How do product marketing key stakeholders from other departments change as your company grows?
The short answer is that there are more, and the desires each stakeholder has become more specific!
Essentially, as companies grow they have the opportunity to bring in more specialized talent. This could be teams in finance that are focused on products, specialized support organizations, strategy teams, program teams, or any number of others. The benefit is that you often have more hands on deck to ensure the success of a product. The downside is often coordination cost, and when it comes to product marketing that cost can be high.
You can stay on top of things by being proactive in understanding your organization. Also, you should advocate for the expansion of your product marketing team if you find the demands are becoming too great for your existing team.
This is an awesome question and one that I've thought a ton about as we've scaled. I touched on this a bit in another answer (“When thinking about adding new talent to your team - how do you structure focus areas?”) but will reiterate and expand here.
As our company has scaled, I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that our key stakeholders as a Product Marketing team have changed, per se—rather, I think of it more along the lines that our key partners in supporting those stakeholders have evolved. Meaning: on a macro level our key stakeholders still remain:
- Product management: supporting the commercialization of our product strategy through integrated go-to-market efforts
- Sales: empowering our Sales Org (which includes both Acquisition and Customer Success) to communicate the value of our solutions in a concrete, differentiated manner
- Marketing: educating our Marketing Org on the core value props, providing insight into upcoming product launches and just generally keeping them aprised of all things relating to our go-to-market efforts
On a more tactical level, it becomes necessary as the organization grows to develop key partnerships with other teams in order to effectively support these stakeholders. This is partially true simply because Product Marketing traditionally does not scale in headcount at the same rate that the rest of the Product and Sales Orgs do. For example, we’ve gone from 2 product managers and a few product designers when I started at Sprout Social nearly 6 years ago to having nearly 20 PMs and 20 product designers supporting a much bigger product portfolio today. Even more impressive, we’ve scaled a 50 person Sales team which was almost entirely inbound when I started to a proper inbound/outsound Sales Org with well over 300 people and comprised of Acquisition, Customer Success, Growth and Onboarding.
In order to continue to provide the level of support and service we've developed key partnerships with the following teams:
- Solutions Engineers have become an incredible partner in technical know-how and truly understanding the needs of the buyer. We partner closely with our SE team to execute betas, maintain our demo environments, better understand pain points and gaps in the product, and to facilitate product feedback mechanisms to our Product Team. This has been one of the most valuable parnterships for us.
- Sales Enablement has helped us scale our sales training efforts by taking on much of the tactical execution and providing great insight into the varied needs of each sales team—something that was incredibly time intensive for us prior to them coming onboard.
- Product Ops is a newer discipline for our company but one that has been invaluable in bridging the communucation and partnership gap between Product and the rest of the company. This is something that Product Marketing historically took on in the absence of a dedicated Product Ops person/team. This is more of a nascent discipline. If you want to learn more about Product Ops, Kim Blight is a great person to connect with!
I can only speak to the change from ~1000 → 3000+. As a company grows, the number of stakeholders grows along with it. That shouldn’t be a surprise. What I’ve also learned is that as the number of stakeholders increase, so does the importance of collaboration skills, role clarity, and decision-making processes:
- Collaboration skills: With more people to align with, product marketers need to be especially flexible, picking the right battles to fight and letting things go that may not be worth the effort.
- Role clarity: As mentioned in some of my other answers, its important for product marketers to focus on our core responsibilities and recognize when they are on the path to “peanut-buttering”. That is a slippery slope and happens easily when functions scale unevenly across the organization.
- Decision-making processes: A larger company means 1) there are more decisions to be made and 2) there are more stakeholders to play a role in those decisions.
- Types of decisions: Determine whether a decision is “Tier 1” (cannot easily be reversed) or “Tier 2” (changeable if needed). Tier 1 decisions need to go further up the organizational structure while Tier 2 decisions shouldn’t.
- Decision-makers: For Tier 1 and Tier 2 decisions, explicitly designating who approves versus just consults should help manage expectations across groups and enable you to still move quickly, despite the increased number of stakeholders.
Such an interesting question because I actually think it doesn't change that much. My last role was a company that was ~150 employees, Zendesk is now ~3,000 I think. In both companies, my biggest stakeholders were:
- Head of Product
- Head of Sales
Often it feels like the job of product marketing at the stakeholder level is to help translate between these people and their teams to keep everyone aligned. If the product marketing leadership in your team has a seat at the table with these executives it's much easier to be effective and strategic vs tactical and execution focused.
I’m not certain the stakeholders and leverage have changed much in my experience with different company sizes, although resources clearly do. As you grow from startup to tween/teen and mature, the stakeholders diversify with the added resources that come from business growth. Sophia and I have generally watched pmm move from an individual contributor -- plugged in to a growth team, leading basic sales enablement, and driving core positioning through product -- to an enabler, helping other teams do their work better, and ensuring a single voice across touchpoints. In startup and sometimes tween/teen organizations, you may not always have dedicated resources for research, sales enablement, learning & development, or business/revenue operations to help shape positioning, messaging or building product business cases. As the company matures, you work with more defined teams and added resources, but your opportunity to influence at an executive level doesn’t necessarily change.
Regardless of the size of the organization, there will always be a marketing and a product leader. They are your critical partners. Even in very large organizations with a matrix structure, you will still typically have these leadership roles for each business segment. As the organization grows the founder or CEO will be further removed from day-to-day operations and you're less likely to work with them. At AppFolio we are ca. 1600 people at the moment and key stakeholders I connect frequently with are:
- Product VP
- Marketing VP
- Sales VP
- The various business segment leaders
- VP of Operations
- VP of UX
- And many people on their respective teams