Discover the fascinating journey of a multifaceted marketing expert and director of integrated product marketing Ashley Faus from Atlasssian as we delve into her diverse roles, insights, and strategies. From being a product marketing director to a content strategist, storyteller, singer, actor, and baker, and writing for Time, Forbes, and Muse, this individual has experienced various turfs.
Read this interview, as she shares her valuable perspective and personal experiences in this evolving landscape of marketing, integration of AI, and leveraging social media for B2B software development.
Therefore, let’s explore her journey…
Well, singing, acting, or even baking are separate hobbies. Baking is something that I picked up during the pandemic. And I do these things completely from a fun perspective.
Talking about product marketing and content strategy, I take a holistic approach to understanding the audience journey. We think about how we sell them a product in a short period. We think about how we create solutions for people in the long run. This is where the intersection of content strategy and product marketing comes from a career perspective.
I’m amongst the few marketers who majored in marketing and then had a career in marketing. I graduated in 2008, and it was a big recession, so I didn’t get a fancy job with a fancy title.
I started working for a startup that was doing solar panels. The big thing it taught me was that I need to love the product. I need to love the problem, experience it personally, and feel it. Also, I already had a passion in that area.
That startup taught me I can fall in love with different problems. Something that I may not have felt before. For instance, to be in love with the audience. This put me on a trajectory for what I wanted to do as a marketer. So, I was not tunnel-visioned on a specific industry or company.
I was fortunate to work in aviation. I worked for a communication designer training firm and then pivoted into tech. I worked at two security startups before joining Atlassian. So, my Atlassian role has grown significantly over the six years. I’ve been very fortunate to be there and lucky to work on many different teams and products. I started corporate comms and brand communications from a content strategy and distribution standpoint.
After that, there was an opening in our Agilent Devops team on the product marketing side. I joined the team to help connect all the dots across the audience journey. I thought through a holistic approach to connect the dots, believe in an integrated way, and even connect different skill sets to manage teams with different skill sets.
The martech stack and landscape continue to grow. I think the biggest shift has been the barrier to entry, which is much lower for individuals and even for smaller teams. So, in the past, you had to do an entire Salesforce instance or work with the whole Adobe Suite. If you want to do creative work. It was a big expense. There were a lot of skill ramp-ups and a lot of potential for sprawl across that stack.
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Dealing with technical audiences is my day job, but it's true for marketers. If I learn every suite, there is a high entry barrier, which will be hard for smaller teams with the capability to adapt to tests and scale. I think newcomers from a design perspective like Canva and Figma have democratized design. I believe that there are a lot of offerings that are tiered now from people like Hubspot and smaller CRMs.
You know, blogs, landing pages, email providers, etc., each of these things are options to start small and then grow. The biggest shift is that the barrier to entry from a technology standpoint is lower for individuals in smaller teams. You can test, iterate, adopt, and even dive into the tools and features and follow associated practices to scale your team and its impact.
We use a lot of Atlassian tools. We also use Confluence templates that help us do our product launches. For example, we use Jira Work Management and Jira Product Discovery to prioritize different ideas and campaigns.
Once we have those prioritized with effort and impact, we then flow those into your work management. In some cases, we work through Jira Software across our team. From a tactical managing work perspective, we use many tools internally. We also use Atlas to update our leadership with all the updates, so we give them weekly and monthly updates on goals.
If there is any blocker from a work or management standpoint. We use several tools from a social media perspective to a research perspective from a customer and sales perspective.
From CRM-type tracking to a data modeling perspective, we use several tools for the actual core marketing campaigns, product marketing, project briefs, and more. For that, we use Confluence, a mix of our tools in the Jira family, and Atlas for leadership updates.
We have Agilent DevOps, which is where I sit. We have ITSM (information technology service management) and work management for our non-technical teams. So, we must think about HR, finance, marketing, and our entire portfolio in Agilent DevOps. It’s not just developers. It includes platform engineers, team leads, C-Suite CIOs and CTOs, and how they think across the organization.
