Question Page

How do you create and reenforce a culture for you product marketing team as you scale it and what does yours look like?

8 Answers
Patrick Cuttica
Patrick Cuttica
Square Product Marketing LeadOctober 16

I don’t know that this is really any different than creating and reenforcing a culture for any team, really. I think a great place to look for inspiration is your company's overall value system and culture. 

For example, at Sprout Social, a few of our core values are to:

  • Celebrate chnage
  • Solve hard problems 
  • Seek simplicity
  • Promote open, authentic communication

These are values that are obviously core to being an effective and successful product marketer as well.

Also, I kind of think about the culture of our team along the same lines of how we approach product development: the it will iterate over time. It's not something you can define from the top down. Staying open to having your team shape the culture is important and providing the right environment and opportunities for them to do so is key. 

Rehan Mirza
Rehan Mirza
Verifiable Chief Growth OfficerMarch 27

Culture is something we think about a lot - think it's a bit of a requisite to do so when it's in your company's name. We have a saying here which is "Culture comes first, whether you're conscious of it or not" - so in my mind it's clear you absolutely NEED to be actively cultivating it and maintaining it.

There's a lot we do to cultivate and maintain culture at the company-level (Culture Amp), at the Org-level (Customer org), and the practice-level (Marketing overall). While I'll speak to some of the things we do at a team-level (PMM). 

Being a distributed team (in both SF and Melbourne) our systems of communication (Slack, Zoom, Asana) become of critical importance to set the places in which we collaborate. These become even more essential as the team grows and scales. 

One thing, that doesn't necessarily scale, but I think is absolutely critical is the importance of weekly 1:1s (1hr) - this becomes even more critical when people get busy. Beyond creating a sense of connection, these meetings can often unblock/accelerate at a rate beyond the time you put in. As a feedback-driven company, real-time/continuous feedback is something really prioritize, both in-person and in-product ( I wouldn't be a true PMM if I didn't mention Culture Amp has a Performance Management solution). In our current performance process, we alternate quarterly between a performance development cycle (employee self-reflection & convo w/mgr focused only on development) and a performance measurement cycle (employee self-review, manager evaluation, peer feedback, and measurement processes related to comp/promotion). Having the set space & cadence to hold development-only conversations has really allowed me to understand at a personal level, what's most important to my team and then allows me to be an advocate to work towards getting those opportunities for them.    

Also, as a manager, on a regular basis I am going into the Culture Amp platform to understand what we're excelling at as a company/org/practice and team - from there, I can see where areas to focus are that would have the highest impact and commit to only one action that I plan to take over the quarter. This past quarter, I conducted "Stay Interviews" with my entire team (1 hr long convo. This was a great exercise in learning both what motivates my team, potential things I could be doing differently, and what potential triggers may be for them to cause them to leave. Holding these with every member of the team reduced the "uneasiness" around the questions and allowed it to seem more like a process than a "gripe session". I found myself leaving these meetings with a new sense of focus on what I could be doing to empower, engage and retain my team over the long haul. (Link to the questions I used) 

We also hold sacred our weekly kickoff/wrap-up (2x week; 30 min) team meetings at the beginning and tail-end of the week. This helps us stay connected throughout the happenings of the week, but also gives us additional time to catch up and connect (this is even more critical in the current times of COVID). Knowing in-person catchups are calso critical, we also have a quarterly budget set up to have the SF team visit the Melbourne office or vice versa. 

From more of a core values perspective - the two principles I think are most critical for a great team culture are trust and transparency. In my mind, trust comes from the commitment to do always be doing what's right for the other person (even ahead of what's "right" for the company), as team relationships are what carry throughout your career. A few of the things I mentioned above help build that trust and also give you the information necessary to operate with the best interests of your teammates in mind. With regards to transparency, not only does it lead to greater information-sharing (critical in a distributed team), but it's one of the core underpinnings of trust. I've especially found that if there's trust and transparency throughout a process or decision - even if the outcome isn't what the team member/individual wanted, they buy into it more if they buy into the process. 


Pallavi Vanacharla
Pallavi Vanacharla
New Relic VP, Product MarketingMay 28

Love it! Excellent question.

Here is the team culture I like to create, which frankly is applicable to any function. But, at the end, I will provide some cultural traits that are specific to product marketing.

General cultural traits:

  1. Happy
  2. Trusting 
  3. Collaborative
  4. Caring
  5. Humble 

How do you do the above? Remember the saying "be the change you want to see"? Well do that and everyone else will follow. 😃

This works at scale too, you will often find that some of the largest companies exhibit the culture and values demonstrated by a single person - their CEOs.

