Level Up Your Career
Learn the best practices and latest trends directly from leaders in your field
Where does all that time get repurposed in self-serve PMM? What are some of the big categories of work where you over-invest in self-serve vs. traditional B2B PMM?
7 answers
All related (15)
Jenna Crane
Head of Product Marketing at Klaviyo | Formerly Drift, Dropbox, UpworkOctober 17

Even in sales-enabled businesses, sales enablement is just one aspect of product marketing responsibilities. The bulk of the work is consistent across both self-serve and sales-enabled product marketing teams, such as:

  • Owning positioning and launch of new products and features
  • Building, maintaining, and enabling the company on foundational insights: Messaging, competitive intelligence, customer/buyer journeys, personas, proof points, etc.
  • Creating content that drives revenue and retention: Website content, webinars, demo videos, etc.
  • Working with Product to shape the roadmap and feature requirements based on customer insights, competitive landscape, and market positioning
  • Owning positioning and messaging for the company (and the category, if you've created one)

Of course these responsibilities differ by company (especially the industry and stage of the company) but those are the main themes for B2B SaaS. 

Where self-serve PMMs generally 'over-invest' instead of working on sales enablement:

  • Creating content that convinces prospects to sign up (often website content and videos)
  • Driving or supporting consideration activities like email nurture flows and/or webinars
  • Driving adoption and net retention by working on onboarding experiences (in and out of the product), introducing more advanced features to the right customers at the right time, and finding the right touchpoints to introduce cross-sell or upsell opportunities
Christy Roach
Senior Director, Portfolio & Engagement Product Marketing at Airtable November 17

You’re right that as a self-serve PMM, you’re no longer as focused on sales enablement as many B2B product marketers are. Here are some of the big areas my team is focused on that might be a bit different than a sales enablement focused PMM role. 

  • Acquisition: My team is very focused on how we can help prospective customers understand the value of Airtable, what it can do for them, and why they should use it. We get a ton of website traffic, and our performance marketing team does a great job targeting users, but PMM should have a role in making sure we have the right message and consideration content for these users. This takes the form of messaging for paid ads and paid landing pages, as well as creating landing pages, explainer videos, and more for website visitors to consider pre-signup. We measure the success of this work by website conversion and successfully activated signups. 
  • Activation and user education: Rather than enabling a sales team to sell the product, we focus a lot of our time on enabling our customers to use our product. This takes the form of in product communication, guides and onboarding content, best practices and tips, email drip campaigns, and more. We’ve got a great user education team at Airtable who serve as key partners in this effort and we measure success here by product usage in the weeks after signup. 
  • Conversion and expansion: One of the things I love most about self-serve PMM is how close you get to be to monetization and revenue. A lot of time is spent looking at our pricing and packaging, running programs to increase conversion, and ensuring that customers are growing and succeeding in their use of the product. This is the type of strategy work that gets me most excited and where I focus a lot of my energy. 
  • Internal team enablement: Turns out, you still do enablement in a self-serve PMM role, it just looks a little different. My team should have a very close line to our customer support team and spend time thinking through the types of questions that may come in through our community, support, and social channels and drafting responses that answer questions and ensure customers get what they need to use the product successfully. It’s less work on pitch decks and more work on FAQ docs and incoming pings asking how we should respond to a question we got asked on Twitter, but it’s still an incredibly important form of enablement.
Anna Wiggins
Sr. Director Product Marketing, Insights, Copy & Content at Bluevine January 17

Similar to my earlier answer, product marketers who work on self-serve products are mainly focused on communicating with customers at scale - since this model relies on broad-based channels to interest, educate, and retain customers. Your website, product UI, and resource center will be doing a lot of heavy lifting to accomplish these goals and you’ll be investing in contextual product education, demos, walkthroughs, resource guides, and email journeys. 

Also, in a sales/account management driven org, product feedback, and feature requests come via informal conversations between customers and their account management teams. In a self-service org, you’ll be spending a lot more time talking directly with your customers and prospects to understand their pain points and how your product meets or does not meet those needs.

Kacy Boone
Head of Growth Marketing at Clockwise July 29

Great question! I’ve sat in product marketing roles at both consumer/product-led companies and B2B companies so I’ve seen both.

In a B2B setting, product marketing is making its impact on revenue and user growth by enabling Sales. Well, in a self-serve world, your end goal is the same but the methods by which you do that are different.

