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116 | Boost GTM success with partner-integrated product marketing

64 min listen

How to get partners to become ambassadors for your product?

Join this week's podcast alongside Shannon McCarty-Caplan, Director of Strategy and Chief of Staff at Red Hat and Amanda Fitzgerald, Head of Global Distribution and Marketing. Listen as Shannon and Amanda discuss the importance of engaging partners early on in product GTM strategy. 

In this episode, Shannon's remarkable career and passion for product marketing shine through as they explore the significance of concentrating on a product marketing strategy.

Listen in to hear more about: 

  • Considering partners as integral team members to enhance mutual growth
  • Truly understanding the role of each partner in order to enable them to drive their own product marketing 
  • Benefits of transparency when it comes to product and partner marketing 

Tune in now, wherever you get your podcasts:


View the full transcript here

Jon Busby: Today we're joined by Shannon McCarty-Caplan, director and strategy and chief of staff of global commercial sales red hat. And of course, Amanda Fitzgerald, who's not been a stranger to us on the podcast, a channel chief and chief channel evangelist. I'm going to, I'm going to call you today, Amanda. Of course, today we're going to be focusing on the impact of product marketing and go to marketing, go to market strategy and how we can.

Really bring partners to front of mind as part of that strategy. So Shannon, Amanda, welcome to the podcast. Um, Amanda, over to you. Like this has been a brainchild that we've been working on for the last few months. So let's, let's kick off. Like what, what are your thoughts? Wonderful.

Amanda Fitzgerald: Thank you, John. And thank you for inviting me to co host this wonderful topic of how do we evangelize partners?

So my name is Amanda Fitzgerald. Um, I've got 25 years of experience as a partner marketing leader. 15 years at IBM and the last seven years at Red Hat. So my passion is evangelizing partners, but also bringing sales and marketing closer together. Um, so we're joined today by Shannon McCarty Kaplan who's still at Red Hat.

So Shannon, if you'd like to introduce yourself.

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: Certainly. Thank you so much for this opportunity. And it's exciting to connect with you again, Amanda. Um, I have worked in tech marketing since 2000 and focused on the channels shortly afterwards. And since then, my background is in partner marketing, Product marketing events, um, every marketing hat you can imagine.

And I've worked at Symantec, VMware, Trend Micro, uh, Gannett and most recently Red Hat. So very excited to be here to talk about product marketing and partner marketing and that collaboration. So,

Amanda Fitzgerald: so the topic for today is how do we bake partners in to the go to market strategy. With product marketing, you know, Shannon and I both worked within the partner marketing or partner ecosystem sales, Shannon on the sales side, myself on the marketing side.

But when it comes to engaging with the product marketers, how do we bake partners into the go to market strategy? For product marketing and Shannon, I know this is a focus area of yours for this year. So do you want to Share with us what the current state is and what the future state we'd like to fit to be

Jon Busby: I think i'd love to take us back to the past as well.

Like You know, Shannon, some of our prep call, you know, you've had worked in some of the most fascinating tech brands and done some of the most interesting kind of deployments, whatever we want to call it in the channel, really, um, including some of the first cloud, cloud deployments, um, and cloud propositions, like.

Would you say product is quite a new thing to be talking about when we're in the frame of channel? Like I actually, you know, you're one of the first people I've, I've heard that's put the word product and channel in the same place. So it's, how has it changed over the, over the 20 years you've been working in the channel?

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: I would say that the need for it is more important now than ever because the way that customers consume product is constantly changing and evolving. There's so many modalities and routes to market. And I would say that product marketers are basically their, their, um, They get their pedigree learning about product.

And so this, let me, let me tell you a story because the way that I came into product marketing, I was working at, I think it was at VMware semantic and my, my historically I had been managing large corporate resellers in the U S like CDW and soft choice and insight. Right. And. I had done a little bit of a dabbled in product marketing for SMB, right?

Working on security appliances. And I had some legacy semantic folks bring me over to trend micro. And one of my first projects was to take a look at it, build a go to market strategy for a staff solution for websites to prevent cross site scripting hacks. And I'd never done product marketing. And I had a.

Uh, manager at the time who really believed that I could be trained in this, even though my background was in partner marketing, he believed in me and that was really great. So my first assignment was a big one in that I had to report back to the CEO Eva Chen in a couple months time to say, Hey, how are we going to launch this product?

How are we going to make a big splash? And so I had, uh, they invested in pragmatic marketing product, marketing certification for me. So that was, that's, it's a really wonderful investment and I, it's my foundation from here, from then on out, right? So I was, you know, following all my steps and, and I realized what was missing is something that I had learned in my partner marketing side is.

Wait a minute, who's going to sell this? And do we have those partners in our ecosystem today to be able to sell this product? So I wasn't asked that question. They just said, build a go to market strategy, build a positioning, work on the four P's, right? And pardon me. Yeah. And when I, when I looked at the big picture, I said, wait a minute, this is not where our company, this is not where our company historically has played.

And we are lacking the partners who can deploy the solution with their customers. So our incumbent partners had zero interest in selling this solution. So I had to go to the CEO and present this. And I thought, man, I've only been here a couple of months. This could be really career limiting. And my manager encouraged me to bring this truth forward.

And, and I did, and I said, look, I don't want to waste our time, money and resources here, but we don't have the partner channel to sell this product. And they. Took it all in. There was some defensiveness from some of the product management that was there. And eventually they understood that I was right, that we did not have those partners.

It would take a hefty investment to bring in an entirely new set of partners. To sell the solution. And that's why my manager hired me. He understood that we had a lot of technical product marketers on the team. And we needed someone who had ecosystem, like the partner experience. And it all worked out. I didn't get fired.

I got promoted and they let me work on the Dell OEM agreement that they had put in place. It was a really exciting opportunity. And I leveraged my. Understanding of the cloud solutions at the time to build that into an OEM S and B deal at Dell. And it was really exciting because I could understand how partner cell.

But also working with product management, be able to help translate like this is what this is what's happening when we bring this to market through an OEM channel or a VAR channel reseller, right? Or system integrators. This is what is needed and helping the product management teams customize their solution based on the route to market.