Here are some ways in which you as a leader can demonstrate the above.

Happiness is perhaps the most important aspect of your culture. If you could only focus on one, this would be it. Happiness leads to success - for you, for your team, for everyone. It motivates people to perform at their best, brings out their creative juices, and gives them the resilience to overcome setbacks. But first, you must start with yourself - make being happy your life-long goal and try your best to be as happy as you can be, every day. The good news is that happiness is highly infectious, so you don't have to explicitly teach it. A book that has helped me a lot on my happiness journey is “Happiness from the Inside Out ” by happiness coach Robert Mack, which provides very easy, practical, and actionable ways to become and stay happy - for life.       

Trust comes from being 'completely transparent' on how you think and why you do what you do. Yes, you read it right. Share your financials, performance evaluation approach, salary structures/increases, promotion process - everything! This is also the only way we can remove disparities and be truly inclusive. Trust also comes from your team members knowing that you will have their back, even when they are not in the room. 

Collaboration is easy to cultivate. Genuinely value diverse and opposing opinions. Ask for feedback and solicit ideas on every key decision. When people feel included, they reciprocate by doing the same. And when you are asked for feedback, take the time to think and provide useful suggestions, so your feedback is valued and solicited again.

Caring for each other should come naturally. Try to celebrate and acknowledge the good moments, not just the birthdays, but the small wins too. When someone needs an extra hand, don't judge, step in, lean in, and do what it takes to share the load. And help shape and support your team member’s career beyond the current role or company.

Humility is often underappreciated in certain cultures, but this is very important to me. If you (as a seasoned leader) understand that you are not the best and don't know everything, others will also realize the same 'truth'. This does not mean you do not feel confident or don't tout your team's accomplishments. Just make sure you understand difference between confidence and arrogance.

Additional PMM traits:

  1. Customer-obsession
  2. Strategic thinking 

These are less cultural traits, but rather functional-specific characteristics and hence can be easily accomplished by laying down PMM processes.  

Customer-obsession is the very foundation of product marketing. And in my opinion, the difference between a good and a great product marketer. Make gathering customer insights part of everyone's role (even if in a small way). Encourage direct customer conversations and interviews. Because the more you speak to customers, the more obsessed you will become about solving their needs, building the right products for them, representing their needs and doing right by them. And it will all happen seamlessly, naturally, and automatically. So ensure every PMM speaks to customers as often as possible.

Strategic thinking is not something you are born with, and like any other skill, it can be learnt. There are two small, but effective tricks to encouraging strategic thinking. 

  • 1st tip: Allow each PMM to completely own at least one piece of the pie. Then encourage them to build the strategy for their piece, which will cultivate the strategic thinking mindset. And executing that strategy will help them discover where they were right and (most importantly) where they were wrong. This iterative learning process will continue to make them more and more strategic with time.  
  • 2nd tip: Give people the free time to think. When product marketers get the time to think, great things happen. They discover new market opportunities, discover messaging that sticks, define products that delight, and much much more. The way to do so is to a) scale back on what you commit to delivering for the year and b) staff up with adequate PMM resources.  

Lastly, what do you do if you team members do not exhibit the above characteristics? Well human behavior is very hard to change, but if it is impacting your team cohesiveness and success, then give them clear and direct feedback and gently keep reminding them, to steer them in the right direction. But try to do so with deep love and care - none of us are perfect and everyone is on a journey.

Not sure if this is what you were looking for, but hopefully some of it was useful.

Tiffany Tooley
Tiffany Tooley
Workday Vice President Product MarketingMarch 9

We start by co-creating it! It's very much a collaborative exercise across the team to determine how we want to show up as a team! Some of it comes from listening to individuals, replaying back what you've heard and key themes, and then using that to facilitate good conversations around what's next. We very much anchor our team values back to HubSpot's culture code, which embraces Humility, Empathy, Authenticity, Relatability, and Transparency. We also recognize the values we create have to be centralized, reinforced, shared with others across the org and then measured, so they're not only easy to find but are prioritized and shared to set the right expectations for all. Lastly, I think once you codify your team's individual values you should take a step back each year and assess whether they're still relevant for the coming year and if not, support new team-wide conversations on how to modify them. 

