In this blog series, we’re showcasing SevenRooms’ special ingredient: our employees! This month, we got to know Bobby Khaleghian, Director, Product Marketing at SevenRooms. Over his time at SevenRooms, Bobby’s work has been instrumental in helping increase client feature adoption and defining go-to-market strategies for new products.
Read on to learn more about why he chose to work at SevenRooms, how he got into product marketing, and what’s on his travel bucket list. Pull up a seat at the table and dive in!
Why did you join SevenRooms?
Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to work for companies that intersect with things I’m passionate about – including both technology and hospitality. SevenRooms was the perfect combination of the two.
I literally grew up in the back of a restaurant, as my parents have been restaurant owners and franchisees my entire life. They have owned Subway and Johnny Rockets restaurants, and when I was young I always used to help out at their various locations. In fact, when I was first considering a career path, I originally wanted to attend culinary school before going to college. Ultimately, I decided to attend the University of Southern California instead.
When I was going through my job hunt before joining SevenRooms, I gravitated towards the mission of the company. It was apparent that SevenRooms was focused on solving problems for operators and dedicated their efforts to helping businesses of all sizes be successful. With a mission focused exclusively on helping restaurants be more profitable, it was a no-brainer to join the company.
How did your career bring you to product marketing? What interests you most about product marketing?
I started my B2B marketing career in a different area of marketing – demand generation. In this role, I was always creating content, adjusting messaging and getting those messages out to different audiences. Through my time at the company, I found that I most enjoyed diving into content creation and digging deeper to understand the voice of the customer. I continued to work cross-functionally across many different teams within the internal organization, and this naturally led me into the world of product marketing.
Once I started doing product marketing, I enjoyed getting to use both the creative and operational sides of my brain. I realized that I could take my deep experiences within marketing and apply them across operations and other areas within the business to be successful in the role. I loved the challenge that came with having my hand in as many buckets as possible.
One of my favorite parts of product marketing is gaining a deeper understanding of the value of a client, connecting directly with clients to understand their needs and pain points, as well as being a voice of the client internally. This has always been something I’ve loved about product marketing, and it’s so important to be successful in the role.
Why did you decide to go into hospitality tech?
I have been involved in the hospitality industry for as long as I can remember, having parents that raised me within the restaurant space. Even though my post-college career journey led me into more traditional B2B tech sectors, I always knew I wanted to do something within the hospitality industry. The challenge was in finding the right hospitality tech company to work for. It was very important to me that the company I joined be an operator-facing solution. I also wanted to ensure that everything they did – from how they thought about product and innovation to their business philosophy – was aligned to the needs of their customers and not just with their best interests in mind. There are many companies across verticals and industries that look out only for themselves and with only dollars and cents in mind. These companies have a disconnect between the mission and the customer, and ultimately, it’s the customer who suffers. Throughout the interview process with SevenRooms, I loved that the company’s values were aligned 100% with the operator and that ultimately is what led to me accepting the job.
What are ways that people can break into product marketing for SaaS/B2B companies?
A career in product marketing does not always have the most linear path. For people looking to break into product marketing, I would say that one of the most important things is to be naturally curious about the inner workings of a product, and the intersection between that product, the internal team and client.
Successful product marketers are people who want to be client advocates and be a voice for the client. You should be curious about internal processes and operational workflows – and love to write content about those areas of the business. I think of product marketing as the shoelaces that keep a shoe tied together; it’s a very cross-functional role.
Do you have any tips for managing people and teams remotely?
With COVID hitting the U.S. 18 months ago, the shift to fully remote has certainly had its challenges. When it comes to managing people and teams remotely, I believe success boils down to three key areas – (1) building deeper working relationships, (2) creating a structure to help both manager and employee succeed, and (3) making sure you’re available and responsive.
The move to work-from-home from an office setting means many people are now working different hours and are navigating new forms of communication. That’s why it’s extra important to find as many different points of communication as possible, and ensure that, as a manager, you’re making yourself available to your direct reports when they need support. Scheduling check-ins and leaving the first few minutes to connect about topics outside of work is extra important in helping foster a deeper working relationship.
Managers should also help their direct reports stay organized by helping them create a structure for new projects and daily work. This has been the biggest challenge for everyone – regardless of level – so it’s a great skill to continue to hone with direct reports and other team members.
