Marketing technical products with Laura Hauser, Head of Marketing at Adaptavist

Marketing technical products to technical personas comes with unique challenges a marketer should consider for a successful strategy.

In this episode of the FINITE Podcast for B2B marketers, Laura Hauser, Head of Marketing at Adaptavist, tells us her take on technology marketing. With plenty of experience, Laura has noticed common trends and has tactics on how to reach technical buyers on an engaging and personal level.

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Full Transcript

Alex (00:07):

Hi everybody and welcome back to another FINITE Podcast episode. In this episode, we’re talking with Laura Hauser, who’s Head of Marketing at Adaptavist, a company that delivers enterprise software, expert solutions and services across trusted technology systems like Atlassian, AWS and GitLab

And we’re talking all about marketing more technical products to more technical users and some of the unique challenges that come with that. So I hope you enjoy.

FINITE (00:32):

The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast-growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.

Alex (00:53):

Hi Laura, welcome to the FINITE podcast.

Laura (00:55):

Thanks for having me Alex, happy to be here.

Alex (00:57):

I’m looking forward to talking. We are going to be diving into an interesting subject, which I think will resonate with a lot of our listeners in terms of marketing technical products. I think that actually caters to quite a large amount of our audience and yeah, I think it’s one that we can dive into with some interest. 

But as we always do, I’ll let you start by telling us a bit about your background and experience and a bit about where you work at the moment and your current role and team. So over to you.

About Laura’s background in B2B tech marketing and the marketing at Adaptavist 

Laura (01:23):

Absolutely, well my name is Laura Hauser and I’m the Head of Marketing at Adaptavist. And to give you the elevator pitch as us marketers say, Silicon Valley veteran, grew my career in San Francisco. I like to joke that I’m a Jack of all trades, expert to none. 

Started out on the PR side of the house, really doing on the agency side PR for a technology brands, ranging from Panasonic B2B solutions to the Pebble Watch, which was the Apple watch before there was an Apple watch and really have done everything from content marketing to product marketing, ecosystem marketing. 

And I’ve landed where I am now at Adaptavist. And Adaptavist is a global technology and solutions provider that essentially enable organisations to boost agility and overcome the challenges of digital transformation. And what that means point blankly is that we deliver enterprise software, consulting and services across the world’s most trusted technology ecosystems. And that includes the likes of the Atlassian, AWS, Slack and GitLab.

Alex (02:29):

Awesome. And tell us a bit about marketing team function, how marketing kind of looks as an organisation at Adaptavist?

Laura (02:36):

Absolutely. So as you can probably see from my previous explanation, we have quite a lot to market. We have about 44 apps, multiple solutions ranging from DevOps to agility, to consultancy on Atlassian tools like JIRA and Confluence. 

So, our team is pretty much broken out into three core areas, which I think of as app marketing. So not just product marketing, the full customer life cycle of our apps, solutions and partner marketing that range across the different ecosystems that we provide services and solutions on top of as well as our partner community and corporate marketing. 

So really focused on brand, events, digital and all of the things that our marketers like to do across our entire technology stack.

The unique aspects of marketing technical products 

Alex (03:21):

Awesome. And I guess we’re talking about marketing more technical products as a topic. And I think it’s helpful just to set the scene a bit and talk about what we mean by that. I think this might be the answer to the question might be that there isn’t a great difference. 

But I think taking that top level view, do we think that marketing very technical products is that different from non-technical products in the B2B tech space and what’s your perspective? And yeah, let’s set the scene before we dive into it.

Laura (03:51):

One of the questions that a lot of marketers sort of ask themselves, and I always like to kind of step back and tell the story of the first marketing in-house job that I had at a very technical, big data startup that was basically a company of data scientists who created this amazing technology, but it was so complicated and figuring out, all right, what does that technology actually do? What does the problem or what is the problem that it solves? 

So, I think that a lot of the times, marketers can have imposter syndrome around marketing these technical products, but at the end of the day, we are all consumers. We consume media the same way, we’re all busy, we’re all in this, especially right now, sort of this always on, a hundred percent digital work environment, when marketing technical products, it’s still about solving problems. 

