• Tom Shelly

How to Onboard Your First SaaS Product Marketer

Written by Tom Shelly

Head of Product Marketing & Content at Lusha.co

I've had the privilege helping several startups hire their 1st PMM. It's SO HARD to find that first hire. It's even harder to help them focus on what truly matters once they're onboard. Here're 3 actions I recommend you to take to ensure their success.

You just hired your first product marketer for your enterprise SaaS. Now what?

Whether your new PMM has 10 years of experience doing product marketing or is a newbie who has just transitioned into their first PMM role after doing CS, sales, or else, there are about 100 responsibilities they can take upon himself from day one — but most of them aren’t actually relevant at the beginning. Since product marketing means different things at each stage of your company’s lifecycle, a big part of your role is to ensure they don't jump ahead. Getting your PMM to be focused on the right things at the right time is the secret sauce for your success.

So let’s dive right in.

#1 Task Your PMM to Prepare a Talk to All GTM team members.

Allow them to rock becoming an in-house market authority. 

You’re probably eager to give your new PMM the keys to the company website and all company’s messaging. This is a bit of a danger zone; messaging is going to fail if it doesn’t come after intensive research on the competitive landscape. I highly recommend you to encourage your PMM to take two weeks to become an expert in your industry, the competition, your product, and the company. I challenge you to challenge your PMM to give a lecture to all go-to-market teams at the end of their first month about the competitive landscape.

Why is that so valuable? 

Your PMM needs to be perceived as an authority amongst the GTM team members. Educating them from the get-go and impressing them with new knowledge will help create that sense of trust within the team fast.

Can I trust that it’ll work well?

Product marketers have to be amazing storytellers and public speakers so standing in front of everyone shouldn’t be a problem. If you made a great hire in your PMM, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a successful move. If it fails, this is a good point at which to evaluate the set of skills your PMM has and possibly refocus them on content writing tasks rather than putting them in front of a crowd. 

Setting a firm date for this will ensure there’s a sense of urgency and focus to that first month. More likely than not, this will result in an exhilarating sense of accomplishment for your PMM and they will be off to a great start in their new role. 

#2 Get Your PMM to Clearly Define Ownership between Teams.

Stepping on other team members’ toes is a big no-no, as is failing to involve people who expect to be highly involved.

Who does product training, PMs or PMMs? Who does customer webinars, CSMs or PMMs? Do PMMs speak to clients directly? And who’s writing the micro-copy?

No two SaaS product marketing teams are alike, and it is best to define exact roles and responsibilities. I’ve seen companies where product marketing is focused very heavily on sales enablement, and others where its all about product launch campaigns to customers. The important thing is, you don’t want your PMM to start annoying people and stepping on their toes. Help them ensure all their relationships to the team are clearly defined out of the gate. 

Here are 3 valuable questions you will want your PMM to be asking each key manager during their onboarding phase to better understand R&R, and consequently,, figure out where they can help most:

How Can I Properly Set Expectations with Sales Leaders?

Ask:  Will it be ok with you if we define together which topics to focus on for each sales training, as well as the cadence? 

Subtext: Each training session your PMM conducts is a time when the full sales team isn’t selling. Perhaps you are doing a training session on a very technical integration that one BDR feels he doesn’t know much about, but the sales leader thinks it isn’t relevant at all to the performance of the team. This may lead to frustration in hindsight. That’s preventable if your PMM learns who should be involved when choosing the topics. 

Ask: Who’s the best person or group of people I can work with when creating new enablement resources?

Subtext: The ideal case scenario is when the PMM builds a good relationship with top-performing sales folks who the rest of the team typically learns from. That way, the PMM then shares all new resources with the team, grabs feedback, iterates and then gets them to pitch for those new pieces. This will lead to a high adoption rate from the rest of the team. 

Ask: How do you currently feel about existing resources? Which ones would you modify?

Subtext:  Sales leaders typically LOVE one or two specific pieces that they’ve been using for a long time and are used to showing in order to drive the story further. If your PMM ignores that and starts building collateral from scratch, sales leaders might reject what your PMM has created and continue to use their own collateral. It’s always better to fix what's broken, not what's working. 

How Can I Properly Set Expectations with Customer Success Leaders?

Ask: How do you feel about the current customer journey from onboarding to renewal? 

Subtext: There are endless activities that can help with customer adoption and satisfaction throughout the lifecycle. The first step should be figuring out which stage needs to be further developed to provide customers with more value and resources.

Ask: What’s your current CSM to ARR ratio? Are you looking to improve it? 

Subtext: The PMM’s resources will be created many times to support the goal of empowering customers to be more self-serve. That could be building a certification academy, better onboarding emails, or even producing content for the knowledge base. There might be someone else in the org who is already responsible for those, so that’s your way of learning if that should be your focus or not. 

Ask: Are you happy with how CSMs are pitching add-ons and additional offerings? 

Subtext: Building pitching workshops for CSMs might not be the standard product marketing activity but from my perspective, anything that you can do to help with bringing the product to the audience (in this case, existing customers) and ensuring they adopt it is a PMM role. 

How Can I Properly Set Expectations with Product Leaders?

Ask: How are feature releases currently communicated internally to GTM teams and externally to customers? 

Subtext: Being the first PMM doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t a process for launching new features up until now. It’s safe to assume that in most cases, this was given to someone as an additional ownership. In cases like that, it’s very important to learn how that has been working and which part of product launch might be lagging a bit.

#3 Define Three Quarterly Goals — Not 10. Work quarter by quarter.

The essence of product marketing is always the same: Designing the process and activities required to bring a product or feature to the market and overseeing its overall success. But in order to be successful at that, you need to focus on different projects and initiatives in each Q. 

Sometimes the success of a feature comes from working hands-on for three months with the sales team and ensuring they’re experts in pitching your new product line differently to each customer segment. Sometimes it’s about figuring out which set of features adopted by your customers creates the greatest hook, and then focusing on creatively promoting those to new customers (inside the product and out) to ensure they’re delighted from the get-go. 

Whether you’re working with OKRs or a different type of KPI/goal-setting system, let your new PMM know you aren’t looking for goal-setting overkill. Though your PMM may spot a slew of problems to tackle the minute they come on board, taking them on all in a single quarter never works.

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