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How To Build Your Product Marketing Team

The internet is having a wild time trying to wrangle and define the concept of product marketing. Some claim the emerging digital department specializes in selling the hell out of the product, while others insist product marketing is all about getting the product on the online shelf in the first place.

They’re both wrong.

The purpose of product marketing is to play matchmaker between buyer and brand so everybody wins.

Now that we understand what product marketing is, I want to talk about how you can go about building a successful product marketing team to really connect your buyers and brand.

Building a product marketing team

Product marketers bridge the gap between your customer’s needs and the product team building the solutions. Their primary job is to thoroughly understand the market, the buyers (their needs, pain points, alternative product options, buying behavior, etc.) and the buyers’ connection to your company’s services and products.

When you hire your initial product marketer, choose someone who can articulate technical products as user-friendly marketing collateral that captures the technical complexity of the product while playing to the emotions of the buyer.

Your first product marketer is there to develop and execute the initial customer development, positioning and messaging, and product analysis of new and existing products.

Once you have successfully integrated one product marketer into your team, the next step is to expand product marketing into its own department within your marketing organization.

Companies often procrastinate on this step, leaving the product marketer to shoulder the responsibility that should really be shared by a team of creative strategists, product experts and R&D wizards. Typically, it takes a company juggling several distinct product SKUs before it considers hiring product marketers at a one-to-a-few or one-to-one relation as they develop new products.

Digital product marketing is a newer role within marketing organizations, so there will be fewer candidates with the “product marketer” role on their resumes. Don’t let that deter you. Instead, recall the skills necessary to get the job done right. You can easily find qualified candidates with backgrounds in marketing, product development or even engineering.  

The team will come together just fine. But the more pressing question is, how do you decide the most effective way to expand your team? How will the organizational structure work, and who will lead this structure? The answer is proper leadership.


The product marketing team leader

When selecting your product marketing team leader, the rule of seniority may have you looking at the first product marketing hire. But your initial hire may not be fit to lead. They may have the tactical skills, but lack managerial and thought leadership skills, to lead a growing and critically important team. Again, review the qualifications required for the position and have an honest conversation with your initial product marketer about their skills and desires.

The product marketing team leader should either have a technical marketing background or hold a more senior position to oversee a team of product marketers.

In addition to having a keen understanding of the product, the product marketing team lead should have a mastery of both hard and soft skills in order to fulfill his/her responsibility. These include:

  • Thought leadership and collaboration skills
  • Excellent communication and negotiation skills
  • Exceptional writing skills
  • Creative direction experience
  • Exemplary analytical abilities
  • Extensive experience in (or working with) marketing
  • Effective problem-solving skills  
  • Quick and effective decision-making skills

The above skills will help the product marketing team leader successfully guide the team.

Some responsibilities of your product marketing team lead may include:

  • Owning the development of product marketing strategy, messaging and design
  • Measuring and analyzing campaign data
  • Engaging with the buyer and market communities through events, meetups and conferences
  • Leading the creation of audience-facing messaging, demos and other tools
  • Working closely with the engineering and product development teams
  • Leading product-related content marketing initiatives
  • Giving presentations

Above all, the product marketing team lead is responsible for measuring the product’s success and adjusting the marketing strategy to improve its success.

Some KPIs of a product marketing lead include:

  • Revenue – How much is this product contributing to the overall success of the company? This KPI also includes the Average Deal Size (ADS).
  • Adoption – How is the product received by buyers, and how many buyers are using specific features of the product? This includes the KPI of adoption rate.
  • Retention – How many buyers are continuing to use the product and become loyal to the brand and its other products? This includes the KPI of retention rate.
  • Close Ratio – The number of closed sales vs. unsuccessful sales.
  • Average Length of Sale – The amount of time between initial contact with the buyer and the completed sale.
  • Custom Acquisition Cost (CAC) – The average cost of acquiring a single new loyal buyer.

How to align your product marketing team

The digital product marketing team is a relatively new concept, and for that reason it can be difficult to illustrate exactly how a product marketing team should look and operate.

This ultimately depends on the unique role of the product marketing team in your company. Some product marketing teams focus on the product road map, while other teams are formed to bring the product to market – and many teams will have to do both as your company grows.

It will take some out-of-the-box thinking and some good old elbow grease to align your product marketing team as individuals as well as with other departments.

The product marketing team should look and operate in a way that reflects the goals of the company. With that said, there are a few key roles and responsibilities that the standard product marketing team should have.

Let’s start with the individual team members. Every product marketer on your team needs to

  • Collaborate to develop customer-facing messaging, positioning and design
  • Partner with members of Marketing, Product Development, Engineering and Sales to determine key benefits and develop a more compelling story
  • Create collateral for the Sales teams
  • Own every aspect of the messaging and positioning for the product

While all of these responsibilities are crucial to the success of the product, the alignment of the product marketing team with Sales, Marketing, Product Development and Engineering is the top priority.

When product marketers take charge of these relationships and keep other teams informed, magical things happen. The Sales and Marketing teams feel they have a clear and compelling story to tell. The Product Development and Engineering teams are more confident that the key benefits of the product are being articulated with care.

Growing your product marketing team

In the start-up era, we often associate growth with speed, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case when growing your product marketing team.

Hear me out.

As much as we like to fantasize about overnight success, it’s likely your product marketing team will not form and grow as quickly as you dreamed it would. Take heart; there’s no point in taking three steps forward if you have to take four steps back just to catch everyone up on the plan.

Focus less on speed and more on communication. When you have non-negotiable, high-quality communication processes in place, there will be less room for error.

Final thoughts on developing your product marketing team

The process of starting a product marketing team is intimidating, but all things worth doing are scary by nature (at least at first). By familiarizing yourself with the ultimate goals of the product marketer and hiring energetic people who have the necessary skills for their given responsibilities, you can ensure your product marketing team will grow, yield next-level results and help your company succeed.

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