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4 min read

Jumping through hoops: How I pivoted into product marketing from demand generation


Breaking into product marketing is challenging. Yet, people somehow do it all the time. I’ve seen product marketers with backgrounds ranging from sales, and customer success, to engineering.

You don’t study product marketing in school and then get a job as a product marketer. Getting into product marketing is usually a journey that takes a fair amount of persistence and a growth mindset. That first step is usually the most challenging since you don’t start off with years of product marketing experience.

My journey into product marketing started from my days running ad campaigns at an ad agency in London. Essence is Google’s agency of record and our client was usually a Google product marketer.

At an agency, the client relationship is fundamental. They need to trust you with hitting some of their goals and objectives.

As a junior employee at the agency, some of the campaign budgets I was responsible for were wild (to give you an idea, I oversaw campaigns where we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in digital ads over a month or two). So you wanted the client to trust you with the responsibility of working with that budget.

As I learned more about the tasks of the product marketer, I was thinking, “I want to be in that position!”

The PMMs set the objectives and the goals for the campaigns. They called the shots and made the decisions. They also knew the product well and knew the audience we were going to target.

As a digital campaign manager, my role was to execute the campaign, but the strategy was already set. I wanted to make the decisions and set the strategy. Since that point, working as a product marketer became a career goal.

After about three years in agency land, I moved to the Bay Area in 2015 and found my way into tech marketing. I started out as a field marketer at Zendesk.

Over the years, I landed other interesting and exciting roles in marketing, but it took me a while to break into product marketing. The problem was always that I didn’t have the necessary experience.

The question was: How can I transition to product marketing without any product marketing experience?

How to transition into product marketing without any experience

At Tray.io, I was on the demand generation team. I started by executing events, conferences, and trade shows and later transitioned to virtual events and webinars. At this company, I made the jump into product marketing.

Here are some points that helped me make the transition:

Build your internal brand

Reach out to other team members in the organization and let them know that you’re interested in helping out. I’d ask the Head of Product Marketing what I could do to help the team out.

Get familiar with the product

To effectively market a product, you need to have a deep understanding of its features, benefits, and target audience. Take the time to learn everything you can about the product you will be marketing. Fortunately, the Tray Platform was accessible to anyone at Tray. If you have an idea for automation, you could start building a workflow yourself.

Develop your storytelling skills

Product marketing involves creating compelling stories that resonate with your target audience. Work on developing your storytelling skills to help you craft effective product messaging.


Leverage your skills

I had experience in sales enablement and knew I could pitch in with one-pagers, customer case studies, and battle cards. This gave me a concrete path to help and eventually led to more projects and increased responsibilities.

At Tray.io, I knew the product well, had a great relationship with several colleagues across teams and had the support of my manager. The next step was being transparent with my manager about my career aspirations and goals.

He was supportive so I started to work in a hybrid role in demand generation and product marketing. I began to take on more product marketing responsibilities, developing one-pagers, researching the competition for battle cards, and helping out with product launches.

Eventually, I became a full-fledged product marketer at Tray.io and landed another PMM role at RudderStack where I led competitive intelligence and sales enablement.

When going through this process yourself, keep in mind the above points and treat it as a journey where the path might not be linear but can take you in different directions. So long as your objective and goals are clear and you learn from any setbacks, you’ll be on your way to making the transition into product marketing.

I always like hearing stories of how others break into product marketing. I’d love to hear how you landed your first product marketing role.

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Written by:

Sander Buitelaar

Sander Buitelaar

Sander Buitelaar is an Product Marketing Alliance Ambassador and experienced product marketer.

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Jumping through hoops: How I pivoted into product marketing from demand generation