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Product Marketing Spotlight Series: Jacob Richard-Smith

Jacob Richard-Smith FullStoryCrayon's Product Marketing Spotlight is an interview series where we chat with product marketers to get a glimpse into their careers and gain unique insight into product marketing strategy. In this edition of Product Marketing Spotlight Series, we shine the light on Jacob Richard-Smith, Product Marketing Manager at FullStory.

ED: What is your role?

JR: Product Marketing Manager at FullStory. My role has changed quite a bit as we’ve grown, and even though our team focuses on different things, we all have many additional responsibilities. I started out specializing in all of our launch-related sales enablement and competitive intelligence programs, but most recently have begun focusing on our continued GTM strategy for FullStory for Mobile Apps and privacy, security, and compliance initiatives.

ED: What does the company do?

JR: FullStory’s digital experience platform empowers businesses to continuously improve the digital customer experience across sites and apps.

At the core of FullStory’s platform is a powerful analytics engine that connects digital interactions to the metrics that matter most to businesses. FullStory proactively surfaces top opportunities to optimize digital experience, enabling teams to understand issues, prioritize fixes, remediate bugs, and measure the impact of those changes.    

With FullStory, product, engineering, and UX teams can align around the customer, break down internal information silos, and achieve company objectives together—faster. The end result? A digital experience customers love. 

ED: Tell me a little bit about your career path. What was your first job, and what other experiences led you to a career in Product Marketing?

JR: While everyone has a different path to Product Marketing, mine is especially...non-linear. I studied musical theatre at NYU and spent my early career as an actor, singing and dancing. My first job was in an off-broadway children’s musical, Dear Edwina. I later worked for a few years on cruise ships, performing and traveling the world before hanging up my tap shoes and getting a job at a production studio. As an associate producer I learned that so many of my theatre skills were transferable to the business world. Empathy, determination, imagination, dedication, collaboration, agility–the list goes on. Actors are some of the hardest working people I know, and they have to be able to take direction, make strong choices, pivot at a moment’s notice, and do it all with a smile. 

Life took me to Atlanta, and I decided to make a career change while I was at it. As someone who always liked tech, but had zero experience, I looked for entry-level jobs at interesting start-ups. A start-up is a great place to learn quickly, show your strengths, and make a difference. I ended up joining Calendly’s support team as employee 19. Support came naturally to me–treating people like humans, crafting messages that were clear, efficient, and friendly. As I learned more about the product, I was able to take technical or complicated ideas and explain them simply–I think that skill is what set me on a path towards Product Marketing. I took over live training webinars, helped with onboardings, and eventually created a Product Education role where I created videos and other content for both internal and external training. During that time, I would do ad hoc projects and reviews for the Marketing team, and quickly realized that Product Marketing was the perfect role where I could combine my creativity and product knowledge. 

Luckily, FullStory was looking for a product marketer in Atlanta, and the rest is history!

ED: What are your top three product launch tips?

JR: Never expect everything to go as planned. There are a ton of moving parts that go into a product launch, and so many of them are out of your control. The only thing you can be sure of is that something will not go according to your plan–so plan accordingly. Give yourself time for things to get delayed, manage your other work so you have time to focus when it comes time to launch, and let go of any pressure for things to be perfect. Do the work, trust yourself, and anticipate as many speed bumps as you can.  

Over-communicate with all stakeholders. Remember that everyone else has other things going on. Your job is to make sure whatever you need from another team member is as easy for them to execute as possible. Document process, additional context, timelines, etc–whatever resources you can give your team will only make this launch more successful. People appreciate well-timed, thoughtful reminders and clear schedules. Help others help you. 

Keep coming back to your customers. Remember why we’re doing this. Your product can help someone accomplish their goals. You have something brand new that might be just what they need. It’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day grind of trying to stay up-to-date with the product, your market, incoming sales requests, organizational changes–but at the end of the day, your job is to make your customer’s life better with your product, and you’re in the best position to tell them how. Always come back to your customer and look at anything you’re doing under that lens. 

ED: Product Marketers have a lot of different responsibilities. How do you prioritize what to focus on?

JR: This is easier said than done. Luckily, all of FullStory uses Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to help manage our top projects and ensure we’re all tracking toward the same goals. At a high level, we have company objectives, and then teams and individuals create their own objectives in support of the business ones. The key results are how we plan on measuring our success, and it’s known to everyone that these take priority. 

As a product marketer, you know that new requests come flying through Slack and land on your desk regularly. With OKRs, it’s easier to understand if those requests support your objectives or not. If not, we’ll prioritize by level of effort and value, or review the request during our next planning period.

ED: What’s the biggest Product Marketing challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

JR: The biggest challenge for me during my time as a product marketer was definitely imposter syndrome. When you start a job in a new role, it’s very easy to doubt your instincts and become paralyzed by your lack of experience. Luckily, I had an amazing team and the support of a company that trusted their employees fully. I was given high-impact, cross-functional work and the freedom to take ownership of my projects. I quickly realized that my instincts were strong and my ‘lack of experience’ gave me a unique perspective on how to execute certain projects. 

There are leaders all around you, even if they’re not in management, and I was able to learn so much by working closely with them. It’s ok to be critical of your own work, but try and remember that there isn’t usually a right or wrong way to do something. There are so many factors to consider, and just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will work today. You are where you are for a reason, so trust yourself and your work. I still remind myself of that regularly. 

ED: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a job in product marketing?

JR: See previous response, haha. Surround yourself with smart people, figure out what motivates you, and treat everyone kindly. The rest will come. Forgive yourself for not knowing everything right away. Take on work that challenges you, but know your limits and don’t keep them to yourself. Change will happen, try and handle it gracefully. Help out your team when you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. 

ED: Which blogs or newsletters are must-reads for product marketers? 

JR: The Product Marketing Alliance has an awesome Slack community, and corresponding content. That’s a great place to get started, connect with other product marketers, and ask some of those questions that you may not want to ask your co-workers.

I also subscribe to Digital Magazine’s newsletter, which is great for companies that want to keep a pulse on how businesses are innovating in the digital world. It’s not product marketing-specific, but their content is usually really relevant. 

ED: What is something you wish you knew earlier in your career?

JR: Document everything. One thing I loved about starting at FullStory was that every project plan, creative proposal, launch brief, etc, was documented. Not only did it make things much easier when onboarding, but I constantly return to previous work instead of reinventing the wheel. When everything is documented, it makes your life easier and it lets others help you more efficiently.

ED: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

JR: What to Expect When You’re Expecting. We’re having our first kid soon and there is SO much I didn’t know. 🤯

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Emily Dumas
Emily Dumas is a product marketer who leads content strategy at ZoomInfo, a global leader in modern go-to-market software, data, and intelligence. Prior to joining ZoomInfo, she spent several years on the Crayon marketing team.