All related (28)
Christy Roach
Senior Director, Portfolio & Engagement Product Marketing, AirtableNovember 18

One of the biggest changes is that I find the relationship with the product team to be different in a product-led growth company. It’s a much closer partnership, focused on more than just launch moments but ongoing work, and shared metrics.

When it comes specifically to the sales and marketing funnel, I’d say the big difference is that we’re less focused on traditional demandgen work and we have a much heavier hand in monetization than we do in a sales-assisted business. Our work is tied more to product usage than on lead volume. The role isn’t necessarily “defined” differently, but our focus areas are different, the scope of our roles reflect those differences, and we’re often more fluid in our work based on what’s needed from us in the org than a more traditional sales and marketing funnel.

Jeff Hardison
Head of Product Marketing, CalendlyAugust 11

This is one of my favorite topics, and I write more extensively about product-led marketing versus sales-led marketing on the Product-Led Growth Collective site:

The tl;dr, though: In many product-led growth (PLG) companies non-salespeople (e.g., product managers, designers, engineers, founders, etc.) helping to create the actual product have the initial greatest influence on what product marketing does. In many PLG companies, product marketers find themselves in particular helping out product managers with research, positioning/messaging, launches and adoption marketing.

In sales-led companies -- or traditional software companies -- the sales leaders have a much greater influence -- than in pure e-commerce PLG companies -- because they’re bringing in the revenue. Not some PLG e-commerce engine. In sales-led companies, the product marketer is doing everything they do in PLG -- research, positioning/messaging, launches, and adoption marketing -- and they help out the sales team with sales content, new-product training, and more.

Today's most difficult job for a product marketer, I believe, is working in a PLG company that’s going "up market" because you have three masters: product leadership (who ran the show when they only way to buy was with a credit card), sales leadership (who is trying to influence company direction to close bigger sales deals), and of course whomever your boss is. :)

Angus Maclaurin
Director of Product Marketing, Bill.comFebruary 1

My experience in PMM has often been defined more by organizational structure and openness more than a type of product. The three biggest factors I’ve seen that impact product marketing’s role in an organization are the following:

Reporting structure: Where does PMM report to? To the CEO, the CMO, or the CPO? Depending on who Product Marketing reports to, the goals will likely be different. When you report to the CMO, you may focus on driving GTM. When reporting to the CPO, you may spend more time focused on market insights and influencing product strategy.

Inbound vs Outbound: What is the balance of Product Marketing? One of my most frequent questions in interviews is where on the spectrum does product marketing fit? Does Product Marketing focus only on outbound messaging and GTM plans? Or does product marketing focus on bringing market and customer needs back to product and influence product strategy? Your role should encompass both, but where on that spectrum are you expected to sit?

Product openness: Is Product Marketing in the room at the beginning or only after the product has been built? In the ideal state, Product Marketing provides the market / competitive analysis and target customers / insights in the initial PRD and helps define what is being built. In other scenarios, Product Marketing is told to go sell a new feature and has to work backwards to uncover the target market and value proposition.

Kacy Boone
Head of Growth Marketing, ClockwiseMay 23

I think the core definition is still the same but in pure B2B you’re going to have a much stronger emphasis on sales enablement and think of sales as one of your core channels for communicating with customers. In PLG or B2C, you’re going to have a stronger emphasis on communicating directly to users via marketing channels. In PLG, you’ll still have sales enablement as a core part of your responsibilities, but there’s more of a balance of your time spent on direct-to-user communication and sales enablement.

Claire Maynard
Marketing, MagicalFebruary 9

I believe it's important to start out with how product marketing is the same across a self-serve/product-led motion and a sales-led motion. In my opinion, the core pillars of the product marketing responsibilities remain:

  • Target audience and buyer definition
  • Positioning and messaging
  • Pricing and packaging
  • Product narrative and storytelling
  • Product and feature launches
  • and so on...

With either motion, you have to be an expert in your product, customer, and market.

Where the function starts to differ is how you design your GTM strategy. What is the main mechanism for bringing your product and story to market and then accelerating a customer through their adoption journey? Is it via a sales team, marketing-led, product-led, or a combination of all three? In my experience, most companies use a combination of product, marketing, and sales-led approaches for different parts of the customer life-cycle, different types of audiences or maturity of company/product.

Here are a few ways the product marketing function may differ with each type of motion:

  •  The team(s) you enable with the customer, product, and market knowledge. In a sales-led motion, you are enabling a sales or demand gen team with the buyer knowledge, messaging, sales collateral, etc. so they can successfully describe the value to a customer and guide them to purchase. In a self-serve motion, you're partnering with your growth, content, or support team to design, what I like to call, an "automated sales journey" where an end-user can move through the same milestones without needing human touch.
  •  Metrics you may be responsible for. If you work on a product with a sales-led GTM motion, you may focus on # of leads, revenue, close-rates, or effectiveness of the sales-enablement assets you create. You may look at traffic, brand awareness, or acquisition metrics in a marketing-led motion. Product-led (or self-serve) will focus on the entire funnel of product adoption metrics from acquisition, activation, retention, and referral. The focus is on how efficiently you move a user or customer through these stages.
  •  Your target audience: Typically, in a self-serve or PLG motion, your target audience may look more like a consumer in the B2C world. They have the freedom to search for, select, and purchase software without needing a ton of oversight or permission. Your goal is to make this process as frictionless as possible and enable the user to spread the product organically, using "bottoms-up" motion. If the product you're selling is intended for larger teams, is more complex, or has a long sales cycle, you're likely going to have a "tops-down" motion and be focusing on an executive, C-level buyer, or multiple buyers.

I typically recommend teams focus on product-led growth first. Make your product as intuitive and frictionless as possible, encourage viral sharing mechanisms, and product hooks that keep users returning. Add marketing-led or sales-led motions to supplement or accelerate your growth as you mature.

Tamara Grominsky
VP Product Marketing & Lifecycle, KajabiMay 10

I would argue that the definition of product marketing remains the same regardless of go-to-market motion. At it's core, product marketing is about identifying the right customer and markets that find your product valuable, positioning and packaging that value in a compelling way, and then driving go-to-market strategy to capture that market.

What changes across go-to-market motions are channel strategies and areas of focus. 

For example, if you're at a company with a sales-led go-to-market motion - ie. you have an outbound sales team that drives the majority of purchases - then your role as a PMM team will be more focused on sales enablement. This will involve heavy focus on activities like competitive intelligence and sales collateral. One piece of feedback from a high value account may carry a lot of weight, and you'll focus a lot on qualitative research. 

But, if you're at a PLG company, you may not have a sales team at all. In this case, you'll be working closer with product and UX teams to ensure that you've optimized the customer journey and lifecycle and that you're building in growth loops. Your trialer, freemium or customer base will likely be larger than in a sales-led org, so you'll spend more time on quantitative research in addition to qualitative research.

Anna Wiggins
Sr. Director Product Marketing, BlueVineJanuary 18

There are product-led companies that also have sales and marketing funnels. I would say marketing and sales funnels are key to the success of many product-led companies. 

To answer your question, the biggest difference is that in a self-serve company you will be focused on product marketing at scale. Much like in a sales org, you’ll still be focused on funnel optimization. However, instead of driving leads to the sales team, you’ll be driving sign-up and activation rate growth. And instead of using lead gen forms, you’ll be using your site, retargeting ads, and product experience to ensure prospects decide to sign up and actually make it through the sign-up process.