Influence comes from repeatedly bringing fresh insights and a distinct point of view to the table. To influence product strategy and the roadmap you need to take a broader view of your market and the customers than your friends on the product management team. Invest in a deep understanding of your customers, your competitors, and the market at large. Map out mid- to long-term threats and opportunities. Validate those threats and opportunities with customers, industry experts, and your internal experts across product, user experience, customer experience, sales, sales engineering, and client services. Summarize the insights, provide the market context, and lay out strategic options together with your product partners. Get buy-in from the executive team. Partner with the product team to deliver solutions that solve real customer problems. Rinse and repeat :-)
To be an effective product marketer my view is that you need to be a deep expert on your product. You don't need the same technical expertise as your product management counterpart but you need to deeply understand the customer, their pain points, and how your product solves these pain points. AppFolio is a B2B SaaS platform that property management companies run their entire business on - accounting, maintenance, marketing, leasing, rent payments, everything is done through our platform. It is a complex product to understand and the steep learning curve is compounded by our team members neve being users of our product themselves. My expectation is for everyone on my team to be able to demo the entire product at a high level and to be able to give a detailed demo of the area of functionality they own.
However, my expectation for the team to gain deep product expertise in their role is unrelated to their relationship with the product management team. It is essential that PM and PMM have a relationship of profound trust but that trust should never be an excuse to not learn the product in full. Without deep product knowledge, product marketing will not get a seat at the product strategy table and instead be relegated to just doing launches and go-to-market enablement.
- Set boundaries and clear expectations with the various stakeholders you work with. Don't commit to crazy timelines. If a crazy timeline is unavoidable, communicate what you will have to trade off.
- Create a culture of trust with your team by being your authentic self, being a good listener, and always having your team's back.
- Build frameworks and processes and communicate them across the org. Follow your process. Build systems for yourself so you don't reinvent the wheel too often.
- Understand each individual team member. Who are they? What drives them? What are their growth goals? How do they prefer to receive praise? What do they do for fun?
- Work with each team member to build a plan on how they can achieve their growth goals.
- Say no to things that don't deliver decent value.
- Don't send slacks and emails after hours. Schedule them to arrive during working hours.
- Set expectations with your team on how quickly you expect a response. Make it extra clear in your communication what that expectation is so they don't drop everything to please you when you were just curious or had a random thought to share.
- Set a good example and don't work around the clock.
- Reiterate to your team that you want them to have a good work-life balance. If you find them working late, remind them that working overtime is not your expectation.
- If a team member has trouble prioritizing or leans towards perfectionism and you see it affecting their work-life balance, find a course or workshop for them and invest in their ability to find a good balance (and not burn out).
- Allow your team to have fun. Actively plan for fun. Have some fun yourself.
- Consider hiring enough people to get the work done in a normal work week ;-)
That's a great question and actually my answer to some of the other questions asked today. The way to influence without authority is to build credibility and trust. My thoights on how to do that overlap with many of my other answers but here they are in summary:
- Get to know your colleagues and their priorities. Help them achieve those priorities regardless of whether they ask for help.
- Be transparent about your objectives, motivations, weaknesses, etc.
- Be yourself. Have your work persona be as authentically you as you're comfortable with.
- Don't take yourself too seriously.
- Know your stuff. Be curious and sponge up far and wide in your field and industry.
- Know the data. Get deep into any data you can get your hands on. Learn how to do magic with pivot tables to analyze big datasets quickly (bonus points for SQL, Tableau, etc. but spreadsheets and pivot tables get you pretty far)
- Give ample positive feedback. Publicly praise the contributors to your success.
- Criticize in private, while using "I" instead of "You" statements but be unmistakably clear in your feedback. Don't leave room for ambiguity and always criticize the work, not the person)
- Speak to customers. Nothing will give you more credibility as a product marketer than intimately knowing your customers and the challenges they face.
- Take personal responsibility for everything that goes wrong, and emphasize the team contribution over your own for everything that went right
- Be ready to admit mistakes
- Make friends (helps if you listen more than you speak, ask tons of questions, remember their name, likes, fun facts, etc.)deliver a high say/do ratio
- Make it easy to work with you (write better briefs, give better feedback and do it faster, work with them to find reasonable timeframes, descope, etc.)
- Be intentional about making space for fun
- Do nice things (recommend colleagues for a shout out award, post a public thank you, send a thoughtful small gift, send their boss a glowing review when people do something well)
I'd say lead the way. Use a traditional PMM responsibility like refreshing your buyer personas as a reason to kick off a joint research project and pull in your partners from the product and design team. Set up customer interviews. Get outdoors and do a workshop. Have some fun with it. Bribe them with candy and fizzy drinks :o)
If you can't get buy-in for that, go talk to customers yourself and present a read-out of what you learned.
Get with the sales and client services team and use them as a proxy for the customers if there is too much red tape around direct customer interaction.
Combat the red tape.
If you cannot find success, find a different employer.
