The “Product Marketing” title is definitely one of the most sought after tech marketing roles right now – from both the recruiter and the talent side.
Companies are saying “I don’t know what it is, but I know I need it” and marketers are keen to make the jump into a specialisation that’s in high demand and has a reputation for being well paid. For us non-technical tech employees, product marketing is a very attractive role.
There’s a lot to consider before hiring a product marketer, so let’s break it down.
What should you consider before hiring a product marketer?
My best description of a product marketer is someone who connects “the product” and “the market”, not marketing.
While yeah, a lot of what they do looks like marketing, the title refers more to the market you’re trying to sell to than the marketing department.
As such, this role could actually report to your Product team. This can work really well when product marketing is a new function or you have a particularly technical product they need to be deep in the weeds to properly understand.
Another thing to consider is how much your product marketer will own. Will they own one product? One feature? One product manager? One industry? I really recommend developing a ratio of product marketing to [something], this will help you allocate appropriate resources.
If you’re introducing product marketing as a function, I’d pair them up with a product manager to begin with and see how the workload looks, then adjust from there.
Working across teams
The final thing to consider is that product marketing can look really different from company to company.
This role works across product, marketing, customer success, and sales. They’ll need to lean towards whichever of these teams need them more.
That could be training the sales team on what the product actually does, helping the marketing team get more leads, working with a product manager to develop a new feature, or increasing customer engagement with the success team.
You’ll need to evaluate these four teams in order to accurately pick out what it is your hire needs to prioritise.
What does a product marketer do?
Since we know that a product marketer works across four teams, let’s look at responsibilities based on those four areas:
- Messaging and positioning for the product, ensuring it’s being accurately and factually represented by the marketing team
- Suggesting and supporting marketing efforts that focus on the product
- Advising and reviewing campaigns, content, social media posts, or other work from marketing team members
- Training the team on what the product does, and advising or designing the standardised pitch
- Creating sales enablement materials like interactive demos or pitch decks
- Reviewing feedback that comes through sales calls, such as feature requests, product limitations, or insights into competitors and pricing
- Work on ways to increase product usage or engagement, this could look like owning the in-product messaging channel, customer newsletter, or even the onboarding experience
- Assist on win backs, upsell, and cross sell strategies and campaigns
- Promote new features and capabilities
- Translating the technical knowledge of the product into customer value propositions and messaging
- Assisting on user research, roadmap decisions, and creating a closed loop of customer feedback
- Competitor analysis and feature comparisons, market research, and user personas
A mix of all four:
- Assisting or owning the creation of materials such as customer testimonials, ROI measurement, product documentation, and related statistics
- Working on launches, which could include events, webinars, or video production
- Owning or contributing to internal education on the product
The list is already getting pretty long and we’re only at three items per team! Product marketing is a huge sphere, so you need to be prioritising and setting up boundaries on what this team will and won’t do – you’ll need to ask candidates about stakeholder management and how they might go about telling one of these teams that they’re not a priority right now.
When to hire
When does it make sense to hire a product marketer?
Unlike hiring for something like SEO, product marketing is a bit more cut and dry. It’s very likely that someone in your organisation is already doing product marketing (even if it’s not someone in the marketing team).
Large orgs might hire a product marketer when they’re thinking of launching a new product, and they want them to conduct the initial market research. Small orgs might have a history of focusing on their branding, and want to place more emphasis on their product in their marketing. And then there’s everything in between.
This is not to say “everyone should go out and hire a product marketer right now”.
Here’s what you need to do first:
- Assess how your marketing, product, customer success, and sales teams are going – who needs the most help right now?
- Assess individuals in the existing team, and identify who is currently “doing” the product marketing – ask them if they want this work taken off them, and what would they spend their extra time on if yes? This will tell you if hiring an extra head is worth the investment or not.
- Create a list of responsibilities and start moulding where this person would go, would they report to product or marketing? If you have leaders for those teams, they’ll likely have strong opinions about this.
- It’s likely you’re not going to find the perfect candidate due to how much this role can be customised, so make a list of things you’re willing to compromise on, and which parts of the role they absolutely must have some experience in.
How do you know if your new hire is doing well?
Product marketing is a fairly social role, and below par hires could use this to look busy without having a lot of output. If your hire is introducing the function to your business, you’ll need to keep an eye on them but give them some grace in taking time to set up.
Product marketing does have a lot of quick wins you can have as an expectation while longer term work ticks along in the background.
This could look like:
- Updating sales materials, the pitch, or copy on the website to be more “product marketing” style and highlight value propositions over feature descriptions
- Running an audit or analysis of how the product is being positioned or messaged
- Market research, even if it’s just updating or validating existing assumptions
- Creating battle cards for competitors
If they’re able to deliver these smaller pieces of work while also giving updates on the larger bits that take longer, you’ve made a good hire.
If they seem lost, unfocused, or are struggling to reiterate what your product is, you’ve either done a poor job at onboarding them and explaining your expectations and priorities, or you’ve made a bad hire. At this point, it’s time to sit down with them and communicate clearly what it is that you had envisioned them doing (referring back to assessing the areas of the business where product marketing should focus) and clarify what isn’t a priority for them.
One last piece of advice when evaluating a product marketer during the interview stage is to not get too excited by big logos on a resume. The larger the organisation, the more specialist a person may be, with a narrower remit. Hiring from a smaller company where an individual owns more of the remit and has some experience setting things up will be overall more beneficial for an earlier stage startup. Hiring that “ex-unicorn” candidate will come in handy at a later stage when you’re looking for more thorough processes.
Where to find a product marketer
As an emerging specialisation, it can be really difficult to find the right talent. And even if you find them, they’re not always looking to jump to a new role. There’s a lot of grassroots communities popping up though, and they’re a great place to start.
- Kayla Medica is a B2B SaaS marketing leader and author of Mehdeeka, the newsletter for solo marketers and small teams. She writes monthly for Startup Daily.