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.
- What makes a good team structure in product marketing?
- Advice on being a good team leader.
What is product marketing?
Product marketing is a subsection of marketing that focuses on the product. For a full dive into this question check out the guide.
What does the typical product marketing team look like?
The product marketing function is still in its relative infancy, and there’s no set formula for how to structure a team. The team dynamic will differ depending on how the roles and responsibilities of a product marketer have been incorporated into the overall business structure.
In an episode of Product Marketing Insider, we asked Su Simha, Chief Marketing Officer at Morressier, what a product marketing team looks like in terms of numbers and roles. This is what she had to say:
“It varies from company to company, and I think it completely changes from industry to industry. In companies like Microsoft, each product organization operates like its own profit and loss (or at least at the time when I was there.)
“And so naturally, product management and product marketing are working together, and sometimes you have one product marketing manager in individual business units, depending on what the business is. If it's a $1 billion business like service and consulting, I was probably one or two people in product marketing. But if it's a big business like Office, for example, you’d have at least 10 to 15 different product marketers.
“The product marketing team structure is different for a company like Microsoft, and when you look at my roles in Bombardier and the way I’ve built the team there, again, you have six different product lines. So I had to have a product marketing leader for every single product line and then had the competition, the campaign, and the content exposed.
“With N26, I took a slightly different approach by not knowing what the makeup was in the organization, what different teams existed and how I could complement that and try and duplicate it. So, it's very important to not duplicate, or rather understand if you need to restructure and bring in some of these other responsibilities.
“So I think at the core, I structure the product marketing team based on three things. One is segments, the market segments, or product lines that you're looking at. Often it depends on the product organization in many ways.
“In N26, I replicated the product organization so that we had a product marketing leader for every single product leader. It was across the journey of the product... so there was a product marketing lead for growth or acquisition, engagement, memberships or subscriptions, additional ancillary products (like the insurance one that we launched), and marketplace.
“So, a lot of these things can be defined, and then in addition to product marketing leaders, I also tend to set up a mini team within this product marketing for the segments with a competition expert. But product marketing by default needs to be that champion of understanding what's going on in the market.
“And then with market research analysis, often I tend to have market research within the product marketing organization. Sometimes in companies, I've had to look at whether they may have already had a market research or a user research team. So bringing them onto a dotted line kind of a structure within the team has also worked out very well.
“And lastly, it’s important to bring a launch project manager or launch coordinator onto the team. The launch is something that I think is so dramatically important in most companies, and I think if you do the launch right, then you're really setting the tone for the growth of the business or the product adoption in years to go or in months to go.
“So naturally launching, I think, is definitely a very big job in itself. You can’t have a product marketing leader do everything. If it's a small company, you can do it, if it's a larger launch project, you sometimes need a launch coordinator in that sense.
“It's kind of like this is a mix of a product marketing leader, a competition expert, a launch coordinator, and then very clearly a market researcher. All of this comprises my product marketing team and that depends from sometimes 12 to 18 to 20 people.
“At Bombardier, we had 15 to start with, and I grew the headcount to 27 eventually, which is what I got the approval for. In companies like N26, I started with an 18 headcount request but eventually, we got a headcount of about 11 people. So it’s very much company to company.”
When should a company introduce a product marketing team?
It can be difficult to know when to scale your product marketing efforts, Daria Gogoleva, Marketing Lead at Insense, shares her advice on how to tell if your company needs to build a product marketing team.
“When a company is small and consists of no more than 5-10 people, a product marketing role is often executed naturally by someone from a team, be it a Founder, CMO, Head of Growth, or Head of Product.
“At the same time, they usually wear several hats: being sales, customer success manager, and a product lead simultaneously. They’re in constant contact with customers, talking to them during demos and pitching them a product, and supporting them when they have issues, concerns, or ideas regarding a product.
“All this knowledge they use to drive product development, GTM strategy, and launches. So, all expertise, understanding, and knowledge are in the hands of one key person. Everything might work pretty well until a company starts to grow and new team members join the ranks.
