Product-Marketing Management: From 0 to 1 — Part II
In part I, we talked about how to identify relevant past experience and current gaps.
In this post, we will review helpful tools and frameworks you can use to bridge some of these gaps, prepare for your interview process or home assignment, and ultimately — your daily PMM work.
You can get access to a lot of the resources for free on the web. If you want to start by reviewing information about common professional books, training courses and communities - skip to “Kata № 3.”
Welcome to the Dōjō — Demystifying Product Marketing
“A dōjō (道場) is a hall or place for immersive learning or meditation. This is traditionally in the field of martial arts, but has been seen increasingly in other fields, such as meditation and software development. The term literally means “place of the Way” in Japanese.” — Wikipedia
My fascination with east Asia began with my Kung-Fu practice back in high school. It led me to pursue East Asian studies at Tel Aviv University, where I eventually crossed over the sea and researched the archipelago of Japan. The language and concepts of martial arts are still part of my daily life to this day, especially in my lifelong pursuit of professional learning.
Kata №1: Basic Practice & Terminology
Market overview, competitive landscape, the buyer’s journey and user experience along the way
“Kata (型 or 形) is a Japanese word meaning “form”. It refers to a detailed choreographed pattern of martial arts movements made to be practiced alone. It can also be reviewed within groups and in unison when training. It is practiced in Japanese martial arts as a way to memorize and perfect the movements being executed.”
The Katas (figuratively speaking) that I will discuss here may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but the more you practice and learn how to apply the tools and frameworks alongside your existing experience and skills — the easier they are going to become. In fact, one day you may find that you’re doing these automatically, without thinking —all of a sudden you’ll be able to notice the “The Matrix” :)
Mapping the market and the competitive landscape
If you’re considering a certain position or getting ready for an interview — start by mapping the market and the product category. If possible and relevant — I like to take advantage of the G2 quadrant (note that the information there depends on the level of investment companies allocate to this) or other review sites like Capterra, Gartner Peer Review, and others. You can also search the Gartner site to see if you can get access to a relevant magic quadrant.
Let’s take the top players in the product analytics category, according to G2’s grid. Note that on the menu to your left, you can flip views for SMB, Mid-Market, and Enterprise.
Note that you can also get a comparison view
An easy way to approach your simulation or preparation for an interview is by reviewing this information and writing down your observations in terms of risks and opportunities.
If you can get your hands on analyst reports or other credible sources (for example, some of the top players may offer them in exchange for your contact info :) — you can review these as well.
Back to review sites — once you’re done mapping the market and understanding who the top players are, you can dig in deeper. You can start reading the customer reviews for each competitor and learn about strengths and weaknesses, relevant personas and companies they service, opportunities for growth, and more.
You can also review the top competitors’ sites, free trials or recorded demos and try to answer:
- What positioning and messaging are they using?
- Who are the personas they are targeting? Company size?
- What’s their GTM motion (product-led, bottoms up, or sales-assisted?/marketing-led/sales-led?)
1. Document your observations, questions, and feedback. Do this per player, but focus on the one you are interviewing for. A nice way to organize this information can be a SWOT model, but of course, feel free to do whatever is easier/effective for you. The more you understand their path(s) to differentiation, competitive positioning, and for telling a compelling story or providing a unique/defensible offering, the better.
These things take time and practice, do not despair :) If you found some of the messaging/user experience perplexing or confusing, write this down too. You can use this as one of your questions during an interview later on.
2. Enjoy being an outsider looking in. You have a fresh perspective on things. Learn to see this as an advantage rather than a disadvantage, as in the “Beginner’s Mind”. Write down your assumptions if sending a written assignment, and discuss them by heart when presenting.
3. Give credit where credit is due. You are going to be interviewed by the teams who worked hard on putting together the current GTM motion. Don’t forget to mention what you liked, and what you think is powerful. It can also provide the team with additional visibility into the way you think and assess flows and collateral.
Product Marketing Management — Tool Kit
Remember all the requirements and jargon from the job posts in part I? Let’s map these out and see how they tie to the different areas of responsibilities in the PMM work.
Before you review these, please note that different PMM seniority levels and different GTM motions (product/marketing/sales-led) — dictate a different combination and focus/volume of these.
