It's been a few months in the making, but we're super excited to finally announce we're releasing our very own product marketing book - Misunderstood: How to get an entire organization to understand product marketing and value what you do.

It's a real page-turner. 📖

Excited? Us too! And to celebrate, we're treating you to an excerpt to whet your appetite.

Put your reading glasses on, grab a cuppa Joe, nestle into your favorite armchair and explore our insights into:

  • PMM frustrations
  • Why internal positioning matters

Happy reading. 👇

Pssst. You can pre-order your copy right here.

The biggest frustration

The universal pain point in product marketing is that people just don’t understand the value of the role.  A few years ago, some people may have considered product marketing an extension of a technical marketer, or someone who was good at shoving slide decks together. Sadly, some people may still have this view, and it is up to us to change that uninformed perspective.

Jim Walker, Vice President of Product Marketing at Cockroach Labs, believes that there are seven main reasons why product marketing is often misunderstood:

  1. Every organization is different
  2. Product management and product marketing overlap
  3. The emergence of content marketing
  4. Size/stage of company and marketing organization
  5. Historical expectations
  6. Every industry is different
  7. People and expertise

He says that what’s helped him explain product marketing to non-product marketers is using a broader definition: “product marketing is the process of building and delivering a core narrative.”

How a product marketer looks at their role can also be impacted by where the role of product marketing sits within the organization. A product marketer who works for the global headquarters of a company will have a very different experience to a PMM from a regional office.

The global headquarters is the epicenter of where decisions are made and a product marketer based there would be close to the product team and have the most influence. They are more likely to be able to shape how the product is made to meet market fit and they can bring customer feedback and other insights directly into the product.

A product marker at a regional office doesn’t always have the same feeling of empowerment as their headquarter colleagues at HQ and typically won’t have the same level of influence. Their role will be focused on regional execution because they aren’t where key decisions are being made.

Expert Viewpoint: Harvey Lee, Product Marketing & Innovation Director at Avast

I have experienced both scenarios during my career and the smallest company I’ve ever worked at had $1 billion a year turnover.

Most product marketing roles are viewed as a sort of go-to-market: help shape the marketing plan, help the marketing people execute it. Backup why the KPIs and marketing collateral and sales enablement and that kind of stuff. Whereas if you're in global, often – depending on the size of the company – you don't get as close to that. You’re closer to the product team than you are to the go-to-market team. So that's the fundamental difference: products will go to market, market global, regional. There are exceptions and there's lots of crossover there. I'd say 70% to 80% of the time it’s true.

I've been in a situation where product marketing or the role of Head of Product Marketing, which is the minimum level I operate at,  was seen very much as a business management function and a category management function, which elements of it are, but it's not the main parts of it.

That was a challenge for me because it's not really what I do. How did I change that? I didn't. In this case, it ended up not being a conflict, but I ended up clearly communicating through very specific channels my view of what the role of product marketing is and what I will do, and what my value is.

The main area that I delivered that message was through my annual MBOs. It’s through my management objective targets that I'm measured on what I'm going to do, and how I'm going to do it well. My four or five commitments to the business. That's my playbook for the year. The business signs off on it as well, and what I'm measured on, and if you're lucky to get a bonus, it’s what you get paid out against as well.

When I got my top line from my manager, “this is what I think your MBO should be”, I laughed. I'm like you've got to be joking. So what I did was a side-by-side comparison. I said, here’s yours, and here’s my proposal – my proposal was way more fleshed out. It was not just ‘here have KPIs’, but it had thought leadership in there.

In a way, I was making a rod for my own back because I was expanding on everything I was going to deliver to the business. I was making more work for myself, but I was being true to the role. I also wanted to be measured on more than just business management KPIs. It wasn't necessarily just the ‘what’ I was going to be measured on, it was the ‘how’ I was going to do that and how is it going to apply product marketing methodology to deliver it. It got signed off because I think they saw here's a guy who seriously knows what he's talking about. And he’s signing up for way more than we've asked him for, so why not – if he wants to hang himself, let him hang himself.

So that’s one example – I reset the organization's expectations through official channels in an objective setting, formalized it, and agreed that's how I would be measured. Therefore, it was already pre-approved that I would meet these outcomes by this methodology. Number one.

Another example, I would say that in my time at Microsoft that even though it was in a regional role, I was in an EMEA role (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), I felt that there was misattribution or misunderstanding to the value I was bringing, not in the regional team to my direct managers, but in the US team where the headquarters were. They were so far away and we didn’t tour that often.

I decided to reposition myself specifically to address that issue. I did this by asking for presentation time at certain meetings during one of my frequent trips to Seattle. They were more than happy to hear from regions because they didn't get enough feedback.

