Not a day goes by without me thinking how grateful I am for my incredible product marketing team. Over the past few years, we have been through scope, strategy, product, and market changes. 

Amidst all this flux, one thing has remained constant: their unwavering commitment to excellence – the cornerstone of everything we do. But what sets them apart as high performers, and how can I ensure their dedication to growth continues? 

Here are the mantras that have consistently elevated our game.

  1. Live by your core values
  2. Invest in recruitment and learn when to let go
  3. Stay focused on your North Star
  4. Lead with empathy and trust
  5. Keep your team close to the strategy
  6. Provide growth opportunities

1. Live by your core values

Most companies have clear values they communicate regularly to employees. While it’s important to align with them, it’s as vital to define your team values. Every product marketing team has its unique rhythm, and core values may vary based on industry, target audience, products, and organizational goals

Here’s what guides my product marketing team:

  • Customer-centricity: We put our customers first and ensure our products and marketing speak their language. We put our customer hat on and overcome challenges.
  • Empathy: We build trust and internal partnerships with all roles and levels. We value other teams’ perspectives and understand their challenges.
  • Adaptability: We are aware that in product marketing things can flip faster than a pancake. We adapt to whatever curveballs come our way and keep the show running.  

2. Invest in recruitment and learn when to let go

As you craft your product marketing charter, make it a priority to define and share your core values with new team members right up front so they know what is expected of them.

Take your time to recruit individuals who either embody your product marketing values or show potential to be coached into doing so. It took me six months to recruit my current team, while I ensured I had it all covered – it was a whirlwind, but worth every second!

Performance is part of your PMM culture. If a team member consistently falls short of meeting expectations, despite offering support, guidance, and resources, it may be time to part ways. It's never an easy call, but sometimes it's necessary for the team's well-being and the organization. 

Due to our cross-functional nature, having a misfit can disrupt teamwork and cast a negative shadow over the entire team and the value of product marketing. We’re not only ambassadors of our individual and team performance but also of product marketing as a whole – and that’s a hefty responsibility.   

How to build, expand, and structure your product marketing team
What better way to learn how to build, expand, and structure your product marketing team than from those who have been there and done it? Learn more.

3. Stay focused on your North Star

Feeling pulled in a million directions? As product marketers, we're constantly juggling a myriad of tasks. Just take a peek at the latest PMA State of Product Marketing report, and you’ll see that our role is still an all-rounder.

While product positioning and messaging remain core responsibilities, there is a whole universe of possibilities we can dive into. And I’m sure you’ve seen those around you never run short of ideas.

From content marketing, competitive enablement, product launches, and managing the website, to crafting customer case studies and advocacy programs – the list goes on and on. The role varies greatly depending on factors like industry, number of products, roadmap and development cycle, team size and unique skill set, and even the abilities of our stakeholders and how we can complement their role.

“Platform updates can now happen in just minutes or seconds. Even AI is now writing its own code. We've gotten better at building software – faster. And in doing so, product marketing had to evolve to keep up,” Yoni Solomon, a leading voice in product marketing, says, as quoted in Product Marketing Misunderstood

And he’s right – we’ve become the most informed, fastest-moving, and most cross-functional team in a company. 

Ask yourself: “Out of all the things I support in my organization, what's the mission that drives my product marketing team forward?” Set the right expectations with stakeholders and communicate clearly to your team. A North Star can foster performance and help them sail through the stormiest waters.

4. Lead with empathy and trust

Almost 20 years ago, a TV ad stuck with me. It was all about finding the ideal partner. A group of women was having a cozy pajama party. One starts sharing her dream boyfriend checklist: "I want him to be good-looking… Tough yet sensitive."

In the ad, her ideal man is chopping wood in the forest and then turning it into art. "He needs to be serious, but also have a great sense of humor," she continues, while her boyfriend pops out a Jack-in-the-box with an engagement ring.

