Increasing Product Marketing Influence

by Mike Smart

Is there a relationship between a system of record and influence? Is there causation?    

First, I want to acknowledge that “system of record” or SOR is an old school term. Unlike a system of engagement, the SOR is a single version of truth for the teams and the functions it serves. Think about the level of trust the organization has in in your CRM data.

In countless blog posts and survey responses from product marketers and product marketing leads a consistent frustration is their lack of influence on strategy. 

I have had discussions with PMMs where the frustration is significantly amplified.

How can a PMM be viewed as more strategic? How does a PMM get invited into the strategy session? What value must a PMM provide to remain at the strategy table?  

I have been in and around the role of product marketing long enough that I notice patterns.

We all know that pattern recognition is a primitive human skill; it is what kept us alive long before we had fire, tools or weapons.

In a modern setting patterns can help provide insight to improve a community; giving all of us a narrative that helps everyone grow, develop and yes become more aware of patterns.

By now you are thinking what does this have to do with product marketing influence in the tech industry?

It was not that long ago that product managers were scurrying around the organization following the release, building a new demo, demoing the old demo, sitting with engineers debating what’s next, explaining to executives why a feature was delayed, standing at the user conference demoing a beta version, and working on the roadmap update while delayed at an airport. By the way, this was my point of entry into product management and product marketing.

Each company defined the product management role very differently, some PMs were inwardly focused while others were outside-in. Some were aligned with dev, others with sales or marketing. Unfortunately, a few were asked to do all of this loosely coupled job (very few of them lasted).

Ask that product manager what tools they used to do their job and the list would consist of Jira, PowerPoint, Excel, a Wiki, Accept 360, (say what?!), and SalesForce to mention a few.

Fast forward:  Ask a product manager the same question today. This list will be much smaller, and most important there is a definitive software application or platform that represents the truth for the entire product management function and the information has a high degree of trust with stakeholders in the organization (your actual results may vary). 

Today if you ask a product marketing manager the same tool question she will give you a list of several software products and a few crude tools. She will have several tools of engagement to help her get work done and provide feedback.

Each of these engagement tools do an important part of her job, but not enough of it. The PMM jobs-to-be-done, and the available tools are not an effective match. Which means  most of the job is manual and providing status to others is time  consuming.

What helped the discipline of product management gain role clarity and influence was part iteration and experimentation with team structure and charter.

The other part came because of a new class of straightforward and purpose-built tools that enabled PMs to focus on what is JOB ONE; driving the product plan near term and long range.

Role clarity for PMMs has drastically improved in recent years, but the transition is still early in the cycle.

As the product marketing role transitions and matures one important accelerant to gaining influence is the availability of applications and platforms that enable the primary PMM JTBD while providing information that the organization stakeholders trust.

If you are a PMM I am very interested in hearing more about your jobs to be done.