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Emily Omier is a Positioning Consultant who helps companies confidently give their product a label and focus their marketing and sales on the types of companies and engineers that will value it most.
Emily’s knowledge and experience in successful positioning and product market fit for open source platforms is something that makes this a real must-listen as we explore so much of the world of product management, product marketing, and much more.
[00:00:00.780] Hey, everybody, this is Eric Wright, the host of your podcast, and this is a really, really great episode, talking about the value and business of open source and in fact, it talks about product management.
[00:00:12.420] Good golly, there’s actually so many incredible lessons in here. So hang tight. But before we get started, I want to make sure I give a big thanks to our fine friends and the sponsors of this episode, which include our Friends at Veeam Software. So everything you need for your data protection and disaster recovery needs to vee.am/discoposse
[00:00:31.440] They got a really good deal that they’re able to get you set up with. Most importantly, you can actually either just grab it on the spot or get connected with them and let them know that you came from here. They’re longtime friends. So whether it’s your data on premises, whether stays in the cloud, whether it’s virtualization, physical servers and even your cloud native with the Kasten solution, very, very cool.
[00:00:52.840] Wants to check it out to go get our vee.am/discoposse. All right. Next up.
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[00:01:59.850] Emily is also a podcaster. She’s a consultant. She’s doing something that’s really a tough nut to crack and she’s doing it well.
[00:02:09.450] So she has the business of Cloud Native podcast, and she’s got a lot more that she’s doing up around speed in the sales and finding might, you know, market category and product market fit, especially in Kubernetes and open source.
[00:02:21.940] So go check it out. Here’s Emily Omier. Hi, everyone, I’m Emily Omier. I am a positioning consultant who works with companies in the cloud native ecosystem, particularly those built around or related to open source projects. And you are listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.
[00:03:10.660] Emily, thank you very much for for joining us. I was excited to get connected so I can and for folks that don’t already know, you will get into your intro. But I got to give a big shout out to Chris Psaltis, who connected us together.
[00:03:26.490] And Chris, he’s so fantastic. I had such a great chat with him. And and so he got to break the video barrier here on the podcast, which was kind of fun. And then immediately after we talked, he says, you’ve got to talk to Emily Omeir. She’s amazing.
[00:03:42.630] And, you know, so I was like, you had me at a recommendation and here we are.
[00:03:49.290] So, Emily, if you want to introduce yourself for folks that don’t already know you and we’ll talk about the open source positioning challenge and a lot more, actually.
[00:03:59.580] Yeah. So the first thing is there’s there’s probably a non-zero number of listeners who are like, I wonder what a positioning consultant is and I wonder what positioning is. So let me start there. Most. People who are non marketers might not have heard of positioning, even marketers often have sort of a distorted idea about what positioning is. Some people think that positioning some marketers, I should say, think about positioning as like a positioning statement that you that you write out and honestly is just kind of like an exercise that doesn’t end up often being super useful.
[00:04:42.470] But what positioning really is, is about creating the correct assumptions in the mind of everybody. So ultimately, the most important is in the mind of your prospects. But it’s. You don’t want to just think about in the mind of your prospects, because those aren’t the only people that matter. You also care about like what journalists who work in the industry think about your product and how they’re going to write about it. You care, if you get venture funding, you’re going to care what investors think about your company.
[00:05:14.530] If you have an open source project, you care about what the community thinks about your project, so positioning is about creating the right assumptions and it comes down to how do you describe your product? What market are you targeting? So how how do you segment your market, which is how do you determine what are the characteristics of your ideal customers? And that that’s oh, and then there’s a last thing, which is like what are the the values that the unique value that you provide and that.
[00:05:49.040] So that’s what I help companies figure out basically is what’s the best way to describe what our product is? That seems sort of basic, but a lot of founders actually find it really challenging. And who who should we market to who’s going to find this most useful?
[00:06:07.700] Yeah, this is we’re going to get into some of the neat, dirty behind the scenes work, which I often cringe even when I have to use these phrases, because one of the things that that you do particularly well is really create a human connection through the use of words that ties technology to value and human value. And ultimately through human value, we get business value as well.
[00:06:32.600] And it’s we often forget that that takes a lot of work. Right, as the old ways of the Mark Twain thing.
[00:06:39.440] Right. If I had a if I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. We we it’s very easy for us to go on, you know, write about our story. And I’ve often done that. Right. Like, it’s you’re trying to give your elevator pitch. If it takes a hundred and twenty floor building to give you your elevator pitch, then it’s not an elevator pitch.
[00:06:58.790] You need to really be able to, you know, sort of quickly tell, hey, you know, this is this is a real problem that people have.
[00:07:05.780] You may have experienced yourself. So actually, what my company does is we solve that in a way that’s that’s actually never been done before, which allows you to be able to do this and this and this. And then as a result, then this is actually now you can get on to doing better things.
[00:07:20.030] And it’s like it seems so fundamentally simple, but it’s really difficult to do.
[00:07:26.000] And then on top of that, we then have to bring in.
[00:07:29.420] I’ll say kind of like mechanized language around it, and even you used a word that makes me gnash my teeth and I use it, I don’t even use it myself because I’ve got an allergy is the word prospekt, because I very much like I know that it’s a it’s a term it’s a sales term.
[00:07:43.900] We use it and I still fight it.
[00:07:45.580] And generally I say like prospective customer, because I know if I’ve I’ve actually had folks that are really good technical sellers and they’ll say, hey, I was talking to a prospect to that.
[00:07:56.980] And I was like, oh, that hurts just here, because I’m now I know I’m a prospect versus like I’ll say like, you know, you should say I was talking to somebody else who’s similar function in a similar role. Is you over another company or like somebody else in the community. And I get them to kind of soften the language.
[00:08:15.370] But the truth is, behind the scenes, we have to you know, we talk about prospects and and value statements and positive business outcomes and all this stuff like this. But how did you get to do this, Emily?
[00:08:26.890] Like, this is No one. No one thinks that this is a fun idea to take on, because this is a lesson in an exercise in in frustration building this stuff.
[00:08:36.970] I’m not sure that’s true that nobody thinks it’s fun to take on. There we go.
[00:08:42.280] I was just going to say that I was actually writing a blog post this morning. I found myself writing like buya no, I deleted it, but I deleted it.
[00:08:52.660] And then but it’s like I do think so. I used to be a journalist and aside and I’m also like I’m a language person. I really I also speak a couple of foreign languages. So I really think word choice is very important and. Yeah, to the point about Prospekt versus versus prospective customers versus buyers or whatever, like ultimately there is a difference between saying your buyer and your prospect anyway. So it can be really hard to make sure that you’re using the right the right words, especially when some of them are kind of cringe worthy.
[00:09:28.190] Yeah, because you have to talk about your EEB, your economic buya, you know, your technical champion. And we like there is at least sort of common phrasing. I always just it it hurts me when leaks out, you know, it’s kind of like when an internal email makes it to the outside world.
[00:09:43.940] You like, look, we know how that happens behind the scene, but then it becomes like if you’ve ever watched a rather famous bit by Bill Hicks on on marketing and he it’s a fantastic thing to listen to, not if you’re in marketing in our soft at heart, because he kind of rips that all apart. And the whole thing, he’s like, oh, yeah, this is you.
[00:10:03.740] You’re basically snakes and and demons in what you’re doing.
[00:10:08.570] But the truth is, in technical marketing and in marketing in general, it is very much about creating a connection between, you know, people value that.
[00:10:19.010] You can bring them what you can give back to them and ultimately, you know, run a sustainable organization and a business commercially through doing so. And what’s particularly interesting about your ability and your success is in doing it so far and in future, which I’m sure will be a lot of. Is doing this in open source. Very much changes because it’s much it’s a different you know, there’s a different commercial side, there’s a different value side.
[00:10:49.030] So I guess that’s the real thing, right? Getting into messaging and positioning fantastically, it is enjoyable, as neat and as challenging and then adding this like what we’re going to do to an open source.