It includes product managers, and in many cases, it provides product marketers because they are partnering with those technical teams to tell the stories. The biggest thing is thinking about that not just from the product standpoint but from the overall topic and audience standpoint.
How are these people relating to each other? What questions are they asking each other? So, for example, the partnership between product marketers and product managers, between product managers and engineering managers or engineers.
So, for instance, the product marketers are looking at the market. They are looking at the customer's needs. They are relaying that to the PMs and saying here’s what we think should be prioritized so that we can give back to the market, and they will adopt it.
PMs are then required to take all of that in their insights and data and say okay, here’s how we want to prioritize what we’re going to build, and then have to go to engineering and say we can make it.
This may be cool if you connect that and the engineers are like that. What you’ll miss out on are not customers' wants. If product marketers go out and just say, we’re going to sell these awesome things, but they haven’t connected back to say when it can be built, what is the priority roadmap, and if we can make it with good experience, there is no point.
All those things must be connected, but each person has a different role in the process, challenges, and pain points. So when we think about integrating marketing, each person has their role and is delivering within their craft.
My role is to look across those and ask what are these intersection points. What is the end-to-end story, and how do we connect that across each of those disciplines? Each of those pain points and solutions versus focusing specifically on demos for one product type, the roadmap for one very specific feature, or the CI/D pipeline.
I don’t think AI is replacing marketers. I think of AI as augmenting marketers. So, for example, I believe there are some great use cases around repurposing content in the past. You would have to put a transcript through a transcription tool manually, then sit there and try to edit it and make it flow.
ChatGPT or similar writing tools can turn content from an interview to long-form content. I think that’s great. It could take a long-form blog post and pull out 10 LinkedIn posts with key takeaways, key stats, or something similar.
I think that’s augmentation. Many people don’t want to do that work as it is mundane. AI frees you up to do a higher level of work.
Somebody has to give the original interview. Somebody has to have the initial thoughts. Let the humans do that, so let’s augment.
The other thing we’ve seen that would be great for helping is deciding on email subject lines. Like creating ten email subject lines for a particular type of content. Trying to say something new, helping with the landing page headers, multiple H2s, etc.
We can go through things from a human perspective and say these ten resonate, so we will riff on those to come up with the final three or five. So, I think AI is a great thought starter.
I think they can be awesome first drafters. If you give it original input regarding actually replacing humans, I don’t feel like I had a post on LinkedIn where I was calling out somebody who used AI to generate comments. It was so obvious, and it felt so disingenuous because I saw it as a notification. It just lined up all the way down the page. It was the same comment over and over. It’s almost like the personalization ticket tokens from email where it’s like, “Hi Ashley, companies like Atlassian use our tool daily”. So, you can tell when it's not genuine, and I think that’s something if you want to build trust. If you want to position yourself as a thought leader, brand, leader, or individual, you need to go for original stuff and give up all the mundane work to AI. However, do not delegate everything to it.
It’s just not there, and it’s also trained on many existing data. I saw someone the other day who said somebody has to create the training data, so I don’t think it will replace humans anytime soon.
Well, there are many AI tools available. And, yes, we have played around ChatGPT.
We’re working on many intelligence tools internally, so I have access to some sandbox tools like Atlassian intelligence, our public-facing offering for our customers and users.
From a social media perspective, there are AI tools like Jasper.AI. Even Grammarly works to highlight and incorporate style guides.
I would be hesitant to recommend many tools I haven’t used. I have played around with ChatGPT and Atlassian intelligence. Those are the ones from which I have seen some really interesting things. Rev.com is a great AI-powered tool for machine-generated transcripts and is incredible for creating the first fair draft.
Firstly, I think a marketer should never assume the customer's problems. Ensure you’re talking to the audience and asking them about the problem. I think sometimes, to be succinct and clear in our positioning statement, we get too high a level.
Everyone needs something seamless and wants visibility. However, with a disjointed tech stack or set of processes or communication methods across the teams, it goes high level, and the entire charade becomes about visibility and seamlessness.
