What does the product marketing manager do? Segment, Airbnb and Upwork experience

What does the product marketing manager do? Segment, Airbnb and Upwork experience
Our Product Manager Dmitrii

Meet Dima Turovskii — the main person in the Product team for Dashly. People like Tim are usually called Product Managers., they are responsible for new features, product development and only they decide if users really need this or that feature (jk, they make customer development based decisions).

Our Product Marketer Elena

And this is Helen. Those of you who read our book already know her 🙂 Helen is a Product Marketing Manager. And we’re like “wait, who?”. Of course, we know that this adorable lady is responsible for delivering the value of the product (that Dima comes up with) to the market, but not used to call her PMM.

To get to know more about PMMs in other companies we visited the Product marketing meetup “How to Influence the Product Roadmap?”.

Heads of product marketing from Segment, Airbnb, Upwork, and HelpShift shared their experience about how they’re working on product development in the form of discussion. We listened to it, thought about it and now are ready to discuss it with you adding our own experience.

Product marketing manager’s role in company processes

First of all, let’s clarify the definitions in order to be on the same page.

Product Manager HQ blog says that “product managers are responsible for leading the creation of a product, and product marketing managers are responsible for leading the go-to-market for that product”. So it means that PMM’s main goal is to deliver the value of the product to the market. But are they involved in the opposite process — product development by receiving information from the market?

That was the first question discussed at the meetup. John Gargiulo, Head of Product Marketing at Airbnb, says that the answer depends on a company and on where the value is needed. In his point of view, product managers are looking differently at product marketers: some may think that it is not PMM’s area of responsibility, others that only working back to back with PMM will work out effectively.

Heads of Product Marketing in Upwork and Segment Anjali Cameron and Diana Smith, in contrast, is sure that they are on the influence side, providing insights about competitors and knowing everything about the customers. But it doesn’t happen in a minute, it takes time for PMM to deserve their place at the top of decision pyramid. To get there, in Segment, PMMs are provided with synthesis of recommended problems that the product team goes after.

When your market is rather specific like it is with HelpShift, whose customers are located outside of the US, it becomes more important for a product marketer to partner with a product team. Shanthala Balagopal, PMM at HelpShift, says that she’s “the architect of growth”, a person who identifies what the market wants.

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When does PMM team need to join the work?

It seems like having product marketers is some kind of company’s development level indicator. But Diana Smith from Segment is sure that you need them from the very beginning, at an MVP development stage. Seriously, if you think about it, it is the perfect time for someone from the front lines to answer such questions as “is there a market for this product?”, “Is there a way to sell this product?” and so on?

When Segment was launching their new feature, the product team was sure that successful teams in other companies are their targeting audience and best customers. But wait, do they have the authority over the budgets? No! And that is what PMMs told them.

“And while the PM team is developing the idea and getting beta customers, you should kind of be a fly on the wall listening to the use cases and then as you get close to launch, ramp back up again so that you’re defining the key use cases, the key audience, key messaging packaging, positioning, go to market roadmap.” — says Diana.

Our CEO Dimitrii smiling with Diana
Our CEO Dimitrii smiling with Diana

We saw a great deal of big product launches that failed that it seems like only a few companies feel the need to listen to the market’s voice through product marketer’s mouth.

How to make PM and PMM work together?

I think all of us by now felt the importance of product marketer’s role in product development — they learn the market, they listen to those you want to become your customers and they can totally save your product from the fiasco. But it is a big deal to make the product team listen and share their governance.

Remembering everything that was said during the meetup, it may look like there is some silent war between product marketer and product manager, where the former always has to assert the rights and the latter keeps “forgetting” marketer’s role in the process.

John Gargiulo, Head of Product Marketing at Airbnb, told a sad story when PMM is going out to meet with customers and then walk into the meeting with all the videos and quotes received, what product marketer faces is: “That’s not really true. This is what people are saying. It’s incontrovertible and no one from PMs are gonna go do that”. Isn’t that hilarious?

This is the problem that all — Upwork, Segment, and Airbnb — stated. The product team underestimates the value of product marketing, they think that the only thing a marketer has to care about is to make the product famous. But there’s another side of the coin: marketers not only “market” the product, but they also listen to what the market tells them.

Meetup participants came to a conclusion that the only way to make PM and PMM work together is to talk and receive credibility. Was it successful for them? Not always. Does it work successfully for us? Not always. And what about you?

In Dashly we just recently started to call a person responsible for finding out market’s needs and delivering the product value back to the market a product marketing manager. That is why we honestly can’t say that the cooperation and partnership relations between product and product marketing teams are exemplary, but for now, we’re trying to carry out customer development, collect analytics and really look at what customers do and say before building the roadmap.

How to say that product marketing is effective?

Meetup discussion

Because product marketing is (should be) involved in and is responsible for so many areas on different steps of the product development, the question of how the measure its effectiveness remains open.

Talking about performance indicators, Anjali Cameron, Head of Product Marketing at Upwork, says that product marketing team is working on “getting better at aligning KPIs”. Another thing is the go-to-market strategy success, so-called customer sentiment.

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In Segment for a decent period of time product marketing team’s KPI depended on where PMM’s help was needed the most. They could focus on activation, acquisition or retention depending on what was in trouble at that period of time. For now, product marketing becomes more concentrated on demand and acquisition. While launching the product, product marketers also have revenue metrics that make them cooperate with sales and product teams closely.

Elena, our Dashly product marketer, has KPIs in half with the product team — they are responsible for activation metrics, trial-to-payment conversions, and ARPU increase.

Summing up

The main conclusion that we made after the meet up is that implementation of marketing into the product team is a relatively new process and it is still an open discussion about who PMM is, how are their responsibilities limited and what are their KPIs. It is always hard when the processes are changing and it will definitely take time to make PM and PMM, not just alike abbreviations, but an effective team.  

That was an interesting event — love discussions, they don’t let you get bored. ? We’ve learned a lot about internal processes of a great companies, it made us revise the way we looked at product and product marketing cooperation. And we what to thank all meetup participants for a lively discussion and because you really care.

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