How To Build And Structure A SaaS Product Marketing Team
How many people should there be in your SaaS product marketing team? When should you start building a product marketing team and what role should you hire first?
If you’re looking for answers to the above questions, you’re in the right place.
Let’s talk about how to build and structure product marketing teams for SaaS products.
- Product marketing teams can help with product adoption, user retention, and customer expansion by flattening the learning curve and helping customers understand and experience the value of the product
- Consider your level of funding and chosen marketing strategy to determine the ideal time to build a team.
- Identify your largest challenge to help you decide which product marketing roles should be filled first.
- While organizing your product marketing team by feature is the simplest path, it can lead to a lack of customer focus and your messaging may become too feature-centric.
- Structure your product marketing team based on which growth stage your SaaS business is in and the highest-priority goals of that stage.
- Have your product marketing team focus on the outcomes that will have the largest impact on your company.
- Standardize terminology and share assets like user personas to ensure synergy across all teams.
- Define goals, set actions, and measure results to keep your product marketing team aligned.
- Use roadmaps to relay goals to the entire company, then monitor KPIs to see if those objectives are being achieved.
What does a SaaS product marketing team do?
In addition to driving demand, SaaS product marketing teams boost adoption, retention, and account expansion rates of the product in a continuous cycle. They also serve as a guide so users can easily navigate dynamic platforms.
Whenever a SaaS product undergoes a UI overhaul or introduces a new feature, a product marketing team can flatten the learning curve for users.
Essentially, they’re able to repeatedly onboard users as needed so they remain familiar even as the platform changes.
This makes feature adoption less intimidating for those on your platform which can, in turn, reduce churn rates. Product marketing teams will also be able to keep an eye on the user base which helps identify opportunities to drive account expansion.
When should you start building a product marketing team?
Since the answer will be different for every company, it’s hard to pinpoint the perfect time to start a product marketing team. After all, there are a myriad of different factors that go into deciding when the ideal moment is.
- Is your SaaS sales-led or product-led?
- What’s your main marketing strategy?
- Can you justify the cost?
- How steep is the learning curve for your product?
These are all questions you need to ask yourself when deciding on whether or not you should start a product marketing team. Let’s go over some criteria that can make that decision a bit more clear cut for you.
Product marketing team criteria #1 – Is your SaaS sales-led or product-led?
Before you think about hiring new people to aid in your company’s product marketing journey, it’s crucial that you consider the current state of lead generation — in other words, how are you acquiring new trial users for your SaaS, and what happens after?
Is your SaaS sales-led or product-led? Do you rely on your sales team to convert trial users into paying customers or are you using a product-led approach?
Product-led sales is when you use the product itself as the main source of new revenue acquisition. It includes lead generation, expansion, and conversion to paying customers.
Adopting a product-led approach will mean you need to start building a product marketing team right away.
Product marketing team criteria #2 – Can you justify the cost of a product marketing team?
It’s important to understand that most marketing teams can afford to be flexible in early-stage SaaS businesses. Product managers could write the release notes themselves or train new sales recruits.
Lead generation marketers might update the copy on your website and create explainer videos. Salespeople might even start to refine the workflow for their division in an effort to increase efficiency.
This diversified approach is necessary for startups and even advantageous in some situations since it keeps the team agile. However, it will come to a point where the opportunity cost of spreading your team members too thin begins to show.
When this starts to impact their ability to perform their core job effectively, it may be time to bring in some skilled relief.
Product marketing team criteria #3 – How steep is the learning curve for your product?
Beyond the company itself, the product also plays a role in determining the appropriate time to build a product marketing team. If your product is particularly technical or complex, then having a team to help buyers grasp its USPs is of utmost importance.
Hiring product marketers earlier than competitors may be a tough pill to swallow but it’s all in the interest of minimizing the amount of time from user acquisition to the realization of value or the so-called “AHA moment.”
If customers can’t easily understand your product, you’ll struggle with both acquisition and retention.
How big should a product marketing team be in SaaS?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how big a product marketing team should be, a Redpoint GTM survey does lay out the average schematic for how to scale up:
The shape of your product marketing team will depend on a few things.
First of all, figure out your monthly budget. If you’re allocating $5,000/month to paid acquisition then one or two growth marketers should be enough.
In contrast, companies that are spending $20,000 would likely need a small team to handle content creation, project management, and publishing in an efficient manner. You can’t increase your marketing investment without scaling up the team that runs it.
Depending on your go-to-market strategy, the question you should be asking yourself is not how big the product marketing team should be, but which roles do you need.
As mentioned before if you are planning to go product-led, the size of your product marketing team will need to be bigger compared to the one of a sales-led SaaS, as the team’s responsibilities will differ.
Which role should you hire first in a SaaS product marketing team?
Hiring needs to be a strategic, dynamic decision. The role you hire for first should depend on the specific needs of your business at that time. Richard Rumelt touches on this in his book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy (2011):
”A good strategy is a way through a difficulty, an approach to overcoming an obstacle, a response to a challenge. If a challenge is not defined, it is difficult or impossible to assess the quality of a strategy.”
Therefore, you need to define and rank the challenges your business faces in order to make the right hiring decisions. The same goes for the outcomes that you’re aiming for — prioritize and hire accordingly.
