Perfection and mvp

What does it take for Product marketing in a high-growth startup environment?


High-growth startup environment is real. It is not a made-up word. To thrive in such organizations and push the product out of the shelf, product marketing managers need a different mindset, team, processes; selective collaboration with sales and content teams, and; interesting ways to enable product adoption.

I reached out to Ashley Herbert Popa, Head of Product Marketing and growth at Recruitee to find answers to these questions.

Mindset, team, and processes in a High-growth startup environment.

Nischala: What is the mindset, team, and processes required for a product marketer who is installed into a high-growth startup environment? P.S I am in one such startup, hence curious.

Ashley: High-growth startups require you to fail fast and to build the wings of the airplane while you’re flying. As a product marketer in this environment, you need to remove “perfect” from your vocabulary, experiment, and be ok with being wrong sometimes.

You need a small, scrappy team who are full-stack marketers and are comfortable in an environment with a lot of change and very few rules. I wouldn’t put too many processes in place because you’re probably still hammering out the basics. Figure out what works, document it, but keep it simple. Collaboration is typically very easy at this stage since you have fewer people to act as stakeholders and approvers so take advantage of that and collaborate often. It’s a great way to learn – especially from domains you don’t know as well. 

Positioning: Communicating it to sales and content teams

Nischala: How do come up with positioning and tie that to two aspects: Sales narrative and Content Strategy?

Ashley: Positioning comes from knowing your product, your customer, and the market. If you don’t know these things deeply, it will be hard to understand where you’re positioned in the market. I’d say it’s less about “coming up with” positioning and rather about “finding” your positioning. I can make up or come up with a positioning statement, but if it’s not aligned with my customers, the market, and the product, it’s useless. Tying that to the sales narrative and content strategy should be easy because these two teams should be consulted when researching your positioning.

The sales team knows who is interested and who isn’t and the content team knows what’s happening in the buying funnel. If you align early and get that buy-in from each team, it’s easier to collaborate down the line.

Since PMMs are responsible for Positioning and Messaging, I’d recommend creating a messaging framework that these two teams (and the rest of the company) can use as a starting point.

You can’t control how everyone talks about your company or product, but as long as they have guidelines, it’s ok to let go a little. PMMs and Content teams should be tightly aligned on strategy so this should be a joint effort making sure it ties back to the positioning. Your sales leaders should also be tightly aligned with you on messaging and more so agreeing on a narrative that your sales team buys into should be a joint effort. PMMs are usually more influencers than anything else so we have to build strong relationships with many teams to ensure we can influence when and where needed. 

Product Adoption and product enhancement cycles

Nischala: How can product marketers, contribute to new product adoption and internally for product enhancements?

Ashley: Product marketers should have a joint responsibility with Product (and maybe even CS/Support depending on your organization) to ensure that the product is adopted. This should be a shared goal or KPI. One way to start doing this is in the product launch process.

Agree with your product counterparts on the adoption benchmarks in your company and where you want to set your goal and then build those dashboards.

Build into your process or framework a post-launch strategy. This should include regular checkups with your product counterpart, tactics to use if the adoption is low, calls with customers using the product and not using the product to understand why, etc.

If you want to use your influence to suggest a product enhancement, come with some proof and examples. If you have a product feedback tool, pull the customers that have requested a change, look at the MRR possibly affected, ask your sales team how many deals they have lost from not having this enhancement, and look at where your competitors stand. Add all of this to a business case for your product team so that they can put this into perspective and build trust with them that you know what you’re talking about and they can lean on you to represent the market.

Thanks to Ashley Herbert Popa for her responses.

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