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By: Rhoan Morgan on October 11th, 2018

The Role of Product Marketing in Supporting the Sales Process

Product marketing sits at the intersection of product, marketing, and sales, making it a critical function in enhancing value creation for the customer and supporting sales enablement.

This month, Kristin Roberts, Vice President, Product Marketing at Phreesia, joins the Revenue Rebels podcast to share strategies on how product marketing can and should deliver value internally and externally. Tune in to find out:

  • How product marketing supports sales enablement
  • Product marketing’s role in revenue generation
  • What technologies support product marketing and sales team collaboration

About Our Guest:

Kristin Roberts is responsible for the positioning and go-to-market strategy for Phreesia’s products and applications. Before joining Phreesia, Kristin was a management consultant at Booz & Company, where she led product launch and growth strategy engagements for its life sciences clients. She also worked as a consultant at ZS Associates, specializing in quantitative physician market research and sales deployment optimization. Kristin earned an MBA from Columbia Business School and holds a BA in Public Health Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

If you can’t listen, check out the full transcription below:

Paul: Welcome back to SLMA radio and our rotating series of shows. This week it’s Revenue Rebels back again, with the host, Rhoan Morgan CEO of DemandLab, the sponsor of the program as well. Revenue Rebels, as we’ll remind you, is hosted by Rhoan the first week of each month right here on SLMA radio. And today she’s going to talk about the role of product marketing and supporting the sales process. Look forward to that. Welcome, Rhoan.

Rhoan Morgan: Hi there, Paul. Thank you. Really excited to be back for another episode and a big thank you, quickly, to all of our listeners who are joining us today. In this episode, yeah, we’re talking about the role of product marketing in supporting the sales process. We’re going to discuss strategies on how product marketing, the function of product marketing can deliver value, both internally and externally.

And joining us today for this conversation is Kristin Roberts. She’s the Vice President of Product Marketing at a company called Phreesia, and Phreesia provides an automated patient intake platform for healthcare providers. And this platform supports the entire patient lifecycle. And from what I saw on the website recently, it’s supporting over 70 million patients annually, which is pretty incredible. I’ve actually, I think, even probably been a participant or a user of this recently when I was having blood tested, to be honest. And what a fantastic platform it is.

Kristin, you’ve got such a great background in product marketing, as well as management consulting specifically in the healthcare space. But something that I saw that was really interesting was that you started in Phreesia in a business development function and I imagine that that experience must have really shaped how you approach the partnership between product marketing and sales and marketing. Can we start just having you walk us through your background and how you landed and sort of came into the product marketing space?

Kristin Roberts: Yeah, that sounds great. Thanks, Rhoan. It’s really great to be here today and as you said, I started my career in management consulting and I really always liked the top-line revenue growth projects when I worked there, working with clients. And I never really got into any of the cost-cutting or the re-org work. I was really always interested in working with clients who are trying to enter new markets, or to launch new products and thinking about how to reinvigorate a stagnating business unit, help it grow again.

And then I came to Phreesia, which is a fast-growing company, obviously a lot of focus on top-line growth. As you mentioned, I worked in business development for a little while, thinking about strategic partnerships, and then I started in this role in product marketing about 18 months ago. And when I started this role, what I realized was I was actually doing product marketing most of my career, even before I probably knew what it was. A lot of that strategic growth work that I did is very related to a lot of the core concepts in product marketing and I think although it’s maybe not the most well-understood marketing function, you know, I think it’s really interesting and trying to find a good product-market fit and figuring out how to go to market, it’s really key to any company’s growth strategy. So excited to talk about it.

Rhoan Morgan: Well, I think we were talking about this earlier. When you think about product marketing, and it is somewhat defined differently maybe around different circles, but we all know that it really is the intersection between marketing and sales and supporting also not only the internal functions, but externally, right, with customer-facing work, which is pretty extensive. I’d love it if you could tell us a little bit about Phreesia, the role that you’ve got there, and how your team is structured.

Kristin Roberts: Yeah, so as you mentioned, Phreesia is a patient intake solution. So we’re helping healthcare provider organizations who are looking to streamline their operations and provide their patients with a more modern and consistent experience. Historically, we had one solution that was centered around patient registration and over the years we’ve added a lot of functionality and a lot of wraparound services to that.

So as an example, things like patient payment, asking patients to pay their co-pays or their balances or adding clinical questionnaires to the registration process so that providers have the right information. And we always bundled everything together. And as Phreesia became more and more valuable over time, what we noticed is that as the price kept going up and we had this bigger and bigger offering, that clients would come to us and say “That’s great, but really I only want these pieces of what you do and I don’t want to pay for the rest.”

