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What advice do you have for recent graduates that want to go straight into product marketing?

Typically, these roles require 3-5 years of experience and/or an MBA. Are there roles we should target instead that will help transition into product marketing? What qualities do you want to see in young professionals that want to land in product marketing?
10 Answers
Manav Tandon
Manav Tandon
Cisco Head of Product Marketing, Collaboration SaaSFebruary 16

You should seek out product marketing specialist roles. In such a role you'll get to help product marketing managers conduct market, customer and competitive research, analyze data on product adoption and new customer acquisition, and develop marketing content and sales collateral. You'll have opportunities to learn from the PMMs the more strategic aspects of product marketing, i.e. customer segmentation, positioning and messaging, while you deliver tactical and tangible assets like drafting blog posts, infographics, video scripts, etc. that can be leveraged in demand gen campaigns, lead nurture journeys and customer success initiatives. Alternatively, you can look for roles that'll help you build out the skillset you'll need for a product marketing career, e.g. content marketing, sales enablement, partner marketing or sales enablement.

1155 Views
Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Howl VP of Product MarketingMay 25

Product Marketing Specialists, Associates or General Marketing Specialist roles are good roles to kick-off your career in Product Marketing. They all will require you to develop Product Marketing skillsets and eventually become proficient in them -- including areas like working with Product/Tech teams to define product strategy, defining and understanding your target audience, launching a new product, feature, or service, running end-to-end marketing campaigns, etc. The difference is typically the scale - in more junior roles, you'd be doing one or two of things above vs. all of them, and would likely be focused on a smaller product and/or service the company provides. 

When I hire junior PMM, I care about a couple of things: 1) Being exposed enough to these areas to show high-level understanding of how they work and why they matter, 2) Execution, Execution, Execution. Depth in a couple of these areas above so I can assess how they execute a PMM related-project end-to-end. 3) User-centricity. This can be shown through their day-to-day job as well as just curiosity for how tech products work and how can they improve users' lives and 4) Interest in learning and continuing to develop their PMM skillset over time. I highly value people who are coachable and know their strengths and weaknesses. No PMM knows everything, and every company has new challenges, problems, and things to figure out where people need to flex their skills. 

679 Views
Jane Reynolds
Jane Reynolds
Archer Director of Product MarketingMarch 23

I started my career in editorial, and didn’t transition over to marketing until about six years ago. I can’t stress enough how important sharp communication and collaboration skills are when it comes to product marketing. So I’m incredibly grateful I first had the opportunity to focus on my writing and messaging before I switched to product marketing because it helped me develop the core components of communication, collaborating, and clarity. But since product marketing incorporates skills utilized in both technical and non-technical roles, there are numerous areas you can transition from: editorial, brand, buyer, you name it.

In your resume, highlight when you’ve worked cross-functionally, and when you’ve used both qualitative and quantitative data to make decisions. It’s true that most product marketing roles incorporate data analysis and pricing optimization, but in many entry-level product marketing roles, these can be learned on the job. The qualities I prioritize are leadership skills, curiosity, collaboration (I know I’ve said this a lot, but it’s true!), and a positive, ambitious attitude.

635 Views
Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingJune 16

It's a hard discipline to enter right out of college but it's absolutely doable. I say that because it's a high visibility function that is extremely cross-functional and requires attention to detail but also the ability to think bigger and strategically. Many of these skills are learned with working experience -- how to engage with executives, how to turn research into concise talking points for sales, how to influence a large group of stakeholders etc.

  • My advice is to talk to as many folks in Product Marketing that you can. Ask them what their day to day is like. Ask them how they got into the role. Ask them what skills they feel they use and are learning regularly. I myself am always happy to talk to anyone looking to get into product marketing! It shows a lot of courage, hard work and determination to network in this way. These are the soft skills I look for when hiring. It might not always work out on a specific job/role, but it means I'm likely to refer you to my peers for future opportunities.

  • Look and apply for associate and entry level roles. This might be a generalist who can help across the team (I've hired folks out of college here before) or roles focused on competitive and win/loss - or sales process content support.

  • Be open to the role and be a sponge. Try to learn as much as you can about product marketing. Start identifying what you enjoy about the role and what you don't like -- what types of projects you enjoy working on vs those you don't (i.e. positioning vs competitive)

660 Views
Kelly Kipkalov
Kelly Kipkalov
BILL Sr Director, Product MarketingDecember 20

I've hired people straight out of undergrad, it's possible. Look for entry level titles like product marketing analyst, or specialist...they are out there. BUT, I will say don't despair if you don't see a lot of entry level PMM roles, and instead just try and land a marketing role in a company where you care about the product. There will be plenty of time for you to transition into a PMM role when opportunities come up, and there's no downside to starting on a different team. Your early career marketing experience will set you up well for PMM whenever the opportunity arises.

470 Views
Sarah Din
Sarah Din
Quickbase VP of Product MarketingMarch 29

If you can do an internship during school, i highly recommend that - it gives you exposure to the role and will make for an easier transition - plus it helps build your network. Additionally, if you can do consulting work, there is always a need for that - that will also help you do the same. The key things to focus on is - understanding the launch process and how that works,  understanding the voice of customer and how to incorporate that into anything you do, and getting good at writing!

387 Views
Ajit Ghuman
Ajit Ghuman
Twilio Director of Product Management - Pricing & Packaging, CXPFebruary 28

It is possible to start a junior product marketing role straight out of college, but a true PMM role requires some real world skills.