The second thing would be being too entrenched in strategies that have worked in the past and unwillingness to test or try new things. It can be very scary. It’s not fun to see something fail, but the problem is that you don’t know if it will fail or don’t test.
Allowing experimentation in the timelines, especially if you’re talking about a brand new product to market, needs time to figure out. How does this message resonate with the audience? We might have a product market fit. However, if we get people in there, we see they are adopting the product. But, we struggle to get people to test new approaches.
Sometimes, you have to give it space to breathe, and it works. However, it takes a little time to get some momentum to learn this strategy. It's important to understand just because something worked in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it will work this time. Therefore, balancing those tried and tested tactics with the ability to test and improve is another big pitfall.
The final pitfall for product marketers is being too far from the product, with the assumption that the product team does what they are supposed to. They are going to build this over there, and they are going to throw it over the wall of product marketing and be like, “Hey, we launched the product, and now tell the people”.
Product marketers should be closely tied with product managers. This is how they can influence the strategy and share competitive, market, and customer insights to shape the product. I think these are the things,i.e., don’t assume the problem statement, be very clear, and have a balance between tried and tested strategies.
I think there are two key things. One is to bring your subject matter experts, executives, and leaders into an active space on social media. We’ve seen a lot of success with this.
When we’ve had our product managers, engineers, and product marketers giving product feedback on social media that is highly technical, it is effective. It’s giving product feedback and having an actual human engaging with them.
For instance, one can say hey, I’m a product manager on this product, and I would love to book a time to talk about this, or I’m an engineer, and this is how you troubleshoot this bug.
These things are more powerful than just a generic hello or thank you. So, I think this is the first thing to empower your people and not just say here’s an asset to copy and paste. It’s educating how different platforms work, helping customers find their voice, and giving them guardrails to know they can confidently post.
These people are not necessarily fluent in this skill set, so empowering them should be more than essential. It becomes a corporate show, so that’s the first thing. The second thing is understanding that each brand or sub-brand within the portfolio will have a different audience, a different voice, and a different style of engagement.
So again, you can’t plaster the same thing across all brand and product handles like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Each platform has its quirks; not every platform is right for a particular brand portfolio. I think that’s something many people need to learn, including consistency, to become a recognizable brand.
They become very stale because it’s stamped out across the platforms, and nothing unique or memorable holds you back from building a relationship with that specific audience. So, I would say having that flexibility and humanity across different handles as per the platform's requirement.
Again, there are some spoken and unspoken rules on each forum. We ensure that you adapt to what the venue and the audience require, not trying to force a specific set of brand guidelines similar to the brand book onto the audience or the platforms.
The first tip is to start with one platform where you know your audience is spending time before you expand to all the other platforms. If you spread yourself too thin, it’s going to be hard to create quality content. It will be hard to understand what works, and engaging with your audience will be hard.
The second thing is don’t just focus on engaging and having conversations. Usually, a focus, especially from a B2B perspective, is to broadcast. We have to post 20 times daily and tweet 10 times daily.
The thing to note is that are you responding to the comments? Are you amplifying your audience’s content? If there are other subject experts or influences in the industry. Are you engaging and amplifying their content or focused on posting your stuff?
The third thing would be to optimize in-feed engagement. This is more for the metrics. A lot of times, you’re talking with your teams that may be less savvy about social media. They’re like it’s all about click-through rate, where it’s all about referral traffic. This is not how social media works today.
It should be more about engagement, affinity, and awareness to measure many leading and lagging indicators, but CTR will lose the North Star metric for your platform. The platform doesn’t like you to click off-site. So, if that is your goal, you will struggle on social media.
I think it depends on the audience. I have seen many B2B accounts do well on Instagram but more from the perspective of building customer affinity.
I have not seen it work particularly well for deep-dive code reviews on Instagram. It is not generally what that audience is looking for, and that platform is not very well optimized. Small screens tend to be viewed primarily on mobile. I think it depends on, you know, optimizing for the visual images and showing the humanity behind the brand.
