Episode 20: Developer Marketing with Micky Teng, Head of Product Marketing, Magic

This is The Marketing Hero podcast by ClearPivot, turning marketers into heroes.

Maia Wells:

Welcome to The Marketing Hero podcast. I'm your host Maia Wells. We are back after a hiatus to enjoy the end of the summer, and diving right in with an episode about product marketing. And more specifically, what it's like to market to developers. Today's guest is Micky Teng, Head of Product Marketing at Magic. And if you haven't heard of Magic before, it's taking a de-centralized approach to digital identity. And we'll talk more about what that means as we get into the interview. Micky is here and ready to share the secret sauce to finding great product marketers for your team. And we get into detail on developer marketing too. Micky Teng, welcome to the show.

Micky Teng:

Thank you so much, Maia, for having me very happy to be here.

Maia Wells:

Let's start out with a question that we like to ask all of our guests. What's your favorite part of your career, and how did you figure that out?

Micky Teng:

That's an amazing question. I think this is a great point to reflect on my career so far, and really my favorite part has been honing my craft and continuing to stay curious and open to new opportunities. I think that mindset has helped keep it really fun and exciting to take risks and really strive to get better each and every day. So one thing that I'm learning a lot today at Magic specifically is growing the team. And so as I look to sharpen my own skills, I really love to embrace opportunities to help others also sharpen their skills. So learning development is a big part of how I've grown my career so far, and I really love to pay it forward and help champion my team as we scale as well. And I think at the beginning of my career, I asked a ton of questions. I was really eager to absorb as much knowledge as possible. Whether it be about workplace dynamics, what types of roles are out there, and where I might want to specialize and go deeper.

And I think one memory that sticks out is really during my ad agency days at the very beginning, I remember picking up campaign briefs from the printer. And trying my hand at copywriting for instance, and pitching that to a creative director. And I think regardless of whether my words ended up in the final work, and often it did, which was really exciting. I think the process of flexing new muscles was such a thrill. And that's just one example that sticks out in my head about enjoying those little stretch goals at work. And then now that I get to be heading up a marketing team at a tech startup in hyper-growth mode, it's super exciting to grow myself, grow the brand, and create the runway for my team as well to grow in their careers. So I think that's a really awesome point of reflection I think that's helping to see the kind of unconventional path that I've taken, and then regardless of the role or the company or the industry, just that bias towards learning has been really, really exciting.

Maia Wells:

Yeah. It sounds like it has served you well. So it also sounds kind of like you were really focused on your own learning and development at the beginning of your career and now have kind of shifted into mentorship and helping others learn. Would you say that's kind of a fair assessment?

Micky Teng:

Yeah, that's exactly right.

Maia Wells:

So how are you putting your team together? I want to talk a little bit more about that because especially in the rapid growth startup world, it could probably be a lot of pressure to put together the right team quickly and all of that. What has that been like for you really just in the context of being in the startup world? And then I'd love to dive a little deeper on how to find product marketers for your team.

Micky Teng:

Yeah, that's an excellent question. I think for me, when I look at the opportunity areas for the brand to grow in the company at the stage that they're at, at Magic, we're an early stage company. We're a Series A funded startup, and really being thoughtful about what roles would add to the team, what are the needs and specific goals that we have as a business. As we grow our organization, we want to find the right talent and the right opportunities and roles to make sure that there's a really good match there.

So one thing that I think about is really figuring out how do we get to the next level and support our community. Developers are a big part of that. So figuring out how we can identify the big full-time roles that can add and make our team more well-rounded and have each person really feel empowered to take those risks, learn quickly, test and iterate and make sure that there's just a really clear mission for each of the roles too. So as we think about growing the marketing team, how does a marketing team in relation to the product team, for instance, what does that ratio look like PM to PMM? So there's that golden ratio, and it's really different for each company, depending on the stage they're at.

Maia Wells:

And we hear a lot about in the startup world, marketing being kind of the most important and most spend that people have. Sometimes we see even over 100% of startup budgets being spent on marketing. Have you heard those statistics and how do you feel about that? Do you feel like marketing is more important than product at the startup phase or vice versa? What's your personal opinion about that?

Micky Teng:

Yeah, it's a good question. My personal take on that is that there aren't competing priorities. I think it's equally important to have your product shipping and your team supported and the resources to stand that up. On the same side, marketing is super important because it's all about figuring out how do we find that right audience? What is the market we want to play in? What's the positioning like? How's the competitive landscape? So a lot of those core competencies that product marketers thrive in, so I'm going to take a very diplomatic approach to this question in that I think product is really important. Marketing is really important. All the functions, depending on where you're at in the stage of your company, the growth stage, it can be different. And also depending on the product too, so if you're B2C or B2B, or in our case, B2D, developers, it can be different to shape the organization and the needs and the roles that you need depending on the goals that you're looking to achieve.