We're actually in the middle of a project like that. For major launches with large cross-functional teams, there is a point of transition when you, as you say "pivot towards a stance of execution". Some thoughts on how to prepare for that point and then make the transition. I'm putting this is sequence mentally on the fly, you be the judge of how robust or not that is ;-)
- Get clear on the objective of the project and how it ties into the overall strategy. The why and the what. I like "Good strategy, bad strategy" as a framework
- Get broad input from all relevant stakeholders. Refine the objective, play it back to people to see if you really are on the same page.
- Pull together a small working team to define the overarching go-to-market plan and a high-level project plan with swim lanes for execution plus presumptive owners of each lane
- Determine hard dates and dependencies and ensure the high-level project plan takes them into account
- Get buy-in on go-to-market plan
At this point you should have a deep understanding of the goal, a solid plan for how to achieve it, and a small team that can help you ampllify your message internally. Now's the time to get $#*+ done.
6. Pull the entire go-to-market group together for a kick-off. Everyone who needs to do or guide work as part of the executuion. Share the what and the why combined with the go-to-market plan and the high-level project plan. Call out the owners of each swim lane and leave ample times for questions for them. Reinforce that the goal of the meeting is to inform and align but especially to assign clear ownership of each swim lane. Give the owners of each swim lane ample time to ask questions and articulate where they are missing information. Make it clar that your expectation is that each owner now takes on the accountability for their swim lane, details the project plan, proactively seeks clarification, and will report on progress
7. Set up a recurring schedule between now and the project end date to bring this group together to report on prgress, elevate blockers, make decisions, and keep things moving
8. Break into smaller groups and workshops for anything that gets stuck or isn't moving quickly enough. Work synchronously on those items with everyone in a virtual/hybrid/whatever room. The goal is to accelerate the process by cutting out the wait times that sequential work causes. Do this only for what needs attention so you don't drive everyone nuts.
9. Deliver on time.
I'm sure there are some giant holes in this answer. You could write a book on this and I'm sure there are many out there. Oh well, it was the best off the cuff summary I could think of ;-)
You need to earn your seat at the table by repeatedly bringing fresh insights and a distinct point of view to the table. To influence product strategy and the roadmap you need to take a broader view of your market and the customers than your friends on the product management team. Invest in a deep understanding of your customers, your competitors, and the market at large. If you do this well your product counterparts will start to understand and appreciate the value you bring.
There are many answers to this question depending on how large your team is, how much budget you have, etc.
- Get clear on your goals for your product marketing team (even if it's just you) and how they ladder to the business goals.
- Build an annual plan. It's surprising how much you can get done in a year. It's also surprising how little you sometimes achieve in a week. By having an annual plan you can chip away at your long-term goals whenever time allows.
- Take an honest look at the value of the outputs you produce. What can you stop doing? Ask the recipients of your work what they do with your output and if there is anything they no longer need, or that they do little with and could be delivered in a less frequent cadence.
- Is there anything you can delegate or outsource? Can you throw money at the problem?
- Fix your processes. Turn your last launch artifacts into a repeatable framework. Don't reinvent the wheel every time.
- Set better expectations with your partners. What quality of input do you need to do good work? Communicate those requirements (but don't be defensive).
- Hire people that are smarter than you.
- Find the shortcuts that get you 80% of the way with 20% of the work.
- Work synchronously. Get everyone in a (virtual if need be) room and instead of having a meeting, do the work together. Make decisions right then and there.
My biggest accomplishment was in a prior role at a different company for a SaaS product. I was able to persuade the product and executive leadership team to invest in a redesign of the user experience of a product that had become stale compared to new entrants in the space. Redesigns can be a hard sell as they do not produce immediate revenue and at best have a neutral impact on customer satisfaction. The key to getting buy-in was making a compelling case for the change based on customer and competitive research. The product has since grown in its revenue contribution and turned into a long-term cash cow.
As to whether that success made other projects easier? Maybe a little in the sense that presenting a proposal that is well thought through builds your credibility. But for each decision you are looking to influence you will need a compelling, insight-based rationale, personal passion and conviction, a network of allies that publicly support your position, staying power, presentation skills, and a game plan for how to get access to the relevant decision-makers.
The best way to influence future decisions is to be given more responsibility ;-)
Successfully leading through influence time and again should get you closer to that.
- Get to know your colleagues and their priorities. Help them achieve said priorities regardless of whether they ask for help.
- Take ownership of things that lack a clear owner.
- Be transparent about your objectives, motivations, weaknesses, etc. - take a look at the Johari window. I've found that helpful in consciously sharing and soliciting feedback.
- Take on commitments and (over-)deliver on them.
- Be yourself, i.e. have your work persona be as authentically you as you're comfortable with.
- Don't take yourself too seriously.
- Know your stuff. Be curious and sponge up far and wide in your field and industry. Get really good at pivot tables so you can turn any dataset into surprising insights.
- Cheat a little: write down every important data point about your product on a cheat sheet. Use it liberally to prepare for conversations. You'll quickly know the data points by heart.
- Publicly praise the contributors to your success. It is always the team's success. (Almost) never yours alone.
- Speak to customers. Nothing will give you more credibility as a PMM than intimately knowing your customers and the challenges they face.