Marketing innovative products with Dario Perez, Sr Global Product Marketing Manager at Expedia
This podcast episode is for all B2B marketers who have an undisputedly incredible product. One that cuts through mainstream technology products and questions longstanding legacy systems.
Dario Perez, Sr Global Product Marketing Manager at Expedia Group, shares his take on marketing these products, including content, customer segmentation, funnel marketing and starting with research-backed positioning.
Listen to the full episode here:
And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here!
Hello everyone and welcome back to the FINITE Podcast, where today I have the pleasure of being joined by Dario Perez. Dario is senior product marketing manager at Expedia Group, working on the FinTech and payment side of the business in the B2B space. Expedia, you might know mainly as a B2C brand, but obviously as a marketplace they have a B2C and a B2B side, and Dario has a lot of experience working in very innovative disruptive businesses, including Ubico in Spain, and also spending some time in product marketing working for Revolut here in the UK, also on the B2B side. And we're gonna be talking all about marketing innovative and disruptive B2B products. Hope you enjoy.
Before we continue with the episode, I'd like to give a quick shout out to our partner Terminus, the only account-based engagement platform built to deliver more pipeline and revenue through multichannel account-based marketing as the only native multi-channel marketing platform. Terminus helps you convert target accounts through orchestrated campaigns using personalized advertising, email signatures and chat bots. Visit terminus.com to learn why doing effective at scale means better marketing.
Hello, Dario, welcome to the FINITE Podcast.
Hi Alex, how are you? Nice to meet you.
I'm very good and you. Thank you for joining. I'm looking forward to talking. You are a very experienced marketer in lots of different ways. I know we're gonna be talking about marketing cutting edge B2B products and asking you some interesting questions on the subject. Before we do that, as we always do, I'll let you tell us and our listeners a little bit about yourself and your background.
Sure. So I'm Dario, I'm senior marketing manager for fintech payments at Expedia Group. So I've worked in B2B marketing for over 10 years in innovation in one way or another, in some roles closer to sales, roles closer to the growth marketing function or the development function. So I started working with B2B marketing in my career, like working for more traditional brands like the German car maker, like Mercedes Benz. Then some years later, I took like a big professional shift into tech. I always like to say that for me it was tipping point and I really felt at that time that I was missing out on the tech innovation. So in tech I wanted to work for companies that were disrupting their own industry. So that's why I took a senior role to lead the marketing team in Spain for Ubico, which is a very fast growing French car sharing platform that was disrupting mobility and the car rental market at the time, and had been very successful in France. So they wanted to expand into the rest of Europe so operating car sharing solutions focussed on SMEs and also solution for large enterprises to reduce their corporate fleets and also to reduce their carbon emissions. That was very interesting and more lately I work as marketing manager for their business offering. So this is one of the largest UK FinTech companies with over 20 million customers and it aims to disrupt the industry. And currently at Expedia I market for our more than a million partners across the globe. So I mainly take care of three areas in marketing, which is our customer research strategy, positioning, messaging, and go to market for my portfolio.
Very interesting. I think most people will probably know Expedia probably more as a consumer brand, booking travel and searching, that kind of thing. Tell us a bit more about the B2B offering.
That's interesting because as we always say, as a platform company, a marketplace company, we have what we call supply on demand. You know, you always are on the demand side as a consumer, but in order to offer you a good supply, we need to work very hard through marketing and like a global network of colleagues that they're always looking for more partners. When we say partners, we're talking about hotels, also vacation rentals because they have like a big portfolio businesses. We also have offer software solutions for travel operators. So our portfolio is super, super wide. So obviously we have dedicated products to help these partners and this business on their day to day operations. And sometimes we bring them the traveler, but we also need to make sure that experience is good, that they have the tools to serve them throughout the journey and that's what we look after FinTech and payments, which obviously for partners to get paid and to be able to manage payments and their finances is something very important.
Yeah, definitely. And Expedia is, I assume, pretty big overall, like thousand tens of thousands of employees. I'm not sure how big…
Now we're over 15,000 employees. We're a truly global company. We have big, big hubs here in London and we're also in Seattle, which is our headquarter and in Austin. But yeah, we have offices all around the world again cause we also have sales team very close to the partners and they come from you all over the world. So it's truly global. We have over 140mil customers and as I say over a million partners.
Yeah. Very cool. And just quickly give us a sense of the marketing organisation within Expedia. I mean a company of this size, it's always interesting for our listeners to hear how a team is structured, but I assume there's a CMO at the top somewhere, but then global marketing teams all over the place?
Exactly. So it's pretty global, so we don't have regional teams, which always helps when we do go to market strategies always. For me it's easy because I cover all the countries of the markets. But I'm part of the marketing function within what we call the Expedia for business division, which looks after the partners, but we also also work very closely with the consumer marketing team. Because obviously some products are double side products, right? They help both consumers and businesses.
