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If product marketing is a relatively new function at your company (relative to product), what advice do you have on becoming a strategic partner and more involved earlier in the product roadmap development process?

6 Answers
Anna Wiggins
Anna Wiggins
Bluevine Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Content, Customer ResearchAugust 12

I’m glad you are asking this question because this is exactly the right mindset you should have in a young Product Marketing org to avoid becoming solely a GTM service function.

The path to this is through a mixture of education and showing value to the Product team. Something you should find out is why the Product Marketing team was created and who was the driver behind the creation. If the momentum came from outside of the Product team, the PMs likely won’t know how to work with Product Marketing and this will be an opportunity for you to educate and bring the full scope of what you can do to the table.

If the momentum came from the Product team, you need to understand their definition and expectations for Product Marketing. If it doesn’t align with yours, understand where the gaps are and how you can work to close them over time.

One other thing to keep in mind - I hear a lot that the path to showing value to Product Managers is through customer insights. However keep in mind that most PMs are already gathering customer insights. Usually it’s on a much smaller and perhaps disjointed scale. For example, they’ll talk to five customers in-depth about a particular feature and the notes live somewhere in their drive vs. available for other PMs to consume. So a quick way to add value is to gather, centralize, and make searchable customer findings PMs have collected over time as well as to conduct customer research at scale that can eventually be benchmarked.

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Jessica Webb Kennedy
Jessica Webb Kennedy
Hummingbirds Head Of MarketingDecember 9

This happens a lot, PMMs are brought in quite frantically once a team already has a very specific way of working and it's on the PMM to figure out how to slot themselves in. I think the first thing that needs to happen is to clearly delineate and articulate team members' roles and responsibilities - Atlassian actually has a great guided playbook you can run with your team to do just this!

Doing the above ^ creates a space for the team to better articulate and understand their own roles and those of their teammates. I find one of the biggest blockers in having a great working relationship with Product Management is misunderstanding or disagreement on who does what. Often when the PM team has been around for a while they may be used to doing certain things that actually are your job now! So identifying these areas and having an ongoing dialogue about them can mitigate a lot of these issues. 

The other thing I'd encourage PMMs joining a company where Product Marketing is new is to remember that it's your job to showcase your skills, experience, and value. Coming in it's a great plan to setup 1-1s with key stakeholders, to write up a blog on something like Confluence , or make a presentation at a company meeting about who you are, what you've done, and what you are there to do. Think of this as your internal campaign to get people on board with your mission and vision - it's much easier to do this upfront and broadly rather than starting from scratch with each launch, project, person, conversation etc.

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Thomas Dong
Thomas Dong
NetSpring VP of MarketingDecember 10

Very simply become a credible source of synthesized market and competitive intelligence. I'm being very deliberate about the word "synthesized", because in understanding the target market, we must understand and convey customer needs at large, not just echoing the loudest customer or citing the most recent competitive loss, customer meeting, or analyst conversation. That was probably already happening before Product Marketing showed up!

Then as a trusted source of market and competitive insights, I have found one very effective way to influence roadmap development. Ask PM to prioritize the backlog of new features into 3 tiers, and organize their Tier 1 features into 3-4 major themes over the next 12-18 months. With that initial set of themes, collaborate with PM to describe and align those themes to key market trends or well-defined buying agendas. 

PMM can then compile those themes into a well-sequenced narrative that reinforces your competitive product strategy. Those themes can then be leveraged to inform quarterly marketing campaigns and thought leadership progams. Also anchor themes to major industry events when possible. 

This whole exercise has conveniently produced a market-driven POV on how to sequence and prioritize new feature releases. And in doing so, PMM can help ensure the company and ensuing roadmap becomes more market-driven, versus roadmapping being a purely product-led or sales-led exercise.

Finally, kudos to those companies who are recognizing the strategic importance of product marketing and formalizing the function in their organizations. I am seeing more and more start-ups building up their marketing leadership with a strong bias towards product marketing, making it one of the first marketing functions to build out, not the last!

