Sep 25, 2017
According to CEB Global, 58 percent of consumers have tried a new brand in the last three months that they didn’t even know about a year ago. And while it takes an entire marketing team to bring new customers in, product marketers have one of the biggest roles to play. Check out this comprehensive list of the essential skills you need to succeed as a product marketer.
Product marketers have typically been found primarily in the B2B industry, but B2C industries have recently increased the number of hires for this particular role, as best practices for B2B and B2C marketing continue to collide.
Product marketers generally start as product marketing specialists, moving up to product marketing manager, then senior marketing manager and finally to director of product marketing or strategy. Many companies skip the specialist role altogether, starting with the manager role and promoting from other marketing roles within the company. For this blog, we’ll focus primarily on the product marketing manager role, as it’s one of the most common. We will not focus on the product manager role. You can read about the difference between product marketers and product managers here.
As a product marketing manager, you’ll help organizations communicate information about new products and find the best ways to present a product’s message, brand and benefits to the potential customer. You’ll lead your marketing team in nurturing a product through its lifecycle, providing consistent marketing direction and vision along the way. You’ll also oversee all outbound marketing efforts and help to develop collateral, pricing strategy, sales materials and market analysis, working closely with other marketers, researchers and leaders within your organization.
Depending on the size of the company, product marketers may work with researchers to identify target markets (in the case of large organizations) or perform that research themselves (in the case of smaller organizations).
Product marketing managers usually work for several years in lower-level marketing positions to refine their critical thinking skills and understand their industries. Most product marketers earn at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing, with many others also earning a master’s degree. Most of today’s companies prefer that their product marketers hold an MBA, though proven experience is the most critical qualification.
Because product marketing managers typically have a master’s degree and several years of marketing experience, pay can be very high compared to other marketing roles. According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a product marketing manager is $111,760, with the minimum salary around $76k and the max around $147k. However, this role harder to obtain than other marketing roles because of the high entry hurdles and the fact that a company’s product revenue must support a full-time position.
Product marketing isn’t a job for just anyone. There are specific skills you’ll need to succeed in a role that spans across various departments to solve customer pain points.
1. Writing Skills: Great products can’t stand on their own; they need product marketers with writing chops to be able to synthesize the benefits they offer and communicate those benefits effectively to the customer. Product sales rely heavily on effective messaging.
2. Presentation Skills: As a product marketing manager, you’ll spend a lot of time explaining your marketing strategies to other people in the organization, including your marketing colleagues and the C-suite. The ability to be persuasive will prove beneficial in organizing a coalition to support your position and ideas.
3. Marketing Skills: It may seem obvious, but well-honed marketing skills are necessary for product marketers. This is not an entry-level job, and you should have acquired experience across many different roles before applying for a product marketing position. Necessary marketing skills include knowledge and experience in demand generation, social media, digital marketing, storytelling, influencer marketing and project management, among others.
4. Understanding of Business Basics: Understanding business basics is a necessary skill for anyone in a leadership position. Because product marketers will be working with product managers and executives to launch products (which drive revenue), they must have a clear understanding of revenue projections, business metrics and financial planning. This is one of the reasons product marketers differentiate themselves from other positions on the marketing team
In addition to these “hard” skills, product marketers must also hold certain personality traits to be successful. One of these traits is focus, another is curiosity and the third is a drive to get things done and make a difference.
Successful product marketers are both right and left brained. They are intrigued by both what makes something possible and the intricacies of how it works. They can see a story behind the product and translate this is in clear messaging to a wider audience.
1. Passion for Solving Customer Problems: A great product marketer must have empathy and understanding of the pain customers feel. Understanding customers and markets isn’t enough. Product marketers should be able to take product features and translate them into tangible benefits that meet customers’ needs.
2. Ability to Thrive in Ambiguity: In the same way the job of product marketing may vary organization to organization, your daily responsibilities will vary as well. The ability to navigate an unstructured environment is necessary to understand and focus on opportunities that improve the customer experience. Product marketing managers must determine which teams need to work together to achieve this goal, often without any direction from their bosses.
3. Prioritization Skills: Like most marketers, product marketers often are tasked with multiple projects and initiatives that they must navigate and prioritize according to the company’s needs. Whether you’re tasked with managing a product launch or doing customer research, you must know when and where to focus your efforts and which of those efforts is most time-sensitive.
4. Strategic Thinking Skills: Strategic thinking is a necessity for product marketers. You must always be able to define where products currently stand, how they would ideally perform and how to get from the first situation to the latter. You’ll need to know how to think logically and apply marketing theory to many different problems, including competitive positioning. Such issues will require you to act as a representative of your consumers and your market within a wider team at your organization.
5. Ability to Collaborate with a Team: As mentioned, as a project marketer you’ll be working with a wide range of individuals from across the company. That means that you’ll rarely be asked to work on a problem by yourself and must enjoy team collaboration. Even if you’re creating what seems like a simple pitch deck to outline product benefits, you can’t do this without the input of others. You must collaborate with end users both inside and outside of your company, along with decision influencers and your boss to find the right solutions to fit specific needs.
6. Ability to Act Decisively: At some point, every product marketer will be required to make decisions around messaging, targeting or sales collateral. In this role, you must be comfortable taking on this responsibility and acting on it - often without specific directions from your higher-ups. Decision-making involves thinking logically, defining desired outcomes and defending your conclusions. Turning decisions into action and visualizing end results is key to being a leader and getting things done. At some companies, product marketers have a much more strategic role and are accountable for revenue, while others may only be tasked with positioning, messaging and sales enablement.
7. Creativity: Marketing lends itself to creativity, and product marketers aren’t excluded from this necessary skill. While you don’t need to have the ability to draw or design (it can be helpful), you must be creative in your approach to reaching your audience. People get hundreds of ads and messages a day, so you must determine how you can make your products stand out with messaging that really addresses the consumer's’ issue(s).
As a product marketer, you need to be able to both craft these messages and work with others on your team (such as content marketers) to drive consumers to your product(s). Without your guidance, your team and your company won’t have the necessary guidance to deliver these messages in an effective way. It’s your job to bridge the gap between those key consumer pain points and the brand awareness-type marketing that comes from other members of your team. And to do that, you need creativity.
Corporate value messages are critical, but without strong product solutions to support them, they’re often viewed as marketing fluff. Product marketers are there to ensure that the technical message is clear, while also telling the marketing story to the masses.
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