Last week, we were joined by the likes of IBM, UberEats, and Peloton for the 2021 Product Marketing Festival - it was awesome.

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And that’s not all. We released our latest course, Product Marketing Certified: Leadership, exploring intricate details of how to become an unassailable product marketing leader.

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Plus, with PMM insights from the Slack community, it’s been a week for the history books - check out some of the highlights, including:

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Product marketing career advice

Q: I've been contacted by a cybersecurity start-up to head up their product marketing function.

The company very recently raised $20M in their Series A and I would be the first PMM hire reporting to the VP of Marketing.

I'm a Senior Product Marketing Manager at my current employer so this would be a boost for my career. However, I don't have experience managing a team and early-stage start-ups make me nervous because I don't have a grasp on the stability of the company, their culture, their leadership style, or if their product is even competitive in the market.

What are some questions I should be asking the hiring manager to gain some assurance that this company can achieve long-term, sustainable growth?

A: “You need to embrace the chaos of a startup, the almost daily, if not hourly, adjustments to the goals/future/product/website. The money goes fast, so what budget are they looking at? What market/geography are they going after?

“Does the VP know what they are doing, or were they the CEO's roommate or classmate? Also, ask the right questions to learn more about the product timeline.

“If they found you, ask them what they see in you that made them come after you? Reverse the interview to gauge how they think.”

Keith Brooks, Chief Executive Officer at B2B Whisperer

“Here are a few questions on general financials that can help inform how long they may stick around from this point:

“What’s their burn rate? (How long will they last if they don't get another dime in revenue? They need at least 18 months. More is better!)

“Are their customers diversified, or do they have only a handful of large enterprise clients propping the company up?

“Were any of the Series A investors earlier stage investors? That tends to show a strong vote of confidence from the people who’ve already taken a risk on them.”

Erika Klics, Owner and Job Search Strategist at Art of the Resume

“Vetting leadership is huge, especially for early-stage startups. It's tough enough to make the kinds of big impacts and results you may need to without having to butt heads with people who think they know your job better than you.

“How are they letting go of the reins? Do they have an idea of what to realistically expect from a Product Marketing team?

Matt Segal, Marketing Leader at BioRAFT

“Realistically, there is no way to ensure anything. The majority of startups fail. So you should fully understand there are certain risks.

“You also need to ask questions about their growth rate, growth targets, how they’re planning on reaching those targets, and what their expectations are of you.

“Make sure you listen very actively; it’s extremely important to understand how they think.”

Anatolii Iakimets, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Bold

“Have an exit strategy for yourself; startups burn out fairly quickly so even equity/vesting etc. may end being meaningless.

“Hire an executive coach who can help you with the gaps you’ve mentioned; someone who has done what you are doing. Make sure they are an executive coach, not a personal/career coach - there is a difference.”

Yuting Chu, Project Manager at Taiwan Trade Center Barcelona

How to compare your product to competitors

Q: Our sales team is always looking for the good old feature-for-feature checklists to compare us to competitors.

I try to avoid this and have a few Sales leadership allies who agree.

I think it’s better to show how we’re fundamentally different. We have battle cards, but they’re internal. Any prospect-facing alternatives to these checklists that you’ve used in the past?

A: “We're trying quick videos to tackle these - factual and filled with in-product GIFs. Especially snackable if you have freemium competition and you can do a comparison. Given how consumption-friendly videos are, prospects are likely to enjoy them too.

“However, the narrative can get stuck at features. You have to consciously double down on use cases that are popular from a value perspective and then use features to showcase those.

“For us, as creative automation, hypothetically GIF will be that of the feed-based scale that automation can produce for creatives. Text is how marketers can use the variety to experiment and unlock growth.”

Nityashree Yadunath, Product Marketing Manager at Rocketium

“If it makes sense, you can create a traditional 2x2 matrix (or use 2 axes) to demonstrate differentiation against groups of competitors.”

Anatolii Iakimets, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Bold

“In the past, I’ve provided a comparison of major capabilities. This way it helps steer the conversation away from individual features and uplevel the conversation to discuss what core capabilities are needed and how we fare against the competition.

“It typically has the form of a matrix, or table, with either check marks and exes or Harvey balls.”

Daniel Kuperman, Head of Product Marketing, Jira Align at Atlassian

How to measure beta product success

Q: Has anyone been involved in the beta program for new products? If so, what does your company use as the exit/success criteria to determine when you’re ready to move out of beta and how do you determine that criteria?

A: “From a SaaS perspective, ideally, there should already be goals for the success of the product in the business case. Something like adoption, time spent, repeat usage, critical pathing, etc. You want to confirm that along with your beta customers for product validation.

“For Marketing usage, you want a customer to sing your praises with a case study, quote, or being a reference.

“Lastly, you want to ramp up enablement internally with customer success teams to make sure they know how to handle any questions that may come their way, Sales knows how to sell, etc.”

Steve Bozic, Senior Launch Readiness Manager at Seismic Software

How to scale a marketing team

Q: If you’re starting a SAAS company and scaling the marketing department from the ground up, who should be your first marketing hire and why?

A: “A lot of this depends on what channel is best to acquire customers for your vertical.

“But all things being equal, I'd hire a performance marketer because you can't afford to wait months to see results - it's all about speed at this stage.

“Such a hire will bring several benefits. For instance, an ability to run tests quickly with an audience.

“You’ll also be able to get copy and collateral that can be used elsewhere, and target people with deepest needs (vs those that need nurturing with content)

“Most importantly, there’s the opportunity to convert more customers and increase your revenue.”

Anuj Adhiya, VP of Growth at Sophya

“I read something that said if you're into an established market competing for market share, hire a performance marketer but if you're in a relatively newer market where your first job is to educate and create awareness, then hire a product marketer first.”

Anand Vatsya, Product Marketing at WebEngage