So, you want to enter product marketing and are unsure how to get started or how to succeed in landing a PMM role? You’ve come to the right place.
Product marketing is a relatively new role and an expertise area that many technology companies are shifting to and utilizing. The requirements and skill sets of each company’s product marketing role may differ. So, the skills that you bring to the table can be a great fit for one company and not a match for another company.
In order to land a product marketing position, you’ll not only need to know the basics of product marketing, but also some interview tips as well. I’ll break down the process from start to finish on how I prepare for interviews and hopefully that helps you land your next product marketing position.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses and what things you would like to learn in your next role.
In many interviews, hiring managers and recruiters often look for self-awareness, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and knowing how you work best. The self-awareness is important because only you understand your own limitations, and as long as you can ask for help in those areas, you will be a more successful candidate than others who try to cover that up.
For example, in my last interview, I expressed how strategy, pricing, and market research were my strong areas and content creation and outbound marketing were areas I’d like to work on. My skills were complementary to the hiring manager, so we could bounce off each other’s strengths.
Build your brand
Part of being a great product marketer is being able to present or write in various mediums. So, why not present yourself as a brand? Write content, share your thoughts, engage with the Product Marketing Alliance, join product marketing groups in meet-ups or online.
I believe the reason why I received an interview for my most recent role was due to a LinkedIn article that I had written and I provided a link to that in my cover letter. I wrote about a topic that related to the company’s product and the industry that I was applying for. It must have worked because I received an interview, and ultimately a job offer, because I showed my subject matter expertise in a work example, even before the interview stage.
So, share opinions on topics that get you up in the morning. What knowledge do you consume and cannot wait to share with the rest of the world? The better you are as a spokesperson in any particular topic, the more you are a subject matter expert (SME) in that topic. If Wi-Fi is your jam, talk about the latest in Wi-Fi or how to help optimize ageing Wi-Fi hardware. If a certain software is your jam, talk about that. The more you talk about what you care about, the more you’ll find a niche knowledge area, an audience that is receptive, and you’ll become a SME in that area.
In a recent career accelerator where I was a panelist, a participant asked me: “How do you get started writing about environmental policy? I don’t have a degree in that, and I don’t have professional experience in it.” I answered that “It takes courage to write about anything and publish it on the internet. However, only you have the authority to say if you are an expert in a subject. As long as you are publicly talking about it, you can become a SME.”
Be a specialist
This connects back to knowing yourself, and understanding what strengths you have also relates to what specialization(s) you are proficient in. While a PMM should be able to do all activities relating to go-to-market launches and strategy, there will be areas that you are naturally good at and gravitate toward. Ensure that you make those strengths clear throughout your interviews.
For example: These tasks are my strong traits and this is how it adds value to the overall go-to-market lifecycle.
In a previous role, I filled the pricing and promotion specializations of our marketing team. I delve deep into the pricing which is somewhat of a finance / marketing overlap. Toward the end of my tenure, I was given parameters and inputs for new launches, and I provided the product team with a pricing structure that was market analyzed and sure to have customers lining up. And I was pretty good at it! Not only was it numbers related, but it was market tested either through interviews, surveys, or competitive research.
Do your homework
Understand the company, the role, and where the market will be.
When interviewing for positions, ensure that you understand both the company’s value proposition and their strategy. What do they sell? Who do they sell to? How often do they launch new features or products? Who are their competitors? Did the competitors recently release something noteworthy? Is the industry growing, flat, or declining? What other market verticals could they sell into? Where do you envision the product will go in 5-10 years? How will it solve user challenges then?
A lot of this preparation manifests in the questions that you ask and how you ask them. It shows that you’ve done your homework and that you're looking to have a more high-level concrete discussion, rather than just understanding what they do and how they do it.
Before the bulk of my interviews, I look for articles or industry reports online that list competitors. I then do research on a few of the bigger, recognizable company names. My goal is to understand what sets the company I’m interviewing with apart from their competitors
Did anyone acquire a company recently? Or did they have a new release? What share of the market do they command? Is it warranted?
By answering these questions, I’m already thinking as if I were hired. Adding value in this way shows you are serious about the role and have done some homework to back up your viewpoints, so it is not just a conversation about what you can do for the company. You can SHOW them what you can do.
