Product Marketing is a very new role in the industry - it sits at the intersection of product and marketing but the function influences several areas of the organization including design, sales, support, and engineering. As a Product Marketer, you partner with Product teams to bring the voice of the user to the product development process, determine the positioning of the product to the user, and develop and execute the go-to-market plan for new products and features.
I was a Product Marketing Manager for over four years at Google, where I learned a lot about the skills that Product Marketers need. Even though the role is very versatile and one of the least standardized roles in tech companies, there are core sets of skills you can develop to be in a good position to become a strong Product Marketing Manager. Since Product Marketing Managers are at the intersection between users, the product team, and sales, they need a mix of interpersonal, communication, creative, analytical, and technical skills to be successful.
Clear communication is one of the most important traits of being a solid Product Marketing Manager. Whether it's writing a blog post or copy for a website or one-pagers and presentations for sales teams, PMMs are expected to be master communicators.
Some starter activities to develop them:
- Think about a made-up product that you would love. Try writing its launch blog post! What would you want the reader's takeaway to be? What headlines would you want the press to write?
- Design a website for your made-up product. What would it look like? How would you describe the main features?
- If you wanted to get a friend to use your made-up product but you only had 30 seconds with them. How would you persuade them? How do you get your point across?
Product Marketing is one of the most collaborative roles within an organization. They need to work with and influence other functions every day. Great communication and interpersonal skills are imperative and being able to communicate concisely is essential for PMMs to get the job done.
Product marketers are also expected to be creative. They work hand-in-hand with others in marketing to create campaigns to drive product adoption, brand love, and product engagement. It's important to be able to think outside of the box - whether it's for building creative assets for a marketing campaign or to give feedback during the product design process. Here are some exercises that might help boost your creative skills:
- Think about some products you use often. How would you market them? What would the tagline of the marketing campaign be? What would the plot of the TV ad be? Who would you want your brand ambassador to be?
- If you had an unlimited amount of budget and time to improve your favorite product. What new feature would you build? What would the A.I or social or VR/AR version be?
Analytical skills help Product Marketing Managers set themselves apart from other marketing functions. They should be able to conduct basic analyses and recognize trends in data. They often work with Growth teams and Data scientists to run experiments to identify successful tactics to grow the team's product. Here are some things you should know in preparation:
- Do you know how to conduct A/B tests? How do you make sure you only have one variable for each test?
- Have you practiced basic estimation questions? Think through how you would go about answering questions like: How would you estimate Chromecast's total addressable market? Walk me through an estimate of global Apple Watch sales?
- Think about key factors that may have caused metrics to change. For example, if your marketing campaign wasn't as successful as a previous one. Why was that the case? How could you determine it was for that reason? How would you go about finding the root cause?
Product and Technical sense
Product Marketing managers must have product instinct and technical sense. They are often involved in the early stage product design discussions and consulted on for decisions that Product Managers and designers make. Being aware of the product development process and where the team is in it is important so Product Marketing Managers can influence the team to make a great product for users and the market. It's good if they have a degree of technical chops and understand how products work and what their limitations are and why. Ultimately this can help them convey how the product works and why consumers should try it. Things that might help boost your technical sense:
- Have a basic understanding of how the internet works and how computers work
- Work with your product manager to understand the basics of how their product works
- Research similar products in the market and keep up to date with their tech reviews
You don't need to have completed a Marketing course at university to become a Product Marketing Manager but it helps to know the basics. It's important to demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of marketing. Whether that's by being able to critique Apple's latest marketing campaign or knowing what the marketing mix is, you'll often be quizzed about your marketing sense. Some useful exercises that can flex your marketing skills:
- Think about a few products that have been marketed well and ones which haven't. What are the key differences between them?
- What's your most/least favorite marketing campaign? Why?
- How would you change your marketing mix if you were selling a software or a hardware product? What about if it was B2C or B2B?
Market and user insights
The company looks to Product Marketing Managers to be a source of market and user insights. You must be able to have a good understanding of how to go about collecting and formulating insights. User studies and market research are like gold dust for PMMs so it's great if you've conducted one of these before. If not, it's important to think about how they're conducted. PMMs often have a hand in gathering insights from research, in-product data, and marketing campaigns and share these with the product, marketing, and sales teams as well as customers. Here are some good thought starters to improve your knowledge of market and user insights:
- What qualitative or quantitive research would you love to have to improve your product? How would you build a recommendation with this data?
- Do you a solid understanding of the competitive products in the landscape? How are they different? What's more popular with who? How could this inform the product's positioning?
And many more...
This isn’t a complete list of product marketing skills and it's important to customize your list of skills based on your background, the company you're applying to, and the type of product marketing role you’re applying for.
If you are interested in developing these skills to land your dream product marketing role, check out Exponent's PMM interview prep course.
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