Where in the org is Product Marketing?

As companies evolve, they (sometimes) take the time to reflect on the best teams’ structure to achieve their strategies and goals. For most groups, the roles and responsibilities are self-contained within that function. For example, while the sales team organization to deliver the expected results might change significantly over time, from an inside-sales structure to heavy OEM or direct-to-consumer focus, the boundaries remain within “sales” – I can’t name any examples of companies beyond the Seed stage where the R&D leader manages the enterprise sales team. Yet, for one role, defining its location in the org-chart is not as clear… and that challenge is fundamentally described in the function name: Product Marketing.

I can already hear some of you wonder: What do I define as the Product Marketing role? I am going to intentionally date myself a little with this “packaged software” analogy as it remains steadfast in the age of SaaS, cloud, and mobile: think of product management (and R&D) as focusing on what’s on the disc (the 1s and 0s), while product marketing focuses on what is arI can already hear some of you wonder: How do you define the Product Marketing role? I am going to intentionally date myself a little with this “packaged software” analogy as it remains steadfast in the age of SaaS, cloud, and mobile: think of product management (and UX/R&D) as focusing on what’s on the disc (the 1s and 0s), while product marketing focuses on what is around the disc (messaging, branding, packaging, product web pages, collaterals…). Product Marketing is about defining the product narrative and sharing the value proposition. Product Marketing is responsible for creating the “Lego” building blocks of all the product information pieces. The GTM teams then leverage these components to create dedicated campaigns for the different target audiences – adapted by channel, geography, industry, company size, specific accounts….

Product Marketing Managers live at the intersection of delivering products that users love and the go-to-market (GTM) motions to get the word out.

Product Marketing Managers live at the intersection of delivering products that users love and the go-to-market (GTM) motions to get the word, generating revenue from specific target audiences. This results in a natural, although challenging, tension. Having led Product Marketing over the years (part of the Product organization) and having seen both over time, I’ve been asked more than once where in the org the PMMs go: In Marketing or Product?

A quick online search will show beautiful Venn diagrams with Product Marketing at the intersection of Product, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success – not very helpful for your org design question. And while I believe that there is not a single answer that is the “one-size-fits-all,” stepping back and considering the actual goal of the function and company strategy will help clarify the “org-chart design” decision about Product Marketing (and a lot more).

As with all things corporate, the customer should be a central element that influences all decisions (don’t tell me you are developing tech for the sake of cool tech, please). I will also assume that the company has a vested interest in growing new and existing customers. In that case, a possible mental model to answer the org-chart question is to look at your primary growth driver (OK, it’s not one or the other, and both are ultimately required for success, but one will take the lead):

  • GTM-led growth (sales and marketing-driven) is about the funnel generating qualified leads and then converting them into paying (and recurring) customers, driving up-sell through campaigns, account management, and customer success. In this case, Product Marketing should be in the Sales & Marketing group.
  • Product-led growth (product and engineering-driven) is about getting product usage and then converting users into recurring customers, driving up-sell from the product experience. In this case, Product Marketing will naturally fit best within a broader Product team.

Independently of where the Product Marketing function resides within the organization, having Product Management, Product Marketing, and UX work very closely together is the most effective way to achieve clarity and velocity around all possible growth loops your company will prioritize. The Product Managers and UX work closely with the R&D team to deliver quality solutions with high velocity. The Product Marketing Managers work closely with the GTM team, empowering the latter with the most relevant product information driving MQL, closing new logos, and expanding existing ones. The close relationship between PMs, PMMs, and UX is a must to provide a consistent customer experience throughout the journey, from the first interaction with the brand to a ten on the NPS question. Without this close collaboration, the customer journey will feel disjointed very quickly.

Communicating a compelling product value proposition and narrative is different from designing and executing successful marketing campaigns for a specific target audience. I firmly believe that technology is a fantastic tool but cannot be the goal. The path to success is taken by crafting great products that customers will love with care, whole product experiences that resonate deeply with the target audience. This requires strategic clarity at all levels of the organization, starting from the very top. This requires attention to details across the whole value proposition and benefits provided to users, not just the 1s and 0s.

The final answer of the org-design depends on many different factors, including the background and experience of the leaders in both the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and the Chief Product / Technology Officer positions. If your CPO/CTO prioritizes technology-driven features, for example, then Product Marketing will be better suited in the CMO organization. Same if your primary growth loop is GTM driven.

Ultimately, it would be best to combine your strategic clarity with your core attention to customers, always having Product Marketing work closely with the products, UX, sales, marketing, and customer success teams independently of where in the org-chart you place Product Marketing.

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