Kristin Roberts: So a year ago or so, we started breaking up the product. We now have base package and these optional add-ons, applications, which is great because our clients get this customized solution, they can pick the right applications that they want to meet their needs. But what it meant internally was we went from one product, which was Phreesia, to about 50 products overnight. And you know, now we’re selling each one of them separately.

So each product needs its own price, it needs its own go-to-market strategy, its own value story. And so this became a new role for me and I stood up this product marketing team just organized by specific product categories. So I have five people and one person that covers registration, one person on revenue cycle products, appointments, clinical support, and patient activation. And so each one of them is really responsible for understanding their market, articulating the value of their products, and developing that go-to-market strategy, ultimately to drive bookings and revenue.

And I also have an analytics team. So they’re responsible for using our data to quantify the value of Phreesia and they look at it as a whole solution, but also those specific applications.

Rhoan Morgan: So all of these … Your entire team then is tasked with supporting, ultimately learning from the market, and then supporting the right messaging and the right even sales tactics and what’s their go-to-market plan for a sales team who went from one product to 50. That’s a major undertaking.

Kristin Roberts: Mm-hmm.

Rhoan Morgan: That had to have been a pretty incredible experience to break that apart and then train and communicate that through the sales organization.

Kristin Roberts: That’s right.

Rhoan Morgan: What was that process like?

Kristin Roberts: It’s been kind of an ongoing process the last several months. So you know, you’re building up these different products, right? So we are going out and trying to understand these markets. We’re getting out there on sales calls, we’re visiting our clients. We’re really trying to understand the value and what’s the story in order to package this up in a way that’s going to be helpful for our sales team and it’s definitely an ongoing thing that we’ll continue to do.

Rhoan Morgan: Mm-hmm. Well, and at the end of the day, it’s really about … And this is something that we’re all talking about and every single CEO that I’ve heard talk or spoken with is always value-driven, what’s the value that we’re bringing for the customer? And that really does require an organization across the board to sort of be rowing in the same direction. I’d love to hear about what product marketing does to create value for the customer. Then we’ll take a break and we’ll go into sort of your collaboration with marketing and sales.

Kristin Roberts: That sounds great. So there’s a few teams that really need to understand the market and I think that product marketing is definitely one of those. The steps that we’re taking is getting out into the market and getting out there on sales calls and visiting our clients, going to industry events. And what we’re trying to do is understand the different market segments, who are the different buyer personas, or user personas, what’s important to them.

And with that information, we can take that back to the organization and we can help drive new product development, or we can take the products we have and try to develop new offerings or change our positioning, change our messaging to better communicate how our products are going to meet the needs of the market and create that value. And so we’re doing all that really with the goal of creating that better product-market fit.

Rhoan Morgan: Mm-hmm. And how does that collaboration take shape with the sales team? You’re on sales calls. What are some of the behind the scenes activities that you guys are doing to support the frontline sales folks? Is it around the messaging? Is it around specific tools that they’re using so that it makes their life easier when they’re talking with prospects or with clients?

Kristin Roberts: Yeah, it’s really all of those things. So if it’s a new product, we’re training them on it, we’re giving them the value story. We might be sitting in on demos with them, or doing the actual product demos. We’re trying to hear the feedbacks of the client specifically. But it’s also just creating tools so that once the product is out there in the market and becoming adopted, they can do it themselves. So they have the right tool, they have the right collateral; they have the right ROI calculators, whatever it is, whatever they need to arm them to be able to sell the product.

Rhoan Morgan: Mm-hmm , yeah. Well, and I think it really sounds like the work that you guys have done in terms of pulling that information from the market and from clients to really help the sales folks tell the story, set the stage, find those pain points that are going to contribute to even a stickier product and a stickier platform at the end of the day, is pretty significant work. And I am really looking forward to talking in a few minutes about the collaboration that you’ve got, to dig into that a little bit more, the collaborative relationship that you have with marketing and with the sales team. So we do need to take a minute for a quick little commercial. We’ll be right back to continue talking with our guest, Kristin Roberts, about marketing’s role in the sales process.

Paul: And as we said, we’re going to take just a brief break to remind you that DemandLab helps organizations like yours transform their revenue potential by connecting their greatest assets, people, processes, technology, and data, through their customized revenue ecosystem solutions. They leverage marketing technology, data science, governance and analytics, and all that good stuff, along with your content. And they help B2B organizations like yours advance business goals and drive revenue. Really not magic. It’s pretty easy. You can learn more at DemandLab Solutions, just like it sounds, Go check it out. You owe it to yourself.

Paul: Alright, and I demand to hear more of this show here. So back to Rhoan.

