A huge part of product marketing is addressing customer pain points to produce the products they’ll love, but who’s addressing product marketers’ pain points in order to facilitate timely, smoother solutions?

Well according to The State of Product Marketing Report 2020 only 59% of companies are allowing product marketing teams a seat at the senior table. Although it may seem like progress, there’s still a way to go before product marketers feel their role is fully understood and valued.

We asked a whole host of product marketers at varying levels, from all over the globe, what their main pain points are. Unsurprisingly, confusion around what they actually do ranked high, along with feeling undervalued and under-resourced. ☹️

We’ve split the quotes below into job titles and removed names to protect the privacy of our participants.

Associate Product Marketing Managers

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about the role, especially the value product marketing brings to the table beyond marketing.”

“I definitely feel like no one understands my role in the company.”

“I’m the only product marketer in the organization and I feel so much pressure to help in other arenas, that the product marketing aspect of my job gets neglected.”

“I have so much on my plate and not enough time in the day, it’s not easing up anytime soon.”

“It’s really challenging tying our work to tangible results and ROI.”

“Our company is extremely product-led and ships features quickly, which makes it hard to align the GTM organization on these features and create compelling messaging for each feature.”

“Competing priorities from multiple stakeholders is a problem.”

“Making sure external teams use the content we create for them (as I am the keeper of our external collateral).”

“Getting people to understand the value of product marketing is a huge pain point for me.”

“There’s a lack of collaboration across product and marketing at leadership level.”

“Working with merchandising to get them to understand product and customer segmentation and knowing the product assortment has been an issue.”

“Our product marketing team is still new and we don’t really have a good idea of the value we can add, which makes it tough for other departments in the company to understand our value.”

“We do not have enough marketing tools or budget.”

“Our executives don’t recognize the importance of product marketing, so it feels like we don’t have much influence.”

Product Marketing Managers

“An understanding of the role within the business, product performance and a lack of product strategy are definitely the main pain points.”

“Underdeveloped marketing and sales functions is a problem for us.”

“Internal buy-in, poor internal behaviour related to knowledge sharing (i.e. Slack, critical information unorganized in internal wikis, salespeople creating their own content)”

“There’s a lack of understanding of all that product marketing does and how many hurdles we often have to overcome.”

“At the company I work for, product marketing has little influence on the product team.”

“There’s still a lack of understanding of what product marketing is. I’ve had to constantly correct people that it’s not communications! I work for a sales lead company so the level of influence in shaping/transforming from a marketing perspective is minimal. I’d love to see this switch happen. Previous companies I’ve worked for have been very marketing/brand-led which aligns better to customer needs and retains loyal customers.”

“People don't understand the role or responsibility. It’s also really difficult being a manager without formal mandate.”

“SaaS moves so quickly that prioritizing and defining the right level of effort for initiatives is tough.”

“My company pushes a self-service model and we’re expected to be experts on 20 different tools and get mired in tactics and execution. There's very little time for strategy.”

“There are not enough people on my team to do everything I would like to do! I would love to keep developing the function and filling the many gaps I see (more sales enablement support, co-marketing and biz dev support) - we are falling short on the many things we could tackle if I only had more people.”

“Confirming the value of my contribution in an organization of 18,000+ people is tough.”

“The company doesn't view product marketing as the same critical function to drive growth in the way they do product/engineering and sales. So we are incredibly under-staffed based on the breadth of our product, scale of the product team, and markets we are competing in.”

“There's confusion as to where I sit in the company structure, am I marketing or am I product...? Technically I report to the Product Manager but if the VP of Marketing needs something done, it can be hard knowing what takes precedence.”

“Most of the teams don't understand the role of product marketer and the value that role can add to the overall strategy. Most of the time I have to sell the story to the CEO and spend time onboarding him/her.”

(People) Managers of Product Marketing

“There’s definitely too much of a focus on features and technology rather than customer needs.”

“The company I work for has grown so rapidly, which means a LOT of work with no processes in place.”

“There’s a lack of other experts on our marketing team to support content and enablement requirements. We also have a complicated product and process, therefore we require a smarter than average sales team.”

“Unnecessary asks for collateral creation and being understaffed in content and design is a huge problem.”

“My boss (Marketing lead) has a B2C consumer goods background with no digital experience and we’re trying to market a SaaS software product, so it’s hard to get them to understand things like user education and digital channels.”

“Always receiving secondhand feedback, and a constant struggle to connect directly with customers.”

“People at my company do not understand why product marketing is core to great product delivery.”

“Differing understandings of role, scope and authority from different stakeholder groups.”

“It feels like there's a constant battle between product management and product marketing.”

Senior Product Marketing Managers

“Changing the mindset of the wider organization from developing and selling products to solving problems.”