So that first experience really underscored for me, the importance of a partner marketing connecting to product marketing, because I can't speak for you, Amanda, but I know that from a partner marketing standpoint, you are so focused on doing what's right for the relationship with a partner. are depending on product marketers to understand what's happening there.

You don't, you barely have time to teach them what's going on. Right. But they need to learn this. They need to understand that in order to get their products to

Amanda Fitzgerald: market. That is such a great background into your mindset and your experience in this space. So what's interesting in that story, you had direct line of sight to the CEO.

So you were able to deliver your message firsthand. Because that's an important part of the process as well. You not only have your insights, but you were able to deliver the message in your own words, with your credentials, with your knowledge. So that I think is a key factor to success. Um, I've fallen.

Slightly terrifying, but you and the second thing was you had a manager who believed in you that gave you the confidence to put forward your ideas and he gave you that platform. So, so, yes, it's terrifying having direct. line of sight to your CEO, but with the backing of your manager to give you the confidence to deliver the message instead of him delivering the message and without the passion and knowledge and experience that you possess.

I think those two critical success factors are really, really And you and I have both been in position where someone else has delivered our message on our behalf and the impact is less, so much less because we are the narrators of the story. So as narrators of the story, we should be doing the delivering of the message.

And by having us deliver the message, I think it has more impact. So that's a fantastic story. Fantastic story.

Jon Busby: I've got to say that that's probably the most powerful channel story that I've heard, certainly, certainly this year, probably ever, there's a couple of things I want to dive into there that I think you, you highlighted.

The, I just think it gets, gets forgotten about, right? The, the first thing is that the partners that you need, like being really mindful about the partners, there's this, this, this almost this builders and they will come mentality or, um, uh, you know, the other. The phrase of, you know, partners will just magically, especially today, you know, in today's very much demand focused world where we're being driven quarterly to continuously drive up sales.

A lot of companies are just looking to their channel to say, well, they're going to fill in the gap and even having the bravery to stand up and say, and be bold and say, these aren't the right partner. These aren't the right partners for us. We need to look elsewhere. Um, It's fascinating. But the second one is, and it's, this is something that I only recently learned, um, you know, we, we.

We've been talking, consulting about partner marketing, consulting about partnerships, uh, for over a decade, but it's only when you actually roll up your sleeves and start to do it that you realize kind of the difference between a good partnership and a bad partnership. And in this case, you know, you've highlighted the benefits of.

I'm going to, I'm going to use the trendier term, the ecosystem of how partners need to work together in order to deliver an outcome. Um, and that sounds very wonderful, but in reality, it's, it's about saying these partners aren't there just because they're going to, they're just, you know, they're going to be coin operated and sell for us.

It's about saying like these, these are the partners we need to turn this difficult customer into an easy customer. Or this, you know, it's, it's about completely reframing the partnership. So it is 50, 50, instead of it always feeling like a big vendor and a small partner. Um, and I, maybe I'm reading the wrong thing into that story, but that, that is the most compelling, compelling illustration of, of seeing that in real life and yeah, I'm, did, did they ever, did, in Back in the, in, in with Trend Micro, did they ever change the approach in the end or did they change the product?

Um, because it sounds like

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: they ended up using that. Yeah, they, they didn't, uh, bring it to market. I think they did some small pilots, maybe some private, um, uses of that solution. But it really was a, it was a turning point in recognizing that we need to make sure that we have the right partners in place, that we've enabled them for success and what that turned into eventually.

So I worked on the Dell OEM relationship for a couple of years and then I moved into an SMB focused product marketing team that was tasked with making sure that the incumbent partners. We're being brought along into the managed service provider model, the MSP model, because all of the solutions were moving to the cloud.

So I'm dating myself. I think this was in 2010 2011, right? And my team, wonderful team had, I was at Trend Micro for about eight years, an amazing experience. And we created within, we had a broader, uh, partner, um, program, what we, we created something, we called it, um, let's see, perfect. The perfect partner program is what we called it.

And how do you become the perfect partner and the solution we wanted to help the. The partners who had traditionally been selling solutions, loaded software on servers to understand how they could be profitable selling this in the cloud, because a lot of VARs too were retiring or getting thinking about retirement.

How can I sell my business? If you had a subscription only business. Or maybe month to month engagements with your client. You couldn't your business was only worth your contact list. You didn't have an amortized model where people were coming to connecting with you every month and paying that bill.

Right? And so we helped helped them bridge that gap between their on premise business to the cloud and. Brought them into that MSP partnership, showing them that value, helping them convert to that. So they could transition with what was happening in tech as well as, uh, realign their business model to that.

So they could be profitable because you're there to help these partners be profitable or they're not going to pay attention to you. I think, I think what happens a lot of time in. Product marketing teams is you get really excited about the tech that you're bringing to market. Look at this cool feature, the speed or feed, right?

Like, Oh, this is very sexy, very exciting. Everyone's going to want this. And what you said, John, if you build it, they will come, but they don't think about what, what are those partners competing with? It's not just. The cool feature of the day, but how am I going to be compensated? How am I going to be treated when I partner with this organization?

Am I going to be treated respectfully, brought in to the, the vendor relationship in a way that we have an equal partnership, right? Are they sharing the roadmap with me? Are they preparing me for what's going to be announced in the marketplace? Right. And I think too often enough companies don't think of partners as part of the team in that way.

And I, I love sharing product roadmaps with partners. In mass, right? I trust them. Like you, you, you get to a place with partners where you can say, like, I know that you're going to help me scale my solutions in a way that we can't help me help you, right? So bring them along in your journey, help them, uh, be prepared so that as soon as that announcement goes out, they can go to our shared customer base.

And build that excitement for us on our behalf, you save a lot of money, you save a lot of time trying to go back and say, by the way, partners, we told all of your, our shared customers that we have together about something, but we didn't tell you earlier, so you weren't ready. So it's, it's bringing them along from the beginning is so critical.

