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  • #81: Camper Q&A: The First 90 Days

#81: Camper Q&A: The First 90 Days

How to onboard to your new product marketing role

Your first 90 days at a job can make or break your success in the role.

You need to:

  • Build trust

  • Understand the business

  • Connect with key stakeholders

  • Learn the products

  • Build momentum

All while delivering quick wins. It’s no easy task…

For this month’s Camper Q&A, I asked the leaders in the PMM Camp community to share their strategies for onboarding to a new role.

You’re going to want to take notes 📝

Here’s what members have to say about the PMM Camp community membership:

  • “I've only been reading past posts for about 10 minutes, and I've already bookmarked 7 things to go back and dig in more. This is the most value-packed community I'm a part of!”

  • Tamara has built a wonderful, supportive, inviting and (most importantly for me) "not judge'y" space of sharing and collaboration. I really like that we're all like-minded product marketers, so we "get" each other. Grateful to be a part of this "team."

  • “I was struggling to find a community of product marketers where you could ask questions, get feedback, or share templates. I highly recommend this community to anyone looking to advance in the PMM field.”

Join today to find out why we’re better together 👯‍♀️ 200+ PMM leaders are waiting for you inside.

What’s the best way to onboard to a new product marketing role?

Here’s what four product marketing leaders (and community members!) had to say about how to set yourself up for success from day one👇🏻

Director of Product Marketing at EarnIn

I'm a big fan of the approach from The First 90 Days. I don't think we necessarily need to reinvent the path in that regard! But some additional points I like to dig into upfront that are possibly a bit contradictory:

  1. Data and business metrics: Many would argue you need to understand the product before getting deep in the data. I like to let the deep data dives drive my curiosity and questions about the product right upfront. It's uncomfortable but helps drive "why" questions which reveal so much.

  2. Processes: How are things done? What steps (PRDs, Design steps, Roadmap, planning, GTM approach, Communication, eg Slack, standups, program plans, etc.) Is it documented? Where can I learn about the approach for successful and unsuccessful beta, customer, and market launches? I want to know what has gone wrong and what's already been learned.

  3. Execution: I like to immediately plug myself into work, whether it's a design sprint, a broader program, a strategy initiative. ( Ideally all of the above in the first 90 days.) I want to be a fly on the wall at a tactical level and a strategic level. I'll probably ask dumb questions and contribute very little upfront, but by the end I've got a great idea of where we can improve, how folks communicate, and how things are done.

Competitive Positioning Advisor & Founder

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I think the best way to get familiar with the business and the market fast is by doing a win/loss review, even if it's quick and dirty.

Chasing X customer interviews would feel impossible (probably is), so instead:

  • Look at CRM data from the last 12-24 months, depends on the length of the sales cycle, product changes over time, etc

  • Look at win rates, sales velocity, use cases, ACV, verticals and customer tiers. Start gathering patterns about segments and dive into win/loss reasons

  • This is when you'll start having some hypotheses - ask for AE/SCM time to go through specific deals that stand out to you

  • Bonus step: you'll also start building rapport with them. They'll often share more than you ask (I find them to be usually really appreciative someone in marketing cares enough to dive this deep)

<this alone will bring you very much up to speed on your sellers, business, even messaging>

  • Share what you learned, and what hypotheses you have now

  • With marketing, sales, the exec team, and maybe the entire company (each of these might need to be different in the level of detail)

<this part establishes you as a partner, and as someone who brings value almost immediately>


Another thing I like to do is to start a 'Talya's notes' doc with things I pick up along the way:

  • Main selling points in demos or sales calls (which I will stress test going forward)

  • 'Our words vs. their words' - what language the company uses (website, sellers, assets) vs. customers' (call recordings are my go-to for that at that stage)

  • Notes about competitors

  • Notes from speaking to internal stakeholders

  • Questions about product ('do prospects ever ask about ____', 'have we ever considered doing _____')

I like to share it with my manager even after the first week and get their reaction async or during our next 1:1. Sometimes they'd add more context, or validate a real gap. Either way I found this to be greatly appreciated (surprise and delight kinda vibe).

Both of these tactics have not only helped me to onboard quickly, but also to shape the next 60 days and set the tone for my time at the company. First impressions really do matter.