“There’s no collaboration across departments. The vice president and directors always make all of the decisions.”

“Understanding where product marketing fits in, in terms of influence.”

“The lack of investment in hiring professional writers to take core content from PMMs and PMs and make it sound great. Product Marketing should be creating core content in an efficient manner and the writing team should perfect tone and pizzazz.”

“People don't know what I do and use product marketing as a catch-all for work that hasn't been done in the past or that they don't want to handle.”

“I feel that for the most part I work alone, without any guidance or a team. I feel that I'm in between several departments.”

“Our executive team has no idea how a modern product team is supposed to function and we have no senior product leader. Product roadmap decisions are sales-driven, and PMs and PMMs have no P&L ownership of the product.”

“Sometimes product marketing is asked to support in creating sales presentations for customers. This takes a lot of our time, this is a barrier.”

“Product Marketing is not understood, undervalued and under-resourced. New management gets our importance but it's a major challenge to get that seat at the table. Product is now looking to take over the GTM process, this is due to the fact they see us as unable to deliver. With such a small team and so many priorities, it's true. We can't.”

“The Product Manager to Product Marketing Manager ratio is off. There are too many Product Managers/projects to juggle, this forces me to be reactionary and think short-term instead of strategic and longer-term.”

“It would be great if we were brought into the product strategy discussion early enough in the process that we may actually influence decision making.”

“Our barrier used to be getting into that product strategy discussion at all. That is no longer a barrier. We've earned our seat at the table. But, often we are not brought into the picture until key decisions have already been made that we could have provided insights to help influence direction.”

“Lack of understanding of what we do and receiving any credit for our sizeable contributions. The other teams like the product team, marketing, or even client success get credit for a lot of the strategic work we do.”

“Our product marketing team is based on segment/product area/use case (or solutions). This inherently creates functional duplication and external team members often aren't clear on who from product marketing should be involved.”

“Transparency: many people are working on various projects but Product Marketing is not always looped in even though we are often impacted in the course of the project. At that point, we get blind sided by sudden actions and urgent to-do's.”

“There’s a constant battle between sales selling something before it's ready and product taking too long to build -- and being stuck in the middle.”

“When you are stepping in as the first PMM in the company, there are 'n' number of expectations set in different teams and stakeholders. Right now, trying to define the role and scope to align stakeholders is a big piece I am managing. It's difficult putting new processes in place for a small setup where teams are used to doing everyone's job in a lean manner, without overstepping.”

Directors of Product Marketing

“Achieving a structured approach to customer/market research. We have a few projects that involve customer research and I personally think it can be done in a much more structured fashion. Eventually, customer research can help PMMs to have a seat at the table when it comes to bringing the voice of the customer back into the organization and influencing direction of product/marketing efforts.”

“There’s a lack of understanding, value and buy-in regarding product marketing's role within the broader organization.”

“Unrealistic expectations around the amount of collateral product marketing needed.”

“There’s not enough resources to deliver the full-scope of Product Marketing.”

“Too many different voices. We do not have a consistent story based on the customer. It’s too often based on a sales rep or an executive’s opinion.”

“Lack of resources (i.e. headcount) which leads to lack of focus and harms internal relationships and results. As a one-person PMM team I'm spread so thin I can't go as deep as I'd like in some areas and other initiatives get ‘crowdsourced’ and done by other people in the company (i.e. demand gen, solutions engineering) that are not the best suited to do those things, leading to subpar results.”

“Product marketing headcount doesn't seem to ramp as fast as product management, sales and marketing - so demands on the product marketing team swell beyond our ability to support. It's more efficient and effective when product marketing are setting the GTM strategy and then allocating time/bandwidth/resources to sales, marketing, etc. But in many companies this is inverted.”

“The misconception that Product Marketing is synonymous with an administrative assistant. There is also sometimes a struggle with other functions not respecting our backlog and planning processes. We are often asked to do things ASAP, and to 'make things pretty'."

“How the marketing team is structured: too much focus on performance marketing to acquire new customers and not on the actual value we are bringing to market.”

“Lack of resources (people). When you are the one who needs to strategize, create the goals and also execute them, eventually you become less ambitious.”

“The lack of clear and measurable objectives around the impact each product enhancement should have - what sales motions it should drive, adoption targets we have and why, etc.”

“Assurance that the positioning created by the Product Marketing team will reflect in marketing campaigns and sales pitches.”

“Old companies are difficult to change, internal learning has never been a priority and most mid to senior roles are occupied by people who have been at the company for 5+ years, hence the difficulty in changing this mindset. We've introduced a new product through acquisition and salespeople (junior to senior) have not prioritized learning the in's and out's of this product, which is why 90% of my time has been spent on sales enablement. It's frustrating to constantly regurgitate the same information over and over again.”