Very cool. Well let's dive into talking a bit more about marketing cutting edge products. Maybe let's set the scene by talking about what we actually mean when we talk about cutting edge disruptive products. What are we talking about? What makes a B2B product cutting edge and disruptive?
Yeah, so I mean for me for what makes it innovative is that it exists to solve a problem that is probably not new. It's a product that already existed, but the product comes in to solve it in a different way or from a different perspective using the latest technology. So for me as a marketer, this means that the customer adoption of the product is always gonna be progressive. You know, it's gonna come with a maturity cycle that is gonna go all the way from the early adopters to the more traditional companies that are more reluctant to adopt, but they will end up doing it at some point in this maturity cycle. So that's a big part of it. The big difference with more traditional products that can go to the mass market also, like the target audiences of innovative solutions usually require much more educational and onboarding efforts, either through content or thought leadership or sales enablement. So the audiences can truly understand the key benefits of the product, which is probably something new to them, so they never heard about it and how it can help them in their businesses.
And tell us a bit about some of the cutting edge products you've worked with throughout your career. I mean, you mentioned a few during your introduction it sounds like, Ubico, am I saying it correctly? Is one of them. But yeah, it's interesting cause I think a lot about, we see some products that are solving problems that people didn't even realise that they had to some extent. You know, it's a very educational buyer journey because you're almost defining a whole new category and then you've got products at the other end of the spectrum, which everybody knows about the problem. The challenge has existed for a long time, but actually it's just a better product. But I guess it sounds like you've worked across both of those ends of the spectrum.
It's interesting because I work for very different industries, but at the end of the day I found a lot of commonalities on the way to approach the market because again, they were like probably very new resolutions to established businesses. So I think the best examples are probably like Ubico, which is a customer platform, so you have the possibility to rent a car by the hour instead of days. The cars are located near offices, you have a corporate account, so you just go to the car, open the car with the app and drive, so the car rental market already existed for businesses and employee also grab a taxi or to visit a client. But the product gives every business owner a cheaper, more convenient solutions to technology. It solves an existing problem, the need for business mobility in the big cities. And also reducing business costs. Obviously that's a common theme no matter the product, like for SMEs in particular, reducing cost business is always a common need, right? And same for the business offering. We gave a fully business bank account product, you can do international banking or give a corporate card to your employees, automatically manage expenses or even manage payroll, more solutions all in one platform. So this is addressing multiple SMS pain points. These businesses end up reducing the cost from using different retail banks and even other business because you have it all in one, right? So again, its same old problems. So running a business so differently to the latest technology. And another very important aspect is like always super user experiences. When you ask a customer of all the products in the past, it's not just the product itself, it's also how seamless and great experience of using it is, right? So obviously something that the big companies find harder to catch up with is experience, right? You think of your bank app, you understand what I mean?
Yeah, yeah. It's interesting cause in theory it's your categories defined. There is an audience, there's demand as you say, like lots of people need a bank account, lots of people need to rent a car. You know that there is demand for that, but you're really saying you're doing it better, you're operating better, you're offering a better user experience, and you're doing it more innovatively.
So personally I think that's a much more interesting space to play in rather than trying to come up with something completely unique where people don't even realise that they need the product that you're creating, but then it's much more competitive, right? Like, there's no shortage of business bank accounts, there's no shortage of car rental companies. So I guess each have their own pros and cons. But yeah it's interesting to hear that perspective. Cause I think if you can operate better and outperform then what a great place to be. I guess Revolut was a great example of that, right? In terms of there's no industry that needs disrupting more than banking and Revolut definitely having a good go.
Yeah, I think that's why Revolut and the monsters of the world, they found their product market fit very quickly in the market. Cause with even a very simple solution they're outperforming the retail banks with technology.
Yeah. And so what do you think is the first step in taking something like this to market and marketing a more cutting edge product? Cause as we've talked about the audience is there, I guess it's defined. Is that the best place to start?
