Ask an Expert: Joseph Mayall on What A PMM Should Ask When Joining A New Company

PMM Questions To Ask When Joining New Company
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When joining a new company as an incoming PMM, what are the ‘PMM Questions’ to ask?

Taking a PMM position at a new company is an incredibly rewarding step up in your career… but it can be tough as well. There’s a lot of people to meet (who’s who?), a lot to do (what’s my new job?), and a LOT to learn (what’s the bathroom code? They drink DECAF??).

That’s why we’ve sat down with Joseph Mayall at Kajabi to give us the down low on the questions to ask when considering or taking a new PMM position, and what’s important to learn when coming into the job.

As someone who recently accepted a PMM position himself, Joseph found himself unable to find a good resource that would help him figure out the organization. That’s why we’ve put together our cheat sheet of PMM questions to ask when joining a new company:

About The Author:

Joseph Mayall

Name: Joseph Mayall

Position: Product Marketing Manager

How did you get started with Product Marketing?

Before PMM I was in Sales and Customer Support, but I knew I didn’t want that to be my career. However, during that period I identified two aspects of my work that I enjoyed and was good at.

The first was complex problem solving. I loved tricky cases with no obvious answer, forcing me to get creative to solve the customer’s problem.

The second was having a high-impact. As Sales and Support are largely a “one problem at a time” role, I knew I wanted to move on and find an area where my input could echo throughout the company to an exponential audience.

To find my next role, I went from org to org, asking questions about the day to day of each’s work to see if it matched my two interests. HubSpot Product Marketing checked both of the boxes, so I applied. I was lucky enough to be extended the offer, and here we are!

What’s a fun fact about yourself?

Outside of Product Marketing, I work as a freelance writer. I write articles and essays about culture, politics, and combat sports and sell them to magazines! (Shameless plug for JoeWrote.com.)

Questions to Ask About The Business

  • Is the company profitable? If not, why?
  • What are the company’s most important metrics?
  • Where are the company’s employees located?

Why are business metrics relevant to an incoming PMM?

A few reasons. 

First, you need to have your eye on the ball. Product Marketing sits at the center of the GTM, so you’re going to be asked to do a lot of tasks you won’t always have time for. You need to know the company’s most up to date mission, KPIs, and goals to ensure you’re not swimming against the company current. If the CEO decides the next year is all about obtaining market share, you’re going to want to concentrate on free trials and signups while putting things like ARR on the backburner.

Second, even if you’re only focused on positioning a specific product, you need to understand how the organization is positioned. Metrics can help you do that. If you’re the PMM for Ferrari’s newest SUV, metrics surrounding advertising spend, average SKU sales price, and cost of acquisition are going to help you find product market fit for your specific product. (Hint: You’re probably not going to position the SUV to soccer moms when the average Ferrari sells north of six figures.)

Third, you need to know the company. Simple as that. Your day to day will be a lot smoother, and you’ll be much better at the role if you’re up to date on company priorities.

“How many employees do we have? Where are they located? What does our next year’s growth look like? “

The answers to these basic questions will make you much better at your job. For example, knowing where employees are located geographically will help you cross-coordinate GTM plans, plan for expansion into non-English markets, and much more. 

Questions to Ask About Sales

  • When prospects decide not to purchase, why? Why do we lose?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What is the average customer revenue?

What is PMM’s relationship to sales in a healthy organization? What kind of issues can a PMM ‘fix’ for sales?

The sales Team is PMM’s best friend. Perhaps you didn’t hear that. 

THE SALES TEAM IS PMM’S BEST FRIEND.

As a former sales rep, I can confirm sales reps care about one thing, and one thing only: commission. They want to sell, so they can eat. Because of this dynamic, sales reps will give you the most effective, helpful, and brutally honest feedback you’ll ever hear. They’ll tell you if a product doesn’t work, or if it isn’t positioned correctly, or if customers don’t know how to use it.

Your relationship with them should be focused on getting this feedback in a constructive context. Depending on your org’s size, you can either set up recurring meetings with reps/teams at the beginning of the month (as not to interfere with EOM closing) to hear feedback, or, my personal favorite – configure a sales panel. 

A sales panel is great for presenting new positioning, products, and value props to sales reps and hearing their feedback. It may be tough to have your new idea critiqued right out of the gate, but getting that feedback early will save you a lot of time and frustration rather than launching the initiative to unreceptive prospects.

As for what PMM can “fix” for sales, it all comes down to what the biggest issue they’re hearing from prospects. If prospects aren’t buying because of lacking features, PMM should be the feedback conduit to get that info to Product teams ASAP. But if sales reports the product is unintuitive, or users are confused, PMM can step in to help. Enlist UX teams, KB writers, and anyone else who can help your working group to clarify communication and make the interface more user-friendly. 

