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Madeline Ng

Madeline NgShare

Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform, Google
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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 12

This is a hard question because I've found that even the nature of product marketing and the title "PMM" means different things at different companies. Generally, however, I'd look at the framework for seniority against the following dimensions: 

  • Product coverage: Early in your career you may manage a few products, with "few" defined relative to your company's portfolio. As seniority grows, you'll stop owning products but start owning categories of products. The idea here is that at a more senior level you'll be trusted to not only tell the story for the products but also uplevel them into meaningful value by audience, by use case, or by some other dimension. 
  • Scope of responsibility: Often your job starts with launch (the bread and butter of product marketing!). As you get more senior it will grow and can take on dimensions of sales enablement, campaign design, thought leadership, analyst relations, PR, public evangelism and more. 
  • Stakeholders: Typically the first level of PMM will interact closely with a few PMs and probably some members of associated teams across marketing and potentially customer engineers / solutions consultants. Basically folks who have an intimate interest in your products alone. As you get more senior, your relationships will both elevate in level (ex. from PMs to PM Directors to VP PM) as well as a diversity of teams (ex. from Marketing + PM to add on Sales, Sales Enablement, execs, Legal, Analyst Relations, even outside agencies and influencers). A senior PMM deals with decisions that are more complex with larger consequences.
  • Visibility: This means internal visibility - how well people are observing your work - as well as external visibility - how well people know you. More junior PMMs often work on projects that are critical but less visible, meaning that you have often more room for leniency if something doesn't go as planned. This is a good thing. As you move up to a senior PMM, the projects you own often have executive interest and that will increase the complexity of your decision-making process as well as the precision with which you need to execute. Senior PMMs also frequently meet top customers and speak publicly at events. 

The big thing is to keep in mind what you are learning. As long as you are learning and stretching, and demonstrating that to your leadership and those who influence the advancement process at your company, you will grow into a senior PMM or a more senior PMM. I look for evidence of working at the next level, and for a sustained period of time, as I've worked with team members to grow in their careers.

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 12

"It depends" is the most infuriating answer but this is an "it depends" moment. This is all dependent on where you are in your career, what you want in your career, and also what your propensity is. 

In terms of pure marketability, the broad strokes I'd make (and your mileage may vary) is: 

  • Generalist >> you will have the most flexibility in the companies you work at but you may not rise as rapidly or command the most senior roles upfront. But you'll never be pigeonholed. This is really useful particularly when you start your career (first 5-10 years) before you figure out what you like.
  • Super focused in an industry >> you will bounce around all of the companies in that industry and get to know them intimately, giving you a chance to be a real specialist and command niche roles. Just make sure the industry you're focused on is growing. 
  • Super focused on a skill >> you will most likely end up in a larger company doing that skill. Smaller companies will probably not be able to afford you nor be able to employ you for that skill alone.
  • Super focused on a type of company >> you can be a really good product marketer or marketing leader who works in particular type of company (ex. the first product marketing hire who builds the first team). This can be incredibly fun if you are interested in sticking to a type of organization and then moving from them as they grow. 

Just take a hard look at yourself and what you're curious about if you decide to specialize. The best part about product marketing is getting deep into what you're doing so make sure if you decide to specialize, that you really want to know the audience, the market, and the products. 

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 12

The most important KPIs to track are the ones that align closely to the business. Are you in a new product area? The KPI might be the number of customers you close and the number of references you can provide publicly or to your sales team. Are you in a competitive consumer product, but an incumbent? The KPI might be monthly active users and retention. 

Start with the business goal and then back into the product marketing goal that you have control over. For example, if there is a revenue goal for your business you may want to align with the pipeline numbers. 

In terms of success in leading PMMs, that is based on my ability to protect and promote the team. The KPIs are a lot looser but focus on creating an environment where the team is known for great work and each member of the team is given a chance to grow with the opportunities available. 

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 12

My first question would be to determine if this person would thrive as a people manager. Often in product marketing, the trajectory up is through individual contributor to people manager, but it's not necessarily the best path for everyone.  

Good reasons to want to be a people manager: 

  • You like helping people grow in their career, and you've shown that through mentoring others (even when it wasn't your job)
  • You have shown that you are a "giver" and not a "taker" in the larger organization
  • You are comfortable as a player and a coach and focus on having your team succeed vs. your own success

Bad reasons to want to be a people manager:

  • You feel like it's required to move up to a level in your role / job ladder
  • You want to push your grunt work onto someone else (surprise! there's grunt work at all levels of an organization)
  • You feel like you deserve it from being an excellent individual contributor

If I think an individual will bet set up for success as a people manager I normally start by having the person lead a more junior member of the team, or lead a complex project that would require them to give feedback to others and also to teach. It's a good proving ground to see if people management is a fit and then paves the way for full advancement to people management.

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 12

The great thing about being in product marketing is that it's a discipline that, by nature, is quite broad in strategic thinking and interacts with the key go-to-market functions in a business. This gives you a huge advantage if you can craft your story to be a VP of marketing! 

Broadly speaking, I think this reflects any kind of process for making a job change. 