Yeah, so for me the first step is always to find who are your early adopters, what key essential problem your product addresses and from which customer segment these problems are the most painful. So that's first, and as I said before, this is what we call the product market fit, right? This is very important to find it as a first step. Cause I've worked in the past, I've seen companies launch a product to the market, think that it helps with a particular problem to a particular audience. But this has not previously been very well researched. And they realised later in the process that the problem wasn't that big of a problem to this audience, or at least they're not willing to pay for it. And thought it finally doesn't fly. With product market fit, that doesn't mean the product is not good, but maybe the problem that is trying to solve is not that big of a problem or that price sensitive companies are willing to pay for it. So you don't find the grow, the natural growth that you need to find to scale. And then once you identify potential customers, you can learn from them what works, what doesn't. And then also help the product teams. So that's a very important part of the role of managers, to help the team to adapt and the solution to be able to sell it to a wider customer segment. And then the biggest challenge is always how to effectively approach these new segments with something that is likely unfamiliar to them. If the product is truly innovative you need to hit them with the value proposition and messaging that really resonates with them. And that's easy to understand, because the solution is pretty new and innovative, but it's sometimes not easy to get that message across. So for me that's the real challenge of B2B marketing. How to truly differentiate in a market full of similar solutions. Obviously you're never going to be the first one, you'll have many other coming after and replicating what you've done and how to get the right audience attention and make them come to you to learn more about the solution.
I know you believe that it's important to stay focused on challenges. I guess is that pain points, challenges of the customers? Is that a good way of gaining that early traction when it comes to messaging?
Yeah, definitely. I think simplification is something that seems easy and it's not, so I think we always found, especially I spend a lot of time doing research, and you can have data, have so many insights, a lot of data, so much feedback. It's very difficult to cut through, and to really say I'm gonna focus on these two key things that I need to focus to really build an effective positioning. And that process is never easy. Because especially sometimes the teams come to you and the company comes to you and says we need to market this product. Cause it helps you with expenses, but then have you really spoken to enough customers to understand how they really struggle with expenses, for example. So for me, that's the most important thing, when to be super talent focused and being able to market effectively.
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How important do you think content and thought leadership is in this space? I mean, I guess as we talked about earlier, especially for newer products that people don't know much about with much more educational buyer journeys, I think content can play a key role. But content can play a role across every buyer journey. But in this disruptive space, how important do you think it is?
So I mean, well crafted content is one of the strategies I always found throughout my career to get potential customers attention. Good content is crisp, easy to consume, easy to understand, creative in a way, it always offers you proof points. Something that we always try to incorporate in all the assets and how it basically can help your audience. So are you telling me that I can save money on transfers? How much can you save me? Or managing expenses... okay, how much and how is it gonna help me on my day to day? Give me those proof points to understand how it's personalised to the audience. And compelling content has proved for me to be the most effective assets in lead gen campaigns and it applies to the entire channel mix again with thought leadership pieces of content, I always recommend maybe even creating a video, sometimes like 30 seconds to one minute video summarising all the key information for that from that piece or takeaways.
So, there's always customers who don't want to read the whole thing. The more thoughtful and insightful the content we can provide, always trying to include proof points, the better. I know this might sound obvious, but many companies tend to look and think about themselves too much and too hard. So they end up creating content that is sometimes too heavy or even tiring to consume because the company thinks that the products are great and they're the best thing to read about. But they're often not. So, more detailed content can come farther down the funnel. You will need write detailed content to explain the product but definitely not at first.
I was gonna ask actually about a bit of a subquestion on this. Do you recommend splitting content based on funnel stage? Because I think a common problem we come across is marketers get a bit overwhelmed with content and they try to produce content that caters to everything. It's like top of funnel, SEO, creative, and I think sometimes content can be spread so thin it loses its value because it's not solving a particular problem or talking to someone at a particular stage in the journey. Do you have any tips or advice on how to segment content or how to break it down by stage of funnel or stage of buyer journey or that kind of thing?
I always recommend to at least to keep it super crisp and simple at the top of the funnel. Again, you're trying to get people's attention and as we're consumers as well of SaaS software, I get a lot of inputs for SaaS companies myself. So, you you need to make it super, super crisp and straightforward at first, then you can have a middle stage, you can at least have more space and explain at least the main key value proposition and key benefits of the solution. And then you have the final, which is when you have already engaged, you then you can share a white paper. So I'm interested in the solution, I wanna lean even more into the space and again, proof point how that solution is going to help me in particular in my day to day business, and not being too general how is this going to help me? So maybe obviously if you have a sales enablement person or a sales team then you can even do one on one interactions, but that's not always the case.
Yeah, makes sense. We always like to dig into challenges people have had across their careers, particular roles that they've had. Maybe you can talk to some of the challenges you faced leading marketing in previous roles?
Yeah, so for me, obviously I was leading the team, the marketing, and we had a lot of ambitious target growth goals. So for me the biggest challenge was to approach such a wide range of business segments. So customer segments. So we're talking about like sme, smb, let's say a firm to a million size, marketing agency to a large enterprise like a bank. So then you have to develop the right marketing strategy, creating the right assets for each of the segments and cover all the channels to get to those segments, which, they're in different places. So that was very challenging, and especially with a limited startup budget. And so now I can say that my team were quite successful because we doubled the revenue for the company in one year basically, we mainly focussed on developing high quality content, quality assets, testing a lot of things to find what works best in a channel either offline or digital. And then fine tuning the right messages for the right audiences. It took us a while at first to get it right a couple of months later. Like we actually could have more like a lead generation engine working. But obviously you need to have that first data as an indicator of what you're doing is going in the right direction.
