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What do you look for in the backgrounds of aspiring consumer product marketers (who have never held the role before) as a signal that they will be a good hire?

9 Answers
Mike Polner
Mike Polner
Discord Head of MarketingDecember 12

In general, I don't really think "background" is that important. To me, background does not = skills. I hire for signal on skill and not for whether or not somebody has done something before. 

We have some absolutely incredible PMMs on Eats and almost all of them came from a background that was not Product Marketing. 

Because the function and the role is growing so quickly, you rarely find somebody who's spent 5 years in Consumer PMM for example. Instead, hone your skills. 

Uncover great insights, run a bunch of research and get really good at understanding customers, competition and category context...Sometimes, folks coming from Support have some of the best insights here because they've had so much interaction with customers.

Practice crafting great stories. Build decks (personally, my favorite way to articulate an internal story) or get your hands into part of the launch process. You don't need to be leading fully integrated GTMs, but at least see what they are and how they work. All those are nice leading ways to start building and developing skills that are applicable to PMM.

1940 Views
Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
DoorDash Senior Director, Head of Product MarketingMarch 31

I myself come from a less than traditional path to PMM after spending the first half of my career on the brand side of the house. I may be biased, but I think less than traditional backgrounds are really valuable in a PMM and I typically look for a couple of key characteristics:

Trust Building

I look at roles this person has had before and ask about the stakeholders they've had to work with. So much of PMM is being at the center of a wheel where you need to operate without top-down automony. I look for stories of times where they were able to use the trust they built to execute beyond the normal scope of their day-to-day. This is an indicator that they've not only built trust, but that they knew what to do next when they built it.

Work with Technical Stakeholders

This may vary from company to company, but I've always worked in environments with a strong cultural of engineering and product leadership. I look for experiences that people have had dealing with technical stakeholders, be they engineers, PMs, analytics.

Insights

I look for demonstrated experience gathering insights from customers and putting those to good use. Many people have experience with the former, but often don't have examples of the latter where they were able to take those insights and make something of it. Whether it's crafting a sales pitch, a thoughtful advertising brief, or showing the impact of a more highly targeted growth campaign these experiences show that this person knows how to look for the truth and knows what to do when they find it.

High Empathy

Above all, I think a core of PMM is empathy. You represent the needs of customers and are expected to operate with soft power to get things done. Experiences where you've shown that you can do this and the referrals from partners who have been outside of the marketing organization carry significant weight in my book.

1225 Views
Jasmine Anderson Taylor
Jasmine Anderson Taylor
Instacart Senior Director, Product MarketingJune 2

If someone is new to PMM, there are two skills I look for:

  1. Strategic thinking: Can you demonstrate an ability to take an intentional, rational thought process when solving problems? Can you get creative about solving a problem while also never losing sight of the end goal? Can you solve a problem as it develops / as you receive new information? 
  2. Ability to prioritize and execute: Can you cut through noise and narrow in on what’s most critically important? Once you have a plan, can you make that plan a reality?
534 Views
Rayleen Hsu
Rayleen Hsu
TeamSnap Senior Director Consumer Product Marketing & StrategyMarch 3

Whether you are an experienced or aspiring product marketer, these are the qualities I look for in product marketing hires: 

  • Customer obsessed. Product marketing is the voice of the customer and a successful product marketer is one that is customer obsessed and keeps the consumer at the core of all that they do. Product marketing's role is to help inform the product roadmap and market new products and features to consumers. If we don't have a deep understanding of who our customers are and what they care about we simply cannot do our job well. 
  • Analytical. Marketing is both art and science which is why it's critical to leverage data in decision making and building We partner with product and eng Product marketing work with When hiring product marketers I look for people who really embrace research and data to make decisions. 
  • Strong communicators. As mentioned in a previous question, product marketing sits at the intersection of product and marketing which means numerous parties, both internally and externally, rely on product marketing to get information from one place to another. That said, it is critical that product marketers are incredibly strong communicators who not only recognize the need to proactively disseminate information internally but who can also effectively communicate the value prop of different products and features to consumers.
  • Go-getters. I say this all the time but product marketing can be a very ambiguous role and is often different across companies and can even be different across teams within the same company. This is why hiring someone who is highly motivated and takes initiative, especially in the absence of clear direction, is key. Product marketers can't sit around and wait for others to give them instructions or ask them to do things, they have to identify opportunities, prioritize and take initiative in order to truly make an impact. Some of the best PMMs I've worked with are the ones that embrace the whitespace and solve problems most people didn't even recognize existed.
708 Views
Hege Thorbjornsen Starling
Hege Thorbjornsen Starling
hims & hers Director of Product Marketing & DevelopmentJune 14