[00:11:00.280] Projects like most would be like, all right, I’m OK, because this is a tough world to be in. Right.
[00:11:07.030] Well, so the first thing to acknowledge is that most engineers, most developers find themselves really allergic to the word marketing. I think for all of the reasons that you just mentioned, that it sort of sounds slightly dirty, and particularly if we’re talking about open source, like open source, it’s not about making money.
[00:11:30.700] So what of course, I’ll just put a caveat that that’s not entirely true. I don’t think that all open source is like completely divorced from money, but a primary function of it is not to do it, however, in order to sustain it.
[00:11:47.110] I know where you’re where you’re at with that one.
[00:11:49.780] So, yeah, I appreciate that you sort of laid that that caveat there, right?
[00:11:55.250] Yeah. So, you know, particularly with companies that I work with, they they’re related often to an open source project, but they also have venture funding. They’re also like their end goal is to build a company, not just to be, you know. Technical hippies. But so I think that’s one of the challenges when we talk about marketing but positioning. So first of all, I should actually step back. One of the misconceptions about positioning is actually that it’s part of marketing and it’s really like it’s a higher level business function.
[00:12:31.910] So, like, if, uh, if a prospect came to me and it was their head of marketing and they said, look, we really need help with positioning, I would say great. Is the CEO on board? Are the founders on board? Are they going to be part of this discussion? And if that marketing person says, no, this is not a project I’m going to take on because it’s going to fail and because positioning is it has implications for your product roadmap.
[00:13:01.940] It has profound implications for your sales strategy. You might end up changing your price point based on your positioning, because if you’re going to sell something, let’s just say you’re going to sell something for financial services. It should be expensive. And if you have if you’re trying to sell something cheap and you’re selling it to a market that expects things for them to be expensive, that’s a problem. So it has all of these implications throughout the business. It’s really not just marketing.
[00:13:38.360] Yeah. And it’s in fact, when you say positioning, it’s not just like we’re positioning and it is truly full market positioning.
[00:13:47.090] And it’s goes, as you said, beyond just like the the thing that does little type head on the website.
[00:13:52.610] When you go to the homepage and you see a little slider like that, that’s reflective of positioning, but that in itself is not positioning.
[00:14:02.060] Yes, that is exactly right. I also have some people that will, like, send me a website and they’re like, can you tell me if this company has great positioning? And I’m like, I don’t know. I mean, you can tell. So if yes, you can usually tell by the website if but if the website if you don’t think that there’s great positioning reflected on the website, that could be a website problem. It could be a copywriting problem.
[00:14:28.550] It’s it could be a positioning problem. But you can’t you can’t really know for sure.
[00:14:33.380] Yeah. Actually there was somebody I spoke with the other day and it was he was telling me about the story of his company. He’s a single engineer with a with a co-founder.
[00:14:42.560] And they’re they’re doing really neat stuff. And so I took a look at the website because he sends me the email address. And so we met just through a friend. I was helping him out and to help him with a technical problem. And so I talk with him.
[00:14:56.300] And I was like, oh, actually, tell me about what your what your platforms do.
[00:15:00.500] And I’m actually very interested in what the problem is you’re solving.
[00:15:04.730] And he said something for like in two minutes he gave me this incredibly profound statement of like, you know, how we have this problem that goes on, like we want to make this not suck for people. So we took on this task because we realized there’s a better way to do it.
[00:15:20.740] And he goes through this thing that was like, Allen, you just totally nailed this. I went to your website.
[00:15:29.120] No idea that this is what you do. Right. You can you need to connect those two things together, because the story you just told me is incredibly compelling. And it made me say, OK, well, how do you do that? Like, it’s it did all the right things. And it was so funny that there can be this weird like sometimes the market, the marketing of the message in the in the website, like said, can really be good.
[00:15:55.030] But, you know, what’s the churn rate, what’s the attach rate? What’s the growth rate like?
[00:16:00.100] There’s other things that you said about positioning is much more than just, oh, that’s really neat. I know what you guys do now. Well, that’s sort of the fundamental, though, about positioning is it’s about making your prospects. Oh, I’m using that word again. That’s all right.
[00:16:16.820] I know I’m going to make you overthink that every day. I know.
[00:16:24.770] So it’s about making everybody not even just prospects. So customers, your current customers, you also don’t want them to be confused. So it’s about reducing confusion. And part of the goal is you want you know, when somebody comes to your Web site, they you want them to immediately understand what problem you’re solving. And how you solve it and is is your solution right for them or not? I know you always remind people like you’re you’re not going to boil the ocean.
[00:16:56.600] You’re a startup with a million dollars or ten million dollars or whatever. You’re you’re not going to you’re not going to be Facebook tomorrow or next quarter. And, you know, you need to focus on some sort of specific market. And so having somebody come to your website and say, oh, I understand what this is and it’s not for me, that is also a good outcome, because now you have not wasted, you know, hours of your marketing and sales team’s time.
[00:17:27.960] On somebody who is never going to buy your your product, that’s so that’s something that people don’t even realize. It’s not as deep positioning.
[00:17:37.200] Your your audience is the most important one of the most important things that you can do. And I forget that sometimes, too, and like you need to immediately.
[00:17:46.080] So when someone gets there, they’re like, yeah, really cool. Not for me. You know, I’m not going to waste this person’s sales cycle time by calling them and saying, hey, I’m curious how this this may work to my use case or whatever. Tell me about the thing you do. And then you spend an hour and they go, yeah, it’s not going to be a fit.
[00:18:02.400] Yep. It’s saving everybody time, you know, it’s saving the prospect time. It’s saving your sales team time. And so that’s a good outcome. If somebody says, no, this isn’t for me, but you want that to be clear as soon as possible in the in the sales cycle or really in the marketing cycle. So it gives you the ability to to focus a lot more. But it also increases the chances that those people that are a good fit are going to understand that immediately.
[00:18:31.940] And so then that that makes them more likely to reach out and so you get this at the same time you have those that are not a good fit leaving. That’s great.
[00:18:43.940] Those that are a good fit, more likely to understand that. Now, this definitely doesn’t come from I think I’m going to be good at this like you, you’ve obviously got some some road time or some, you know, some you’ve got history that allowed you to be able to connect these things together, like there’s certain certain fundamentals of it that are actually based out of like cognitive psychology and behavioral psychology and a lot of neat stuff there.
[00:19:13.430] But you generally can’t go and read a bunch of that and then come forward and say, all right, perfect, OK, I can nail the story for you.
[00:19:20.870] So, Emily, how did you come to choose this as a as a path for your own choice?
[00:19:28.520] That’s a really good question, so I never know where to start in my story yet, but I think I’m going to start sort of way back when, which is, you know, I spent my 20s doing a bunch of random stuff and including starting two companies that never had any any revenue. Like, I think just my mom knew that they existed.
[00:19:49.310] And, um, and then I went to journalism school and then I was a tech journalist for a while. And then I moved into content marketing, and that was really sort of the catalyst for when I started to think a lot more about positioning because, oh, and I should mention that I was always self-employed, so I was always working as a consultant, freelancer. And so that’s kind of just my personality. But anyway, so you’ve always had skin in the game like you.
[00:20:24.100] You’ve you’ve always chosen that I am responsible for the the outcome here, which is it’s a brave thing to do right out of the gate.
[00:20:34.310] Well, you know, I think if somebody when I was in college, when I was like 18, had had told me that I could have a career in sales, I would have changed my life. But it didn’t really even occur to me that, like, there are people that make a living selling stuff. So I enjoy the hustle of of like meeting new clients. And you know that all of the things that are associated with with being a consultant and not having a job I enjoy.
[00:21:05.420] And including not having a boss. Yeah, I think a lot of people I’ve especially here, of course, I’m lucky enough.
[00:21:13.760] I talk to amazing folks like yourself all the time who’ve, like, walked these unique paths and on their own.
