Monthly Archives: March 2014

Are you headed inbound or outbound?

I’ve lived in Boston for nearly 15 years, and it took me a while to understand the subtleties behind the subway.  Quincy Market is not in Quincy.  The Silver Line is not a subway.  I *love* public transportation and as such, I’ve ridden the subway in many cities, both in the US and abroad.  None of them are organized the way Boston’s is organized.

In Boston, you don’t take the subway North or South, you either go “Inbound” or “Outbound”, that is, you are either going towards the city center or away from it.  So in the morning, I get on at Park Street and go “Outbound” to Alewife.  At night I get on at Kendall and go “Inbound” to Park Street.

The weird thing about this is that if you are at any terminus, you go “Inbound”.  Both the trains going North and the ones going South are going “Inbound” until they hit the center, then they are both going “Outbound.”

It’s weird.

I bring all of this up, because “Inbound” and “Outbound” are also marketing terms that can be equally confusing, depending on what direction you are facing.

Classically, outbound marketing is what you think of when you think of marketing – sending messages, documents, advertisement OUT to the market.  Inbound marketing was the function that communicated from product management back into engineering; inbound marketers wrote things like marketing requirement documents. They faced IN towards the product developers.

But marketing has changed a lot in the past decade – fueled mostly by the Internet.  We all know this, but to net it out: customers are significantly more educated than they used to be.  In fact, they’re 57% of the way through the buying cycle by the time they reach out to us for information.

So some would say that the traditional outbound marketing is dead.  While rumors of its death may have been exaggerated, there is a new trend emerging – “inbound marketing.”  This inbound marketing isn’t the inbound marketing that communicates with engineering, it’s called inbound marketing because it’s purpose is to generate inbound interest in a product or company.

The idea behind inbound marketing is that today’s customers are educated, Internet-savvy researchers.  (When’s the last time you bought something for more than $50 without reading a review?)  So the types of information customers are looking for is different, the location of that information is not just on one’s website, and the other channels that customers look to for information need to be fed from marketing as well.

Outbound model

Inbound model

Type of information

Product specs, benefits, compatibility guides, technical documentation, whitepaper

Where is the product positioned in the industry?

How are my peers using it?

What’s the user experience like?

Location of information

Vendor website, magazine review, reseller channel

Third party sites, Twitter, blogs, online magazines, user communities

If customers are nearly 60% through their buying process by the time they come to our site, then we need to ensure that when they go to Twitter, or read a third-party review, or participate in a user community, that they are hearing (good things!) about us.  This is what marketing is about today – interacting with influencers, partnering with communities, providing resources for self-education about ourselves.

I think all of this is really good for customers.  It puts a lot more pressure on us to release a good product, if there is a large community component to successful marketing.

And, I don’t think outbound marketing is dead.  We still need solution briefs and whitepapers and tools that help customers understand the packaging, pricing, ROI, and purchasing options around the product.  In fact, content is central to the new inbound marketing model.  There’s just a new additional layer that ensures that the content speaks to the audience the right way and is in the right places for customers to find it.

Oh, and as for the old definition of “inbound marketing” – I have no idea what people call that now.  Maybe it’s just considered part of Product Management.

If you are not from Boston – take yourself for a ride on the subway – the “T” – next time you are here – just don’t go to Jamaica Plain without an extra nickel.

A girl walks into a coffee shop

A girl walks into a coffee shop.  “I’ll have a medium latte.”bla bla bla

“We don’t have medium, we only have large or small.”

A girl walks into a coffee shop.  “I’ll have a medium latte.”

“We don’t have medium, we only have one size.”

A girl walks into a coffee place.  “I’ll have a medium latte.”

“We don’t have medium.”

I learn the most from our customers.  Second to that, I learn a lot from being a customer.  And in the past two weeks, my local coffee places have enabled a lot of learning.

What irked me about the three situations above isn’t that they didn’t have the size I wanted.  What irked me was that they didn’t try to help me solve the problem.

