GTM Strategy

The CMO’s Guide to Winning: Part 1 of 2

As a CMO, you’ve got BIG goals to achieve. Unfortunately, CMOs have the briefest tenure among the C-Suite per Harvard Business Review, dropping to an average of approximately 40 months in 2020. You’re under a lot of pressure to win (and to win Big). We all play to win.
GTM Strategy

The CMO’s Guide to Winning: Part 1 of 2

As a CMO, you’ve got BIG goals to achieve. Unfortunately, CMOs have the briefest tenure among the C-Suite per Harvard Business Review, dropping to an average of approximately 40 months in 2020. You’re under a lot of pressure to win (and to win Big). We all play to win.
Rowan Noronha
Founder at Product Marketing Community

But winning is hard, losing is easy. In the world of sales and marketing, this couldn’t be more true. 

Today’s buyers are empowered. 

They have many choices—along with a host of tools and communities to guide their decisions. They’ve come to expect far more from suppliers than just a polished one-pager and a scripted pitch. 

Buyers want suppliers to have a deep understanding of their needs. Someone who they trust will listen to them, and provide a richer, more personalized experience.  

In Part 1 of a two-part series, we’ll share:

  • How and why CMOs can increase their odds of winning by working with Product Marketing leaders to craft a solid corporate strategy.
  • The importance of taking a strategic approach to brand strategy (it’s more than just color, font and design, folks!). 
  • Why CMOs need Product Marketing leaders at their side to help their companies position to W.I.N. 

In Part 2, we’ll go more in-depth on the Position to W.I.N. framework. You’ll learn what it means to W.I.N. in today’s competitive marketplace with actionable advice on how to do it.

How product marketing helps CMOs win

If you Google “product marketing”, you won’t find any origin stories. There’s no written history. There’s no timeline and no original visionary. Still, product marketing has proven that it’s a non-negotiable core function of any marketing team. 

“The most strategic role in marketing is the product marketer. They are responsible for understanding the market and working with product to align the roadmap to a market-leading vision. Then to work with sales on crafting stories aligning capabilities with customer’s needs, sprinkled with indefensible uniqueness.”  Sydney Sloan, Former CMO & PMM Executive, Salesloft & Adobe

But what does product marketing actually do and, more importantly, how do they help you win?

Product marketing bridges the gap between those who “build” and those who “sell.” 

Product marketing’s role is to collaborate with the builders (product management, engineering, quality assurance) and the sellers (marketing, sales, customer success, services). 

Product marketing is the discipline of bringing a product to market and keeping it there. 

Even simpler—Product Marketing helps companies… 


We are both marketers and architects of growth (Marchitects, if you will).

Product marketers report to the Chief Marketing Officer. Why not the Chief Product Officer?


To answer that, let’s delineate the two:


●  The product manager guides idea-to-product and reduces friction for users.

●  The product marketer guides the product to market and reduces friction for buyers.


Do you see the difference?


The hero for the product marketer is the buyer.


The buyer is the first stakeholder CMOs must win with to drive growth and ROI. Or as Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing says:

“Product marketing isn’t about the product. It’s really about stories, centered around the buyer.  Their problems, their outcomes. Your product is an enabler of their success and a secondary part of the product marketing messaging framework.”

To win, you need to focus. To create focus, you need to make choices. To make choices, you need to ask questions. 

And product marketers are really good at asking the right questions. 

Ask the hard questions to build your corporate strategy

The CMO, alongside the leadership team, needs to make an integrated set of choices that uniquely position a firm in its industry to create a sustainable advantage. This is how you build a solid corporate strategy. 


Strategy is about making choices, pure and simple. Strategy is not complex, but it is hard.

A product marketer can help ask and answer the questions that align everyone to make specific choices about how to win.

The following five cascading questions from A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin’s Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works guidebook are a great place to start. 


  1. What is your winning aspiration?

You first need to clarify the purpose of your enterprise, your mission or your winning aspiration. The term "winning" means different things to different people, so the first step in developing your strategy is to define who you will win with (target customers) and who you will win against (current, emerging, and adjacent competitors).

“When we start a positioning exercise for a new product or feature, three important questions we ask are; Who is our target customer? What problem are they trying to solve? And what are they comparing us to? Those questions set the stage for any positioning work we do.” Jason Oakley, Sr. Director PMM, Klue
  1. Where will you play?