Engage your network
It’s no surprise that your professional network helps in getting you your next job. Start reaching out to people and let them know that you are looking specifically for product marketing roles. When I reach out to my network, I often provide them either a number of companies that I’m interested in, a specific industry, or a specific role (sometimes role titles, other times the general responsibilities). This helps narrow my network to keep their eyes open for specific roles and responsibilities that I am aiming for and to have an ear out for people in those fields.
If you don’t know anyone in product marketing or are not sure where to start, join the PMA Slack group and surround yourself with more product marketing people.
A warm introduction where the mutual friend connects two people is the best way to create a new contact, but even a cold email or call could open opportunities. A friend’s spouse, a friend of a friend, or a former coworker can all be ears to the ground that often learn about job openings inside their company before the recruiter or hiring manager posts it on their company careers webpage or a job listing website.
So, during my 8-month job search, I reached out to 31 different people that I had a mutual connection with. That outreach secured me five interviews with recruiters that had PMM openings. Unfortunately, a few of those interviews were in March 2020 - at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. So, I was lucky to have those interviews, but they went nowhere because hiring was frozen across the board, and we didn’t know how long the quarantine was going to last.
I learned about my current role through a LinkedIn status update from an employee there. We connected years ago through a college networking event where we sat at the same table. After reviewing the PMM role in their post, I wrote my cover letter and updated my resume to best position myself. Then, I let them know that I had applied for the role and attached the documents for their reference and records. I’m not sure how much that prior relationship influenced the hiring decision. However, I didn’t learn about the job until someone I knew shared that their company was hiring.
So, the more that people know you're searching, the better. If you're still employed, it is up to you if you want to disclose to your supervisor about your job search.
Be prepared to answer questions
I’ve discussed knowing yourself, and doing your homework. But make sure you also practice for questions relating to your own experiences and how they fit the role but more generally about marketing.
When I was preparing for my interviews, I stumbled upon Abdul Rastagar’s #UpYourGame LinkedIn videos. They are short, high-value interviews with marketing executives on several areas regarding career topics such as what they look for in a new hire or what questions they ask in interviews. I also found Maya Grossman’s LinkedIn content (both in written and video formats) to be extremely encouraging and helpful.
I took a few questions (listed below) and prepared answers for them.
- Tell me about a marketing campaign that you’ve seen recently that worked or didn’t work. Why was it noteworthy? How would you have changed it?
- What are a few things that frustrated you?
- Where do you see yourself professionally in 5-7 years?
Ask great questions
Part of the interview process is not only for the employer (hiring manager, recruiter, etc.) to interview you, the candidate, but also for the candidate to interview the company. Toward the end of the interview, the interviewer will usually ask: “Do you have any questions?”
The trick here is to have prepared some questions to ask! Write them down in your notes if you need to. Many interviewers look for qualities that make you a great coworker: inquisitive, self-sufficient; synthesis of information. Showcase those traits with the questions you ask.
The questions I most often ask during interviews for PMM roles are:
- What is your partner network capacity? How can I help grow it? - Many B2B PMMs work with partners. Understand how well the company leverages their partners and what they hope to implement with your help.
- Looks like Industry X and Y are both growth areas for your company - how did COVID-19 impact that? - It shows that you understand where the company is hoping to grow and it may show sensitivity to learning about the pandemic impact. Your mileage may vary.
- What would success in this role look like after 90 days? - You can gauge their expectations of your role and what impact they hope to see within 3 months of employment.
- Where is an area of the product marketing strategy that is the gap where this position would fill? How could I make your job easier? - Your job is to make your boss’s job easier. In understanding their priorities, you understand how to balance that with your priorities.
- Is there anything about my experience that you still have questions about? Or do you need something clarified? - This question is amazing! It often gets the interviewer to express any doubts or questions they have about you. That gives you space to answer, so they leave the interview feeling like they have a full picture of who you are.
Landing a new job isn’t easy. It takes time, preparation, and luck. It isn’t uncommon for people to take a minimum of 6-9 months to find a job in a good economic market. Now, in the pandemic, it could take a year or longer. It does depend on one person - you!
Do the best you can to become more visible. Grow your brand with content, and continue meeting people. Surround yourself with the people you want to become, so you talk and think more like them. All it takes is one person to vouch for you and champion you throughout the process.
Thanks for the pearls of wisdom, Benny!
Hungry for more insight? Catch up on our How I Got My Job interview with Gymshark's Head of Product Marketing, Matt Dehaty 👇