How do you increase the Product Marketing function's ability to be a more strategic player in the company and not just the launch arm of the feature factory?
This is a classic challenge for PMM teams and the unhelpful answer is it will somewhat depend on how your company is set up. However, ultimately it comes down to demonstrating the value you can bring and building credibility with stakeholders so that PMM get a 'seat at the table'.
Some tips that I've found effective:
- Show how you can add value, outside of launches (and be proactive - don't wait to be asked to do so!). This could be packaging up competitive and market insights for the product team, proactively providing feedback and input into product roadmaps, or proposing a new strategy for enablement. At Intercom, for example, a couple of years ago PMM started creating new 'GTM Strategies' which included info about our target audience, competitors, messaging etc. These are now used as an input into our product and marketing strategies.
- Build relationships with and educate stakeholders on what product marketing is/does so they understand your role and where they should be involving you. PMM differs in every company so setting expectations, understanding others' goals and helping them understand where you can help builds credibility
- Raise visibility of the work you/your team are doing and the results you drive, in whatever way makes sense at your company (Posting in Slack/email, presenting at company show & tell etc)
- Protect PMM's time for non-launch work - in many product-led companies it can be really easy to have all your time taken up doing launches. It's really important to not let them take over and end up with no time to actually do more strategic work. Some ways to do this include things like tiering frameworks and bundling launches, so you're prioritising efforts on the most impactful things
- Push for inclusion - it's going to feel a little uncomfortable, but you might have to push to be involved and insert yourself into meetings/processes where you think PMM should be included. Proactively ask to be added to meetings or to be able to review docs, for example, and call it out when you've not been involved when you should've been. Don't sit back and wait to be asked to input, and also don't assume you've not been included for malicious reasons - sometimes people might just not know it's something PMM should be involved in (which is why point 2 above about building relationships and setting expectations is so important!).
Know that it will take time for things to change, but if people are seeing that you're adding value, they will over time involve you in more and more. Over time, this will lead to PMM being considered a key contributor to strategy and will then give you more freedom to work on more strategic things.
This is a great question. The key here is to get involved early - in roadmap planning and product strategy - so that your role extends beyond reactively launching features. If you're at a B2B company, this means you'll want to get to know the market and your target audience really well so you can deliver insights to the rest of the organization, especially sales and product. You'll want to have a perspective on key product gaps, where the market is moving and customer needs/expectations.
In terms of specific actions you can take, if you're not involved in your company's quarterly roadmap planning process - get involved. Come prepared to those meetings armed with insights (from customer surveys, Salesforce, qualitative data from the field) to support your POV on the roadmap. If you become a thought partner to your PM counterpart, he or she will include you in the strategic planning process.
Ultimately, it takes time to build relationships and prove your ability to add real value to be seen as a strategic player vs a launch arm. This can be done by leading a successful product launch, shipping a new pitch deck for sales, being the best resource for competitive intelligence, etc. For the purposes of this AMA, I'll focus on short-term strategies that'll help you establish yourself.
Educate: When you're establishing the product marketing function, it's possible that the current team has never worked with product marketing before and may not be aware of what product marketing is capable of. Take the time to understand the challenges other teams are facing and think through how product marketing can add value. At Sourcegraph, I created a document that explicitly outlines what product marketing does and how we collaborate with/add value to other teams. Putting a stake in the ground doesn't immediately get you a seat at the table - but it lets your cross-functional partners know how they can work with you.
Be proactive: PMM is most impactful when we're brought in early. If there's an initiative that you think PMM should be involved in, don't be afraid to ask if you or someone on your team can be involved. More often than not, the people working on it will be happy to have the support.
Find ways to add value: Whether it's reviewing in-app copy for a product designer, sharing an interesting takeaway you learned from an analyst call, or synthesizing feedback you've heard from customers, try to find little ways to add value in the beginning.
It takes time at any company to increase the visibility of a new department and or function. Building trust takes time and I believe you need to be adaptable and cognizant of the company culture you are in.
I am a firm believer in building relationships cross-functionally and making deep investments in both the people and the problems that those people are solving for. To this end, a genuine and insatiable curiousity and empathy for your user and product is a product marketer's super power. Begin by building momentum with consistent delivery for your partners (on launches, comm's, etc). Develop a practice around sharing insights and outcomes (both the good and the bad). Be the constant advocate and voice of your customer (with data). Know thy business case and how your company makes money. Frame and adapt your business cases and conversations to the audiences in the room. Shift your conversation from tactical outcomes to make larger connections to anchored on insights and impacts. Your ability to think bigger and through a broader lens than strictly "product marketing" should net you a more strategic seat at the table.