Jon Busby: I, yeah. And also I, it's one of the things I always ask for in any partnership, by the way, is I want to see access to the roadmap. I think maybe that's 'cause I, I had that product or just that product management head on it more than marketing. Um, because as a partner you want to feel like you are influencing that roadmap or you are part of the journey.

Otherwise, you know, it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't feel equal. Um, Amanda, let, let's bring this back to partner marketing. Like, what's your reaction to this? Like, how do, how did you bring. Partners into that journey. And how are you, how do you react to, um, this more product focused slant that we're taking here?

Amanda Fitzgerald: So, so something that Shannon and I both worked on together, um, at global level was building a partner advisory council within that commercial space. So we had something called the commercial partner advisory council, the CPAC. And Shannon's absolutely right. Bringing the partners in early and getting the product marketers to directly converse with that partner set was unheard of, wasn't it Shannon?

Two years ago, the product marketers were sitting well buried within the company and the partners were only spoken to by partner ecosystem marketing and there was no direct dialogue between product marketing and partners. Everything was filtered through the organization I sat within. marketing. So Shannon, when she came on board two years ago, was, you know, the commercial partner advisory council was set up so that the product marketers could directly converse with partners and have that sharing of information and have that two way conversation rather than here's what we've built.

You go and sell it for us. And that's the traditional way we went to market. And it was far too late in the conversation. So the partner advisory council was the beginning two years ago, was the beginning of that closer engagement, which sparked that joint go to market strategy building. Because once again, we have partner, We have, we call them champ plans, which will joint go to market planning sessions with each of our big partners, where once a year we'd sit down with our partners and say, right, what solutions are you going to be selling from our portfolio and how do we go to market jointly?

And we would build that joint go to market plan. Um, But that was always done far too late in the year after the budgets have been allocated. So, so I think what we started doing two or three years ago, I moved to global about four years ago. We started having those conversations in August. Of the year before the calendar year started.

So we had that conversation four months before the beginning of the year, the calendar year, the financial year, and those conversations became much more meaningful. What is the go to the joint go to market plan for next year calendar year. And marketing had a seat at the table. So marketing was part of that conversation with the partner and the product marketeers.

Beginning to get involved and having the partner advisory council got them further involved. So I think those partner advisory councils happen twice a year now. Correct me if I'm wrong, Shannon. Are they twice a year? Quarterly. Yeah,

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: quarterly. So we, we actually have, um, monthly sounding board calls where product management, product marketing can You know, pose ideas to this advisory board or advisory committee from the partners and, or the council, excuse me, and really capture that feedback.

Because I think this underscores something that is so necessary, which is that feedback loop. So the partner, the product teams really need a way to access this information. So, um, my team have a wonderful team that I'm on small, but mighty, really trying to, uh, Amplify the voice of partners, amplify their needs and bring them into the fold in our strategy.

And my, my responsibility is to work with our product business units and help them connect with partners, help them understand those routes to market and how they can be successful and, and grow their business through our partner channel. But it's really giving them that face time with the partners. So we have monthly sounding boards.

We have, I think it's twice a year of in person meetups. And then we give them access to special information, you know, first, you know, roadmap type information. Opportunity, lead sharing, shared MDF funds, market development funds. And so it, it creates an exclusivity. And also we're, we are sharing some additional compensation with them too.

And it, it makes them look good, gives them some credibility with, with their customers to, um, differentiate them from the, from the pack, but we get some very candid feedback and it's. It's a wonderful thing. And. Trying to, to build that muscle within the company of before we do anything, let's talk to the channel about how this is going to land.

And what did they need to be successful? Because if you launch something before you have all of the partner materials in place. You're, you're always playing catch up, right? And your team, Amanda has always been so good at, um, partner tizing things, right? But it shouldn't, it should come to you already ready to go.

So you, you can execute, right? And that takes a skillset on the product management, uh, side to have the ability to, to understand the needs of the partner multiple in multiple ways, right? So is this a hyperscaler? Uh, rep that you're talking to, is it a distribution rep who needs to then communicate with another partner?

So you build the materials, Hey, um, Ingram micro TD cynics arrow, like, Hey, this is what I'm going to be launching to the partners. Can you help me? And this is what's in it for you, why you should care about this. And they can turn to their partner. Hey, there's this cool thing that red hats doing. You need to know about this.

This is why it matters to you, why you should care and why your customer should care. Then the partner, the materials for them from their voice to the customer. Hey, Mrs. Customer, this is what Red Hat's doing. And I understand where your business is going. I think you really need this solution. And it's multiple steps.

It sounds complex, but once you build that blueprint for yourself and you have that ready for every launch, Then you, you're not playing catch up, you're prepared. You can go to market faster. You're, when you make your announcement, the channel's ready to go. Let's start selling. Let's do this. Right. Um, I, I, that's, that's the dream that I'm working towards building is having that announcement to having the channel be able to sell that day.

Like shrinking that it's, and then also creating a culture where our deadlines internally I'm planning are revolving around the needs of the partner. Because if you play in distribution. Or with the hyperscalers, they have hard deadlines. If you want to get into their programs and incentives, you have to have your plan and MDF sent at a particular time and channel friendly companies.

They align their entire company around those dates. Otherwise the dates are arbitrary, right? To our needs. But what does that mean for everybody else? You're playing catch up. Like you said, champ plans happening too late. Align that to what they need. Usually it's around distribution. And so what do the distributors need?

And then it cascades down. So that's, that's the dream I'm working towards. And we have a really, um, powerful. Inertia that's happening at Red Hat now a lot of excitement around how can we scale and grow in this way because we have You know, multiple best of breed solutions. How do we leverage the power of the channel to scale and get that, get that out there so we can really help people with what's happening right now, AI's everything's moving so quickly.

You just need to get it out there faster. I

Jon Busby: think. You almost struck on me as like, I always used to make this comparison when I first jumped into marketing, right? You, cause we, in tech marketing, everyone always says we want to be more like Apple. I mean, who hasn't, when hasn't that, when is a truer phrase not been said?