“When a company starts to have a separate salesperson (or even a whole team of salespeople), customer success managers, product owners, digital marketers, content marketers and creators, HRs, it becomes crucial that they all share the same understanding of a customer, product, message, benefits, and more.
“This shared understanding allows the team to steer a company in the same chosen direction, setting, meeting, and exceeding customer expectations. Here the product marketing function comes in with its main goal to collect the expertise, build a strategy on it, and share it with the team, so they execute the strategy focusing on their own part of the customer journey.”
What roles are on the product marketing team?
Here are some of the typical roles you might find in a product marketing team:
Here are some of the typical roles you might find in a product marketing team:
- Product marketing manager
- Product marketer
- Content manager
- Content marketer
- Partnerships manager
- Growth lead
- Data analyst
- Marketing strategist
- GTM owner
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
Which teams do product marketers collaborate with most?
As part of the 2021 State of Product Marketing Report, we asked how product marketers collaborate with their colleagues.
When we asked which team(s) they work most closely with, a vast majority of product marketers said they worked alongside product (89%), with a similar amount also responding with marketing (85%) - but there should be no great surprises there, right?
In fact, it’s interesting to note that 11% and 15% of PMMs don’t work closely with product and marketing teams, respectively.
With the role of a PMM being such a cross-functional role supporting so many other efforts across a company, it comes as no surprise that survey participants also cited a number of other teams they work in close proximity with.
Over three-quarters (77%) reported that they work closely with sales, while just under half (44%) report directly to customer success.
These results are almost identical to the trends we discovered in 2020, with the exception of engineering. It seems that over the last 12 months, PMMs have distanced themselves slightly from this department. Last year, 20% of product marketers said they worked closely with engineering, but this year, only 13% said the same.
We asked product marketers who they consider to be the essential pieces of the puzzle when it comes to building a product marketing strategy:
“There’s no point in having any other team if the product team can’t deliver. No matter how much you sugarcoat or beautify your content delivery, at the end of the day the product must match (and exceed) customer expectations.”
Deepika Pillai, Independent Consultant & Content Developer at Deexterous
“Sales is the team that brings your product and the marketing strategy together on the street and makes the dream come alive.”
Dustin K., Area Sales Manager at Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US
“Product gives the vision, sales brings input from customers, and marketing supports the strategy and execution of the GTM plan. That's a bit oversimplified, but that's how I see it.”
Thiago Neres, Product Marketing Manager at SkyWatch
“Sales (especially sales engineering/solution consulting roles in SaaS) has always proved massively valuable in determining what I do as a PMM. Regular touch points with your most market-facing personnel is key.
“On this same note, customer service/support and professional services are an often underrated and underused resource for PMMs.”
Nathaniel Plamondon, Product Marketing Manager at Solace
“I would say that product wins. Great content and good designs are like bricks and tiles. A good product lays the foundation.
“Without bricks and tiles, nobody would notice a bare foundation. However, if there is no solid foundation, bricks and tiles are just bricks and tiles and there will not be a well-structured house to be built.”
Jiaxin Tian, Product Marketing Manager at GeeTest
“The product team is one of the biggest contributors to the product marketing strategy. The product marketing manager needs to work closely with the product manager to identify key differentiating factors.
“Furthermore, product marketing should share the message map with product management and get their feedback, or even create the message map using their input.”
Ehtisham Hussain, AVP, Product Management & Marketing at Logigose
“Wouldn’t it be best practice to give each team an equal opportunity to influence the product marketing strategy?
“From my experience, my engagement with customer success teams to truly understand what customers need has proven to be just as valuable as the contributions from the designers, sales, product, researchers, developers.
“I think our goal should be navigating a highly collaborative environment to ensure each team offers sufficient contribution to the product marketing strategy. Anything less and the product marketing strategy will be suboptimal.”
Carolyne Mweberi, Product Marketing Lead at Leaf Global Fintech
“Content is the storytelling backbone of product launches and is not as fully utilized to create a value-added experience. I am not referring to simple blogs but creating high-value content to help with one's work.
“For example, it is great to launch a new interview tool for recruiters, but expand it through creating structured interview templates made by experts as an example. Heck, you may be able to even charge for this premium content.”