[00:21:20.330] And my favorite thing is almost all of them would describe themselves as unemployable because it’s like I am not going to they’re not going to look at the mission on the back of the wall behind the front desk and say, like, this is for me. I’m like, I’ve got my own mission. I got to complete.
[00:21:36.590] Yeah. I mean, I’m not going to say that I would never, ever take a job, but like I would say that my circumstances would have to be pretty dire in order for that to to happen.
[00:21:47.600] But I would find even even in doing so, you would become as we called I describe myself as an intrapreneur in that you create you that drive in that methodology is baked into you.
[00:22:00.350] And so even when you’re in an internal team, you will you will very much go outside the lines as a founder of a function inside a company. So there’s even if you were to go, there would probably be a temporary stint until you got back out again.
[00:22:16.250] Well, fingers crossed it doesn’t come to that. That’s even better. Even better.
[00:22:19.720] Yeah, but actually, so the fact that I was that I was working for a lot of different companies and I started to really focus on the cloud native ecosystem. And technology companies, and so the fact that I was working working as a marketing writer for these these companies is really relevant because first of all, marketing is often the first department that feels the pain of bad positioning. And second of all, when you’re outside of a company working as an external consultant, you see it really well.
[00:22:56.660] Because I think what happens is when you’re when you’re working inside of the company, you can you kind of start drinking the Kool-Aid and it’s like everything kind of makes sense to you because, you know, you’re really like you’re really immersed in everything. And but when you’re looking at it from outside.
[00:23:16.110] And you’re trying to get some direction on this piece of marketing writing, and you’re like, who are we writing this for?
[00:23:22.530] And they’re like, well, you know, our audience is sarees and platform engineers and developers and also VPs of development.
[00:23:31.440] And you’re like, whoa, those people care about very different things, like, how am I going to write this? And so it actually got pretty frustrating because this was so prevalent that people were just not really capable of giving me clear direction, which when it happened, basically meant that my project was not going to be successful and I knew that.
[00:23:57.090] So that’s when I started to think, you know, I can see that this is a problem. I tend to be actually a really big picture person. I think this is why I didn’t do such a great job when I when I was employed and in my very early 20s. I’m not super detail oriented.
[00:24:15.530] So and this is the interesting thing.
[00:24:21.060] And I actually heard a great interview the other day and it talked about the sort of the creative mind and the the process of of being a creative person. They sit.
[00:24:30.340] And when the fellow said, unfortunately, these creative people tend to make a lot of money for other people and not for themselves until it’s far too late for them to enjoy it.
[00:24:39.940] And it’s I’ve I suffered the same sort of challenge of, you know, every year it gets to my annual review and they’re like, hey, you know, be great. Like I’ve got I’m a I work in a startup and they give me a lot of autonomy and they’re fantastic team. And so when it comes to interview time, it’s not like when I worked at a big financial company, they’re like, OK, according to this year, the nine box or the seven boxes, they get all these crazy things.
[00:25:02.640] And then but it would be like every year I’d say, hey, look, it’s that time of year where we say it would be great if you were better at project management and detail oriented, long view, you know, content. I’m like, I’m never going to be that. I’m like, just going to lay that out there right now. I’m never going to be good at this stuff and I’m going to be fantastic what I do. But they’re like, we want to put you in a box.
[00:25:24.630] And like, I’m like, no, no, I don’t want to be there.
[00:25:29.580] You know, it actually, I think makes me fit really well with this industry because a lot of engineers are detailed oriented. Yeah. And so what they at the the ability to step back is really what they’re missing. And most of the founders that I work with, they’re they’re engineers and they’ve now founded a company and they’re really good at like making sure their code is not missing a punctuation mark or something like that. And, uh. I would suck at that.
[00:25:59.540] Yeah, it is a beautiful thing of the merger of those styles because you have you have a technical you understand the technical audience and sort of the buyer audience as well as the consumer audience, you know, or they as they say, you know, the users.
[00:26:15.130] Another word I often cringe that we say, but the users and the buyers.
[00:26:20.290] Yeah, but the it is a really good mix that like you want the technical founder to be a technical founder, not a big picture market maker, like you want them to be fantastic.
[00:26:34.450] What they do and you will be fantastic what you do to allow them to continue to build product and think about what’s next. Yeah, and, you know, honestly, a lot of the founders that I work with, like they they’re not just engineers. They’re very, very good engineers. And these are you know, there are people that have actually and then I’ll go into a caveat sometimes that is also the challenge is that there are very, very good engineers.
[00:27:00.640] And so and they’ve often worked at companies that are very tech forward. They’re very, very far on maturity curves. And so it can be a big challenge. In fact, I think this is a big challenge for the industry in general.
[00:27:18.190] Is it sort of connecting to the real world experience of a mediocre engineer who works at a mediocre or works in, you know, a mediocre technology organization and, you know, mediocre? We often use that word to mean, like, look terrible, but I’m more meaning and sort of an average term. Right.
[00:27:41.470] Radeon a median on a curve, not a mediocre as in they’re not really that good. Which is right. Exactly.
[00:27:48.700] I mean and the honest truth is like that’s somewhere around the medium is is that’s where most people are going to fall. That’s where most users are going to fall. It’s where most buyers are going to fall. Even if we’re like, you know, directors of development or VPs or whatever. Not every one of those VPs isn’t is an amazing VP at his or her job. And not everyone is inside an organization that’s an amazing technology organization. And that’s OK.
[00:28:18.360] I’m I don’t think there’s a problem with that. It’s just that that I think the the ecosystem and the the founders of these amazing startups need to sometimes need to do a better job at sort of stepping back and thinking, OK, where where is the market like where is the market actually at?
[00:28:37.120] Where are the the people that I can help?
[00:28:41.090] Where are they? How do I meet them, where they are and how do I use terms that are going to resonate with them, and what problems are they actually experiencing? Oh, yeah, sorry, go ahead. Oh, I was going to say and then there’s one other thing, which is like what do they actually perceive as being an alternative to my product? So that’s a big part of positioning is what are the competitive alternatives? And the common thing is you ask somebody, what are your competitors?
[00:29:12.920] And they will name another company if you actually drill into it and say, what are the competitive alternatives? The competitive alternatives are doing nothing right? So I know it hurts me to say it, because I know it’s it’s it’s an easy answer, but it is true in that, you know, our biggest competitor is status quo.
[00:29:36.800] You know, it’s so too true. You know, in so many cases, it’s it seems like a like a gimme if you say it. But like, no, it’s most people struggle from just like, hey, this is good enough.
[00:29:48.590] I mean, it’s it’s both both for business buyers, but also for consumers. I mean, I was looking at cars last month and that if you ask a car company like, what’s your competitor, they’ll talk about some other car. I didn’t buy a car. I’m not going to buy a car. And that’s what probably what like most of the people that enter their funnel, so to speak, are going to end up not buying a car. They’re going to do nothing.
[00:30:12.800] Yeah, yeah.
[00:30:14.180] That’s and when it comes to the the technical buyer and the technical economic lead buyer, you know, so like a CIO, CTO, somebody is an organization they’re uniquely challenging to market towards because they are generally, you know, technical.
[00:30:36.830] So they ask harder questions. Well, to use your car example, your more people are going to go to buy a car because they need to get somewhere and they kind of don’t care what’s inside the car. They just want it to be the right price. They’ve got a certain set of criteria.
[00:30:55.390] The ineffective alternatives are the bus not having a car.
[00:30:59.570] There’s it’s but the buyer is most often not technical. And in fact, when we get into the technical marketing piece and technical competence, you know, positioning is the worst case scenario of super technical people.
[00:31:18.880] They’re like, what does it do here?
[00:31:20.320] You know, it’s that whole thing of I don’t want to dwell on speeds and feeds, but we’re going to dwell for 45 minutes on speeds and feeds, you know, and all these little, you know, knobs and dials on on what it can do.
[00:31:32.530] Yeah. So to go back to the car example, that’s actually really good. So when you’re doing technical marketing, one of your biggest competitors is built to build it yourself DIY. So instead of buying your thing, we’re going to build a platform. And ourselves, if you’re buying a car, like quite frankly, I do not think that one of your competitors is like like I wasn’t even thinking like, oh, well, you know, I’ll just build a car myself.
