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Product Strategy

Marketing is in the Middle: Joshua Duncan

Josh Duncan took some time out his busy schedule at start-up Zenoss to provide some insights.  Josh is an Austin native and has had a very diverse background which spans hardware and software for both B2B and B2C markets, so he bring a bunch of experience to the table for this effort.

So here is Josh’s take:

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

I started the first phase of my career as a software consultant for Accenture and ended up an Enterprise Architect doing technology strategy for Bank of America.  I loved the strategy aspect but wanted to do more on the business side of the organization so I did a career switch over to marketing.

My marketing roles and background have covered both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing, all in technology marketing.

As a consumer marketer, I worked planning and launching desktops, netbooks, and tablets for Dell’s consumer product group.

I currently lead the product and social marketing at Zenoss, an enterprise software start-up..

When you look at your career in marketing, what activities have you found most interesting/challenging?

That’s a trick question, right?  One of the reasons that I made the career switch was because of all the interesting aspects of marketing.

Currently, I am finding building a product marketing program, in startup environment, is a very interesting challenge.  When there is more work to do than time to do it and limited resources, what do you focus on to deliver the most results?

Based on your experience what activities do you think get the most return?

Currently, I am a big fan of projects that can be reused across multiple channels.  For example, if we are working on building momentum around a product launch and are thinking of sponsoring a webinar, what else can we do at the same time?  Can we turn this into an interview series, a blog post, a case study, a white paper, etc?

Basically, once we land on a good story, how many ways can we get it out there so that it finds its way to our customers in a manner that works for them.

What do you feel is the most important component of a successful marketing gig?

Being able to work with the organization to effectively build a marketing strategy that delivers results.

How have you seen organizations change in the last 3-5 years to better support the needs of product marketers, product managers and communications teams?

I would say that now, more than ever, successful organizations are finding a way to align their marketing, sales, and support teams to best server their customers.  There is a greater understanding that all of these touch points are important when it comes to the customer experience.

In the past, it might not have been as apparent when there was communication challenges and dysfunction in the company but not any more.  Consumers have much higher expectations and much lower threshold for B.S.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

A great environment for a marketer is at a company that has figured out who their customer is (and whom to avoid) and unmercifully focuses on meeting their needs.

A perfect environment would be a company that isn’t just focused on selling a product for the short term, but is willing to take the time to invest in efforts with a long term horizon – building a movement (borrowing from the Brain’s on Fire terminology) .

How far is this from reality?

I think there are handful of companies out there, small and big, that are starting to figure this out and thriving because of it.

The trouble is that it is hard to bolt this on after the fact. It has to be a result of decisions made early on in the company’s life that are then maintained and built on over time.

So what’s next?

I think the big challenge for 2011 and beyond is going to be finding ways to be relevant. If you think it is noisy now, just wait till you see what the next few years bring.

This was a topic that I spoke on, along with three other marketing leaders, at the last Product Camp conference in Austin, TX.  As we marketers look to grow our business, finding way to become and maintain relevancy are going to be critical.

It is going to be a tremendous challenge but I think if it is done right, is going to be worth the effort and has the potential of being a lot of fun.


Twitter: @joshua_d



Many thanks to Josh for his answers and make sure you connect with him if you are in Austin.