Like with anything in life it’s normal to be faced with hurdles that you have to conquer. It’s especially true when navigating through something as complicated as a career path in product marketing.

But it’s important to remember that these challenges are solvable, and it’s our responsibility to anticipate certain challenges and find ways to overcome them.

In this article, we’re going to be finding ways to do just that, alongside exploring things such as:

What do product marketers love most about their job?

Before we get to the challenges of product marketing, let’s take a moment to celebrate the positives of the role. After all, there are a whole lot of benefits that outweigh the challenges. PMMs are an uber-passionate bunch, which is what we love most about you!

So, what do product marketers love most about what they do? In the 2021 State of Product Marketing report, we asked this exact question, and received some lovely responses:

“The well-rounded view of the company, and input on the strategic direction of the position, message, and company.”
“I love crafting key messages when the product is still in development and seeing that impact the output.”
“That feeling when you're talking to a prospect about the value of your product, and their eyes light up like, ‘where have you been all my life?!’”
“Being at the intersection of everything - I love being in the middle of it all and working to make sense of it.”
“I love the challenge of learning all the intricacies of my target audience, market, and industry on one hand, and my product on the other- creating a route to go forward where before there was only fog. I also love the collaborative aspect of it- getting to work with experts from so many different fields and learning from them.”
“Competitive analysis and finding differentiators- getting down to the true differences. Talking with customers to hear the stories. Telling the success stories.”
“That I am helping our company to be the best it can be by providing the company the insight and data on how we should position ourselves.”

The most common pain points product marketers are facing

It’s clear to see that there are plenty of facets to love about the product marketing role but as with all industries, a PMM can't escape the inevitability of pain points.

The general consensus of last year’s findings spotlighted the following as the most common issues amongst product marketers in 2021:

  • Misunderstanding or lack of internal understanding about what a product marketer does
  • PMMs having a lack of authority and influence
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • Too little time, resources, and bandwidth to get everything done

So, although things are clearly moving in the right direction for product marketers, there is still a heap of work to be done to make life easier (and more productive) for PMMs. So how can we overcome these challenges?

Misunderstanding or lack of internal understanding about what a product marketer does

A response from this survey was that there was a “lack of understanding about the strategic role that Product Marketing plays and how it is different from traditional Product and Marketing roles.”

But it’s your job, as the product marketer who’s struggling to be heard, to make yourself heard, and ensure that people listen.

A principle within the Product Marketing Manifesto is actually all about taking ownership of your responsibilities as a product marketer, and advocating for them to people around you, whether that’s your friend, colleague, or even Bob down the road.

Holly Watson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services, hit the nail on the head as she told us:

“Product marketers do add value, but it’s been said before - product marketing has a branding problem. To overcome this hurdle, add value, do work, and be vocal. [...]
“Gracefully use multiple channels to educate, inform, advise and direct teams to the resources being developed. Get on regional team calls, global team calls, use Slack or other chat channels, email, email again to share resources.
“You might feel like it’s redundant. That’s ok. Don’t get fed up or frustrated. Empathize and help craft a reliable, trusted voice that adds value to your teammates and end-users. It’s not about you as a product marketer, it’s about the value you’re providing to your teams - the recognition will come.”

PMMs having a lack of authority and influence

A common challenge within the industry is that product marketers find it difficult getting their foot in the door to being seen as an important role within an organization.

When we asked our PMMs in 2021 if they or a member of their product marketing team gets invited to leadership meetings, 63% said ‘Yes’, which increased from the year prior (at 59%), 24% said ‘Sometimes’ (which actually decreased 2% from 2020), and 13% said ‘No’ (again, decreasing 2% from the year before).

As mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to overcome this challenge is by advocating for your seat at the table. Don’t shy away from sharing your successes to truly highlight the value your role has in your organization’s growth. If you don’t, no one else will, and this will hugely impact buy-in for your department, and will, of course, affect how other departments view your role.

Unrealistic deadlines

When surveyed, one of the most common responses was this idea of being set unrealistic deadlines for certain projects. For example,

  • “Our product and engineering teams do not commit to deadlines more than 30 days out. Makes it impossible to plan.”
  • “Getting brought into projects too late and trying to catch up or work towards unnecessary timelines.”