Andrew Stinger
Andrew Stinger
Amazon Sr. PMM, Outbound CommunicationsJune 2

In my experience, most Product Marketers want to have positive impact, and do superlative work. This means my job as a manager of Product Marketers is to get really clear on the kinds of impact we need to have as a marketing org, and what the standard for excellence is on my team. If you get really clear on those two things and have a few, well-facilitated conversations around them, the rest will follow.

My team (which includes Product Marketing and several other marketing functions) knows they have two primary jobs:

  1. Own the narrative
  2. Accelerate the business

Depending on their role, these two principles will translate a bit differently, but the incredible humans I work with have taken these prompts and run with them so wonderfully that I typically only have to ask two questions to get a pulse check on our culture and team health:

  1. Have you felt successful since the last time we met?
  2. What will make you feel successful by the next time we meet?
Katherine Kelly
Katherine Kelly
Instructure Head of Product MarketingMay 19

For me, I have to be intentional here. Because it's so easy to get sucked in to the work and just surviving from deadline to deadline. But you have to put it to the forefront and make it a priority. 

One thing I like to do is involve the team in determing the values we'll prioritize, that way we can bring it up if we ever lag and discuss what we need to do to bring them forefront again.

I like to create cultures the focus on: accountability, collaboration, empowerment, expertise, transparency, directness, support...and I always like to have a sense of fun and humor as well :) 

Becky Trevino
Becky Trevino
Flexera Chief Product OfficerJune 2

The first thing you need to do is understand the growth stage of your company.

There are typically 3 critical growth stages for companies:

1) Scale to $100M ARR

2) Scale to $1B ARR

3) Scale from $1B+ ARR

The organizational and cultural needs of Product Marketing differs at each of these different stages of growth.

In Stage 1, Product Marketing is needed to partner with C-level teams to build company positioning, messaging, strategic/category narrative, and translate key use cases into critical assets for the marketing and sales teams. In this scenario, you're usually telling a one product story. (Think SaaS Unicorns like Gong and Highspot.)

In Stage 2, companies usually need to scale beyond their core product to reach this new growth milestone. In this growth scenario, companies often introduce a new product line targeting a new persona. Here Product Marketing must partner with Marketing to tell the broader story while still remaining connected to the Product and not isolating the original ICP. This is often one of the most difficult stages of growth since the company and the product are no longer synonymous with each other. (Think Gainsight expanding beyond their CSM audience to Product Management with Gainsight PX.)

In Stage 3, organizations are managing multiple if not 100s of different products and services. Here there are often so many products and personas that the challenge for CMOs is connecting product back to the brand. In this growth stage, Product Marketing teams need to prioritize which products get PMM support (not all do), how to tie back to broader Solutions Marketing, and effectively managing stakeholders. (Think Salesforce's vast portfolio ranging from its Core CRM product to recent acquisitions like MuleSoft and Slack.)

Jam Khan
Jam Khan
ZoomInfo SVP Product MarketingJuly 21

Product Marketing teams sit at the nexus of so many other functions in the organization. While this makes for a pivotal and strategic role, it can also create an atmosphere of pressure, and the feeling that you're always behind. 

A big part of creating a culture is reenforcing the impact that product marketing has on the organization and making sure the wins are recognized and celebrated. As a product marketing leader clear alignment with the exec team on priorities helps determine what you can say no to, a critical part of creating a culture that avoids burnout and promotes success. At 6sense we use our V2MOMs to ensure alignment and map our deliverables to those top level objectives. This gives us a sense of purpose and direction as a team. 

Market Research that Unlocks Growth
Thursday, June 13 • 12PM PT
Market Research that Unlocks Growth
Virtual Event
Carmelo Abate
Emmanuela Tijani, CWCA
Bárbara Manarelli Vieira
Top Product Marketing Mentors
Christy Roach
Christy Roach
AssemblyAI VP of Marketing
Claudia Michon
Claudia Michon
Automation Anywhere Senior Vice President, Product & Solutions Marketing
Julie Towns
Julie Towns
Pinterest VP, Product Marketing & Product Operations
Jenna Crane
Jenna Crane
Klaviyo Head of Product Marketing
Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Anthropic Product Marketing Leader
Amanda Groves
Amanda Groves
Enable VP of Product Marketing
Kelly Kipkalov
Kelly Kipkalov
BILL Sr Director, Product Marketing
Pulkit Agrawal
Pulkit Agrawal
Chameleon Co-founder & CEO
Ashley Faus
Ashley Faus
Atlassian Head of Lifecycle Marketing, Portfolio
Beth McGrath
Beth McGrath
Coda Head of Product Marketing