Every technology says that it is robust, that it is powerful. The real question is why. Why is your solution different than others? Why are you providing an opportunity for your customers to make their days better? And it’s really about empathy. Tapping into what is your customer audience? Thinking day to day, what are they worried about? What are their goals? 

So while the tactics or the channels might really be slightly different and your marketing mix might weigh heavily in different areas, it’s really about understanding your prime customer base and what is the problem that you are solving from them every single day.

Typical personas for technology marketing 

Alex (05:25):

So tell us a little bit about the personas, typical personas that you’re marketing to at Adaptavist. I imagine it’s a range across different products and solutions and apps, but tell us about the more common ones.

Laura (05:35):

You would be correct Alex. As you can imagine, across a pretty wide breadth of products and services, we serve many different personas on the agility side. We do everything from agile mentoring and coaching to sort of business leaders within the organisation all the way down to products that are specifically solving problems for system admin. 

So specifically for our Atlassian apps, which are on the Atlassian marketplace, they’re really focused around making admin’s life easier, removing all the headaches that goes along with admitting systems from small teams ranging from about, you know, 10 to 20 up to massive global brands that have 20,000 users on one instance. 

So whether that’s creating automation so that they can take some of the headache off a bit of the maintenance work that they’re doing day to day, all the way to help customising the platform so that they can create workflows that really meet the needs of their particular business and their teams.

Common attributes of technical buyers 

Alex (06:39):

Awesome. And in terms of messaging more technical products, I think the basics of getting messaging right on a product are important and maybe don’t differ that much across any type of product. But are there differences in more technical environments? 

I did a similar episode talking about a related thing about marketing to developers previously. And maybe it was a bit of a stereotype and I don’t know whether you agree with it, but they painted a bit of a picture of developers and more technical users can sometimes be a bit more skeptical. Maybe trust within marketing is a bigger thing or needs more focus. What do you think about those aspects?

Laura (07:17):

That’s absolutely true. I think what we see for more technical buyer personas is really less of a tolerance for BS. They don’t want the catchy tag lines and the beautifully long-winded sentences. They really just want to get to the point, does your product solve my problem? Is it better than what’s out there on the market? And they want to understand and be able to get up to speed quickly and essentially as easily as possible.

Even similar to when you’re downloading an app on your iPhone, if you’re not able to use it very quickly and find value, I don’t know about you but I’ll just delete it right away. Technical audiences are the same. And that’s why on boarding is such an important part of the customer journey and really a part of the journey that marketing can help out more than I think we think about. 

So I would say when it comes to technical audiences, clear and concise always beats sounding clever. They don’t want to hear why your technology is so amazing. They just want to know, does it solve my problem and does it do it in a way that works best for me and my team?

The benefits of bottom-up selling for technical products 

Alex (08:24):

Makes sense. And in terms of a bit of a trend in the B2B software space generally is this idea of bottom up selling as in you sell to a user first. I think Slack is always a good example, right? Like one person or a small team within a huge enterprise starts using Slack. They then tell their colleagues about it. 

And suddenly they’ve kind of worked their way up to CIO, CTO, whoever makes the decision to buy a license for thousands of users. Is that similar for some of what you do? Like you’re starting with the end user and then your way backwards to that more C-suite business audience messaging, rather than that being the starting point. I imagine it’s a bit of both, but tell us about how it typically works.

Laura  (09:04):

Yeah, absolutely. And as you can imagine for different parts of our solutions and products, we really resonate with different audiences and it’s really going to depend on your product and where it’s at and its life cycle. A lot of the freemium model type or open source based technologies really rely on that community based gathering, where you have that bottoms up approach.

Now, when we’re looking at some of our larger consulting deals, it’s really around selling to the C-suite as this is part of a larger digital transformation push. So the truth is a lot of the time you really need both. You need to be able to reach those end users where they’re at, where do they like to get their news? 

