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Which are the mandatory questions you should ask the company founders when you're empowered to create the Product Marketing function from zero?

I will face this challenge very son and my thoughts are: - which are the company objectives? - which are the marketing and product marketing specific objectives? - the resources in place to achieve the objectives (human, financial, tools) - where is the product on the lifecycle? - top three priorities - how are sales/marketing/product teams organised?
8 Answers
Alex Chahin
Alex Chahin
Titan VP of MarketingOctober 4

What an exciting opportunity this is for you! I’m thrilled that you’ve earned this chance. When I joined Hims & Hers, I was in this exact position where I got to build out the Product Marketing team from scratch. It was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my career so far.

Your list of questions is great. If you’re able to get through all of these in the time you have allotted with the founders, that’s fantastic. You might find that the answers to these can be substantive, though, so you may need to prioritize the highest leverage questions that will give you the most information in helping you decide whether you should pursue the opportunity or not.

If there’s only one line of questioning I would encourage you to add into the mix, it would be to get an understanding of how the founders view product marketing and the impact it can have.

For instance, do they seem to be expressing that product marketing is a strategic function that can add a lot of value, or is it more tactical around launches? Do they expect product marketing to just come in at the end to coordinate marketing materials for a GTM, or do they believe that PMMs need a seat at the table early in product development to yield the best outcomes? What do they think makes great product marketing? What companies do they think do it well?

Some of these you’ll have to ask indirectly, because if asked directly you’ll probably get an unhelpful “sell” answer that’s what you want to hear but is less reflective of how the company actually operates.

You need to ask these types of questions because it’ll have a big impact on your personal and professional fulfillment in this role.

831 Views
Jack Wei
Jack Wei
Sendbird Head of MarketingJanuary 11
  • How are products currently released and who's involved?
  • What does pricing/packaging optimize for and how was it developed?
  • What's the company's ICP and why?
  • Who's the target persona and has this/will this evolve?
  • What type of marketer was the company's 1st marketing hire and why?
  • What's the founders' ideal ratio of PMM:PM?
522 Views
Julien Sauvage
Julien Sauvage
Clari VP, Brand, Content and Product MarketingNovember 30

Ask them what they need, what the challenges are, what the opportunities are - and what has gotten in the way so far. Also ask about the value customers are getting from the product today, and HOW that value is communicated today.

453 Views
Lindsay (Saran) Gatta
Lindsay (Saran) Gatta
Bumble Head of Product Marketing, Bumble For FriendsJanuary 24

I would ask about a few things:
-What types of marketing decisions do the founders want to be involved with? What types of decisions are they comfortable giving you autonomy to run?
-What is your budgeting process? Are the founders involved in that?

-Has the founder worked with a product marketer before? What did and didn't go well in their working relationship? Can you talk to that person?

-How does your founder(s) define product marketing?
-(If more than 1 founder), what types of approvals and decisions will each of them manage, or will you need 2-3 approvals/rounds of feedback with the majority of your day to day work?

441 Views
Sahil Sethi
Sahil Sethi
Freshworks Vice President - Global Product MarketingOctober 5

1. What is your mandate for product marketing ?

Note: Open ended question. Really important to hear the founders vision behind this function. Always a best practice to start with open ended questions

2. 12 months from now, how will I know that I am doing an amazing job ?

Note: This is a take on the common question - what does success look like ? I suggest keeping a defined timeline of say 6 or 12 months. Also, the words “amazing job” or “knocking it out of the park” is a way to demonstrate that you want to be very successful in this role

3. Who will I be reporting to ? (options could be CMO, CPO, CRO, some GM). Why , in your opinion, is PMM part of this function ?

Note: PMM leaders often report to head of marketing, head of product, business unit GMs or CROs. The nature of reporting structure can give you an idea of the nature of teams you will be collaborating with, or the skew your work might take. e.g. PMMs reporting to head of sales/rev-ops often spend their energies on enablement. PMMs reporting to CPO are often end up spending more time on launch processes. Getting the why from the founders is a great way to hear their thoughts behing org design. Some founders may not have throught through this deeply, so this question could become a dialogue into where PMM can sit for the biggest impact

4. How big do you envision this function to be in the near future ? How many heads can i go and hire ? Are all these heads approved in the system ? Where do you see this function growing/evolving to in 18-24 months ?

Note: A lot of early PMM teams are built to serve short term needs for launches/content/compete/enablement etc. But it is really important to have a bigger vision that just that. These questions are a way to understand the founders' seriousness behind that vision, and also demonstrates your interest.

These are a sequence of questions best used in a conversation.

I often start with a general question about the size/scope of the PMM team. The approval sub-question indicates their seriousness behind that plan. Often, founders claim to support a no of heads behind the role but havent approved funding/headcount budgets. Worse, they believe that you will be the only one running PMM for a few months. All of this should raise concerns about the future of this role. Finally, I ask the growth/evolution part to indicate long term (not medium term) thinking and get the founder to spell out their true vision for product marketing (vs short term tactics)

337 Views
Rachel Cheyfitz
Rachel Cheyfitz
Coro Head of Product Marketing and DocumentationNovember 12

This feels to me like a loaded question and I'd love to hear more background in order to answer better. Are you "interviewing" leadership before joining the company or are you asking about how to approach them on a day-to-day while building the function or something else? The answer is different at every stage. 

289 Views
Linda Sonne-Harrison

I wouldn't look at asking "mandatory" questions but rather asking them what their vision is for the product marketing function and coming to a mutual understanding of what product marketing does and doesn't do. I'd guide the discussion with a visual and/ or data (a couple of useful links below). Agree on a 30-60-90 day plan and success metrics.

Agreeing on positioning and messaging should be a top priority. Leave with a process and hopefully time set up for your first discussion. 

Gartner eBook on product marketing priorities: https://www.gartner.com/en/industries/high-tech/tech-marketers

Pragmatic Product Management/ Product Marketing framework (roles and responsibilities - although IMHO some of these are in the wrong places): https://www.pragmaticinstitute.com/framework/

Product Marketing Alliance survey data https://www.productmarketingalliance.com/the-state-of-product-marketing-leadership-report-2022/ 

313 Views
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