  1. Understand the VP Marketing role: Are you looking to go to a smaller company and be their first hire? or perhaps the first leadership hire above a small team of 1-3 people? If so, you'll need to roll up your sleeves and do everything from continuing product marketing to brand to demand gen to marketing operations to events and technology decisions. The most common things I've seen are moves from PMM at a large/mid-sized company to VP Marketing at a much smaller organization and then laddering up those skills over time to move to larger and larger companies.
  2. Take inventory: Figure out what this theoretical VP Marketing role entails and look at your own skills. What gaps do you have? What experiences do you need? 
  3. Fill the gaps: Here's where you need to be proactive and find opportunities within your responsibilities and leverage the relationships you have. Are you running a campaign? Try to do your own SEM using online tools (there are a million tutorials online on how you can experiment with this). Trying to do ABM? Learn how to run reports in Salesforce to find your target audience. Doing some naming? Spend time with the brand team to understand how brands are created and sustained. If you don't have these teams, and even if you do, be sure to read and talk to experts to understand the tasks and challenges of different facets of marketing.

To acquire the job you have to put yourself out there - make a resume that is for VP Marketing roles. Say you're looking for new opportunities on LinkedIn. Apply for roles. Talk to recruiters. Fail. Get feedback. Fill the gaps. Apply again. Eventually, you'll land the role and it will put you on a very steep learning curve! 

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 12

You're actually in a good position if you are moving from a B2B account management role into a B2B product marketing role because you have knowledge of the audience you're serving and a deep understanding of the product. This is a chance to turn a bug into a feature.

This whole pivot is actually a chance to practice your product marketing skills, except you are your product. Focus on what the interview question is getting at - what is the core need of the audience? - and then speak to how you are uniquely qualified to do it. Own the perspective that you have and it might even help you differentiate from your competition for the role.

Example of a question you might get: Tell me about a time when you launched a product. 

  • While you may never have launched a product, you have probably faced a situation where you had to get lots of stakeholders together to agree on a decision, made some kind of asset, delivered it, and then saw if it worked or not. 
  • Reframe your experience - perhaps a sales pitch you put together - to show how you have the skills, just not in the same context.

Tactically, I would make a list of questions, sourced from product marketers, and then map your experiences against them. If you have some time between now and your pivot, I would also think through the gaps in your resume and see if you can fill it with side projects or deeper involvement in activities that show the same skills.

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 13

First of all, I'm sorry to hear that you were affected by a Covid-19 related lay-off. When pivoting your career, I'm going to parrot back some good advice that I've received in the past.

When it comes to making changes in a career, there are usually 3 big facets of change: 

  1. Industry
  2. Function
  3. Product 

If you're looking to secure a role quickly, I'd recommend changing only one of these facets. If you have a longer timeline, you can try to change more than one. 

Then in terms of steps, I'd suggest looking at the answer to the VP of Marketing question asked earlier as the same general approach applies. Good luck! 

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google May 12

Here are a few changes that came top-of-mind and probably aren't unique to my company: 

  • Focus: We have become hyper-focused on our priorities as everyone is working under very different conditions and we want to preserve our collective well-being. We're in the mindset of fewer, better, things.
  • Overcommunication: Without the normal walk-by conversations in the physical office, we've found it more and more important to overcommunicate with each other and with our stakeholders. This is where I've found the discipline of standing meetings to be incredibly important for making sure everyone is heading in the same direction. For example, I previously had a weekly staff meeting but now we have 2, shorter, staff meetings a week to make sure we're all chatting regularly.
  • More casual interactions: With everyone at home there's been an improvement in understanding where everyone is coming from, in a more personal way than before. For example, my pets are frequently on calls with me! Teams feel more connected (despite the distance) and I think this will help us form closer relationships that will be great for the future. 

I'm 100% sure there are more lessons to learn and even more sure that we've probably learned some lessons that we'll only be able to identify in retrospect.

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google December 18

Your best play is to show up with an insight backed by data. I think many product marketers over-index on the product and not the market and you have an opportunity to bring market insight into the organization. Being new is actually an advantage because you won't be skewed by the history of the company.

You'll know what insights will be most impactful to your organization but a few ideas:

  1. Market trends - what is happening in the market overall? How is your company proactively making sure they'll be competitive in the future?
  2. Market players - who is your top competitor? What have they been up to and why does that matter to your company?
  3. Audience trends - who are the people you are selling to, or the people who use your products? Are they doing things differently now? What does that mean for your company?

All of these will differentiate you to your new team members and be really useful to the organization.

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Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google April 23

In well run marketing teams, the metrics for the business are assessed holistically instead of piecemeal among each marketing function. 

The contribution of Product Marketing to a growth result is setting up the strategic positioning, messaging, and core assets that can be used by your demand generation teams. The contribution of demand generation teams is taking that understanding of the audience, problem, and markets and selecting channels that best reach and resonate with those audiences and then proving out that resonance with metrics. A brilliant PMM strategy is useless without a way to reach audiences, and an amazing event or nurture campaign is useless without something to say. 

Instead of thinking of XX% of growth is driven by PMM, instead think about the overall success of the business and how marketing can contribute to it. What are the goals that you are trying to achieve as a team and how is everyone giving to it? 

Credentials & Highlights
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Lives In Newark, California
Knows About Consumer Product Marketing, Brand Strategy, Product Launches, Product Marketing Caree...more