Like it's, um, so we. Yeah. If I, I would also always compare Apple to someone like Microsoft, like Microsoft would launch an initiative and then be like, it's going to be available in six months, or this is just a developer preview and kind of, it would never come to market. Um, you know, I was so disappointed with things like origami, which is now the foundation of many of our laptops today.

Like it just took so long for them to get going while Apple would go out there and say, we're launching a new product and it's available tomorrow. Um, uh, and what you've just mentioned about trying to align that with partners. Like I've seen partner go to markets plans that have a product on like day minus 180, uh, and go to market with a partner after half a year, but actually being able to go like announce something and go to like, that is an incredibly compelling vision, like what's, what's the strategy to even get, I'm going to challenge

Amanda Fitzgerald: you, John, I'm going to challenge you.

The consumer space is very different to the B2B space that Apple can do that because they're selling directly to consumers.

Jon Busby: Fine, fine. I'll take that. But I think, I think there's something, there's something in generating that urgency, we

Amanda Fitzgerald: can reduce it for sure.

Jon Busby: Things are moving so much faster now. Like you have to cut that down.

Like, and I think it's a compelling vision to go out there and say, I want to be able to launch something to partners on the same day that everyone else sees it. Like that is, and we, you know, what's the strategy you, what are the different minds you need aligned to get that, to, to get there? Like, how do you even start on that journey?

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: I think so. I've done it. I've done it in B2B. I know it's possible. I've done it in 24 languages around the world. It is possible. I know it is possible. Now there's even more complexity now with the cloud, of course. But even Apple, while they do have their direct to consumer, they have to get the retailers.

However, shrinking, they are to also line up and be able to have that and they have actual physical product to ship, you know, so dating myself, I come from an era when software was shipping in a CD, consumer software, enterprise software, there was hardware. I also have worked in hardware. So um, there are, there's so much planning that comes from that.

And if you actually, if you don't come from. If your company does not come from that as a background or that historically having that, that requires you to be incredibly prepared. I mean, I had to have everything ready six months beforehand, all the packaging, all the messaging that's going to go inside. I mean, you had to have that really tight and tight.

So that gave you a lot of time. The advantage of the cloud based solutions is that. It could be ready in an instant, but only for the direct to customer model, right? So you still need to follow that roadmap and plan to launch through the channel when you have a cloud based solution. And so when I, going back to this experience at trend micro, where I was managing the Dell OEM marketing relationship.

It was the first time a cloud solution was embedded into OEM, which sounds a little crazy. That was odd. And it was, um, Trend Micro had taken over an OEM agreement where Norton, my previous employer from before, had that agreement and they were shipping consumer software with multiple seats to small businesses.

But really the threats at the time, they needed something more robust. They needed something that a consumer solution couldn't tackle. They needed management solution more broadly. So trend micro had an SMB small midsize business solution that was based in the cloud, worry free business security services, and it was going to be embedded.

So I had to. Make sure that we could promote it within the UI of hardware that was shipping in dozens of languages and enable all of the Dell sellers at the same time with the flip of a switch. And also Dell has a robust set of bars too, that sell their solutions, making sure that they understood how to do this.

And It was really fascinating because you don't think about cloud needing to, you know, have so much preparation. The benefit too, is if there was a new feature, it could be pushed out after the fact. Um, but it was really, really building that muscle preparation, that muscle strengthening, that preparation needed to bring something to market.

And we did it. I flipped a switch. Everything went live around the world. It was really exciting. It tied into an ad campaign. That Dell was doing with Intel as well. It was really, really fun. Uh, I'd never gotten to spend that much money on an ad campaign. It was multi million dollars, which you typically only see for Commercial and, you know, commercial advertising and, and it worked and it was really, really cool and it was, it was when people didn't really understand what cloud was either.

So there was a lot of awareness and Microsoft ended up helping out with that a lot when they started doing their cloud advertising, but, but it is possible and it changed the way that product management had to think about. Amplifying, you know, their message and amplifying the way that they're able to sell and everyone at the company wanted this partnership to be successful.

So everyone. It was like an agile sprint of everyone focused on making this possible. So everyone was supporting me. I had to build alliances within each geo and within each country with the partner within my own company to make sure that they understood that this was important. So if you want to do something like this, you really have to bring.

Your product management, your part, your product marketing, your partner marketing, everyone on board and sales, uh, the partner account managers into the fold and help them see the vision, the benefit of what's going to happen with this effort, what's in it for them. Hold yourself and everyone else accountable in a way, and then show, you know, show that this is gonna work.

Um, going back to reflect on what did and didn't work and being transparent with that. Um, it was, it was a lot of work. That's why after a couple years I'm like, I can't do this anymore. , it was a lot. I need to sleep at night. Um. It was a behemoth effort. I think,

Jon Busby: I think you're right though, cause it has, and by the way, that transition to the cloud that you, you mentioned is dating us, like it isn't at all, like that transition is still happening in some countries and in some, in some technologies, like, I think it's just, it's just a wave, like it finishes.

And then it starts again with, with the, um, and we're going to see the same with AI, like we're going to see the same wave happen with AI through, through, through these products. Um, so no, I don't think that. You know, everything we're talking about here is still just as applicable today as it, as it was back when cloud started rolling out in, in, in 2010.

Um, but one, one thing I just want to, I'm just really curious about, cause you've mentioned product management and product marketing almost as two separate things. Um, Uh, you know, I'm, I'm a techie. So I live in the product management world of, I like roadmaps and how that flows through into the development team and how a product comes out the other side, like what's the, how, how do you define, you know, what is the difference for all of our listeners between product management and product marketing and then which, which ones need to get involved with channel?

Is it both or is it, is there a particular role each, each one of those two different sides needs to

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: play? Great question. I think of products, the product teams, product management on a spectrum. You have the folks who are actually building the solution. You have the project managers who are managing those developers.

Then you have the product managers who have more business acumen and are responsible usually for the P and L of a product like, am, am I going to be profitable or not, but they are not marketers. They typically, right, they're much more technical, and they're, they're trying to look to the future of what, what does my product line need?