For example, entry-level positions may focus on generating messaging (collateral) and enablement materials, while more senior positions may focus on strategy, research and analysis, and building GTM processes at scale. A company with a sales-assisted motion or top-down sales motion may rely heavily on sales enablement, while self-serve motions will require the help of the PMM within the product’s flow, guides, and micro-copy, during the activation process or onboarding of new features (I’m working on another post about that 😃).
Click here to open the full table in another tab.
Kata №2 — Simulations/Home Assignments
I have worked on several home assignments throughout my career and created some myself. The most time-consuming, energy-constraining but ultimately most interesting ones — have been for the PMM role. As one of my collegeaues Erez says — “It’s the closest to being an entrepreneur inside an organization.”
The cross-functional nature of this position requires you to perform a comprehensive research — just so you can come up with a handful of insightful and actionable observations.
We all want to hire fullstack PMs or PMMs and validate every little thing about them — but the truth is, sometimes our teams are not built that way. Some teams have dedicated members who lead competitive intelligence and market research, while other PMMs own enablement and sales tools or content generation. Sometimes, the day-to-day operations are not about extensive research, but rather a synthesis of information sources you get from other stakeholders and need to put together in a thought leadership piece. Why then, ask for things the candidate will barely get to do on a regular basis?
When wearing the hiring manager’s hat, I have always tried to focus the assignment on the core elements that a candidate is expected to execute and lead on a regular basis — that are difficult for me to assess during interviews.
If the candidate already has a portfolio of previous collateral to show, I ask to see it first. If they can repurpose a short presentation they already have , just so I can see how well they present, I ask them to do that.
If they don’t have relevant materials to show from previous positions, and I still have outstanding questions or doubts — I spend 10–15 minutes to tailor A SHORT CUSTOM simulation for the candidate. It will usually be around their ability to quickly learn things they do not know and apply this knowledge on a relevant PMM deliverable/task. I personally think that’s one of the main skills you want to make sure the person you hire for a PMM role has…The markets are changing all the time, you have to keep up with what’s going on and adjust accordingly. PMMs are needed, because nothing stays the same for long.
We are asking them to spend time in this assessment process, it’s only fair that we do the same, and ensure the assignment we give is relevant to them and to their specific interview process.
I talked with my colleague Ophir Wainer recently, who said she only asks people to work on assignments that are not related to the company she is hiring for, because she feels it is not fair to do otherwise :) BTW — she’s hiring :)
Here are a few home assignment examples I’ve seen out there, either for roles I pursued, or when candidates asked for my advice or assistance. I chose random products/markets to bring these to life.
Home Assignement Examples
In case you think that the assignment is too broad, I highly recommend you verify with the hiring manager that it resembles the core part of your work, that cannot be validated via interview, to save everyone the time and energy.
1. [Hypothetical example] Pendo and Amplitude are market leaders in the Product Analytics category. Perform a short competitive analysis, and tell us how you would position Pendo vs. Amplitude and why.
Format: Word Document — up to 2 pages / Deck — up to 10 slides.
2. [Hypothetical example] Present in 5–7 slides, with the main Go-To-Market (GTM) elements for Heap. Refer to:
● Target audience
● Addressable market opportunity
● Key messaging
● Competitive positioning
● Metrics for success
● Opportunities for growth
*My comment: This looks like a short assignment, but there’s a vast ocean with a many icebergs in it :) I advise hiring managers to ask themselves — what can they really expect from 3–5 hours of work on this - from a person who’s not familiar with the market/product, and what do they want to learn from this.
3. [Hypothetical example] The Miro team is looking to optimize their freemium user activation.
New users creat accounts -
50% invite other team members
35% of the invitees are accepted and lead to creating new user accounts
40% of these invitees collaborate with the initial user
1% of the original users convert into a paying team.
- Reviewing this funnel, did anything seem particularly odd? What? Why?
- Looking to optimize the conversion through the funnel steps, what would you address first and how?
- How would you validate your assumptions?
- Suggest 2–3 types of marketing communication along the onabording process, to increase these conversation rates. Specify which user gets what and when.
Write up to half a page. We recommend that you spend about 1 day working on this assignment.
Average timeframe: ~1 week.
How can you approach these simulations and assignments?