Rhoan Morgan: Thank you, Paul. We’ve been speaking with Kristin Roberts, the VP of Product Marketing at Phreesia. And we’re talking about product marketing’s role in the sales process. So Kristin, before taking this break, I sort of led in that we were going to start talking about the collaboration between product marketing, marketing, and sales. And so I’d love for you to just walk us through, what does that environment look like for you at Phreesia?

Kristin Roberts: Yeah, you know, I think product marketing is one of the coolest jobs and I feel really lucky to be in the role because we really get to sit at that intersection of products and sales and marketing. And we kind of act as this bridge between the product and engineering side of the organization, which really powers our innovation, and then the sales with the marketing side, which commercializes that and turns that into booking through revenue. So just to give you an example, our product team right now is investing a lot in our mobile products, so this is allowing patients to check in from their own device. And we’re really trying to move away from our hardware focus from the past. So things like tablets, or kiosk stations to check-in.

Kristin Roberts: And so we work with the product team on specific features and thinking through that value story. And then we bring that over to marketing and work with them to update our collateral, update our website, update our content strategy, all those things, to make sure that we are emphasizing mobile. And then we work with the sales team to ensure that mobile should really be in every deal that they sell and that we should work to upgrade all of our existing clients to be on our mobile platform because all of our kind of latest and greatest innovation are going to be rolled out on mobile-first. So we want all our clients to benefit from that and give their patients the best experience.

Kristin Roberts: Another example, when we talk about working with marketing, what I think we’ve seen a lot of success with is this idea of coordinated campaigns. So if we have specific products that are coming out, or if we have products that we really want the sales team to focus on, we’ll align that with our demand generation team and make sure that their activities are lining up with those same products. So we may have our content team put out thought leadership on something like how hard it is to collect from patients once they leave their office and that really primes the market for us before we launch a new patient payment product.

Kristin Roberts: And we talked a little bit about the sales team before. But I want to emphasize that our interaction with them is really a two-way communication. So yes, we’re training them on these new products and offerings and we’re rolling out pricing and talking about that value story, but really equally important is their feedback to us. So they are the ones on the ground and in the market and really talking to clients every day and so they bring back to us how are the offerings resonating, where do we have gaps, what competitors are they coming up against? That’s a continuous feedback loop that helps us pivot if we need to, and sometimes we do.

We work a lot with our client sales team, which sells to our existing base of clients. We typically will launch new products there first. It’s a little bit less risky and they’ll come back to us and they’ll tell us “It’d be really great if we had these other sales tools,” or “Kristin, the pricing just really isn’t working here.” And we really take that feedback and often times we’ll change what we’re doing and try different things and sometimes there’s a little bit of whiplash with those new products, but it allows us to fail early and not really waste time on things that aren’t going to work.

Rhoan Morgan: It also really sounds like that approach is really sort of ensuring that you’re fitting that square peg into the square hole, in a way, right? So you’re getting that feedback.

Kristin Roberts: That’s right.

Rhoan Morgan: Really listening to sales, who’s the frontline with the market, with the client and the customer and prospects. So bringing that back in really ensures that they’ve got the right tools in their toolbox. And it also sounds to me like the function there at Phreesia is kind of the glue between marketing and sales and really ensuring that there’s a very tight collaboration amongst messaging and that sort of thing.

You know, when we think about supporting sales teams, we oftentimes talk about providing sales with a 360-degree view of the customer and this comes back into sales and obviously back into marketing. So throughout every stage of that engagement model, awareness valuation up through advocacy, they’ve got that. How does product marketing contribute to that view for your sales and marketing teams?

Kristin Roberts: One kind of unique perspective that we’re really focused on is how do our clients use our products? And this is especially more for newer products. So we need to understand who of our clients is using it, why do they purchase it, what value they’re getting out of it. So this will help us not only identify potential new market segments to target but then we can go to our salespeople and give them these success stories, which they love when they’re talking with prospects. And they have case studies or anecdotes or quotes then they can talk about the specific use cases for our products that might resonate with their prospect.

Kristin Roberts: So as an example, when we first launched our online appointments product, we had a client tell us they bought it because they got over 800 inbound calls a day to schedule appointments, which really just blew me away. So it was like oh, it’s not just about the patient experience. If there’s this vast painpoint of all these inbound calls, we work with our sales team to really talk about that value driver as well.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, you know, that’s interesting. That’s a great story and what I love about that is when we think about this, often times we think about, imagine somebody doing their work day-to-day and they’ve just got this huge thorn sort of stuck in their side and they don’t even know it because they’ve just gotten used to it. And your job then is to wiggle that thorn a little bit and start to make them uncomfortable and start to notice that there is a pain in the sort of everyday process, right?

Kristin Roberts: Yeah, I love that.

Rhoan Morgan: And then help them find the solution, which is you guys.

Kristin Roberts: Right.