How can I stay competitive? What are the needs of the customer? And a lot of times they're doing research on the customers. Now, depending on the strength of the product. Marketing team in a company there, and if you look at the pragmatic marketing approach, it's a, it's a spectrum and it depends on the skills of the individual, but also the priorities of the, of the company, if product marketing will lead research on customer research and competitive research, or if that's a product.

Management. Yeah. I've worked with a couple different teams where it could, it could go either way, right? But it needs to happen. So who's going to do that? And then product marketing's job is to take the jargony speeds and feeds value proposition that you receive from product management, translate that into business value for a customer and also translate it to the marketing team.

I look at, uh, the role of product marketing as an interpreter for the business. And so I have worked on product marketing teams that reported up to product and also up to the CMO. And I prefer this. Maybe it's controversial. I prefer reporting up to the CMO because if you product marketing, then is less technical typically.

Then if you sit in marketing and you understand the modalities. of the marketing team where the marketing team is successful. You have those relationships that you can lean on and you can think more critically about what product management is asking you to do. And sometimes, you know, you sit in product management, you drink the Kool Aid, they're telling you this is cool.

This is how you need to do it. But if you sit on a different team, you can examine that in a different way. Whether product management might not like that, but I think that's okay because you need that that dialogue and perhaps disagreement to happen and product marketing is saying to partner marketing.

This is what this means for your partners and why. Amanda, why you should care, for example, and helping identify the best partners to go after working with the partner marketing team, working with the direct to customer marketing team. Um, and, and it's really important to have those relationships. Also, I, I do see product marketing being tasked with demand generation sometimes.

And if you are not sitting in the marketing team. Your efforts may conflict. So if product marketing is going directly to sales saying, Hey, this is a really cool solution, you should talk about this. Whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute. Who's policing the time of sales and the partners, right? You need to, if you're in the fold of marketing, you see the vision of what marketing is doing.

And you know that you can leverage them to get your message across. If you're a product marketer sitting in the product management team, you are unfamiliar with what marketing is doing. Sometimes you lack confidence in what marketing is doing and you go rogue a bit like, Hey, we can do this on our own.

Oh, marketing's already doing that. I didn't know that. I didn't know marketing was doing that. And that's, that's also the job of marketing to make sure that product management understands what's happening to build confidence internally, work in your own internal PR, like, Hey, this is what I'm doing for your product.

So. Back off, you know, leash up your dogs. We're doing this over here. We've got this. We need you. We need your support. We need your expertise, but we are going to drive this message because you're all going after the same salespeople, the same partners, the same customers, and you should be structured and organized in how you do.

So it's my, in my humble opinion, that's. I'm trying

Jon Busby: to find something to disagree with you on here, but I just can't like, for me, it just, it just feels like a maturity model, which you, you need to move through, right? There are so many organizations and that's why I wanted to understand the real difference between them.

Cause I'm curious, we run products ourselves here together, right? And what we haven't had, we've never had a specific product marketing function. You know, we, I think there's a maturity where that becomes a function and splits out, and then as it becomes more mature, it does move into, uh, it does move into marketing and eventually of course, move across into sales and channel.

And I think that's the journey that many, many organizations need to go on. And I would say there might be many CMOs listening to this that don't have a distinct defined product marketing function at all. Um, so you mentioned the word modalities. I'm going to. Butcher that again as well, modality, like different models.

Like what are the different models that could be applied here? Like how you, do you see them as a maturity curve and there's an optimal one at the end, or is, does it depend on the products you're selling or the type of company that you want and you're set up, like how would you approach it?

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: Well, I would, um, tap into someone like Amanda, right.

On the partner marketing team, because there's, there's the different marketing platforms that exist within a company. Right. You, you have your owned earned and paid media, right? Your websites, your podcasts, your, um, organic optimization efforts. And then you have the things that you're paying for. Are you paying for that directly?

Are you giving money to partners for ad spend, right? Or um, are you like amplifying things through PR? Some brands have a stronger, you know, brand recognition, but then someone like Amanda and her team, right? She's going to have a list, a rate card of all the different ways that you can market through a partner.

So you have more sophisticated marketing partners or less sophisticated, right? And a lot of times your partners are bigger than you are. They have very robust marketing teams. They may not need your graphic design. They're going to do it their way. Um, but some, you tap into your partner marketing internal partnerships and say, Hey, Amanda, how would you reckon like leverage their expertise?

How, Amanda, how would you

Amanda Fitzgerald: do this? Like what, what do you recommend? Shannon. So you, you mentioned earlier in this conversation about partner rising the, the, the branded marketing materials. And that's always too late in the conversation. And there's a two mark, a two partner communication. There's a set of materials where you actually trying to engage with the partner and win their hearts and minds.

Why would they want to sell this solution to their customers? So that marketing to partners piece. That still is our biggest challenge. Without that marketing to partners, you're never going to get their hearts and minds. So partnerizing customer marketing materials for partners is almost the end. That's the partnering, that's the marketing through partners.

They do need customer facing materials. That is co branded. That's the through partners. Partner marketing motion, but the two partner markets. So my whole team at red hat at global level, the whole focus shifted three years ago to do more of the marketing to partner piece that bit was not. Fully baked that bit was neglected and was sometimes an afterthought, but without that marketing to partner piece, we wouldn't get partner buy in and we wouldn't get partner commitment and we wouldn't get the growth through the channel, which is what we're all trying to achieve.

We can, we cannot get the growth, um, ambition. Realized without the partners, but without telling the partners what's in it for you, Mr. Partner, how much services can you make on, on the tail end of selling our subscription software? We're never going to get partner buy in. So the whole focus did shift approximately three years ago in the global team, where we weren't just throwing partnerized marketing materials at partners.

To get them engaged with the customers. We were putting time and effort into why would you want to sell this solution? And that whole partner marketing to partners became a big focus in my global team, and that's when we started getting traction, didn't we, Shannon? Three years ago, we started getting the traction, getting the distributors building their own, To their reseller community.

So then we gave them a reseller package of materials as well as the partnerized customer materials. So we ended up with three separate packages of materials, the two distributor, the through distributor, and the. Co branded customer materials up until four years ago. We only had the co branded customer materials.