As a hiring managers, these are some of the things I look for:

1. High maturity and tact: Product Marketing roles are intensely cross functional with the need to work with about a dozen people in different teams, on a daily basis. This is definitely a job for folks with above average emotional intelligence.

2. Strong analytical chops: Can you break down a product to its subcomponents? Can you think in abstractions? Can you build a half decent excel model? If you relish in getting deep into a product and can then zoom out to make sense of how everything works, you will be successful in the many technical companies in the valley.

3. Deep domain expertise: As it may pertain to a specific domain such as DevOps, Analytics, Databases, etc, people prefer hiring domain experts who bring in credibility to their roles. 

4. Understanding of how a SaaS (or similar) company works: Do you understand the product development cycle? Do you appreciate how customer success, professional services, sales all come together to deliver value to customers? Great! This is also a plus.

5. A knack for positioning: Have people told you that you have a way with words? Can you clarify something complex with ease? Can you empathize strongly with customers? 

Some ways to build these skills: 

1. Associate Product Marketing roles at big companies. These generally offer some sort of rotation amongst different groups that would allow you to learn the product(s), customers and the business before giving you increased responsibility. 

2. A customer-centric/sales engineeting role in a high growth company. Helping support customers as a customer success manager or as an implementations specialist will help you truly understand how customers think, what their pains are and how you can solve them.  

3. Consulting. Generally these roles requires one to meet hard deadlines, need for clear communication and diplomatic skills, all things that are really helpful in PMM roles. 

I would first refer you to a blog post by Ben Horowitz on the relevance of getting an MBA: https://a16z.com/2010/01/10/does-getting-an-mba-make-someone-a-better-entrepreneur/

664 Views
Savita Kini
Savita Kini
Cisco Director of Product Management, Speech and Video AIJuly 24

I believe there is no hard / fast rule about requiring an MBA. I have seen plenty of young graduates make the transition to product marketing. The first year or two is critical in terms of the kind of experience you gather that would help you to position yourself in product marketing. 

- pick a industry / segment where you can acquire deep domain knowledge, have an opinion and understanding 

- build a portfolio of content you can create either via your personal blog or helping an industry group / meetup group in the segment you pick. 

- Build analytical skills around market segmentation, competitive intelligence etc. In bigger companies, these roles might be performed by other functions, in smaller companies, this will likely be with the same person. 

- learning how to go about creating a marketing plan, content strategy, campaigns etc. 

Perhaps the first job might not be in product marketing -- could be content role or even some kind of PR/comms function. Building both the analytical skills, cross-functional team work and being able to write well will help you very much to transition to product marketing. 

863 Views
Christy Roach
Christy Roach
AssemblyAI VP of MarketingAugust 14

I agree with a lot of Savita's points above. I see a lot of new grads who are interested in product marketing and recommend most new grads to try to build up general marketing skills before they try to move into product marketing roles which are often more senior or more specialized. 

I like seeing people who have expereince as marketing coordinators or marketing specialists - it means they've got the general experience to understand how lots of different marketing disciplines work, and probably know how to work with those folks once they're in a more specialized role. Those types of roles are often more available to new grads and can help you build the foundation of skills you need to excel in product marketing. If a candidate doesn't already have PMM experience, but they have a solid 1-2 years of general marketing experience, they may very well be ready to move into a spot on the PMM team. 

When you're looking to gain the requisite experience to be considered for PMM work, I'd recommend looking for roles that help you build the following skills:

  • Cross functional expertise: A PMM needs to be able to work with different stakeholders and different types of personalities across the company, get their input, and effectively rally them all around a shared plan.
  • Storytelling: Product marketers connect current and prospective customers to the value and magic of the product. It's not about specific features or functionalities, it's about the value they provide and how they can help your target customer. It's critical that a PMM can create strong messaging frameworks that get to the "why" behind a feature or product - and strong writing skills are invaluable here. 
  • Passion and empathy for customers: A good product marketer knows the data around feature usage and metrics around their customer base. A great product marketer spends time understanding customers and the needs so they don't just know the data, they know the customer. The more you can get exposure into meeting with customers, getting thos customer insights, and using those insights to improve the way your business works, the better you'll be set up to succeed in product marketing. 
  • Strong planning and project management skills: Lots of things go into a product launch - I need someone who can put together a clear project plan, be thoughtful about what needs to happen to get work over the finish line, and can keep things organized as work gets underway. 

As you get started, look for roles that help you learn a lot about the business and the customer and give you opportunities to work cross-funcitonally. I also find that once you get into a more general role, you may find opportunities to step in or help out a product marketing team, which gives you some of those more specialized skills - analytical rigor, competitve and market intelligence, etc. that will make you a stand out PMM candidate. 

934 Views
Abdul Rastagar
Abdul Rastagar
GTM Leader | Marketing Author | Career CoachNovember 20

Written and oral communication are probably the most important skills you can develop, as they will help you get a foot in the door early in your career and also will continue to be useful throughout your whole career.

Going straight into product marketing without any background in it is difficult, but not impossible. You’d want to look for an associate product marketing position or if you have technical skills, look for a technical product marketer. I’ve seen others go through the content or documentation paths to product marketing because both of these roles require writing and customer-oriented thinking.

1234 Views
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