Is Product Marketing Really Still a Mystery?

Me: “I’ve worked in Product Marketing for the last seven years.”
Them: “Oh, so you do Marketing?”
Me: “Well, not quite. I work with marketing teams, but my role isn’t exactly marketing.”

A little bit of a staring contest, then I explain further.

Them: “Oh! That makes a lot of sense that a company would need this role.”

Even though the above interaction has repeated itself for the last couple of months, it still surprises me. I truly believe that Product Marketing is a crucial role for an organization of any size, so I can’t believe it when anyone tells me they either don’t have a Product Marketer or that they aren’t sure what Product Marketers do.

It leaves me wondering these questions:

      • How does your sales team stay up to date about the product?
      • How do your marketing and sales teams learn how to position the product(s) by persona?
      • Do you have a method of aligning and coordinating teams before you launch features/products?
      • Do you highlight product information in your marketing campaigns?
      • Are you able to articulate why your product is better than your competitors?
      • How are you tracking product usage and if customers are using your products in their most optimal way?

Then, I asked my LinkedIn network the same question. I got over 100 likes and 40+ comments – WOW. This is definitely a hot topic and one we should address.

What I Learned

“The role of Product Marketer is a reflection of the role of the product in a company and the complexity of its go-to-market. It varies widely because the buying and selling experience varies widely across companies and industries. Ultimately every Product Marketer needs to be able to do two things. 1. Craft strong positioning and 2. Adapt.” – Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP of Marketing @ Hubspot

“Product Marketing is strategic and tactical, it is right brain/left brain and it fills the holes: in many cases, Product Marketing will do the things you haven’t hired someone else to do.” – Emily Wright, Head of Product Marketing and Brand at Homebase

“Each team has different expectations from Product Marketing. Sales wants us to drive more leads either through events (and every sales guy/gal wants events in their region). Product management expects Product Marketing to launch products or promote low-level features through campaigns. It’s up to Product Marketing to balance these different expectations while keeping our focus on what is good for the business.” – Matheen Raza, Sr. Product Marketing Manager @ HPE’s BlueData Team

Here are the themes I gathered:

  1. The role has many various responsibilities and expectations. Therefore it sits with various teams i.e. it is not consolidated.
  2. There hasn’t been a lot of education around the value of Product Marketing – therefore, resources aren’t put against these roles as often as we would assume.
  3. The value of having one person or team responsible for the various tasks is still being discovered. Many different roles at an organization are doing pieces of Product Marketing but in silos.

How to Make Product Marketing Less Confusing

“Ok, I get it. Product Marketing is a bit confusing!” is probably what you’re thinking. So, what do we need to do about it?

Educate

Whether you are in Product Marketing yourself or you have worked with a Product Marketer before, we need to take the opportunity to share the goal of our role and how it will benefit an organization. Early on in my engagement with AceUp, a startup in Boston, one of the first things I did was run an hour internal session to share what Product Marketing is with the whole team and how we can best work together. Ever since, various members of the team have come to me with ideas and projects.

Become a Product Marketer!

Chances are that you are already doing one of the responsibilities that Product Marketers do. Since Product Marketing has so many responsibilities, it is very common for someone from support, product or marketing, to name a few, to enter into the Product Marketing world. Especially today, with the trend of product led growth, focus on data and always being customer first, Product Marketing will have even more influence.

Empower Your Existing Product Marketing Team

Product Marketing sits at the intersection of so many teams. Therefore, it is the perfect role to have in your strategic and higher level conversations. Empower your own Product Marketing team any way you can. Invite them to meetings, incorporate them early into the conversation (but you will probably then realize you need them all the way through the end!).

I will leave you with a final thought and a positive spin. Automation is everywhere. Artificial Intelligence is everywhere (almost). The ambiguity of Product Marketing may actually work in our favor. I won’t take credit for this thought, but Devon O’Rourke, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Amazon, says it well. “The guiding principle for PMMs is to be the voice and narrator of products and services. The tasks and tactics used to best perform the role are not concrete and luckily for us, they won’t be, or else we might be looking for new careers! The best PMMs embrace the ambiguity and are constantly changing their tactics and responsibilities to best drive results.”

Perhaps a positive catch 22? Our role as Product Marketers is ambiguous and remains to be fully understood. However, this ambiguity will potentially continue to work in our favor.

Product Marketing Leader & Consultant
Shirin Shahin
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