See, it’s 8:15 and I’ve already solved a lot of problems myself.  I got myself up, dressed, and ready for work, then I got a toddler up, dressed, and ready for daycare.  I got the toddler into a stroller, the dog walked alongside the toddler, the dog dropped off back at home, the toddler dropped off at daycare, and then myself on the bus to the train to my stop.  First world problem solving to be sure – but problem solving nonetheless.

And I am at the coffee place because I want someone else to solve my coffee problem.

Frankly, I order a medium because it’s easy.  It’s 12 oz in some places, 16 oz in others.  I just say “medium,” so I don’t have to think about it.

And here’s what I’d like to have happen:

A girl walks into a coffee shop. “I’ll have a medium latte.”

“Here are our two sizes, which one would you like?
“Here is our latte cup, will this work for you?
“How’s this size cup?”

Help me solve the problem.

I think that’s what our customers want too.  I think they want us to help them solve their problem.

Just like I want the cashier to think about what brought me into the store, I think our customers want us to think about their entire data center and business priorities, not just the part that relates to us.

Just like I want the cashier to quickly hone in on what it most important to me (COFFEE!), I think our customers want us to quickly hone in on their biggest challenges and how we can address them.

Just like I want the cashier to offer me options to make it easy to get my problem solved quickly, I think our customers want us to offer them options too.

And I think most of our customers also occasionally want a cup of coffee.


Please stop calling what I do “marketing fluff”

Last week for the umpteenth (umphundredth?) time, someone referred to marketing’s contribution to a particular effort at work with a hand wave and snickering reference to “marketing stuff.”  

Plain Old Fluff In my last job, I’d regularly proofread and edit technical folks’ papers, which they asked me to do and really needed.  They’d be totally thankful for my work and in the next breath they’d ask if I could beef up their intro with my “marketing fluff.”

Also in my last job, I had responsibility for managing the resources and experience for customers visiting our facility.  My opening hour-long presentation on corporate strategy and history was regularly referred to as “the marketing stuff.”

I know the people I work with respect me, don’t think of me as “filler” so why the derision?

Now I have a dirty little secret – I’m offended when other people do this, but I’m just as bad.  I will often mumble the marketing part of my job title.  “I do PRODUCT marketing,” I’ll say.  I’ll say, “I’m the technical part of the marketing team” or “I’m barely allowed to stay in marketing, I’m so technical.”

I don’t really know where this comes from.  I’m not ashamed of my job – in fact I’m proud that I’ve gotten here.  But marketing carries with it a lack of gravitas, a reputation for being lightweight, a part of a company that college students who didn’t know what else to major in end up.  I got news for you – it’s none of those things.

Here are some of the problems I’ve been working on since I started at Infinio three weeks ago:

  • Who will our customers be and how will we find them?
  • If we put a lot of engineering resources into a new feature, does the market exist to justify the decision?
  • What’s the right balance of talking about the benefits of our product vs talking about the technology?
  • What are our competitors doing, how are they talking about it, and how do we differentiate our product?
  • Is the vertical market we’ve chosen to focus on the right one?  How do we know?
  • What resources do our salespeople need to successfully articulate the value of the product to close deals?  (Oh, and we’re a startup – so that list you made? Great, now go make the resources.)
  • What resources do other parts of marketing need to successfully attract new customers? (See above)
  • What is the one-sentence, 50-word, and 100-word summary of our company?

(And if you think that last one is easy, try it.  Then show it to 100 people and see what they think.  Then go back to your previous non-gravitas, lightweight job and thank your lucky stars that messaging isn’t your job.)

This stuff is hard.  It’s the part of the company that decides how we are going to talk to the public about what we do.  It can be really technical if you are the person ensuring that the messaging is technically accurate (blended latency vs. average latency vs. latency – which one of these can we say).  It’s a part of the company that has to be really close to customers (imagine writing a case study without knowing a customer really well).

