What did you wish you knew at the very beginning of your product marketing career as a Product Marketing Manager?
Salespeople are NOT your customers, they are team members: This will change how you look at your marketing strategy and deliverables. It is fair to say that the content product marketers develop will be consumed, used and delivered by sales. However, the content should resonate with your prospects and customers.
Invest resources in thought leadership content: Thought leadership may not yield pipeline right away. However, if you invest in thought leadership consistently, you will see it impacting the pipeline over a longer run. Additionally, it helps you create a set of fans that love to consume and share your content. That’s the beginning of your community marketing. If you are a small company in category creation mode, thought leadership helps you become a hub for the content around that category, boosting your chances to become the category king. Don’t forget, the thought leadership content will be consumed by your customers as well and it will improve renewals and upsell opportunities for you.
Learn and try new things: Tech industry has a lot of really smart marketers who are trying new things and are also sharing them with curious minds (Sharebird!). Learn from people outside your company. If you just learn from people within your company, you could easily focus on what worked best in the past.
Two things I wish I knew:
- The importance of building trust and establishing good relationships
- My unique capabilities/value as a PMM and how to communicate that to my partners
In the beginning of my career, I think I over-indexed on producing a good work product and tried to influence through having the best ideas or strongest case. In hindsight, I realized that the first thing you should do as a PMM is establish trust and invest in building good relationships with your partners because if you don't have a foundation of trust it becomes difficult to push even the best ideas through.
Additionally, I wish I had known the importance of identifying my unique capabilities/value as a PMM and communicating that to my partners. The role of a PMM can often overlap with PMs, designers, researchers, and other marketers, so it's incredibly important to define the unique value you will bring (what can you do that others can't) and how you will enable your partners by bringing that value. For example, you can enable product by bringing insights and competitive intel to inform the roadmap and product differentiation. You can enable design by framing the problem space and requirements. You can enable marketing by articulating the positioning and GTM objectives.
Doing good work is important, but even the best or most accurate recommendations will fall flat if you can't influence your partners effectively. So if you can align on roles and responsibilities and build great relationships at the outset, then influencing and collaboration becomes much easier (and more fun!).
Everything! But really...I was pretty clueless.
I wish I knew how product marketing works with sales, customer success, product, and core marketing to be successful.
I wish I knew to spend time asking questions and getting as much information as possible before starting a project.
I wish I knew how to use storytelling not just in external decks but also in internal meetings to influence strategy.
I wish I knew how lucky I was to have a boss that wanted me to succeed and made it his mission to open doors and help me navigate my career.
Overall, I wish I knew from the start how much fun product marketing can be. It's a fantastic career path with near-unlimited opportunities for learning and growth.
Nothing (literally nothing) is more valuable than sitting in on as many prospect / customer calls as possible. It’s the only way you’ll truly understand your buyer and what makes them tick. The rest flows from that.
Other than that, make sure you can get at least one launch under your belt as quickly as possible.
I wish I understood how product marketing ideally works. Based on my experience, here's how product marketing teams should work together:
- A Product marketing lead identifes a goal. The three goals are usually to create pipe, mature pipe, or close deals.
- The PMM will select a target based off what the business needs. They can double down on a region/segment/geo that is working, or try to lift a poor performing area.
- They'll create a positioning statement and messaging hierarchy that will be used for this initiative.
- They'll allocate a portion of their budget to spread across campaigns and GTM to execute.
At this point, a PMM would bring in campaigns and work with them on the following:
- Identifiy the goal of the campaign.
- Allcoate budget from demand gen.
- Create campaign messaging. This messaging should shift the customer's mindset from one state to another (as defined by the positioning statement)
- Select what channels and content form factors the campaign will use to reach prospects
- Create the customer flows (both targeting and re-targeting in order to get a prospect to fill out a form).
If new content needs to be created, then the PMM will work with creative/agency to produce that content.
Finally, a GTM lead will work with sales ops to priortize a selling motion.
- The GTM team will set a specific sales goal with sales ops
- PMM will create a playbook with discovery questions intentionally selected to hit on the campaign.
- PMM will determine if they want to incentivize sales.
