To be an accountant you’ve got to nail the numbers, to be a copywriter you’ve gotta be a whizz with words, and to be a sales rep you need to have the gift of the gab.

While lots of roles have clearcut skills people need to excel, you could say product marketing isn’t one of them. From data to communication to organisation to collaboration to creativity to strategy to...you get the gist, you need a whole load of them - and who’s to say which is more important than the other?

As part of our Product Marketing Insider series, we’ve been picking the brains of PMMs all over the world and getting them to answer one important question:

What are the top three skills that have helped you get where you are today?

So, if you’re looking to take your career to the next level in 2020, here’s what you need to do:

1. Get comfy 🛋

2. Keep reading 📖

3. Don’t stop till you get to the end 🏁

Messaging & positioning

Sarah Din, Director of Product Marketing at SurveyMonkey

“I think one of the key things you need to nail right away is messaging and positioning, they’re core to any product marketing role. If you're not good at messaging, you really can’t do a product marketing role. So, be really good about figuring out how to message to the right people at the right time.
“Positioning is important too, especially if you're working in organisations that have multiple products or have a very competitive industry, so you really need to nail how you position your products either complementary or against each other, however that is, or within a very competitive industry.”

Relationship-building

Elizabeth Brigham, Head of Product Marketing (Software) at Morningstar

“Relationship building, hands down. That's the first thing I do when I go into any new company. I try to meet as many people as possible, I try to prioritise my time, obviously, with those with whom I would be working most closely with, but understanding them at a very deep level, because without that trust initially going in, you're not going to be able to move quickly and get things done.”

Small group communication

Kerensa Hogan, Product Marketer at Amazon Music

“Because product marketing is so responsible for cross-functional communication, small group communication as a skill is so important. PMMs rarely ever speak to an audience greater than maybe six people in a room, right? And a lot of the things we do, and I would add conflict resolution as a second skill, is we are communicating in a small group.
“More often than not, we're hosting that communication, because we're either trying to make people aware of something or we're trying to get people to consult on something. Generally speaking, we're often the drivers of this effort and workflow. So, the ability to understand the importance of small group communication and the dynamics of small group communication, and how to fundamentally lead a meeting, is so important.”

Jasmine Jaume, Group Product Marketing Manager (Core + Platform) at Intercom

“It's kind of cliche, but communication is so key in a product marketing role, as well as building relationships with different teams and knowing when something is happening - whether that's a feature announcement or a change to the UI or whatever it might be, knowing who that's going to impact and having an overview and being able to think about things like, which teams need to know about this? And then being able to communicate that clearly and concisely and relate it in a way that influences people, so knowing why it's important to them, and why they should care about it. I think good communication skills are kind of key and I don't think you'd get very far in a PMM role if you can't communicate well.”

Curiosity

Tamara Grominsky, Director of Product Marketing at Unbounce

“As a product marketer, you need to be data-informed with a real sense of curiosity, because no-one's going to tell you what data to go look at, or what questions to ask. You have to have this sense of curiosity and kind of a desire to dig under the surface to identify trends and see what's actually happening with the customers.”

Organisation

Jasmine Jaume, Group Product Marketing Manager (Core + Platform) at Intercom

“I'm big on organisation, especially in a fast-moving startup environment, PMMs have to be very agile and flexible. Things come up, you know, there's a feature the product team want to announce that you don't know about and you need to figure out how to fit it in. You need to make sure you're communicating with the right people. And when you're running things like big launches, organisation is key to making those run smoothly. I like making lists and plans but whatever that looks like for you, just keeping organised and staying on top of things.”

For a helping hand on staying on top of your tasks, take a spin through our top 19 project management tools for product marketers.

Focus & prioritisation

Div Manickam, Director of Portfolio Messaging at Dell Boomi

“As a leader, and I think this is slightly different from an individual contribution, one of the big things for me is having that focus and prioritisation. As I took on the role, I quickly realised that it's easy for us to let other teams tell us what to do, and that means you're basically just chasing project after project. So having that focus and prioritisation was very critical.
“Making sure you have the discipline to say no is important too. As much as you want to be a team player and as much as you want to say “yes, I've got this” and try your best to not be underwater, you will be. You need to be able to know how much you can take on and always keep that 10 to 20% buffer - as idealistic as it may sound, because there’ll always be projects that will be last-minute or a last-minute fire that we need to put down, and if we don't have that buffer then some other project is going to slip and you don't want to be the reason that happens. So only commit to things you can do and then the others just say no.”

Empathy

Samantha Yeh, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Spotify

“I think empathy is a core skill to develop for product marketers, but it's not just empathy for the users, it's also empathy for the teams you need to involve and the decisions you rely on their expertise to help you resolve. I think one way we were really able to elevate our level of influence in the organisation was by better understanding those teams, our partners’ goals, and the things they think about a lot in their day-to-day.”

Want to improve on this? Take a read through how to build empathy and gain insights with a company-wide customer support day.

Product orientation

Francis Larkin, VP of Product Marketing at InVision

“We need people who can deeply understand these products because for all intents and purposes, they are the subject matter expert internally for the marketing and the sales organisations. So, they need to be intensely curious, they need to be able to breakdown this product, and they need to be able to articulate it concisely to peers and customers. So strong product orientation and curiosity is a must.”

What skills are you honing in on in 2020? You know the drill, let us know below. 👇🏻

Looking to make your skillset official? Our curriculum covers every core product marketing competency in detail. Get certified.