ashley wood talking product marketing on the market mentors podcast
Aug 16, 2022

A How-To Guide for Launching a Product Marketing Function in Your B2B Tech Start-Up

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer


Product marketing is in high demand for B2B tech companies at the moment, due to the enormous value of having a role dedicated to strategically aligning your sales, product, and marketing teams.

This week’s guest has a proven track record of successfully launching and managing product marketing functions from scratch, which is a challenge many business leaders are currently struggling with. 

In this episode, Ashley Wood provides a helpful how-to guide for launching a product marketing function in your B2B tech start-up. 

About Our Guest

Who they are: Ashley Wood, VP of Marketing at LANDR

A bit of background: Ashley has a proven track record of establishing successful product marketing teams at several different companies. She built the product marketing function at her current business, LANDR, before inheriting other departments within marketing to become VP (but is still a product marketer at heart!) She’s currently based in Montreal, Canada. 

Where you can find her:

Prefer Video? Watch a full video of the podcast here…

Episode Takeaways

Here you’ll find some of the best advice from the podcast that you can easily digest and learn from.

1. Why do you feel a product marketer should be one of the first – if not the very first – marketing hires for B2B tech companies? 

For early-stage B2B tech companies getting started with marketing for the first time, it’s common to begin with a demand generation-focused role or similar. That’s because the obvious priority, from a business perspective, is to build a pipeline for the sales team as quickly as possible. 

This is understandable, but in today’s market it could be a mistake. These days, it’s becoming increasingly popular to begin by hiring a product marketing manager (PMM), and this week’s guest explained why that’s a wise decision. 

Ashley said, “I think a PMM function should be the first function you build if you’re starting out, because product marketing is really the strategic pillar of the marketing team.” 

“Gathering consumer insights becomes part of everyone’s job at some point. You have the product managers that are talking to users, a customer success team or a support team that’s talking to users. But having a dedicated role that’s really the voice of the market – not only the voice of users, but the voice of potential users too – makes things run smoother.”

“That happens because initiatives become easier to prioritise and execute when the team has a solid foundation of insights on: 

  • The who
  • The what
  • The where
  • The when
  • And what the competition’s doing. 

So, it’s just as much a strategic advantage as it is an efficiency advantage.

Ashley did admit that it’s hard to resist the temptation to start with demand generation, or another role that will deliver more tangible results quicker. But it’s important to recognise that taking a step back and starting with the more strategic aspect of product marketing will be worthwhile in the long-term. 

Ashley added, “You’re tempted to get someone that’s just going to send emails or set up your ads. But, as someone who’s had to build product marketing functions, in two companies that haven’t had them before, both companies then wished they’d had it earlier.” 

“PMMs tend to be pretty good generalists in terms of skill-sets. They’re good communicators, they’re market-focused, so even if you have a PMM that would be doing some demand gen, you’re still probably better off than hiring a generalist that hasn’t had experience in product marketing.”

Are you considering hiring a new product marketing manager? Check out our in-depth guide to hiring for product marketing roles for plenty of useful advice and guidance.  

2. What foundations should business leaders ideally put in place before hiring a product marketing manager? 

If your business is preparing to launch a product marketing function, the most beneficial thing you can do is to fully understand the purpose, the responsibilities, and the results that role will be working towards.

Ashley explained, “It’s really helpful for everyone, including your future hires, if you educate yourself and the wider team about what a PMM is exactly. It is still a new-ish discipline, especially when you compare it to traditional marketing roles, so make sure you have a good understanding of the value they’re going to provide, the teams they’re going to work with, and kind of prime everyone for it.”

“Like I mentioned before, everyone has consumer insights as part of their job. You want to make sure they all understand the value that product marketing’s going to bring. PMMs are not trying to take roles away from other teams and they’re not there to dictate what other teams work on. But the PMM is here to serve you the insights you need to be better at your job.”

It’s also important for everyone to understand the role of a PMM so the business can gain maximum ROI from their position in the team. 

You should ensure that your PMM is fully supported and given the opportunity to shine in their specific role, and avoid leaning on them for general tasks that may not be the best use of their time. 

Ashley continued, “It’s a lot more people management than actual foundational work, but PMMs can make good fillers for tasks when things come up, and it’s a disservice to yourself to have them work as fillers because you lose out on the value that they’re going to bring.”

“If you’re very clear on the type of product marketing role your organisation needs, and all your employees understand the value, it makes it much easier for the PMM to come in, integrate themselves quickly, and start adding value right away.”

3. How would you recommend a product marketer prioritises their responsibilities when brought in as one of the first hires?

Ashley recommended separating priorities into two halves. First, start externally by talking to prospects and customers, and researching your competitors. Next, turn your attention internally and speak to the other teams within the business. 

External Research 

Ashley said, “The same priority I still set for myself weekly is customers over everything. Coming into an organisation, especially with fresh eyes, is actually a benefit, so I suggest spending as much time with users as early on as possible, and not just existing users.”

“If you’re in a B2B company, you likely have a win-loss, so: 

  • Doing your win-loss interviews with that cohort 
  • Doing interviews with prospects that are currently in the sales process 
  • Talking to happy customers
  • Identifying your different cohorts and spending time with each of them. 

Then, coming back to analyse all that and making sure you understand the insights you’ve gathered throughout the journey.”

Ashley added, “You should also ensure you get a clear idea of who your competitors are. Pull any reports you can, whether it’s from Salesforce or HubSpot, on who you’ve lost to, who you’ve won against, and laying that foundation of your competitive landscape.”

Internal Communication 

Ashely said, “It’s really important and helpful to treat other departments at whatever organisation I’m at as if they were personas and different user segments.”

“That means I start by spending time with each department and understanding:

  • What’s your definition of winning? 
  • What does success look like to you? 
  • What are your biggest pain points? 
  • How do you like to consume information? 
  • How can I help you do your job better?”

“For example, our implementation teams at Amilia were always on the road, so if I sent them a Slack message it would get lost. Our sales team now, they don’t have time to read long emails, so you’d want to send them a Slack message.”

“It’s important for a PMM to understand how every team works, and how to communicate with them, to help whenever you need information from them or you’re providing them with a resource they should use. Aligning that with their definition of winning, or helping them combat their pain points, really makes your life easier going forward.” 

Interested in learning more about the important product marketing plays for leading B2B tech start-ups today? Listen to our recent podcast episode here for some excellent insights

A few other highlights to look out for in this episode:

  1. Insight into how Ashley has built successful product marketing functions in her previous businesses. 
  2. The qualities, skills, and attributes Ashely suggests looking for in the person you hire to look after your own product marketing.
  3. Recruitment tips for businesses looking to hire and retain great product marketing managers. 
  4. Advice for measuring and demonstrating the value product marketing is having to your wider team.