Where is product marketing/portfolio messaging in your organization?


Div Manickam is a product marketing leader, passionate to empower a mindful team and foster a vulnerable culture where everyone’s voice is heard and truly be themselves in a safe environment.

She has led product marketing in startups and Fortune 500 technology companies and loves to share her product marketing and leadership experiences.

Div was recognized as 2019 40 under 40 CSUEB recipient for contributions toward her workplace and community. As a Top 50 Product Marketing Influencer in 2019 recognized by the Product Marketing Alliance, she is redefining standards, shaping the evolution of product marketing, and elevating awareness among the C-suite.

In recent years, product marketing has shifted focus from product to portfolio (product, industry and solutions). With a wide range of roles and responsibilities, when I ask other teams what product marketing management (PMM) does, I get a unique answer, depending on the scenario. We still have a lot of work to educate and build awareness on how and where PMM adds value to the company.

This led to the million-dollar question: Does it matter where PMM sits in the organization? To start, we need to identify the gaps, redefine PMM and provide role clarity, since everyone has a different definition for what PMM does or should focus on.

Company Culture

Reviewing the Product Marketing Alliance’s 2019 “State of Product Marketing Report,” which surveyed 609 product marketers, it seems to depend on the business need and maturity of the company. Modern, innovative companies have product marketing in the product organization (reporting to the chief product officer) to better align initiatives for the product roadmap, messaging and launches. The report found that “Most product marketers work at product-first companies (54%), but some also work for sales-first (34%) and marketing-first (5.1%) companies.”

Role Clarity

Many startups begin by hiring a product marketing manager to get things off the ground and to build awareness since this role can easily navigate and prioritize multiple projects. A product marketer can wear multiple hats and will often do whatever it takes to make the project a success, including taking on responsibilities to fill the gaps that exist in the organization. The role clarity is crucial as the organization scales the marketing execution and product management teams. As the company grows, this role shouldn’t have to do it all.

According to the aforementioned report, product marketing’s No. 1 priority is messaging and positioning, followed by product launch management. Considering that most of the surveyed companies have five or more products, it is no more about a product, but a shift toward persona-led go-to-market (GTM) strategy, which includes product, industry and solutions.

Are we doing justice to our role by naming the team product marketing, which means nothing and everything to folks depending on who you ask?

I find the conversation on both sides of product marketing is as follows:

• When you ask the product team: “We are marketing, responsible for presentations, sales collateral and website updates among other responsibilities.”

• When you ask the marketing team: “We are product, responsible for product updates for public relations/analyst relations, sales enablement and translating the complex features to simple value-based outcomes, to name a few things.”

Just as we are responsible for helping the company position the platform/product/solutions, it’s time we did the same for our own role and provide clarity. Our role is “portfolio messaging,” and all of the activities are an outcome from messaging and positioning. We are the voice of the market and for our customers, helping solve customer pain points as their trusted partner to achieve accelerated business outcomes.

PMM is an extremely cross-functional role, at the core supporting business initiatives across product, marketing and sales. There isn’t a team that it has not collaborated with — from product (product management, solutions and user experience) to marketing (demand generation, corporate marketing, social media, content marketing, partner marketing, field/regional marketing), sales and sales enablement, and partner and business development. Product management is our digital twin with our shared goals and objectives.

Sometimes teams look to product marketing for content/asset development. If the organization has a content marketing/editorial team, it’s their focus for content development, and we contribute to their efforts with thought leadership and messaging/positioning across product, industry and solutions.

A few things to consider next time to help prioritize efforts:

• Am I helping to fill a gap today, and how long will it continue?

• Is this a priority across the company, or is it a siloed project?

• Is this the best use of time and effort, or is it better suited elsewhere?

• Is this 20% effort for 80% results, or 80% effort for 20% impact?

• We all have the same amount of time in a week; the focus will help drive clarity.

Success Metrics

How do we measure success for PMM? Since our efforts are not directly tied to marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or opportunities, how can we measure influence with key performance indicators (KPIs)?

One strategy is to create a PMM dashboard that will help focus your time with 20% effort for 80% results. Objectives and key results (OKRs), which I recently spoke about, help to prioritize efforts and should be listed in an internal space to provide transparency on your initiatives.

Product marketing is key to finding the balance between customer, product, sales and the market. Persona mapping with a focus on function and industry is important to identify the right personas in the buyer’s journey and provide a personalized, integrated marketing program, not a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to keep it simple so everyone understands and can articulate the value.

PMM has a role to play in the product roadmap to help influence and share the voice of the market. Using a unified platform serves different business needs and PMM can help articulate the value as compared to feature functionality (or price war). Using competitive intelligence is key to gaining a pulse on the competition at all times with dedicated resources. All of these efforts drive the GTM strategy for new markets, can increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and retain existing customers.

Everything’s on fire and everyone’s project is a priority. PMM has always been filling in the holes, but it’s time to step back and identify the top cross-functional priorities that will drive revenue and allow the portfolio messaging team to focus on messaging/positioning.

You can follow Ms. Manickam on LinkedIn here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The article was originally published in Forbes