Maia Wells:

And I hear you talking about some really great skills for product marketers and skillsets that people need to bring in and develop to be successful. Before we dive into that because I do, I want to dive into that and talk to you about actually how to find good product marketers, because I know a lot of our listeners are perking up right now. They're like, "I need somebody on my team like that. How do I find them?" So I want to talk about that. But I think before we dive in there, I would love to give a little bit more context about Magic and what it is. Obviously this isn't like a commercial for the app or anything, but you mentioned, you're kind of a B2D which is different, I think, than a lot of other solutions out there. Can you tell us more about what Magic is, and then the differentiation on trying to hit developers as your main audience?

Micky Teng:

Yeah, absolutely. So Magic is a startup that's transforming the digital identity space. And so we're really focused on making it super simple for developers to add password-less authentication into their apps. And the coolest part is there's blockchain technology under the hood. And so if you think about the internet today, we've got a lot of hacks, too many to count really, we've become almost desensitized to all the latest data breaches given how often they occur. And there's so much evidence that passwords are intrinsically flawed, and already obsolete as an authentication method. And so we believe that a solution is to really improve user trust, and that starts with developers. So we have an SDK, it helps to give developers a toolset to implement Magic links. So if you've logged into Slack, you might already be familiar with that flow, as well as social log-ins. So logging in with Facebook, logging with Twitter, et cetera.

And then also Web Often, which is fingerprint. So the way that you log into maybe your laptop, using that sensor, and making it so that there are no passwords involved in the entire end-to-end sign-in flow. And this is really making the internet a lot more safe. Yeah. It's pretty cool.

Maia Wells:

So how does that make the internet safer?

Micky Teng:

So the way that it does, so if you think about it, the centralization that's happening right now, if you use Facebook, if you use Twitter to sign into an app, any app that you could use on your phone, for instance, there's so many different ways to sign in, all of that password information is stored with Facebook, it's stored with Google. And so if Google or Facebook ever had a breach, Facebook just had a recent one where 500 million user's phone numbers and personal data were compromised. That means that anytime you reuse that password that you use for Facebook, a hacker already has it. And so there's a backdoor and they can actually impersonate you to search and sign in as you, without you really knowing it. And so what's different about Magic is that we are decentralized. We don't store any passwords because it's entirely password-less.

And what that means is we are actually using private and public keys. So we're going to get a little technical now, but using different cryptography to actually identify people. If you're verifying, you say you are when you're logging into an app. And so when a developer uses Magic's Magic links, for instance, that was actually different than any of the Magic links you're already using via Slack, for instance, or Medium, because the backend is decentralized. And so it's stored on the blockchain. The blockchain is known for being trustless. No one owns it. It's not like Google or Facebook has the power to actually do anything with your password information. And so that's what really makes it unique and a lot more safe because the passwords aren't a honeypot, if you will, for hackers to actually go in and try to hack the system. And because there's no system at all, it's completely decentralized.

Maia Wells:

I feel like I'm living in the future right now. It's so cool to hear about this technology. Yeah. I mean, because all of us can identify with the forgotten password situation, or resetting passwords, or being hacked and having to change all of your passwords because you use the same one on everything like I did a few years ago.

Micky Teng:

Trust me, it's not just you, it's definitely a prevalent problem. And the reason is because we're putting the burden of security hygiene on the end-user, which isn't right. If you think about it, why should end users have to be burdened with I have to create this secure enough password, which has so many requirements. And now there's like jokes on SNL, for instance, of you need a hieroglyph in there, you need a haiku in your password. And at the end of the day, we want to make sure it's really easy for end users to feel protected. Developers to make it really simple to make that happen. And then the ripple effect is that it's like planting trees, the entire internet gets a lot cleaner and much more safe.

Maia Wells:

That's a big goal. That's a very lofty aim for the company. Do you guys talk a lot about that beyond selling the solution into developers, which obviously is probably a day to day goal for you guys, how often does that larger vision come into the conversation either within marketing or in the larger organization over at Magic?

Micky Teng:

Yeah. We talk about it a lot. It's the real mission. And it's a broad vision, to echo your point earlier. It's definitely a bold mission and vision. I think for us, that's what gets everyone excited. We're in the business of making the internet a lot safer, and it's less of... the path to get there is about building the product and the technology that helps us all. So if you look at a recent video we did, we worked with Kurzgesagt, which is a German based animation studio. And their channel is amazing on YouTube. They have that 14 million subscribers, and they do a lot of science and technology videos, and they kind of break down tough concepts and sort of like big existential questions too.