And in a way to add credibility very quickly on the flip side, you really need to sell into the C-suite the bigger picture. What are the overall goals of the business and what needs to change with the status quo?

One phrase that I’ve heard recently is the users versus the choosers. And that is you need both, you need to hit your users in terms of the people that are going to be using the technology every day. But you also on the flip side, need to resonate with the people that are gatekeepers in terms of really messaging, what is the bottom line effect that it has on their business? But I think there’s different ways to do that. 

But for the most part, you need to show the overall value while still making sure that you’re tapping into your end users and how you might be making, for example, engineers able to make commits faster, have better quality code controls in place. It’s really gonna depend on your audience and as well as the industry that they are in. 

If you’re dealing with financial institutions, there’s a lot more regulatory requirements of any technology that they bring into the business. Whereas if you’re a B2C consumer startup making a mobile app, you probably have a bit more flexibility in how your business runs and how your engineering team gets work done.

How marketing and product teams should be aligned 

Alex (11:14):

And in terms of interface with product, I think marketing and product working side by side is pretty common across most of the B2B marketing world. And particularly in SaaS businesses. For a more technical product, do you think it’s more important that marketing and more closely involved with product and product ideation and development?

Laura (11:33):

Yeah, absolutely. You could say that this is a trend that is bleeding into the consumer space in terms of having marketing involved earlier in the product life cycle. You’re seeing a lot more shift in the industry where more tech companies are hiring for marketing roles, where you’re seeing more CROs and CEOs with the marketing background. It’s really shifted from being that top of funnel, tweets and blogs and advertising to being the voice of the customer from the second that they hit your website all the way through to an up sell, cross sell in terms of looking at other parts of your product portfolio to drive value for them. 

So it’s really about the customer experience. But in many ways I think product teams are becoming more and more marketing savvy and marketing teams are becoming more and more product savvy because in the eyes of the customer, it’s all one user experience. From an ad that you’re serving or a post in a community forum all the way through to the GitHub pages that your engineers are keeping updated every day. All of this, in the customer’s mind, is part of your brand, and it’s all part of the customer experience. 

So, I think 10 years ago, we were seeing a lot more divide between product development and engineering, and then it gets handed off to marketing – that has become a lot more fluid. And we’re seeing that the skill sets really need to be transferable between those two teams.

Alex (13:13):

Yeah. And then what about the actual alignment piece day-to-day? Because I think we always laugh about marketing and sales alignment, but I think marketing and product is in some respects, just as challenging to make sure that there is that cross functional environment. What’s been your experience of that? Are there any things that you’ve seen work really well in terms of that collaboration with products?

Laura (13:33):

Yeah, absolutely. The one thing I will preface is that it’s going to be different for every business and it’s going to be different for every industry. And it’s probably going to shift and evolve and change over time as well. But there’s been different models I’ve seen work really well. 

I think in general, regardless if you’re using a sort of that triad model where it’s a combination of product management, UX and marketing shared goals and objectives are really the key in order to create that sort of cross collaboration mindset. Using agile principles and really working together on small iterations of the product, as well as your marketing mix are really important here. 

So in practice, making sure that you have maybe daily stand-ups or once a week where the team leads are getting together and really talking about product development, that you’re fostering an environment where if people have ideas, they should be able to share it, not just with the marketing team, but with your product teams as well, keeping your pulse on industry trends that are going on. 

And if you’re a FinTech company, for example, you really want to focus on what’s going on in the industry and you want to have those conversations, not just within the marketing team or the product team, we’re really blended together. Because I think that when you do that, that’s when these really great marketing campaigns come to life. 

And that’s when customers can really see that your messaging within the app really connects to what you’re saying on your blog and really connects to maybe that big event that you’re giving a presentation to. As someone who has presented in front of developers, as well as marketers alike, it’s really about being confident and understanding what it is you’re getting up there and talking about. And I think that really makes a difference when you have an aligned product engineering and marketing team.

Do technology marketers need a technical education?