Let’s take monetization and generating revenue as an example. With B2B, you’re arming the Sales team with killer decks with just the right sizzle and proof points to close the deal. In self-serve, you’re still trying to “sell” your users but you’re doing that through broad communication channels, like email, in-product messaging, and ads to help users realize the value of paying for your product. You’ll be investing in more lifecycle marketing, growth marketing, and (if your company has it) deeply involved with your product growth team.

Claire Maynard
Head Of Marketing at Magical February 8

In my eyes, much of the time you spend and core fundamentals and responsibilities are the same. As a PMM for self-serve and sales-led motions, you need to be an expert on the product, customer, and market. Doing this well involves time with customers (and non-customers!), analyzing data, partnering with product teams, and so on. Where you spend the rest of your time will depend on the GTM motion (or combination of motions) you've decided are best for your product/company.

See my answer to: 'How does self-serve product impact product marketing function?'

Speaking from the Atlassian perspective, we have built a well-oiled self-serve machine but of course, alongside it, we have a sales motion that's critical to larger enterprise accounts. 

A few of the main differences I see between the two types of functions:

  • What team you're enabling: For example, a Sales team vs a Growth or support team. You may not be enabling sales in a self-serve motion but you are certainly partnering with teams like growth or demand gen to design programs that help a user move through an onboarding journey for example. You also need to enable internal teams, support teams, social teams and help them understand the value of the product, how to talk about it, and answer common questions that arise from customers. 
  • Types of assets you create: Sales collateral vs product education assets like landing pages, videos, customer stories, or onboarding guides. As a self-serve PMM, you're using your knowledge of the audience, their lifecycle, and product to create assets that guide them through the products on their own, without needing a human touch. 
  • Channels you use in your GTM strategy: Email vs thought leadership content or SEO, fueling UGC or a community. The channels you use in self-serve may look different than in a traditional model. Your job is to reach the audience as they are looking for answers around the pain your product solves, questions they have about your product in the consideration phase or purchase phase. You will also want to be involved in figuring out the viral loops that encourage users to return to the product and to share it with others. 

I have a background in growth marketing so what I love about self-serve product marketing is that your role touches every part of the customer journey and funnel. A sales-led product marketer's main goal is to drive leads and enable sales to close those leads. A self-serve product marketer designs programs that accelerate every step of the customer journey from acquisition, activation, revenue, and expansion.

Madison Leonard 🕶
Product Marketing & Growth Advisor at | Formerly ClickUp, Vanta, DreamWorks AnimationDecember 4

Great question. To clarify, self-serve product marketing still needs to enable sales teams. Just not as frequently as sales-led organizations. 

Typically, self-serve products have a tiered pricing structure that includes free/trial, premium, and enterprise with limits around seats, usage, storage, and/or specific features. 

For those who sign up for free or with a trial, there's a ton of self-serve value and education that rests on the product marketing team. For this base tier, success comes in the form of retention and conversion to paid (which for freemium plans, is only about 5% on average). 

This means focusing on onboarding, active and inactive nurture emails, feature updates or release notes, customer marketing, review site management, and working closely with marketing teams to develop product-specific content across social, blogs, landing pages, and paid acquisition. 

There's definitely tons of work to be done, but the level of work depends on your company size. For example, smaller organizations usually don't have a dedicated customer marketing manager, so PMM adds that to their responsibility. 

The biggest overlooked skillset of a PLG product marketer is their ability to plug into marketing acquisition strategy. Specialty roles like paid marketing or social media are focused on very specific outcomes. They are not expected to have deep product knowledge. This is where product marketing steps in to help guide messaging and graphics specific to each individual user persona and use case. One persona could have multiple use cases, so this really adds up! 

Jeffrey Vocell
VP of Product Marketing at | Formerly Narvar, Iterable, HubSpot, IBMApril 7

In most B2B settings, Product Marketing, or a distinct Enablement team (if your organization has one), spends a lot of time driving revenue and user growth through enabling Sales and CS. Whereas, in self-serve or consumer-facing teams, this time spend enabling should be redirected to users directly and communicating with them through all the channels you're utilizing -- email, in-app, SMS, etc. 

In self-serve, you're directly selling to your customers, and also educating them on the value of your product/solution as well. Consider balancing these and working with your grwoth team (if you have one) on ways of implementing this in-product, and testing what messaging and materials work best overall. Talk with a lot of users -- ideally a mix of successful long-term users, and others who churned quickly to understand what's working and where the gaps are so you can spend your time working on any of those strategic gaps and filling those.