Brandon McGraw

Brandon McGrawShare

Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDash
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Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

I think typical is atypical in PMM. I come from a background in brand before and have managed team members that came from consulting, manufacturing, advertising, as well as traditional marketers. Many of those past team members have gone on to careers in other parts of marketing, to product, or to careers in strategy/business line ownership. Many have built careers as leaders of growing PMM teams too.

One of the things I love about Product Marketing is how customer-centric it is and I believe that prepares you for a wide-variety of careers. If the path to CMO isn't your end-goal, fear not and don't be afraid to share that with your manager. I encourage those on my team that manage to hold regular meetings outside of the traditional 1:1 to talk with their team members about their long-term career and to ensure that we're helping people towards those goals. 

Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

I love this question because I came from brand marketing before. I like to think about it as the distinction between the promise and the proof. The partnership between these two teams is essential.

Brand is the promise you make to your customers about your core ethos and what they can expect from you. It sets the tone for the relationship and is the thing that you often fall back on when times get tough. The brand team owns this promise, but like any promise it has to be believable. Your product is the proof. Product Marketing owns showing how the promise of the brand is relevant in unique ways that meet the needs of the audiences you serve. It's on product marketing to make the promise real every day when a customer uses your product or when you're introducing a new product for the first time.

Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

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.

Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

Hard skills may vary by company, but I think there are two that are critical:

  • Insights. Know the difference between an anecdote and an insight. This is especially critical when you work on a service at scale. Your best (and sometimes most challenging) users tend to be the loudest, so make sure that you're helping the team hear from a diverse array of customer voices. I find that one of the most important parts of any study is the recruit/target audience. Spend time getting the team aligned on who you're going to hear from.
  • Analytics. Spend time not just understanding how to interpret results, but also understanding what it's possible to understand and how to ask the right questions. I'm not saying you need to learn SQL, but it never hurts! I find that the process of learning simple queries (or asking a trusted analytics partner how they do their work) teaches you how to think about data in a way that makes you sharper.

I think there are many soft skills that matter, but of the ones that I value most, it's Empathy.

Put yourself in your customer's shoes and make sure you're always thinking from this perspective. The business has many things it wants to acheive, but more often than not your customer isn't showing up to hear from you– they're hungry, they're trying to relax, or they want to hear from their friends. Balance the drive for objectives against the needs of the audience. 

Do this equally for your peers, especially those in product. The best tool for empathy I ever built for product teams was shipping my own app years ago. It's certainly not necessary that you do this yourself, but as the engineer, design, PM, and marketer on my own project I learned that the deadlines I most often set were optimistic, that "easy" problems were almost always harder than you might think, and that my wishlist was always longer than my ability. Give your partners the benefit of the doubt, be flexible, and make sure that you're always working together for customers. If you all agree on the audience you're serving and their needs, you'll make the right tradeoffs together over time.

Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

This varies by company and role, but I generally think about the path to promotion on the two key vectors: ownership level and degree of autonomy. 

Strong performance against OKRs or KPIs is a core underpinning to that. When considering promotion I start there and then look at how the person has demonstrated rising levels of ownership and autonomy across the following:

  • Strategic Direction: As an associate, I'd expect you to own a feature set fully and demonstrate the ability to bring insights into the go-to-market under direction. As you rise in the organization, I'd expect you to own a product group and set goals and drive projects with more independence. As you approach the most senior levels of the organization you most commonly own an audience or problem set and are expected to develop and drive your KPIs with very little direction. 
  • Execution & Accountability: At earlier levels you're executing against problems you're given and working with teams to show the results. As you rise, you're expected to help the organization understand the questions to ask and align stakeholders around how to understand the impact of that work.
  • Communication & Collaboration: For someone just starting you need to demonstrate clear communication with your assigned team and to escalate when issues arise. As you grow in the organization, you become responsible for identifying the team you need and the escalation needs to become more strategic and answer-first.
  • Leadership & Influence: If you're an associate I'd expect that you're a master of your assigned area. For a director and above, you're sought as an expert on broad audience problems and most frequently work with the most senior levels of leadership.
Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

Business customers are all consumers at the core, but there are really important distinctions. 

For one, businesses have totally different buying patterns and a myriad of channels to reach them through. When you're working for a traditional consumer technology company you're most often relying on scaled channels to reach people. Scaled is usually a part of the mix on B2B, so I'd look for opportunities to show command of those channels.

For another, consumers are fickle. A business is usually looking to solve a problem and the core customer may be buried beneath a stakeholder that won't be your day-to-day user. This means that the core sell-through process may be longer, but there's an emphasis on hard work at the very beginning. Consumers by contrast have a variety of options and, in the case of free services, have a really low switching cost. Your role in building a relationship doesn't stop with first-use, so I'd look for opportunities to flex your re-engagement skills on the B2B side to show that you're used to operating in this environment.

You have advantages as a B2B PMM in that you typically carry clear KPIs and are directly accountable to the business in a way that may not always be the case in a consumer role. Talk up your experience here and show evidence for how you've learned a new audience quickly.

Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

I'd consider, where possible, looking for opportunities within your company to hone the skills and make the transition over courses and education. I'd focus on three things:

  1. Build Relationships: Growth roles generally put you in the position of being responsible for a key business KPI. Find opportunities within your current role to build relationships with the other stakeholders driving that success, particularly those in Product Management. When considering someone who's making the switch, I look at their track record of working with people outside of their day-to-day and especially value those that have demonstrated working with PM.
  2. Demonstrate Insights Experience: Reach out to teams in UXR and research and/or leverage your own desk research. Bake those insights into the projects you work on in your day-to-day to demonstrate that you both know how to identify and action insights in your work.
  3. Seek Opportunities to Contribute: Get to know the roadmap of products coming and find opportunities within your scope to test and learn tactics that will contribute to a new launch. If you're working on customer acquisition and the team is launching a net-new feature, look for opportunities where your channels and experience could help them learn more about their product-market fit within a constrained testing budget.
Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

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.

Brandon McGraw
Brandon McGraw
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing, DoorDashApril 1

Like all things, I think this comes down to trust building. When you're new, focus on building trust with PMs by showing that you can handle the highest priority, high impact problems they bring your way. Use this to show them that you know your stuff and can handle operating at the speed and pace of the business. 

I've found that this usually leads to the invitation to more challenges upstream but if it's not happening naturally, don't forget to ask! PMs engage a lot of stakeholders and I've most often found that they aren't sure where to engage PMMs when they're new to the relationship. If you're a leader, build a tool that you socialize with product leadership on where to engage the team. If you're an IC, spend time in a 1:1 outside of the daily tasks educating the PM on where you can help. 

In the early days, spend more time that you think you should in meetings you're not sure you need to be in. This will help you undertstand the people and the flow of work. More importantly, it will establish you as part of the team and help you and others spot opportunities where you can jump in earlier.

Credentials & Highlights
Senior Director, Head of Product Marketing at DoorDash
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In San Francisco, CA
Knows About Consumer Product Marketing, Brand Strategy, Influencing the Product Roadmap, Messagin...more