There’s no one, definitive way to structure a product marketing team. Every organization varies in size, stage, and certainly for product marketers, function. And while some organizations favor a feature-first structure, customer-centric companies may prefer to structure by the line of business.

But, what’s good for the goose, isn’t always good for the gander, and while we don’t have the magic formula for the perfect team structure, we do have an awesome community of product marketers who’ve generously shared their own experiences and advice on structuring your product marketing team.

In this article, we’ll be looking at topics around this, including:

Common responsibilities of product marketing teams

The product marketing function is very broad, and people within different departments typically misunderstand what the roles and responsibilities of a product marketer actually are.

We asked product marketing leaders what they considered to be the common responsibilities of a PMM, and here's what they had to say:

“Product marketing tends to be the ‘catch-all’ for everything. If you don't know where to put a certain function, or project, then it's likely product marketing will end up picking it up.
"While that can seem frustrating at times, it also means that you get to experience so many different broad projects and areas of the business that you become this jack of all trades.
“For example, event marketing has just fallen in my lap. It wasn't necessarily something that should typically fall on product marketing - at least in my definition - but because we weren't really sure where to put it, so it was a case of, ‘Well, where else? Let's stick it with Sophie and she can handle that, along with product marketing and customer marketing and other things as well.’”

Sophie Cheng, Senior Director of Product Marketing at ZoomInfo

“In a couple of the businesses that I've worked in, I've been the only product marketer. So, I’ve been doing everything for all products, which has been a quite a lot to handle and a bit of a juggle, but also a really great learning experience at the same time to help me identify exactly what is product marketing versus what's not product marketing.
“But there’s also this lack of awareness within the Australian job market as to what product marketing is. So, one thing for me is that it's a constant education journey we're taking all of our stakeholders within all of Canva to understand what product marketing is, what the value is, and how to work with us.
“We had a funny experience recently. Every quarter we do an education journey to ensure all of our new starters know what product marketing is, and everyone knows how to partner with us. We kicked off the session with a quiz on “what do you think product marketing is?” The most clicked answer was ‘performance marketing’. When I saw the results, I was kind of surprised, but it really reiterated the need to continuously educate everyone on what product marketing is.”

Charlotte Norman, Head of Product Marketing at Canva

What makes a good team structure in product marketing?

Product marketing leaders gave their opinion on what they think a good product marketing team structure looks like. Here's what they said:

“I'd say it depends on a couple of factors. For example, team size, available headcount, market maturity, and your remit. Do you own product and customer marketing? And if you do own product marketing, are you a full-stack PMM? Or is your team mainly focused on, let's say, sales enablement?
“You'd really want to approach your team set up quite differently, depending on the answers to those questions. If you own product and customer marketing, as I do, splitting those two out into more of a functional team structure, really would make a lot of sense.
"On the other hand, if you're in an established market, like when there are no competitors, you likely won't really need a strong focus on competitive intelligence. For example, when I was working for Audi in the automotive industry, it was pretty clear who our two main competitors were, and we continuously went up against them. And those competitors hadn't changed for decades.
“But then you look at a market like conversation intelligence, which is still pretty new and being established. Here more of a hybrid approach might make sense why you likely would want to have somebody really focused on competitive intelligence because you're in such a dynamic market.
“If you have somebody who's focused on market and competitive insights, but then also have your PMMs really focused on certain parts of the platform or products, that can be a really nice hybrid model as well. And so, actually, just before the acquisition, I was starting to make the case internally for really building out a dedicated function for a product for competitive intelligence and market intelligence.”

