Product-Marketing Management: From 0 to 1 — Part I
The Dao* of Professional Growth
No one graduates from college with a degree in Product Management, Product Marketing Management, or Growth leadership, let alone — with years of relevant practical experience in these.
These are roles we all cross over to, from being engineers, marketers, business, operations, sales, and success folks. This is to say, it is not a coincidence that they all require some prior experience in other fields, or a set of different hard and soft skills from other disciplines to build on.
This means, there’s some whitespace around your current role, that you can explore, frameworks you can practice, and ultimately grow into one of these roles.
That’s what I did, over and over again in my career — mainly because the business needed me to do so each time. From a customer-facing rep of a gaming site to a team leader to product and marketing leadership in a product-led-growth org, from B2C to B2B, from an employee to an entrepreneur.
This is also how I built teams over the years — identifying sharp, talented, hard-working individuals, who are eager to learn and make an impact. Today, they are leading their own teams and successful businesses.
I want us to be open to talking about our own personal journey of growth, and take pride in it. Remember — no one is born a PM, a PMM, a Growth leader, or a senior in anything.
You were once a junior, new to a certain role — making your way up. Someone believed in you, someone helped you, someone mentored you, someone gave you a chance.
I am a big believer in the ability of professional communities to help us support each other, and help us grow. I’m a member of a few great ones: Product Marketing Alliance, Reforge (Reforge), a local TLV PMM group, and recently I joined the admin team of Growth Impact, the largest professional growth group in TLV — because I believe in democratizing knowledge, and helping others around us grow. As I’ve written in the past, it’s the most effective way I know to shape the personal and professional environment I want to live in.
This #GrowthSnack is a short translated summary of a series of 6 posts I shared with my TLV community and network a few months ago. I decided to write the original series because I was approached by talented and ambitious people who were looking to make the move to the product-marketing space, and I didn’t have time to personally guide each and every one of them. I was looking for a way to make the knowledge and experience I gathered over 15 years accessible — at scale. This translation is the second wave of this effort, now making it accessible to English readers as well.
*Tao or Dao is a Chinese word signifying the “way”, “path”, “route”, “road” or sometimes more loosely “doctrine”, “principle” or “holistic beliefs”. In the context of East Asian philosophy and East Asian religions, Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential for individual wisdom. This intuitive knowing of “life” cannot be grasped as a concept; it is known through the actual living experience of one’s everyday being.
The painting is called “Three Blind Men”, and was painted by the Japanese Zen master Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴, 1686–1769) and is part of an eight-piece series called “Blind Men”.
Hakuin picked up the brush at the age of 60 (talk about crossing over to a new profession at any age), because he wanted to provide illiterate folk with access to the Buddhist doctrine.
The poem to the left reads:
“Both the health of our bodies and the fleeting world outside us, are like the blind men’s round log bridge — a mind/heart that can cross over, is the best guide.”
What are these blind men doing?
What is the difference between them?
How is it related to what we’re talking about here?
We will get back to this later.
Zen and the Art of Crossing Over to Adjacent Roles— Mapping and Analyzing Opportunities (with PMM examples)
Thinking of crossing over to Product-Marketing from Marketing? Product? Customer-Success? Sales? By all means — I think this is a legit move to look into. You will have a lot of useful knowledge and applicable experience that can be translated into your own super-power in this context.
So how can you go about understanding if this role would be a good fit for you right now? What I often recommend to people I talk to about this, is to use the recruitment process to learn more about this.
In short -
- Review and analyze job postings to identify applicable experience/skills and map the gaps.
- Talk to PMMs, recruiters, hiring managers — to understand these gaps better, what the daily job looks like in each position and in each company (spoiler alert — it’s all over the place:). Simulations/presentations — can teach you a lot about how comfortable you are in this space, and what skills and knowledge you still need to acquire.
- Focus your time and energy on the opportunities that make the most sense for you, and continuously learn and practice to bridge gaps.
- Product Marketing Manager (entry-level)
A person I am happy to call a close friend, whom I met at one of those online groups I mentioned, was looking for her first tech position in the US. She had a decade of experience in leading marketing teams as well as leading a startup in the healthcare space. We worked together on helping her acquire the required lingo, some of the basic tools and methodologies she’d need to use in this new PMM role. Within a few weeks, she was hired as the first PMM at a fast-growing startup.
I sent her this mug for her first day in the office:
We kept discussing shortly (10–30 minutes here and there) how to address different challenges and leadership asks in her first 90 days there. Within 18 months, she will be the Director of PMM of a newly born unicorn, leading a team of 10 ICs.
A typical description of a Product Manager position (entry-level):
Responsibilities (What You’ll Do)
- Create and maintain product and solutions messaging.
- Support product launch motions and contribute to go-to-market strategy across departments to drive adoption of key capabilities.
- Maintain regular communications with product, sales, and customer success teams to ensure cross-functional alignment around new product initiatives and releases.
- Translate technical products into customer-facing narratives and collateral with a focus on value, differentiation and use cases.
- Develop and deliver content for webinars, events, and speaking opportunities.