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Christina Dam
Christina Dam
Lightspeed Commerce Vice President, Brand & Product MarketingOctober 14

This is a great question and a situation that many PMMs will find themselves in at some point in time! A few thoughts here:

  1. Building trust takes time: Before you can be seen as a strategic partner, you need to build trust with the team and demonstrate you know and understand what they are trying to achieve. As quickly as you can, become an expert in the product, and your customers. You need to know both of them inside out in order to do the work to connect the amazing product being built to the audience you believe most needs & would best benefit from it. Don’t wait for someone to show you - dig in and set up demo accounts, schedule calls with customers, research the industry, and ask to join roadmap reviews / design reviews / sprint planning sessions / team retros.
  2. Show your value. While you’re learning the product, the customers, and the team, you’ll probably uncover work that isn’t being done, or is missing. Go do that work! Find some white space where you can both be proactive and add value to the overall mission at hand. Share what you’re doing, why you think it’s important, and the results. Do this over and over again -- explaining WHY is incredibly powerful, as is showing the impact of your work (can be metric-driven or new insights, etc). As you deliver key insights about the audience, and offer opinions on what features you think might be most important to invest in (and why), and how you can capitalize it for the business, your value will become understood.
  3. Educate, educate, educate. Product marketing as we know it today is a relatively new function. There will always be someone you work with that has had little exposure or experience with PMMs. It is probably useful to have a few slides in your back pocket that explain “what is product marketing” and “how to work with PMMs” that you can share with teams (over and over again!). Be sure to include the part about product marketers being key inputs into product strategy and roadmaps, too :-).
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Jackie Palmer
Jackie Palmer
Pendo VP Product MarketingAugust 23

Whether PMM is new or established, the relationship with Product is key! I'll repeat my response from one of the other questions as I think it applies here as well:

The relationship between Product Marketing and Product Management is often the most important relationship you can have as a product marketer. The best thing to do here is build up a buddy system and make sure you are bringing value to the relationship. I like to have my PMMs partner up with PMs 1:1 as much as possible. And I like to do the same myself with the head of Product. Having regular check ins helps but even better is having regular check ins where you are delivering value and proving that you can add something vs always taking.

I have a set of things I like to do to build meaningful relationships with key stakeholders and building the relationship with Product Management is no different. My 7 relationship building "secrets" are:

  1. Understand strengths and weaknesses: Figure out who in your organization has the skills that can help you. And think about what you're able to give in return. You should know what you bring to the table and where you need support from others.

  2. Listen first: I think we all know this in our hearts but it’s often hard in practice. Listening is one of the greatest relationship building skills you can have. I’m as guilty as the next person on jumping in but it truly is better to listen first.

  3. Be proactive: Most other teams are focused on their own work and deliverables, you’ll likely need to offer your services first rather than waiting for people to ask you to participate.

  4. Make yourself available: It’s easy to get stuck in your own little world. I’m a big fan of 1:1s both with your manager or other managers but even better with people you work closely with day to day. It doesn’t have to be long but offering to have a chat even on zoom can go a long way.

  5. Follow through: Nothing is worse than someone who fails to deliver. It’s better to over-communicate on progress than to not reply at all. Same for if you are waiting for someone to deliver something to you, make any deadlines known ahead of time and follow up.

  6. Know when to ask for help: This is the hardest relationship skill to learn and where managers can really help their team the most. You need to try to be aware of when you need help and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. And as a manager, keep an eye out for when someone is struggling and offer to help knock down any boundaries in the way.

  7. Start small: I know it’s a cliche but crawl walk run is truly the best mantra to absorb. It applies to work but it also applies to relationships. Try something small at first, whether it’s a short slack message or a small task and then add on from there.

Leveraging these ideas can help ensure healthy and aligned relationships with Product Management!

473 Views
Melinda Chung
Melinda Chung
ex-VP Marketing at VSCO; ex-Dir at PMM Adobe; Founder at Product Marketing BootcampFebruary 3

Your relationship with your PM is key here.

You need to earn credibility and trust with them in order to stand a chance of being involved earlier in the roadmap development process. We are not "given" any right here as. PMM; you need to earn it.

You build credibility and trust by:

  • Being strategic - you understand the market dynamics, you are tracking competitors across both product and marketing, and you are offering insights 1:1 and in group settings

  • Being customer-oriented - you represent the voice of the customer in every interaction and can speak knowledgeable about how to best serve them

  • Recognizing what you don't know - in both of the above, your PM will also have a strong voice. Be respectful about what you do and don't know and be ready to have a conversation grounded in curiosity rather than righteousness

  • Understanding how you can deliver unique value - building and launching products is a team sport. Every relationship is different. Your PM at your current company will have different strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes, from your past PM. Figure out what this gap is, and serve it. You're doing it for the best of the business, and you're doing it for the team, and that will be respected.

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