviews. This felt like a huge milestone for us! I love smaller achievements like this — nuanced validation that the work you’re doing is resonating with your target market.
What’s your favorite aspect of product marketing?
I love working across teams, and across the business, to solve tricky problems. Whether that’s overhauling onboarding flows based on feedback from sales and frontend engineering teams (coupled with customer feedback of course), or creating cross-functional teams to reduce churn or increase product usage rates. Things that affect the overall business beyond the scope of marketing — that’s what I love.
What’s the next step in your career?
Kayako was successfully acquired in March 2018, and it’s been an incredibly transformative 2+ years working with this team. I’m about to take a little solo trip backpacking through the Balkans, and I’ve accepted an offer to join Deliveroo as a Product Marketing Manager working on the Growth product! 🎉
What are the top 3 things you’re working on this year? (Can be personal or work-related)
- SLEEP MORE
- Reaching new PR’s in my beloved sprint training classes at 1Rebel.
- Creating and maintaining focus and clarity in my workday — every single day.
Any advice for women who want to pursue product marketing?
Product marketing is still such a vastly ambiguous business function, so there’s an opportunity for you to carve your own path. Be good at everything, but be great at something too. Say yes to every opportunity thrown your way — so long as it, at some level, genuinely excites you. If the offer of opportunity yields zero intrigue after you’ve properly evaluated it, say no. Stay well rounded, but find your specialty that sits on top of a sound foundation of product marketing knowledge and experience.
What’s your favorite piece of advice you’ve received?
If you get stuck in the weeds and feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of things to tackle on your plate, you’re not alone. The best solution is putting your pride/ego aside (talking to myself here) and ask for help. Chances are someone can help you prioritize what absolutely needs to happen now, and what’s falsely veiled as urgent but really can wait a week.
What’s your favorite recent read?
“The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” by Mark Manson. Although, I’ve only read half of it, so I guess I took the message to heart.
What do you like to do outside of work? Any side gigs, hobbies?
I love taking boxing classes (Rumble) at 1Rebel Broadgate! Hanging out in Victoria Park, and of course traveling (duh, who doesn’t). I had the chance to travel with a friend through northern India from New Delhi up into the Himalayas thanks to the hospitality offered by some of my favorite Kayako colleagues. I was overwhelmed with how awesome it was.
I’ve also started my own consultancy side biz for referrals which has given me a chance to work with brilliant minds like Chris Schroeder of Somatik fame, a couple stand up comedians, a spatial AI platform, and a handful of sustainable small businesses. Oh and I’m a huge Zelda fan.
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