Whether you’re an Associate Product Marketer, Director of Product Marketing, or a C-Suite member, it’s safe to say very few members of the PMM community would’ve been shedding a tear as 2020 drew to its eagerly-awaited conclusion. Now, with 2021 upon us, it’s time to start afresh and look forward to a brand-new year, with renewed optimism.
Here at PMA, we’re honing our sights on delivering more red-hot reports, enthralling articles, intriguing podcasts, and specialist AMAs for the product marketing community to enjoy, along with a ton of brand-new features.
And remember, there’s still time to leave your feedback on last year’s offerings and let us know what you wanna see in the coming months. 😉
But for now, we’ll set the ball rolling with the introduction of our exciting new interview series, How I Got My Job, in which we’ll be asking product marketers in leading positions at stellar companies how they got where they are today to help you follow in their footsteps, starting with a Director of Product Marketing working at one of the most successful mobile phone apps on the planet.
So, without further ado, ladies and gents, allow us to introduce the inaugural guest for our latest feature... 🥁
David Gilmour, Director of Product Marketing at PayByPhone
Launched in 2001, the mobile car parking app PayByPhone has been a monumental success, with 20 million downloads propelling the app to the top of the pile in its respective area.
Let’s have a chat with the man who continues to play a key role in “making parking effortless” in his role as Director of Product Marketing.
David’s journey to Director of Product Marketing
What was your dream job growing up?
I could never decide between entrepreneur and inventor!
Does your current role resemble what you wanted to do growing up, whatsoever?
Yes, there’s actually a lot of aspects of product marketing that are key for running a successful business. Whether you are a product marketer or entrepreneur you have to know your markets, be able to successfully position and launch products, set pricing and the list goes on. Occasionally there’s even the opportunity to invent new markets!
How did you get into product marketing?
My first foray into marketing was writing technical content. I then took a role as Online Editor managing the companies web properties and PPC and from there got increasingly involved in product and feature launches. I worked for a company where product management wasn’t a distinct discipline so my first product marketing role involved a whole raft of responsibilities including market and user research, creating requirements for new product features through building launch plans, and creating content. Our titles had the product name as the prefix so I didn’t have a product marketing title as such and didn’t at the time recognize that I was a product marketer.
What challenges did you face en-route to becoming a Director of Product Marketing?
Although my early career experience was in product marketing I moved into digital marketing and demand generation roles before coming back to product marketing. Quantifying results in Product Marketing is a bit more challenging and the time to convince an organization of its importance takes longer in my experience. Building an understanding of product marketing took a lot of time in companies where it wasn’t already established.
With the power of hindsight, is there anything you’d do differently, at all?
Once I get my teeth stuck into something I give it my all, unfortunately I think I’ve been a bit blinkered at times as a result. If I had a Delorean I’d go back and tell my younger self to spend more time seeking out and learning from thought leaders and also to be more conscious in learning transferable skills. As product marketers, we sometimes get so deep into our specific markets and products that we forget the world around us (or at least I do, so I hope I’m not alone!).
Which product marketers have inspired you the most, en-route to the role you occupy today, and why?
The Group Marketing Director (CMO equivalent) I worked for at my first role out of University was a lady called Theresa Barry. She was quite quiet and certainly very humble but she had an enormous impact on the success of the team and the company. I remember her having an uncanny ability to digest insights from customer data and research and turn them into amazing opportunities. She also always empowered us, even those of us who were at the start of our careers, to try new things and learn from failures.
I’d be remiss not to mention the local legend of Product Marketing here in Vancouver - Tamara Grominsky. Tamara’s a talented speaker and her active participation in local and global events is really inspiring to all of us who usually have our heads down.
There’s also none much more inspiring than a product marketer who creates a global alliance of product marketers so I’ll also tip my hat to Richard King!
The role of a Director of Product Marketing
What does your role entail?
My role is a mix of team management, product marketing strategy, and planning. I’m a member of the product leadership team and work closely with the other leaders in optimizing the product portfolio, developing processes, and advocating for product and product marketing across the company. In a global company that involves a lot of meetings with regional teams and some early mornings to boot.
If you had to explain your job to someone with zero knowledge of product marketing, how would you explain it?
I usually describe it as a mix of research, strategy, and storytelling. Often I find the “marketing” in the title throws people so I’ll sometimes go a bit further in explaining that it’s my job to know our customers, to find out how to optimally price and package our products, and to describe them in a way that makes us irresistible.
Do your family members and friends understand what you do?
Yes, to an extent at least. Although my four year old can’t understand why I go to work to tell stories about parking cars.
How is the product marketing team currently structured at your company? How has it evolved since your initial entry into the industry?
We sit within the Product organization, reporting to the Chief Product Officer. As a relatively new team, we’re still expanding but currently, the Product Marketing team is made up of myself, two talented Product Marketers, and a Technical Writer.
Tips for an aspiring Director of Product Marketing
What advice would you give to a product marketer plying their trade in the current circumstances?
Remote working has a lot of benefits but it also means you need to be more conscious than ever at communicating with your stakeholders. It’s also a time to be kind to yourself and make sure you are spending time on stress-relieving activities (I recommend mountain biking!).
What would you consider to be the most important quality needed to succeed in your role?
An inquiring mind.
In terms of extra-curricular activities, is there anything someone who may want a role similar to yours can do to improve their knowledge? Any recommended books/podcasts?
There are so many good resources out there and I’m sure I only scratch the surface. The PMA is a good place to start and I really enjoy a lot of the content put out by Intercom and Hubspot. Obviously Awesome by April Dumford is a must-read. To learn more about product management books like Inspired by Marty Cagan and Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf are also well worth a read. Gibson Biddle puts on some great talks and is one of the most engaging product speakers I’ve encountered.
What does an entry-level PMM aspiring to eventually work in your role need to do so?
Be a sponge, spend time reading and learning from a wide range of thought leaders. Be inquisitive and spend a lot of time listening to everyone. A product marketing course can be a great introduction but product marketing comes in a lot of different flavors so you need to be flexible and be prepared to be nimble. Don’t be afraid to test and learn from mistakes. You’ll work with a lot of characters and a fair number of egos so work on building resilience and lastly be prepared to be patient.