There’s no such thing as someone who knows everything; we never stop learning new skills and refining our practice, and there are always avenues where you can improve your knowledge.
Product marking isn’t exempt from the rule of thumb, with training often used to help product marketing teams progress further.
While the byproduct of training is a better equipped PMM team to oust the competition, it’s important not to overlook its principle aim: to ensure internal teams know how to use and apply materials they’re provided by PMMs (like products, features, and sales assets), whilst establishing high-standards across the board.
Consistency across all teams is key. While product marketing may know the ins-and-outs of its offering, if no-one else has the faintest idea about the product or service, not only is this a huge source of frustration, but you’ll also fail to hit expected standards.
When is training needed?
In product marketing, it’s commonplace for training to be arranged in the build-up to the launch of a new product or service. These sessions provide team members, often sales reps, with the fundamental information they need to sell effectively.
But training sessions aren’t reserved exclusively for the run-up to launch. They can - and should - be used all-year-round to ensure all your hard work is front of mind, and people are continually refreshed on how to use assets such as battle cards, apply your personas, nurture prospects down the buying funnel, and so on.
Silvia Kiely Frucci, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Wilmington Healthcare, explained where she’s uses training sessions, and also gave an insight into her preferred method when carrying out the sessions:
“When I first joined the company, I had a team of three people working for me, but they’d never worked in product marketing before.
“They were experienced in marketing and working on campaigns, but they needed to understand technicalities of product marketing, so I organized a session to improve their understanding of those areas, whilst also ensuring I could get what I needed from them as PMMs. For example, how to use Excel in certain ways, and tools such as SurveyMonkey, etc.
“However, I find shadowing to be an extremely useful form of training, as people can see first-hand how experienced product marketers use skills in their everyday jobs. This can be easier than sitting down and training someone during a session. They may complete a rotation with the sales team for a few weeks, then customer engagement, then product, and so on. Then, in the end, we can bring all these new skills together.”
When should employees be given training?
There are a variety of reasons internal training may be used depending on a company’s circumstances and requirements.
Let’s check out some of the scenarios where you may need to dust off your cloak and flex your training muscles. 💪
Launch of a new product
In circumstances when a brand-new product is being launched, not only will respective teams need training on the product itself, they’ll also require insights into a range of areas, including:
- The product,
- How it works,
- What it does do,
- What it doesn’t do,
- How it’s positioned, etc.
Enhance cross-department understanding
Training is used to apply a consistent understanding throughout key teams/departments. By including multiple teams such as sales, design, and customer support in a process, this introduces much-needed consistency as far as tuition and understanding are concerned, allowing them to ask questions and reinforce their understanding if needs be.
For example, teams may need support around your product, during which time you may answer key questions, such as:
- How to use it,
- How to demo it for customers,
- Highlighting key features for reps to help drive sales,
- Sharing key information around segmentation, personas, and positioning,
- Learning and development.
Training is an essential part of the onboarding process for a new member of your PMM team, particularly if your recruit is entering the industry at entry-level.
It’s advisable to consider training when you welcome new product marketing recruits to the team as part of their onboarding process, to ensure they're up-to-speed with how your PMM functions work - because as well know, no two product marketing teams are the same!And remember, the onboarding element applies to new recruits outside of product marketing too. If you wanna ensure any new sales, customer success, product, marketing, etc. folks are signing off your hymn sheet from the get-go, make sure you get some 1:1 on time with them early on.
Introduction of new product features
Once upon a time, Apple made sub-standard computers, and Nokia were top dogs in the world of cellphones.
However, there’s no such thing as a ‘forever product’; new features come along, and the pendulum swings the other way around.
When new features are introduced, it isn’t a case of merely rolling them out and hoping the penny drops. Team members are given training to become more familiar with new features, so they’re au fait with the intricacies of what they’re going to be dealing with and selling to their customers.
Repositioning and new personas
Sometimes, companies deem it necessary to change the image of their product, or brand entirely, to target a new or wider market.
Stella Artois is the epitome of a product that’s been through a rigorous reporting process. With its high alcohol content, the Belgian pilsner was attributed to aggression and binge-drinking, with its negative connotations driving some members of the target market elsewhere.
So, the company invested time, effort, (and a lot of money) to reposition itself as a high-brow, trendy beverage.
When a product is repositioned, its values and messages often change with it. Teams can’t be driving an old message when you’re trying to instill new ideas.
The market is continually changing, and your ideal customer will change with it.
The minute your personas alter, the word better run through the halls of your organization like wildfire; we’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again, when miscommunication and confusion strikes, you’re on a very slippery slope.
Conduct one-to-one training sessions, group training sessions - whatever it takes to make sure your team understands your previous personas are yesterday’s news.
Remember, if you change your personas, your strategy needs to change with it; everything from the lingo in your marketing campaigns to the content you’re publishing.
If your content doesn’t resonate and isn’t relevant to your new personas, you’ll find out soon enough - and so will your competitors.
Sales assets are in many ways the glue holding sales teams together; they prop reps up when they need inspo and provide key information to nudge a customer over the line.
But like everything else: They don't. Stay. The same.
If you make even the slightest amendment to sales assets you provide your team or decide to replace them entirely, training is essential; what may seem like common sense to you, may not be so transparent to someone else, and they’re the ones who’ll be on the phones speaking to the customers.
A refresher course is a great way to consolidate the understanding of core principles, for yourself, as well as your team members.
These sessions can knock the cobwebs off team members' minds, and ensure A) they understand the most up-to-date information, and B) are using it daily.
And last, but by no means least…
‘What is product marketing’ education session
There’s no set definition of product marketing - we don’t know if we’ve told you before. 😉
While there are 1,000s of definitions of PMM flying around and a definition hasn’t been set in stone, this doesn’t mean you can’t dispel any myths that have crept into your team member’s psyche.
A PMM education session is a fab way to see what their definition of the term is, and help them if they need it.
Who knows, you may learn a thing or two yourself!
How to deliver training
There isn’t a blanket formula that can be applied when delivering training sessions.
What works wonders for one company will be a poor fit for someone else. For example, using role-play may go down like a lead balloon, on one hand, but in another instance, the approach could be well-received.
You’ve got to incorporate an approach that’s applicable for your setup, and that you’re confident delivering. If you’re stumped for which approach to take, there’s nothing wrong with speaking directly to your internal teams and seeing which approach they’d like. If anything, this approach could see engagement increase, given you’ve taken the initiative to see what they want, instead of making assumptions.
Julie Grondin, Senior Product Marketing Manager at CBRE is an advocate of adopting a proactive approach when delivering training.
“What’s worked well for me in the past is joining the regular weekly sales call and asking the team directly what they need more details on.
“This has allowed me to see why they’re struggling to understand the product or how to talk about it with customers. This has provided guidance when setting the training topic for the next session.
“In some instances, you can review a competitor, relevant industry news, etc. to improve the quality of the session.”
Conversely, Jenkin Lee, Chief Product Officer at Baze, said he adopts a more varied approach:
“I tend to use training during new hiring orientation, and also organize a dedicated product on-boarding slot.
“For new product updates and releases, I've used a combination of methods, including road-shows for in-person whole day product training and submersion, to webinars, 1:1s and e-learning recordings about feature usage. However, this depends on the size and scope of the product update or release.”
Whichever approach you decide to take, it’s important not to incorporate the same approach across the whole of your company; different teams will be receptive to different methods.
It’s therefore essential to go the extra mile to identify which methods are likely to resonate with different audiences. For example, if you’re delivering training for Product Managers, speak to the Product Director, beforehand, to identify their KPIs and tailor your message accordingly. If this is executed well across the board, not only will PMM teams have a solid understanding of key principles, but other essential teams will understand how to implement the tools they’ve been given.
It’s also important to recognize the delivery of training varies depending on the overall objective, as explained by Louise Dunne, a PMM with vast experience in holding sessions for teams from an assortment of backgrounds.
“When I think of training, I think: what are we trying to achieve? Is it something just like a quick information exchange, where the attendees need to just listen? In this case, I need to make it as engaging and exciting as possible. If people leave these sessions with three things: perfect. This format may be used to inform the team about an asset, for example.
“If you need the team to ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’, this lends itself to a more hands-on, coaching and development style of training. You have to start thinking: ‘okay, well, how do you learn properly?’ A good example would be something like when you've learned a new language, you have to do all the verbs, you have to practice the vocabulary yourself. So that's with an expert instructor telling you and letting you get to grips with the material in your own time.
“Then, the bigger training initiatives or things that have major behavior change: we want you to stop doing X, and we need you to start doing Y, and in these cases, you need to have a way of measuring the effect the training has had.
“When delivering training sessions, you need to package up the information in a way where the information is the same, but it’s just the context that changes based on the role the audience has in the company and their role in the topic area.”
Tips when delivering training
Many have been unlucky enough to experience a painstaking, mind-numbing training session. Quite honestly, it’s not only a drag for everyone involved, but we’re sure you’re not doing cartwheels either, right?
There are elements of good-practice many PMMs incorporate within their training sessions.
Here are some suggestions you should consider when delivering yours:
Nobody enjoys being overloaded with a ton of information in one fell swoop; we’re more receptive to absorbing information when we have time to digest it properly, which is why microlearning is often used in training sessions.
Microlearning is the process whereby lessons are broken down into more manageable, digestible chunks. If you choose to adopt this approach (and we’d recommend it), hone your attention on the quintessential pieces of information and include a select few topics within your session.
For example, in the run-up to a new product launch, don’t cram positioning, personas, pricing, sales assets, and product demos all into one session. Split them out into two or three chunks so you’re not bombarding people with overwhelming amounts of info.
Ever heard of learning an idea, “parrot-fashion?”
Spaced repetition, otherwise known as distributed practice, uses repetition to deliver information until the knowledge has been embedded in the mind.This method works in tandem with microlearning, given short lessons are easy to repeat. Platforms such as EdApp and Brainscape are just some of the tools placing an emphasis on the role of cognitive science within education.
Whether we like it or not, sometimes, sales reps are more likely to listen to sales reps, marketers are more likely to listen to marketers, customer success… you get the drift.
At the end of the day, the most important part of internal training is ensuring the key points are being understood and acted on, and who delivers those key points - so long as they’re accurate - doesn’t necessarily matter.
So, if it’s gonna make people more receptive, get a respected member of the PMM team to deliver training (with your guidance and supervision, of course), and roll the same approach out across the rest of the teams, too.
Encourage interactivity and incorporate templates
While memorizing facts is a conventional form of learning, for some, it can be challenging.
Similarly, introducing multiple-choice questions arguably isn’t the most innovative or engaging experience. This can be easily remedied by placing a greater emphasis on making your training sessions interactive, to detract from the educational element, boosting engagement, and the fun-factor.
You can achieve your desired results by incorporating ready-made, interactive templates within the session plan, whether these be flashcards, whiteboards, or so on.
Wanna take your interactivity even further? Gamification is easy to introduce and is often acknowledged as being a method that’s well-received by teams, particularly sales teams.
The premise is simple: use a points system where points are given when answers are answered A) correctly, or B) quickly. Not only will this transform the tedium of your session into a fun-filled use of time, if you incentivize people to do their best, not only will they benefit, but you’ll have a team with newfound knowledge and confidence.
High-fives all around. 🙌
Walking out of the theatre after watching a terrible movie, before telling yourself: “that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back” is super-frustrating.
So, why bestow the same fate on someone who doesn’t necessarily need to be in your meeting? It’d be like sitting through as an ancient history lecture as a math student.
Segment your audience and make sure you’re speaking to people who have a genuine reason for being there. For example, if your training is about sales, only invite people who are part of your sales process.
When people feel you’re wasting their time, they won’t engage, and this will have an overriding impact on the rest of the group.
By all means, hold a further session when teams can share knowledge, knock yourself out. But initially, keep it specific, and keep your colleagues engaged (and happy!).
Establish collective understanding sooner, rather than later
One of the main frustrations faced when delivering training sessions is spending plenty of time preparing, only for people to immediately forget what you’ve told them when you ask them about it the next day.
So, how can you ensure your top tips don’t go in one ear, and out the other when you’re conducting events?
Firstly, let’s not try kidding ourselves: it happens - all the time. But, that doesn’t mean to say you need to accept it as being a foregone conclusion within your sessions.
Many people say to themselves: when (and how), can I follow-up and make sure my points have hit the mark?’
Answer? Make sure your points have been understood before people have even left the room. Establish whether your sessions have hit the spot, so you can address any questions directly.