We just built it and expected the partners to sell it. So it was a huge mind shift for. The partner ecosystem marketing team, where I sat, there was a closer collaboration with the product marketeers. That's where we started in this conversation. Product marketing was much more closely aligned to what do the partners need from us as a vendor to go sell.

It wasn't just partnerizing the customer materials. That was a fallacy. We needed to engage with them. Why would you want to sell our product? So the whole partnering to marketing to the partners became a big, big piece of work. Um, and much, much earlier in the, in the marketing planning stages. So 50 percent of my time, my team's time was.

What's in it for the partner and how do you communicate that to the partner? How do you pull the partner into that whole road map? How do you get them to plan? a whole marketing motion for next year, you know, six months in advance of the calendar year. So that became a very strategic shift in how we went to market with our partners.

Jon Busby: What was your biggest success there, Amanda? Like, could you like getting product marketing and partner marketing to work together? Like, could you, can you pinpoint like this, this was a step change for us?

Amanda Fitzgerald: Yeah,

Jon Busby: I

Amanda Fitzgerald: can. And, and what's interesting and Shannon will back me up here. There was a lot of movement.

So. I lost one of my team members three years ago and she went into product marketing and all of a sudden there was this fluidity of partner marketing moving into product marketing and product marketing moving into partner marketing that all of a sudden we, we started breaking down those silos. I won't tell you how many marketers we had at Red Hat.

It was a, it was a huge number of marketers and it exceeded the number of marketers. In IBM, and IBM are 30 times the size of Red Hat.

Jon Busby: And at one But the branding was so much, so much better. Red Hat's branding was a lot stronger.

Amanda Fitzgerald: Um, and so I'm not being disloyal. I'm ex IBM and then IBM ended up buying Red Hat.

So it became full circle. Um, but so, so that fluidity. We were no longer in silos, you know, there was no longer, um, brand marketing or direct marketing versus partner marketing, that whole competition between direct marketing and partner marketing. You know, it was getting eroded and direct marketing was listening to partner marketing, partner marketing was involving direct marketing.

And then we had the third strand, which was product marketing. We, we broke down those silos and that started that. I remember it vividly. It started three years ago where we had these marketing, internal marketing consortiums, and I can't even remember what we would called ourselves in the end where. We had a group of 30 marketeers sitting around a table once a month.

What did Neela call it, Shannon? I can't remember now. The marketing council. It was an internal marketing council where you had direct marketing, partner marketing, product marketing, any type of marketing. We were all sitting around a table once a month, sharing ideas. Sharing. So it wasn't partnerizing anymore.

It was a coalition of marketeers talking to each other and we had the inside track. We knew what was coming. On the direct marketing side, we knew what was coming on the product marketing side and partner marketing were able to get the two marketing, two partner marketing materials done early. And that was a breakthrough three years ago at Red Hat and those cadences, you know, 50 percent of my time was sitting on those.

cadence calls, the marketing cadence call, but also the partner advisory calls that were, those were happening monthly. The product marketing guys were in all of those calls. So putting more meetings in diaries, I know we were trying to reduce the number of meetings in people's diaries, but what we were doing was increasing the frequency, but streamlining, making these.

Coalitions bigger having 30 marketeers on a monthly call was better than having 30 individual calls where you had, where I remember Shannon, I don't know whether you remember, I used to have individual calls with each of the product marketing teams and bi weekly and then pulling the regions in made it even more complicated.

So then, so I replaced those individual product marketing meetings with a coalition. Meeting that happened once a month. So even though you've got 30 people on the call You had to submit your questions early so everyone had a chance, because in a 30 minute call you can't get 30 voices heard, but if you have a rolling document where everyone submits their talking points, their product announcements, their, their questions in a document that everyone can read, Submit their answers in a document.

There's also nobody has to take minutes because that's a rolling document as well. You could see what was the talking point. You can see people's responses. So 30 voices can get seen in a document but cannot get heard on a 30 minute call.

Jon Busby: I think it's a campaign right there. Just, just to mark, just to partners called 30 voices for one thing.

But second, secondly, secondly, just that's a really nice tactical way of executing this at scale. Um, you know, one thing just as we've been, we've been going around here and just, I'm conscious Shannon of your time. I don't know if you have a hard stop now, so I don't want to cut off a talking point, but at the same time, I'm, I'm.

I don't want to take up the hot rest of your day either. So, cause this is fascinating. Um, are you good to carry on for a few more minutes, by the way?

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: I

Jon Busby: am

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: good.

Jon Busby: Um, so we're, we're start, I'll start kind of bringing us towards a wrap up here, but, um, you know, that that's a really, really tactic, nice tactical, um, way of doing this at scale, Amanda, like something that, you know, we, we often look at it and know that we need to run one of these, um, actually what we've And we talked, we've talked about packs today, packs for me feel like you're getting partner leadership, but you're normally getting part of sales involved.

We don't really talk about the Mac. I think we need to have a return on the Mac on this one, which is the, the, the marketing council, right? So I think, I know, I think that's where you need to give the marketer a voice. So not just on the product marketer side, but on the partner marketer side, specifically at the partner, because they, you know, in channel marketing, we don't get to go to that many parties.

We don't, they don't invite us out that much and they should do so. Like I, I'm going to put a stand here that we need to have return. Let's call it return on the Mac. That's that's why.

Amanda Fitzgerald: It was reminding people that we're all on the same side because we were competing against each other before. Direct marketing, we're competing, competing for dollars, competing for dollars, competing for the CMOs, you know, favors.

Um, but we were no longer competing. We were all on the same side.

Jon Busby: So, so hang on. Those 30 voices. I hang on, I might have misunderstood this. Was that 30 people inside Red Hat? Inside Red inside the organization or th because I read that as 30 partners. No, this is Mac. You're talking about the

Amanda Fitzgerald: Marketing Advisory Council.

This is the Mac, the internal 30 Voices internal, but the Pack has 30 voice. No. How many? Yeah,

Jon Busby: but I think it applies just as much if you go to partners like Part Getting 30 Partner Marketing didn't mean Shannon People in as well. Didn't we have 20,

Amanda Fitzgerald: 28 partners on the partner advisory council?