Also, a lot of it is very analytical. We look at models of the market, the programs we are running, the cost of new leads, the close rate of deals, just about anything you can imagine measuring is measured in marketing.  Fun Fact: my teammates use Excel more than they use PowerPoint.

Sure, marketing is also where pithy advertisement sayings come from and it’s where the people are who decide what the giveaway is at tradeshows.  But the former is really, really hard.  And the latter is a tactical decision made in the context of lots of strategic decisions before it.

So enough with the “fluff” and “stuff” when you refer to marketing.  I promise to do the same.

I’m in product MARKETING.

I killed the feature-benefit matrix (you’re welcome)

It’s my third week here at Infinio and I’m starting to sort through what exists from a messaging and content perspective, and figure out how to make the biggest impact as quickly as possible.

One of the items that landed on my desk early was a messaging document.  I was included in a (productive!) meeting to hear the greater team talk about the background, then I was invited to take it over and “fix” it.

There was a lot of great content, but there was also a draft of a feature-benefit matrix.

I hate feature-benefits matrices.

I don’t think they work, I don’t think they are useful.  Do you? 

I think their very format, listing out all the features and then assigning a benefit to each one, is counter-productive to what they are designed to do: help a customer understand what our product can do for them.

The format:

(a) doesn’t let you describe a benefit that is derived from a collection of features

(b) forces you to assign value to a feature that may provide no individual benefit

The result is a list that doesn’t include all the benefits the product provides, but also (bonus!) includes benefits that are not really beneficial.


So for our own product, I’ve spent a few days unraveling all of this.  It turns out, distilling benefits from a muddled list of features and benefits is really, really hard.  And where I’ve gotten to so far is four buckets:

1. Benefits the customer gets from using our product

[Accelerator provides I/O smoothing – more consistent performance]

2. Things that make our product easy to use

[Accelerator installs in less than 30 minutes with just 6 clicks]

3. What the customer would do if they don’t use our product

[Customers may buy expensive SSDs or PCI-Flash devices as an alternative]

4. What the customer avoids by using our product *

(*I am pretty close to this being folded into #1, cost avoidance and operational avoidance being benefits, albeit negative ones.  Not relevant for the rest of this discussion.)

Once I bucketed everything, I noticed that we’ve been underselling #1 in relation to #2. Granted, our product is unique in its laser focus on being easy for administrators to deploy, evaluate, purchase, and use.  <30 minute install, 6 clicks, no manual reconfiguration of anything, able to see results within minutes.  But you’re not going to buy the product solely based on those characteristics.

You might try it based on that, and you’ll prefer it to our competitors’ products because of that, but you aren’t going to cut a PO just because a product is easy to deploy, evaluate, purchase, and use.

You are going to cut a PO because we reduce your latency, smooth your I/O performance, and offload work from your backend storage….and our product is easy to deploy, evaluate, purchase, and use.

It really falls into the category of “how do we provide these benefits” – and not “how” as in “we use 8GB of memory from each ESX box to create a global distributed deduplicated cache” but “how” as in “we provide all these benefits with no disruption or changes to your existing environment.”

And that’s exactly the kind of confusion a traditional FBM creates.  It conflates (a) top-level benefits with (b) features with (c) what it’s like to use and what environments it can go into.

So I don’t want to work with an FBM.

Who, though, is expecting to find an FBM and what do I have for them instead?:

For internal use, we may need a connection between features and benefits, but it doesn’t have to be a 1:1 mapping.  It’s probably better if it’s not – what we need is something that will help us prioritize upcoming features based on how much leverage we get with them.  For messaging purposes, we need to clearly know what our product does and how it compares to the alternatives.  Fleshing out the three/four buckets will serve that purpose.

