SaaS companies are always on the prowl for great PMMs because great PMMs are worth their weight in gold. If you’re currently employed as a PMM, want to become a PMM, or are trying to hire a PMM, you must understand the core skills every PMM needs to be successful in their job.
Before we jump into each of the core skills, please know that these skills are by no means comprehensive. Just because you have these core skills does not automatically make you a great PMM, but great PMMs are likely to be quite strong in each of these areas.
The four core skills:
Why did we choose these four core skills? If you’ve been around the product marketing block enough times, you’ll realize that although product marketing job responsibilities vary greatly from company to company, 80% of PMM deliverables can be covered by these four core skills.
These skills should not be confused with The PMM Classification System which is more about evaluating a PMM for your company’s specific needs versus the four core skills which are needed for producing deliverables.
Messaging is the ability to communicate pains and solutions for a specific persona using the written word. PMM writing is unique because it’s all about distilling a message down to it’s essence and packaging words in a way that will be accepted by a specific group of people. A PMM should write with very little fat.
If you’ve ever taken a journalism class or worked on a newspaper staff, you’ll be familiar with the concept of “burying the lead”. In journalism, you are taught to make sure the most important information someone needs to know is placed at the very beginning of an article or story.
PMM writing has the right balance of information density and persona jargon. Depending on the persona, there’s a certain level of authenticity that needs to be met to avoid the dreaded “marketing fluff eye-roll”.
Every PMM should be able to produce a deck that can be presented to a customer by a sales person with adequate training. We call this deck the 80% deck or the sales-ready deck.
What the hell is an 80% deck?
If a 0% deck is what you get when you press Cmd/Ctrl + N in PowerPoint and a 100% deck is what you would show to an audience of 3,000 people with full creative support, an 80% deck is 80% from a keynote.
This is not an exact science so interpret it your own way. Every PMM should be able to produce an 80% deck without help from a creative team or creative agency.
There are many different purposes for slides but ultimately a PMM should be strong in PowerPoint and know how to communicate a message through visuals. If your deck is nothing more than a list of bullet points, why bother presenting it at all?
Putting together a demo and delivering it with quality is a core skill of every PMM. PMMs should be able to deliver a basic demo that tells a simple story focused on pains and solutions. A story does not mean running through a list of features.
Feature demos are for product managers. “Check out these cool new things we released! Oh wow. Such code. Very magnificent.”
Product marketers tell stories. “This challenge is faced by this persona. It’s painful because of x, y, and z. Our solution fixes these pains with features a, b, and c. By the way, we have a vision for the future of this industry and we want to take you there.”
If messaging is the pitch, the demo is the proof.
Don’t be afraid to show demos. Demos are awesome.
This fourth skill is not as clear cut as the previous three skills. The customer skill is like a sixth sense. It’s the ability to know exactly which customer can be leveraged in a certain way to enhance messaging, decks, and demos. Using a customer in the right way can have huge benefits.
We’re not going to go into the rabbit hole of Customer Marketing which deserves its own category, but PMMs should always act as the tip of the spear when it comes to telling stories about successful customers. For smaller SaaS companies, PMMs will likely be expected to own a subset of Customer Marketing responsibilities.
There’s one more skill….
We just covered the four core skills every PMM should have but there exists a fifth skill which can be argued.
For most SaaS companies, digital channels are either #1 or #2 behind sales channels in terms of importance. PMMs are not hired to be web designers but there are some camps who believe PMMs should be able to put a webpage or website together with help from a web design team.
Let’s examine the other side of the argument — should PMMs really be driving website architecture, navigation, and strategy? PMMs have limited experience when it comes to SEO/SEM, A/B testing, etc. PMMs have no idea how to dig deep into Google Analytics. Do companies really want PMMs driving the website?
That being said, once teams agree that a webpage should exist, PMMs own the messaging that goes on that page and should have the last say when it comes to word choice, screenshots, diagrams, downloadable offers, and customer spotlights.
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Editor’s note: The Art of Product Marketing is a publication dedicated to the field of SaaS Product Marketing. Our mission is to eradicate mundane product messaging from the universe.