[00:32:01.420] I say, and I don’t think that that’s like a real realistic competitor for most people. Yeah.
[00:32:09.430] But it is in the technical marketing that that’s a really big, major competitive alternative. Yeah.
[00:32:18.160] And we we run into that problem, too, of especially when you’ve got a really good engineering organization and we it’s the problem we call nature not invented here. Right. When you go do you pitch a product then they’re like.
[00:32:31.170] You know, they just like you can see them sort of squinting as they’re listening to your discussion and they look at the ingenuity and said. Can we do something pretty close to this ourselves, like, oh, no, like that that is a real unfortunate confidence in the ability to throw people at it. And I’m like, if you’ve not heard of the mythical man month, this is going to end poorly for you.
[00:32:54.620] Yep. And, you know, it’s that’s also the the user user buyer discussion, because sometimes this like whatever it is that you’re selling like that looks like a really interesting problem to solve. And if you’re if you’re targeting the wrong level in an organization, you you know, you’re just going to be giving them an idea and they’re going to think, gosh, I would rather spend the next six months working on replicating your product internally than doing whatever it is that I’m that I’m doing.
[00:33:30.110] That’s usually when you’re you’re marketing too low, because most likely once you’re once you’re getting to the people that have more of like a more business metrics that they care about. And they’re they’re managing people. They do not want the people on their team building that platform that is not in their best interest, but the people that the engineers themselves. Oh, yeah. That that’s a big problem. They want to spend some time building that.
[00:33:56.000] It it’s funny. You can you often find out it’s like going to family therapy when you’re in these discussions with folks. And I get I’m lucky to be very close to the customer experience all the time. And it’s like I was a user.
[00:34:08.210] I sat in the desk as a systems architect for a couple of decades, so I know the pain directly. It’s easier for me to relate it when I talk about product and outcomes and what we get.
[00:34:20.150] And it’s funny that you can get a lot of folks that are really strong technical champions and they have a genuine day to day problem that maybe their boss doesn’t know about.
[00:34:29.690] And that gets uncovered like beautifully in the right conversation because and you need that as to do proper positioning and selling and renewing, because if you only give value to the user of the consumer, the product, and they don’t see the KPIs being effective, affected at the top, then they’re like, you know, I don’t I don’t know that I’m getting value from this thing I just saw a renewal for.
[00:34:56.840] And it’s like you said, positioning isn’t just about prospects, it’s about your existing customers.
[00:35:03.350] You got to keep reminding them that you’ve got value or even adding more value and more capabilities. And how do you relate those?
[00:35:11.680] Yeah, and, you know, part of positioning it, some of the things that that we work on narrowing down is who is the right buyer? So, again, when you think of an engineering organization, it’s not like homogenous. There’s going to be the salary teams. We like to talk about breaking down silos. And in reality, there’s still silos in most places. So, you know, unless unless you’re selling to like the CTO who’s responsible for the whole thing, there’s going to be silos.
[00:35:41.200] And and most of my clients are not going quite that high level. Yeah.
[00:35:46.930] And and this is the funny part is as much as I see that silo slide on everybody’s sales deck, guilty as charged, we know the truth is that there’s just no way to really break those things down. The reason why we had to start calling it like dev spec ops, they’re like, why do you need to explicitly say second line? Because no one invited security to the party and it wasn’t pervasive to the flow of of code. And they’re like, oh, OK.
[00:36:14.320] You know, Nelson, someone described the other day, they called it biz dev sec ups. And like, we’ve officially figured it out that we forgot to include the business people in the discussion.
[00:36:25.510] I have not heard that one yet and I love it.
[00:36:28.330] So now eventually it’s going to become this like biz dev sec, you know, like there’ll be like three or six trade offs.
[00:36:38.590] But so, yeah, in practice now this is just like you talked about positioning.
[00:36:48.050] It’s important to know who not to position for into position the the the unimportant or the the the not valuable prospect.
[00:36:59.000] In your experience of doing this stuff. Most of your success in knowing what to do probably comes from seeing a lot of what not to do and and seeing metrics that showed that that was the case.
[00:37:12.940] I’m curious, Emily. When did you start to tie in? How do I measure the effectiveness of positioning and marketing and like where this comes together? Yeah, that’s that’s a really good question of how it’s measured. So the first thing. Yeah. Position is interesting to measure. So you’re not going to feel like you’re not going to improve your positioning and then tomorrow you’re going to fix these things. So often we’re talking about like a fairly fundamental shift in how the company is.
[00:37:49.280] Talking about itself and operating, so we’re not going to see, like a change tomorrow, but there are there are some things that will change immediately and then there are metrics that you should see improvement on if, in fact, your your positioning has been improved.
[00:38:08.270] So that the first result is this is a human one, is that I find founders have more confidence because often the pain point that they come to me with is that they don’t know how to talk about their their company. They don’t know how to talk about their product. And it’s frustrating. And they. And they feel like they’re their sales calls are kind of they feel like they’re not going great.
[00:38:38.750] Basically, they feel like the first 15 minutes, the prospects are confused and and it’s really frustrating. So that does change immediately is there’s there’s often a shift in sort of how the confident the founder or founders feels and sort of having a discussion or or describing. So after positioning, you should be able to describe your your product in like less than a sentence, like five words. Yeah. And so that’s the first change. And then the second thing this gets into, like, what are the signs that you’re positioning kind of sucks.
[00:39:15.170] And then then obviously if your positioning is better, it’s going to you’re going to see improvement on those metrics. So one of them is high churn at like everywhere on the funnel. And so if you have a lot of people coming to your website, but like every every part of your funnel, there’s it’s just incredibly leaky. That’s probably a positioning issue. If you have a lot of churn in your customers, that’s probably a sign that the customers maybe thought they were going to get something else.
[00:39:51.080] And then they signed up and they were like, oh, whoops, this is not actually what I was expecting. I don’t actually need it. That’s a positioning problem. Right? You want people to, like, actually get the thing that they thought they were getting. So basically, you should be improving your your conversion rates at all. All spaces on the funnel, the marketing sales funnel, you should see lower customer churn. And those are what I would say, I mean, and ultimately, right, those are going to lead to better revenue numbers, et cetera, but those those are the really bottom line positions and metrics that I would look at.
[00:40:34.520] And here we have like the sort of problem is that those are marketing metrics and that’s why people think that positioning is a marketing problem. Right. And but right. If you have a high customer churn, maybe your product sucks.
[00:40:52.450] Oh, yeah.
[00:40:53.870] It could be a problem or it sucks for the people who actually end up buying it. And so it really isn’t just marketing, it’s really high level. Another thing that I also see with the win positioning projects are really successful is that it’s easier to get. It’s the PR is easier. It’s easier to get it in the press. Because the you know, whether you’re doing PR yourself, whether you’ve hired a team, it’s it’s easier for them to communicate with other people in the industry about what you do and and that that makes it easier for them to write about in the the challenges as people, as humans, especially in technical.
[00:41:35.660] You know, we’ve got a lot of strong technical founders.
[00:41:39.590] Like you said.
[00:41:40.190] It’s it’s a tough it’s not in their brain to like they’re not built to be able to tell the story in. That’s why we always talk about jobs and Bosniac and people get really irked and angry like jobs wasn’t technical and it was just a marketing guy and like, well, it was technical. It didn’t necessarily write the code.
[00:41:59.000] But, you know, he had the ability to take the technology and relate the story and and he even attributes he says. The ability to do so wasn’t just from fantastic storytelling, which he was particularly good at, but he has this book and I actually have it on my shelf.
[00:42:16.470] I had to hunt it down around the world called the business value of computers.
[00:42:20.820] And it was effectively an accounting guide into how to actually measure the effectiveness of using computer systems in large organizations.
