Your Product Narrative Determines Your Product Marketing Maturity

How mature do you think your product marketing team is?


While working with companies in crafting and fixing their product narratives, I noticed a correlation: the state of your product narrative can give you a good pulse check of the maturity of your product marketing team.

I’ve come across three main types of product narratives & product marketing teams:

The first type of product narrative is a narrative. . . . that doesn’t exist. The product marketing team has messaging & value propositions, a marketing strategy, a one-pager, customer stories, and content, but…no product narrative. No cohesive end-to-end framing of their product story.

This type of product marketing team is “organic.” They are catering to a lot of masters with a lot of different ideas. This product marketing team may have good ingredients, and everybody from the CMO to product managers is throwing them into the pot. Their CEO may wake up every day of the week and have a new idea for a tagline or product name. This product marketing team is not going to win any cooking awards, but they’re also not going to kill anybody.

The goal for this product marketing team is to craft their first product narrative and get it into market as fast as possible. Get some kind of edible meal out there for your customers. Even if your CEO hates the recipe, if you’ve done a good job and your customers love it, you’ll have data, sales, and customer feedback to support your position and perhaps successfully defend the narrative. To see what you need to put together a great product story take a look HERE.

The second type of product marketing team is “purposeful.” They realize that their product narrative is incomplete or broken, and they need to change it. Sales has been telling them it isn’t working with their target audience or the business wants to pursue a new market.

This PMM team has a few buying cycles under their belt and they know they need to intentionally craft a compelling story that understands the pain points of their buyer persona. They have enough experience in the kitchen that they aren’t going to just try and throw ingredients into a pot again. They’re using a cookbook. It’s intentional. They may not be Steve Jobs, but there’s going to be storytelling strategy and differentiation. They are going to taste test and tweak the product storytelling so their customers love the recipe, leave reviews, and come back for more.

The growth challenges this PMM team will face is in really understanding the user’s problems at the category level. Many maturing product marketing teams get stuck talking about their product features, what their product does, why their user needs it. They do all of this before getting everyone to align on what the category problem is first. You need to really understand what your product’s category is to understand how your customers may be even entering into that category.

This product marketing team will also continue to be challenged by many stakeholders, and maybe even more than before. Everybody is going to want to contribute to the product story, whether they have the expertise to or not. The challenge is to stay the course and keep reminding everyone that the product narrative is the story the customer needs to hear. Not the story the CMO wants to tell, not the five-point framework the product team wants to land, and not the data slides the CEO is obsessed with. Ground yourself in customer feedback, analyst reviews, qualitative and quantitative testing, and executive roundtables. Source the feedback you need to keep everyone on course.

The last type of product marketing team is “transformational.” They once were the organic folks who didn’t have a product narrative, but they finally got one into market and begin to revise, reinvent, and expand it. They have a few fiscal halves or years under their belt of iterating on their narrative in market and they’ve figured out how to move with the market and their customers to get ahead of their product narrative and prevent it from breaking.

They have a good story and they have a rhythm with how they refresh it. The story is so good that they are actually chefs. They know how to take ingredients their customers love and make something meaningful and delicious. It’s compelling and urgent, has emotional connection, and great storytelling techniques that help frame the dry, logical parts of your product.


What makes this product marketing team transformational is that now they think about their product narrative as connected to a strategy. It’s a strategic narrative for the whole fiscal year. They’ve actually written the cookbook on product storytelling strategy. They know what the 90 spices are in their spice rack whereas before they could only use salt and pepper.


When they sit down to write their product narrative strategy, they think of it as a trilogy.


Right after their sales kick-off in Q1, they launch their new product narrative. This is the anchoring product story for the year. Like in Lord of the Rings, the first movie brings the Fellowship together to plan their journey.

The second Lord of the Rings movie brings in new characters, settings and adventures. Similarly, they build on their product story in Q2, launching new roadmap features that connect to their main product story and build their product value.

At this point, they’ve had 6 months to see how their product narrative is doing in the market. If it’s not resonating at all, their Q3 narrative becomes a re-education of their category.

Just like in LOTR, the characters end up altering their journey of the ring, he transformational product marketing team does a content audit to understand the gaps their target audience has between their product story and the content nurture they need.

If they see the product narrative is resonating, in addition to feature launches, they know Q3 is a great time to run spin-off sequels (marketing campaigns) that support the top enterprise accounts, industries or LOB they are nurturing to provide targeted air cover for sales for the second half of the year. They take the best campaigns and add them as templates into their product narrative strategy cookbook.

Q4 is the time they look back at the whole year and see what messaging, content, and case studies resonated the most.

They finish the year with two marketing strategies:

  1. Driving a consistent narrative with bundled Best of The Year work for a final nurture push.

  2. Looking at their warm leads, and figuring out the best Q4 marketing activity for them to flip to qualified, for a fast start batch for sales in Q1.


The challenge for transformational product marketing teams is to always be pushing themselves to do more great storytelling. The corporate gravitational pull is strong to give your customers five-point frameworks, 10 slide decks, and emotionless, dense Zoom presentations about what your product does. Leadership may think in logic instead of story.

Prove them wrong.

Become the best friend of sales by giving them great stories to tell. This is possible, but you need to step outside of your fears, do something different, and risk being a storyteller.

Which product marketing team are you a part of?

If you’re not on a transformational team, what will you do to make your team transformational?

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