What is the best partnership process between product marketing and marketing when it comes to a product launch?
I would recommend first uncovering the root cause of the confusion. Is the confusion causing redundancy, disagreements over roles & responsibilities, are mismatched expectations of results?
The best partnership between product marketing and marketing is when there are clear metrics that will make each team successful. Usually, this is pretty obvious for Tier 1 product launches given the level of resources and prioritization to warrant its own marketing campaign. The easiest way to outline how product marketing can make the marketing team successful is through a project brief that covers the proposed launch plan with product marketing calling the “play” - what channels, marketing mix, cadence of communications, etc - and have the marketing subject matter experts weigh in on what’s possible and what’s recommended given the audience, priority, and timing. Some PMM leaders use the hub and spoke model, with PMM described as the hub, working with the other teams (Marketing, Sales, CS, Product, Research, etc)
In most of the organizations I’ve been in, Product Marketing sits in Marketing but works closely with Product Management to achieve successful launches. Product Marketing and Product Management have clear, complementary objectives. When Product Marketing is best buds with Marketing, the Marketing team benefits from having a greater understanding of the company’s products and services to create campaigns and targeting to more efficiently generate and close opportunities.
Some companies delineate Product Marketing as Inbound and Outbound product marketing. If your Marketing organization is more focused on marketing-led or sales-led growth vs product-led growth, this could be a source for tension or the lack of clarity on what team is responsible for what aspect of the launch.
To address this, our Product Marketing team hosts the kickoff meetings with the rest of Marketing to discuss the handoff points and use Asana to project manage to completion. It stays high level enough so each Marketing department’s role is clear across comms, creative, demand gen, campaigns, marketing ops, and other groups.
The ideal product marketing organization would cover both - inbound and outbound product marketing so they can influence product innovation and GTM strategy. However, I have experienced that not all PMMs get to do both.
See answer below on “How do you think about the scope or deliverables for various launches?”
Our Product Marketing org rolls into Product on the org chart, but we are every bit as part of the Marketing team too. For any launch, I think of Product Marketers as the quarterback for the rest of the marketing team. It’s the product marketer’s responsbility to be proactive and come up with the strategy, positioning, and messaging first.
We usually kickoff the launch at a Marketing All-Hands. This is led by PMM, meaning Product Marketing should own, define, and articulate the following:
- What is the new product area
- Which buyer persona / company segment is a good fit
- What is the messaging
- What is the positioning and competitive landscape
- What are some initial ideas that marketing can get involved with
After the initial kickoff, we spin off into a few different streams, including:
- PMM sync – different PMMs usually own various assets (e.g. sales deck, product demo video, etc)
- Keynote sync with corporate marketing – how do we incorporate the launch into the next keynote
- PR sync – what is the press strategy, message, and timing
- AR sync – who are the industry analysts we want to preview this with and what is the schedule
- Content sync – outside of product content, what other bylines or whitepapers can be produced
- Campaign sync – what is the outbound campaign strategy and timeline
- Web sync – how should the website be updated to reflect the new product launch
Teamwork makes the dream work! But with large launches and lots of people eager to make it work, it can be confusing. I find that centering that teamwork on an agreed to “Bill of Materials” -- the list of all marketing content that will be produced - helps drive alignment, timelines, and accountability. Within that list identify who the “owner” is - the person that will drive the execution of the content and in some cases, identify key reviewers or collaborators. Set dates and call out contingencies (i.e. Before the press release can be drafted the product launch messaging / positioning needs to be approved).
A critical yet simple tool that I’ve used to get cross-functional marketing teams aligned early and often is a crisply written marketing brief that outlines DRIs (directly responsible individuals) for each swimlane of work. This document can serve as the northstar for go-to-market efforts, not only distilling product context down to its core, but also detailing key elements of the overall marketing strategy such as KPIs, positioning and messaging, and the overall channel strategy.
Once socialized and agreed upon with the broader marketing team, individual channel leads (like CRM, performance marketing, etc.) will play a key role in the executional elements while PMM continues to serve as the common strategic thread and ultimate approver of what hits the external airwaves.
Product Marketing should be hub and glue that brings all teams together. I usually create a brief for each product launch (see messaging framework question below to see what goes into the brief) and I think through what channels should push the feature. I use another framework for this, which clasifies features into "likely to attract new customers" vs "delights current users" and "innovating" vs "catching up". This creates 4 quadrants. Then I choose channels accordingly. I created a table where I outline for each type of feature, what channel support it gets (happy to share this table as well if people are interested). I made sure to socialize this framework thoroughly and get marketing and product's input. Having done this early on, means it's a lot easier for me to explain why and when channels get involved. PMM owns messaging and creative execution but channels owns the channel strategy, so they tell PMM how they plan on supporting the feature. They have full freedom here and PMM's role there is just to make sure it's on message and there's cross-channel collaboration to amplify each other's work.