Rhoan Morgan: We’ve just got a few minutes left, probably four or five minutes. Can you talk a little bit about the role and the changes that it might have undergone since it is a relatively new role at the company, and how do you see that evolving in the future, especially around supporting sales and marketing teams?

Kristin Roberts: Yeah, one area that we didn’t focus on too much … I mentioned at the beginning I have an analytics team under product marketing. So they’re focused on developing ROIs and they’re quantifying the value of our products and applications. And at Phreesia this was recently moved into product marketing. It used to be part of a more central analytics team and I think this is an area that will become more and more important going forward. Not all the value of a product can be easily quantified, which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to, but clients are more and more demanding that they need to see an ROI in order to purchase product or to keep a product. So we need to become more creative with how we demonstrate that, why they should buy it, why they should stay with us.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah. Well, I think the advent of the ROI calculator, whenever that happened, has certainly had a major impact on product marketing and the expectations of customers, you know?

Kristin Roberts: Absolutely.

Rhoan Morgan: I’m going to invest this dollar, what am I going to get back? And so that’s a question of that it seems to me every company has to be able to answer these days. And so how-

Kristin Roberts: I think the other-

Rhoan Morgan: Once they get that information, how are they going to pull that back into the sales team?

Kristin Roberts: How they are going to pull their ROI information back?

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah. Yeah. You guys have now separated this into 50 products.

Kristin Roberts: 50 products.

Rhoan Morgan: Within five different categories. It just seems … It’s mind-blowing to me. So it’s quite big. So once they are developing that ROI, what are they going to do? Are you going to arm them with an ROI calculator? Are you … Is it something that you’re just pulling in conversationally? Will you create this as a piece of content? Or is it going to be a spreadsheet that they’ll use?

Kristin Roberts: That’s a great question. It’s a few different things. So we do have specific ROI calculation templates for probably our more kind of standard deals. We may have them for specific products or for Phreesia as a whole. We also have much more custom, advanced, kind of ROI analysis for some of our bigger clients that my team will get very involved in. But it’s also just finding specific data points to help with those anecdotes and those success stories and those case studies. Data really speaks and being able to add those, in addition to some of the more qualitative stuff is really important for our sales materials and some of those talking points.

Rhoan Morgan: Mm-hmm, yep. It sounds like both qualitative, quantitative and pulling that together. And likely, developing that package or that messaging, either segment by segment, or even from customer to customer based on their particular needs.

Kristin Roberts: Right. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rhoan Morgan: Finally, we have time for one more quick question. We’ve got two minutes left. These episodes go so quickly. I’d love it if you could tell us about some of the technologies that you’re looking to add to your tech stack. Kristin Roberts: Sure, so we have several that we’re using today, probably similar ones to a lot of folks listening. We look at Salesforce, we use Marketo, Bizible.

But there’s really two technology gaps that I have today that are very specific to product marketing and one is better product-level reporting. So we really need to be able to track these 50 products that we have. Like who is buying each one? When is it turned on and converted to revenue? And then really importantly, how is it being utilized? That’s really invaluable information for us as we think about the messaging and positioning.

And then the second gap that I would love to fill with technology is competitive intelligence. We didn’t talk too much about that yet either. But as we’ve been growing really quickly, we’ve seen a lot of people enter our market and we have a lot more competitors than we did even just two years ago. And as we expand into these different product areas, our competitive set just grows. And so we probably have over 100 companies out there that could be somewhat competitive with us. So it’s a lot to keep up with and it’s really important information for our sales team. So that’s something that I would love to automate in the future.

Rhoan Morgan: Very exciting. Stuff that probably lived on spreadsheets and Word documents in the past.

Kristin Roberts: That’s right.

Rhoan Morgan: What do you know? Anyhow, Kristin, thank you so much. This has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I have enjoyed very much learning about your work with product marketing, marketing teams, and sales and how you’re collaborating with them. How can listeners reach you?

Kristin Roberts: Good question. You could reach out to Phreesia and get to me that way.

Rhoan Morgan: Check out the website.

Kristin Roberts: Yep.

Rhoan Morgan: Fantastic. Good.

Paul: And can we spell that out? I’m sorry, real quickly. We always want to spell these out to somebody-

Kristin Roberts: Good idea, good idea. P-H-R-E-E-S-I-A.

Rhoan Morgan: S like Sam. Fantastic. Thank you so much. I’m your host, Rhoan Morgan. This has been another episode of Revenue Rebels. And as always, you can connect with me on LinkedIn at R-H-O-A-N Morgan. Paul, over to you.

Paul: Alright, you’ve been listening to another episode of Revenue Rebels, right here at SLMA radio. Part of the ever-growing list of shows for at-work listeners like you.