Alex (15:27):

Do you think that marketers, I mean you’ve just talked about committing code and version control and all these things. Is the real technical understanding for you important and to what depth? I guess they’re more generally marketing. I think we all know has become a lot more technical, analytical data driven. Do you think marketers in the tech space need to have more technical understanding, deeper understanding, more technical education?

Laura (15:53):

Yeah, that’s a really interesting one. And I think one that is sort of shifting and changing before our eyes. I think that marketing has become more of a technical art and there’s really a high demand for analytics to inform campaigns and understanding of how websites are built and the fluidity between the product and maybe your online properties, but it really is still founded in storytelling. And the creative side will always be really critical. 

I recommend to anyone that I speak to that is really just starting out their career in marketing. And especially if they’re looking into B2B marketing, take a coding course or really understand SQL even at just a high level. Now I think that anyone on my particular product or engineering team would probably scoff and laugh if I even described myself as a technical person or even competent in running a zoom meeting without a technical sale, but it really is based on empathy and understanding your audience. 

And you can understand them without being able to create a line of code, but you do have to understand what are the challenges for your customer? And you can do that in a way without actually having to be able to do that yourself. So it’s a bit of a tricky one. I do think that you need more technical education because it is important to be able to get up there, whether that be presenting on a webinar or supporting your technical team or your evangelist and what they’re talking about, but it really does come down to having that high level understanding. 

And I think one of the key aspects of it is if you don’t know the answer, don’t try to BS it. Just say we’ll get back to you or I’ll have to look into that or bring on someone more technical who can answer that question. The one thing that I think people actually do really respect is in terms of, that is a great question but I might not be the person to be able to answer it. And I think it builds credibility with the audience as well. 

So I think I’ve rambled on without sort of answering your exact question Alex. But technical education or understanding is really important. I think the level of which you actually need to be that technically proficient is really going to depend on your particular platform or technology. But at the end of the day, it’s really about understanding your customer’s challenges and how your product, technology app, whatever it is, solves that problem.

Alex (18:26):

Absolutely. And I think that’s a pretty good summary. You mentioned already when we were talking about the kind of product alignment, to some extent marketing is becoming close to product. Having a better understanding of marketing. Do you see that as a continuing progression and a shift? 

I think as you mentioned, particularly the SaaS space where if you’re dealing with apps and solutions where you’re logging into platforms, marketing is still happening inside the app, and so its super important that they’re combined. It’s different from an on-premise solution where you’re selling a huge enterprise deal, then once it’s in, it’s in. You all, I assume, onboarding users into certain apps and then trying to persuade them to stay. And I guess there’s cross- sell ups and all kinds of opportunities within that. 

So do you think product are thinking with a marketing hat a lot of the time? And again, this is probably going to be different across different organisations, but how does it look for you at Adaptavist and are your product team always thinking about the marketing side of things?

Are product teams and marketing teams growing more aligned? 

Laura (19:23):

I think that part of the fun trend that we’re seeing in the industry right now is really the growth and understanding of customer experience. You know, CX becoming a term that is being more widely used, not just across marketing, but across product and engineering as well. I think that we’re seeing the lines of the different disciplines really being broken down and sort of un-siloed in a way that we never have before. 

Especially nowadays with what’s been going on for the past year in the pandemic, all of your interactions, or most of them at least from a work perspective are digital. So that means that we have even less lines being drawn between our personal life and our work life. 

So again, to get back to your question in terms of are we seeing other parts of the business being more marketing savvy? I think that organisations that are really going to shine through are the ones that are un-siloing and figuring out that the user experience is actually just as much in product as it is your advertising campaigns. That the best marketing you could have is actually having a customer get up there and talk about the delightful experience that your product or your technology has solved. 

So it really comes down to understanding, having your pulse on what’s going on the market, understanding the voice of the customer and building an experience that delights your customers is everyone’s job. It’s not just product’s job. It’s not just engineering’s job and it’s not just marketing’s job. 

So again, it’s really understanding what that looks like and having a deep view of the customer and being able to collaborate on what that looks like, not just for a particular advertising campaign, but throughout the entire customer funnel.

