All established Product Marketers (PMKs) and Product Marketing Managers (PMMs) will have at some point been frustrated by the lack of understanding or agreement on what Product Marketing is. It seems to be a lot easier to agree on product marketing is not.
While the job market is rife with misleading job titles and inaccurate vacancy postings, which do not help the situation, there are also a number of valid reasons for the confusion. These can be summed up in two statements: first, Product Marketers come in many guises, and second, the PMK role is rapidly evolving.
Why do Product Marketers come in many guises?
There are many types of Product Marketer because of the vast range of tasks that fall in their domain, the diversity of companies and industries they support, and the varying skill levels and preferences of the Product, Sales, and Marketing teams they enable.
Examining each of these variables in turn should begin to shed light on why the role has so different definitions and interpretations.
Originally (and many companies are now reverting to this), Product Marketers were commonly referred to as Technical Marketers. By definition, we earned these roles through our skill in marketing combined with in-depth understanding of the company’s technology. Although on-the-job training can work extremely well, many of my generation of Product Marketers had both engineering and marketing degrees.
Today, job boards and agencies frequently advertise Product Marketer roles that involve the promotion of fashion, kitchenware and other non-tech products. If you are qualified to hold a Technical Marketer position, I’d recommend avoiding disappointment by steering clear of such recruiters.
Because Product Marketers deal with technical offerings, many PMK and PMM roles advertised are for start-up organisations. But as most start-ups can only support one PMK-type role, they are more likely to require (whether they realise it sooner or later) a fairly senior Product Marketer.
If you are a competent marketer with the ability to understand technology, or an engineer looking for more diverse responsibilities, Product Marketing can be a great career path. Sometimes, it’s a case of convincing your line manager that cross-training you is a wise investment for the company.
If you are starting out in Product Marketing, however, you would probably be most successful in an established company, under the mentorship of a seasoned PMM, Product Manager or Product Owner.
PMK tasks and responsibilities
Just because a company has the technology to develop a specific product doesn’t mean it should. As a Product Marketer, it’s your job to understand your company’s market:
- Existing gaps your company might fill;
- The features users are willing to pay for;
- What features would be required for a minimum viable product;
- What it will take for the market to change from their current solution.
This understanding allows you to validate a product’s features, market positioning and messaging. This is also called packaging a product offering.
We do this by researching and articulating competitive differentiation and market needs, thus ensuring the Marketing and Sales teams are aligned and working efficiently to generate and close opportunities. This set of responsibilities is also referred to as a strategic go-to-market role.
This definition is a bit of an Aristotelian ideal. In reality, depending on the size and technical development of a company, a Product Marketer can be called upon to pick up any number of responsibilities. In the next blog, I’ll map out the complete spectrum of marketing roles involved in launching a product, from the executive to the tactical implementation team – all of which, in your career, may be yours.