And so we work with them primarily because this mission is so vast that everyone will be impacted in a positive way. And so we boil down the story of why Magic. And it was really fun to work with them to tell that story, which is essentially, what I just talked through, decentralization, you might not realize that passwords are so ancient as a auth method that they're decades and decades old. And if we really want to usher in the future of the internet, developers play a huge role, because they're the one building the interface and the technology for us to help do pretty much everything. Right? So groceries communications now work. So we really want to empower those developers to feel like they've got the right tools to make a broader impact on their users, as well as the internet.

Maia Wells:

Awesome. So you are focused on finding and talking to these developers, it sounds like. How do you find the right person to do that? Is this a mix of a marketer and a developer that they have both backgrounds, or how do you find people to work on your marketing team that really can connect with those developers? What is that like?

Micky Teng:

Yeah, that's a great question. So it's a bit of finding a unicorn and I think that a lot of the tools that I've thought through in terms of interview skills and just signals to look out for, really finding the right balance of developer advocacy, and that comes with empathy for what does it mean to be a developer? What are their big challenges? What do they care most about? And putting yourself in their shoes. So a lot of it is user interviews, making sure that you have the research, and everything is grounded in reality, instead of making assumptions for what you think a very security-minded developer might want. We actually have to go talk to them. So I do a lot of user interviews myself. I've got a team of developer advocates who are amazing. And they get to be on the ground and understand going to developer conferences, doing talks at conferences, galvanizing the community, really actively listening to the sentiment, and where are the big pain points for authentication, digital identity. There's this whole wave of blockchain happening.

How do we really help support those blockchain developers who are actually building the decentralized version of Twitter. The decentralized version of supporting all of the NFT momentum that's happening. And so it's a lot of feedback loop of just here's the data from the market. Here's what we're hearing, here's what people want and need. And then filtering that back to the product team. So that's really where the magic happens, pun intended of just finding the right folks who have that empathy and really want to help support the ideal customer. And the type of people who would most love a solution, and it's all rooted in the problems that we want to help them solve.

Maia Wells:

So what kind of skillset does somebody like that have? I'm hearing a couple of things that I'm just assuming. So great speaking skills, understanding what a developer does, how do you categorize those things? Do you have a list of skills that you want to look for in a product marketer in general, and then also specifically for Magic, and then how do you assess that with people? What kind of questions do you ask them? Or do you have skills tests or anything like that? Talk to me about what you're looking for, and then how do you actually find that in the interview process?

Micky Teng:

Yeah. So starting with the what I would say, asking folks what do you think their super power is? And I know that that's like a double-edged sword because sometimes it's really hard to hone in on one, but I think the most success I've seen so far is finding that T-Shaped product marketer. So someone who can go deep on one sort of whether it's storytelling or messaging or launches and finding out what else they can do that's a little bit more broad and diversified. So at an early stage startup, it's really important to have PMM's, product marketers, or developer markers be really thoughtful and curious. Another thing I really look for is just opinionated. So based on what they're hearing from the market and developers, taking a stance, what's a recommendation, putting that together, synthesizing based on what we know is true, and then being able to bring that to cross functional partners. So that perspective is grounded in user insights and market data, but then they know to challenge and ask the right questions, figuring out how do we get alignment on what features to market and when.

So this I think is the hardest attribute defined in a product marketer and developer marketer, just that opinionated stance. And that's backed by data. The other thing I look for is really someone who's really meticulous. So at the end of the day, we have to communicate our story and what Magic means and how you use the product. And all of that is so specific. And I find that a lot of B2B marketing people, or the way that the marketing shows up on a website or on a content page can sometimes be so diluted that it just feels like a lot of jargon. And with developers, there's such a discerning audience that they will call you out on it. They'll be like, "That's not accurate." And that's the feedback we get a lot of times. So we know that we have to keep that concrete sort of like very specific lens on, okay, can we back this up? Is this defensible? What's the crisp messaging that we can just boil down to the most core elements to make sure developers see oh, I agree with that. Or that's actually accurate.

So I really think that product marketers, developer marketers have to care about every word and every kind of way that things are showing up on landing pages, emails, et cetera. And just every turn of phrase really matters because developers will know when something's a little bit off. And at the end of the day, I think the energy that the product marketer brings, just making that leveling up the work, raising the bar and bringing the customers' needs to the forefront. So again, that comes with empathy, it comes with a lot of the boots on the ground kind of listening that we have to do. And then holding each other accountable. So if you see that an email goes out and it still seems too jargon-y, and then just interrogating that a bit, bringing it back, raising the bar and kind of continuing to hone that with partnership from the developer advocates.

