Almost every technology company faces an inflection point when the need for a dedicated Product Marketing Manager outweighs the opportunity cost of having other roles assume the responsibility of figuring out how to package, position, and launch a product in a nascent or mature marketplace.
Since the “role” of Product Marketing Manager (PMM) is relatively new and oftentimes uniquely defined based on industry, market (B2B, B2C, B2B2C) and growth stage, I decided to sit with a few lead PMM practitioners across a number of different verticals and markets to see if we shared the same ethos as it relates to the role of PMM. For the sake of digestible reading, I broke this out into two parts.
- How do you define success?
- The many hats Product Marketers wear
- What makes a great PMM?
- A Product Marketers most important work relationship is with…
- Tools PMM use for a product launch
- Advice for folks who want to transition into a PMM role
- Publications of interest for PMMs
- Groups & Meetups for PMM’s
- The PMM’s you admire most
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1. How do you define success as a PMM?
Success for a Product Marketing Manager comes in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but most of us could agree on the following: Product Marketers are responsible for the positioning, differentiation, value proposition, customer research, and the GTM process for how the product should be brought to market. While a PM is likened to CEO of the product, a PMM is comparable to the CMO of the product.
2. The many hats Product Marketers wear.
Product Marketers usually fall into one of the following phases at some point in their career. The only way to gain exposure to all of these different scenarios is to work at companies at different stages with different needs.
A. Inbound — Customer facing | Development focused PMM.
“We don’t know what we’re building, or we think we know what we’re building”
The responsibilities are heavily focused on market research with certain amount of analysis, perspectives on the user base and customer journeys, perspectives on the market and where it’s headed, the differentiation proposition and how to capture the market. In other words, this PMM role is much more focused on strategy and early stage discovery.
B. Outbound — Product & Engineering Facing | Commercially focused PMM.
“We know what we’re building, but we want to validate our product and launch it into the world”
The responsibilities include pre-alpha discovery, beta testing, launch and GTM planning, marketing materials, and the creation of KPIs for a successful launch. These PMM’s spend a lot of time validating their product with customers and continue to focus on positioning in the market. They spend a majority of their time thinking about how their product differentiates from others in the market and keep a pulse on customer pain points and how they translate into feature requirements and the product roadmap.
C. Customer & Product Facing | Field Enablement PMM.
“We already built something that’s in the market, and we need your help with market adoption”
The last role applies to a mature company with a complex product and is usually seen as an extension of the Commercially focused role described above. Some of the responsibilities include a mix of evaluating the existing value proposition as well as creating and executing a robust marketing effort around digital marketing programs and campaigns. This stage also includes a fair amount of PR momentum, demand generation, trade shows, and external comms strategies.
When your customer email database increases tenfold with your strategies and you have more customers than you even know what to do with, that’s when you need to make a break between between PMM and Demand Generation Marketer. A PMM is not a Digital Marketer which is something that some companies confuse quite a bit.
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3. What makes a great Product Marketing Manager?
The #1 most popular response to this was “Communication”. Product Marketers need to be able to listen to what other people are saying, and translate the complicated into the simple. Furthermore, because the role is so cross-functional, a Product Marketers needs to be able to communicate with all different types of people and personalities from the most introverted to the most extroverted.
It’s important that you’re able to talk to your customers, iterate and let both your strategy and customer feedback determine your inputs for the product roadmap and deployment. Succeeding at this will largely influence your feedback to the PM and Engineering team. The ability to translate something technical into something simple so that your company and customers all understand is the core piece of PMM.
To reiterate, LISTEN, and really hear what people have to say and make sure you have a robust set of data points to make an informed decision on the direction of your product.
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Follow me to get updates and if you’re interested in more, I just completed “The Making of a Product Marketing Manager — Part 2” where I discuss the following:
1. A Product Marketers most important work relationship is with…
2. Tools used for a product launch
3. Guidance for folks who want to transition into PMM
4. Favorite Publications
5. Groups / Meetups for PMM’s
6. The PMM’s most admired
I wanted to thank all of the Product Marketers who come from a variety of companies in the Valley to share their experiences with me. They asked not be named in these articles, so I’m keeping their names and roles confidential.