For customers, most don’t need to know the name of the feature that provides a particular benefit.  Primarily, they need to know what the benefits will be for them – and secondarily they need to know (to differing degrees of detail) technically how we provide those – as in, classically, how does the product work.  It’s also going to help them to understand what it’s like to use.  An FBM is not a good way to communicate all of that.  A whiteboard video, whitepaper, podcast, video, webinar, SlideShare, or blog post is a far better medium.

I’ll write again on this topic in a few weeks when I have a better sense of what it’s like to do marketing and messaging without an FBM.  For now, our FBM is dead.  RIP.

Three meetings that didn’t suck

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’  (Dave Barry)”

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve adjusted to life here at Infinio is that we have different types of meetings than I am used to from being at a big company.

First off, we have a lot more ad-hoc meetings.  Perhaps due to the open floor plan, it’s far more common to mosey over to someone’s desk and start chatting rather than to schedule time with someone.  “Can I grab you for a sec?” “Are you interruptible?” are very common here.

Twice a week I participate in a marketing “stand up” meeting.  I remember reading about these in grad school as part of Agile/Scrum methodology, although not really related to marketing.  In ours, we go “around the horn” and everyone does a quick update of their major goals for the day.  Sometimes we have a short conversation about something or show a piece of work off, but usually it’s just to set up for the day.  Oh, and it’s called a “stand up” meeting because we literally “stand up.”  That keeps it nice and short.

Last Friday I went to my first engineering iteration meeting.  I am such a dork – I was really (*really*) excited to attend.  Engineering at my last job was not a resource directly accessible to me so it was exciting to see what happens in one of their meetings.  Basically, the engineers took turns talking about their work on particular features or problems, with at least 6-8 of them talking in a 2 hour meeting.  People asked questions and expressed worries, and there was a lot of sharing of images and screen shots.  We used Google Hangouts to connect to remote engineers so the graphics were definitely important.

I learned a few specific things at the meeting.

1.  Despite being warned that I might be bored I was pretty well-equipped to follow most of what was going on in the meeting.  With the exception of some coding buzzwords, the bulk of the things I didn’t understand had more to do with my gaps in knowledge around VMware than anything else.

2. The relationship between engineering and QA is fascinating – like siblings maybe?  Everyone wants to release a great working product but it’s QA’s job to poke holes in the code before it ships.  (Nudge, nudge, poke, poke, I’m not touching you….)  The groups were friendly and respectful towards each other.

3. Regarding language – I was impressed by how many times “the customer” was referenced (17) and how actively they seemed to be a silent participant in the meeting.  Specific customers were also mentioned and resolving their issues was clearly top priority. There was also some reference to “technical risk” and “technical debt” which were new concepts to me.

4. Finally, I understood – immediately, in a flash – what automation testing is and why it’s so important.  Suddenly, too, I understood what “DevOps” meant.   And I’m not sure either of those things would have made any sense if I hadn’t attended that meeting.

The other new kind of meeting I have begun attending since joining Infinio is the weekly all-company meeting.  After our company lunch on Wednesdays, our execs all get up and talk about what’s going on in their domains – Engineering, Sales, Marketing, and our CEO.  They share good news and bad news and major strategic decision-making.

It was really fascinating to see the engineerings ask about marketing programs and plans – it reminded me that you can’t just wake up one morning and decide to do marketing well any more than you can wake up and decide to do engineering well.  I forget that sometimes – even my own biases work against the field I’ve chosen to work in.  The other cool thing about the all-company meeting is what happens afterwards – people walk over to each other and follow up on things they heard.  It’s another good way to get engineering, sales, and marketing talking.  A test engineer came over to me to comment on some market research I was doing because he had worked at one of the companies whose technology I was researching.  Score!

I like meetings that don’t suck.  I hope to attend more of them.


I have a confession to make: I’ve been eavesdropping.  Not like the NSA kind of eavesdropping, but the kind that happens organically when you work at a startup that has an open seating plan.

