The Alliance is home to a whopping 15 communities, and the very first was PMA. They’ve gathered more than 90,000 enthusiasts from across the globe since launching in 2019, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down yet!
Now that’s a crystal clear example of how successful community-led growth can be! 👏
This series looks to break down what problems the community aimed to solve, how the solutions manifested, and how valuable the community is to those who run it. Our aim is to explore what it means to spot a problem and work to resolve it with a community-led approach.
We’ll hear from Rose Johnstone, Group VP at The Alliance Brands - overseeing event production at PMA and other communities under The Alliance.
We also spoke to Lawrence Chapman, Senior Copywriter, part of the team responsible for brilliant digital content, such as reports, playbooks, articles, podcasts, and more.
Here’s what they had to say. 👇
What is your role? What does that look like day-to-day?
Lawrence: I’m Lawrence Chapman, the Senior Copywriter here at Product Marketing Alliance. As the old cliché goes, no two days are alike, and the day-to-day tasks vary, depending on what kind of content we’re creating.
Me and my colleague Charley Gale, Junior Copywriter, produce a range of content, from blog copy, podcasts, reports, to eBooks and the approach for each of these are very different, particularly if we’re working with an external contributor/sponsor as part of the process.
For instance, a blog article will follow a relatively standard approach: we identify a topic area, conduct research, write the piece, and publish, once it’s been proofed and given the thumbs up.
On the other hand, when we’re working on a report, we hold a preliminary kick-off meeting with internal teams, create the survey, and create a Typeform survey, before analyzing the results and writing the report, in collaboration with contributors from other companies.
Every day is content driven, but with lots of different content types on the agenda, we don’t have a ‘standard day’, per sé.
Rose: I’m Rose and I lead the events and community team. My role is to connect the dots between the various departments that work hard to produce and bring to market all of PMA’s products and services.
So what this looks like is leading regular meetings and rolling out key processes to ensure effective collaboration and that everyone is working towards the same goals. It also involves working to spot new market opportunities and key areas for expansion to ensure we are delivering the cutting-edge content our community wants and needs.
There’s a big focus, for me, on strategic management and planning for all our community tiers - Slack community, Insider (free members) Pro (PMA membership), and Exec (leaders membership).
Finally, I oversee the quality of our event products through sourcing expert speakers, agenda curation, and website building.
What are the problems/pain points PMA sets out to solve?
Lawrence: Though product marketing is undoubtedly on the rise, it’s still a relatively new function within some companies.
Product Marketing Alliance strives to offer product marketers invaluable resources to help them perform to their optimum potential, whilst simultaneously promoting the importance and value of the product marketing function.
Rose: PMA’s mission is simple: to elevate the role of product marketing.
Ultimately, we want to show that while PMMs can often be seen as an internal resource or expensive asset creators, actually their true value sits with them operating as a more strategic, revenue-driving function.
We achieve this by employing a variety of methods or tactics, such as:
- Bringing new talent into the product marketing job market,
- Exploring how to measure the impact of product marketing and key metrics to track,
- Demonstrating how product marketers prove value to their entire organization,
- Streamlining product marketing and GTM strategy and making it scalable,
- Getting product marketing a seat at the table by learning how to engage key stakeholders,
- Coaching the leaders of tomorrow with access to industry-leading events, courses, and digital content.
Have these problems/pain points changed since the start of the community?
Lawrence: Since the launch of PMA, the product marketing community has experienced exponential growth, with more professionals transitioning into the PMM industry.
This suggests that the demand for product marketers is growing, and therefore, there’s greater appreciation surrounding the importance of the role.
Rose: The job boom has continued, and we are continuing to see huge numbers of openings for product marketers despite the economic uncertainty.
PMMs are still misunderstood, echoed by the very small percentage (4.3%) of PMMs in our 2022 State of Product Marketing Report that said they felt the role was fully understood across their organization.
While this is incrementally improving, with some companies, in particular, leading the way, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
At the same time, we’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence from our community that PMMs have been hit with redundancies and this seems to be a direct result of not being able to effectively measure the impact and prove the value of product marketing.
This means that one of our goals now is to continue positioning PMMs at the heart of GTM strategy and as a strategic driving force, not just an internal resource. Plenty of companies are now setting their teams up for success like this, but there is still a number of places where this differentiation isn’t clear and PMMs’ skills aren’t being fully utilized. After all, they aren’t content marketers!
How does it solve those problems? What is the solution PMA offers?
Lawrence: PMA offers a variety of solutions to support product marketers and non-product marketers, alike.
We collaborate with specialists plying their trade within the industry to generate leading content that helps boost awareness for those unaware of what product marketing brings to the table, and materials packed with intel that support product marketers in improving their practices.
A conscious effort is made to tackle each area in thorough detail, via our podcasts, reports, eBooks, etc. The takeaways from these resources provide product marketers with insights they can use to improve their internal processes. For example, the Competitive Intelligence Trends Report helps PMMs refine their approach to CI, while the Sales Enablement Landscape Report offers key insights into sales enablement.
Rose: When it comes to the solution we offer - we try to approach it from a number of angles. We empower PMMs with education, which is mainly from industry-leading, accredited courses, and reports.
We also equip our community with the tools, templates and frameworks they need to establish PMMs as a vital part of their teams.
We work with industry leaders to amplify their voices and share their stories on what worked, and, crucially, what didn’t work in their experience.
We enable PMMs to truly understand where they fit in the organization structure and position them for better cross-functional collaboration with the teams around them (for example, product or sales) and, as a result, lay the foundations for them to more effectively engage key stakeholders.
How does community affect the work you do?
