How to Hack Your Way to a World-Class Product Marketing Org
When done right, product marketing is one of the most impactful roles in your company. Product marketing teams work cross functionally, translating the needs of the customer into items on your roadmap, they translate product functionality into value drivers and marketing pillars for GTM teams, and they play a strategic role supporting pricing, packaging, community building, market sizing, and much more. It’s no wonder that companies are scrambling to find good product marketers, and when they do find one, paying them a king’s salary to stick around.
For FAANG companies, it’s a luxury they can afford. But what about everyone else? How can a startup justify paying a mid-level PMM a Sr. Developer’s salary? Not to mention, how do you even know if the PMM you’re taking a risk on can actually deliver results?
Over the last 10 years, I’ve built and led product marketing orgs for early-stage startups, FAANG hyperscalers, and everything in between. I’ve hired for dream roles with $350k OTE and had to bootstrap orgs with comps that were far under market rate and options that would make an intern snark. In this post, I’m going to outline how you can bootstrap a world-class product marketing org without sending your burn rate to the moon.
What does a “good” product marketing team do anyway?
Before we jump into how you can bootstrap your PMM team, let’s define what your PMM team should be doing, afterall, great companies hire team members to deliver specific, defined, and measurable results. When we define the results we are expecting the role to produce, we can back our way into the ideal candidate. Product marketing generally assumes the following areas of responsibility:
- Product messaging and positioning: This goes beyond just creating messaging and positioning docs, it includes creating campaign pillars and assets, doing market research, evaluation, and sizing, technical product marketing (architectural diagrams, getting started content, etc), partner marketing, and much more.
- Product enablement for internal teams: This includes doing ongoing product training and demos for your GTM teams (Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, Channel and Partners), creating GTM assets like sales decks, battle cards, one-pagers, and customer references/customer stories.
- Product pricing and packaging: This includes running and managing customer pricing surveys, working with product and finance teams to build pricing models for new products, and identifying/optimizing product-led growth strategies.
- Product roadmap development: This includes partnering with product managers to help shape the product roadmap, creating PR FAQs and other strategic launch documents, interacting with industry experts, customers, and analysts, and of course leading and supporting product launches and ongoing release activities.
Many times, when I discover an open PMM headcount that either hasn’t been filled or has turned multiple times, it’s due to the unrealistic expectation that all of the above responsibilities can be fulfilled by a single PMM HC. Instead, it’s more realistic to break these areas into several independent roles, forming a team of functional experts that collaborate to drive the desired outcome. If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into PMM roles, we have a free download on gostori.com, titled The Leader’s Guide to a 10x PMM Team that you can download for free.
Sourcing PMM talent
When we look at the responsibilities outlined above, there are natural synergies and areas of overlap with other roles. For example, product managers are capable of doing many of the tasks that a PMM would do to develop a product roadmap or even pricing and packaging exercises. Another example would be a sales engineer who develops external enablement material and training for customers.
So where do you find them?
No matter what company I go to, there is always someone building awesome PMM content outside of the PMM team. Sometimes they are in sales and using it to keep leads on LinkedIn engaged, other times they are on the product team, showing off the amazing things they are building for the customer. This is the first place to look.
Second, it’s likely that your company already employs individuals who are capable of executing PMM functions, and are looking for a change in their daily role/responsibilities. This is low-hanging fruit when building a product marketing team. They understand the product, are onboarded, and usually cost a lot less than a PMM with experience in your category.
The second place that I look is inbound applications for the roles I believe have the foundational skills to move into a PMM role. It’s not unusual to find job seekers making a parallel move to be open to making a complementary career change. I’ve hired multiple Solution Engineers into PMM roles by combing through inbound resumes.
Turn your team of misfits into an all-star PMM team
Finding these individuals is just the beginning. The next challenge is providing the structure for them to thrive in a new product marketing role. This is easier said than done and often comes with time, however, I’ve found that there are multiple ways you can ease the process.
First, build detailed job descriptions and avoid overlap as much as possible. Product marketing is notorious for engaging in what is often described as “random acts of marketing”. This usually stems from a lack of focus and misunderstanding of how and what PMMs should be focusing their time and efforts on. By building a very clear job description, you can mitigate this behavior before it ever starts.
Second, templatize everything to create a standardized expectation for PMM generated assets. When working with PMMs that are new to the job there tends to be a lot of time spent reinventing the wheel. There are several excellent resources for sourcing standard PMM templates like the Gartner customer portal, the Pragmatic Institute, or an experienced PMM. Templates allow you to create a definition of ‘complete’ and level-set expectations for deliverables early and quickly, while maintaining a high-level of excellence.
Finally, partner your functional PMMs as closely to the stakeholders they support as possible. PMMs should have 1-2 internal stakeholders that they work hand in hand with. The tighter your PMMs are embedded the better, sometimes this looks like dotted-line management with a product GM or VP of sales, attending team meetings and offsites. They should be as close as possible to ensure that the needs of their stakeholders are being met.
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