Interviews with Marketers: Jake Freivald

Jake Freivald’s 25-year career includes product marketing for software related to data collection and management, reporting, and analytics for a variety of industries and use cases. He has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and lives on Long Island, NY with his wife, their eleven children (not a typo), two dogs, and two cats.

Your company is all about automation. Where do you see GPT making our lives easier as it grows with us in the marketing world?

The potential is there. Right now, AI is offering us a big open promise that it won’t take our jobs but perhaps change them into something focused much more on creativity, something more dynamic, and maybe more exciting. AI understands the stuff we’ve already done, the stuff it has been trained on, while the best marketing work takes all that as background and synthesizes from it brand new things that we’ve never thought of yet.

AI is also likely to be able to help get that idea out, that first draft, which can result in significant increases in productivity. I’ve used it that way myself. I recently told ChatGPT to write a casual email for me, and when I got it back, I only had to say “Not that casual” to get a much better draft. Being able to see different versions of a first draft in a matter of moments can help eliminate the “blank page” problem and might help us see different creative angles we can pursue – things that the AI isn’t going to pick up on and synthesize, but that we can see, understand, and relate to faster because we don’t have to go through the mechanical process of getting initial thoughts on paper.

How important is the creativity aspect to marketing?

Extremely. It’s important both for our own job satisfaction and for the effectiveness of our work.

Creativity is often the thing that most makes work interesting. It’s not hard to feel hemmed in by the constraints on our creativity: where we are, what we’re trying to market, who we have around us, that sort of thing. Also, some markets take themselves very seriously – safety professionals tend not to be flippant about safety, for instance, and frankly I approve of their seriousness – so one’s instinct to get a little “out there” has to be exercised in a way that’s entertaining and interesting without being perceived as derisive. But if we don’t satisfy that creative itch, most of us probably won’t feel fulfilled about what we’re doing.

And that’s important because if we’re not having fun, our audience knows it. If we’re bored when writing a blog post, it becomes a boring blog post. Don’t get me wrong, there’s value in having a method. There are marketers who have a formula, and they use the formula, and that’s that. Their marketing is typically okay: It communicates a message, and that’s an important part of what marketing does. But when there’s a spark, our audience can feel it and come along for the ride. They get invested in fanning the spark into something bigger – and that’s an essential part of doing marketing really well.

What advice do you have for marketers who want to get ahead?

Stay focused on and interested in in the kinds of problems your product solves. (Yes, I’m currently a product marketer, but I think this is true for all sales and marketing professionals.) The intellectual interest generated by solving problems will stimulate new ways to think about your product’s value. Instead of saying my product does this or my product has that, you’ll find yourself saying you can do this really cool thing with my product that’s going to make your life a lot better. The first two might be interesting, but the third makes people want what you’re offering.

Can you expand on that pragmatically?

Your audience doesn’t really care so much about what your product does as what it does for them. When you start to think in their terms, your communication becomes more immediate and personal for them. For example, a set of fixed-size wrenches and a single adjustable wrench “work” – they both solve the same type of problem, since they both fit different-sized nuts we need to turn – but do so in entirely different ways. To reach your consumer, you need to know that your fixed-size wrenches provide precision that reduces slippage (if that’s what’s important to them) or that your adjustable wrench reduces the number of tools you have to carry (if that’s what’s important to them). What they do is the same; what’s important to the target audience is not.

A lot of marketers, and product marketers in particular, focus on the “what the product does” and even the “how the product does it,” but to be good at creating brand-and-demand for our products we need to focus on the “what the product does for me.” We need to feel it in our bones. Persona development is one way we kick-start that understanding, but it really helps to listen to clients directly. If we know what our audience thinks and how they feel, we’ll relate to them as people and not just as personas, which will naturally help us communicate with them more effectively. 

How can that passion translate into career success?

It seems almost too obvious to say, but marketers have to harness their passion and interest to drive value for the company. Every business has cool stuff about it – even mundane businesses – but it’s our job as marketers to avoid focusing on stuff just because we happen to think it’s cool. Among other things, we have to translate our interest into creative campaigns that relate our products to issues that matter to our audience. So our interest drives creativity, which gets applied to specific requirements that drive brand and demand. And passion translates into career success because all of that becomes a lot easier when you’re passionate about how your company solves problems for its customers.

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