Bennett Sung, Head of Marketing at Humanly
“Strong partnership with my sales peers is key. Both being in tune with customer needs and ensuring that new product is primed to be sold when it's ready.”
Jeff Tyminski , Vice President, Marketing & Product Management at Club Car
“The pre-sales team. They easily align with most teams, understand the scope and contribute to building a strategy needed to push existing sales and new ones.”
Sidhanth Barik, Manager of Customer Success at ManageEngine
“In any case, it should be product if you want the strategy to be successful.”
Nils Davis, Senior Product Manager at TriNet
“Senior leadership needs to buy into the value that the product brings to the customer so that the cross-functional teams can do their best jobs to market to the target audience rather than anyone that comes to the website; sell at the price that truly reflects the benefits to the customer, and develop the features/functionality that the target customer will pay for.”
Susan Becker, Go-to-Market Marketing, Strategy and Execution at Intuit
“Talk to the sales teams to understand what your target audience are looking for. And the support teams to identify customer pain points.”
Naveen Kumar, Product Marketer at Zoho Corporation
“In an enterprise situation all of them because without UX, the product would not be optimally designed and without content, you could not express the features and functionality in a way the user will understand.”
Ellen Mason, Digital Product Manager at Blueshield of California
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
How do you organize a product marketing team?
Depending on your organization and priorities as a team, there are many different ways to organize your product marketing team. Here are some options for you to consider implementing in your organization.
This method involves pairing product marketers with product managers. This keeps things simple with clear communication and responsibility lines, everyone will understand their role and who to talk to. However, this model doesn’t really think about customer needs (customers don’t really care how many features you have), so it might not work for all organizations.
This method of organizing your product marketing splits your teams up based on the four pillars of product marketing:
- Competitive intelligence
- Positioning and messaging
- Product launch
- Sales enablement
This seems like a good idea until you scale up and realize you have separated the what from the why. Product marketers need to utilize all of these areas to be successful, so splitting them by function probably isn’t the best shout.
Organizing by segment means splitting the team based on customer segment or persona. This may be similar to how the sales team is structured and can help to align the product marketing team with sales.
This method becomes more complex when thinking about elements that are shared across all segments. It can be hard to know who is in charge of what when it falls across all the segments.
By Line of Business
If you sell products across lines of business, then you might want to split your product marketing team to match. This is similar to spitting by customer segment but is more about the business department you are selling the product to (so a little broader than the segment). For example, one team may be selling finance software, while another sells sales technology.
By Objective or Theme
This is a more fluid way to structure your product marketing team and allows you to make the most of your team's strengths to meet department or business objectives. This means switching up the teams based on the priority goals to better focus on brand awareness, a product launch, improving engagement, or another priority of product marketing.
This method requires a lot of coordination, to allow the effective switching of teams. Managers need to be really on the ball to ensure that everyone knows where they are changing, who they will be working with, and why. Keeping everyone on the same page will help to make the most of the team switching powers of this method.
How do product marketing leaders perceive their team and company structure?
As we know, the product marketing industry is continuing to gain traction and the product marketing role has almost become an essential part of any organization. However, we wanted to know more about the kind of organizations that are taking on product marketers within their teams, and how many they are hiring in relation to this.
So, we asked our PMM leaders what stage of growth their organization is at.
We discovered that it was fairly spread across the board, with 35% coming from mid-growth organizations with an established go-to-market team, 25% from late growth/scale-up companies, 18% from enterprise stage, and 17% from early post-product market fit. Just 5% of our product marketing leaders were from early pre-product market fit organizations.
When asked the total number of employees at their company, just over a quarter (26%) of leaders who were surveyed said they worked for companies that had around 201-500 employees, whereas 24% worked for those with around 51-200 employees, and 22% worked within a larger organization that held 501-1,000 employees.
Despite the fact that the majority of our product marketing leaders were working for fairly large organizations, we found that the size of their product marketing teams was modest, to say the least. Over half of our respondents (64%) have teams consisting of just 2-5 PMMs, 13% with 6-10, and just 1% reporting a team size of over 20.
