Abhiroop Basu

Abhiroop BasuShare

Product, Square
Content
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareFebruary 25

PMs should always lead voice of the customer (VoC) programs

While PMMs need to have their ear close to the ground when it comes to customer feedback, it's ultimately the PM who will use the feedback to make product decisions. Additionally, PMs should never be in a situation where product feedback is "second-hand" or being prioritized by someone who doesn't own the roadmap.

Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareFebruary 25

Pricing and packaging is typically a PMM function.

  1. P&P is typically a business decision. In general, PMMs own business and go-to-market decisions, while PMs own the user experience and the product roadmap. And P&P falls into the former. 
  2. Product should have a perspective on which features to build. Pricing and packaging refreshes typically happen because the composition of your existing product has changed materially (i.e. a lot of new features have been launched, new acquisitions, etc). As such PMs will always have a role to play in determining how certain features and product should be packaged
  3. P&P involves a lot of market research. P&P requires deep market and competitive knowledge. Many PMs will have that, but this is typically a PMM function. As such, PMMs will be best placed to turn those insights into a coherent pricing strategy.
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareFebruary 25

PMM and PM roles vary greatly across companies, but there are some common differences:

  1. PMMs are the market and competitor experts. Unless the company is very small, a PM who is an individual contributor typically "owns" a narrower segment of the overall product. In contrast, a PMM typically looks across a wider range of the product and market. So, the PMM should bring that knowledge and experience to bear in the relationship 
  2. PMs are the product experts. Unsurprinsgly, PMs know more about their product area than anyone else. So, if there are questions or decisions that need to be made on the product roadmap, customer feedback, user experience, etc, the PM should own those.
  3. PMMs are the conduit with the rest of the go-to-market org. A Product fails if no-one hears about it or uses it. A PMMs most important role is to help evangelise the product to internal stakeholders as well as customers. PMMs play a crucial in connecting the dots between cross-functional stakeholders to drive programs forward.
  4. PMs are the customer experts. Partnering with design, PMs should have the best lens on customer experience. PMs should be defining the overall end-to-end user experience.
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareFebruary 25

I love this question since I recently made the PMM to PM transition!

  1. Focus on transferrable skills. Three of the most important PM skills include: communication, leading through influence, and problem solving. PMMs looking to transfer into a PM role should ensure they are strong in all three.
  2. Leverage institutional knowledge. It's much easier to transition from PMM to PM in your current company than applying to a new position in a different company. In your existing PMM role you are likely to know all the relevant stakeholders, have product knowledge, and understand the market. These are all going to be critical as a PM.
  3. Build good relationships. Even before you approach the Product leader who you want to work for, make sure you have strong relationships with that team. This shouldn't be hard to do as a PMM, but it builds your credibility and makes the interview process a lot less stressful.
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareFebruary 25

Trust is the most important factor in a PM / PMM relationship.

When I was a PMM, I worked with many Product Managers who did not understand the role of a PMM. They believed that the PMMs only role was to communicate the launch of a feature. This misconception often stems from the fact that in some teams PMs doesn't see value beyond the feature launch and PMMs do little to dispel the notion. 

So, how do PMMs and PMs build trust and work more effectively?

  1. PMMs need to clarify their role. This sometimes depends on the leader's ability to communicate their team's functions, however individual PMMs can do a lot to articulate their role in the partnership. For example, PMMs can ask to be included in the discovery phase of feature development and bring relevant data and insights to the conversation.
  2. PMs must communicate their roadmap early and often. On the flip side a PM needs to ensure they are communicating their roadmap, timelines, and feature delivery. If there are delays or changes, they need to ensure that the PMM is kept aware. Not only does this ensure there aren't miscommunications, it also builds long-term trust
  3. PMMs need to build credibility. The best way for a junior or new PMM to build trust is to show their PM partner that they are a reliable. What does that mean? If you commit to a deadline, make sure you deliver. 
  4. PMs should treat PMMs as equal partners. Some PMs see their PMM partners as "service providers" or specifically the feature communication team. This minimizes the role of the PMM and it also breeds resentment. PMMs need to show their value , but PMs also need to be respectful of the role a PMM has to play in the team.
  5. Open and transparent communication. As a PMM you should be comfortable talking to your PM about anything (positive and negative). If you don't have that kind of relationship, you won't be able to work together effectively.
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareFebruary 25

Usually Marketing, but in some smaller companies Product.

PMs and PMMs will almost always have very close relationships (and if you don't then that's a problem). So, it usually doesn't matter which organization PMM reports into. However, at larger companies there can be some misalignment of priorities if PMMs report into the product management team.

PMM teams that report into product become too narrowly focused on launches. PMMs typically cover a wide range of responsibilities, beyond just features. For examples, PMMs at Zendesk work on customer stories, industry solutions, sales enablement, pricing and packaging, competitor and market research. If PMMs are reporting into product, these other functions can become deprioritized.

Further, while the PM / PMM relationship is most important, a close second is the relationship with the rest of the marketing team and sales. Sitting in the Product team pushes PMMs further away from other crucial partners and makes it harder to build trust and credibility with those teams.