[00:42:29.970] This is like mainframe type of of adoption. But he said if you can’t. Show them that there’s metrics that they’re going to that are going to matter to them and then a human side to that story. Then, you know, technology is going to save you from a bad sales problem, which is which.
[00:42:47.840] And as technology founders said, so you come in there and do a lot of amazing technologies, probably wouldn’t pass a Turing test.
[00:42:55.700] There’s nothing wrong with them having an incredible amount of skill. So let’s put somebody beside them who gets why they’re doing it and what they’re doing it, and then can make that a storytelling exercise, which then ultimately becomes. Based on the foundation of positioning, like you said, it’s it has to come from there. This is the the core and then everything should always go back to like, ah, OK, here’s your value drivers or whatever you call them.
[00:43:23.090] But like, it’s it’s in the founders. There’s a great book actually called The Founders Mentality. And and it’s a it’s actually by being in company, they’re a marketing and advisory firm in in Boston.
[00:43:39.410] Not to be confused with Bain Capital, which is always funny because I my company, as well as one of one of the Bain Capital companies. But it’s very, very cool that they talk about this idea of like the founder can get frustrated because they see the selling position moving away from what the product was meant to do, and then they lose track of it and then the numbers start to go home.
[00:44:02.420] And what’s worse is that it doesn’t get felt like you said, you know, you change your positioning and you do it right today. You don’t notice it tomorrow, the metrics are going to play out over time. Yeah, and it can be pretty quick and then the other thing, so there’s there’s a couple comments here.
[00:44:24.580] It’s a first of all, it can be a pretty quick I mean, if you actually implement your positioning, you can feel it pretty quickly, but it’s not going to Beechboro. And the the other thing is that almost always the the best positioning for your product isn’t necessarily be it the positioning that you had in mind when you created it. And that that is why actually that’s part of why founders have to be involved when we do a positioning exercise, because it can involve almost like shifting, shifting the identity of the company.
[00:45:01.300] And if it’s that could mean shifting the identity of the founders. And so that’s the most challenging part actually of of positioning is is like having everybody sort of let go of what they thought they were creating and then figuring out like what is the thing that actually is here that was created and how do we highlight its strengths in a way that that that’s that’s going to get customers really excited about it.
[00:45:33.350] And positioning it can change over time, it’s not something you want to change like every month, but you should sort of check in to check in with it like once a year, once every six months to see if it’s still working. And, you know, one of the the other thing is like if there’s a big market shift. So, for example, covid-19, there was and everyone’s working from home that can present certain challenges to to organizations. And maybe, you know, maybe you want to reposition your thing some maybe the competitive alternative to your product is walking over to your colleagues office.
[00:46:15.260] Well, that’s not an option anymore. And so you need to be able to to sort of capture that.
[00:46:21.690] Oh, there’s a last thing I wanted to say, which is that actually Apple is a really good example of good positioning and there’s a lot I can think of a lot of ways. First of all, when in the early days of Apple computers, it was not a general purpose, personal computer. It was for creatives. Right. And this and that ultimately is how Apple computers became like the cool version. Right. Like, if you were an accountant, you got a you didn’t get an apple.
[00:46:54.240] If you were like a graphic designer, you definitely got an Apple computer. And that had ramifications, obviously, not just for their marketing, but but it was their product was also different. And it had to focus on different types of functionality. And then when the iPhone launched. So think about the name of iPhone. An iPhone is actually not really a phone like it does have phone functionality, but that’s like a tiny little bit of of its functionality.
[00:47:25.260] But at the time that it launched that like that was what the company and Steve Jobs decided to accentuate, because that was something that that people associated with, like putting in their pocket and taking places.
[00:47:40.770] Imagine if they had called it like the eye pocket computer or something crappy. Yeah.
[00:47:48.510] And and in fact, actually, if you watch the iPhone launch video, like. Tobes, does all this like talking about voicemail and like call for, like all this stuff that’s phone functionality that like nobody uses now and probably nobody even used then, but it reinforced this position of this is a phone. And so it makes sense. It makes sense as a product to to me. Yeah.
[00:48:14.010] It becomes the what’s the what’s the comparative that will make sense to people then they can they can map it over.
[00:48:21.150] And this I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. The words and in that we use are interesting. And I get lessons in this all the time.
[00:48:32.910] So, you know, the founder of my organization, he used to like super technical.
[00:48:39.810] He’s like really, really able to do incredible things but knows the business, you know, third time founder, like, really, really got a good sense of how things go and people kind of forget how strong is the business side of it.
[00:48:54.090] And so you get people know, like he’s like this is what we do. And this is, you know, you go through the whole thing.
[00:48:59.520] But in the end, we as humans try and find differentiating words to make it easier to explain or sell.
[00:49:07.020] And so people always say, like, we solved this problem in a unique way. And he he stops. He goes and he asks his name was my favorite thing to hear. He goes, Can I ask you? Where did you have a lot of friends when you were a kid and so like, yeah, yeah, I was I was fairly fairly popular, whatever, like, OK, and so high school, you know, throughout changes in your life.
[00:49:30.380] OK, what were you unique? And you’re like, what do you mean? He goes, exactly? You were not popular because you were unique, you were not smarter because you were unique, unique isn’t a word that you want to use to describe your problem is a differentiating feature is like it may be unique in the way that it solves the problem, but the product is not unique.
[00:49:55.390] Like don’t use words like that because they’re going to pull you down a trap and they’ll say everybody says the unique. Everyone says they’re the first to market. Everyone says they’re industry leading. It’s like these are these are not important words when it comes to what we’re actually doing.
[00:50:12.060] So. Why do we get caught up in those lovely words, Emily, because they sound fine, like it’s easy to go to. Yeah, I think that you’re right, you know, it’s part of it is that we we want to be unique and I think people like to think of their product as being totally unique. And it is it’s usually there’s there’s not something that is exactly like that thing anywhere. Of course, nobody cares if you solve their problem in a unique way.
[00:50:42.070] They just want it solved. They don’t care how you do it. That’s right.
[00:50:44.830] And if you solve it in a way that’s totally non-unique, it’s still solved. And the other thing I was going to say, actually, is that this is relevant to the discussion of developer marketing because developers, engineers, they tend to have a lower bullshit tolerance than a lot of other markets. And so I think you’re probably more likely to get that pushback when you’re like we have a you know, we have a unique way of solving this problem. I think there that’s going to sound like bullshit.
[00:51:18.540] That’s going to pop out as bullshit for I can already hear the person they were going like, you know, like make like shirts, unique, whatever.
[00:51:27.480] I mean, then they’re going to they’re going to look through the like eight million open source projects on GitHub. And they’re going to say like, no, no, I found this other this project that has like two contributors and it’s actually exactly the same as yours.
[00:51:40.350] So even patented is a tough one because like, well, it is a very different thing, a very specific thing about the way and you solve the problem, like just saying patented.
[00:51:50.670] I’ve even found that in competitive.
[00:51:52.200] It’s like use this like we have 17 patents in as a competitive alternative. Like, you know, the company you’re competing with has 2000 patents. They were like, that is not a that’s not a business differentiator. You know, it shows your longevity. It shows your uniqueness in a way. But like IBM has more patents. And what’s the old joke? Right. Like how many the most patents in the world are for the most trappe go to the hardware store.
[00:52:17.340] Yeah, most trap’s a piece of wood with a spring on it.
[00:52:20.670] I don’t care how many patents there are, I just need to catch a bloody mouse, you know?
[00:52:26.550] And sometimes, like, you know, I think it’s important to keep in mind that you are ultimately selling an outcome. You’re you’re solving the problem. And, you know, if you if you get a taxi and you want to go to your house from you know, your work sets a route that you go all the time, you get a taxi and the taxi driver says, hey, look, I’m going to take you a totally unique way to get to your house.
[00:52:51.780] You’re going to be like, whoa, that does not sound good.