For instance, if you’re about to release new products then finding people who can ensure that the launches are successful should be a priority. If you’re losing deals because you can’t convert trials into paying customers then maybe start with someone who can optimize the CRO of your funnel and your product onboarding.
Companies that have already established a large user base would likely see the most benefit out of hiring a customer expansion specialist who can increase CLV (customer lifetime value) through reselling and upselling.
When starting out with your product marketing team recruitment, select a single area to improve on and find the first hire that will be best suited to the task at hand. This is especially true for companies that can’t hire a full-scale team from the get-go.
SaaS product marketing team structure
The structure of your product marketing team, like the sharpness of a sword, will determine how effective it is at performing its duties. Rigid organizations with top-down commandment methods are on their way out in favor of more agile systems.
So how can you structure your product marketing team and become more flexible?
SaaS product marketing team structure #1 – By feature
By pairing product marketers directly with product managers, the back-and-forth dialogue will be as transparent as it gets.
One potential drawback is that the marketing messaging may become tunnel-visioned on features (rather than considering the needs of the customer and communicating the benefits being provided.)
SaaS product marketing team structure #2 – By function
Teams structured by function focus on aspects like sales enablement, product launches, brand positioning, and market intelligence individually.
It’s a more high-cost option since you’ll have one team for each of the four product marketing pillars but the compartmentalized focus can yield high-quality results.
SaaS product marketing team structure #3 – By segment
There’s always the option to organize your product marketing team around sales segments.
This approach ensures that the product marketers will be set up in accordance with the sales team’s organization which will improve synergy between the two and help target specific customer needs.
SaaS product marketing team structure #4 – By line of business
Companies with buyers across multiple verticals will find that aligning their product marketing team by industry (i.e. marketing, technology, finance, etc.) will likely be the ideal model to go by.
Salesforce is a prime example since they target multiple buyers in every company from COOs to CMOs, CFOs to CROs, and maybe someday UFOs with the pace they’re going at.
SaaS product marketing team structure #5 – By objective or theme
Whether it’s brand awareness or revenue retention, modeling around specific objectives means that the product marketing team will be able to dedicate their resources to the highest priority customer/business needs.
It’s the most fluid model and is very conducive to rapid growth so companies who like blitzing out product launches should consider this option.
However, all these seem a bit too general, right? If you don’t know where to start I recommend looking into one of the following options to structure your product marketing team: outcomes and growth stage.
Structure your product marketing team based on outcomes
Looking to drive adoption? You would likely get the best results by having their product marketing team focus on the user journey to make the onboarding process and in-app messaging on their platform so that new users can easily understand what the product does.
For well-established companies, however, focusing on retention may be a top priority. This means you need product marketers in your team to focus on product engagement and gathering user feedback to uncover insights that can reduce churn.
Structure your product marketing team based on your SaaS growth stage
Your needs will naturally shift as your business moves from one growth stage to the next, so be sure to shift the structure and focus of your product marketing team along with it.
According to the 2020 State of Product Marketing report, one in five PMMs work alone, as a one-man-band. Around three in 10 said they work in a team of 2-3, and just over one-third (35.3%) had the luxury of 5+ product marketing colleagues.
- The report insight also uncovered that a product marketing team varied in line with a company’s stage of growth:
- early pre-market fit and post-market fit companies have a product marketing team of two people
- mid-growth companies with established go-to-market teams have around 5 team members
- late growth/scale-up companies have around 9 people in their marketing team
How to coordinate your SaaS product marketing team
Aligning the marketers in your team towards a mutual goal is paramount to ensure dedicated collaboration and a targeted effort in the right areas. You also need to align the team itself within your organization so members have the necessary lines of communication to operate effectively.
Here are three tips:
1. Build a common language to get clarity
Terminology is more important than you may think. For example, it’s important that the entire team has an equal understanding of every stage in the user journey and what it represents.
Any disconnect between terminology and the meaning behind them can hinder communication. Standardizing the interpretation of jargon will reduce friction and help align everyone towards the same outcomes.
2. Collaborate and share assets across teams
Assets should be shared between teams so you don’t have multiple divisions researching the same thing when the information already exists within the company. Furthermore, sharing assets also ensure consistent brand messaging.
User personas are a perfect example. If all your teams are targeting different personas then the messaging will feel disjointed. Companies that share assets across teams will make collaboration easier as well as more effective.
3. Define outcomes, actions, and measures
Every objective should be clearly defined both on a team level and organizational level as this will make it easier to plan ahead for challenges that may be in the way. Having a roadmap is the clearest way to relay objectives across multiple teams.
Once the goals have been clearly defined, set actions that will lead to the desired outcome being achieved as well as KPIs to measure your product marketing success. Define, act, and measure.
Even as objectives change over time, product marketing teams that are focused on the same outcome will always move in the right direction and adapt as your business goes through the various growth stages.
Building a robust product marketing team is far from easy but all the effort you put in will pay off tenfold in the long run. By hiring the right people, keeping everyone focused on a mutual goal, and using the right KPIs to gauge performance you’ll be on your way to sky-high growth in no time!
Want to optimize the user experience with code-free in-app experiences to prepare for your product marketing team’s imminent arrival? Get a Userpilot Demo to get that onboarding journey optimized today!