In our product marketing Slack channel, Erin Hinson recently asked:
“Hi all – I see this vary from company to company, so i’m wondering… what’s your opinion on which org product marketing reports to? product, marketing, other?”
Spoiler alert: in the basement, with our staplers.
Joking aside, I’ve witnessed heated debates and poor choices made around where product marketing reports.
At Endeca I was in marketing and then products. At Acquia it was marketing and then products, then marketing, and back to products. The challenge is different reporting structures come with different KPIs, and something is always sacrificed.
Straightforward Advice From The Trenches
If you’re in hyper growth mode, put product marketing in marketing. There’s no bigger mistake you can make than taking these marketing leaders out of marketing while you’re stretching towards aggressive growth targets. Why? Goal alignment with the ultimate cause.
When in marketing, product marketing’s goals are tied to sales. They’re tied to pipeline and conversion. They’re tied to bookings. These are the main drivers that affect hitting growth targets. If you pull product marketing from marketing during growth, you take the wind out of your sails.
They are the driving force hammering on the go-to-market strategy daily. They’re in the trenches with sales pitching prospects and focused on what message works best to acquire customers. They’re evangelising your company to analysts, journalists, and partners knowing what’s getting picked up and not. They’re learning how to best sell your company & products.
When you are under 30% YoY growth, after experiencing prior years in the 100’s, 50’s, and then 40’s, you’re settling in and are no longer in hyper-growth mode. This is a safe time to re-focus your product marketers on product strategy, instead of taking the product that exists to market.
If you’re moving product marketing, instead of establishing two product marketing teams, take care that a leadership position is carved out inside of the technical organization. Give them ownership.
In this new world, align their goals with cross-sell/upsell pipeline and bookings goals, with a laser focus on customer success. Product marketers will now spend their time driving product usage, gathering roadmap feedback, re-evaluating pricing strategy, and driving a deeper focus on competitors and competitive strategy. They’re acting as a true extension to the product management organization, but should be established as peers.
But I can’t stress enough: give them ownership. Pricing, competitive strategy, formalized market research sharing forums to the products/engineering team – any or all of those things. But give them something to own, and they will own it.
Oracle, and many other large organizations, define this split as Inbound Product Marketing (aligned with marketing and driving pipe for new customer acquisition), and Outbound Product Marketing (more time spent w/ customers, researching markets & competitors, and informing product strategy).
If you think you can get product marketing to do both jobs well:
And if you have seen this work successfully, please tell me about it.
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