Alex (21:20):

Absolutely. And I think that focus on the customer, which you keep touching on is just so fundamental to all of this. But I guess a question that comes up pretty regularly. So how do you go about doing that? Like how do you really identify the voice of a technical customer? And there’s a number of different ways of talking to people and surveying and market research and all kinds of different industry sources that you can refer to. 

But what do you find has worked in your experience and how would you recommend people go about really locking down that voice and those personas?

How to find a brand voice for a technical persona 

Laura (21:53):

I mean, this might be shocking Alex, but I think the best way is to just point blank, ask the customer. I think a lot of the times, especially when it’s a technical product, as marketers we get a bit afraid that we’re not sewing the weeds with the technology, that we won’t be able to understand, or provide value. Almost a sense of imposter syndrome when talking to these customers. But you’d actually be really shocked. 

When you want feedback people tend to be pretty open to giving it. You’ve got to be prepared because they might not hold back in terms of all of the feedback that they have. But in general, I think a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research within your own customer base is really the key way to go. 

Doing one-on-one interviews and not even just asking them about all right, was this easy? Was this hard? What do you use this for? At the end of the day, what keeps you up at night? What are the reports that you have to show your boss? What are the metrics that are really judging you and your team’s success? And really talking to them one-to-one about what makes them tick and what success looks like for their teams is really essential. 

Now, let’s say you’re working on a product that hasn’t gone to market yet, and you actually don’t have customers. I think that can be a bit of a tricky one in terms of all right, what do we do? And the thing that I always tell my team, or even folks I’m just giving advice to is if you’re building it, you have an idea of the problem that you’re solving and the persona. 

Reach out to your network, just ask people, even if you know that they’re never going to buy the product, those are probably the people that you want to speak to the most, because they’re going to give you some insight that you might not have thought of before. So, reach out to people on LinkedIn, look at meet-up groups in your area around that particular audience and just try to build out a network of folks that you can just bounce ideas off of. 

When it comes from a place of empathy and trying to understand what problems they’re seeing day to day, you’d actually be surprised at how people are willing to provide you with information. And what you do with that information is really key to building out an amazing customer experience.

The benefits of community marketing for technical buyers 

Alex (24:16):

Absolutely. I think that’s such a good point and you’re right that so many marketers I come across are just a bit fearful of having those very customer focused conversations directly with customers. And sometimes the answers are sat right in front of them and they go all around the houses looking for other solutions. 

So I think that’s a great perspective. I’ve actually got a couple of questions around this in terms of the community aspect of more technical product marketing. Because I don’t know whether you’ve experienced these, I don’t know whether their communities or their channels, but I guess again, maybe stereotyping that more technical people like system admin people, developers might be spending more time on sites like Reddit, on different sites that people can post coding problems and those kinds of forums. 

I guess sometimes I’ve seen a lot of marketing in the more technical space where there’s a suggestion that the overlap with the gaming world is more common. So like, tech software companies looking at advertising and Twitch and gaming competitions and those kinds of things. Tell us a bit about how you view that community side of things. Whether any of those things I’ve just mentioned are things that you’ve looked at?

Laura (25:28):

Oh, absolutely. Community events and engagement and forums are essential to most really technical products. In terms of really driving a lot of both feedback, but just general credibility. I think the perfect example of this is GitHub who has really, first of all, tapped in and created a platform that I think is just a darling of a lot of developer communities. But they’ve actually managed to create a forum where you are building your street cred by just having presence on their platform and the level or quality of your GitHub account. 

I’m probably saying that the wrong way. And I’m probably making my head of engineering cringe with the way I’m describing it, but it really is understanding where your customers are at and being very careful that you’re not leveraging these forums for just pure advertising. 

I think when it comes to these technical communities and discussions and online communities, it’s really about providing value. So keeping an eye on them and seeing what people are talking about. Are they really relying on each other for a lot of feedback in terms of how to solve those larger problems? So understanding what resonates with them and really creating content that is going to be helpful, not just advertising them a tool or a platform, I think is key to gaining credibility. 

