Quick – what’s the hardest role to hire for on a marketing team, in your opinion? (Even harder than hiring a CMO.)
In B2B SaaS, the answer I hear consistently is – drum roll, please:
With the right product marketing leader in place – good things happen:
- Your ideal customer profile is well-defined
- You achieve product/market fit… and market dominance
- You have user adoption and retention
- You launch products that put you on the map and keep you there
- You have the necessary glue connecting product and sales
- You can increase revenue with the same product and the same customers
With an average or bad product marketing leader, however:
- You make products that people don’t want
- You get customers that buy once and don’t come back
- You suffer from internal misalignment, wasted resources, me-too messaging, and lack of differentiation
- You get ignored by industry analysts…
…. all of which translates into lost revenue and lost profitability.
OK, so why is it so hard to find and land a great product marketing leader? Here’s my list – let me know if you have anything to add.
- Because some great product marketing leaders can do the CMO job, or at least a broader role than product marketing. The best product marketers make a strong initial impact, and then their purviews expand, sometimes encompassing demand generation or customer marketing or other areas. So when they get approached about another product marketing leadership role, they say, “Nah, that is too narrowly-scoped.” Many are shooting for CMO roles for their next step.
- Because companies waste time looking for a more junior-level person than what they need. For some reason, it is common to think that someone at the manager level can do what may be some of the most critical functions of the company: go-to-market strategy, value prop development, messaging and positioning. In fact, many of these things fall more under the purview of the CEO than the manager-level product marketing lead.
- Because companies pitch the role as being highly strategic but then just want someone to create me-too sales collateral. As would-be candidates figure out that discrepancy, time is wasted.
- Because there are so many different elements of the job under one role: market and customer research, messaging, positioning, sales enablement, analyst relations, product launch management, and sometimes public relations, pricing, or packaging. Finding someone who is good at all of this is hard. Yet, many companies aim to hire for the person who is good at it all – since it’s also hard to determine which aspects matter most.
- Relatedly, because there are also many different skill sets that comprise a good product marketing leader: translating technology into English, procedural thinking, influencing without authority, creating strategic clarity, making tough tradeoffs, and aligning the organization. Great product marketers swap their ego for their role as a shuttle diplomat. It’s rare to find all of that in one person — at any price point.
- Because some people like to DO product marketing rather than LEAD a product marketing team. Product marketing can be meaty and strategic on its own, so many experts in it don’t feel they need to ascend to leading a team. As a result, many don’t have the interest or the leadership experience to do the VP of Product Marketing roles out there that are starting to crop up, as companies expand and centralize their product marketing functions.
Lots of challenges here! Next time you hear from me, I’ll share some ideas for how to more easily hire product marketing leaders, retain them, and organize for their success.