But, this isn't always the case at smaller companies. In some smaller companies having PMM within the Product team can help streamline launches, roadmap planning, as well as competitor/market research. Typically smaller companies have marketing teams focused on growth and performance marketing only, two functions which are far removed from PMM. As such it can often be tough to align the goals and targets of a Marketing team in a smaller company with that off a PMM. I want to be clear, I'm not saying this is a one-size fits all and there are plenty of smaller companies where it absolutely makes sense for PMM to report into Marketing. 

Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareFebruary 25

Both roles are quite tough to get into without experience, but PM is marginally easier.

  1. Companies will typically have more PMs than PMMs. The PMM to PM ratio is roughly 1:4. Even if the company prioritizes PMM roles, it's rare that the ratio will get higher than 1:2.
  2. There are fewer PMM roles in the industry. Just doing a quick search on LinkedIn shows that there are about ~100k open PMM roles, while there are about ~280k open PM roles. 
  3. PMs typically get hired first. Most companies will start with PMs. This is unsurprising since the goal at early stage companies is to build the product and get to product-market fit. A PMM role, while important, is usually secondary.
  4. (counterpoint) PMM has a wider pool to draw from. Most marketing, sales, and biz dev roles, can transition into entry-level PMM roles. In contrast, there are fewer paths into being a product manager (common ones are business analyst and engineering). 

Finally, it's worth highlighting that, in general, both roles are hard to get into. There are very few entry-level PM or PMM roles. If you only have an undergraduate degree you are unlikely to land a PM or PMM spot. I've had many colleagues who've had extensive careers, done an MBA and then transitioned into a PMM role. Similarly, many PMs come with long software engineering backgrounds. 

If you are a new graduate and looking for a PMM or PM role, I would recommend looking for PM internsips and transitioning this into a full-time position (PMM internships exist but are less common for the factors mentioned above). The alternative is to go into one of the other careers mentioned above (marketing, sales, biz dev before going into PMM or software engineering before becoming a PM). 

Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareJanuary 12

In almost all cases you want to have Product Marketing creating the roadmap deck and delivering it, rather than Product. There are two main reasons for this.

First, some PMs (please don't hate me) tend to focus more on describing the feature rather than articulating the value and benefit. Of course there are many skilled PMs that can do both, however it’s unlikely all your PMs will be able to do it consistently. Customers don’t care about the specifications of the feature, they want to understand what problems it would solve. It's the Product Marketers job to make the connection between the feature and its real world benefits.


Second, you want to provide a holistic roadmap that tells a unified story. So, it makes much more sense to have a Product Marketer understand the different features that are coming and weave it into a narrative that is relevant for the different segments or verticals you are targeting. Even if a Product Manager is able to describe the benefits of a feature, it’s unlikely they have the time to look across all the other products and weave them together.

So, Product Marketing should create a roadmap that sells the benefits and tells a clear story to the customer. Sales and Success can then take this and present it to the customer as part of their regular meetings.

Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareJanuary 12

This happens a lot more than you might think. The Product team looks at the market and decides to build a feature. The feature is rolled out as an early alpha and customers are disappointed. What do you do? This is actually one of the easier scenarios in which to influence the roadmap.

A few years ago we rolled out an integration with a 3rd party instant messaging service. The integration worked without a problem, but we noticed that not many customers were signing upto the Alpha (even though they had committed to using it). I was tasked to gather feedback on what was going on. After conducting a few customer interviews it became clear that while the integration was solid, customers were looking for more than just a basic connector. They needed reporting, routing, and a whole host of other features. I put a roadmap outlining the features, the customer's making the requests, as well as the revenue associated with each opportunity. This was one of the more straightforward examples in my career where I was able to influence the roadmap and it was because the issue was discovered as the product was being built and the roadmap was being constructed.

Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Product, SquareJanuary 12

Discussing the roadmap with customers is a critical step in product development because it helps validate and clarify your strategy.

It’s tough to give a one-size fits all rule for when to share the product roadmap as it depends on the industry, customer maturity, segment, and numerous other factors. For example, at Zendesk, we sell to customer service and sales leaders and their time horizon is in the 6-12 month range. That is, they are budgeting and planning at least a year in advance. So, it’s important that we show them what’s coming in (roughly) that timeframe.

How the roadmap is communicated depends on the size of the customer and your relationship with them. For smaller customers and prospects we have a quarterly webinar which does a look back and look ahead of all the product releases. This is a scalable forum for customers to see everything we’ve built and ask questions on what’s coming. For larger customers, we partner with Sales and Customer Success to do roadmap walkthroughs.

Finally, it’s rare to show large prospective customers a detailed roadmap. We will explain our long term goals and vision, but getting into the minutiae of individual features is usually not relevant for prospects.

Credentials & Highlights
Product at Square
Product Management AMA Contributor
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In El Cerrito, CA
Knows About Analyst Relationships, Consumer Product Marketing, Pricing and Packaging, Product Lau...more