The last two areas I think are really important for developer marketers and product marketers are just being sort of like a Swiss army knife. And so that's kind of what I talked about earlier around T-shaped marketer who might have a very diverse background. They might be consultants, they might've been founders in a previous life. They might've been developers themselves or analysts or lawyers. I think those are the kinds of interesting backgrounds that make product marketers so unique as a function and just a marketing discipline.

But I think at the end of the day, being able to zoom in on the details, sharpen all the messaging and all that, and then zoom out as to like, if I'm a developer and I see Magic showing up in Twitter in a certain way, over time, do I want to follow them? Do I want to add myself to their Discord community? How do I want to engage with Magic? Taking that kind of empathetic lens on all the storytelling we're doing, will really help really win trust with the developer audience. And then also bringing that back to the cross-functional teams to make sure they all understand, okay, what would resonate with a developer?

The last one I would say is adaptive. Thinking about there's so much change that happens with startups, you really have to be nimble as a marketer. And so figuring out the right cadence for the types of marketing launches we want to do, how often do they happen? PMM's are exposed to so much of the sausage-making or kind of the behind the scenes happenings that it can be very challenging for folks who might not like change that often. And so I think the people, the people who would drive in park marketing and developer marketing roles would really draw energy. They're energized by that change and just how fast paced it can kind of be.

Maia Wells:

That's a really important point. I feel like you can tell that right away. If you had to reschedule their interview and depending on how they react to that, or things like that, I think you can kind of tell. Do you have any examples you can share of someone that you were looking for these attributes in and whether or not they did well with it or not. Do you have any examples you can share with us about that process of finding that unicorn?

Micky Teng:

Yeah. So some of the questions I ask are like how do you define product marketing? That's a great way to assess what's their definition and what's their level of experience or competence. It's an ambiguous question. There's no right or wrong really, but that shows me how they measure success as a product marketer and see what side of the spectrum that person falls on. And so a lot of times, for product marketers, I hear curiosity or empathy as like one of the centerpieces for how they define product marketing. And that's a really good signal to hear how engaged that person cares a lot about that curiosity learning and then also empathizing with their target audience.

Maia Wells:

Micky, how do you define product marketing? I would love to know your definition.

Micky Teng:

Yeah. So for me, I define product marketing as being the voice of the product for the customer and being the voice of the customer for the company. And so it's really wearing that developer hat and my case of saying, "Okay, if I'm a developer, what would resonate with me? Why? How do we frame that up in the right way? And what channels should we show up in? Where are they hanging out?" And then same for the company. We need to learn as much as possible about the user and what problems are looking to solve. So that feedback loop really helped inform strategy, the go to market, all the channels that we are active on, and how often we engage with the community.

Maia Wells:

And what's your community like? Tell me more about that. It feels like you guys have been building for a while. You've got some developers using Magic. Where do you interact with them and what does that community like?

Micky Teng:

Yeah. So it's really exciting. Our communities thriving, It's early innings, like I say. We're building momentum with developers. The primary areas we engage with developers is on Discord. And so Discord is a cool space. It's similar to Slack if you're not familiar with it, where you have different channels, it's kind of like this dedicated space where you can ask questions, magicians, people on the Magic team are here to help and field questions and support them if they run into issues. And so it's part support, but also part co-learning. So we have meetups, virtual meet-ups in this case, pulled [inaudible 00:25:03] Magic. It was really fun. We get to bring on guests and relay them back to the trending topics and technologies that developers really care about, languages and frameworks that they're already using. So it was really cool to see developer sign in, join and ask questions, participate on the actual meetups, and then also Twitter.

So Twitter is a really fun place for tech folks in general, there's tech Twitter, but also we do a lot of really cool polls with developers to get more insight on what tools they're using right now. What's their tech slack look like. And then also, again, shout out to the developer advocates who I work with, who are always learning and bringing back feedback from the community.

Maia Wells:

It sounds like that's just such an important aspect of what you're doing is just really cultivating those relationships and listening. What is next for you? What exciting things can you share with us about what's going to be happening at Magic or in other areas of your career?

Micky Teng:

Yeah, so at Magic, we are gearing up for a lot of really exciting launches. We are shipping really fast and we're excited to bring that all to developers. And so we're creating big moments throughout the year. So the second half is really exciting with big tent pole announcements. And we're excited for the feedback that we'll hear. So a lot of work to be done in terms of surprising and delighting developers. Our roadmap is pretty packed and we're hoping to get a lot of really big differentiating features out to market.

Maia Wells:

Micky, thank you for joining us on the Marketing Hero. It was a pleasure talking with you about developer marketing today, and I hope you join us again soon.

Micky Teng:

Likewise. Thank you so much for having me, Maia. This is a really fun.

Want to Reach Micky Teng?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mickyteng/ 

 

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