Sophie Cheng, Senior Director of Product Marketing at ZoomInfo

“I think it's true that as product marketers, every single organization we've been with has done their team structure slightly differently. I mean, it's always a little bit of an interpretation, company to company. But when you're thinking about a team structure - I learned this from mentors over the years - it's really important to think about who has which strengths and where they fit in those pieces of the puzzle.
"We've all heard that old expression: “when you love what you do you never work a day in your life”. Especially in the tech world and in the fast paced businesses that we're all in, I think that it’s increasingly important to make sure that everybody is in the right seat within the team.
“When you think of that from a vertical structure, give your marketers some context and some training. Maybe you're hiring a new team, and you don't have anybody with a specific vertical experience that you need. But give them a little time to do some exploration before you start assigning them to specific verticals. Find out where their strengths lie, what they’ll enjoy doing, and what resonates with them.
"It's also important to make it equitable and make sure you distribute the work evenly - don't burn out your superstars. Don't overlook coaching opportunities for those who might need a little extra help from you, but make it an equitable distribution of work so that everyone is still enjoying what they do, and they're continually engaged.”

Lori Stout, VP of Marketing at Punchh

“If you have the opportunity of hiring several product marketers, you can look at several profiles, but the main three ingredients for a successful product marketer are:

“1. Being strategic - always being able to understand the big picture and building connections between several topics, what I call actually kind of the heterogeneous intelligence.
“2. Data and confidence in analyzing data and putting it together, but also being able to make some insights out of this data, and being comfortable of using it and showing it.
“3. And the last one, which is the most important out of three, is storytelling being able to analyze complex topics, and making them simple through data visualization. Now, you have the work of being able to build a compelling story out of these things, whether it is internal, to get the buy-in of a manager or a marketer or a sales or a CEO, or external, like taking your product to market.”

Karim Zuhri, Chief Operating Officer at Cascade

Advice on being a good team leader

We asked our team leaders what kind of tips and tricks they can offer budding team leaders to think about, to try and give everyone the confidence they need to truly bring their team dynamics to the next level.

“Trust your team to do the right thing, but also give them a little freedom to make some mistakes. That's how we all learn. You're not going to get it right the first time. We all work in agile environments, so give them a little freedom to explore who they are as marketers and you'll be really surprised at some of the great ideas they come up with.
“As you correct them when they make mistakes, let them know it's not the end of the world. I think every product marketer virtually that I've ever met has such high standards for themselves. And we demand perfection of ourselves.
"Having a leader who tells you “look, you're not going to be perfect, and that's okay” and supports them if they make a mistake, I think that's incredibly important.”

Lori Stout, VP of Marketing at Punchh

“Take a real honest look at yourself and your skill sets and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, identify the business' needs, and establish where there are current gaps.
It's okay that you can't do everything, or that you don't even have experience in all the different areas because, at the end of the day, you just need to know how to approach problems. And if you've got the right frameworks in place, you'll be able to find the right answers, even if you don't have any experience.
"Once you understand the lay of the land, that will then help you figure out where you need to plug the right gaps on your team to become that high purpose team.”

Sophie Cheng, Senior Director of Product Marketing at ZoomInfo

“First of all, be yourself and lead by example. I think it's so easy to just have these expectations in your mind and not be able to articulate those. It’s important to show what great looks like, provide examples and templates, and be communicative. Don't leave things up for interpretation.
“It takes work to be a good and effective leader. You need to build the foundation and the processes - they don’t just happen. Also, have those core metrics that you want the team to be anchored on so they know how they're going to be measured. If you can show the team that you care, and the path they can take to get to success, you'll build a really good team.”

April Rassa, VP of Product Marketing at HackerOne

So there we have it...

As we mentioned before, there'll never be a one-size-fits-all approach, and as a product marketing leader, you’ll always have some difficult decisions to make about where to optimize and how to properly align your team.

The good news? If you're a member of our Slack community, you’ll have intel from a ton of product marketers at your fingertips, who'll always be willing to offer experience and advice on an array of topics, whenever they're needed.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about team structures, join Div Manickam, author, mentor, and product marketing influencer, to hear the rest of these conversations in her podcast series, To Team or Not to Team. In each episode Div, and many expert PMM leaders, explore the intricacies of product marketing team structures.

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