Alexa Scordato is the VP of marketing at Stack Overflow. Her company is an online community for programmers, and one of the tops sites in the world. They see over 45 million visitors per month, seven visits per visitor every month, and each visit lasts about six minutes. The main focus of the site is the Q&A, and there have been over 7.6 billion times that a developer found a solution on their site.
In Alexa’s presentation at ProductTank NYC, she talks about the importance of brand and marketing. She states that there are not enough conversations about the intersection of product and marketing. In fact, many product team members don’t even understand marketing at all. She hopes to help change that.
Understanding the “Why” of Branding
Alexa hates the cliche “everything starts with brand,” but she can’t help but emphasize its accuracy. Brand is about understanding your “why.” Articulating your core “why” as a business and organization is foundational to everything that you do.
When Alexa first started at Stack Overflow, the company’s name was actually Stack Exchange Inc. Their flagship product was Stack Overflow, and that was where all of their brand equity was. This prompted Alexa to ask whether they were in the business of making the internet a better place, one Q&A site at a time, or if they were in the business of serving the world’s programmers.
It took them nine months to answer that question. As they struggled with something of an existential crisis, they came to the conclusion that Stack Overflow was their core “why.” Things began to fall into place after that
Alexa describes their operating system, so to speak, for marketing at Stack. It is comprised of four parts, starting with brand. Many people assume that marketing is mostly just the external campaigns such as advertisements and social media, when marketing really starts internally with identifying the core brand.
Next, there is story book. Alexa explains that marketing, at its core, is about communication and effective storytelling. She says that there are three stories she wants her marketers to tell. The first, is that developers are writing the script of the future. As Marc Andreessen said, software is eating the world. The second story is that developers are inherently different. The third story is if you want to win at business, you need to work that much harder at winning over the developer audience.
The next part of Stack’s marketing operating system is product marketing. This, as Alexa says, is where the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, this is also where most companies fail. She explains that every company needs to ask itself three questions if they are to succeed in product marketing. First, why are they building what they are building? Second, who is it for? Third, what is the measurable business objective?
Alexa says, firmly, that if you can’t answer these questions, you need to stop. Companies often miss this step, which leads to marketing teams being left to try and market a product that isn’t of expected quality. In order to get everyone on the same page, the product team needs to start considering marketers as partners in the product development process.
The final part of the marketing stack is the moment of the product getting to the market. This involves two main teams. The B2B team focuses on the revenue bearing products, and the B2D (business to developer) team focuses on the community products, such as Q&A, developer documentation, and their job board.
Alexa ends her presentation stating three key points that she has learned while doing marketing at Stack Overflow. First, marketing is a critical part of the development process. Second, brand is foundational to everything you do. Third, ask yourself if you are considering the needs of your product marketers. You need great marketing in order to have great products.