Next, you must identify a playing field wherein you can realize your aspiration. No company can be all things to all people so where-to-play choices—which markets, customer segments, channels, industries, and geographies—narrow your focus.

“When thinking of where to play, don’t just address your total addressable market, which is far too broad. Product marketers should help their companies get focused by understanding the TRM - total relevant market. TRM is the best market you can win, and win big.”  Sangram Vajre, WSJ bestselling author, Co-founder Terminus and Peak Community 

  1. How can you win there?

Determine which activities underpin your competitive advantage. This is the recipe for success in your chosen market, customer segments, geographies, and so on. Remember, how-to-win is linked to where-to-win—you're not trying to win everywhere but in your nominated domains.

“How you win is all about positioning. In a crowded market, you win on differentiation. Your entire thrust as a product team and a marketing team needs to be about getting past table stakes and deepening that differentiation. In a blue-ocean market, you win by identifying and defining the problem. You win through having empathy for what buyers are going through and offering, for the first time, a better way.” Meghan Keaney Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer, The Wanderlust Group

  1. What capabilities do you need?

Specify the range and set of activities that will enable you to win. Map out the competencies that your organization requires to successfully execute your strategy. Consider how these capabilities will combine and reinforce each other to generate an enduring advantage.

  1. What management systems will be required?

Successful strategy execution comes down to the systems that support sustained delivery. Identify the prioritization tools your team needs to stay on course and the measurement systems required to know you're making progress.


Successfully navigating these five questions will align your organization around a disciplined strategy for winning.

Strong brands win more

Your corporate strategy sets the foundation for how to win.


Your brand helps you sustain your winning position.

Many people still make the mistake of correlating brand to creative execution—a logo, a color palette, a nice story. But there is always more to the story.

"Brand is too important to leave it solely to Marketing. It needs to be something the entire company gets behind and it starts with the CEO. At Gong, a big part of our brand promise is memorialized in our eight operating principles. Our #1 principle is, "Create Raving Fans." Every Gongster lives by this principle, whether they're a support engineer, a payroll professional, or a salesperson. Creating raving fans has become a huge part of our brand promise and something our customers clearly see us delivering, consistently." Udi Ledergor CMO, Gong

I was taught brand strategy by the firm Level5 Strategy Group

They believe a brand is the Value of a Promise Consistently Kept. 

Let’s break it down: 

  • The value for businesses and customers is created by understanding and prioritizing the right rational and emotional drivers to create product-market fit.

  • Compelling promises are simple, differentiating and inspiring, and they should act as the glue that holds the product, experience, and marketing together. 

  • Consistently keeping a promise is the material from which unicorns are made. Brand building truly delivers value if that promise is deeply understood and embedded in every function’s priorities and decision-making.

My good friend, Sean Pavlidis, from Level5, weighs in: 

“Too often in the technology space I see organizations go through re-branding processes which really boils down to tweaking their messaging and visual identity and pushing it through the marketing and sales organization. Without investing the time and energy to engage and embed the promise into the broader business you’re setting yourself up to oversell and create misalignment with the product organization. Ultimately the CEO, CMO, and CPO need to be on the same page or you’re building a campaign, not a brand.”

The role of product marketers is to help CMOs craft and keep their promises. 

Product marketing knows what questions to ask to help you iterate on your corporate and brand strategies to ensure that growth is sustainable. Even as your product and the market continue to evolve. 

“Everyone always says great product marketers are storytellers. True! But remember your childhood. What did you do before telling stories to other kids? You listened to older kids' stories. Same here. Great product marketers are listeners. They listen to their buyers' pains, drivers, and frustrations. They ALWAYS have the buyer's hat on. Then they can start telling stories.” Julien Sauvage, Former PMM executive, Gong & Salesforce

The mandate of the product marketer is to help companies… 


In Part 2 we’ll explore exactly how product marketing does this with a deep dive into the W.I.N. framework:

●  Who you are going to win with and who you are going to win against

●  Impact you provide through the value you offer

●  Narrative you need to craft internally and externally to convey your value

Until then, CMOs and Product Marketing leaders, let me know how you help your companies win?

Feel free to connect with my on Linkedin and say hi!