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What are some things you wish you knew in your first few years of Product Marketing, that you have learnt since?

11 Answers
Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
DoorDash Senior Director, Head of Product MarketingMarch 31

I came from a background in brand and so my natural instincts served me most well on the outbound side of product marketing. I had my fair share of imposter syndrom in the early days when I looked at my peers and realized that I'd never done the traditional inbound work of a PMM.

I spent more time than I should have in those early days being afraid to ask for fear of not being able to meet the bar. It took building a relationship with a peer whose work I admired to admit that I was really learning on the fly and to my surprise, they were too! 

We all have strengths and areas where we are still growing. Don't be afraid to admit what you don't know and never be ashamed of the things that you're great at. Rely on your peers and they'll also rely on you. Once I opened up, I felt more confident, I learned more, and I was able to give back to others.

2652 Views
Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Tremendous VP of MarketingOctober 15

I spent a lot of time in my early career worrying about getting to the next promotion and how I was progressing versus my peers. Looking back now, this was all wasted energy. I wish I had been more focused on learning and picking up as many skills and experiences as possible. I also wish I had been less worried about making mistakes. I think I would have been able to take more risks and push myself to try new things that would have ultimately helped me to build more skills.

I also wish I knew how to prioritize better early in my career. I worked a lot of late nights and weekends in my early career because I was afraid to say no. Now, I am much more comfortable saying No. I try to communicate my (and my team’s) priorities early and often. I also try not to take on new priorities unless something is removed from my plate. It's not a perfect system, but I have much better work/life balance now that I did early in my career.

18386 Views
Jasmine Anderson Taylor
Jasmine Anderson Taylor
Instacart Senior Director, Product MarketingJune 2

One thing I wish I learned earlier is the most powerful product marketing you can do is always centered on a shared human truth. When I look back on my very early PMM GTM work, I focused primarily on communicating about the product and the benefit derived from the features themselves. But the product features, however innovative, were only half the story. Connecting the Product to the Customer Need is where the true magic lies. Find the truth we all share (an experience, an emotion) and connect that to the new experience the product provides -- that’s where your message takes on real meaning and can more effectively get your customers to take action.

1271 Views
Naman Khan
Naman Khan
Personio Chief Marketing OfficerJuly 7

There is one key learning: Actively plan & manage your development.

Here is what is involved:

  • Know the menu: Since Product Marketing is such a broad discipline, its important to understand the various functional competenices that comprise it. This way, you can assess where you have strengths and where you want to develop. These competenices span target segmentation definition, messaging & positioning, content development, sales enablement, pricing/packaging, PR/AR and more, they are quite different and require different skills.

  • The market will evolve: There are also constant market changes effecting PMM like sales lead GTM models moving to PLG models, B2B moving to B2B2C and more. These also add to the range of competencies required for a given PMM role. You might be strong in B2B SaaS content when there is a sales team but what about when most revenue is from self service? PMM needs to evolve to the market and the market should be reflected in your plan.

  • Becoming great takes time: With any of these functional areas, it actually requires experience to develop proficiency over time if you want to be able to do it well and lead others in the future. For example, core positioning development is actually quite difficult to do well, you need to have done it more than once.

By understanding what PMM is all about, where you currently fit & where you want to go next you'll be able to take control over your career journey and make more thoughtful choices. Sometimes, a seemingly awesome role at a glamorous company might actually take you backwards, unless you know where it fits within your plan. Remember: If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there - Lewis Carroll  

PS: Alternatively, you could not build a plan at all. Instead, just focus on doing great work and trust that good things will happen in the future. This might just work out great. Or, it might not. My learning: Build a plan and take control of your PMM journey, don't leave it to some other mystical force.....if its really a mystical force, it will still be there despite your planning. 

651 Views
Francisco M. T. Bram
Francisco M. T. Bram
Albertsons Companies Vice President of MarketingMarch 24

When you're starting out your career as a PMM, it is very important to remember that your value promise is to customers and not internal stakeholders. I don't mean to say that internal alignment and buy-in isn't important but it should never take priority over serving your customers. In my early days, I spend 80% of my time trying to understand what were the needs of my internal stakeholders and ensuring I was supporting them fully, leaving little focus on the customer. The moment I started prioritizing customer needs over internal stakeholder needs, when I started to champion customers internally, my work started to gain much more purpose. And while this approach initially created some internal friction, overtime I gained a reputation for being the voice of customers and someone people would rely on to validate product and service roadmaps. 

Another thing I wish I knew early on was the importance of celebrating little wins. Driven by our ambition and desire to succeed, we often tend to give too much “air time” to our concerns, angst or even anxiety, forcing us to work extra-hard to ease some of those fears. As a consequence, we are left with little time to enjoy the ride, celebrate the little wins and be grateful for the journey. My advice to product marketers is: Enjoy the ride and find time to celebrate each moment along the journey. Out time on earth is limited and we spend most of our time working, so make a habit of finding ways to celebrate little wins, develop a purpose and enjoy the ride. 

441 Views
Rekha Srivatsan
Rekha Srivatsan
Salesforce Vice President Product MarketingAugust 11
  • Don't box yourself, ever! 
  • Don't always stick to how things are always done. 
  • And ask questions more. 
  • And observe and take notes. 
  • And don't pretend to know it all! 