- Partner with Enablement team to create outstanding enablement materials and training for the extended revenue team — including sales, customer success and sales engineering
- Work with partners to discover and define joint value propositions, use cases, and co-marketing campaigns.
Qualifications (what You Have)
- 3+ years of B2B SaaS Product Marketing experience.
- Data-informed, creative thinker with an affinity for a fast-paced work environment.
- Experience in managing projects that have short deadlines, cross-functional. dependencies, and competing priorities.
- Great writer and thinker; exceptional written and verbal communication skills.
- Experience collaborating with partners on joint go-to-market efforts.
- Ability to travel occasionally.
Let’s try reviewing these from a customer-success manager perspective:
Percentage of meeting these requirements to some extent:
5/7 = 71%
4/5 = 80%
A friendly reminder, for both women and men , about Why Women (and Some Men) — Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified, discussing the famous HP report, stating that -
“Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.”
I am not going to focus on the difference between men and women here, but rather emphasize this point -
“…In other words, people who weren’t applying believed they needed the qualifications not to do the job well, but to be hired in the first place… They didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing one’s expertise could overcome not having the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications…, the statistic is a wake-up call that not everyone is playing the game that way. ”
2. A Senior Product Marketing Manager
A colleague and a friend who has been holding senior marketing positions for over a decade in both startups and large corporate companies was looking to get into the product marketing space. She was not looking for entry-level positions, but rather senior ones.
I thought that made perfect sense; she is great at what she does, has tons of relevant experience, and the 20–30% difference in jargon or 2–4 new methodologies she’d need to get familiar with — was not really much of a challenge.
She was committed to closing the gaps she had, read books, talked with peers, researched the markets and industries of the companies she pursued, and went through a few recruitment processes where she narrowed down on how to communicate her relevant abilities and experience. Within 4 months from our first chat — she would lead the PMM function of a growing startup in the B2B space.
A typical description of a Senior Product Manager position:
What You’ll Do
- Insights: Understand our customers, building applicable insights that inform Product, Sales, and Marketing
- Lifecycle Storytelling: Use a product marketing lens to develop our customer expansion strategy, building scalable retention and cross/up-sell messaging across the customer lifecycle, and working with the Customer Marketing team to implement in shared channels.
- Content: Build a broad range of product marketing content directly targeted at existing customers to improve active use, retention, and expansion
- Customer Onboarding: Lead strategy to help customers achieve initial success through personalized, integrated, data-driven experiences.
- Customer Expansion: Build compelling messaging and content to achieve clear value and expand targeted accounts
- Enablement: Partner with the Customer Marketing, Field Readiness, and Customer Success to equip and train field teams with the messaging and content needed to succeed in the market, including contributing to regular training and enablement sessions
- Feedback: Provide regular feedback and insights to global product and marketing organizations
What You Need To Succeed
- 5+ years of experience in product, adoption, or customer marketing
- Experience with B2B software marketing
- You see problems as opportunities to solve
- You can create compelling content and messaging that resonates with customers
- A passion for working with global teams, across a variety of languages and cultures
- You can simplify complex processes and ideas
Let’s take a look at this senior PMM position, from the eyes of an experienced B2B marketeer:
Gross calculation of meeting these requirements to some extent:
6/7 = 85%
6/6 = 100%
Your time and energy are your scarcest resources, it’s imperative that you focus!
1. If you don’t have an opportunity to cross over to a PMM role within your company (which is a great way to start), I’d suggest you look for roles in industries, products, and services you already know and have experience with. This will provide you with the advantage of already knowing a lot of the personas, pain points, existing messaging frameworks, competitive landscape and other important GTM elements that you’d need to know or use as a PMM. It will also help flatten your learning curve, getting into this new role. If you do not have this luxury, and sometimes we do not - at least try to make sure it’s an industry/product you’re interested in and want to learn a lot about.
Secondly, if you’re looking for a position outside of your organization — this means you’ll be pursuing it on top of your full-time job, managing family life, and other obligations you may have. Going that way, without narrowing down your search/interview efforts - on where you have a competitive advantage with your existing knowledge and skills, will spread you thin, impact your signals, the quality of your interviews and simulations, and will ultimately wear you out — before you even started.
If I didn’t convince you about the negative side of exploring too many options simultaneously or the negative aspect of opportunity cost — here are a couple of talks by behavioral economists, that might do it better than me:)
- Dan Ariely on the Secretary Problem
- Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice
2. Product-Marketing Management can mean different things in different organizations, of different sizes and with different GTM focus (sales-led, marketing-led, or product-led, we will talk more about the difference between these in part II).
At the same time, different seniority levels lead to focusing the majority of your time on different things — content writing, enablement motions, research and analysis, strategic planning or building teams and GTM processes at scale, and so on.
Make sure, through going over the requirements and talking with the hiring team, that the role you are being interviewed for, actually matches your strengths and areas where you see yourself operating and delivering on — on a regular basis.
This concludes Part I.
Check out Part II - which provides more information, tools, frameworks, lingo, and methodologies you’d need to familiarize yourself with - when considering crossing over to a PMM role.
Until next time,