As stated before, product marketing is a very cross-functional role. So, it’s a lot easier for product marketing teams to collaborate and work alongside multiple internal teams to optimize their projects and workloads. When creating the 2021 SoPMM Leadership report, we were interested to know which teams product marketing leaders worked closest with.
When we asked them, we discovered that almost all of our product marketing leaders reported working most closely with product at 92%, whilst marketing came in at a close second at 85%, customer success at 46%, sales enablement at 40%, sales at 18%, and revenue at 12%.
When we asked our leaders how they’d describe their company culture, just over a third (38%) described their culture as product-first. When looking at the percentage of leaders marketing SaaS products, as well as how closely PMMs reported working with product, this comes as no surprise.
More than a quarter (28%) of product marketing leaders reported a sales-first culture, just beating customer-first culture (25%) with second place.
Div Manickam, Author, Mentor, and Product Marketing Influencer, said:
“As product marketers, we don’t have the resources or budget and it truly takes a village. We have to inspire our team to go after moonshot goals, we have to influence our peers and stakeholders to join and collaborate together and then deliver impact for our customers and partners. None of this happens in a vacuum or in a cave and we win or lose together as one team.
“Inspire: Trust & Credibility - We trust and respect each other, irrespective of level.
“Influence: Extreme ownership - We own what we do: the good, bad and ugly, and are accountable to each other.
“Impact: Results & relationships - We strive for team recognition, not individual recognition - we win or lose together”
The traditional team organizational structure is all but obsolete, which is just as well because when it comes to product marketing, one size never fits all. Some companies favor a feature-first structure, while for others, a customer-centric model makes sense.
We spoke to all of our product marketing leaders to see if they structure their organizations by segment, line of business, or product. Here’s what they had to say:
“At Unbounce, we have a central product marketing team that sits outside of both product and marketing. We’ve formed a new department called Strategic Growth that brings together product marketing, customer marketing, and partnerships to work towards a shared goal of building sustainable product, market, and business growth”
Tamara Grominsky, Chief Strategy Officer at Unbounce
“We’ve organized by product and market. With two PMMs focused on product lines, one PMM focused on verticals, and a sales enablement/competitive intelligence focused PMM.”
Madelyn Wing, Director of Partner Marketing at CallRail
“Our structure is primarily functional (customer marketing, core PMM, segment, competitive) with some additional division around products.”
Eve Alexander, VP of Product Marketing at Seismic
“We have three Product Marketing Managers each aligned to a different internal organization (one to Product, one to CX, and one to Revenue), all three report directly to the Product Marketing Director. She then reports to the CPO”
Lara Verlinden, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Showpad
“We’re split by products and audience. We have two small teams representing each of our two products, who focus on market insights, positioning/messaging, and launches.
“And one team focused on audiences (direct to customer and partner channel) that works bottom of the funnel, campaigns, and website with marketing and sales enablement/ competitive with sales.”
Zachary Fox, Senior Director of Product Marketing at RD Station
“We have three senior product marketing managers at the helm of customer-specific solution sets, aligned to 2-3 product managers for the supporting solutions. Each product marketing manager works with product managers on research to inform the development roadmap, with sales enablement to build sales playbooks, with creative to build sales collateral and our content team on marketing campaigns. As the leader of the team, I manage our analyst and vendor partnerships, set the strategy for the team that aligns with the corporate objectives, and represent the company out in the market as a thought leader.”
Jessica Munoz, SVP Product Marketing & GTM Strategy at LiveIntent
“Our structure is aligned to a key product group. Each of the three product groups has a primary PMM assigned that handles launches and ongoing activities. The final individual helps with competitive intelligence and market insights and assists with launches.”
Jeffrey Vocell, Director of Product Marketing at Iterable
“I report to the Chief Marketing Officer and three primary functions report to me:
Portfolio Marketing (aligned to Product Lifestyle Management Framework with Product Management and Global Sales Enablement);
Industry Marketing (aligned to Marketing and Sales to define GTM strategy and build integrated marketing plan)
Buyer and Competitive Intelligence (support Portfolio and Industry Marketing functions)”
John Clark, Global VP of Industry, Strategic Alliance and Product Marketing at Genesys
What are the benefits of having a product marketing team?
