Product marketing is a notoriously difficult discipline to define. Product marketing is deeper than ensuring a new product launches successfully, and all about being customer-obsessed. It's the whole process of bringing new products to light and understanding deeply how the customer will use them, to launching said products, and crucially, maintaining a valuable product in the market over time and enabling sales and customer success.
Product marketers also come from diverse backgrounds, as the role typically requires a healthy mix of both creativity, problem solving and analytical skills. In any B2B or B2C company, you might find product marketers coming from sales, demand gen marketing, project management, or customer support.
So, what skills are required to fulfill this multifaceted role that spans so many departments in a company? Let’s dive into some of the skills needed to excel as a product marketer.
This isn’t just a skill for those working in customer support. It’s integral to the product marketing manager role - they must be in tune with the customer at all stages of their journey. They shouldn’t just be aware of the customer’s needs, but they must be the customer’s advocate. Whilst it helps to have a curious, open mindset to begin with, empathy can be honed over time, by proactively gathering customer insights.
This empathy is manifested by constantly sourcing new customers to speak to, asking them relevant, unbiased questions, understanding their challenges and desires, and providing feedback in a timely, constructive way to the relevant stakeholders.
Top tip: Befriend your customer support team and help them answer common support tickets. You’ll immerse yourself into the mindset of your customers.
A huge part of a product marketing manager’s role is being able to concisely and clearly explain strategies and decisions to multiple stakeholders - and these frequently include senior executives. The ability to present persuasively and support ideas with visuals, data points and digestible messaging - no text wall slides! - cannot be underestimated.
Top tip: For a low cost way to hone your communication skills and regularly practice public speaking, check out your local Toastmasters club. Most are still hosting regular online meetings during the pandemic.
A product’s messaging is a product marketing manager’s bread and butter. Anyone can claim their product is better than someone else’s, but only a skilled product marketer can craft the story behind it, not just to solve a problem, but also to build desire and passion for the product.
Product marketing commonly involves explaining complex, technical terms and features in words that anyone can understand, no matter their role or industry. Therefore, strong writing skills are vital - both in explaining the product but also bringing its story to life.
Top tip: To understand the importance of narrative design and storytelling in product marketing, check out this excellent article by renowned product marketer Marcus Andrews.
Research and problem solving
Defining the key problems to be solved is typically the remit of a product manager, however a product marketing manager should support them in every way they can by undertaking market research, and providing wider context to the challenges customers face.
They should get familiar with key research and analytics tools such as Amplitude, Google Analytics, Hotjar, Thoughtspot, and of course, good old Excel. Knowledge of customer sentiment tools are also a huge asset for unpacking customer insights and feedback: LoopVOC, Prodsight and productboard are some that stand out. They should also keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to competitor behavior over time.
Interpreting and looking for themes and patterns in data, and being able to recommend data-informed decisions, is an advanced skill that takes a long time to develop, but is vital to achieving long term success in a product marketing career.
Top tip: Brush up on tools such as Google Analytics by investing in LinkedIn Learning, which has thousands of bitesize courses. The cost may seem a lot upfront but is worth it for the content.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but brings to light some of the key skills product marketing managers need to succeed. What would you include?