Director of Product Marketing at Onfido

My approach typically depends on the size of the business and how mature their understanding of PMM is — in some places that are smaller, you can get a lay of the land faster, while in others, it needs a more "softly softly" approach.

At any rate, I like to split things into "chapters" that are focussed on getting to know and delivering value both for my internal customers and, well, the actual customers.

🤔 The first 30 days is all about understanding

  • Having a lot of 1:1s with Product, Marketing, Sales, CS, and SEs to understand a. what they understand PMM to be, what they'd like it to be, how they work, etc., b. big gaps to fill, and c. how they pitch the product (I also like to see a demo and get my hands dirty here myself).

  • Having even more 1:1s with Sales to understand who they target at an ICP level, unpacking their most recent wins and losses, and doing the same with Marketing to understand ICP, personas, and traction.

  • Taking time for desk research to get to know the market — reading up on competitor websites, sifting through competitor collateral, playing around with competitor products to get a sense of how others are solving this problem. Doing the same with analysts, too.

  • If I can get away with it, talking directly to customers to understand why they love us, unpacking as much of their JTBD as possible (using a tweaked version of this interview); I've also had success with politely asking if we can run a Sean Ellis-esque NPS survey at smaller businesses, which has been SO helpful in terms of giving me a clearer overview.

🎳 The next 60 days is all about establishing and getting wins on the board

  • Turning some of the above internal interviews and my own view of PMM to build something of a PMM charter — in my view, it's not enough to just cook up a charter, you need to really take the time to run "roadshows" with specific teams, and provide tangible examples of how this intersects with their worlds.

  • Hopefully some of the initial conversations revealed a few "well, if we could solve this now, that'd be great" items — if there's real impact there, I like to get some wins on the board early and deliver some of those more tactical items as this really helps build credibility.

  • I also like to get started with templatising and frameworkifying (let's pretend these are real words, folks) the big ticket items in my PMM charter — this usually looks like introducing more structure around launches, creating positioning templates (such as these from the ever-referenceable April Dunford), and building messaging templates (I have my own templates I'm happy to share here). Why build templates before you've scaled the function? It's really easy to put this off forever, at which point the process has defined itself before you get the chance to.

🏑 From there on out, it's a case of expanding and iterating — I won't bore everyone with a list here, but I typically like to syndicate processes / ways of working with other teams, introduce PMM metrics once we've found what works for that business, and settle into more of a BAU pattern.

Director of Product Marketing at Salesintel.io

I've always gone on a listening tour, where I can meet 1:1 with XF partners especially in Product, Sales, and CS to uncover (a) their understanding of PMM as a function, (b) what strategic gaps exist in the org right now, and (c) what could I do right now to get a quick win. However, I also like to meet 1:1 with the top AEs and CSMs to understand why we are winning deals, why customers stay with us, and the converse. I take the time to ask all the "dumb" questions I can think of, to get up-to-speed as quickly as possible.

I also like to onboard on the product, as a new AE would. This way I really get to know how to use the product and how to demo it, which helps me create videos, talk about the product, and be able to follow what's going on.

In the past, I've also created a charter to share what I'll be doing as a PMM to set expectations and share with the rest of the org (I've only done this as a solo PMM), which I update each quarter. I also bring with me a launch framework from past roles, which I modify for each role but always use this as a starting point.

There's so much promise in a new role - it's definitely an exciting time!


📚 Reading List: The First 90 Days was referenced by many community members and is the go-to book for onboarding to any new role (even an internal promotion!).

🗓️ Events: You’re invited to summer camp, product marketing style — for free! 1 topic. 4 speakers. 1 strategy. Walk away with a step-by-step guide to identifying your ICP and building a holistic marketing plan. Register for free.

🎧 Playlist: The FINAL episode of Ready for Launch dropped, and we need your help choosing the winner. It’s a 3-way season tie, and the winner from this episode takes the crown.

Until next week,

Tamara Grominsky

When you’re ready, here’s a few ways I can help:

  • Learn the true meaning of “better together”. Join PMM Camp, the only community built for (and by) product marketing leaders. 200+ Campers are waiting to welcome you inside camp 👯‍♀️

  • Need a product marketing mentor? Book a 45-minute 1:1 session with me to cover any topic of your choice.

  • Level-up your launch game. Join the next cohort of Ready for Launch and learn how to nail launches from start to finish — from research and strategy, to execution and measurement. Class starts August 29.