There are many benefits of having a product marketing team, Daria Gogoleva, Marketing Lead at Insense, shares some of her top benefits of a team approach to product marketing.
“Even though product marketing as a function is quite developed, known, and spread today, some companies haven’t introduced it yet. Such companies usually experience hard times, especially if they want to scale and move fast.
“On the one hand, it might be a start-up company where one of the senior managers is actually executing a product marketing function along with all other responsibilities and becoming a bottleneck for all processes as their time is so limited.
“On the other hand, it might be a mature company, where product marketing responsibilities are spread among other team players. That approach, in general, is not so effective as they are experts in their own roles and are focused on their own staff.”
“Organizations that do not have product marketing as an official function typically have different areas trying to tackle the critical activities as in an ad-hoc fashion, which results in an uncoordinated effort, duplicate work, and falling short of expectations.”
Daniel Kuperman, Head of Product Marketing for Jira Align at Atlassian
“So, as we can see in both cases, not having a product marketing function leads to ineffectiveness, lack of transparency, and in the worst cases, lack of direction, long-term high-level vision, and strategy.
“Let’s now look at how companies might benefit from the product marketing function.”
Benefit #1. Creating a macro-view strategy
“If we look at sales, customer success, product, and digital marketing teams, none of them are focused on studying a customer and developing the high-level GTM-strategy, communications, and messaging. But instead, they all are involved in the strategy execution. They all work with their own fragment of the customer journey, so they have an insight into that part.”
“While individual teams will focus on specific aspects of the customer lifecycle, where product marketing can add value is by having a macro view of the wider market landscape. Product marketers bring a mix of strategic insight and execution best practice to help internal teams with the training, content, and assets they need to best position the product to prospects and customers”
Louise Dunne, Product Marketing Manager at Linnworks
“Indeed, product marketing adds value to each of the teams, and it is only possible if they have this high-level understanding of a market landscape.
“The opposite is also true, product marketers have a complete view of the entire customer journey, only if they are integrated and have insight into all other teams. Here, we start to understand the cross-functional nature of the PMM role.
“Product marketers add value to every touch-point because they know what customers want at each and every point, and how to move them down the funnel, what words should be said, what content should be delivered, and what actions are expected.
“For example, they might share insights about competitors with sales, and help them highlight main advantages versus competitors, or they can help sales create materials that address customer needs and speak to their pain points. Another example, product marketers can help customer success managers by creating educational materials for much smoother onboarding.
“They help involve all stakeholders for more informed and prepared product launches. In addition to that, product marketers utilize insights from sales, customer success, product and market research to help develop a product roadmap; polish the GTM-strategy; constantly improve materials, and inform a content strategy.
“It’s crucial for organizations today to introduce the product marketing function as soon as possible as we can see it brings a great deal of value and requires a lot of work, expertise, and proficiency.”
Benefit #2. Aligned, informed, and coordinated teams
“Imagine a company that simply wants to release a new functionality that might happen every two weeks in some companies, or even less often in others. Every company dreams that this process would go as smoothly as possible, which means:
- Customers are informed about the important updates and have materials on how to use it.
- Sales materials and knowledge are up-to-date.
- Customer success knows how a new functionality works and is able to answer all customer questions.
“...the list goes on. You’ve got the idea. It simply means that all stakeholders are informed, aligned, and coordinated.
“The good news is that product marketing does exactly that. I won’t go into too much detail here, as I highly recommend the article below that explains the point in granular detail.” 👇
Benefit #3. Possibility to scale
“This is what I personally like so much about product marketing - it can be scaled. Product marketing teams don’t necessarily need to consist of only one person, it might include several people who work side-by-side.
“Each of them might be focused on their own product if a company has more than one in their portfolio, or they might focus on the concrete function of product marketing be it market research, down the funnel content creation, or onboarding to a product. In the latter case, they share responsibilities and share the results of their work, so everyone is informed.
