A Product Marketer’s Journey in An IPO-Bound Company

Navigating the transition from a private company to a publicly traded company is a pivotal and exciting moment for any organization. It is even more so for product marketers. This journey brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities in their responsibilities and strategies.

In this episode, Rossmary Gil-Tian, a seasoned product marketer joins Louise Liu to discuss the experiences and insights of her company’s transition from private to IPO. She also shares the challenges, strategies, and key learnings from this transformative journey.

Listen to the full interview above or read on for the highlights from the conversation.

Episode Highlights

Your role evolved from the senior product marketer to the director of product marketing as the company grew towards an IPO. How did you navigate the transition ?

At the time of my transition, we had just been acquired by Vista Equity Partners. The 4th largest software company in the world. There were a lot of changes happening throughout the company at that time. More significantly was the turnover of staff on the product marketing team, which required me to rebuild the product marketing team from scratch with a newly hired senior product marketer and friend, Alynn. What did this mean?

I went from owning 3 product lines within one business line to owning over 10+ products across two of the business lines. Alynn took on the third business line.

And it just kept getting better – this was all happening at the end of Q3, leading into Q4. As a marketing team, we were at a point of re-engineering all of our go-to-market operations and software while also working on two big projects that directly impacted product marketing heavily:

  1. Buyer Persona Research which we outsourced to BPI – the Buyer Persona Institute per Vista recommendation to help us move fast and 
  2. Creating our Marketing Plan for the new year – of which Product Marketing provides the foundation per the product roadmap 

It was the most amazing opportunity as it allowed me to imagine a new world for product marketing and that began with how we operated and roles & responsibilities of the team that I was now going to build. 

I needed to hire three new product marketers and this meant I needed to do a few things to onboard them rapidly as we were in hypergrowth. I set to work on: creating a new, easily repeatable GTM process including a standard GTM Brief and templates to be used, and how I grouped product lines per product marketer to own. At a cross-functional level – I led ideating and rolling out to stakeholders GTM Tiering with SLAs and Activities per tier.

All of this allowed me to showcase both my strategic and tactical sides as I worked on everything critical until I had the team re-staffed out.  I was able to build direct relationships with all the stakeholders working on go-to-market across the two business lines, and that strengthened my ability to lead with confidence.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a product marketer during the company’s growth phase, and how did you overcome them?

We were going through explosive growth and the spotlight, especially from the board, came onto Product Marketing. We became the pet project of one of the Chairman’s of the Board after our acquisition by Vista. His aim was to essentially level us up and improve how we operated and executed. His outsider perspective was really refreshing and all his career experience was game changing for us. As difficult as it was to iterate as rapidly as we did, it actually really helped us as the CMO, Maria, also began to hyper-focus on us with him. She had a product marketing background, which really helped as we kept leveling up as a product marketing team. Maria also brought in a seasoned product marketing consultant, Liza, to help support the team with all the work happening while also helping to level up the team on the more strategic projects we were tackling. At the same time, we were also adopting and making our own all the Vista recommended ways to operate as a Product Marketing team.

I would say overcoming the spotlight focus and implementing Vista recommendations, which introduced plenty of challenges, was easy in the sense that I felt super supported. With that support, I was able to show more support and love to my team as well as cross-functional teams which were also experiencing the impact of the challenges we were working through. 

Overall, it was very much a ‘One Team’ mentality as we re-engineered and leveled up both our strategic and tactical approaches, as well as how we managed the go-to-market engine and drove growth and revenue through our areas of expertise and ownership.

Overcoming the challenges is very much about having the right mindset and personality to handle it. I reminded myself and my team to take it all in stride. Agility is the name of the game. I always hire product marketers who are curious, creative, collaborative and gritty. The Product Marketing career track is well suited for those that enjoy the long game – it’s a marathon, but know how to sprint with ease and enjoy the rush of spontaneity. 

What lessons you believe are valuable for other product marketers, especially those working in fast-growing companies?

I would say it’s about having fundamental pillars of operating:

Agile

How you respond to every interaction and project must be with agility. You can only plan so much, the rest you take it in stride and go where the wind blows you. Product Marketing, at any stage and at any level, is a very spontaneous role – you can only plan maybe 30% of your day and the rest – you have to give yourself grace as requests come in from sales, the marketing team, the product team, etc. 

Methodical

Being structured will save you and everyone around you so much time. Putting structure introduces organization and predictability. This automatically introduces confidence, trust, and clarity into every interaction you have with your peers. 

How I do this is across three pillars:

Communication style:

    • Being structured and organized in your communication and execution are paramount.  You have to be clear with yourself, and with everyone around you.
    • Are you more productive via email, slack, on a call, working in a shared document?
    • Are you someone that asks a lot of questions upfront or you need time to regroup and will come back later?
    • Do you think on the spot easily or do you need to marinate on it before you come back with an informed response?

    Work style:

      • What’s the best way to work with you
      • How you like to work with others

      Execution abilities:

      • What you can deliver
      • What you can’t deliver
      • When you need help
        Creative

        Thinking outside the box and being willing to do what hasn’t been done before, but at times also leveraging what’s worked in the past and refreshing it – are all good. Brainstorming with peers will also generate ideas faster than working in silo – so don’t be afraid to schedule 1:1 or small group sessions – just be clear on goal and objectives, and the desired end result of the meeting – as well as next steps if more is needed after the session.

        Overcoming the challenges is very much about having the right mindset and personality to handle it. I reminded myself and my team to take it all in stride. Agility is the name of the game. I always hire product marketers who are curious, creative, collaborative and gritty. The Product Marketing career track is well suited for those that enjoy the long game – it’s a marathon, but know how to sprint with ease and enjoy the rush of spontaneity. 

        About Guest

        Rossmary Gil-Tian is a bilingual, catalytic marketing executive with an NYU Master’s in Marketing. She has over 15 years of experience in product and growth marketing across B2B2C SaaS enterprise software and start-ups. She’s worked across AdTech, MedTech, and Wellness companies in HyperGrowth & Startup stages seeking Private Equity and Public listings. Her career began with AI contributions in the MedTech space saving lives, continued as a product marketing leader working in deep tech, first-to-market AI offerings and more recently as a marketer across a variety of industries. 

        She champions revolutionary innovation and solving real-world problems through strategic thought, collaboration, and offerings. 

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