Sure, it’s taken longer than we’d perhaps wanted, but the PMM penny seems to have finally dropped, with the benefits of having an awesome product marketing team in place being appreciated by C-Suiters, as highlighted in our recent report.
As advocates of the PMM process, we’ve been blowing our own trumpet for a while now, and it’s no real surprise that more companies are keen to dive on the bandwagon, and reap the benefits of having a kick-ass team on their roster.
But before we tell you how to start your team, let’s make sure we’re singing off the same hymn sheet, shall we?
Some much-needed clarity...
There are tons of product marketing definitions flying around. Many are spot on, some miss the mark, and the jury’s out as to whether there’ll ever be one, unified definition in a role so varied. Before you begin building your product marketing team though you need one that works for your set-up, and here’s ours:
“Simply put, product marketing can be summed up as the driving force behind getting products to market - and keeping them there. Product marketers are the overarching voices of the customer, masterminds of messaging, enablers of sales, and accelerators of adoption. All at the same time.”
Easy enough, right? To make things crystal clear, here’s some bedtime reading, to add some flesh to the bone.
PMM team: the essential part of the puzzle
Whether you’re a start-up setting the right habits early on, or an established company breaking the product marketing mold, in today’s competitive market, having a dedicated product marketing team can play a pivotal role in ensuring you resonate with your market and buyer. After all, if you don’t know your target market, your appeal will diminish, along with your sales.
A product marketing team contributes significantly to marketing and sales strategies that can differentiate you from your competitors; it’s an essential piece of the company puzzle, and while we’re perhaps biased, the benefits are there for all to see.
Greater market understanding
Establishing an understanding of the market, what the customer within that market is craving, and how they can gain a foothold on their competition, is the bread and butter for any product marketer.
Introducing a specialist product marketing team can be a landmark moment for your organization, in that it not only aligns core principles such as positioning, outreach, competitive differentiation, and go-to-market strategy, but PMMs can also inspire existing members within a team to think more strategically.
Protection against failure
Ever given your blood, sweat, and tears to a project, only to see it fall flat on its face? Sucks, doesn't it?
We’re all human, and seeing something we’ve worked hard on fail because of reasons out of our control is a real pain in the ass. While product marketers aren’t the magic to every single solution, having a team of specialists on board can help identify potential threats, whether this be political, economic, social, technological, legal, or environmental.
Save valuable funds
Wanna know where so many companies go wrong when things aren’t going right? They try solving their problems by spending more money, and before they know it, they’ve created a monster. An expensive one, at that.
The good news is product marketing teams can help you mitigate risk when you’re planning your next move, saving you valuable time and money. User scenarios are thought through meticulously, and tests are put in place to give you the peace of mind you’re not squandering valuable resources.
A product marketing team will make sure you don’t make a decision whilst wearing rose-tinted spectacles, assess the bigger picture, and view things from a logical perspective, before offering an expert opinion.
So, now we’ve painted you a pretty picture, how about we help you set the wheels in motion?
Build from the bottom, upwards
Ever been on the cusp of creating the perfect human pyramid, only for the base to crumble when the going gets tough? Well, recruitment for your product marketing team works in the same way - if you build your team on weak foundations, the whole team can struggle. So, securing an influential first hire is pivotal to the success of your team.
Your initial recruit needs to be able to communicate technical messages in a user-friendly way, to ensure the core messages are delivered, whilst keeping the buyer engaged.
This product marketer will carry out essential tasks, including customer development, outreach, and positioning, as well as analysis of new and existing products within your respective field. Completing this initial hire is arguably the most challenging, but that'll pave the way for you to increase the size of your team.
Put the right support network in place
Many organizations choose to skip this step and before they know it, their shiny recruit is knee-deep in work, fatigued, and disheartened - a tired mind is an unproductive mind, so put the right structure in place and make sure your creative strategists, product experts, sales reps, and research and development specialists, etc. are all working together.
Your needs will vary depending on how big your company is and how it’s performing, but don’t try and wedge a square peg in a round hole. Trust us, you’ll come unstuck, sooner rather than later.
Don’t try running, before you can walk
Cast your mind back to when you were learning to ride a bike. Most kids insist they don’t want the stabilizers on, and what happens? They fall off.
In business, it's considered time is always of the essence, but when you’re building a product marketing team, you don’t necessarily need to do everything immediately.
In avoiding a slapdash approach, and communicating with your team members, this will allow you and your product marketing team to refine the fundamental communicative process. Then, when you’ve perfected your practice, take a step back, and make further additions.
Top tips from industry experts
So, with all that in mind, whether you’re a PMM yourself entering a new org as their first and only representative, or you’re a CMO, CPO or CEO looking to bring a specialist on board, here are some insights from specialists who’ve first-hand experience building a product marketing team from scratch.
“Establish a formal process for positioning and message strategy creation. It includes consensus-building by getting feedback from sales, key stakeholders, and approval from management.”
Lawson Abinanti, Co-Founder, Messages that Matter
“I’ve been involved in creating product marketing functions from scratch in a couple of roles. I’d say, the expectations run very high, and it’s important to understand what the most critical challenges in the company are - find where the biggest gap is...that’s particularly true when the company has never had any formalized process for positioning, competitive analysis, product road mapping, etc. and pick something that will create the biggest impact in the short term to showcase the value of product marketing.”
Jaspreet Kaur, CRM Specialist, Fanatics Inc.
“One thing I’d recommend is: immediately when you join, arrange meetings with stakeholders in Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, and Product Management. Introduce yourself and ask them:
Have you worked with product marketers before?
If so, how did they help you in the past?
How do you think product marketers could help you? In similar ways as in past jobs? Or different ways because our challenges are unique?
Can I share with you my idea of what the realm of possibility is for product marketing? [List all of the textbook programs that product marketing usually handles to different degrees plus some unique programs you've seen product marketing handle that aren't textbook.”
Jeff Hardison, Head of Product Marketing, ClearBit
While building your product marketing team may initially seem like an overwhelming challenge, the rewards can be extensive, providing you invest the time and effort in hiring specialists who are passionate about the field, and fit your company ethos.