There’s also leverage to the people in your own company, in your own community. Like a lot of folks for us for example, we have quite a few of our engineers and consultants who are very, very active in the Atlassian community, and always wanting to answer questions and help folks out that are dealing with complex technical issues or looking for a solution because they need to create some extensibility or integrate platforms. 

So by helping folks in that kind of public space, you’re actually building credibility for your brand. And we shouldn’t be afraid of offering advice and resources and help just because there’s not an immediate monetisation for your brand.

Alex (27:46):

That’s a great point. Yeah. It’s amazing actually, if you think about it in technical companies, you’ve obviously got teams of engineers and consultants who are your persona too. To some extent similar people to who you’re aiming to sell to. So yeah, leveraging them is a great tip.

Laura (28:01):

Yeah. And I guess I should mention when you asked about, where do you find people to talk to? Look at your own team. If you’re building a technical product, you probably have technical teams within your company who are the persona that you are marketing to. So if you don’t have that external customer network look within.

Alex (28:21):

Absolutely. Well, that’s fascinating. I mean, there’s so much there. And I think this is, as I said at the start, something that I think resonates with so many of our members I can think of in so many companies, which are in a similar situation. I was going to wrap up by asking you a couple of more general questions, final quick fire questions. I always like this one, which is what’s your biggest challenge right now?

How to cut through the noise in marketing

Laura (28:42):

I’d say from a marketing perspective, it’s really just cutting through the noise and showing that we’re offering something different. And then it’s the attention economy right now. I think with everything that’s going on in the world and the way that our work-life balance has been somewhat upset, it’s really figuring out how do you create clear and concise messaging that resonates very quickly? How do you create content that people actually remember and engage with? 

And then I think in general, the biggest marketing challenge right now, and I think the biggest challenge in terms of team leadership is really just pandemic fatigue. It bleeds into the always on sort of life that we are all leading right now. But also just being aware that your customers are feeling it too. Morale can be a bit low, everyone’s sort of dealing with the mental health implications of what’s going on in the world right now. 

So I guess you asked for the challenge and not the solution, but just be as empathetic as you can with your teams and your own company, as you are with your customers and realise that things are a bit different or uncomfortable for all of us and make sure that you’re really bringing that human understanding and empathy into what you’re doing from a marketing perspective as well.

Alex (30:01):

And finally, I guess looking ahead, 2021 is well underway. I can’t believe how much of it’s already happened to be honest, but what are you most excited about looking forward?

Laura (30:10):

It definitely feels like it could be 2025, but I’m just hoping we get there in one piece. But I think one of the biggest things that I’m seeing, or the trends that I think is really exciting is sort of the rise of analytics and CX tools. But in this understanding of a full funnel customer experience, how do you connect to the NPS tools and customer satisfaction tools that you have with your CRM and your email marketing campaigns. 

How do you integrate the customer in app experience with what you’re doing from a webinar perspective? So I think seeing this trend of combining all of these customer interactions and combining that with machine learning and analytics, it’s just really exciting. It’s going from there used to be the phrase like, 50% of your marketing is working and 50% of it isn’t. 

But you don’t know which one we are getting closer and closer every day to say, actually we know what’s working on all fronts. And combining that with AB testing, I think in the world of B2B marketing, it’s really the wealth of data that we have and being able to parse it out in a way that allows us to make good decisions. Both in product development and the campaigns that we’re running and being able to test our messaging in new ways that we really weren’t able to before.

Alex (31:33):

Awesome. Laura, it’s been great talking to you. I think there’s some really practical and great perspectives you’ve gotten on this world that I know our listeners will appreciate. So I’m really grateful. Thank you for sharing everything so openly, and I’m sure people will maybe find you on LinkedIn or reach out if they’ve got any questions. We will drop some links under the podcast episode when we push it out there. But thanks again.

Laura (31:55):

Absolutely Alex. I hope it was informative and I’m always down to chat about anything marketing related, especially in the technology space.

FINITE (32:04):

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