Jon Busby: Yeah. So I think, I think

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: it's usually the owners, right?

I do think that there should be a place for vendors to hear from the partner marketing liaison team because they're managing a lot of your competitors and peers, and they can tell you what is and isn't resonating. I think that's a missed opportunity. I think. If you, if you come to marketing for the glory, you're in the wrong place.

Usually you do not receive accolades. It's, it's when you don't hear complaints from sales or product management that you know that you're doing a good job.

Jon Busby: Oh, it's a thankless job. Oh, that's, I'm going to take that one. Thank goodness we're brave enough

Amanda Fitzgerald: to take on the challenge.

Jon Busby: I mean, I will say we've just, the recording I did just before this one, we were talking around, which might go out after this one, we don't know the ordering of them yet.

So if you're listening to this, that's going to thoroughly confuse all of you. was talking about how we could start to incentivize marketers, which is a whole other ballgame, right? So then we do get, then we do get a little bit of the glory. Um, so maybe we need to have more glory. Um, maybe there needs to be a recognition of it, but I, it's

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: terrifying to connect to comp.

I've done that before. It's very scary as a marketer. It's why you're in marketing and not sales a lot of times, but, um, I, I hear that. And I, I think, um, Instead of competing with each other, what can we learn from each other? What is, and isn't working. And oftentimes you are moving towards that next thing.

You have these critical deadlines. How often do you stop and evaluate? And do that postmortem, right? What was and wasn't working and how of the materials that you're handing off to partners, you have a relation, the partner account manager has a relationship with business development leadership teams, but not necessarily the marketing teams, uh, partner marketing.

Vendor partner marketing and the partner marketing liaison where, how can their voices get heard? I would love to see that.

Jon Busby: Yeah. Yeah. I don't see it. No, I think I, you know, as we, as we start to kind of bring this, you know, we haven't talked about how we integrate with sales, right? We've talked about products, but we haven't even mentioned sales yet, but so let's quickly cover that one off.

Like, well, how does sales integrate into this picture? Like, I know I

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: do sit in sales. Um, And that's so interesting for me. I am a marketer sitting in the sales organization. I am the only one on my team. Um, how, what does this mean for sales? I think I'm very much, I mean, what, what specifically is the question like John, in the sense of,

Jon Busby: I mean, I was probably leaving it really open there just to make it really difficult for you.

I mean, I can go in so many different directions. It's just, you know, we, we talk about sales and marketing alignment, right? Um, specifically here, we've been talking about product marketing. So where does. I mean, where do they fit in to that entire picture? Like, how do you, is there a model where you've not only got product, you've got something going from product management all the way through to sales.

And I just, I can't even reconcile it in my head. I like, is there a model where everyone works together or do we just need, Maybe the mark, the, when we, we do need the marketers to have more of a voice and they just, and they do sit more siloed, but have more of a voice than they had before. I'm going to jump in here, Shannon,

Amanda Fitzgerald: because I remember when I saw the sales targets for aligned to each of the product units, my first reaction was, this was Two years ago, the first reaction was what portion of that target was going to be delivered through partners.

And I was looking for what percentage of that overall revenue target are you looking for partners to deliver? And not one person could answer that question. Not one

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: person. And that's, that is something that I think baffles a lot of marketing teams. If they are new to partner marketing, how do you Reconcile that right.

If you have your marketing and sales funnel for how you're directly communicating with customers. And you're not acknowledging that partners are also there. I think there's a real opportunity and a necessity for marketing teams to really map out a rassy or dassy, like who's doing what and to say, I'm going to divest from this type of marketing because I know, and I trust that my partners are doing this.

And in fact, partners expect this from us, from vendors, and they want to know that you are spending money on the top of your funnel because they don't want to be introducing your brand to their customers. That's our job. That is the vendor's job to do that and they will deprioritize you in their lineup of vendors if you do not invest in top of funnel marketing.

So for example, I remember, um, basically every partner asked me this, well, what are you doing to help me? Like I want to be able to receive this demand from, for your product. You know, we talked about apple earlier, the best buy doesn't have to worry about there being any demand for apple products. Apple handles that.

And they might do some joint marketing together in store and their commercials like, Hey, we have this, you can buy this here, but the demand has been set at the top. And part of the job of the partner is to not like introduce your product to their customers. It's to help them determine which one is best.

For the customer. So in, in the branding conversation or introducing a new solution, you have a, is this a, will I buy it? Uh, or won't I buy a conversation? The partner should be having a, which one conversation, right? And that, that is something that I think marketers need to better understand just because we have.

Partners in place to help us sell doesn't mean they're going to go out there and be our soldiers to brand ambassador. They, they will be a brand ambassador, but not to introduce that work has to be done. So I would argue that marketing teams should pull out of a lot of the marketing investment that they're doing.

Leave that to the partners. But, but under, in order to do that, they have to know what platforms modalities like what that partner is doing for them. And that requires, you know, internal understanding and awareness that doesn't really exist in most companies, um, to, to understand that. And I, I would say too, you talked about the role of sales in marketing.

I would say sellers are now marketers because you have these. You know, outreach tools, revenue. io, outreach, you know, all of these automated tools that sellers are using, using AI machine learning. To send out follow up campaigns. And a lot of times I've seen this.

Jon Busby: Yep.

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: A lot of consulting too. And I do not see marketers understanding how salespeople are using those tools.

And in marketing, you like to think you're the only one that's touching the customer with these messages, but that is incorrect. Sellers are doing email blasts.

Jon Busby: But I think, I think that there's so much here, but the phrase that I've seen used before, by the way, just to come back to your branding piece.

Cause I think that's so true. Um, and by the way, if you're thinking, if you're in this, if you're CMO and you're thinking about cutting brand, like what are you doing, like it impacts you on so many different levels, but you know, partners don't generate demand. They fulfill it is the way you've got to think like that.