So here was me going “I want to share”. And I would share what I did, how I do what I do, what the results were, and what I did overtime. It didn't take that long – maybe half a dozen meetings at most –  but I repositioned myself in their eyes as part of their team, not separate to their team.  

I didn't want them to look at me as some regional outpost that they don't understand, because they don't know anything. I wanted them to look at me as part of their own team. I just happen to sit somewhere else and that was the trick. Once I sort of turned that around, every conversation I ever had after that usually involved them phoning me instead of me chasing them. And I became their trusted advisor and that was really key, that in their eyes I became their trusted advisor for the European market. Because they didn't see me as different from what they were.

That’s how I turned it around. So when we had a conflict or we had a disagreement about something, I pushed back. They came to me and said, “Harvey, we've got the new product coming out. We want to do this. This is the forecast that we've got in mind for Europe, what do you think?” And I thought it was absolute garbage. It wasn’t achievable. I put a bunch of research together and I said, give me a couple of weeks and put together a presentation. And because I'd become their trusted advisor, they accepted it and they accepted my position.”

Jeffrey Vocell, Director of Product Marketing at Iterable, has also experienced people who didn’t understand the value of a product marketer during his career. He shares an example:

“I think especially in today's day and age, really good product managers are really also thinking a little bit about the story and working closely with product marketing to think about what this story is or the narrative is for that product.

“But I’ve certainly worked in my career with a lot of product managers who are thinking from the kind of a feature by feature basis. I think product marketing can really help provide some of that context to them, that the buyer at the end of the day may not solely choose us for some list of features. They'll choose us because of the story we're telling to the broader market and so that's one kind of point that I'd like to share.

"I think others are around the fact that everybody sees the value of product marketing in hindsight, I think. You just get through a launch and you have all of these amazing metrics, or traffic to your product pages is up significantly, or your leads are up by X percentage. The number of MQLs that you've generated for that month is up by some percent, the amount of demos the sales team is giving is naturally up as a result of some of those other metrics.

“And ideally as a result of all of those various things, you're winning more business. You're closing more deals, generating more revenue. And so that's an obvious one, everyone sees that after a launch, but there’s difficulty in seeing that before some of that happens and I think the difficulty for a lot of different teams is seeing the value of product marketing before that happens.

“One way I like to describe product marketers is that we are the quarterback of a launch. So while I may not be necessarily writing the specific email that's going to our customer base about a launch or a new feature, I'm working very closely with our customer marketing team to define what should go into that email, what our segmentation strategy should be.

"And so I'm kind of pushing and – it's not just customer marketing, that’s just one example – I'm helping push all of those teams forward as kind of the quarterback does and setting the plays essentially that we're going to do for this launch in defining how we should really bring that product to market to generate more revenue and help generate more users of a product, whatever the case may be. I'm really trying to deliver on many of those goals.”

For product marketers at the beginning of their careers, changing people’s perceptions can be difficult, especially if they have not been involved in critical conversations or meetings about bringing products to market. To be fully utilized, product marketers need to be in discussions across the entire go-to-market strategy.

One way to start changing people’s minds is by leveraging customer and competitor analysis. If product marketers present data and information about what their customers want (or what their competitors are doing), as well as knowing the ins and outs of products, management will hopefully begin to see the value of having them at the table.

Why does internal positioning matter?

It is so vital to own your internal positioning. In doing so, you’ll get to influence and have your voice heard within your organization. You’ll be able to be fully involved and fully contributing.

Product marketers add the most value when they are:

● immersed in the product development process.

● putting strategic planning and creative problem-solving skills to work.

● tapping into customer empathy and competitive insights through extensive research.

● adapting to the constant flux around flexible delivery timelines or market dynamics.

● nailing product messaging and positioning.

● continually enhancing writing and presentation capabilities and skills.

● outlining objectives and key results (OKRs) around go-to-market strategy, sales enablement, and product adoption.

When C-suite members clearly value and define the role of product marketing and know what it is about, it isn’t an accident. It is usually the result of the hard work and dedication of product marketers within their organization. They have positioned themselves in such a way that they achieve a greater level of understanding and respect from senior leaders.

If you wish for the same in your organization, follow this book and use all the guidance contained within it.  By implementing the advice, tactics, and learnings outlined, you should be able to bring about a 360° change.

When you have a C-suite that is bought in, you’ll be able to do your job better. This in turn will not only make you look better but could also help you move up the career ladder at an accelerated pace.

Like what you've seen so far? There's plenty more where that came from. Pre-order your copy, and get it the day it hits the shelves.

Until then, check out our specialist eBooks, focusing on product marketing OKRs and personas, and discover a whole host of recommended titles in our product marketing reading list.