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A sneak peek into the State of Product Marketing 2021


Is it a bird? 🐦  Is it a plane? ✈️  

No, it's the State of Product Marketing 2021 report! 🎉

That's right, this year's edition of our annual (and highly-anticipated) State of Product Marketing report has landed and we're psyched to finally be sharing it with you.

If you're super excited too and wanna skip straight to the main event, download your free copy and get stuck in. 👇

If you fancy limbering up first with a sneak peek beneath the 80+ pages of meaty product marketing insights, grab a coffee and keep reading to find out more about:

  • Why we create the State of Product Marketing report️
  • What makes the report so special
  • This year's survey participants and interviewees
  • Key findings for 2021

Why do we create the report?

The first State of Product Marketing report was a comprehensive analysis of the product marketing landscape, an up-to-date picture of its current state, and how the role and function are regarded. The 2020 edition followed suit, delving even deeper into the nuts and bolts of PMM life around the world.  

Flash forward to 2021 and we’re doing it all over again, exploring the past calendar year and seeing how it all stacks up against previous findings.

Spoiler alert: anybody who reads this report can finish up feeling confident about the future of product marketing. The data shows that recognition, understanding, appreciation, and value are all on the rise - but there's still a great deal of work to be done.  

This year's survey results revealed that there've been positive changes in how well PMMs think their role is understood by their peers. This year, 53% believe 'some do, some don't', which is a 4% increase compared to 2020's findings. Also encouraging was the 6% reduction in PMMs describing their peers' understanding of their role as "a constant challenge".  

How well do companies understand the role of product marketing and PMMs?

That said, the gains are still incremental and small. Plus, far too many product marketers are still feeling undervalued. We asked our survey participants, on a scale of 1-10, how much they feel their role is valued within their company. The results revealed an average score of just 6.9, which was only marginally better than last year's score of 6.8.  

Here's what Div Manickam, Director (WW Services Marketing and Portfolio Management) at Lenovo had to say on the matter:

“There’s always a learning curve no matter which company I join to help folks understand what product marketing can and cannot do. In my current role, even though we are product marketing, a lot of what we are asked to do is traditional marketing and it takes time and effort to help educate but also to make sure that we are prioritizing on the right efforts and resources. It's very important to work with the broader marketing team so that we can focus on our core competency and stakeholders and other teams can focus on their strengths.”

The annual State of Product Marketing report is designed to profile the industry's evolution and progression over time so that we, as a community, can do more to put PMMs on the pedestal they deserve to be on.

What makes the State of Product Marketing report so special?

It's not all just about the facts, figures, and fancy data charts though; the State of Product Marketing report is all part and parcel of our ongoing mission to elevate the PMM role and function.  

So when Anna Daugherty, Product Marketing Manager at Stoplight, told us about how last year's report was "crucial to career growth" for her, we couldn't help but smile and feel uber proud of ourselves. 😊

Anna Daugherty's thoughts on the State of Product Marketing Report 2021

Here're some other words Lara McCaskill, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Homelight had to say about the report that got us grinning:

Lara McCaskill's thoughts on the State of Product Marketing Report 2021

Get to know this year's survey participants

So, who has been instrumental in shaping this year's findings? Hundreds of product marketers from around the globe, from various levels of seniority, product type, company size, and growth stage - that's who.

A majority of our respondents were from North America (66%) and Europe (27%), with most - regardless of location - operating under the job title of Product Marketing Manager (34%). Most respondents were part of a function marketing to B2B customers (80%), with a majority supporting a SaaS product (75%).

The State of Product Marketing report 2021 survey participants geographical spread

Almost the same number of survey participants had 1-3 years experience in product marketing as those with a decade or more in the industry. Most respondents are looking to take the next step in the PMM career journey over the next five years.

In terms of the organizations the product marketers came from, almost all spanned the mid-growth to enterprise spectrum, with a notable number of early post product-market fit (17%) companies in the mix.

Company and growth size of the State of Product Marketing survey partipants

We also extracted some invaluable pearls of wisdom from a group of interviewees who very kindly allowed us to grill them on all things PMM. A special thank you to you guys for being continuously generous with sharing your insights and experiences. 🙏

A snippet of our key findings

We won't give you too many more 🚨 spoilers 🚨 here but here's just a handful of the key findings our research gave rise to this year:

Not all PMMs are talking to customers

One result which rattled our interviewees was that 19% of product marketers never speak to their customers and instead, rely on feedback from other teams.