And what about segmentation? Cause again, with the Ubeco, with bank accounts for businesses, they're things that so many people potentially would use or need, and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. How much to slice your audience and how specific to get can almost be overwhelming when there's such a large total addressable market. What's your perspective on that?
Yeah, for me, obviously different segments would perceive your product in different ways and they probably think like another SaaS solution for me, a life changing tool for my business or another startup looking to grow and raise capital at my expense. And I always think when we would approach businesses, that's what they think and they don't relate to what our product is. So again, for well-crafted personas, we researched needs which is vital in the positioning process. So for me, positioning, first step research is super important, before I get to segmentation. I always like to say that we need to find what I call the customer entry points, which is like two to three key things that one segment cares about the most and that the solution can relate to. So if you find these entry points for each of the segments, getting your message across is much easier. I also like to compliment personas with customer archetypes, cause if, as you mentioned before, if you target a wide range of segments, you can end up with 10 different personas which is not manageable if you want to create assets for all of them. So you often find that no matter the industry or even the size of the company, they have common problems, businesses have common problems or challenges. So archetypes are like three, four clusters of customer segments that you can create by finding commonalities in the way they perceive you or the way they operate or the common needs or common pain points. For example, the cost savers or they growth seekers, the team builders. So depending on your product key benefits, you can assign to each of the archetype's a of attributes and being able to create tactics. And again, like simplifying like the amount of assets and the more storytelling that you need to create to get attention from them.
It sounds like you've worked in a number of businesses where you've got potentially quite a lot of customers. I know the whole B2B world is becoming a lot more account based marketing focus generally. There's a big theme trend there, particularly driven by technology and technology making it easier to scale ABM. But do you think you can do targeted demand gen when you can't do full one to one? I mean, it probably flows from the importance of segmentation to begin with, but I guess it doesn't make sense from a cost of acquisition perspective to do one to one for a Revolut customer, for example. But you still need to be targeted. So yeah, how do you view that side of things?
Yeah, again, this is a challenge that you find in most startups or a small companies that don't have large sales or account management teams. So, you need to make sure that the customers have to self onboard into your product. Like Revolut, so you have to not only get the segmentation right, but I also that everything is clear that you from a marketing perspective, like everything is exactly clear beginning to end, that you see on LinkedIn or to the sign up flow, you have to make sure that every message and every asset is consistent. It's clear and conveys the value proposition. I know something that should be, but is most times not, that's kind of the role of marketing in this case to step in and say we need to change the sign up flow because the message, the information we're giving is not the same as the one they saw on the app store information. So make sure that's consistent. Especially so customers don't get frustrated when they don't find the value they expected. And again, this will benefit revenue, you'll see how if you do this process persistently over time and you take care of the funnel, you'll have more opportunities to upsell and longer term engagement and definitely mps.
I'm gonna skip a question and ask you the last question. It's always nice to finish on a bit o career focused, here's someone's story. You've obviously progressed through a number of really interesting roles. Some big businesses and now senior product marketing manager. I know there's a lot of demand for product marketing talent in the market at the moment. Maybe you can finish by telling us a little bit about how you became senior product market manager at Expedia, and how all of your past experience added up.
Yeah, actually we're looking for quite a few pro marketers at Expedia. So check out our career space. So yeah, I mean Expedia, they were looking for experience marketing in FinTech. I knew the company was a great place to work from colleagues and also payments is also becoming a fast growing area in all major tech companies. So I knew I could bring all my experience to the table. When I started to work in marketing years ago, I realized that actually all my previous experience over such a wide range of areas of the marketing mix, from being close to sales, to events, to marketing, were actually useful for the role of a product marketing manager. Because as the PMM is the bridge between sales and marketing, you actually need to understand the full funnel, from ideation to go to market and then being able to market it well, so everything I have done in the past, research projects, copy and content creation, growth campaigns, brand campaigns that were useful and valuable for the role.
Very cool. Well, yeah it's been a fascinating conversation. I think we're out of time. The big takeaway for me is probably actually thinking about research and the importance of really understanding an audience. I know it sounds so obvious, it almost sounds stupid when I say it, but I think it's a step that many marketers skip or miss out and it's easy to, it's easy to ignore it, particularly when you're in a smaller business with a tight budget. But just the value of really deeply understanding, investing in research, segmentation, all of that stuff and how powerful that can be. So thank you. You've given me some stuff to think about, which is great. But it's been a pleasure talking, thank you so much for sharing everything.
It was my pleasure and hope to see you again soon.
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