"Most importantly,” she adds, “he should know how I feel without being too pushy." The ad cuts to her boyfriend asking if everything's okay. He instantly assumes he's to blame, and the ad wraps up with a punchline that still rubs me the wrong way: "We know women are hard to please; that's why we baked this cookie."

This TV ad is a tad outdated and sexist, but the analogy hits home. Our messaging and positioning should be serious yet funny; our battle cards should be sharp yet sensitive; and with some stakeholders, you feel like walking on eggshells. Everyone has an ideal product marketer, and we constantly need to manage expectations. 

Product marketing roles are demanding in both hard and soft skills. Show your team appreciation for their efforts, and lead with empathy and trust. Encourage them to embrace imperfection and prioritize their well-being over striving for unattainable goals. We can’t meet every expectation all the time. 

5. Keep your team close to the strategy

I'll always remember one of my early product marketing mentors and managers. He was always sharing insights into executive strategies and best practices. I was in my late 20s and quite green in product marketing. I finally asked him why he was so open with all this info. "My only purpose as a leader is to pass on what I know," he said. 

Those words still hit home for me. When I became a team leader, I lived by this mantra. No matter the level, product marketing is more than nitty-gritty operations and making slides pretty. We all need to understand the big-picture strategy. 

Share whatever knowledge you've got with your team. Break it down to fit their roles and career path, keep them in the loop, and watch their performance skyrocket.

6. Provide growth opportunities

My product marketing journey kicked off nearly a decade ago at a SaaS company. Back then, if I wanted to soak up some product marketing wisdom, it was me, my manager, and a few LinkedIn wizards who often focused on broader marketing topics.

Today, there’s quite a learning frenzy out there! We've got a wide range of resources, training courses, and advanced certifications just waiting to be devoured. Plus, companies are finally closing in on the importance of growth, and developing a learning culture as a key strategy to motivate teams

For training opportunities, there are three main flavors to consider:

  • Product marketing specific training: Dive deep into the nitty-gritty of the product marketing world. Get cozy with positioning, messaging, launches – you name it. You’ll find a boot camp for PMMs.
  • Training related to core capabilities: Strengthen your team’s superpowers that make them shine in their role. Whether brushing up on their writing skills, honing data analysis, or mastering the art of persuasion – this is their chance to level up.
  • Training related to the industry: Empower your team to stay in the loop with what's shaking in your industry. Trends, technologies, competitors – offer them guidance and your leadership support to get the best opportunities to increase their industry knowledge.
Sign your team up for the Pro+ Membership and get access to courses, templates, presentations, discounted events, and more to power up your company-wide PMM strategy… 

Make sure your team has enough time to invest in their growth. At my current company, we're fortunate to have days off for training. If your organization doesn't have this policy, collaborate with your team to ensure coverage while each of them takes turns to focus on growth.

Industry events are also invaluable for product marketing teams. You must help your PMMs choose the ones that match their focus and products – and investing in them long-term will be worthwhile. Advocate for them to attend conferences and networking events where they can learn from experts, stay updated on trends, and build relationships with internal teams.

Mentorship and coaching opportunities, whether within or outside the organization, are fantastic ways to receive guidance, feedback, and career advice. If your company doesn't have a mentorship program, encourage your team to seek out informal mentors and coaches or explore programs in the wider community.

I've been a mentor within the Product Marketing Alliance for nearly a year now, and it's been rewarding. You can find more about my mentoring journey (and my mentee's) in this article.

That’s a wrap

Organizational culture is the heartbeat of every company, infusing it with vitality and direction. Yet, within the grander scheme of things, individual teams are often weaving their unique fabric – and product marketing is no exception. 

With our cross-functional role, the various stakeholders we engage with, and the unique perspective we bring to the table, we are often culture carriers in our organizations – and our performance is always in the spotlight. By offering a combination of these opportunities, you can empower your product marketing team to expand their skills and knowledge and drive their career advancement.