This was compared to counterparts who communicate with customers a handful of times per month (37%), 2-3 times a week (12%), once a week (11%), every day (7%), and every other week (9%).

The 5% who responded with 'Other' proves how nuanced approaches to product marketing can be from team to team or org to org.  

How often are product marketers (PMMs) and their teams talking to customers?

Here's what Derek Osgood, CEO & Founder at Ignition had to say about almost 1 in 5 PMMs never communicating with the customer:

“Honestly, that number boggles my mind. You can’t do this job effectively without talking to customers. Period. I require my teams to talk to a minimum of one customer a week, ideally more. Feedback from other teams is a useful data point, but it’s inherently biased because they’ll apply their own objectives and filter to the conversation. Talk to your customers!”

Product marketing teams are still pretty small

When we did some investigating around how big product marketing teams are, we found that the exact same percentage of PMMs are working solo (21%) as last year.

In most other product marketing functions, there are teams of 2-4 PMMs (42%) working their magic.

The size of product marketing teams in 2021 according to the State of Product Marketing report

Customer marketing is on the rise

As with last year, product positioning and messaging (92%), managing product launches (79%), creating sales collateral (78%), customer and market research (72%), and storytelling (60%) were the top five PMM responsibilities cited.

In fact, the only real diversion from last year was the addition of customer marketing, which stole a considerable 40% of the votes. This wasn’t something we covered in our 2020 report but something we’ll certainly continue to spotlight as customer marketing continues to move more into focus.

What are the main responsibilities of product marketing teams in 2021?

Some product marketing teams aren't using OKRs

For those who do have some metrics to answer to, generating new revenue was the most common, with 50% of participants citing this as an OKR they’re measured against. Increasing marketing qualified leads (40%), increasing win rate (35%), customer retention (35%), up-selling customers (34%), and sales confidence (31%) were also popular.

Around a quarter of PMMs are also measured against cross-selling customers (24%), increasing website traffic (24%), active users (23%), and asset utilization (23%) respectively. This is another demonstration of how vastly diverse and multifaceted the role of the product marketer is.

What metrics and OKRs are product marketing teams measured on in 2021?

(Of the 5% who answered ‘Other’, responses also included a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, such as ‘Perception and general feedback’, ‘Feature adoption’, ‘Product-market fit’, ‘Media mentions’, ‘SEO rankings’, and ‘Launch communication metrics’.)

Due to the nature of the product marketing profession, attributing efforts to specific performance and success metrics can be tricky; it’s hard to pinpoint product marketing’s contribution to revenue and the bottom line. That might explain why 15% of our participants don’t currently have any OKRs in place at all.

Here's what Daria Gogoleva, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Xsolla had to say:

“It is a big struggle for my company too. We tried to implement KPIs several times but many attempts ended in failure. It's difficult as the product marketer's role is so cross-functional. However, I believe that KPIs are urgently needed for everyone who cares about the effectiveness of their work. Many companies have a North Star metric to which everyone in a team contributes indirectly.
“But if we talk about direct KPIs, it might depend on the project. For example, if we need to launch a new product page, and our goal is to increase the conversion rate of that page, first, it's an ongoing project that requires testing hypotheses. Second, the conversion rate might depend on so many things: a copy, design, lead magnets, even the quality of the traffic. Different people work on these different things and share a project KPI, including a product marketer.”

Find all of this and so much more in the full report.

Before you go and devour the full report, here's a quick word from Product Marketing Alliance Founder, Richard King:

Think that's all we've got in our locker?! Pfft, you should know us better than that by now. 😏

There's plenty more to sink your teeth into. So much so, you might wanna schedule an appointment with your hygienist for a scale 'n' polish because this stuff is Juicy with a capital J.

Ever wondered what qualities the upper echelons of the role think make a rockstar product marketer? Want to know how your company culture compares to other PMM perspectives? Pondering what your industry peers think might be on the horizon for product marketing?

Everything you wanna know is just a button click away. 👇

Written by:

Stephanie Whalley

Stephanie Whalley

Steph is Senior Copywriter here at PMA and you can usually find her crafting content, writing words and sniffing out typos (or making a cup of tea!)

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A sneak peek into the State of Product Marketing 2021