The 2021 State of Product Marketing report revealed that more solo product marketers are on the rise. Approximately one-fifth of global respondents were the only Product Marketing Manager in their product marketing team, plying their trade from startups to enterprise level.
Being recruited as your company’s first product marketer is incredibly rewarding, with the diverse job description promising an opportunity to influence demand generation, as well as best practices across key areas such as product messaging, product positioning, Go-to-Market strategy, market intelligence, field enablement, and customer education.
Add to that, the best product marketers play a key role in identifying a suitable pricing strategy, overseeing a successful product launch, and managing product development. They also build cross-functional processes and collaborative relationships with core stakeholders across product, marketing, and customer-facing teams such as sales teams and customer success.
Suffice to say, the requisite skillset surpasses social media competency and an ability to conjure together a last-minute marketing plan.
Irrespective of whether you’re working on a physical or SaaS product, being a lone product marketer is daunting yet gratifying. It serves as a fantastic training ground to partake in key initiatives that’ll enhance your marketing experience; it’ll help you gain new skills, no matter how many years of experience you have under your belt.
I’m sharing 4 lessons from my experience as the first hire at Linnworks, building out the function to a team of three, that are relevant to every product marketer.
I’ll be sharing my advice on:
- How to learn from the original product marketers
- Why you need to define what product marketing is - and isn’t
- The importance of being ruthless when it comes to prioritizing
- Why a lone product marketer shouldn’t be ‘lonely’
I hope input will help you become a great product marketer, whether you’re one of the many freelancers within the product marketing circuit, or a full-time internal PMM contributing to your company’s product marketing campaigns.
Key product marketing advice
1) Learn from the original product marketers
While you might be the first hire to be identified as a product marketer, chances are that before you joined the business, other team members stepped up to the mantle and carried out core tasks to build brand awareness.
From the founders who get hands-on developing early-stage messaging and positioning, tenured sales reps who share competitive insights for new hire onboarding, to the subject matter experts pulled in to train field teams on newly launched features.
Going through previous processes, e.g. digital marketing strategies and email marketing campaigns, helps new product marketing hires understand how the team currently works.
2) Define what product marketing is… and isn’t
It’s no secret that product marketing jobs are still misunderstood in many quarters.
Some assume that product marketers do the role of a copywriter, that we’re largely responsible for content marketing, some think we’re the sole arm for GTM strategy, while others consider us the go-to for market research, project management, and establishing market needs.
Granted, all of these responsibilities fall under the umbrella of product marketing, but we work with others within the company. For example, the CMO and dedicated strategists in other departments to ensure these are fulfilled.
As such, it’s essential for every new product marketing hire to meet with stakeholders across the organization to identify the immediate priorities for the business. It’s also important for explaining the scope of product marketing, introducing ways of working, and gathering feedback to inform your strategy.
This’ll prove critical in optimizing the product roadmap as you seek to fulfill product-market fit and satisfy your target audience.
Having an established definition of product marketing role, focus, and areas of responsibility will become useful when new stakeholders join the business.
3) Be ruthless when prioritizing
A great former boss with a strong understanding of product marketing’s impact told me: “it’s not prioritization until someone’s complaining”.
The truth is there aren’t enough hours in the day; a product marketer's work is never done. There’s always a tier 3 competitor cropping up, one more sales enablement request, and another meeting request asking for market insights so it’s important to prioritize based on the highest impact strategies.
Unlike improv, the response to more requests shouldn’t be “yes, and…”. Prioritization is critical.
The following two approaches work well when you’re the only product marketer available to take on key projects, but are relevant to any product marketer navigating a long to-do list.
The first approach is to make a list of all active projects with cross-functional stakeholders to discuss areas of focus depending on quarterly priorities and evaluate based on input.
Similar to how product teams use RICE scoring (Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort), making decisions based on the impact on the business versus available resources (with stakeholder input) helps give visibility into product marketing’s process and best practices.
Secondly, asking “what’s more important: good, fast, or cheap?” helps to understand the trade-offs depending on the urgency, importance, and available resources. Keep in mind what you’re compromising, because it can’t be all three.
Being mindful of immovable external deadlines, the context behind the request, and whether there’s an impact on your KPIs, will help with a common-sense approach.
4) Be lone - but not lonely
Just because you’re a lone product marketer, you don’t have to work alone and product marketing shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. While you can carry the burden of being the product marketing expert in the business, two heads are still better than one.
Share early first drafts for review, loop in experts for feedback, and share your work-in-progress updates with teams who’ll use your product marketing output. This’ll validate your approach. Your product marketing output will be all the better for it, and you’ll have buy-in from other contributors by involving them in your process.
While you might be the only product marketer in your business, there’s a 10,000-strong community within the Product Marketing Alliance, many of whom have been on this path before. They can act as sounding boards, provide input, and share their prior experience, making this rewarding role a little more sociable.
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