In the cases where a Product Manager has consistently challenged your work beyond regular constructive collaboration, I have found the following tactics useful:
Great question, especially for Product Marketing organizations that are still scaling to meet the footprint of much larger Product and/or Sales teams.
Although you may find your bandwidth consumed by executional activities, it's important to ensure you continue to bring market intelligence and customer understanding to product roadmap planning. A few tactics for doing this could include:
In most companies I've worked in, Product Marketing is often vastly outnumbered by Sales teams. The challenge is not usually in personalities or conflicting interests - but in sheer numbers. For me, managing PMM-Sales relationships comes down to understanding their goals (keeping large customers happy, hitting sales quotas, etc.), while also taking care not to become an unnecessary bottleneck for their work.
In the past, I've used the following tactics to avoid/work through issues:
Two approaches here, that may be used at the same time:
Design and Marketing should ideally go hand-in-hand.
If the Design team is very mature, experts in the area, and functioning on a world-class level, then Product Marketing's input/review can be focused on later stage designs, possibly as key stakeholder sign-off.
In younger organizations where Design is still a developing area, Product Marketing can and should add value to every stage of Design. In my experience, it can be helpful to frame input in terms of PMM competencies (e.g., research, interviews, surveys, competitive analysis, market data) to avoid being perceived as over-steppping bounds.
Ideally, your product roadmap reflects long-term strategy, narrative, and investment. If you are confident in your roadmap, you shouldn't need a rule that automatically places more weight on negative reviews than positive or neutral reviews. Feedback is very important - but it's equally important to avoid knee-jerk reactions and keep Product, Dev, and Marketing teams focused on the plan.
Generally, I try to balance negative reviews with understanding that (a) we're not necessarily marketing to everyone and (b) product is a journey - some will follow and others will not.
Negative reviews that come from particularly prominent people, or reviews that have the potential to go viral should be addressed directly, if possible. This response doesn't necessarily have to be public - but there could be value in a conversation that unpacks strong feelings or corrects a misunderstanding. In context of roadmap decisions, I would consider these types of prominent reviews individually (versus on an aggregate basis), just to make sure I understand the real issue at hand and whether it's something for us to solve.
Having worked in Product in completely opposite contexts, the most valuable soft and hard skills depend on several factors, including product maturity, organizational maturity, availability of supporting functions (e.g., Product Operations, Product Analysts, etc.), and company cultural norms.
At WooCommerce/Automattic, the expectations I set for PMs are:
With this context, I would say the most important soft and hard skills for PMs at WooCommerce are:
To me, the first 90 days are all about communication with your new team and cross-functional partners – even more so if you're setting up the Product Management function for the first time. Treat your communications a bit like internal marketing for PM (and yourself), meaning they should be tailored to your audiences, showcase how your PM skills create value for the team, and address potential concerns head-on.
The first 30 days are your time to listen and learn. Spend time with Engineering and Design to observe team dynamics and collaboration styles. Also talk with Marketing, Sales, Data, and Operations, to align on what they expect of you – all the while being aware that if they have not worked with PMs before, you may have to inform them what to expect of you.
At the 30 day mark, share back in writing what you heard – to demonstrate that you listened and show that you're integrating the information that you've been given.
At 60 days, be ready to publish your hypotheses about product strategy and thoughts on what's needed to validate those hypotheses. Depending on your background, you may not feel like an expert in this space yet, so I'd encourage you to be vulnerable and ask for feedback even after the memo is out.
By 90 days, you should have a plan of action that is fully aligned with Engineering, Design, and cross-functional partners. You should be a part of the team's cadence and active in all the right meetings. You should also aim to deliver frequent updates – bringing everyone along on your journey, sharing what you're doing, and tying these to long-term shared goals.
The biggest surprise was how hard it was to convince others that Product Leads / Product Managers would be an asset to the team. This sentiment was more common among those who had been at Automattic and WooCommerce for several years, and perhaps not worked with a Product Lead / Product Manager before.
The questions I heard included:
Two years after our COO introduced the role at WooCommerce, the team has come to embrace Product Managers in driving customer understanding, cross-functional collaboration, internal and external storytelling, and manage project scope/timelines. Overall, they aid their colleagues in removing roadblocks and helping others focus on the thing they do best.
Sharp communication skills that enable proactive stakeholder management. This doesn't just mean blasting memos and updates to everyone, everywhere – it means:
In some organizations, you may be lucky enough to have a Product Operations team to help you with that; in others, you won't.
Leaning into comms and stakeholder management means: