Product marketing is awash with professionals with ambitions of ascending the career ladder and reaching the lofty heights of coveted leadership positions.

We chewed the fat with Annie Lee, CMO at Howl, for a discussion on what’s needed to succeed as a product marketer at a high-growth company.

We focused on several topics, including:

NB: At the time of this discussion, Annie was the Senior Director of Product Marketing and Revenue Growth at Twitch.

Annie’s journey into product marketing


Please can you introduce yourself and talk us through your journey into product marketing?

Annie Lee:

Sure. My name’s Annie Lee. I'm the Senior Director of Product Marketing and Revenue Growth at Twitch. I'm originally from the Big Island of Hawaii, but I've lived in both Seattle and San Francisco since starting my career.

I started my career in online advertising, which was a good place to learn about targeting, messaging, and all the various channels that are used to create awareness or action about a specific product, brand, or service.

My first experience with product marketing was at Amazon, marketing wireless products on behalf of carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, etc.

We served as a distribution channel for our vendors who provided the basic information that you would normally gather as a PMM, such as user insights, messaging and positioning, and product specs, but then we had to translate that for our audience of Amazon customers.

After Amazon, I took on the first marketing role at Pinterest, when the product was still very young. That meant I wore many, many different hats, including Go-to-Market (GTM) for all of our consumer product launches and our first suite of business products, as well as growth marketing and even customer service.

Since then, I've taken a few paths before hitting my stride with product marketing again here at Twitch.

Career advice for entry-level product marketers


What advice would you give to a product marketer who's right at the start of their product marketing journey to make sure that they fulfill their potential?

Annie Lee:

I can think of a couple of things. The first is always starting with a customer or the user. When you use research and data patterns to passionately understand their motivations, it'll be easier to understand how the product can best be positioned and messaged to them.

The other thing I will say is that the product marketing function is essentially the glue that holds the product team, the marketing team, the research team, and all these other teams together.

We’re in the center, connecting the dots between all these different organizations, so it’s critical to build really good relationships with all of those stakeholders.

How to differentiate yourself in a competitive job market

What would be your golden piece of advice for product marketers who have aspirations of being hired by companies such as Twitch, Amazon, and Pinterest, in a competitive job market?

Annie Lee:

I recommend getting scrappy and taking ownership of your career as a narrative, just like you would with a GTM. I think mapping your career is the single most important and long-lasting GTM you will ever manage, and it'll manifest over time with various phases of your quote-unquote career launch.

Just like a GTM plan, you’ll want to think about pre-launch activities. That means if you don't have the experience, work on some projects that you can throw into your portfolio.

Think about post-launch activities too – just because you land that job doesn't mean that it's over and done, so think about how you want to continue to grow your skill set over time. You just have to remind yourself that your GTM is never done.

Tune into the Ready, Set, Go-to-Market podcast and join host Holly Watson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS), as she explores GTM best practices alongside experts in the area.

Traits of a great product marketing leader


Switching our attention to product marketing skills, in particular, one skill that raises its head time and time again is leadership. In your eyes, what does a great product marketing leader look like?

Annie Lee:

I've been lucky to work with and meet great product marketing leaders throughout my career, and there have been consistent patterns of what a great product marketing leader looks like.

First, they have the very sophisticated skill of balancing the art and science of user insights and then translating that into language that all humans can understand.

Secondly, they can navigate through crises, which are inevitable in product marketing. You might find yourself dealing with product leaks or just not knowing how features will be perceived by your community.

And then finally, great product marketing leaders know when to course correct. It's about finding that balance of focus and chaos. Leaders provide clear

Download your copy of the State of Product Marketing Leadership Report 2022, as we unpack and explore the often guarded and gated world of product marketing leadership.

Achieving success at a high-growth company


Succeeding in an innovative high-growth company is a really difficult thing to achieve, especially as a product marketer. What are some of the skills required to thrive in this environment?

Annie Lee:

In an innovative high-growth company, change is the only constant. To thrive, you must be able to deal with ambiguity and take these whitespaces as creative opportunities rather than pitfalls.

Another skill that’s required is ruthless prioritization. You don't have unlimited hours in a day, so although it can be very tempting to try to work on everything, to maximize your impact it's best to focus on just a few things at a time. That’s easier said than done, though.

Overcoming challenges as a product marketer


For all the successes that we go through in any line of work, some challenges will always rear their heads. What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced in your product marketing career, and how did you overcome them?

Annie Lee:

The biggest challenges that I’ve faced in my career come whenever we're dealing with a very short time to launch.

It's difficult to advocate on behalf of your audience when you don't have enough time to collect all the insights you need to craft your messaging and positioning. It can also be really hard to plan appropriately in these situations, which has a domino effect on all the stakeholders I mentioned earlier.

There's no silver bullet, but one way that I've approached this problem is by having a lightweight GTM plan versus a heavy one. That way, you can flex depending on the situation.

The future of product marketing


Product marketing is not as black and white as a lot of other jobs; there are a lot of shades of gray in the role. Nonetheless, it is going through a huge period of change. How do you see the role of product marketing evolving?

Annie Lee:

The biggest change I see is that product marketing will look different at every company. It’s still a nascent function, but it's becoming more and more adopted by companies at large. Therefore the product marketing function will vary depending on what the company focuses on.

Some product marketing functions will be more user insights heavy on the inbound side. Some companies will be heavier on the outbound side, focusing on the growth aspects of the role.

That's something to prepare for as you explore different opportunities in the product marketing space. You need to find where your strengths lie and which opportunities you want to learn more about, and use that as a North Star to help determine which product marketing role you want to seek in the future.

Want more leadership insights?

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