“Communicating where my efforts would be best spent and becoming a catchall for other valuable marketing efforts.”

“Not having enough trust/influence over messaging, not enough access to customers.”

VPs of Product Marketing

“There’s a distinct lack of consistency around product marketing’s place in my organization as well as internal processes related to launches.”

“Executives that are unable to trust product marketing to articulate the best value propositions of the product in their own voice (not the voice of engineering).”

“Most people in my company don't understand the role of product marketing, and that's our everyday struggle.”

“Understanding of the value of CI is too narrow, resource limitations force us to concentrate on tactical sales enablement and don’t have extra cycles for broader strategy or supporting the wider organization.”

“The product team is unorganized.”

“Our company definitely has a very strong, present exec team, which means that a lot of the leadership decisions are set in stone by the time we find them out, which makes it hard if we're seeing something "on the ground" that may influence or change that decision. Whether that’s a trend with our customers, our product adoption, conversations with analysts, etc. Additionally, we are often negotiating with our content marketing team on messaging and connecting with our buyers through language. Owning messaging is a tough task for us, as we influence and approve but don't directly write content (blogs, landing pages, white papers, etc).”

“Lack of resources. I'm basically a one-woman show, so oftentimes we can't go too deep into any one project.”

“Lack of understanding about the role, unreasonable expectations for product launch timelines, competing priorities.”

“My organization is very traditional and old-school and are slow to adopt a product-first mentality to marketing, not to mention objective-driven, agile, and more test and learn methods. Getting cross-functional buy-in from other teams.”

“Many stakeholders have marketing knowledge and expertise and want to direct marketing initiatives.”

“Since roles other than marketing do not understand what we do everybody has a different say on how we position and it's not left to product marketers.”

“The biggest pain point is for Product Marketing input to be as valued as input given by the Product team in regards to the product roadmap.”

B2B vs B2C pain points

As you can see from the quotes above, there are definitely more universal pain points across different job titles than there are unique and specific pain points, but what about in B2B and B2C organizations?

We weren't too surprised to see the more common complaints pop up in this category but there was a very clear and common trend among B2B product marketers we didn't see coming, the amount of sales-related responsibilities and marketing jobs that are passed over. While that might not come as a surprise for some of you, it was a pain point unique to B2B, while B2C product marketers revealed a trend of its own.

An overwhelming amount of product marketers working in B2C organizations felt they were prevented from being a part of the product’s initial journey. A good percentage felt that the relationship between product management and product marketing could be improved by closer collaboration and earlier inclusion on the product roadmap. Let’s see what both categories had to say below.

B2B pain points

“There’s no clear differentiation in our company between marketing and product marketing.”

“I feel like it's hard to open doors and participate more in the work the Product team is doing.”

“How much work it takes to get sales enabled is an issue. We always want to position the product marketing group to give sales what they need to be successful, but customization and unique needs can mean that individual deals pull time from broader responsibilities. I wish the communication touchpoints were smoother.”

“Some stakeholders don't understand the role and value of having a product marketing team.”

“I don’t feel like I ever have total ownership over decision-making.”

“Our product marketing team is seen as a content creation service.”

“Too much of my job involves working as a translator between Product and Sales/Marketing.”

“Sales is very much prioritized over everything else, it can be hard to get any other points across.”

“There’s a lack of budget, lack of internal resources and lack of internal communication.”

“Every team has different expectations of what your role should be based on their previous experience (because they don't actually understand the role). Some product marketers might have experience closer to sales, so sales demands a lot, however, other product markets are closer to the technology and product (like myself) so it can be a headache to try to balance inclusion with the product and appeasing sales / traditional marketing.”

B2C pain points

“I have no influence over the marketing strategy, and a lack of resources to carry out digital marketing and create creative/design assets.

“Product marketing isn't part of the whole product journey. We’re only brought in at the end to market the product.”

“The product team doesn't involve us at all, we’re just seen as writers.”

“We report to the marketing team but they are heavily skewed towards the top of the funnel (brand and content) so have no idea what we actually do.”

“I’m always finding out about things too late into a project that I should have been involved in from the beginning.”

“Maintaining and improving the relationship and level of trust between product and marketing is a pain point for us.”

“We don’t get to be a part of early-stage engineering discussions to decide an MVP.”

“I’m never included in product strategy discussions/decisions early enough.”

“I’d like more of a say on the product roadmap.”

The takeaway here is that pain points are universal regardless of role, company size and type, indicating there’s still progress to be made. Organization leaders need to invest in understanding the role and clearly defining it company-wide. Once decision-makers realize a product marketer’s role starts at inception, they can fairly allocate resources and budget to support their teams.