A strong relationship with your product team is deemed a prerequisite for ambitious PMMs who’ve set lofty targets for themselves in their respective roles.
After all, the relationship between product marketing and product serves as a differentiating factor between PMMs and the rest of the marketing team and it’s often considered we understand what makes product teams ‘tick’.
Sure, you may be the powerhouse of positioning, oracle of OKRs, or the master of messaging, but ultimately, if you have a rocky relationship with product, then you’re facing an uphill battle.
With that in mind, what steps can you take to solidify your relationship with product teams?
Here are 8 tips on how you can build a super-strong bond with your product team, courtesy of Marcus Andrews, Product Marketing Group Lead at HubSpot and PMA ambassador.
1. Understand your product
Ever seen how quickly an F1 technician works in a pit stop during a Grand Prix? That’s because they know the car like the back of their hand.
Similarly, product marketers need to understand the intricacies of their product; you need to be a technical expert and know the features and how they work inside and out.
With the exception of the Product Manager and Product Expert, product marketers should know about the product more than anyone else in the company.
Add to that, as a product marketer, you need to be au fait with the customer use cases that's been devised for your product. If people within the organization ask how customers are using X, Y, or Z, if you’re clued up about the finer details of the product and the customers who are using it, not only will you be able to provide them with the answers they need to perform effectively, but you’ll also position yourself as an expert in your respective area and gain credibility.
That being said, if you don’t know how to use the product, it goes without saying you’re leaving yourself open for criticism. Therefore, refine your ability to demo the product effectively, with no hitches.
You need to be able to replicate the skillsets of your finest sales reps, and also speak fluent PM, i.e. if they’re talking about a specific product feature or function, you’ll be able to understand what they’re talking about and even make your contribution to the conversation.
Knowing about your product will send the right signals to your product team; they’ll know you care, and that you’re putting in the right effort to achieve the success the product deserves.
2. Learn the roadmap
You may know where the product is at currently, but what does the future look like?
Product marketers need to assist product teams in painting the vision, by tapping into the thoughts of the Product Managers and Product Leaders, respectively. Product marketing teams will be able to bring skills to the table that Product cannot; implement your creativity and skill sets to complement their strengths.
However, it is worth mentioning the importance of deferring to your product team. In some instances, product marketing teams can be guilty of dictating what the roadmap should look like to product managers. If you have a good relationship with your product teams - awesome; the likelihood is they’ll be excited to receive your ideas and input. Nonetheless, the final call does lie with them, so give them the space they need to make informed decisions.
Finally, write about the product roadmap. For all their undoubtedly important traits, sometimes product teams don’t document the roadmap effectively. Writing a press release or a memo about a new feature can contribute greatly to long-term success.
3. Understand their goals
‘Communicate effectively’: It’s one of the golden rules of product marketing.
By speaking with product teams, you’ll identify and understand their goals, while setting shared goals will allow you to align expectations and build a shared vision.
When you’re aware of what each other’s working on, this has a profoundly positive impact on productivity and team efficiency.
4. Meet regularly
Meeting regularly with your product teams may seem simplistic, but it’s something that often slips under the radar; there’s no doubting the benefits of setting aside some time in the diary to meet up, share ideas, and perhaps most importantly, get to know your teams on a human level.
Meeting will allow you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your PMs, and pool resources accordingly, allocating tasks by where different skill sets lay.
When you’re liaising with product managers, it’s important to speak about the roadmap, what they’re working on, where they’re currently at with projects; use the opportunity to ask questions and learn.
There’ll be times when you can’t always meet in-person, and that’s not a problem. There are a whole host of programs such as Slack, Zoom, and Google Hangouts that allow normal service to resume, regardless of where the team may be.
Finally, remember to shelve business-talk, now and again, and meet on a social basis. This allows you to become accustomed to your colleagues in a non-work environment, when they’re able to relax, let their hair down, and be themselves!
5. Set expectations
Having clear expectations is crucial; without it, conflicts and disagreements can happen.
Firstly, demonstrate value and impact early, and often. If you say you’re going to do something, always do it well, but also try and deliver quickly. If you show members of the product team you can get things done, you’ll gain their trust and confidence.
Product marketing and product teams should be working in tandem to support the product and the customers who are using the product, yet this can sometimes be lost in translation.
Sometimes, product teams can tend to think teams who are providing support work for them, not with them. It’s important to establish an equal partnership with the product manager in your product team.
You can’t devote 100% of your time, all of the time. Therefore, communicate to your product teams that you’re a shared resource. Ultimately, you’re going to be supporting multiple teams.
As the saying goes: sharing is caring!
Product marketers also need to fight the temptation to have ‘favorites’ within the product team. While you may prefer working with some people more than others, you’re working towards a common goal; if you aren’t consistent with how you treat people A) it’ll affect your productivity, and B) you could well end up rubbing people up the wrong way.
6. Learn the market
An important step for product marketers is to become experts in the market in which they’re operating.
While PMs own the problem and pain point they’re solving for the customer, PMMs own the market. Therefore, you need to have the expertise into:
- Who your competitors are,
- Trends within the industry, which topics are interesting,
- How people are feeling about any potential changes that are occurring, and
- Which changes are happening to your customers.
The aforementioned information is indispensable to your product team and will demonstrate your value to them and help facilitate short and long-term goals.
By delivering insights and personas about your market, this not only helps you but also benefits the product team, greatly.
7. Give them the narrative
It’s essential to develop narratives alongside your product managers and product teams, as opposed to on your own.
If the product team has been a part of the process, then they’ll be more attached and interested in its success, whilst also enhancing the quality of the story, given it’ll be uber product-driven.
This is also an awesome opportunity to share your skills with the product team. Sometimes, members of the product team who focus on the technical side can struggle with the creativity of talking about their product.
8. Be product driven
Product marketers should become the voice of product, outside of product and engineering. With product, sales, and marketing teams, you can become the voice of your product and be known for your product.
It’s part of the PMM role to drive the marketing team to become more product-driven. As companies grow, marketing and product teams tend to drift apart, when in fact, they should be working together.
However, it’s important to remember that you’re always working towards solving a problem for the customer; every team should be aligned around this same problem.
In applying these eight principles to your practice, this’ll stand you in good stead to build bridges and relationships with product teams, laying the foundation to match (or even surpass!) expectations amongst key stakeholders.