“It is also good news because as we can see, product marketers have lots of things to do, and even more to come.
“I can only imagine that more responsibilities will be added to the average product marketer as time goes on…”, says Erik Mansur, VP, Product Marketing at Crayon in the State of Product Marketing Report 2021.
“So, companies can invest more and expand the PMM team to avoid employee burnout.”
Why are collaboration and internal communication important in product marketing?
Adds value to the role of product marketing
It’s important for product marketers to communicate internally with different teams within the company to establish themselves as an integral part of the business structure.
Product marketing is still very much an emerging field within the business industry. So, it’s essential to have these conversations with different internal teams to convey a product marketer's roles and responsibilities and why they are an important part of the company.
We asked PMMs: “on a scale of 0-10, how much do you feel that your role as a product marketer is valued at your company?”
We discovered on average that most felt that they were valued at a 6.9/10. This number would likely increase if each company worked proactively to build stronger relationships between the product marketing team and each of the departments. The simplest way to do this is through having those conversations with your coworkers.
To simplify and improve in-house collaboration
Teamwork is essential when you’re putting a new product together and launching it to your target personas - but how can product marketing collaborate with internal teams?.
Oftentimes, there are multiple different departments working on the same project and this can bring forth a lot of miscommunication and misunderstandings of how the process is going to work, which team is working on what aspect, and so forth.
For example, we asked product marketers who owned sales enablement within their company. The majority sat with product marketing (64.6%), some said either marketing or sales and 10.3% said they didn’t know.
It can improve your product marketing strategy
To give an insight into this idea, I’ll use the example of messaging, as it’s a very important strategy within product marketing.
In order to effectively develop your messaging technique, you must first collaborate with the whole company to construct an overall message that your company stands for. This creates a more cohesive overarching theme and structure which you can then use to develop and create more intricate layers within your own teams later on.
Creates a more positive, productive, and engaging environment
If you’re consistently communicating internally with each department, everyone’s job becomes a lot easier to carry out and manage, and each team will feel more involved in the process and actively want to engage in collaborating in the future.
How to communicate with internal teams
Meet with teams regularly
Having consistent communication helps to avoid confusion and keep everyone up to date on your projects. It also helps to develop a better relationship between you and other departments.
Listen to everyone and be open to feedback
According to Su Simha, “it's very important to be keeping your ears open, wide open to listening to everybody, this is I think the crucial role to really be successful in this role for any product marketer.”
Value everyone within your business. Listen to everyone and make sure you’re open to the feedback that you receive from them. Their different perspectives and experiences are invaluable to you in improving your product.
Plus, if they see you’re actively trying to take their help, they’ll be more likely to want to give it in the future. And you never know, you may have certain experiences that’ll help boost their projects, too.
Use effective communication tools
There are many effective tools you can use within your business that will make communication with each department that much easier. Here are a few examples:
Slack is a messaging service that allows you to message your co-workers through chat rooms or direct message, and you can organize it even further by creating different channels for different topics and groups. It’s a lot quicker, and more efficient, than email and is a very handy communication tool for your business.
Join our Slack community to have a better understanding of how to use it, and become a larger part of the Product Marketing Alliance community.
Asana is a team management tool that helps manage internal projects and tasks effectively. You can create different folders and assign certain tasks to certain team members to further organize and keep track of everything that needs to be done.
Additionally, users can also create a private to-do list, to ensure deadlines are met and team members are in sync with activities.
Writing a newsletter for your company will help everyone keep up to date with the current projects, announcements, and any other important information that you feel is essential for your co-workers to know. This can be as simple as a mass email, or a more detailed printed publication.
It’s just a helpful way of ensuring you are keeping everyone up to speed with important topics surrounding your company and doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time.
Lawrence Chapman, Copywriter here at Product Marketing Alliance, dives deeper into the importance of internal communication and how to improve your communication skills in his article 👇
Who should the product marketing team report to?
There’s no definitive, industry-wide answer to this. Since we started doing our Product Marketing Insider series we’ve heard Product, Marketing, CEO, VP of Marketing, Comms & Policy, the lot.
