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The Ultimate 30-60-90 day Playbook for Product Marketers

The first 90 days on a new job is usually the most critical and challenging period in your professional career - the actions you take (or don’t take) during your first 90 days will largely determine whether you succeed or fail. Even those who pass the period may do things that hinder career progress. 

But it does not have to be a time fraught with only anxiety, overwork, sensory overload, and a singular focus to impress. With the right strategy and approach, you can rise above the challenge, start the role with a bang, and do so without burnout. 

Today, I will share my playbook on how to onboard as a PMM, with research gathered first-hand from having helped dozens of clients ace their 90 days, and having done so myself and risen from a newbie PMM to director within 3 years. 

Before we dive into the content today, I want to note that this newsletter is the last part of a four-part series on landing your dream job in product marketing:   

The 5 Most Common Onboarding Mistakes PMMs Make 

Doing too much 

In the early days, you want to impress your new team by trying to build every pillar from the start. Not only is this confusing to colleagues about your priorities, but burnout can happen, and you run the risk of each pillar being just “okay” but not great. 

In reality, you do not have to build every part of PMM all at once - start with what is most aligned with the company’s goals/OKRs. And work with your manager to strategically add work when you nail each pillar. 

Falling into the action trap 

Similarly, you believe that to show value quickly, you must produce outputs as quickly as possible. Doing so without understanding the context or having enough research will make your work seem sloppy and unnecessary. You risk suggesting the wrong type of work, working on irrelevant projects, or doing things that have already been done. 

Setting unrealistic expectations 

You agree to do too much or propose doing too much without pushback, but this will almost always cause you to fail to deliver on everything, which will harm your reputation.  It’s always better to plan a tight set of tactics aligned with your manager than to create a lot of output that isn’t aligned with their goals.

Work only to impress 

When you only work to impress, you stop asking hard questions and only focus on doing things to make yourself look smart. We’ve all worked with that type of person, and you’ve likely seen that it doesn’t get them far.

Learning things the wrong way 

You spend too much time learning anything thrown your way instead of trying to learn smart by harvesting the existing institutional knowledge. Often, much of the information you need to succeed exists already within a handful of teams at your new company. Assume it does, until proven otherwise.

Instead Of The Above, Here Are 6 Things You SHOULD Do:

Reset your mind 

It’s extremely easy to let an old job or a prior bad experience affect how we perceive and approach a new role. But remember to reset your mind, let go of any baggage when you start a role, and give yourself the mental space to prepare yourself for the new role strategically. Tactics essential in a previous company may not apply here. For instance, marketing may not have a strong relationship with product (yet!), or maybe goals are more/less aggressive. These all will change the things you do when you’re starting out. 

Match your activities to your team’s and company’s goals 

Different goals require different activities. For instance, if your company is struggling with closing deals in the later stages of the sales cycle and is trying to increase win rate, you should focus on sales enablement instead of top-funnel website traffic. 

I can’t overstate how critical it is to align your work with the goals and challenges of the company.

Learn smartly

As mentioned before, create a strong learning plan for yourself that starts from the most important business fundamentals (understand how the business works), product marketing fundamentals, and then tap internal knowledge centers to get the most important information quickly. 

Secure early wins 

The earlier you can create value correctly, the faster you can earn trust. So, in the early days, notice the low-hanging fruit opportunities and deliver them quickly. This could be improving a pitch deck, building collateral, or anything that takes less than weeks or months but only days to deliver. (Make sure these early wins are aligned with the team’s biggest goals or challenges)

Establish a feedback loop with your manager

The most important person in this new role is your manager. So you have to get their feedback quickly and establish clear expectations. Voice how you’d like to be managed, communicate when the workload is unrealistic, and actively seek feedback on what you should continue, stop, or start doing. 

Build horizontal relationships and add value

The role of PMM is unique because it is a connector role. Your success depends on the value you add to other teams: product, sales, and customer success, for instance. You need to immediately figure out whose support is essential for your success and unlock how to add value to them so they are on your side. 

The Ultimate 90-Day Playbook for Product Marketers

With that said, what specific things should you be doing in the first 30-60-90 days? This section will explain it. Here is the caveat: this playbook is a framework that should be adjusted based on your unique needs.

The key principle to keep in mind is the concept of break-even. Your goal in a new job is to reach that point as quickly as possible, where the value you add is greater than the value you consume. This is why they can justify your salary. No matter what people say, your first 90 days are NOT just to learn.  

You need to do three things concurrently: 1) learn (consume value), 2) deliver (produce value), and 3) network (helps you both consume value faster and produce value faster). 

The Ultimate 30-60-90 Day Onboarding Plan for PMMs

🌱 30 Days:

Goal: Establish trust and credibility

When you are new on a job, you want to establish trust quickly so you feel validated and your manager feels they made the right hiring decision. Building trust requires 1) making people feel heard and 2) adding value.

This means that you also need to deliver results and build relationships in addition to learning. Focus on getting a core understanding of the market, customer, and product and then tackle 1-2 small (but high-priority) projects to show value. 

Most importantly, go on a listening tour to understand the needs of your key stakeholders (sales, PM, marketing team) and create a gap analysis of the key needs you see. This also gives you great ideas on what the quick wins are. 

🌿 60 Days:

Goal: Deliver larger wins, keep learning

With some small wins under your belt, it’s time to move on to larger wins. Using the gap analysis you developed, come up with a project plan that you can share with your manager and get it prioritized. I recommend using the 2x2 difficulty/important matrix to rank your projects.

This is also a stage where you can dive deeper into customer insights, perhaps conduct some interviews on your own, and start talking to more stakeholders to map out a 360 view of the key centers of influence around the company.

🌳 90 Days

Goal: Ramp up for peak performance (and cross the break-even threshold)

With some larger projects moving forward and a plan in place, this is a great time to start improving your plan based on any feedback you have heard.

This is also a time to start SOCIALIZING the deliverables you have completed, the results you achieved, and your future plan. Socializing your wins and next steps with other teams is especially important for solo PMMs who must educate other teams on the value of product marketing. In these meetings, you want to invite conversation and partnership opportunities that will further enhance your social capital.

Being this intentional with your first 90 days requires discipline, planning, thinking ahead, and open communication with your new manager and team. It’s harder to go about it this way than to just put your head down and knock out a lot of work, but the impact on your long-term success in your new role is much greater.

Also - you don’t have to go at it alone. My onboarding coaching offering (Grow program) helps product marketers in new roles excel in their first 90 days, setting the foundation for a great run.

Other resources 

Speaking of making sure your work fits into your company goals/challenges…here’s another way to think about this, which I explored on LinkedIn last week: 

Great product marketing requires a balance between strategic and tactical work.

If you do too much strategy, you have nothing to show for results in the short term.

If you do too much tactical work, you become an order taker and drive no influence.

You need to have a balance between the two, which means understanding there is a spectrum of PMM work and where each task falls on the spectrum.

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