It’s a brand-new year, and while we’re fans of the new year, new me shenanigans, there’s one opinion we’re bringing with us into 2021.
And apologies if we sound like a broken record, but it’s something that’s become pretty clear in the last 12-months: product marketing is the place to be right now.
When we researched the State of Product Marketing Report 2020, we found 66.5% of PMMs are chomping at the bit to explore the next part of their respective PMM career, while 30% of PMMs have begun their foray into self-employment.
With more entry-level PMMs dipping their toe into the water and beginning their careers, it’s prompted the million-dollar question: what exactly are the top product marketing skills needed to ascend the ladder and transform from aspiring Associate Product Marketing Manager to esteemed VP of Product Marketing?*
*Psst. A whole bunch of awesome tips on career progression and resources can be found in PMM Hired, our specialist product marketing careers hub. 👍
Identifying leading product marketing skills
Like the definition of product marketing itself, people’s perceptions of what makes a good product marketer vary.
For some, positioning experts are the best thing since sliced bread, others deem messaging maestros to be top of the tree, while in some instances, competitive intelligence experts aren’t overshadowed by anyone.
The point being, it’s nigh on impossible to identify the most important product marketing skill, purely because everyone has a differing opinion of what constitutes a good product marketer.
Professional opinions on product marketing skills
At the end of 2020, we released the Top 100 Product Marketing Influencers 2020 report, a celebration of practitioners who’d left their mark throughout the year.
Within the report, we asked the creme de la creme of PMMs, as voted for by their peers, what they think makes a great product marketer - here are some of the responses we received.
“Great product marketers have three things.
“They’re a creative generalist marketer, an amazing storyteller, and advocate for their customer and space.
“Also, they know how to create cross-functional momentum inside a company, big or small.”
Marcus Andrews, Group Lead - Product Marketing at HubSpot
“A great product marketer is both curious and influential. Curious product marketers gawk at the product and gawk at the customers. An influential product marketer can better champion customers' needs throughout the product's life cycle, increasing the success rate of the product from cradle to grave.”
Carolyn Bao, Product Marketing Consultant at Intuit
“A great product marketer thrives in ambiguity. They can move effortlessly from forest to trees and everything in between. They are naturally curious and a fantastic communicator.”
Lindsay Bayuk, CMO at Pluralsight
“A great product marketer can be defined as someone who is both an athlete AND a specialist. They can operate as a generalist if on a small team tackling a multitude of different projects across the business. They can also go super deep into something that requires more strategic thinking and attention to detail.”
Cody Bernard, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Drift
“A great product market is an alchemist, a juggler, and a gossip. PMMs ultimately find ways to turn products into something that our customers need and the sales team can sell. We manage multiple touchpoints, from beta testing to sales enablement to storytelling with data, to masterfully manage go-to-market strategies that drive revenue.”
Jennifer Bunting, Head of EMEA Product Marketing at LinkedIn
“The Japanese embrace a concept called Kaizen, which is the focus on continuous improvement to get 1% better every day. I believe a standout product marketer remains curious, empathetic to the customer needs while staying bullish on the quality and excellence of the customer experience. Internally, a strong product marketer brings the company purpose to life by evangelizing customer insights and are the connectors and glue that bind the organization behind a common goal.”
Bree Bunzel, Head of Global Customer Marketing at Dropbox
“In my view, an essential skill for a PMM is the ability to build bridges across internal and external functions where myriad perspectives from Product, Marketing and Sales combine to create a single company-wide strategy and voice that resonates with buyers.”
John Clark, VP of Product Marketing at Genesys
“An insatiable and exhausting drive of curiosity is 100% necessary to be in this field. Truly great product marketers are skeptical optimists who question the structures and expectations around them. To effectively create change, however, PMMs must know how to question gently, with a sense of humility, being careful not to let opinions and ego derail a genuine outcome for the customer experience.”
Tania Clarke, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Atlassian
“Understanding both the commercial and product side of the product. Being a multitasker that can sort through vast material to provide the right input. To succeed, being able to know what should be delegated to other specialists in a team to be able to focus on growth-enhancing activities.”
Liza Collin, Market Readiness Director at Visma
“Great product marketers have an unbreakable connection with their customers and the markets they serve. Without deeply understanding customer needs, we as product marketers lose our ability to influence strategic decisions around product, pricing, and positioning. We become a supporting role, and product marketing is meant to be so much more than that.
“The best product marketers know who their customers are, what they want, what they need, and how to bring those desired solutions to market. They know how to use data to turn hypotheses into concrete, indisputable insights. They refuse to take orders and earn a seat at the table with a track record of driving measurable growth. None of this can be achieved without a relentless focus on what our customers need from us.”
Lauren Culbertson, Co-Founder and CEO at LoopVOC
“Empathy. I believe ‘empathy is currency’ – and as long as we continue to focus on listening, understanding our clients, and finding ways to make their lives easier and more full of happiness, we’ve done our jobs. If we focus on those things – the revenue will come.”
Karyn De Jong, Director of Product Marketing at Morningstar
“One of the key characteristics of a great PMM is the ability to take a step back and approach a problem with a strategic framework in mind, one that helps to snap everything into place in an elegant way, and ultimately execute and operationalize a great solution to that problem.”