- PMM will reach out to a specific sales "horse" depending on the objective. Sales horses are SDRs (inbound leads), BDRs (outbound leads), AEs (Account owners), Specilaist (LOB buyers), or SE (Solutions Engineers).
- PMM will define teh sales action this horse is suppose to take
- PMM will define the CTA where they can send customers to learn more or deepen them in the sales funnel
- PMM will work with sales ops to create a tracking dashboard that measures success.
Ultimately, that's it! There are nuances that are glossed over, especially when it comes to certain channels like AR or PR.
This is an interesting question. It really depends on the size of the company where you join. I switched to product marketing after almost 9 yrs in engineering including a MS in computer Engg. I had spent lot of time in the labs in Cisco to the point I think my hearing is partially damaged because of sitting too close to fans. After a few classes at Berkeley and then an MBA from Cornell, when I started in product marketing, the skills which were most useful were my writing skills. I was a good writer before that as well. I had also learnt film making as a hobby that helped me tremendously even today with the "Storytelling"... But lot of the strategic stuff I couldn't use untill I was in new business incubation team where marketing had to help with every aspect. Perhaps in a smaller company, I realise now the PMM would do everything from helping with customer identification, pricing, content, social media etc. Much more rounded. In my early PMM career at Cisco though, I felt like I didn't bring all my skillsets and dimensions.
Some random thoughts in no particular order:
- The importance of prioritization and how to say no: you will be under constant barrage for requests from all angles: the ceo, sales, CMO etc... These requests will range from the silly to the idiotic and you will never be effective if you don't have the ability to figure out how to TACTFULLY push back on requests and make clear prioritizations
- Spending more time with customers: However much time you're spending with customers, it's not enough.
- How to inspire: Often times in product marketing you will be the first and only person to realize some sort of important thing: this product is really not that exciting and we shouldn't spend a long time launching it, our positioning isn't really resonating with our customers etc... It's not enough to point these things out and be right, you have to be able to bring people along with you and get them as fired up as you are.
- Segmentation: Segmentation is hard, requires a lot of research and collaboration, and can be divisive to some people. It's also one of the most important things you can possibly do at the beginning of any role in product marketing. Learn how to meaningfully segment your customers and develop a framework that will align the company in how to talk to them, target them, and inspire action.
- Targeted positioning: I learned this one very early on as a devout student of Crossing the Chasm but it's still the thing that 9/10 startups struggle with the most. You are not everything to everyone, just because anyone can buy your product it doesn't mean they should all be treated equally. Take a stand. Create targeted messaging, don't let your fear of alienating a few people that will never buy your product dilute the impact to your best segment.
- Always run user research. Back in 2015, we released our first 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.
- Keep conducting competitive analysis. Somewhere in 2018 a competitor copied our 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.
- Always keep testing. When leading WeLoveNoCode, I saw that most of our marketing funnel conversions were below the average. So I started leading many product marketing optimization initiatives. Together, with the team, we tested the 50+ PM and PMM hypotheses. As a result, we saw up to six times conversion improvements!
All these lessons shaped my understanding of what makes product marketing professionals successful. The only way to learn in any career is to take on as many challenges as possible and learn.
I wish I knew to say no to protect my yes. To always push boundaries. To go beyond the surface level. People are going to have a lot of requests for you but its your job to look past the obvious, ask why, and do strategic work that has longterm impact. It's a tough lesson to learn, but one we all have to learn eventually. Knowing this at the beginning of my career would have saved me a lot of time and frustration.
I was lucky at the beginning of my PMM career, because I got into a pretty solid group that understood exactly what PMM did and didn't do. But I think my advice to people would be to really understand and grasp the craft of product marketing. We're not just writers - if we wanted to do that, we would have been writiers. Be a product marketer! This is someone who understands the target market (segments, buyers, changes, competitors), understands how people purchase your product in that market (all of the departments involved, people, time frames, purchase processes), understands the product technically (what does it do and what does it not do, be able to actually demo the product), have a solid go to market strategy, know how to launch different product types, and then be able to wrap all of that into cohesive messaging that positions that product, to the right buyer, in the right market, at the right time. Too often PMMs tend to focus in on just ONE of those areas, like writing messaging that they "think" sounds right, without having done any work to back it up.