Lawrence: Community plays a significant role in the creation of our content. Whilst we recognize we need to provide our audience with content they’ll find entertaining, it’s essential that it delivers tangible value.
Taking this into consideration, we adopt a proactive approach to communicating with our community and asking them what they’d like to include in our content calendars.
Granted, our content isn’t 100% community-led - SEO/keyword research and competitor research also have a significant role to play as we want to be reaching people outside of our community with the content we create.
However, we do seek input from our community because we know they’ll be consuming it and their opinions are incredibly valuable.
Rose: As I oversee all of the event production, I can confidently say that the PMA community affects every part of what I do there, in every way.
We live and breathe being community-led and keep it at the core of everything we do.
Whether it’s following industry and market trends to adjust the content we’re delivering, or how we deliver it, or if it’s testing and learning in a safe space with community members who are invested in our success, collaborating with PMA members is essential.
More than just a sounding board though, having a network that really understands our core mission and who looks to share their expertise and give back to the community is an unbelievable resource and one that we’re dedicated to harnessing for many years to come!
How does your content affect the rest of the community activity - such as events?
Lawrence: It’s a somewhat overused phrase and I hate throwing it out there, but content is King.
In my eyes, the content team is the oil that greases the cogs of a huge machine. Our content is used in promotional materials for our courses, e.g. LPs and brochures, we’re integral to the delivery of a breadth of sponsored products, such as podcasts, reports, and eBooks, and most recently, content’s role in events has spanned further than promotion purposes, with the incorporation of a live podcasting stage at the Product Marketing Summit in San Francisco.
In short, content plays a huge role across the company, and I’ve no doubt our contribution will continue to grow in 2023.
What have been some highlights of your work, are there times you’ve seen a real, tangible effect it’s had on members?
Lawrence: At the end of each year, we conduct a Product Marketing Salary Survey. This report is used as a reference point for our community to evaluate whether their current salary is reasonable, in preparation for salary negotiations for the upcoming year.
There’ve been instances when PMMs have indicated that the report has had a tangible impact in meetings with key stakeholders, helping them secure a much-deserved raise that’s representative of their contribution to the company’s success.
2022 was an exciting year for our podcasts, particularly SCALE: Building, Positioning, and Scaling Tech Products in Africa. Previously, we’ve found it challenging in our reports to provide a representative sample of data for product marketers from Africa, so we’re proud to have been able to give practitioners in this region their time in the spotlight.
Last year, the World Cup took place in Qatar, and I wanted to use this as an opportunity to put the role of product marketing in sporting events such as this under the microscope.
Rose: Of course! There are so many highlights from my time working here, and I’ve been lucky to see the effect of what we’re doing first-hand.
The direct link to someone joining an event and meeting a mentor, or their next boss, or hearing people work through certifications and then get a promotion is invaluable.
Bringing people together for in-person events is always a highlight, standing on stage and welcoming 400+ PMMs to Product Marketing Summit San Francisco is pretty inspiring and validating that we’re doing something right!
When we get requests from the community and are able to deliver on them, it’s so gratifying. For example, we had multiple requests for regular, small group meetings from our members in the last year, so we put our heads together and established our peer councils network.
Hearing the positive feedback and seeing projects like this taking off really drives us to continue doing what we’re doing for the community.
Have there been any setbacks in your time with PMA that have led you to change the way you fulfill your role?
Rose: The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on our event strategy. We pivoted almost overnight to a fully virtual calendar and had to get to grips with new technology and software to help us deliver this. Not to mention, the trouble of figuring out how and when to run them!
It did mean, though, that community building became our number one priority. With more downtime, and our community reevaluating their positions and how could they could learn or improve while they weren’t so busy, we knew this was the moment to amp up our mission to help PMMs to come together and develop.
Everything we did, from webinars to content creation, to podcasts or virtual meetups, fed into that.
As a result, the community and network of PMMs grew exponentially and set us up for a strong return to in-person events as soon as it was safe to do so.
It’s been important for us to continually re-evaluate how we approach accessibility, especially now that working patterns have seen such change. Daily life and the way people operate - both in terms of hiring and working - have shifted. We have to take this into account moving forwards, and ensure that people can make the most of our events from wherever they are, in whatever capacity suits their needs.
How do you benefit from the community space?
Lawrence: The community is extremely forthcoming in their willingness to contribute to the growth of Product Marketing Alliance, and product marketing, on the whole.
We’re regularly contacted by a string of PMMs keen to offer their expertise in the form of contributed content. They write contributed articles, appear as guests on our podcasts, and provide their intel with our reports.
This helps us offer an invaluable source of expert-driven knowledge for our audience, whilst enhancing the standing of the wider product marketing community.
Rose: There is so much to be gained from having that community space as a resource.
Topic inspiration is a big one, our members act as a sounding board for new ideas and a source for concepts we haven’t previously explored.
I’ve also built a great personal network of influential PMMs and leaders that are invaluable to me when it comes to building events and fostering connections.
The community offers real-time feedback on all of our projects, and the space helps to set the foundations for really meaningful, long-lasting relationships.
Finally, the PMA community has a significant reach that creates a space for local, regional, and global connections. This is incredibly important to us as we continue to bring our events - like the Product Marketing Summit - to 15 unique cities in 2023.
Many thanks to Rose and Lawrence for sharing their thoughts, experiences and insights with us.
The kind of staggering growth achieved by Product Marketing Alliance is proof that spotting a need in the market, and working to fill it with a community-led strategy can be a complete game-changer.
We hope this look inside their community can offer useful insights to those building and scaling their own communities, too.
Our How To Build An Online Brand Community Playbook is your key to hitting the ground running with a new community.
Get the tools and knowledge necessary for successful community building and download your copy now!