We recently looked at Why it’s so absurdly hard to recruit great Product Marketing leaders.
ICYMI, here’s the quick run-through of why you could pull your hair out when trying to hire your product marketing leader:
- Because some great product marketing leaders want to do the CMO job — and CAN do it
- Because companies waste time looking for a more junior-level person than what they need
- Because companies pitch the role as being highly strategic but then just want someone to create me-too sales collateral
- Because there are so many different elements of the job under one role
- Because there are also many different skill sets that comprise a good product marketing leader
- Because some people like to DO product marketing rather than LEAD a product marketing team.
Now, here are some ideas for how to more easily hire product marketing leaders, retain them, and organize for their success. A big shout-out to my pals who are product marketing experts who helped compile these tips.
1. Think hard about what you really need in the role, and what your organization is ready to accept. Have the conversation about what you need versus what you want. Product marketing can be highly strategic or highly tactical – or both. Do you need someone to make collateral for sales people? Or someone to establish the messaging and positioning? Do you need someone to just take what product management throws over the transom and put lipstick on the pig? Or someone to influence product development with input from the market? Do you need someone to communicate out to the market? Or someone to propose a new way to capture the market?
Becky Trevino, VP of Product Marketing & Operations at Snow Software, shares this advice: “When hiring for a Product Marketing leader, it is essential that you understand your big pain point. Product Marketers typically fall into four categories: Storyteller, Data Scientist, Product Evangelist, or Marketing Wizard. Great Product Marketers do 2-3 of these well. No one is amazing at all four. If you hire a Data Scientist when you really needed a Storyteller it’s likely not going to work out. If the big thing your team needs is leads, then consider a Marketing Wizard who embraces Product.”
2. Lay out a vision of what product marketing owns, does, and aims for. Share the scope, goals, and target outcomes with others in the organization. Codify it as much as possible, and socialize it in a roadshow if necessary. The organization will be glad to know how product marketing is distinct from product management, sales enablement, and demand generation (I learned this tip from Megan Heuer, product marketing expert and Editor In Chief of Product Marketing Community.)
3. Realize that product marketing leaders can come from a variety of ‘feeder’ roles. Sometimes that’s a more junior product marketing role. Sometimes it’s a role outside of product marketing altogether, where they have a deep knowledge of the customer from a previous life. If you’re serving the real estate industry, you could consider a someone who is a former real estate agent, for instance. Former consultants can sometimes make great product marketing leaders. Product managers commonly pivot into product marketing. Former general managers and former industry analysts can also succeed at product marketing.
Megan Heuer shares this advice: “If you have someone who knows product marketing and is curious and interested to learn your business, be sure to be patient and let them learn. Put them through the same training you give sales and customer success or other functions requiring expertise. Let them take all your product training. And get them listening to sales and service calls ASAP so they hear the reality of your customers’ and your sellers’ experiences and needs.”
And if you’re hiring someone into their first product marketing role, remember this tip from a product marketing expert I know: “You can teach someone product marketing but not how to write and how to communicate.”
4. Expect feeder job titles to vary from one company to the next: Adjacent or substitute titles include: solutions marketing, portfolio marketing, GTM, industry marketing, and segment marketing, for instance.
5. Consider hiring as soon as you find the right person, even if you don’t need them yet. Sumukh Tendulkar, B2B security marketing leader with a strong product marketing background, shares: “A good product marketer intimately knows the customer, technology and the competitors, AND is good at communicating and educating. Whenever I found someone good at this, I scooped them up right away.”
Maybe this means that you hire ahead of the need, but that is a strategy of many successful companies – to find the people and then find interesting work for them to do, even if there is a bit of a wait before they start the job they were brought on to do.
6. Interview right. The best product marketing leaders are great with storytelling, and spin out metaphors right and left. They ask great questions and are articulate. This makes them great at interviewing! So be ready. Ask candidates HOW they achieve alignment in the org. Get specific. Ask them how they measure product marketing. Have they evolved a pricing strategy to increase deal size? Have they launched ahead of schedule? How have they influenced pipeline, cross-sell, and upsell? Do they measure the close rate by rep to track sales enablement impact granularly? What market share have they achieved, with which headwinds and tailwinds?
Megan Heuer offers more advice for interviewing and hiring product marketing leaders: “Product marketers need to have trust and credibility with multiple roles across the revenue team. First, their marketing peers need to see them as helping, not dictating or policing how things “should” be done. Product marketers should be willing to share and learn from other areas in marketing. Ask how they worked with their peers who lead demand, customer or advocacy marketing, and how they helped with marketing planning. Next, they need to be comfortable with and respected by sales. Ask product marketers about a time when they got constructive feedback from sales on some of their work and what they did with the feedback. Finally, they need to have a relationship with the customer success, service and experience teams. Ask how they leverage customer insights from these teams.”
7. Pitch the role right. If you are hiring for a role that will have the purview and resources to cover all the products in the company, rather than just a slice, that will likely be compelling to ambitious candidates. Often at big companies, product marketing leaders may lead product marketing for just one product or one portfolio, limiting their altitude and scope. Share the success of the product so far. Consider connecting your top candidates with customers.