How do you approach a go-to-market strategy that makes it easy for SevenRooms clients to understand and adopt new features?
At SevenRooms, our go-to-market strategies always put the final outcome and benefit to the client front and center, in as simple terms as possible. Our goal is to make sure that our operator clients not only understand the benefits of a new solution or product, but also that they feel confident in implementing it across their restaurant, hotel or nightclub. We do that by ensuring the content is educational, easy to access and actionable in the context of where they work and use the product. This means understanding where a new feature or product fits within their workflow, and how we can surface the information about that feature at the right time, to the right people.
From an internal perspective, I work closely with both the product and customer success teams to create documentation that helps our client-facing team members understand what’s being launched and be ready to answer any questions that may arise from the product release. We educate our internal teams on the benefits of the solution to help them lead with the positive outcome for the operator, resulting in a successful launch for any new product or feature.
With any new product launch, we also aim to measure success as much as possible. When you can properly measure the success or failure of a product launch, it helps you to understand and be able to address both the wins and the pitfalls. ‘Success’ varies within each role and project, but the most common metric is understanding the total addressable market (TAM) for a product or feature. This helps you create a baseline for adoption rates. Not every product is built for every client, but a deeper understanding of what percentage of your client base you built a feature for and the end result of how many adopt the feature are important metrics for success of a campaign.
How do you stay connected with SevenRooms’ NYC-based HQ in a WFH environment?
For the folks I work the most closely with, I try to have regular check-ins and meetings. Over the first few months of working remotely, I started to realize that many of my conversations were becoming very transactional. As a result, I now always try to start the conversation with a topic that is non-work related. With everyone in our organization working remotely at the moment, many of those casual ‘watercooler’ topics are lost, so it’s important to take the first few minutes of a Zoom to connect on a more personal level. Our internal HR team does a wonderful job of putting many different programs in place that help us stay connected, including ‘Donut Dates.’ These coffee breaks randomly pair SevenRooms employees every few weeks, and are a great opportunity to connect with someone outside of your team or usual workgroup.
More recently, as NYC has opened up and more people become vaccinated, I’ve been making it a point to fly out once a quarter to see my team in person. We recently celebrated the end of a successful quarter at a SevenRooms client, Kyma in New York’s Flatiron district.
What have been silver linings over the past 18 months, both personally and professionally?
Personally, the silver lining of the past 18 months has been being able to move back to Los Angeles. It’s given me the opportunity to get much closer to my family and spend a lot more time with them than I normally would living in NYC. With my parents being in the restaurant industry, the last year has been incredibly tough for them, so it was a huge blessing to be able to support them through this time. I also was fortunate to meet my now girlfriend during the pandemic, so overall, it’s been a really good year for me personally.
Professionally, it’s been very rewarding to play a role in helping our restaurant partners keep their doors open during what has been some of the hardest, darkest days for the industry. As a company and team, we have been working so hard over the past 18 months to help restaurants recover faster. It has been humbling to see the levels of perseverance and grit that our operator partners demonstrate on a daily basis. SevenRooms has been hyperfocused on doing right by our customers throughout the pandemic, including waiving fees, launching new products and being an educational resource for them. I could not be more proud of the work we’ve done to help them.
Looking back at the projects and initiatives we’ve completed, I’m most proud of all the assets and content we’ve built to help them navigate changing operations and regulations. This includes our Reopen with Confidence campaign and our COVID Resource Center. We’ve given our partners the tools and resources they need to manage a whole host of changing government regulations. This includes managing capacities, tools for tracing, messaging functionality for health and safety messages and so much more. We’ve been able to bring the products and features to life for them, making it easier for them to comprehend and navigate during what has already been a very stressful time for their businesses.
What’s on your travel and/or restaurant bucket list?
Travel-wise, I’m really looking forward to visiting Mexico City over Labor Day Weekend. I absolutely plan on eating as much food as possible while I’m down there. Greece has also been at the top of my list for many years, and I’m excited to make that trip in Summer 2022. After months of being unable to travel internationally, I can’t wait to hop back on an airplane and explore.
From a restaurant perspective, one of the restaurants at the top of my list is Pujol in Mexico City. I can’t wait to tick it off my list while I’m there in September! I also really want to do a trip to Italy through Naples and Puglia, only eating at mom and pop restaurants in the regions. Something super authentic and memorable. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that in the next few years.