The road into product marketing can be a winding one for many, and while getting your foot into the door of most industries without the requisite experience can be a no-go, product marketing is one of those roles where many skill sets and differing experiences can truly be an asset. Medha Pratap, Director of Product Marketing at Syndigo takes us on her journey through product marketing, sharing her highs, challenges and wealth of experience.
Q: How do you think product marketing has evolved in the past 10 years?
A: When I was applying for marketing jobs earlier on in my career, I never saw a product marketing manager’s job listed anywhere. Over the past five years I’ve started seeing it pop up more, and last year, when I found myself applying for a new marketing position, product marketing roles dominated the job boards.
I think that all marketers, particularly ones that do any sort of writing, will find themselves dabbling in aspects of product marketing - whether it is conducting research or fulfilling the infamous ‘1 pager’ request. Marketing has evolved and branched out into specialty areas. Now there are courses that relate to digital marketing, marketing communications, and product marketing.
I think there’s less ambiguity around the role of a product marketing manager than there used to be. There is also more discernment between product managers (PMs) and product marketing managers (PMMs). It is also clear that a PMM is not purely limited to organizing go-to-market product launches. In 2020, a PMM articulates a product’s value proposition in a way that resonates with the market and encourages sales to drive product adoption.
Q: How did you get into product marketing?
A: Like many fellow product marketers, my foray into the field was unplanned. I initially started out as more of a marketing generalist with miscellaneous responsibilities - ranging from event planning to analyst relations to partner marketing. Over the past few years, I gravitated towards communication and content marketing roles. I’ve always enjoyed executing messaging and storytelling aspects within marketing. Outside of work, I’ve voluntarily written blogs and articles for magazines and organizations like the American Marketing Association - Chicago Chapter.
Last year, I pivoted and started a new role as the Director of Product Marketing at Syndigo, a leading SaaS product information and syndication company, it wasn’t a premeditated move but I haven’t looked back since!
I enjoy the varied skills and responsibilities that keep me on my toes, my days are never the same and I switch between developing overall product messaging and frameworks, delivering personas, conducting competitive research, executing product launches and so much more.
Q: The universal pain-point in product marketing is people not understanding the value of the role. How have you proved your value as a product marketer?
A: Syndigo came from humble beginnings, around three years ago, and today we are the largest single-source network for managing and syndicating complete and accurate product information.
As the organization acquired a number of companies and solutions and expanded its customer and employee base, the case for product marketing became stronger and the position was advertised.
During my nine-month tenure I have been working on a variety of product marketing tasks ranging from solutions collateral to competitive intel - material that is vital for sales enablement. Syndigo is a company that has expanded rapidly and I have been articulating the upgraded value of our single, integrated Content Experience Hub platform to customers from the companies that we acquired who are migrating from their individual legacy platforms
At smaller start-ups, it isn’t easy for companies to understand the value of the role or justify the budget for a PMM. But without PMMs, there is a dysfunctional misalignment between marketing/product/sales teams, a lack of focus on launches and collateral, and sales enablement inefficiencies.
I recently discovered The Product Marketing Alliance, a collective of 10K+ passionate product marketing managers committed to driving demand, adoption and the overall success of their products. Their podcast, certification and networking opportunities have been instrumental in honing my craft.
I truly think that a great deal of progress has been made in the industry in recent years. The mere existence of associations such as Product Marketing Alliance (PMA) is solid proof that product marketers are invaluable stakeholders who are here to thrive.
Q: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a product marketer?
A: The Product Marketing Alliance (PMA) states “Product marketing can be summed up as the driving force behind getting products to market - and keeping them there. Product marketers are the overarching voices of the customer, masterminds of messaging, enablers of sales, and accelerators of adoption. All at the same time.” Needless to say that my biggest challenge as a product marketer has been prioritization, championing sales, product, marketing, and customer needs as well as multiple product lines can be challenging at times.
Project management skills are essential to product marketing, staying organized, and ensuring that successful launches are carefully planned is crucial. Leading up to a launch, all updates must be reflected and customer-facing teams should be provided with the necessary materials.
Outside of a product launch, a product marketer’s priorities can shift hourly, it’s really important to assess the difference between “important” and “urgent”. I have tried to level up my organizational skills with project management systems and blocking off time to work on tasks.
I have also been saying “no” more which is a personal challenge. But “no” really means “not right now”. I clearly articulate where a project fits with other responsibilities at any given time. It is important to set boundaries and tread a fine line between being helpful and not neglecting priorities.
While I have made strides in prioritization, there are always untapped opportunities to better align activities with the product roadmap and customer needs.
The State of Product Marketing Report 2020, surveyed 2,000+ global product marketing managers, around talking points of the industry. One of the most revealing findings was that 21.2% of people surveyed are flying the PMM flag alone with no team.
Working single handedly in a fast paced company can be challenging. On the other hand having more PMM resources to support the field's diverse functions will lead to higher efficiency and greater results.
