The Reporting Structure Dilemma


One of the most common dilemmas while creating a Product Marketing (PMM) team is which reporting structure should the team fall under. Since the team does a lot of outbound communication, it makes sense for the team to report to the Marketing organization. On the other hand, it is tied at the hip with the Product team and cutting this tie might just alienate the entire team from the Product org. Hence, the dilemma…

I believe that the right answer lies within each company and how the company is structured. Also, to keep in mind, are the power centers within the company.  Depending on various factors, in some companies the Product team will be stronger and will decide what product and feature is built and when. In some other companies, Marketing and Sales teams can weigh in strongly into the product roadmap.  Based on this ethos, Product Marketing teams might want to align themselves differently.


Strong Marketing; Strong Product

In case both the Marketing team and the Product team within the company are strong and there is a healthy working relationship between the two teams, then it works best for the PMM team to have dotted line reporting to both the Product and Marketing teams. This ensures that PMM becomes the link joining the two teams and can function keeping the best interest of both teams in mind.

Another option is to create a third ladder for just Product Marketing in case there is a strong senior member in the team. However, in most companies, Product Marketing would report to one of the two ladders and not create a third one.


Strong Product

If the company product strategy is purely decided and run by the Product team within the company, then it is a good idea for PMM to report to the Product team. It is also important to hire senior resources in the PMM team to ensure that the Product Managers respect the PMM team members and not just use them as mouth pieces. To make sure that the Marketing team has a say in the product roadmap, a critical function of the PMM team would be to create detailed MRDs and ensure that the Product Managers consider these MRDs while created the product roadmap.


Strong Marketing

If the Marketing or Sales team within the company is the power center and is responsible for driving the product roadmap, then it makes sense for PMM to report to Marketing. In this case, it would be sufficient to have mid-level PMM personnel and invest the resources to get senior level product members to make the Product team stronger. It is important that the PMM team members are strong in their soft skills to make sure that the Product team that they liaison with feel empowered and a part of the decision making process.


A few other things to consider while deciding the reporting structure would be

  1. Physical presence of the teams – If the marketing/sales teams sit in one region and the product/engineering team sits in another region, it might help to have the PMM team across both regions so that they can be a true bridge. This also would impact the reporting structure.
  2. The challenges at hand – A PMMs role varies across a range of different activities from understanding and creating MRDs to enabling sales to understand products and sell better. There is a whole gamut of activities in between as well as beyond. So, it is a good idea to chalk out the current gaps in the organization that the PMM person needs to fill and then decide reporting structure based on which team will allow the PMM person to best address those gaps.
  3. Seniority of the current PMM team and future plans – Based on the current team as well as budget available to hire future team members, the PMM team org structure could vary. If you already have a strong PMM team as well as a strong Product team but a junior Marketing team, then you might want to balance the situation out by merging the PMM and Marketing team to make it equally strong.


Net net, there is no cookie cutter solution to where the Product Marketing team fits. But there usually is a good solution for each organization. It just boils down to creating an environment for the PMM team to function without being bullied and deliver results that can be tangible.


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