It all depends on the role I am hiring for and what stage a company is at, but on a general note, I would look for transferable experience and skills that could work well for the role. Crafting messaging/positioning, identifying user insights and translating them into strategy, influencing product/technical roadmaps, understanding market behaviors and trends, project managing projects from start to finish, Go-to-market campaigns (integrated or channel based), product development & packaging is all experience that is super valuable for consumer product marketing

For example if you have been a writer in a past role, it’s not exactly the same, but the skillset transfers nicely to putting together messaging/positioning and you’ll potentially have a better understanding of what resonates best across different touchpoints. Or if you’ve been deeper in growth marketing, you might have a better understanding of the inner workings of each channel, how to push/pull levers, when to deploy which channel and how to best drive adoption for a brand, product or service. Being a generalist where you have worked across multiple aspects of marketing vs. gone deep into one area can definitely be an asset as well in planning go-to-market campaigns and product launches.

Use your resume to highlight projects and results that tell the story of how your background and skills transfer nicely to a PMM role. A few examples might be,

  • What’s a consumer insight that led to X strategy/tactic/initiative and what was the impact
  • What’s a project you led from start to finish, what teams were involved and what was the impact
  • Have you worked on or influenced any campaigns? Have you done anything that led to roadmap changes?
468 Views
Alex Chahin
Alex Chahin
Titan VP of MarketingOctober 4

To understand whether someone new to consumer product marketing will likely succeed in that role, I usually look for a combination of skills that are both directly and indirectly related to the job.

Skills that are directly related to the substance of product marketing work:

  • Consumer-mindedness: Have they ever worked with gathering consumer insights before? Have they ever had to translate that to an action the business should take? Are they hungry for data about consumer behavior to help them make better decisions? Can they empathize with what customers are experiencing?
  • Marketing fundamentals: Have they ever worked in a marketing function before that could translate well (e.g., a GTM team, partner marketing, consumer marketing)? If they haven’t, have they had to work on large, complicated cross-functional projects where many people need to be rowing in the same direction?
  • Storytelling ability: Can they tell compelling stories about work that they’ve done, the problem it solved, and the impact it had? Can they help you understand something you know very little about quickly? Can they get to the heart of why something would be valuable to some audience (ideally externally, but even internal audiences can help provide a signal here)?
  • Ability to influence: Do they have a track record of making cases to cross-functional teams and getting buy in? Can they convince others that their idea is worth paying attention to and prioritizing?

Skills that are not specifically related to product marketing work but key to strong performance:

  • Adaptability/resilience: Can they be flexible when changes happen (whether in market conditions, competition, projects being worked on, or what they’re staffed on)?
  • Curiosity: Are they always wondering what could work better? What thing to offer customers next? What experiment to try? Why one thing worked and another failed?
  • Critical thinking: Are they able to take inputs and not just execute against them literally but take them and make it 10X better?
  • Bias toward action: Do they have a tendency to make things happen rather than sit and wait?
355 Views
Katie Levinson
Katie Levinson
MyFitnessPal Vice President Product MarketingMay 7

I have found that people who come from a customer-facing role in the past, or roles that combine the analytical with the creative, make for good hires. Specifically, I look for:

  • Consumer-centric mindset and empathy: when thinking about problems to solve, do you put your audience at the center? How does that come to life within your role today? Have you ever pushed for something on behalf of your target audience because you cared deeply about building or communicating something to them that would help  them?

  • Analytical skills: are you comfortable with data and research? How have you used data in the past to come to conclusions and recommendations?

  • Communication skills, both verbal and written: you have to be a decent writer to be a good product marketer. This does not mean you’re a copy writer, but you have to be able to clearly communicate things like value propositions, go-to-market plans, strategies, etc. You will also be managing up and out a lot in meetings, so being clear in your verbal communications is also important and what I watch out for in interviews (don’t be verbose!).

  • Creative thinking/problem solving: can you overcome obstacles? How do you take on challenges?

392 Views
Madison Leonard
Madison Leonard
Marketing & GTM ConsultantFebruary 15

I look for 3 main skills when bringing someone on the team: 

  1. Can they position themselves? If they have the skill to uniquely position themselves against other candidates, you've got yourself a master storyteller. 
  2. Are they able to manage multiple stakeholders? Test it in a panel interview and see how they do with differing opinions! 
  3. Do they have a hunger to learn? This one really takes the cake. I'll usually test this theory in real time by asking them to perform a task or brainstorm in real-time on something they aren't familiar with. 

You can teach someone how to write good copy in a few months, but it's really hard to teach someone how to handle a room full of stakeholders in anything less than a few years. I weigh the needs of the business and the specific role to better understand how long the learning curve will be and if that aligns with the rate of the business growth. Most of the time, the hungry-to-learn candidate wins. 

457 Views
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