If you got to the point where you are given one, this means you have passed about 1–2 interviews already. It’s important to make sure that you come ready for these interviews, with questions that can fill some of the gaps you have regarding the market, product, current GTM motion, and where the team wants to go next.
Chances are, you’ll be asked to work on something that resonates with these issues, in the context of your specific function within the org. Write these down and map them. You can use a GTM template to fill in the most important elements (you have a template in the Tool Kit table above) and make sure you do not skip a key element you’ll need to use in your assignment later on.
Generally speaking, you would want to do the following research/learning, to answer most of the above questions — at a high level:
1. Market size, trends
2. Relevant personas + relevant value proposition per persona
3. Top players — how do they differentiate/position themselves? What do customers say about them? And analysts?
4. If there’s a free trial/freemium version, try it and write down your UX/Journey observations. If there isn’t, look for recorded demos.
For a generic GTM overview of 5–7 slides, I’d look into generating these slides:
1. Market size, trends, top players
2. The product you’re reviewing: personas + value proposition (show that you understand these)
3. Relevant messaging direction for what you described in slide 2 (general or in the context of competitive positioning against competitor X).
4–5. Pick 3 things you’d focus on, when planning/executing the GTM motion, in order to move the needle/better compete with competitor X. Explain why you chose these.
Use the extra slides to support your arguments with relevant credible sources, if you end up having no room for these — add them in the appendix.
Practice your presentation, always plan to leave 10–15 minutes for questions. After you work on a few these, you can repurpose past assignments to quickly create a new one.
Lastly, going through the interviews and assignments, can ultimately provide you with a lot of understanding of whether or not this role/position would be a good fit for you.
I know it sounds crazy, but there were times where I asked to get an assignment, because I wanted to test Shelly-Market/Product fit, and it did teach me a lot of whether or not I’ll be able to hit the ground running, and if this is a space that would be a sustainable path for me :)
Kata №3 — Networking and Other Shortcuts
Networking. As discussed in part I, talking with peers and people in your network who have crossed over to this role and have been doing this for a while — can help you understand rather quickly if this could be a good fit for you.
Because a lot of the information is available on the web — in posts such as this one, or provided by professional communities, I think it makes sense to use the 1on1 time to answer specific questions, or consult regarding a specific assignment where needed.
If you have any specific questions regarding what I wrote here — feel free to reach out, I’ll do my best to respond ASAP :)
Professional communities and training. There are several paid professional communities that provide training courses on the basics/advanced concepts, tools and jargon of the PMM realm. Among them you will find Pragmatic Marketing and the Product Marketing Alliance (PMA).
Another way people find useful is to simply read or listen to professional books, while talking to PMMs in their network. Some people prefer a good mix of all of these. I encourage you to figure out what’s the best way for you to learn, practice and develop your skills — per the amount of time and other resources you have.
I personally took Pragmatic Institute courses and have found them extremely useful. I am also a paying member of PMA — which gives me access to a lot of templates and tools. But that wasn’t how I got into this space. I evolved into it naturally in the B2C realm, and when I moved to the states, surrounded by B2B opportunities and some helpful peers. I decided to cross over, and focus on mitigating the gaps between the two categories. Needless to say that the product-led growth movement couldn’t have gained momentum at a better time :)
Remeber Hakuin’s painting?
These three blind men represent practitioners at different mastery levels, or the same practitioner, in different stages of their training.
The beginner. The first to the right — is very cautious, sending his walking stick a few feet ahead, slowly assessing whether it is safe to proceed, and he does, he carefully makes his first step.
Intermediate Level. The second blind men — is now leaning more closely to his walking stick, and to the log, processing with small, but faster steps, letting his body be closer to the where the stick meets the log.
Advacned Practioner. The third blind men — no longer needs his stick. He can progress quickly by sending his arms forward, and move their bodyweight forward seamlessly.
But wait. The log doesn’t reach the other side…
That’s the moment, after all the practice, that you make a jump for it. This visual element represents that leap of faith you need to make, when exploring unchartered territories, trying to practice and master new skills and crafts, growing and expanding your capabilities.
You will emabrk on this journey with your existing experience and skills, learn, practice, try, fail, make progress, and hope that at the moment of truth, your body and mind will be able to cross to ther other side.
You don’t know what your abilities are until you make a full commitment to developing them. — Carol S. Dweck
See you on the other side,