[00:52:54.240] Has actually. Now, the other thing that’s important. In what you’ve described in like positioning, and it ultimately is a question for you, you know, it’s choosing your market, attacking a niche that, you know, you can be effective in and you know how to market towards you as well as, you know, really lived strongly in initiative of companies in this cloud native marketplace, which is going to become huge.
[00:53:24.030] You know, I mean, already is huge. But what drew you to. How that is an effective place for you to be able to market towards and position towards, yeah, this is a great question also because I wanted to talk a little bit about how it’s not just products that are positioned and it’s not even just consultants who are positioned. It’s even if you have a job, you it’s it’s still a good idea to be known for something and to be a specialist in something.
[00:53:53.370] And even if you are a developer. Right, maybe you’re a specialist in a particular language, maybe you’re a specialist in a particular type of business. So I think that it’s really important for for everybody to to try to specialize to a certain extent. And when I think about what what a consultant or even somebody who’s going to be an employee should or should think should think about as they’re positioning themselves is where the overlap is between things that they are good at, things that they enjoy and things that people are willing to pay money for.
[00:54:37.620] And the same goes with industry. Right. You could apply that to what you do or you could apply it to the industry that you’re going to work in. And for me, obviously, like I have tons of interests. And either that being a positioning consultant is not the only thing that I think I’m pretty good at.
[00:54:58.920] But and but there’s this this sort of overlap here where working in this industry and it helps that I started obviously I started as a marketing writer in this industry, there’s sort of an overlap of people that actually need this and are willing to pay money for it and that I’m that I’m good at it in terms of why I think I’ll go back to the discussion of not being very detail oriented. So I was actually interested in like Web development, and I played around with Drupal for a while in my in my 20s.
[00:55:34.740] I don’t know if you know Drupal, but it’s like we’re spending a little time in that.
[00:55:38.290] It was it was the the it was the Beda to WordPress VHS. It was technically better, but unfortunately not marketed well enough to to make a big landing. I actually don’t think that’s true, I think one of the most successful open source projects out there in Aquia that was Akwe is that was founded by the open source maintainer. It was sold, I don’t know to who, but for like two billion dollars, like a totally insane amount of money.
[00:56:08.350] So actually, Drew is an open space, open source success story and a lot of ways because all sides huge community.
[00:56:14.920] Anyway, my point being, it’s not like an entry level web development platform. It’s quite complicated. It’s very it’s very powerful. But it’s a you really need to be like getting your hands in the code in order to be successful with it. So I like, you know, I taught my self how to do some stuff, but I ultimately like I I’d miss a period somewhere and it wouldn’t work. And I just get really frustrated and yeah. That it just wasn’t for me I couldn’t deal with, like, I, you know, I missed a piece of punctuation and my work is a total failure.
[00:56:50.020] And I think but I sort of remained interested in this, this sort of the technology field in general and what we can do with with software.
[00:56:59.290] And and then I think there’s like there’s a little bit of a cultural fit. Even if I’m not I’m not the detail oriented engineer. I think there’s a there’s a cultural fit between the, um, sort of like it’s really hard for me to put my finger on what the cultural fit is.
[00:57:17.920] Um, let me think about this for a minute.
[00:57:21.490] I think I just I feel like it’s really easy for me to empathize with the sort of developer problem or the developer personality of, like, liking to work alone consultant, freelancer, being, you know, really interested in like finishing projects, being a little bit type A. And so I think that there was that as well, sort of being interested in the technology and then just feeling like like it’s a cultural fit. Yeah, like when I went to Cube Khan there was Cube Khan and then there was like an accounting conference that was in the same location.
[00:57:55.990] And I just like you looked at all the accountants and I was like, whoa, those are not my people. I do not know there.
[00:58:03.220] It’s so funny that I’ve I’ve always enjoyed when you go to especially a conference center and there’s like multiple things and, you know, like, you know, we’re sitting here and we’re making nerd jokes about technology, then, you know, in the room next door, they’re like, so this idiot filled out a ten, twenty nine instead of a four to twenty eight, like, holy moly, where did this guy from Mars, like in totally meaningful, hilarious anecdotal humor over there.
[00:58:28.930] But it’s like every, every industry, every thing has a community and has its own nuances and isms about it.
[00:58:37.510] But what actually I want to pull on the string that, you know, you hit something really neat. So my perception in general awareness is that WordPress has been, I’ll say, most known to be successful relative to Drupal.
[00:58:56.860] And it comes from two factors. One, I didn’t track the growth or ultimately the the the trajectory of Drupal. I knew about it.
[00:59:05.470] But because I go everywhere and I see WordPress, I have a perceived understanding that it is more successful, even though it may not be in this. I bump into in Carbonetti folks all the time. They’re like, this is incredible. It’s like winning the container war. So that’s well, how big is that war? Right.
[00:59:22.210] You know, relative to virtualization and cloud and everything else. So. How? How do you deal with that situation when someone says like, no, like this is the the metric that matters to me or this is my opinion of a metric and you’re like. Well, we actually have to look at the real metric that matters. I mean, ultimately, like you do get to decide if so if you’re the CEO of a company and you decide that X metrics matters to you.
[00:59:51.390] I mean, maybe that’s the most important metric, I mean, maybe I don’t agree with it, maybe your investors don’t agree with it, but that that is one of one of the advantages of being CEO, is you get to focus on the metrics that you think matter to you and does it. But, you know, some some companies might get really hung up on like we have the biggest number of users and GitHub stars, are we?
[01:00:20.820] We have to get them stars and like those GitHub stars, they’re free. So, you know, what do I think that a company should probably have like some hard dollars as a as a metric? Yeah, definitely. But, um, if if you think, you know, if you are the CEO and you’re getting really hung up on some other metric, like, that’s OK. You know, I think the thing that that people should take out of this this discussion about WordPress and Drupal is.
[01:00:52.790] That just because you are not necessarily a household name or you’re not like, you know, a household name for four, Technologist’s doesn’t mean that you don’t have a successful company, that you can have a very successful company.
[01:01:09.230] You can you could go public. You could, you know, have a giant exit or you could just run your very successful company.
[01:01:20.420] You can make tons of money and people could think, oh, Drupal is just, you know, it’s a a failed competitor to WordPress and ultimately, like, it doesn’t it doesn’t really matter.
[01:01:33.260] Like, maybe you were never in a position where a Drupal word Drupal made sense. And so you might think that this is why I started using Drupal, because I erroneously thought it would be a good idea for for just a random person setting up a website. It’s not WordPress is the best option for that. If you have a really complicated Web site, that’s where Drupal is appropriate.
[01:01:56.720] And so that’s why you see like like university Web sites are like big organizations like the U.S. government, Web sites, places like that. Those are the ones that use Drupal. And so and, you know, they have like all this super complex functionality. But that means ultimately that they don’t become a household name because they are only they have a relatively they have a niche, but it’s huge, right?
[01:02:23.700] It can still let them be acquired for two billion dollars. I think it was two billion dollars. That might be wrong about that. It was huge.
[01:02:30.120] Yeah, but it’s and it’s interesting, too. Yeah.
[01:02:32.400] Like you, we I see this positioning in marketing as well as like the careful thing of, you know, what is it if you say it’s for creating websites like you’re going to have a real tough road. You know, if you say it’s it’s an enterprise grade CMW based on the most widely adopted and broad open source ecosystem, we’re like, oh, OK, cool.
[01:02:58.470] So a legitimate CM’s now I know it’s a different use case and they start to then map the use cases in their mind of like oh versus yeah I want to go set up so I don’t want to go to Wick’s and set up my website, you know, let WordPress looks like it may work for me.
[01:03:13.380] OK, yeah. Drupal is not the thing that you just like set up on Blue Host and start your personal blog on the thing. But yeah, for the the more complex setups that it is. And so in the startups that I often work out there, they also get really hung up on this. And then you ask like, so how many, how many customers do you want to sign this quarter?
[01:03:34.680] And they’re like five. And you’re like so far, like, that’s not very many. I mean, you don’t have to go after a huge market in order to to sign five.