When I started at Infinio, I thought I’d hate the open floor plan.  No offices, no cubes, no half-wall separators.  I really liked the team and the product, and most of the other startups I interviewed at had a similar layout, so I figured I’d have to just deal with it.  But as it turns out, I’m reaping all the advertised benefits.

My desk is next to the alcove where the salespeople sit – so I can lean a little to the left and clearly hear their conversations with customers – I hear what questions they are asking, what questions they are answering, and if our MQLs are well-Q’d.2014-03-13 09-28-24-438.jpg

If I pay attention to the reflection in my monitor, I can tell when our SEs (@mjbrender and @jklick) are whiteboarding something interesting behind me and I can roll my chair over to crash that conversation.  Last week I caught one on write caching – very helpful.

Just yesterday we had a customer issue during an installation and I watched and listened as Sales, Support, and QA negotiated among themselves as to how best handle the issue.  (And by Sales, Support and QA, I mean about 5 people total.)  At my last company that would have been a 20-person conference call that would have taken several hours to organize.

Over my right shoulder is the strangest co-worker I have: a telepresence robot – no, seriously – who is our Director of Product Management (@peter123).  He’s always available, and people tell me it’s easy to forget he’s remote after a while.  [Fun fact: during the interview process, I met him as a robot before I met him as a person.]  You can sort of see him in the shadows on the far left of the photo.

So I’m learning a lot from listening and inserting myself.  Another benefit is a complete lack of any personal conversations.  I don’t mean that we don’t talk about our lives outside work – we do – but without the illusion of privacy that a cubicle offers, there’s no inclination to have a protracted personal phone conversation in the middle of the office.

The other benefit is that people eavesdrop on me.  I’m getting used the “oh, are you guys talking about X?” “oh, is that the new Y?”  A few times, someone has come over to offer some information or ideas and it’s stuff I wouldn’t have thought of from someone I wouldn’t have thought to ask.

I’m not sure how this can scale as the company gets bigger – or how you would replicate the value of it in a large company, but I’m definitely getting a lot out of it for now.


I’m glad you found yourself here.

You may know me (and some of this) from Twitter, but to level-set: At the end of January, I left my job in solutions marketing at Dell after 7 years.

kendallAfter a short hiatus, I joined Infinio Systems – a software startup in Kendall Square – as Director of Product Marketing.  There is so much to digest and learn, and there’s no way to share the experience in 140 character chunks.  So here I am in the blogosphere.

So why name my blog “storageDiva’s Tablespace”?  Two reasons:

A tablespace is the abstraction layer in a database that sits between the logic of the database and the physical datafiles it contains.  Basically, you group several tables and indices together and while they are physically stored in datafiles, the collection of them (regardless of physical location) is a tablespace.

I like the metaphor of this blog being a tablespace of interrelated tables, because I plan to share all sorts of interrelated ideas about my experiences in technology, marketing, and life at a startup.  Here’s a swag at what I think the “tables” would be called: 

  • LEARNING: My education around caching, performance, and all things Infinio
  • CUSTOMERS: What I learn from our customers and our not-customers
  • TECH: Thoughts and ideas about our product and the industry at large
  • MARKETING: How product marketing is changing in the Internet/Social Era
  • STARTUP: Life at a startup, especially after coming from a big company
  • XX: What it’s like to be a woman working in technology
  • HOME: Balancing my work life with my daughter(“babyDiva”) and spouse (“mrDiva”, also at a startup)

I said there were two reasons for the blog being called “storageDiva’s Tablespace.”  The second reason comes from Sheryl Sandberg.  In her book and TED talk she relates a story of being at a meeting and notices that the young women are sitting on the periphery of the room while the men all sit at the table.  She urges the women (and the reader/watcher) to claim a seat at the table (not behind it) to ensure their voice is heard.

The phrase “table space” is a reminder to myself that I have gotten where I am by always claiming my space at the table, long before the other Sheryl made it trendy.

I hope you’ll stick around.