I've seen organizational structures of all types over the last 10 years and have grown to appreciate a function with clear roles and responsibilities. The most common configuration (and the one I've had the most success with) is where I can have a leader for Core Solutions (your revenue generating products and SKUs), a leader looking after the Portfolio (someone who thinks about how to bring the portfolio to different audiences), a leader looking after Pricing and Packaging (who can work with your finance, product, and revenue teams to maximize profitability), a leader looking after Compete and Marketing Intelligence (win/loss analysis, compete, and dispositioning), a leader looking after Customer Marketing (advocacy, references, advisory - as well as partnering with Account Management to drive upsell/cross-sell with a remit for revenue retention) and a leader who can help manage projects, programs, and operations (i.e. Launch, Reporting, Analytics, and cross-functional dynamics). If the organization doesn't have Enablement, it will most likely be your Core and Portfolio leaders working with the field directly.
It's hard and it's an area I am still working through. So much is asked of PMM and there's a natural desire as a connecting function to say "yes" to everything so in order to prove our value. The reality is if everything is important, nothing is important, so a Product Marketing superpower to develop is one that can gauge and asses what projects and deliverables will drive the most impact for the business, and prioritize accordingly. Having executive leadership partner with Product Marketing on this is helpful, and what they'll need to prioritize decisions is the end-to-end view of what's happening, when it's happening, the expected impact, the risks, and the implications of doing nothing at all. That type of framework drives the right conversations with leadership and puts Product Marketing in a position to facilitate outcomes, not take orders.
I author a Product Marketing Playbook at the start of each year and use it in every interaction with my team, peers, and executive leaders. It clearly lays out what Product Marketing does for the business and more importantly, what we don't do. That extra step is really important because our discipline is still widely misunderstood. We cannot assume that everyone knows what Product Marketers do, so the best advice I've ever received is to tell your stakeholders in no uncertain terms what you're focused on, how you can help them, and what value you're bringing to the table. I develop my annual scorecard and send quarterly updates to our leadership team to tell them what we've delivered, what's coming next, where we are stuck and need help, and how to hook into our rhythm. Not everyone will respond or engage, but the goal is to leave no ambiguity about the role and function.
I find that the development of a Go-to-Market Playbook is a really good exercise. While it may feel antiquated in a digital world, writing down your positioning statement, value proposition, unique selling position, personas, competitors, ideal customer profile, competitors, customer stories, and buyer journey maps allows you to facilitate conversations throughout the business. It's likely that other groups in your business are working on pieces of these things but only Product Marketing has an end-to-end view of the PRODUCT and of the MARKET, and without that context, those teams are likely to develop materials that serve their specific needs, but not the larger set of organization ones. A Playbook is something your stakeholders can react to, so centralizing all of the amazing work your team is doing and creating such an artifact is worth your time and energy. At best, everyone is aligned around it and plays a contributor role in keeping it updated. At worst, everyone rejects it and inserts their point of view, which provides a jumping-off point to reconcile. Either way - you win.
So much of Product Marketing is about information and invisible influence. The challenge is that while Product Marketing doesn't own Product, Marketing, Sales, or Services - we are expected to serve these teams with equal rigor and depth. It's what makes our function both fun and challenging, and there is no shortage of stakeholders to manage at any one given moment. As best as possible, you need to be diplomatic.
I've learned that so much about relationship management is about setting clear and specific expectations about what you will do and what you won't do. Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments, so it's important to talk to your key stakeholders early and often about what they expect, and check back to make sure you've delivered against them.
For years, I have worked through the concept of shared goals with my stakeholders. I sit down with leaders in Product, Marketing, Sales, and Services to co-develop a set of goals that we are going to own together. For example, I partner with the VP of Revenue Enablement on increasing sales confidence, which we baselined together and work towards improving through every project we partner on. This allows us to ask at the start of things we take on "is this going to increase confidence" and decide how best to prioritize our work. It's easy to get out of sync with stakeholders are things change throughout the year, but if you can establish SMART goals for the year, you can focus on what's important as opposed to falling victim to random acts of PMM - which has plagued our space since the dawn of time.
This helps influence because you are operating from a shared objective as opposed to what you need (or what you think the business needs), and also tells your partners the things you can help them solve. I find that the majority of Product Marketing conflicts with difficult stakeholders stem from a misunderstanding of the role, driven by previous experiences they've had with that function. We're lucky because we get to reset that perception every time we show up.
Product Launch is where all the magic happens. So many stakeholders have both vested interests and points of view of how the launch should be executed, but only Product Marketing has an end-to-end view of the product, go-to-market team, and the external market, so is best positioned to champion the process.
We've broken our launch into four phases where the first and last stages have the most stakeholders present, and the middle two have the fewest.
What we've had success with understand that some roles just need to be informed when the launch kicks off. This can be a wide range of stakeholders who just need to be informed on just the facts - what are we launching, when are we launching it, what are the goals of the launch and what behaviors do we need to change to achieve our goals. The Phase 1 work here is about strategizing - where you need the business goals and objectives understood to really land your launch. Here is a great time to confirm who needs/wants to be a part of the execution "crew" through the next 2 phases.
With the kickoff in the rearview mirror, we narrow the audience to the people who have to go do the majority of the work to drive the launch, and we rely on our partners in Product Management, Demand Generation, Content Marketing, Sales Enablement, and Customer Success - teams that need to make sure the go-to-market team is ready to market, sell and support the change. A lot of the Phase 2 work here is about planning what to do and when to do it, and creating the content and context to equip, train and coach your teams.
Finally, there's the launch, when you can "push the button" on getting all the things you created to market. There it's effective to bring the same stakeholders you informed in Phase 1 back to the table to share learnings and close the loop.
We continue to iterate our launch motion, but it's becoming a strength for us as we've earned the trust of partner teams over the last 18 months.
While it might be easy to find industry standards on the number of PMMs per stakeholder team, I find the better marker to be the number of products in the portfolio, segments served, geographies, or even industries. Small teams can pack a mighty punch if swim lanes are clear and roles and responsibilities are understood. For example, a PMM team of 3 with respective focuses on core product marketing (use cases, value props, enablement, release/launch, pricing, etc.) audience/portfolio marketing (segment, geo, new biz/customer, etc.), and competitive (differentiation, dispositioning, strategy) can serve a growing set of stakeholders effectively, and as the team proves value, will scale with the rest of the organization.