Needless to say that my biggest challenge as a product marketer has been prioritization. Championing sales, product, marketing, and customer needs as well as multiple product lines can be challenging at times.
Project management skills are essential to product marketing, staying organized, and ensuring that successful launches are carefully planned is crucial.
Q: Why is internal positioning important?
A: Without internal positioning, how can you craft external positioning? Before I ventured into product marketing, this question never crossed my mind. Today, I fully appreciate the importance of sales enablement driven product feature release overviews that are distributed internally. These product feature release sheets include internal sales talking points that convey the buyer’s perspective, jobs to be done, and what messaging moves the needle.
External positioning is often tailored more towards a company’s strengths and less targeted towards a customer’s motivations. Even the best product marketer can get wrapped up in the story they want to tell instead of what their customer wants to hear. Insisting on internal positioning first is the best way to ensure that external positioning is well thought out and fulfills customer needs.
A popular term at Syndigo that I’ve heard being thrown around is ‘why, why, why’. It isn’t enough for your positioning to just articulate one benefit. Our internal positioning now includes layered problem-value statements so that sales have talking points to use for numerous customer scenarios.
Q: Do you have any advice or tips for product marketers hoping to climb the career ladder?
Variety - the spice of life: Early on in your marketing career, have a multi-faceted approach and try as many different roles as possible. Take a stab at content writing, event marketing, product marketing, or demand generation. Even within product marketing, there are many options. Are you driven by metrics or are you a storyteller? No matter what direction you take, experimenting and putting yourself in every marketer’s shoes will help you become a stronger PMM and contribute to the win.
Just start from somewhere: There may be a number of factors that prevent us from starting anything in life: fear, distractions, procrastination. The same can be said for product marketing. Personally, I have been overwhelmed by the idea of perfection. When you first start putting down ideas, they will be messy. Over time, as you take small steps in the right direction and get feedback, you will be further along than you expected had you not started at all.
Increase your influence: Increase your influence from the get-go by getting involved early and often. Ensure that you are invited to stakeholder meetings (sales/customer success check-ins). Contribute ideas that you may have at these meetings or afterward as a follow-up so that you gain buy in. That way, you are perceived as being a strategic player - not a support role. Understand what different team goals are and how your work can support them. Keep your eye on corporate objectives, product roadmaps and sales requests.
Be a team player: Having a team oriented attitude can’t be stressed enough. At Syndigo, I am very fortunate to belong to a stellar marketing team that add flair to my product marketing assets before they go out the door. Be it email campaigns, webpages or decks, I am always amazed at their ideas that take assets to the next level.
Learning doesn’t end: Take the time to sharpen your product knowledge wherever you work. Some of this will happen organically as you delve into projects. But I recommend taking onboarding seriously and catching up on past and current blogs, whitepapers, webinar recordings on an ongoing basis when time permits. While you may not be expected to have as in-depth knowledge as a product manager, it will only help you problem solve and write as you get ramped up in your role. Your learning doesn’t end at onboarding. Chip away at it as you continue on the PMM journey within your organization. It is also important to keep abreast of product marketing industry trends that are evolving rapidly. The Product Marketing Alliance is a great place to get started.
Q: Where do product marketers add the most value?
A: There is a popular notion that product managers “put the product on the shelf” and product marketers “get the product off the shelf” by driving go-to-market strategy.
But this is a misconception and underestimates the involvement of a product marketer, a product marketer’s work starts much earlier than a product getting to the shelf.
I believe that a product marketer adds the most value when they:
- Are immersed in the product development process
- Put strategic planning and creative problem-solving skills to work
- Tap into customer empathy and competitive insights through extensive research
- Adapt to constant flux around flexible delivery timelines or market dynamics
- Nail product messaging and positioning
- Continually enhance writing and presentation capabilities skills
- Outline objectives and key results (OKRs) around go-to-market strategy, sales enablement, and product adoption
If you just started a new PMM role at a company where product marketing wasn’t implemented in the past, there are a few essential deliverables that you can quickly establish.
1. Buyer personas
2. Company level positioning & SWOT
3. Go-to-market launch plan essentials
Q: What have been some of your greatest product marketing achievements?
A: Ever since taking the plunge to become a product marketer, at Syndigo, these are just a few of my favorite achievements that have set my pulse racing and had a meaningful impact:
- Strengthening the dots between the product, marketing, and sales functions through fantastic collaborative relationships
- Crafting compelling content that shapes the product positioning and influences the roadmap
- Piecing together rough concepts that take flight and evolve into key product marketing assets
- Hitting the send button on a product launch package that the product team takes pride in, the design team receives praise for, and the sales team has the collateral to promote.
- Getting recognition from sales team members who have an ever-growing library of assets at their disposal
- Developing compelling, high visibility webinar and conference presentations that encourage solution adoption