It’s no secret that Product Marketers operate in a lot of environments through influence, not authority, or at the very least a combination of both. At Aeon Muse Product Marketing, we’ve individually and collectively done product marketing in more organizations than we can count over the years, and have some simple tips for building relationships and partnerships in an organization.
Don’t be an a$$hole
If you only read one tip on this list, dear Product Marketing Leader, let it be this one. We know how well-informed you are about your market, your customers, and the strategic direction the product and business needs to go. We know you’ve worked tirelessly at crafting positioning based on research and competitive insights that will win the hearts and minds of your target audience that you know so well. You’re informed! You can add value! It’s your job! But we all know, that doesn’t always go perfectly.
Maybe Product forgot to tell you that they’ve built something that they’re planning on releasing in a month – surprise! and now they expect a full GTM for this thing, even though they didn’t collaborate early and often to leverage your market and subject matter expertise or give you time to do a proper GTM. And you want to ask why this hasn’t come up in your 1:1s through gritted teeth. Maybe you think Creative went rogue on messaging and all the marketing touchpoints aren’t going to resonate with the target or lead to the results the business needs. You want to refer them back to the positioning in a way that some might view as, uh, passive aggressive. Maybe sales says you never briefed them on benefits/gave them the collateral they needed/or explained the target audience for a launch when you could literally roll the tape from the Zoom training when you did.
Even though we know that many Product Marketers couldn’t do the job if they didn’t “play well with others”, you’re human. In these moments, don’t give in to your baser impulses!
How you handle your team and yourself when things don’t go your way is critical. Breathe. Assume good intentions. And use these moments as an opportunity to reflect on how you could have been more effective. Once the fire is out and you’re ready, have an honest conversation or even an after-action review if you can, to figure out how you can all do better next time.
You are overflowing with knowledge because you’re constantly learning about your market, looking at the financial and product metrics, keeping tabs on the competitors, listening to sales calls or collaborating on Account Plans, doing win-loss reports, sifting through user research…the list goes on and on. Plus, you’re building relationships with stakeholders throughout the organization.
Share your knowledge with anyone who could benefit from it or who asks you for it. Connect people with each other when you find out that they’re working on something that intersects but don’t know it. If, and only if, you have time to collaborate and lend your ideas and expertise outside of your ‘day job’, do it. When members of your team are doing the work, make sure they get to present it and acknowledge their contributions to bigger efforts. Never take credit for the work someone else has done- always make sure to acknowledge the people who made it happen. Always say thank you.
When you model this kind of generosity with information, time, and recognition, people will want to work with you, for you, and see you and your projects succeed.
Live by a “same team” mentality
You are not out for world domination. You’re out to accomplish a shared goal with members of your working team or organization. Living by a “same team” mentality is bigger than viewing the work of your actual functional team as living in a silo that competes for resources or recognition with other siloed teams, it means treating everyone you work with as a partner or potential partner and building a shared vision of what you’ll accomplish, no matter how small the task.
For example, when you’re kicking off the GTM strategy and plan for a big product launch, advocate for a cross-functional working team if it doesn’t already exist. And before you present your plan to that team, do some pre-work with individual channel owners, if your organization has them, to build out the strategy and plan for each channel collaboratively. You bring the overall strategy, they bring the how they’ll contribute and strategy for their channel.
Thinking smaller, it could look like giving Sales some benefits to hit on calls, rather than a prescriptive script, and ask them how they’d make them their own. Get feedback from internal stakeholders on your positioning before and after it’s in use. Ask a broad group of internal stakeholders for their hypotheses when putting together research. Create thoughtful Creative Briefs that explain the why behind a request, no matter how small, so the team can see how their work contributes to the whole.
Living by this mentality does NOT mean you should get into pushover territory, it just means to not approach colleagues as though they’re competitors. Share your expertise, and look for how others can help make your ideas better as you all work together to bring products and services to market and improve your customer experience.