Here's the thing: When you are early in your career, you are often embarrassed to ask questions or ask "why?" But asking those questions more would help you understand things wayyyyy better. Some of my best learnings have come from asking questions to understand things better. Think about it — if you can't understand a feature as a marketer, chances are that your customers won't. That's your biggest advantage; use it!

1371 Views
Jennifer Kay Corridon
Jennifer Kay Corridon
Yelp Product Marketing Expert & MentorMarch 21

The ability to effectively build cross-functional relationships is really important in product marketing and understanding the role that each functional area plays in making a product successful. I'd put into this bucket knowing how each team measures their contribution (KPI's), what their processes and pain points are, as well as who and what their stakeholders care most about. I'd also include investing the time to learn their communication style. Just as a pmm spends time getting to understand the customer, I'd recommend doing the same to know your cross-functional partners. So much of pmm is about building bridges between different groups and offerings that this interpersonal piece is often overlooked in skills development.  

585 Views
Nathaniel Plamondon
Nathaniel Plamondon
Cornerstone OnDemand Senior Product Marketing ManagerJune 7

When I started as a PMM, I wish I'd known that it does not matter how sharp your messaging is, how impactful your sales decks are, or how well your collateral converts if you can't activate people around it.

Working as a PMM in four different companies, the work has varied significantly, but the thing that has remained constant is the importance of building relationships with all the key stakeholders. Getting different parts of the business onside with what PMM is doing starts with finding out what PMM can offer that helps them.

For me, it's about knowing what questions to ask and finding out how we can find effective ways of working that are mutually beneficial. Working relationships can sometimes feel transactional or, in certain sorts of power dynamics, like a one-way street.

Some key questions for common PMM stakeholders:

  • Product – How can we keep one another in tune with what the other is doing? How can PMM help Product keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening in the market, while Product helps PMM educate the market on novel ideas?

  • Sales – How will you create a two-way dialogue to ensure that what PMM puts out there is resonating? How can you capture common objections and competitive intel from field teams and collaborate on how to adjust sales materials accordingly? How can we track the effectiveness of those adjustments?

  • Enablement and training – How will you build programs that take the good work you're doing and take it wide across the organization? How will your materials be tweaked for different training audiences? Where does PMM's responsibility end and Enablement's responsibility begin?

  • Marketing – What sorts of materials are most useful to broader marketing teams to ensure we're capturing the product message correctly? How can we effectively scale PMM's expertise across a larger marketing function so there are no bottlenecks?

  • Design – How can you collaborate on user journeys and use those journeys to impact marketing materials?

Ask the right questions and create two-way relationships with your stakeholders. Establish a rhythm and find out how they like working with PMM, how they've worked well with PMM's in the past, and how you can make your work more collaborative.

223 Views
Louis Debatte-Monroy
Louis Debatte-Monroy
Adyen Vice President of Product MarketingMarch 1

You are not here to market products. That's the main thing I wish I knew. Would have saved me countless hours and tears.

The number one mistake PMMs make is to start from the product. They organize weekly calls with the Product Manager. They devise elaborate to tell the world about this product. And they then they start fighting with Product Teams, having long debates on the overlap of responsibilities between PM and PMM, getting frustrated when the rest of the organization doesn't support their efforts, etc.

So start from the customers and their pain points. And then find ways your company can solve them. Don't limit yourself to one product. Once I changed my approach to my role, I was able to broaden my scope and grow my impact. 

296 Views
Lisa Dziuba
Lisa Dziuba
Lemon.io Head of Growth Product MarketingAugust 16

As someone with a tech background and self-education in marketing, I learn everything in practice. I wish I knew more about the importance of user research and CI at the beginning of my PMM journey:

- User research: back in 2015, we released our first startup product which dramatically failed. We spent one year of development without proper user research, without defining the customer journey, or even having personas. That taught me the importance of knowing your users and their needs :)

- Constant competitive analysis: somewhere in 2018 a competitor copied our startup features and added them as their offering (which became pretty successful for them). Doing competitive analysis could mitigate the risk of this happening. This situation taught me the importance of competitive intelligence, competitive differentiation, and the power of product stickiness.

P.S.: based on the content from my recent interview for Product Marketing Alliance.

356 Views
Yvonne Chow
Yvonne Chow
Zennify Director of Product MarketingOctober 11

I wish I knew these things when I first started in product marketing in 2008:

  • Relationships matter. Make connections with different teams, including those that you may not have a direct impact on (or vice versa). Benefits include:

    • Reduce redundancies. I've managed to streamline different projects & opportunities into one workstream.

  • Direct customer interaction is important - don't just depend on your internal stakeholders for information.

    • Take the time to join events and roadshows, and speak with your customers 1:1.

    • Move out of your comfort zone if your company allows you to, with opportunities like handling a customer query directly or making a sales pitch.

  • Always begin with the end in mind. As PMMs, it's easy to get sucked into many things because we're always trying to prove our value and show how collaborative we are. When given a task or project, always ask: "What is the end objective? Is it measurable? What can I do to directly impact this end objective?"

  • With that, a RACI is a good friend. Whether you use a RACI, RAPID, RASCI, or other similar frameworks, starting off any project with this roles & responsibilities framework can help a lot with alignment.

  • When presenting competitive research or data insights, be brave enough to give recommendations on how to manage the competition or identify opportunities based on the data. This shows strategic value.

219 Views
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