When posed with the question of how to overcome this challenge, Kevin Garcia, Head of Product Marketing at Retool advised,

“I think it's fair to push back, but try to be solutions-oriented in your approach- aka the person might 1) value speed over quality on this or 2) might be misaligned with you on what is "in scope" for the project.
“I usually take a 3-step approach:
Take a step back and write down what you think is possible/reasonable to get done within the timeframe allotted (in case speed is the key factor).
Write down what you think is possible if you had the timeframe extended to X. X = whatever date you think is actually right for the scope you think this project needs.
Talk to the person about what their priority is and lay out your options, saying you'd love their help to get to clarity. People like to solve things together!”

We also received an insight into the way Louise Dunn, Product Marketing Manager at Linnworks jumps this hurdle:

“Getting stakeholders bought into assessing requests through a view of Good - Fast - Cheap. You can't have all three.
“If it's an urgent ask, I look for maximum impact using materials I already have. If it's something that has to be a deep dive and done well in order to succeed, I request the right amount of time and resources to do it justice.
“If we want it good and fast, we need to pull in expertise and more manpower, whether that's other teams or a specialist.
“The key I've found is not presenting something fast as "good". Being honest about that is important and triggers discussions about what “good” would look like if we did have all the time and resources available.”

Too little time, bandwidth, and resources to get everything done

Another challenge was not having enough time, resources- in terms of both budget and team headcount- or general bandwidth to truly have an impact within their department.

One participant said: “There are two: resources and company structure. The company structure is not very transparent and it does not support the product marketing function, nor does it set up for success. This is amplified by the lack of resources.”

Some other PMMs agreed, saying:

“Time! I would love to have more time to research and learn from the market. COVID-19 had pushed thought-leadership to a completely different level: there are so many webinars, articles, and podcasts around that it’s impossible to document everything before creating a positioning or a competitive intelligence document.”
Silvia Kiely Frucci, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Castor

“Needing and wanting to be a part of as many projects as possible but being forced to choose or let others down due to limited bandwidth. As product marketers, we are often the glue that holds so many teams and initiatives together, but sometimes it's hard to stay on top of every crack or new surface that needs adhering to.”

Mark Assini, Product Marketing Manager at Jobber

Thankfully, we received a super handy piece of advice from Louise Dunne, Product Marketing Manager at Linnworks on navigating the issue of short time constraints:

“There simply aren’t enough hours in the day which means ruthless prioritization is an essential part of our quarterly and monthly goal setting. We have clearly defined pillars of product marketing so we are laser-focused on the areas where we can add the most value.
“That said, we document all requests and feedback points from our stakeholders in the field, product, and wider marketing, and build a business case for where we can have the most impact with the time and resources available. Being clear about our process and priorities helps to set expectations about why we can't say yes to everything we’re asked to do.”

To sum up:

  • Prioritize your most important tasks,
  • Organize your tasks, and
  • Learn that it’s sometimes okay to say ‘no’!

Changes PMMs would like to see in the role moving forward

When we asked survey participants the one thing they'd like to see change about the PMM role, more strategic involvement, closer proximity to leadership teams and C-suiters, a better understanding of what PMMs do, and clearer role boundaries were all common responses.

Here are some we received:

“More clearly identified roles and responsibilities of what we own vs what product and sales enablement and marketing own.”
“Further definition of specific types of product marketing and having an associated core set of skills aligned to the type. Right now, it seems many PMMs would fall into the generalist category, but there’s a huge opportunity to specialize in specific aspects of the function.” 
“I’d like to see us brought into more upstream strategic conversations vs getting looped in down the line.” 
“That people don’t overlap content marketing with product marketing roles. It’s way too much for one person to handle writing all copy and content and enablement collateral AND doing market research, customer user testing, customer engagement, and release marketing.”
“Better education for other departments on what product marketing is/does in an organization, and giving product marketing a better seat at the leadership table.”
“Being recognized more for their strategic capabilities, and not just tactical product launches.”

What do you think?

We’d love to know your thoughts on this matter. What things do you absolutely love about your role? What challenges do you face within your day-to-day as a product marketer? Are they the same, or different from the ones in this article? And what changes do you wish to see within the role moving forward?

Help us continue the conversation. Let us know on LinkedIn or Slack.