Like they, they are not, you know, they don't, they don't have the same recognition that you have. And so you need to make sure you're, you're bringing both the Both of those things together, which is why it's so important for the channel team to also be looking at what the wider organization is doing and making sure that it's all aligned.

But you're exactly right. Like I actually did a ride along with a, with a reseller recently, um, and watch them sell and do exactly what you mentioned, right? They, we, we got them down to three different, uh, essentially three different competing solutions. And I watched how he positioned each of those solutions, right?

This is the best fit. This is the brand you've heard of. You know, this is the best or the product you've heard of. Um, but this is probably the one that's best for your business. And then this is best for your budget. And it was really interesting, like how they package that up in a way that's like, you're probably anchored over here.

Cause this is a brand that you've seen, but actually they may not be best for you. It's this, actually this one here that we probably need to look at. And it was, uh, honestly, like just watching that, I was able to turn that then into a marketing campaign and an experience that then managed to do that at scale, but I think you've, there's an opportunity there that like marketing should be spending more time with sales and you should be spending more time understanding how they do, but I also think we should be using some of those gen AI tools to fuel the prompts that mean at least.

The campaigns, let's not call them campaigns because that makes it very confusing, but whatever the outreach IO is doing is aligned with your existing assets and is channelized Amanda to your term. Like, I think there's a big opportunity that's not, that we're not talking about there, which is hang on.

There should be, um, you know, we should be trying to align more with some of those, some of those downstream platforms. Um, right.

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: That's like building the route to market. Um, so not only do product marketers need to understand the routes to market, marketing needs to understand that as well. Like, Hey, when a customer fits in this segment, it looks like this.

These are all of the sales people that are going to touch it is your sales or marketing development rep going to touch it or is that immediately going to get passed to a partner and you know, there's like a, you know, a mapping that needs to happen and the touches and the timing and the cadence and the messages need to be, need to reflect that.

A lot of times I'm seeing a one size fits all because it's, it's hard. It's hard to do it. Our tech stacks don't always integrate. It's complicated. We over complicate everything, right? The bigger you are, the more difficult it is. You acquire companies. I mean, I hear like us as a startup, you can start fresh with your fresh database and your fresh tools.

It's never like that. It's so hard. But if you customize your tool, Oh, forget about it.

Jon Busby: And first we also like to use them different metrics. I mean, that's going to be a whole different podcast on its own, but like we measure things differently. We, we even define like when, when did we split SALs into SQ?

And when did we split SQLs and SALs to be two different things? That just gives us a giant chasm that we have to now cross between Uh, between the two, like it just, it makes things so complicated. So I, I'm very conscious we could, we could carry on doing this. I mean, I'm, I could, I could carry on, but let's, let's try and bring this to a, to a close for our audience for, for our aspiring CMOs that are out there, like, what are the different.

We've covered so much today. This is such a fast evolving landscape. You just mentioned the AR word. Like we made it nearly the whole way through the podcast without discussing it. But like, how are you changing this approach for 2024? Like what's, what's the next evolution, um, of where product marketing and product management sit.

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: I'm, I'm very focused on how can we enable our partner ecosystem. To move as quickly as AI is within Red Hat. So for example, today at Red Hat summit in Denver, we're making all these announcements, a lot of them around AI, how it's moving so fast and we don't want to miss out on these opportunities. Now we need to go back and make sure.

Okay. How are we setting up these partners for success? What do they need? What tools, training, support, uh, compensation do they need in order to help us scale our AI solutions? But it's, it's moving so fast. Um, and that's an exciting thing, but also you play a little bit of catch up because you try to be agile when working with partners, but it's, there's just some inevitability that has to happen sometime that it's going to take to enable everybody.

So. Can we move as fast, um, to enable partners on AI, get them trained so they can be these, you know, ambassadors for the company to sell, sell this solution.

Jon Busby: Amanda, same question. Like what, how are you changing, how are you adapting to this evolving landscape?

Amanda Fitzgerald: So this is a, this is not a new quote, but Treating the partner as an extension of your team.

So we mentioned the partner marketing contacts at the partnerships and the partner sales contacts at the partnerships. They are an extended member of our team. So building that closer connection, that closer engagement, that closer communication, it's not a them and us anymore. It's let's do this together.

So building that closer association. And just act as one team rather than a vendor team, then a partner team, and don't give them, they're not an afterthought. They are part of the process from the very start. So that would be my biggest message.

Jon Busby: I think that's. I would agree. I think that's one of my key takeaways that, you know, Shannon, you painted this incredibly inspiring vision for me, which is being able to launch with a partner or go to go to market with a partner, like, so the same day that you launch a product and I, and everything we've talked about here has been about involving them earlier in the process, you know, return, bringing back the Mac.

I'm not going to try and say return the Mac, but there we go. I've said it anyway. Um, you know, for, for partners, but also involved. Involving them in the product management process, involving them in, in all of it. So you can, so you can make the product better. So that's my key takeaway is you just. You know, you've, you've just got to bring it, you know, get everyone on the same page much, much sooner, not have these complicated, um, go to market plans that may span 90 or 120 or even longer.

Um, we've got to find ways of shortening it down because if you don't, your competition will.

Amanda Fitzgerald: For sure.

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: 100%.

Jon Busby: That's, that, that brings us to a wrap. That's it. I think that was, that was, I've got to say that was the fastest recorded, that just went so quickly for me. That was incredible. But,

Amanda Fitzgerald: um.

Jon Busby: That was, it was, I mean, I don't know if we even touched every talking point.

Because I've still got the document here. I've still,

Amanda Fitzgerald: I've got the document open. Um. So, so can I just record, um. Thank you. So thank you, Shannon, for being our guest, um, on today's call, wonderful in depth insights, a way forward, sharing your experience, sharing your knowledge with the audience. It's been fascinating and, you know, a value to everyone that's listening on today's call.

Podcast. So thank you for that.

Shannon McCarty-Caplan: Thank you so much for the opportunity. It's really a pleasure to dig into this. I'm very passionate about this. I love, I love discussing the intersections of product, marketing, marketing, product management, sales. I love it. Thank you for having me.

Jon Busby: No, thank you.


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