In your eyes, what's product marketing's role in the launch? What's key to ensure it's smooth?
I've heard it described a few different ways: product marketer is the CEO of the launch, since you have to wear so many hats preparding for a launch, or you're the quarterback since you have to pass the ball, run the ball and organize with so many other people.
The role really is ownership of the launch though. Because someone has to own it completely, it can't be done correctly by committee (from my experience at least). So what that ends up meaning is you have to do a bunch of jobs: communicator, organizer, writer, researcher, cheerleader, advocate, etc.
So my suggestion is don't think of it in terms of "key deliverables" for the launch, but owning the launch from top to bottom. Product management should own delivering the thing (product, feature, solution) that's being launch. Product marketing should own the launch itself.
I’ve heard two terms used before to describe product marketing’s role in a launch that really resonate with me and I think accurately sum up what we do. The first is “launch captain” and the second is “momentum maker” (credit to @Marcus Andrews for that one). Product marketing is the “captain” that brings all of the other cross-functional teams together to bring a launch to life. We sit in the middle of Product, Marketing and Sales and are the bridge between them to determine how we can best market a launch across all of the many workstreams and activities that go into it. I think the second term “momentum maker” is also a perfect way to describe this work as product marketing does so much to explain and convince other teams why each launch matters, building that momentum and excitement across the company.
As for how to ensure a launch is smooth, I think the most important elements are clear communication, strong collaboration, and solid organization. Especially in a big launch, there are so many different teams involved and tons of different workstreams, that it’s incredibly important that everyone impacted is quickly informed when there’s a change, teams are working cohesively together, and everything is tracked well to understand progress and potential risks.
As a launch gets started, some of the biggest deliverables from PMM are an overview of what is launching and the messaging and positioning for why it matters. At Zendesk, we usually do this through a couple docs. The first is much more concise and an overview of what is launching, how it works and who it’s available to/will appeal to, screenshots or demos, why it matters, and value props. The second is much more meaty and what we call a messaging source document. The messaging source doc dives into those same elements in the overview but in much more detail and is usually only used by teams like campaigns or content that need to know much more detail around areas like messaging, positioning, and target audiences. For the majority of teams though, the overview is the level of detail they need. We also separately pull together other resources like customer testimonials and validation for example for PR, content, and sales enablement.
In terms of what gets handed off to other teams, product marketing is pretty involved in every step of the launch, even if other teams are the main drivers of certain parts. We use those docs mentioned above to educate other teams on the launch and give them a go-to resource, but then PMM stays involved in the strategy and reviews of almost all of the workstreams as they’re developed and executed.
Every company has a different PMM philosophy so it's really important to dig deep into this whenever you're interviewing.
On my team, where I run core product marketing for RingCentral's flagship, I view product marketing's role as the nucleus for messaging strategy. Here are the 4 areas of where I ask my PMMs to spend their time and energy on. Everything outside of this falls as either a favor, gap, or distraction.
Research (PMM is owner)
These are activities that are designed to generate insights around positioning and messaging. Examples:
- User surveys
- Message testing
- Metrics/analytics review
Tame the Roadmap Chaos (PMM is owner)
This includes tying features to our brand & product themes to tell compelling & consistent narratives.
- Craft messaging
- Capture marketing angle
- Align to key narratives
- Recommend mic drop moment per quarter
Dissemination (PMM is owner)
Communicate research and messaging work to appropriate team members. “Train the trainer.”
- Enable Enablement
- Enable Marketing Org
- Share research insights with PM
Manifestation (PMM SUPPORTS AS KEY STAKEHOLDER)
PMMs work with respective team members to ensure the integrity of positioning and messaging is preserved through manifestations. (e.g. assets, sales playbooks, digital ads, web copy, etc.)
Ah-ha moment: Favors, distractions, and gaps are the reality. I challenged myself to communicate these recurring needs and find resourcing so that I can focus more time and energy on strategic messaging and consult teams for rock-solid execution. This is a growth opportunity and IMO, what helps identify who is going to be put on a leadership track.
I hate to use a cliche, but Product Marketing is the glue that holds everything together. We're the central point of contact, part project manager, part strategist. We create the Go-To-Market (GTM) plan based on research and product-market fit, and then we kick it into gear. It's about rallying all the teams—marketing, customer service, sales, partners, product—to make it happen. It's like conducting a symphony of efforts to turn our strategy into a real, successful product launch. I've talked about the process and key components for success in the first question.