Questions to Ask About Positioning

  • What is our current company-wide positioning?
  • What is the current Go-to-Market model?
  • How was this positioning established?
  • What are our buyer personas? How were these created? When?

As a PMM, what do you do when there are weak or no answers to positioning questions?

In my opinion, the above questions are the most important for a new PMM to ask. Hopefully, the positioning is strong. If that’s the case, then use your new pair of eyes to build off success and iterate wherever needed. (However, don’t change things for the sake of change, as that’ll just come back to bite you and your team down the road.)

If the answers are weak or nonexistent: Congratulations! You’ve just discovered one of your first projects! Call out the lacking answers to your manager. Come to that meeting with a recommendation for how you can help establish or strengthen the positioning, buyer personas, and GTM. Your justification can be as simple as “We haven’t revisited the buyer personas in 2 years. I think it’s important that they are up to date, so I’d like to dive in and rework them.”

Of course, as with EVERY project, ensure your manager is bought in. If they have a different area they’d like you to focus on, then that takes priority.

Questions to Ask About The Customer

  • What are the customers’ jobs to be done (what are they hiring us to do)?
  • What are customers’ goals?
  • How do we notify users of new products and releases?
  • Where are our customers located?

What’s the best way for an incoming PMM to learn more about customers?

Before talking to customers, it’s important to establish a baseline understanding of the product. Complete your product onboarding, and hop in to familiarize yourself with the tool. That way you can actually converse with customers and understand their pain points.

Once you know your way around, shadow a support or CSM call to start hearing customer pain points. Once you’re ready to organize calls on your own, the best place to start is with tenured PMs or PMMs. Ask them for a good customer to chat with, and set it up! These customers are likely to be affectionate to your org, so the call should be focused on what they like, why they chose you instead of a competitor, and a “wishlist” of things the customer would like to improve.

Next, cast a broad net to hear customer pain points. If your org has a Community, post in there and say you’re looking to hear customer feedback on whichever product area you own. Or, if you’re having a hard time getting takers, expense a gift card and say “I have a Visa Giftcard for anyone who will take 20 minutes to answer my questions.” 

Questions to Ask About The Product

  • How do customers find value in the product? What “problem” is it solving for them?
  • What are the most used products?
  • What are the least-used products?
  • What are the most lucrative products?
  • What are the product verticals? How does PMM map onto them?
  • What is our most valuable product/customer action in terms of ROI?
  • What are the top three questions your sales reps are being asked in sales calls?

How familiar does a PMM need to be with a product when coming into an organization?

Your product knowledge should be like a sandbar on the ocean floor. Most of the time it’s a mile wide and an inch deep, but in one area it drops off into the deep. What I mean by this is that you should have passing familiarity with the products your company offers, but you don’t need to know every single finite detail of the areas you don’t oversee.

However, when it comes to your PMM-specific product, your knowledge should only come second to the PMs’ and Engineers’ who built it. To effectively position your product, you need to know its strengths and weaknesses and accurately communicate them.

Remember, customers are hiring your product to do a specific job. You need to know its resume to help these “hiring managers” (customers) understand how it’ll fulfill that role.

Questions to Ask About The Team

  • How is PMM viewed by other teams? Do they understand the value we add?
  • What is the PMM team structure?
  • How do we expect the team to grow, and look, in the next 6 months?
  • What are PMMs Northstar metrics?
  • How do we show the PMM team’s value to the company? 

How should PMM ‘ideally’ be viewed by outside stakeholders, in your opinion?

PMM should be viewed as:

  1. The expert on their particular product. You should know how to demo the product, the competitive landscape, why certain design/dev decisions were made, what the future looks like, etc. etc.
  2. The “jack of all trades” for everything touching your product. Think of it this way: if your company had a cafeteria, and a PMM walked in, they should be able to sit at the Product Manager table, the engineer table, the marketing table, (etc. etc.) and talk shop. Now, you don’t need to know everything, but you should know where each team’s priorities and initiatives lie. For example, you won’t need to talk to the engineers about the specifics of CSS coding, but you should be able to talk to them about the overall projects they’re building. 

Ultimately, you want to be seen as resourceful. It’s unrealistic to expect a PMM to know every minute metric and detail off the top of their head, but you do want your colleagues to view you as someone who can find out answers and deliver results, even if it’s a learning process for you both.

 

Joe Mayall is a Product Marketing Manager for Kajabi and was previously at HubSpot.
 

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