[01:03:47.670] Yeah, this is not time to be buying mailing lists. You’ve you’ve got a fairly niche area. What’s the with the flow is going to be much different.
[01:03:55.860] Right. And you’ll end up being much more likely to hit that five if you’re going after a market that only has five hundred people in it because you can speak directly to them and they’re going to listen. Whereas if you know you’re going after like a five million people, I mean, how do you even like.
[01:04:15.730] No, you don’t. You’re not people are going to ignore you.
[01:04:18.960] That’s that’s when they think that you’re a spammer. But if you speak directly to their their needs and, you know, like.
[01:04:28.580] Salaries and financial services institutions like you. Oh, OK, yeah, that’s me.
[01:04:35.750] Now this will be interesting, too, because you’ve got a good background in you. You you came from tech journalism and you’ve you’ve obviously got some really good strength and you’re fantastic writer. By the way, I read a disturbing amount of your content in preparation for our discussion and listening to a lot of your podcasts.
[01:04:53.690] So I had the easiest job of coming into this hour. I was like, Emily is going to be able to run on anything. This is fantastic.
[01:05:01.790] But I’m curious on your thought on what the role is of journalism, you know, literally today relative to when you were in it versus like it was very different in like PR went to certain, you know, key journals.
[01:05:17.900] And then you got I think now it’s I just find so different. I’m curious, as somebody who lived in the inside, what’s your sense of the place of tech journalism today? Right, oh, I was about journalism in general, I was going to say I’m super cynical, as most journalists probably are.
[01:05:37.460] Yeah, but I’m actually less cynical about tech journalism. So I actually have two degrees in journalism from Columbia, another one from a university in France and a journalist I approached very differently in Europe because I’m talking about sort of general interest journalism, because in general, in the US journalism journalists are encouraged to like claim to be totally neutral on everything, which I happen to think is bogus because we’re all human beings and we all have opinions. Yeah, in Europe, that is not how journalists operate.
[01:06:18.740] It’s not how news organizations operate. So you would have like a newspaper and this is the newspaper of the left or this is the newspaper of the Catholic Church. And they they don’t pretend that they’re totally neutral.
[01:06:34.190] So this relates to tech journalism, because I think my my less cynical ness about tech journalism is that in general, I think tech journalists are more like that.
[01:06:47.240] So they’re more they’re a little bit more open about, you know, where we take money from these companies, for example, these are advertisers.
[01:06:58.310] It’s it’s very it’s very clear. And I think what I do want to say about about tech journalism in general, and I’m not actually totally out of tech journalism, so I write for the new stack and I do so in a in a journalist capacity.
[01:07:14.390] And one of the reasons that I do is because it I learn so much.
[01:07:19.910] And I think the biggest misunderstanding among founders about tech journalism is that that the journalists who cover technology and who who cover particularly like opensource cloud, native stuff like that, they are really knowledgeable and they understand the ecosystem. Honestly, I think that they understand it better than anybody else because this is their their job is to talk to people from everywhere, to talk to end users, to talk to all the different vendors, to talk to the super big guys, to talk to the super little guys, to talk to investors.
[01:07:59.470] So they are they are really knowledgeable and yeah, speaking of like the no bullshit theme, journalists also tend to be like pretty no bullshit. But definitely when you talk to a tech journalist, like they they’re able to spot the bullshit like really easily. And the not just they might not spot like if you if there’s, like, something in your technology that doesn’t work, like they’re not generally engineers themselves, they won’t get that. But if there’s something about your business or your messaging that doesn’t make sense, they will definitely pick up on that.
[01:08:36.520] I as somebody who’s had to do the dance of, you know, going into PR and like going out and doing launches and interviews, it’s so funny because I’ve and one fellow I always enjoyed chatting with and it was painful every time Simon Sharwood, he worked for the register or he wrote for the rest of these independents as well.
[01:08:58.120] And yeah, I remember going to one time and we changed the version number of the product and it was like this.
[01:09:04.240] It’s like a fairly small thing, but it went from like five nine to six zero.
[01:09:10.690] And, you know, he says, so why is the six to eight zero? And I didn’t really know the right way to tell them because five, we ran out of numbers and like, this must be what I’m like.
[01:09:23.530] I knew the implication of a major no change. I was like, oh, Sirene, you’re going to make me say this stuff that it just happened, that we ran out, that we couldn’t be five. But and my engineering team were like, we’ll make it five, ten. And like, you know, that’s five one five one zero five times, not five, ten.
[01:09:41.650] There’s no five. Ten.
[01:09:44.470] But that was that, you know, Simon just said it’s he’s like, I’m I want to get right to this. What matters? Why is this a zero? And I was like, oh, cool. You know, so he picked up that as a customer. They’re going to see like, oh, this is a major release. This is going to be a significant change. Tell me why. And it was neat. And Alex and the team from the new stack up and a huge fan of that of the whole organization from the start.
[01:10:09.580] So it was like a glory day when I went to I presented on Carbonetti at the Open Stack conference in Boston. And and there was a fellow just like chuckling away in the front during my presentation, I was like, all right, I feel like I’m doing good. Like I’m engaging the audience. And then I saw the ad, the article the next day in the new stack and I was in there.
[01:10:30.130] I’m like, yeah, I feel like I hear that I made the news.
[01:10:33.780] But Alex has done a fantastic job of going from purely independent writers, talking about technology in an ecosystem that he and his team cared about to be able to cross the chasm to being commercially viable, but maintaining journalistic, you know, integrity. So it’s very clear this is a sponsored post, but maintains that very good content in a sponsored post. He doesn’t let it become a commercial. And I think that’s where, like you said, there’s a no B.S. factor of like I’m not just going to let you come in and say, you know, what would make this drink better if it was built by this company, you know, on this technology, like, there’s no room for that.
[01:11:18.040] And Alex and his and the new stack are a great example of folks that. Make sure they keep that nice hard line. Yeah, definitely, and you’re right on, I think, you know, tech journalists, they and this is where positioning comes in. I mean, that you really want to, like, tell them what the value is like. Why does this matter? And it’s you know, unfortunately, it’s a thing that I think a lot of companies get wrong because they they’ll send an email.
[01:11:46.200] We’re releasing a new version and its version, you know, six point one point three point five. And it’s I’m like, I don’t care why I should care.
[01:11:58.540] And the fun part is, of course, because you have to pass out an hour conversation or a 20 minute conversation and then get it to a few meaningful bytes that matter.
[01:12:06.670] And I remember it also. It’s fun. Beth Parisotto, she’s also a great writer. And and I talked with her for like an hour on Carbonetti stuff. And we go through this whole thing into the end.
[01:12:16.600] The quote that comes in the article was like, Carbonetti is on virtual machines is like a gateway drug to Cubanos on bare metal.
[01:12:22.800] I like you say it almost as a throwaway, but you’ve got to remember when microphones are on, everything’s live and everything’s on the record. And it was it was fine. Like I said it for a reason. It was it wasn’t meant to be like, I hope she doesn’t write this, but every once in a while I’ll say something.
[01:12:38.380] And then my my PR team, you see their eyes go their eyes wide, not be like, oh, did I just say something that like hopefully they don’t catch that quote in there.
[01:12:49.980] But in journalism school, when I took classes in radio, they would say, like, you never turn off your mic. You would say, like, OK, we’re done.
[01:12:58.780] You’d like take off your headphones, but you would keep your mike because people would always say, like the the interesting or sometimes incriminating thing when they erroneously assume that your mic was your recorder was not running.
[01:13:15.850] Yeah, I tell you, that’s and I’ve always got an incredible respect for the true art of journalism, you know, and in that thing of like, yo, are we off the record?
[01:13:25.720] And it’s the whole like when I read more and like like delved into how that works and the idea of deep background and how it’s like there’s so much to real journalism that unfortunately is is just shaded by what we call media and that it’s really been broken.
[01:13:48.190] But the real true journalists, you know, the journalists out there and the principles and practice of it are are fantastic and so necessary.
