• The SiriusStars blog series provides an inside look at how select high-performing clients use SiriusDecisions research and analyst inquiry to increase revenue, meet and exceed goals, and transform their organizations
  • In this edition, we feature Miriam Newton, VP global product marketing at Criteo
  • We spoke with Miriam about how she built the product marketing function at Criteo, the challenges she faced and advice she would offer to others embarking on a similar journey

SiriusStars is an exclusive community of high-performing and highly influential clients selected for their exceptional work leveraging and implementing SiriusDecisions research and advice. The SiriusStars blog series is designed to share the personal and professional world of your B2B peers. In this post, we spoke with Miriam Newton, VP global product marketing at Criteo.

MiriamNewtonSiriusDecisions: Take us through a typical day in the life of Miriam Newton.

Miriam Newton: We’re a cross-functional team and work with lots of different groups inside of the company. Oftentimes, I spend my days working across those different teams around planning or reviewing results of projects to see if we’re on track and collaborating on different initiatives. I’m in a lot of meetings. That would be the only thing my days have in common.

SD: I understand you built the product marketing function at Criteo from scratch. What provoked this initiative, and why was it important to the business?

Miriam: One of the biggest pain points when I first joined the company was, “We have no idea how to explain our offering to the market. No one gets it. Even internally we’re confused.” There was no understanding of what a feature or a product was. I like to use the analogy of a car. The way that the product managers were talking about it, a door handle would be a product, the seat would be a product, the steering wheel would be a product. But no one understood that together these things were really the car, and the car is the thing you want to sell and have the story revolve around. We had to first align on those definitions. Second, we had to do the hard work of figuring out how all these pieces fit together in a way that would make sense to somebody evaluating our offerings and then build all the product messaging from there. That was a big change for the organization. 

SD: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced? 

Miriam: When I first started, I was a team of one. I had to build the entire team. Initially, I had to drive all the alignment myself, and the product management organization was roughly 70 people back then. So that was a lot of people just within one organization that I had to drive alignment around and then also drive alignment with the marketing and sales teams. That’s a lot of people to bring along, not just around the alignment of the definitions and the framework, but also as we were starting to build out the messaging and then the overall story. We had to do a lot of enablement for product, marketing and sales, and across the broader company. 

Product and feature naming also was a big issue, because there was no one thinking about it holistically or from a customer perspective. The product managers had an opportunity to name it whatever they wanted and, in fact, one of our features was named after someone’s favorite DJ. It gives you a sense of why things didn’t make sense to customers or the external market and why the larger organization was completely confused.

Then we had to pivot our marketing so we could talk about benefits and the solution to a specific problem instead of just the features and how things technically work, which was where a lot of the organization was at that time.

SD: Where did you seek support to help you achieve this large goal?

Miriam: Some of that support was internal. I identified different folks and teams that could help champion and serve as ambassadors around our initiatives. We also consulted with SiriusDecisions on a number of different things as I was building out the organization and the product marketing foundations.

SD: What was the most unexpected thing you had to do as a part of creating the product marketing function at Criteo?

Miriam: I had to build the career framework for my function, because my function and the core framework didn’t exist. Once I started hiring people, I thought, “How do I set expectations consistently? How do I help my team grow? If they aspire to climb the ladder inside of product marketing, how do they know what kinds of skills are needed or where they could improve?” That was something I didn’t anticipate and never had done before. I did consult with SiriusDecisions quite a bit to make sure I was not missing anything that might be important. That was key with respect to building out my team and continuing to help coach and grow the folks who had been hired onto my team. 

SD: What are some key learnings and tips you would share with other marketing leaders on a similar journey?

Miriam: There was a conscious choice to decide what I wanted to do in that first year, because I wasn’t starting from ground zero. You’re really starting from negative one or two because there are a lot of legacy things the organization is used to doing when the function didn’t exist, and you have to unwind them. Trying to determine where to focus is really important, but it’s also difficult because there’s opportunity everywhere. Here are a couple tips:

  1. Do the product marketing foundational work. To be successful, you must really understand your market, your customers and your competition. Product messaging is only good when it connects to the person you’re trying to talk to. And you can’t do that if you don’t understand who you’re trying to talk to. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to take some shortcuts because the organization can be impatient.
  2. Hire a great team. You can’t do the work yourself. You have to hire really strong people. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to come from a product marketing background. But they should possess the core qualities and values you believe are going to make your team successful. 

SD: What sets SiriusDecisions apart from other partners you’ve had?

Miriam: I think SiriusDecisions does a really good job of trying to understand our plans and what I’m trying to accomplish. They are flexible when providing expertise, even if it’s outside of the specific area I’m typically engaged in. They’ve always provided solid research and frameworks that have stimulated a lot of great ideas and different ways of thinking. My team and I really appreciate those aspects of working with SiriusDecisions.

Explore the key trends that will help portfolio marketing leaders capitalize on opportunities and guide their planning efforts for 2019. Download the Portfolio Marketing Planning Assumptions Guide 2019