Jason Oakley on highly productive PMM teams, structuring for scale, and the evolving role of strategic product marketing
Product State Q&A
Jason Oakley is the Founder of Productive PMM. He’s an advisor at UserEvidence and Navattic. He was formerly Senior Director of Product Marketing at Klue, Director of Product Marketing at ChiliPiper, and Director of Marketing at Uberflip.
Newsletter / LinkedIn
EC: What does a highly productive PMM team look like and why is this valuable to high growth tech companies?
JO: When most people think of productivity, it’s always ‘How much stuff can our team get done?’
And while I do think output efficiency is a part of the story — it's not the only thing. It's certainly not the most important thing.
From an output efficiency perspective, productive PMMs are able to better manage their time and workload. They have the discipline to stay focused and not get distracted. So, they can get more done than most people in the same amount of time.
But I think that's what most people focus on. The latest hack to help them get more done. And so, for a product marketing team, the focus is often on how much content you can produce, how many launches you can pump out each quarter, or how reactive you are to the sales team when they have ad-hoc requests.
That’s why PMM teams get bogged down in more tactical execution work.
The other — more important — side of productivity is your ability to produce results. I think that truly productive product marketing teams, are the ones that are able to drive impact and results for the business. That comes down to knowing what things you should be working on. So, instead of pumping out work, it's more about identifying the most important work.
For example, is investing a few cycles in strategic positioning going to drive more revenue than a ton of content or sales enablement work? Instead of focusing on 5 launches this quarter, could you put everything behind one strategic launch?
I think it comes down to balancing both. You need to know what things you should be working on to drive the most impact, while also having the discipline, tools, and systems in place to execute quickly.
That’s what lead me to create the PMM Productivity Hub. It’s a system that helps PMM teams manage their goal setting, research, positioning, launches, and enablement work in one place. With productivity frameworks built in to help them stay focused and get things done.
EC: What are the considerations PMM leaders must make in structuring their teams for scale?
JO: When it comes to structuring your product marketing team, leaders should first consider these four things:
The skills and experience on your current product marketing team - do you have a team with specialized skills or more marketing generalists?
The size and maturity of your company - are you a large company operating in multiple regions or a small startup with less than 100 people?
The complexity of your product - do you have a horizontal platform with multiple products and use cases or a single product focused on one core use case?
The size and maturity of your market - do you have a broad market consisting of multiple industries and buyer personas, or one core ICP?
Once you take those factors into consideration, you can determine which of these 6 PMM team structures work best:
By Function - PMMs are focused on specific product marketing pillars: positioning/messaging, product releases, competitive enablement, analyst relations, customer marketing.
Pro: They can focus on mastering their specific function.
Con: Can often miss seeing the big picture.
By Product/Feature - Each PMM is paired with a product manager (or multiple) to own the go-to-market for their specific feature or product.
Pro: Creates clear lines of communication with product management.
Con: Can lead to focusing too much on features instead of customers.
By Segment/Persona - Organizing your team according to your customer profile (ICP).
Pro: Allows PMMs to focus on the customer and strategically positioning their product.
Con: Hard to coordinate who owns things that span across all segments.
By Objective - PMMs work together on objective-based projects. Major product launches, deep-dive research, driving product engagement, etc.
Pro: Helps align resources to the greatest business need.
Con: Requires a lot of coordination and proactive communication across the company.
Founding PMM - This type is more by necessity than design. You need to juggle all core disciplines of product marketing and prioritize your work based on business need.
Pro: Gives you the opportunity to touch on all areas of PMM and see which structure will work best as you grow.
Con: It's a lot of work and requires ruthless prioritization.
Hybrid - A combination of multiple PMM team structures. For example, PMMs by function that also work on objective-based projects.
Pro: Allows you to cover more ground with a small team.
Con: Requires hiring PMMs that have a broad range of skills and focus (or the desire to learn).
Even if you choose one structure today, it may need to evolve over time if any of the factors in the consideration phase change.
EC: How do you see the role of the Product Marketer changing?
JO: When it first came about, it was primarily seen as content creation and sales enablement, so it was very tactical. It was very focused on execution of product launches, building pitch decks, one pagers, etc.
Product marketing is evolving now with people realizing the importance of things like positioning, segmentation, customer research, competitive and marketing intelligence — those areas within a business that are more strategic and levers of growth and revenue.
I think that product marketing is starting to be seen as more of a strategic lever within a company. I also think that’s why you're starting to see more product marketers move into CMO positions.
“Truly productive product marketing teams, are the ones that are able to drive impact and results for the business. That comes down to knowing what things you should be working on.”
- Jason Oakley
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