Product Marketing Room 101 is a series created for disgruntled PMMs to anonymously provide things they don't like about product marketing they'd like banished to the vaults of the infamous "Room 101".
Being a product marketer is something I truly enjoy. I love that product marketers are the ones who research, define, and articulate the positioning of a product in the market, then create a go-to-market plan and work across departments and teams to bring products to customers.
I remember all too well the first day I became a part of a startup team as a product marketer. I was so excited to prove myself. I listened intently at my first product team standup and was very quick to pick out the areas I could start working on and deliver on those early PMM wins.
At the next standup meeting, I was expecting an update on some of the mentioned areas like product/feature launch date, and the exact customer segments we were going after first (you know, the obvious things for us PMMs) but nothing was mentioned. As we approached the end of the meeting, I had to ask.
That’s when I was told by the PM that the launch happened last week. I was honestly disappointed. A lack of a clear understanding of the product marketing role and unreasonable expectations for product launch timelines might have caused the above but I expected the PM to inform me about the launch nonetheless.
As you might have guessed, that was the beginning of a set of frustrating things I’ve experienced as a product marketer over the years and I’m so glad we now have a safe space to share them here at the Product Marketing Room 101. As with any role, there are some tough aspects to being a product marketer that, if not carefully handled, might take a toll on your mental health.
In this piece, I’m going to walk you through some of the frustrations I’ve experienced while planning for launches and as a true PMM, offer some solutions for how to deal with them.
Yes, this messaging exercise will impact key business metrics
It’s really challenging tying our work to tangible results and ROI. This, however, doesn’t mean that the product marketing function doesn’t significantly contribute to the business's bottom line. We do. What always amazes me is when the foundational processes for taking a product to market are overlooked by executives and deemed a waste of time.
Take, for example, the messaging exercise. The lack of clear metrics to measure the impact of my messaging and positioning work as a product marketer shouldn’t deem the exercise unimpactful. It’s the positioning and messaging exercise that sets the foundation for a product’s go-to-market process which helps the sales and marketing teams to acquire the correct customers for the business.
To help the executives and my team members understand the value of the foundational PMM work, I always make a point to break down how my work is helping other teams achieve their goals.
Those battle cards are actually meant to be used
When planning for an upcoming product launch, we’ve all spent hours of our precious PMM time creating detailed battle cards to enable the sales team to attract the right customers to our new product and remain aligned with the overall product/brand narrative.
On several occasions, some salespeople, for reasons only God knows, decide that they'll not be consuming this piece of valuable content. They decide to just wing it! Rolls eyes. 😒
I’ve experienced this before and decided to work with the Head of Sales to use their level of influence to communicate the importance of consuming the prepared sales materials. This significantly improved content use by the sales team.
No, I’m not here to pretty up presentation slides
Product marketing is a very new profession for most, so it’s hard for people to understand what we do sometimes. We’ve all been met with that familiar question: "So, what do you really do here?"
Well, a more appropriate question would be: what don’t I do in this company?
And the top answer to that is - prettying up presentation slides for the sales team.
I mean, I can do it, but it’s not the best use of my time as a product marketer. Instead of updating presentation slides, I could be exploring new competitors who have entered the market, carrying out a win/loss analysis to understand our buyers’ purchasing behaviors and perceptions, or even undertaking customer segmentation.
Yes, I need to get constant customer feedback
More and more companies are realizing just how valuable buyer and user feedback can be. As a product marketer, I understand and value feedback when planning launches. With this in mind, working with customer-facing teams to ensure I’m getting updated customer feedback while also directly interacting with customers can bring about some friction.
"Didn’t I share with you our customer feedback last week?"
This is the response I get when I ask a customer success person to pull for me yet another list of the feedback we got from the best-performing customer segment. Communicating the importance of constantly keeping a pulse on what customers are saying to other customer-facing teams has helped bring about alignment.
Patience guys, let me show you how it all ties together
Launching a product can be a very busy and confusing process for other teams in the company. As PMMs, we have the playbook for taking tech solutions to market and have tiered the launches depending on the market influence and customer impact we want to have.
This is quite different for the other cross-functional teams who'll be executing the strategies we’re creating. Before setting up the initial meeting to take the teams through the launch plan, timelines, responsibilities, and goals, I’ve been met with so many questions that made the planning process feel quite heavy.
Don’t get me wrong these questions are great, and they do help a lot during the launch planning process but I wish everyone would just trust that everything will tie together beautifully. I believe this is something most PMMs experience, too.
To help eliminate the cloud of confusion, what I've seen work for me was sending out an email to all the key stakeholders communicating that we'll have an initial launch planning session and everything will be covered.
Copywriting isn’t a product marketing deliverable
No matter what part of the business you’re in, if you care about generating revenue, you care about content. While we all agree on this, the one misconception about the product marketing function is that we are seen as a content creation service.
I’ve worked at a company where I’d get requests to work on the marketing copy for upcoming campaigns while I was still new and hadn’t educated all the teams on what I do and what they should expect from me as a product marketer.
As much as our responsibilities as product marketers vary slightly based on industry, company, products, and company size and resources... writing marketing copy isn’t what the product marketing function was actually set out to do. That’s why we have copywriters. This might be a bit different if you’re working for a startup and you help create the content the broader marketing team produces due to limited resources and budget.
To ensure I don’t get requests from other departments to work on copywriting, I always make time during my first 90 days at a company to walk everyone through my product marketing presentation that informs them what I do and the value I bring to the company. Some of us might be known at work for our witty repartee but believe me when I confess that copywriting isn’t exactly our strongest suit.
Despite all the little or not-so-little frustrations I’ve experienced as a product marketer planning for launches and working cross-functionally with other departments, I wouldn’t trade my role for any other profession. Knowing that I’m helping real humans with needs to get the proper products that'll help resolve their pain points brings me so much fulfillment.
What I’ve learned to do is take each day as it comes and continuously grow as a product marketer while being bold enough to communicate when a deliverable doesn’t really fall under the PMM function.
So cheers to delivering value to our companies, being relentlessly curious and learning new things, and boldly turning down those requests that don’t fall under the PMM function! 😊