Technology companies around the world are quickly coming to understand the value of adding a full product marketing team to their staff in order to optimize market growth. But the reality is that product marketing doesn’t fit as easily into a traditional business structure as some might think. It’s not an extension of product management. Nor should it automatically default to reporting to the marketing department, as SiriusDecisions advocates. There’s no golden rule for where to put product marketing, because product marketers are able to pivot to fill a variety of roles depending on what’s needed most. This includes:
- Market research and analysis
- Positioning and messaging
- Competitive intelligence
- Sales enablement
- Routes to market strategy and enablement
- Go to market (GTM)
The bottom line: we are responsible for driving revenue growth and removing roadblocks.
In my experience, Product Marketing does our best work when we report to the company’s most innovative team.
The easiest way to underutilize a product marketer is to reduce us to a single function. The most common version of this I’ve seen is to over focus on sales enablement (ex. producing sales slides or RFP answers as the core of the job). Product Marketers normally have an MBA and years of business experience. They can add great strategic value in areas like providing analysis and insights on resource allocation for sales channels, new markets, and key competitive positioning. That’s why Product Marketing belongs in whichever department or team will give these out-of-the-box critical thinkers the chance to find new growth markets and re-position products to claim a greater share of the market.
Defaulting to assigning your product marketers to the marketing department can backfire. I once worked for a marketing team leader who regarded all marketing resources as generalists.The SEO lead was managing a strategic partner. The content manager was running Go to Market (GTM). Meanwhile, as a product marketing director, I was writing website copy. Instead of harnessing the power of our specialized skills and experience, members of the team became interchangeable cogs churning out mediocre results instead of new ways to grow revenue for the product suite. The idea was that we needed to be able to “rinse and repeat” results for dependable monthly revenue. Competitors were outperforming the company as marketing led us into a steady decline.
The key to getting top value from product marketers is to put us in environments that embrace innovation as a way to jumpstart growth. I’ve had the privilege of working with innovative product and marketing teams. A few years ago I was in one such marketing team. The regional sales teams were struggling to adopt a new platform in addition to their legacy products. Leadership allowed me to repackage and market the platform with legacy products by breaking down the products to their major capabilities and white labeling them into a single comprehensive product suite. Within three years, the new product line produced $100 million worldwide. As with my previous example, product marketing reported to the marketing department, but this time to an innovative one. This marketing department embraced product marketing leadership and adaptability to combine the old and the new and rebrand it to generate new business. Having the support to make needed changes made all the difference.
Onward and upward,