I’m assuming this question is about moving from a focus on the “last mile” of the go-to-market process entailing sales enablement and product launches to more “upstream” go-to-market strategy activities like identifying market opportunities, defining target segments in the market, partnering with product earlier in the development process, etc. There are many ways to navigate this transition, but a fairly common thread I’ve seen enabling those various paths is insights — insights on customers, competitors, or the market. Your task as a PMM leader is to “earn the right” to participate in those “upstream” activities by demonstrating your team can add value and be a thought leader in those conversations.
Start small with things like win/loss analysis, customers interviews, or mystery shopper exercises with your competitors. You can take things a step further by launching a customer advisory board, especially if you’re in enterprise SaaS where it’s challenging to generate quant insights given the small audience of buyers you’re targeting so qual insights from a council of customers can be game-changing for getting feedback on your company’s product roadmap, messaging, or other forward-looking plans. And if you want to be really ambitious, you can formally establish an insights function within your team so that you have the resources to constantly produce a steady stream of insights that give your team a really strong seat at the table as the voice of market/voice of the customer. This last route of an insights function could take numerous forms with two potential examples being dedicating 50% of one PMM's time toward insights exploration or hiring a dedicated Market Researcher.
One of the big bets we made in PMM at Chime this year was to commission and activate a deep segmentation study. This has been a bit of a Rosetta Stone for our entire organization and has been picked up by many stakeholders cross functionally. Many of us are using this work to think deeply about product market fit with various sub segments of the market. We are looking at how might it inform future TAM expansions. This has brought our Growth, Strategy, PM , UX and PMM teams together in deep collaboration. The study has become an anchor to future strategies and has helped us validate / discredit earlier hypotheses around consumers and needs in the market.
PMM and Strategy are really closely linked. I work daily with Corp Strat partners who are often focused on the 3+ year plan within an organization. Chime is no different in this regard. I have found -- both at Capital One and at Chime that there is a tremendous allyship with your Strat partners. Get to know them. Have coffee with them. Talk about the industry with them. Raise your hand to collaborate / have your team collaborate on special assignments. Ask questions and really set aside time to deepen your relationships with a couple of folks within the Strat team. It will be well worth it.
Become the driver of GTM strategy. Going back to the corporate trinity: Sales, Marketing and Engineering, a sound GTM strategy informs Engineering on what to build (roadmap), suggests to Marketing what messaging resonates and where and how to reach our targets (campaigns), and helps Sales focus their efforts and find repeatable success (sales plays).
This all begins with a strong foundation in persona-based marketing. The key is to drive consensus at all levels and across all functions on:
1) Who the personas are, organized by Champions, Economic Buyers, and Influencers. To see what I mean by personas, see my persona archetype template.
2) Organizing those personas into the Buying Committee for a given product or solution, and mapping out their journey through the stages of the sales funnel (e.g. awareness, learn, evaluate, buy, adopt, advocate). For a visual, this is what I mean by a journey map.
The journey maps help institutionalize all the learnings and assumptions into one simple yet powerful visualization, while helping every function understand their role in servicing customers through their journey. As owners of this view, PMM will soon be looked to for guidance on roadmap, documentation and training requirements, partner/ecosystem strategies, community development programs, event strategies, campaigns and thought leadership topics, etc.
I hear this pain quite a bit. Many people would likely propose working hard to have a "seat at the table". To me this isn't quite enough. A seat at the table will give you insight into launches, but not necessarily any real sway towards changing decisions.
I believe product marketers need to expand beyond the "typical" skillset to provide enough value to be taken seriously at early stages. Be comfortable pulling your own data directly from the databse using SQL, be competent at Figma / Sketch, learn how to code a little to understand the relative difficulty of engineering tasks, spend time prioritizing features yourself and learn a few prioritization frameworks. These skills (and others) will help you be a true value-add during times where roles are less clearly defined, aka product idealization.
The Product Marketing function is strategic by nature. If you're not positioned strategically in the organization, you're at a major disadvantage. PMM work isn't just about releasing new features, it's about defining strategy and influencing the roadmap through the Voice of the Customer. If you're currently not positioned to collaborate with leadership on these initiatives, start building up processes that frame you and the PMM team as strategic leaders within the org.
You can do this by prioritizing strategically, asking to be invited to conversations, adding value to the entire organization by highlighting the Voice of the Customer in strategic ways, and more.