I think it does work well for things like corporate social responsibility or if there’s a non-profit element to a company. It’s great if you can showcase that from a recruiting perspective. However, I know some products are highly visual, so that they can show you product screenshots and things like that. But, generally, the Instagram audience looks more to be entertained rather than educated. They might be on LinkedIn or Reddit, where people say, let me go down to the bottom of the rabbit hole, but it won’t necessarily work for Instagram.
Well, we are watching it carefully to understand what’s happening. There have been many changes in terms of verified accounts. How much does it cost to be a verified account, or if it is a golden account for business?
Looking to understand the impact and the statement it makes. So far, we’ve been keeping an eye on it. We have been continuing to engage on Twitter. A lot of our audience is still there. However, we are watching that closely.
I think threads coming online last week were kind of a game-changer. It is something that we are looking at. We do have a threads account, and we’re trying to figure out a strategy to work in tandem with Twitter. How much of our audience would potentially jump from Twitter to threads? Is it a separate platform, or does it have a similar strategy? So we are thinking about that, and it is something in general.
When you are looking at social media platforms, understand what are the rules of engagement. How are those rules changing? Do you agree with those rules? What does your audience think about those rules? So, we are looking to make smart decisions about that as we think about it across all of our different handles.
There are a lot of metrics and KPIs. It kind of depends on what the campaign’s strategy is. I’ll clarify that I think we try to take a data-informed approach. We didn’t try just to say that the numbers went down, and then we completely changed the strategy.
The humans behind the screen had to do something. It could be a holiday, a data glitch, or anything else. So, you need to investigate those numbers. Take them and do the full analysis and understand the full picture. Try to understand the trends.
Sometimes, we see things where they drop month over month. Everything’s on fire, and it’s like it was December, and the whole world is taking a holiday. If we see something like that in organic entrances from a top-of-funnel perspective. Months like November and December are not concerning because a dip is expected. If we look back year over year and say it’s a bigger drop than last year or didn’t recover as much in January, then it is essential to consider that in the trend.
We look at monthly and weekly active user metrics to understand that people return to the product. Are they using it, or did we lose them? Some people sign up for an account and never return to the product that’s an activation issue that might be a hurdle in onboarding. Did the customers not understand how to set things up, or did they start using the product but didn’t return it? They dropped after two or three weeks, or may be they didn’t get enough value.
Maybe we need to give them templates. So, I think the biggest thing is to track and match those KPIs with the action. You will take it like it doesn’t help with some of this stuff. I see reams of data, and I’m like, what am I supposed to do with all of this? On the contrary, is it okay to know that we are losing entrances to the website, or are we going to start losing signups, which might be a leading indicator in a few weeks or months, depending on how long it takes for somebody to sign that we’re going to see an impact in sign up? It will show up in our weekly instances or monthly active users at some time. So the question is, where did we lose them? Did we lose them at onboarding? Or did we change something like the SignUp buttons or CTA buttons or something like that?
So, we look at several KPIs across the entire life cycle. From entrances to conversions to signups. Are they upgrading from standard to premium? Are they upgrading from free to standard? From free to premium? Why is all of that happening? How are those rates looking month over month, quarter over quarter, and year over year? Are we seeing them adopt new products? Are the accounts contracting or expanding so we can look at that across several different products and teams?
The first principle is curiosity about your audience and their pain points. Be curious about the market, the product, and the performance metrics. Be willing to investigate.
We have a play in our Atlassian team playbook called The Five Wise, and these are pretty standard principles. You see, with kids, it’s always like, “Why”.
Willing to ask those five whys across your audience, their pain points, the products, the metrics, and the market is the thing that will start to get you to that information.
I can teach you how to write, I can teach you SEO, and social media marketing. I can teach you how to put all those things together. But I can’t teach you how to be curious, so the biggest key is curiosity. All of the rest are marketing practices and tech. I can teach you marketing, but you can learn much because of your interest. And it is something that can’t be taught.
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