A well-run product marketing team has the potential to open new markets, improve sales rates, and grow revenue throughout all channels. Enabling these outcomes requires investment, first and foremost in quality product marketers, who are often among the most highly educated and
experienced marketers in your company. Once you have assembled your talented team, here are five important ways that you as a product marketing leader can best utilize and empower them.
1. Build Influence for Your Team Throughout the Company
While it may not be the most obvious way to improve performance, influence is the currency by which product markers are able to be effective, especially in larger companies. Product marketing must communicate with a variety of company stakeholders, particularly in sales, product management, and marketing departments in order to obtain the specialized information that they need to keep projects moving.
Influence is also important for product marketers since they work with new ideas. This is true of product marketing leaders, but also of their team. Leaders should encourage their product marketers to develop influence and promote them in wider business circles. Teams who have built trust within the organization will be able to build off of this goodwill to push their innovative ideas forward.
2. Organize Your Team based on Product Line or Specialty
There is no one best way to organize a product marketing team, but as a general rule teams can be organized one of two ways, based on their strengths.
- 1. Organize by specialty. Some product marketers may be exceptionally strong in certain areas. For example, I once worked with a product marketer who was exceptionally skilled at market research, but who was less effective at influencing Go to Market (GTM). If two or more product marketers on a team have strong specialties, it makes sense to organize the team by having them manage their specialty areas.
- 2. Organize by product line. Many product marketers are less specialized, and their abilities are spread more evenly between different job functions. When a team is composed of these jacks of all trades, it is better to organize them based on product lines. Doing this can allow product marketers to form deep, influential relationships with product specific stakeholders such as product managers.
- 3. Keep Your Leadership Style Fluid. Product marketing leaders cannot afford to be one dimensional. It is not enough to follow any one style of leadership, be it coaching, democratic, or even authoritative (Three of the six leadership styles identified by Harvard researchers). Indeed, the research notes that the most successful leaders master a few of these styles. But, particularly when it comes to product marketing, a coercive, or micromanaging leadership style will most certainly drain every ounce of energy out of your team. Product marketers need space for the messiness that comes with creative problem solving and innovation. Micromanaging overcontrols for this part of the process and will damage the trust between the leader and their team.
- 4. Let innovation be Messy. Product marketing is messy sometimes. Product marketers often come up with their best ideas when they are given permission to think well outside the box, or even stumble down a rabbit hole or two while pursuing new markets or new ways to serve clients. Product marketers may fail in the early stages of following through on their ideas, and in fact they should be failing. Doing so weeds out the weak ideas from the strong. Good product marketing leaders support this process, but the best leaders also know when to step in to rescue their product marketers when they fall too far down rabbit holes without punishing them for exploring that path in.
- 5. Measure Performance that’s Meaningful. Given the messy nature of product marketing innovation as well as the future oriented scope of the work, it is very easy to incorrectly measure performance if product marketers are measured using the wrong metrics.
- How NOT to measure product marketer performance
- 1. Stakeholder surveys. These can quickly devolve into popularity contests rather than actually measuring the quality of the deliverables
- 2. Measuring only on revenue generated. Unlike P&L or Sales departments, product marketers do not have direct control over this outcome in the short term.
Use quantifiable performance metrics such as growth in the sales pipeline or client engagement. Focus on future growth, because a product marketer’s influence on revenue may not be felt until quarters or even years later. Using these measurements not only helps a leader more accurately measure performance but can also motivate their team to improve in important aspects of their job.
No leadership style or organizational strategy will make a great product marketing leader, simply because this position, even more so than in other parts of the business, needs to be adaptable. They must be able to take on risks and uncertainties, and configure their team to take advantage of opportunities and avenues for growth. Equally important is to build trust within your team and set them up to succeed. Or perhaps to fail and then succeed. After all, product marketing is a highly iterative process.
Onwards and Upwards.