The name itself suggests product marketing is closely linked to both product and marketing, but how do you decide which one? If either? Or should it be an entity of its own?
Many people in marketing, product and C-level executives say product marketing should get comfy in the marketing org, and here is their rationale:
- Shared goals - one of the main reasons for the sway towards marketing was focus and alignment of goals.
- Skillset - product marketers unarguably have skills in common with both sides of the fence, but the majority of participants in this survey argued there’s more overlap with marketing.
- Communication - the third bit of logic was all to do with interdepartmental communication. People worried that without product marketing living in marketing there’d be a disconnect between content + product.
What our community thought
The ‘where should product marketing report’ debate’s always been one that divides opinion, so, to get some front line thoughts we picked the brains of fellow PMAers to see what their stance was.
“I was recently asked this quite a few times during my recent job search and it seems just about everyone you talk to has a different POV. My response, every time, is it needs to live in the marketing organisation.
“It needs to be an equal partner in the process, from the very beginning. Being part of a product organisation can limit product marketing’s effectiveness as it can be seen as an end-around on marketing.”
- Mark Pickett, Director, Strategy & Product Marketing at Naviga
“Marketing. I need product to hold me accountable, and I need to be able to hold product accountable. It’s way more challenging to do that if you both ladder up to the same person.”
- Rob Guenette, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Loopio
“My first instinct would be to position product marketing within marketing operations. In terms of key metrics, the product marketer will likely not directly report on lines of code, adherence to timely delivery, bugs in a new build. Just like Product won’t report on subscriber growth, visitor growth, revenue growth, how viral the product is, number of channels of activation etc.
“But, because product marketing is such a young practice, I find the most essential aspect of product marketing is that it crosses departments. If bound to a product team, product marketing risks becoming irrelevant on the market as it can lack marketing excellence. If bound to a marketing team, product marketing risks lacking credibility.
“Take the case of consultants - the beauty of getting an outsider’s perspective is that they are usually unbiased. When outside a product team, product marketers are better placed to have fresh opinions towards the product, know what to look for and what to watch out for to best represent the interest of their target market.”
- Rebecca Glitia, Channel Marketing & Partnerships at 123FormBuilder
Still not sure?
If you're currently in the thick of this conundrum here are some pros and cons to each that might help your decision.
Product Marketing under Product
Product Marketing under Marketing
As you can see, it’s not black and white. Most product marketers don’t spend much time in one place, they’re constantly jumping from product to marketing to sales to operations to onboarding to customer service to...you get the drift, every day, and so they need to be closely aligned to all the pieces of the pie.
What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you so it’s all about finding a solution that’s tailored to your company’s goals, priorities and communication plans.
For example, does your product marketing department have a strong focus on producing messaging and sales collateral? If so, Marketing’s your friend. Or do you spend a lot of your time supporting Product with customer insights? Yes? Then you guessed it, Product’s probably your home.
As well as all that, you’ve got to think about the condition of your interdepartmental relationships. Let’s say you currently sit under Marketing but your link with Product is strained. As a result, you’re not getting the information you need when you need it, your plans are falling behind schedule and your strategy isn’t as effective as it should or could be.
Could moving under Product resolve those issues? Rightly or wrongly, those internal frustrations might need to determine who you report to.
So, where do you sit and what was the reason behind who you report to? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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
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.Tune In
Build your next team with ease…
Whether you’re the Head of Marketing, Product, or the company itself - building a dedicated product marketing team is both challenging and rewarding.
But one thing you must keep in mind is that it’s also unavoidable. In order to drive organizational growth and success, you must build a solid foundation to work with and from.
The Building a PMM Team Certified: Masters course will teach you how to build and lead a high-performing product marketing team that accelerates growth and delivers greater alignment across your product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams.
By the end of this course, you’ll be able to:
💪 Successfully and effectively secure executive sponsorship for a product marketing team.
📈 Prove to stakeholders how product marketing enables faster growth.
💰 Justify budget and organizational change for a new team.
⏰ Set goals and define what success looks like for your specific department.
🗺 Build a roadmap that’ll give you a clear path toward a strong, happy, successful product marketing team.