Harvey Lee, Product Marketing Consultant is an advocate of this mindset:
“Don’t let understanding be an after-thought; as a product marketer, if you’re leading training, you should have the follow-up at the same time as the session itself. Present it as a holistic program; don’t leave it two weeks and think ‘oh, no - what do I do now?’ instead, have a plan, and incorporate it into the session.”
Training in action
So, which methods can you implement to ensure your resources are being understood not only by product marketing but by other teams who should be utilizing such materials? Silvia Kiely Frucci, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Wilmington Healthcare has previously incorporated an element of role-play-Esque exercises into her sessions, to identify any flaws in teams she’s taught:
“My training for products is formatted like a sales engagement program. The Director of Sales and I outline objectives for the people we’re training, and at the end of the cycle, they pitch to me, as if I’m the customer. This allows me to see whether they’re certified to sell the product or not.
“This method allows me to see if there are any areas they haven’t understood, in which case, I can explain it for them again.”
Always plan ahead
Irrespective of which team you train, your session will be remembered for one of two reasons:
- It was a waste of time, and they didn’t leave with any key takeaways, or
- Your session ticked the boxes, and they benefited from turning up for your session.
Hosts of any training session want their participants to be engaged. But this won’t land in your lap; you need to plan in preparation and make sure it’s not a waste of everyone’s time.
The host needs to pay attention to the big O’s: objective and outcome. Harvey Lee explained the steps he takes when orchestrating his training sessions:
“When planning a session, I think through all the linear steps before even putting pen to paper. So what's your objective? What's the outcome at the end? And what are the linear steps to get from A to B?
“For that training, you want to deliver, but how are you going to bend the bits in the middle to make it happen? Make it as engaging as you possibly can. Use incentives - pizza, doughnuts, and coffee; all the simple tricks to entice people to get your attendance hooked.”
Why training is beneficial
Companies offering comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training - crazy, right?
With orgs splashing the cash on training also reaping the benefits of 24% higher profit margins, there are clear-cut benefits that should prick up one’s ears.
In the realms of product marketing, training can ensure all your internal teams have a concrete understanding of how to get the most out of all your hard work and ultimately do their job better. Here are just a handful of the benefits on offer:
- Ensure everyone’s positioning your product effectively (and correctly!),
- Knowledge of how to refine your personas,
- Implementation of sales enablement assets, such as battle cards and competitor comparisons,
- Plug knowledge gaps,
- Establish consistency and understanding between departments,
- Increased efficiency when completing tasks;
As you can see, there’s no doubt training brings a breadth of benefits, but this is dependent on people attending being accountable for their responsibilities; transparency is essential for teams to familiarize themselves with tools being used in different departments, as highlighted by Product Marketing Consultant, Harvey Lee:
“People can’t just turn up, eat free pizza, and leave. It happens, but you need to make expectations clear.
“If you tell people what the purpose is and that you’ll be following up to make sure they’re keeping their end of the bargain, they’ll respect you for it, because it doesn’t happen enough.
“Conduct the training and analyze what happens afterward. Upload resources to a sharing platform, track how many times each person downloads a sales sheet, battle card, etc. Then, take the data to your second meeting and match what people tell you they’ve done, with what the data shows. For example, if Frank says he downloaded materials twelve times, but in reality, he hasn’t done it at all, yet Shelley has used it, tell her ‘well done’, and show other people in the room you know.
“It’s very much show and tell, but it’ll allow you to keep an audit of what’s working well, what isn’t, and how your tools are being used not only in your product marketing team but across the business itself.
“Ask for feedback and identify where your team thinks improvement can be made, and encourage people to ask questions so they can learn about areas where they need to improve. Monitor data like a hawk, so you can see who downloads it, who activates it, how many times it gets used, so on and so forth.”
Training provided by PMA
Every day’s a learning experience, in our eyes; we’re a sucker for developing our knowledge and product marketers in our Slack community and beyond.
We’re always delivering PMMs with opportunities to improve their understanding of the industry, with Product Marketing: Core [OnDemand] and Product Marketing: Core [Live & Online] the perfect way to gain an in-depth understanding of the fundamentals; a full-time intensive course, or a part-time option is available for our Live & Online course.
Take your training to the summit and get your team PMM certified. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.