The process of taking a product to market is incredibly time-consuming, and that’s not to mention the budget and resources it takes to do it correctly. Oftentimes, the Go-to-Market (GTM) process is handled by an array of team members within an organization, so for it to be done by solo product marketers (PMMs) can be a large feat.
So how do solo PMMs tackle GTM compared to PMM teams, and how do their processes differ?
In this article, we’re going to take a look at these two ways of working and try to pinpoint this and how they are perhaps similar in the way that they carry out the function. We’ll specifically take a look at:
- What is involved in a strong Go-to-Market strategy?
- How both solo product marketers and product marketing teams handle these processes.
- How solo PMMs manage strategic and tactical work.
- How solo PMMs handle a larger workload.
What is involved in a strong Go-to-Market strategy?
Having a solid GTM strategy in place means you know who your market is, how good your market timing is, and what the best place for your product is.
Every product and market is unique and as a result of this, every GTM strategy is too. However, they all usually include a business plan identifying a target audience, a market plan, and a sales strategy.
The typical main steps, which are explored in more depth in our article here, are:
- Step one: Understanding your customers
- Step two: Messaging
- Step three: Messaging testing
- Step four: Understanding your journey
- Step five: Strategize
- Step six: Write your content
- Step seven: Always measure for success
These are some key aspects that, ideally, every Go-to-Market strategy should have. However, the way they’re carried out is going to differ depending on the size of the team working through this approach. This leads us to our next point…
How both solo product marketers and product marketing teams handle these processes
For solo product marketers, there are going to be some limitations to what you can do, particularly if you’re coming from a startup that has a limited budget and resources. So, many solo PMMs need to adapt their strategy to suit these circumstances.
Megan Pratt, Director of Product Marketing at Alyce shared her advice for solo PMMs who are tackling a Go-to-Market strategy:
“1. Clarity is KEY. You have to be very clear about what’s in scope vs. out of scope and what that means for the business. Make zero assumptions about what other people know about product marketing and what you are prioritizing.
“For GTM, I used the PMA launch framework as a jumping-off point for those conversations. For other things like win/loss analysis, messaging and positioning, sales materials, etc. I have very clearly documented priorities that I’ve checked off with my boss (VP Marketing), that he’s shared with his boss (CEO), and that other stakeholders have seen too. Now when there’s a request that’s not on that list we can all revisit it together and decide to push something or table the request for later.
“2. Don’t try to be the little dutch boy! A previous leader gave me some great advice that has stuck with me. He said that it’s ok not to be able to solve every problem, answer every question, create every deliverable, etc. Sometimes it’s a good strategy to say something like ‘With current resources, I can’t do that right now but would be happy to figure out what it would look like to get that done for you.’
“Maybe that means getting more resources, maybe it means someone else does that thing, maybe we decide it’s not a priority. His point was that a no or not right now is good information for leadership to have because then everyone knows when it’s time to get more resources.”
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For product marketing teams, the challenge isn’t with prioritizing their workloads and learning to say ‘no’ because they do not have the capacity for it. Instead, it’s more to do with ensuring everyone is on the same page, and clear of overarching goals and objectives that they need to meet.
So, this means establishing a strong and streamlined collaboration and communication process amongst the team members during the GTM approach and also amongst internal departments that perhaps didn’t think to bring the PMM team into the launch planning process early on.
We spoke to Mary Sheehan, former Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe about how to garner a more collaborative approach from the get-go, particularly when it comes to product releases. This is what she had to say:
“This is a great question and a frustrating challenge. For major releases, product marketing should be brought in as early as possible in the research or validation phase (before all of the features are defined). Here's why:
“PMMs represent the customer's voice, and we can help make sure that this POV is carried throughout the entire product process. If you're brought in at the last minute to "put lipstick" on whatever launch is happening, the PM is missing the strategic value of PMM.
But it's one thing to say this, and another to be brought into the folds early. Here's what I would recommend:
“Write out the product life cycle at your company, and understand how your team can add value at each stage. For example, in the early research phase (what I call ‘market problems' ' or ‘market validation’), PMM can assist with competitive intel, or help to run interviews or surveys (including the PM at every step along the way). Then, you can help package some of the analyses for them to help influence the product.
“Find an eager PM who wants/needs your help, and start early with them adding value in the way only PMM can. It will undoubtedly go better than if they ran it themselves.
“Package up the results, share them with everyone (PM team included), and treat it as an internal case study to show what PMM can do. You will probably have them knocking down your door to get help!”
How do solo PMMs manage strategy and tactical work?
When carrying out product marketing functions like Go-to-Market, having a balance of strategic and tactical work is important. As a solo product marketer, trying to find this balance can be quite difficult, especially when trying to also balance your entire workload.
We reached out to some solo PMMs to see how they managed their strategic and tactical work. Here are some of the responses:
“Organize your quarters in advance and socialize, socialize, socialize your plans so people understand your 1) focus 2) capacity, and 3) value! If you have a list of 10 important things to be done for the quarter - cut it in half. The other work that comes on your desk will stop you from being successful if you don't.”
Fiona Finn, Director of Product Marketing at Jane.App
“I try to figure out the urgency of the tactical task, i.e. is it something that needs to be done quickly or can it wait? Also, generally, I try to set aside some time during my day for both. I find if I don't set aside the time, the strategy never gets done until it becomes time-critical.”
Martin Bakal, Global Director of Product Marketing Director at OpenLegacy
How do solo PMMs handle the workload?
In reflection of the last discussion on balancing strategic and tactical work, we reached out to the solo product marketers within the PMA slack community and asked what kind of things they do to try and handle their overall workload, especially when it comes to larger strategic functions like GTM.
Here’s what they had to say:
“Set expectations, augment with temp staff, learn how to say no in a way that people offer you help instead of getting angry.
“If you are the only person in a company (usually a startup/SMB/non-profit) then you need to define boundaries of what you can and can’t do on your own. Have stretch goals in mind but recognize when you can not finish what is on your plate.
“Also, GTM historically rarely gets the deadline stated upfront in startups so know when someone says ‘can we do this in 90 days?’ and it is impossible, call them on the BS.
“Breathe, patience, map it all out, and make sure management sees what your map looks like with real dates/hours on items.”
Keith Brooks, Product Evangelist, Speaker & Mentor
“Buy/use tools that make life easier as a team of one or two like ClickUp, Google Jamboard, GTM Buddy, Canva, Carrd, etc. When you're a team of one, you gotta be able to move quickly and hack what you need together because there's always more to do than time to do it.”
Belal Batrawy, Head of GTM at GTM Buddy
“I’m the first Product Marketing leader which means I’m elevating the role of PMM from “hey can we have a one sheeter/battle card/deck/etc.” to being more focused on strategically guiding the company story and strategy. Luckily the leadership team really gets product marketing and is on the same page with my vision, but there’s always going to be some amount of saying no or at the very least, not right now.
“I’ve been very upfront about my priorities, what I can/can’t take on, appropriate timelines, what is and isn’t a priority and why, etc. I’m learning not to be afraid to say no (within reason and always with an explanation or promise to revisit). There will always be more you could do, but it benefits no one if you say yes to all of it and eventually burn out. Least of all you!”
Megan Pratt, Director of Product Marketing at Alyce