Building trust is the key component here and I think you get there by taking the time to listen and learn. With the product team specifically, it’s educating them on your role and how you’re ultimately aligned to the same thing --> amplifying the value of the product they’re building and to grow revenue and adoption. That said, there are many cross-functional teams product marketing works with and the best way to build trust is to know your products, your market, and your customers. If you can come to the table with that knowledge and expertise the value of what you have to offer will clearly be seen through the quality of work you produce and how you can parter and work together moving forward.
First, this is so hard! I have been through a few turns of this and candidly I’d say not every company is ready. There are companies that are just not ready to have a strategic pmm org. Maybe their product org is still maturing, or not on secure footing for some reason. It is especially hard to have a strong product marketing team without well led and secure, collaborative product orgs. Second thing I’d suggest is to build trust, get closer to the customer. Product orgs always need more time with their customer. At Glassdoor, product marketing owns the market research and insight function, so we initiate a lot of the market opportunity analysis and qual and quant research our product team utilizes. This gives us an opportunity to speak with product not just with opinions, but with data and insight. Our head of market insights is in many ways our secret weapon, and we try to put data-backed insights at the center of everything we deliver.
This happens a lot, and a lot of times it’s because PMM wasn’t established when the company started shipping products and became successful without the help of a PMM function.
The key is to really help the PM’s understand the true value of PMM and that we are able to take a lot of the work they actually don’t enjoy doing (writing documentation, building sales enablement and project managing a launch). PMs have enough on their hands working with their engineers and trying to meet tight deadlines and responding to customer calls. Start to identify work on their plate that should actually belong to PMM and start taking ownership of it.
This will help build trust as you work with them to help divide up the work and demonstrate this is where PMM starts stepping in to own, so it’s no longer extra work that Product teams need to work on. Once this begins to happen more and more, PMM and PM will be able to fully understand what each other works on and it becomes just a pass over of work as it gets completed, and you become each other's friends, not foe.
Show up! In my last role, I was on a team where it wasn’t usual for PMM to play a significant role in the PM planning or organization. I showed up, spent time with the leaders, shared what PMM could do (by doing it!), and was consistent and available. I ended up being BFF with the PM lead. Together, we had a massive impact on the product and customer adoption. It was also a lot of fun.
This is an interesting one. In my last company, I joined as the first PMM. In my first meeting with the product team, I spent a fair bit of time explaining the role of PMMs and what we do — how we connect the market to the goals of the organization, and the product back to the market.
That helped PMs understand when and how to engage with PMM. In that instance, the company was also undertaking a shift from selling to developers -- an audience PMs knew well -- to business buyers. It was definitely a journey over a period of time to bring back market insight, customer questions and requirements, analyst feedback, competitive intelligence, and so on.
And, as with any human relationship, you have to nurture it -- get to know people, try to spend time with them, break bread with them (hard in a virtual world today). If they like you and feel listened to, they will open up.
Start with discovery and a series of questions that you can consistently ask your stakeholders.
1. Understand them as humans: what motivates people, how they communicate, what they're passionate about, what parts of their job they feel best at.
2. Understand how they work: how they form strategy, how they build products, what data they trust, what data and strategy they lack and would love.
3. Understand how they position your product, what the value prop is, who your best-fit customers are.
Select 3 quick wins you can do that, depending on your organization, build trust through relationship building, data sourcing, or clarification of strategy, then lean into defining your role.