[01:13:58.450] But, you know, the world has kind of shifted in a weird way of, you know, it becomes, you know, see the twenty three things that his gym trainer would doesn’t want you to hear about AB exercises or whatever.
[01:14:08.800] Like it becomes this weird Outbrain articles that are on mainstream media sites and it gets really lost in the power and importance of that journalism.
[01:14:18.520] And I think possibly another reason why I’m so interested in positioning, actually, is that journalists specialize. And this to an extent that, for example, developers generally don’t like developer developers, I think often make the mistake of thinking I’m a developer and I write software and I could work at any company and it doesn’t matter what industry and whatever.
[01:14:42.790] So journalists almost always specialize in something. And you want this because their job is to explain, to know what’s important and what isn’t and to really understand, you know, a particular subject. So, yeah. So I have always thought that it’s really important to to really be a specialist and in something and and that applies to products too.
[01:15:07.000] Yeah. It’s and it’s funny if you look at it, I mean it’s positioning, it’s positioning in every way. Right.
[01:15:15.010] Are you going to write for illusional or lemonde like which is the one you very distinct audiences, very specific demographics if you’re not aware and then same as developer like sure, you can be a you know, a journey person developer who can do write fantastic code and do all that stuff.
[01:15:32.530] But if you’re if you want to be specialized, if you want to really succeed, it’s about knowing how to map it to business requirements, how to relate it.
[01:15:41.560] How do you engage with customers as you’re building features and exploring stuff and user experience?
[01:15:47.650] There is much more that requires that knowing your customer and you know, it’s effectively positioning of everything.
[01:15:55.390] Yep, exactly.
[01:15:57.280] Oh, this is I could talk to you all day and this has been fantastic. And I want to thank you very much.
[01:16:03.430] And for folks that do want to connect with you through various means, of course, I’ll all have the link to your website. You can go to Emily Omeir dot com and what’s the best way if they want to do engage with you on on social media and also plus, go check out Emily’s podcast and and your blog said.
[01:16:21.560] Great writer, if you just if you search for Emily Omeir, there’s a wealth of content that comes up on Google because you’re a very prolific creator and it shows in in how well you approach this. You’re everything you do.
[01:16:35.280] Yeah. So let’s see. So my podcast is called The Business of Collaborative. And the goal is to sort of interrogate why companies use cloud native technology, what end users say, what people in the ecosystem say, etc. And you can go to the business of cloud native dotcom and actually redirect you to my website. But it’s if you have trouble spelling my last name and also my blog positioning open source, you can go to positioning open source dotcom that will send you in the right direction.
[01:17:10.230] I am pretty active on LinkedIn and unless you send me like a spammy connection request, I will probably accept it. And so, yeah, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. One of my goals for this year is to set up and be active on Twitter. I think I have an account, but I am not sure.
[01:17:32.560] So yeah, but my, my LinkedIn, I always, I always enjoy when somebody because I have an open policy I set up on LinkedIn because I also I use it as a broadcast channel. So a lot of stuff goes out in there. So I’m like, you feel bad. I’m like, hey by the way, I’m accepting your connection, but you just became my audience and but you know somebody you’ll get that inbound.
[01:17:55.200] And I just look at the like the title or, you know, what the company is. I’m like, guys, I know what’s coming. You hit accept. And then like nine minutes later, you know, hey, thanks for connecting.
[01:18:07.200] You know, one of the challenges that people face is being able to write good whiteboard videos on their product and we solve that problem.
[01:18:14.280] And I’m like, OK, I’m going to make a whiteboard video to reply to these people on how to do better prospecting.
[01:18:21.760] Yeah, a lot of people make the a lot of the spammy types. I think they make the assumption that I, like, work inside a company. And so they’ll talk to me about, like managing my team or something that I might do. This is this is not this is actually not a problem that I have as an expert operating cloud native environments.
[01:18:43.710] You clearly know. Exactly. Exactly.
[01:18:47.820] And I know you probably get this thing if you’ve ever seen the movie Boiler Room, it’s it’s one of the scenes this fellows like this crazy, you know, aggressive sales person, he learns these techniques and someone calls from The New York Times like, how can I would you like a subscription to The New York Times?
[01:19:05.550] And he’s like, No, thanks, I’m good.
[01:19:07.350] I get the post, whatever. And they’re like, OK, thank you for your day.
[01:19:10.650] And he goes, well, that’s it. And and he then goes for like twenty minutes, like schooling them. Like you got to go for the clothes, like ask for their business, you got to do this like entice them. What do they really want. Do you want the post. You want this. Do you, what do you want to light up your days like. And the guy gets all fired up. He goes excellent. He goes so it’s like a script, you know.
[01:19:29.220] But when someone pitches you, you almost want to reply like, OK, do I need to coach you how to do this?
[01:19:36.030] Like we can. You can do better. I’m disappointed. Yeah.
[01:19:40.770] So to go on a personal tangent, I’m getting certified to be a foster parent and the as like a marketer or I guess I’m not really a marketer anymore. But anyway, there’s this like it’s a bazillion step process, but I’m always like, oh, you guys need to work on your funnel and no wonder you have no foster parents like, oh my God, it is it’s really wild.
[01:20:07.050] And and thank you for doing that. That’s a really noble thing.
[01:20:11.220] You know, it’s something that we it’s a it’s not often understood the impact it can have and and how difficult it is to start the process.
[01:20:21.480] You know, people just think like, oh, you just, you know, go sign a form and do it like, no, this is not an easy thing. There’s no license to have kids. Fact. It’s it it happens far more accidentally than it does on purpose. And then when you want to go out and specifically, you know, bring a bring a child into a family, you know, it’s it’s not an easy process for many good reasons, of course.
[01:20:43.470] But it’s at the same time you’re you’re like, what?
[01:20:46.710] Can I not shorten the cycle on this here? I’m a I’m a good I’m a qualified lead. Right.
[01:20:52.290] Exactly. Exactly. I do it. That’s exactly what I want to say. Like, hey, I’m a qualified lead. Like, let’s let’s let’s move move through this process a little bit. No, in all seriousness, it is it is quite a process. So they’re coming to my house next week. Well, well, good luck.
[01:21:07.980] And on that. And I hope it goes as smoothly as it can go. I’ve got a few friends that also foster and it’s yeah. Not not a simple process which shows the intent and how strong it is that. You do have to go out of your way to make this happen, so it’ll, you know, the results will show and what it is. But yeah, here here you go. Was like, okay, look, I’m a qualified lead.
[01:21:30.360] You’ve got access to the EB. I’m your technical champion.
[01:21:33.240] I got everything. You know, I am the decision maker.
[01:21:37.860] We know the required capabilities. We know the ineffective alternatives. We’ve got it all right here.
[01:21:44.550] But making for Fosters, it’s is something we need. But I hope that people really do learn that there’s so much that’s important in what you do and what we all can do to just understand why this stuff works.
[01:21:57.870] And it happens at many layers in life and business.
[01:22:01.890] Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for having me on the podcast. This is a great discussion.
[01:22:06.000] Yeah, thanks very much. And shout out again to Chris over at mist.io for putting us together. Big shadow to Alex in the new stack and all the folks over there who I’m a longtime fan of their content. And yeah, like I said, people can go to do a quick search for Emily Omeir. You’ll see the new stack pop up and do check it out as well as your blog. Thank you.
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Leon Kuperman is the CTO and Co-founder of Cast.ai. He’s a Technology Executive with 20+ years of experience in product management, software design and development all the way through to production deployment.
Our conversation spans everything from the challenges of Kubernetes, multiocloud, K8s operations, Kubernetes on the cloud, building enterprise software, distributed teams, and a ton more. Lots of great lessons in here.
Thomas Graf is the CTO and co-founder of Isovalent as well as a long time open source contributor to numerous projects. Linux kernel, BPF, networking, containers, security. He also previously Linux kernel developer at Red Hat and shares a ton of great info on the challengs of security and networking in Linux and Kubernetes as well as how he and his team have built a business on open source technology.