Nikhil Dhingra, Director of Product Marketing at ringDNA
“A great product marketer is someone who likes variety and thrives on challenge. On any given day, they might be asked to quarterback a product launch, or dig into data on their pipeline issues, or lead a partner enablement session, or explain their product's positioning. It's important to have the attitude of "hey we'll figure this out" because every day is a little bit different.”
Priya Doty, VP of Product Marketing at IBM
“In my opinion, a great product marketer sees the bigger picture. Great product marketers don't get distracted by the tactical details of running better campaigns, telling better stories, or building better content. They obsessively focus on running the right campaigns, telling the right stories, and building the right content. Great product marketers drive strategic alignment across product, marketing, and sales.”
April Dunford, Founder at Ambient Strategy
“Agility, commitment to the end-user experience, and a strong understanding of how, and when consumers consume information.”
Serena Ehrlich, Director of Product Marketing Management at Business Wire
“A great product marketer connects the dots - they think of the implications of their launch on not just sales and marketing campaigns, but also customer success, pricing strategy, and operations. When they talk to a customer, a sales rep, or a support team member, they read through their own product's messaging and how they can make it better. They get the numbers and metrics that matter to their business and build strategies, campaigns, and new ideas for their product line that move the metrics.”
Kelly Esten, VP of Partner and Product Marketing at Toast
“A great product marketer never compromises on delivering the best possible experience for customers. Great product marketers paint a compelling, ambitious vision, and then work across multiple teams on behalf of customers to bring it to life. Great PMMs thrive at the intersection of data, creativity, and empathy.”
Carrie Friedrich Narla, Principal Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Prime Video
“There is no one-size-fits-all! Many different traits and skills make a great PMM. I do believe that one thing is key: curiosity. A great PMM asks questions to uncover new information. Many of us PMMs did not even know about this career option when we were deciding what we wanted to do with our lives. We had other roles and experiences that took us down this path.
“I feel fortunate to have worked with PMMs from many different backgrounds and experience levels. I love learning new things from them. From a PMM colleague who had a previous life in sales, I can learn more about client relationships. From a PMM who has 10+ years of experience in building PMM functions from scratch, I can develop my ability to influence. From a PMM who used to be a Data Scientist, I can learn how to dive deep and uncover customer insights.
“As a PMM we are often expected to be Jacks/Janes of all trades. While that can feel daunting for aspiring PMMs, I find it exciting because, in every PMM role, you have the opportunity to grow and refine your skills. Each role you have in PMM can feel like a career of its own! However, each experience you have will build upon one another if you embrace the opportunity to learn.”
Riana Frischman, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Pay
“In addition to core PMM competencies on (i.e. messaging and positioning, product launch, enablement, etc.) great product marketers can tell compelling, contextual stories that inspire action, work collaboratively with invisible influence and prioritize projects and programs based on revenue impact. This requires them to communicate clearly and drive accountability so they can demonstrate their value as an information connector and facilitator of outcomes.”
Jarod Greene, VP of Product Marketing at Apptio
“A great product marketer is driven by curiosity, approaches problems from a place of empathy, and can simplify complex concepts through the art of storytelling.”
Tamara Grominsky, VP of Strategic Growth at Unbounce
“I think one of the things that make a great PMM is their ability to use lateral thinking in everything they do. Learning to use an indirect and creative approach to problem-solving and coming up with reasoning that is not immediately obvious is quite beneficial when you are an integrator. PMMs need to connect the dots across disciplines, industries, and ICPs to do their job well. It's almost impossible to follow a playbook with so many moving parts, which is why lateral thinking is such a great skill for PMMs.”
Maya Grossman, VP of Marketing at Jumpstart
“I’d say the most important product marketing skills are passion, great communication skills, and expertise.”
Mary Hall, Director of Blockchain Product Marketing at Oracle
“Curiosity and empathy! To truly understand and empathize with your user or customer, you need to understand their needs and care about making things better.”
Sara Hall, Head of Product Marketing and Brand Solutions at TikTok
“Don't just try to know your customer. Use this time to meet with them (virtually). Walk-in their shoes. Find out what matters to them. Find out how to help them on whatever journey they are on. What you'll be left with are stories that matter and share those successes with others. If that's not marketing I don't know what is.”
Dain Hansen, Director of Product Marketing for Database, Analytics, & Business Application Platform at Google
“Being an engaging and inspiring storyteller to affect change. Not just when it comes to crafting and telling compelling messages, but also to use the art and science behind that skill to lead others through a successful product launch in new ways, or to excite sales teams in how they can challenge their prospect's and customer's status quo thinking, or aligning product and development teams to build real value for clients, and not only reacting to feature requests.”
Ali Hanyaloglu, Head of Global Product Marketing at Akeneo
“Trustworthiness. Product Marketers influence teams to work better together and generate stronger results. If they can't gain trust, they will be relegated to fluffy projects with less impact.”
Rene Hardtke, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Integrate Inc.
And there’s plenty more where that came from. 🔥
So, if you haven’t checked out all 100 perspectives already, you can grab a piece of the action right here. 👇
Which product marketing skills do you value the most?
It’s clear from our sneak peek into the psyche of the Top 100 Product Marketing Influencers that different people place an onus on different product marketing skills.
Now, we want to hear what you think are the most important traits for a career in product marketing. Perhaps you see segmentation as the quintessential skill? Maybe you’re a sucker for win-loss whizzes?
Leave your contribution in the comments below - don’t be shy, we’re all ears!