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7 min read

The future of B2B product marketing

B2B | eBooks

We're super excited to be bringing you The PMM Field Guide, produced by product marketer and SaaS researcher, Alexander Becker, designed to explore what B2B product marketing will look like in the next five years.

The book has been brought together through interviews with and insights from TONS of CMOs, marketing leaders and PMMs from global brands who know their stuff, like Notion, Gusto, Stripe and Drift.

In this blog post, we give you a taste of what's to come with an extract from the full version of the eBook.

Wanna dive straight into the full thing?

Go right ahead 👇


A Fork in the Trail: Why the next five years will make or break B2B product marketing

Today’s PMMs have reached an inflection point.

Product marketing has grown like crazy since its early days. SaaS companies facing crowded markets, bare-knuckle competition, and savvy customers have realized that top-notch product marketers are a key competitive advantage. But real questions about the role’s responsibilities, position on the org chart, and future persist. Product marketers influence the biggest technology companies on the planet, but our role still sits at a crossroads between almost unlimited potential and lingering uncertainty.

Product marketing’s potential isn’t hard to see, and many signs point to PMMs moving in the right direction. Steven Duque, VP of Marketing at Catalant said:

“The biggest shift I’ve seen over my time working in product marketing, marketing, sales, and product is the amount of trust invested in product marketing as an advisory function for the executive teams at companies.
“In some cases, I’ve seen product marketing trusted as the part of the business most responsible for identifying the best market opportunities and the go-to-market strategy for the company. I’ve also seen it trusted to essentially define what the entire company’s strategy is”.

Industry data backs Duque up, with 59% of PMMs surveyed in the Product Marketing Alliance’s 2020 State of Product Marketing Report saying that they’ve witnessed product marketers taking more prominent roles on senior leadership teams at their organizations.

As more product marketers get seats at the corporate strategy table, PMMs have expanded their influence across the entire go-to-market process at many leading SaaS companies. Allison MacLeod, CMO at Flywire gave their perspective.

“When I think of product marketing, oftentimes I think of it as the mini- CEO of that product.
“PMMs ensure they’re running the launch effectively, organizing the deliverables from product, leading enablement with sales, tracking marketing’s efficacy, and understanding where the team is experiencing challenges. PMMs really answer the question ‘How are we building the best product for our customers, and solving for what they and the market need?’”

This new influence and level of responsibility has changed the PMM role itself, as highlighted by Abdul Rastagar, go-to-market leader and host of #UpYourGame, a career advice screencast for marketers.

“I see two different forces pulling product marketing in opposite directions and they are happening at the same time.
“Tactically, product marketing is becoming more specialized every day, and there are new types of product marketing roles appearing that didn’t exist years ago. Simultaneously, product marketing is also becoming more strategic, which means we have to think more about revenue, think about the customer journey end-to-end, and get deeper into customer success”.

The push towards increased specialization is strongest at large public SaaS companies that train and develop many of the industry’s PMMs. Christopher Pericak, Product Marketing Manager at Salesforce discussed the dynamic of product marketing at large companies.

“Product marketing at a large company can become hyper-specialized.
“Think about the product marketing role from messaging, to release marketing, to customer storytelling, to sales enablement. All those pieces of the job can be broken up into even smaller pieces beyond that. The result is stronger innovation and quality of the final product”.

What Rastagar and Pericak see suggests two things: first, that PMMs are thinking more strategically because SaaS leaders increasingly demand their expertise and, second, that product marketing is specializing because the role itself is growing and impacting new areas. These are positive trends for every PMM.

Product marketers hold so much influence partially because of where they sit and what they know. No other team has the same 360-degree view of a SaaS company’s market, customers, product, and revenue and the interdisciplinary skills act on what they see. SurveyMonkey CMO, Leela Srinivasan, began her tech career as an early PMM at LinkedIn, and gave her insights on skills gained as a PMM.

“The skill set that you build in product marketing, plus the fact that you are in the mix and have a central position between product, sales, the rest of marketing, customer success, and customers themselves make it a really powerful position to occupy”.

But it’s not all high fives and smiles for today’s PMMs. Uncertainty about product marketing’s present and future is very real. Just 5% of PMMs report feeling 100% sure that the role of product marketing is fully understood at their organizations.

Data from over 2,000 product marketers surveyed in 2020 by the Product Marketing Alliance uncovers even more serious pain points across companies, including low trust and investment in product marketing from senior managers and a lingering lack of clarity around the relationship between product managers and PMMs.

State of Product Marketing 2020 | Product Marketing Alliance
The State of Product Marketing Report 2020 has landed, with the follow-up to the 2019 write-up offering an even bigger and better insight into the product marketing industry.

Ironically, some leaders point out that product marketing itself has a messaging and positioning problem.

Cody Bernard, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Drift and host of the Getting to Market podcast, pinpointed "perception" as a key factor, when asked what he would change about the role.

“If you went and asked sales, product, and marketing leaders at a lot of SaaS companies what they thought the value of product marketing was, the majority of them still think we’re just launch jockeys or asset creators for sales for the most part. A lot of people don’t understand what we influence”.

While teams like product management and sales have mandates chiseled in stone (build a good product, sell more of it) and goals that make sense to more or less everyone, product marketing’s work can be confusingly cross-functional and notoriously tough to measure.

Uncertainty about the responsibilities, goals, and even staffing of PMMs fuels chronic criticism that product marketing is just a jumble of work that should live with product, marketing, and sales.

In a 2018 blog post not so subtly titled The Life and Death of Product Marketing, Eventbrite Chief Product Officer, Casey Winters wrote:

“Product marketing has suffered from an identity crisis as long as I have known the term ... The jack of all trades design of the product marketer role is being attacked on all sides as teams determine how to more effectively reach their users or customers and build things they will use ...
“All of these responsibilities product marketing owned now being prioritized or specialized in by other functions shows that organizations now understand the marketing of their own products is important and can’t be outsourced at the end of development”.

These may sound like fighting words, but Winters helps explain why product marketing finds itself at such a pivotal moment in time.

I am wildly optimistic about the future of B2B product marketing. Not just because I love the work or think that a role devoted to strategic storytelling is critical even for the most technical of products (I do and it is) but because the fundamental product, market, and customer forces that created SaaS product marketing in the first place are only getting stronger.

In the gnarly, fluid, and brutally competitive SaaS markets of the future, trying to win without serious product marketing will be like walking into dark woods without a flashlight. But the tension that exists between unlimited promise and lingering uncertainty at the center of product marketing today isn’t going away, and it’s more than just a messaging problem.

Over the next five years, PMMs will have two options: harness the forces of industry change and cement product marketing as the indispensable strategic function in B2B software or risk getting left in the dust.

The choices product marketers make won’t just define the future of a single team or title. They’ll shape the arc of the entire SaaS industry and the working lives of millions of customers who rely on it. That’s why we’re here and why the future of B2B product marketing matters.


Enjoyed the appetiser? Hungry for the full feast?

You know what to do 👇

Or alternatively, catch up with Alexander's episode on the Product Marketing Life podcast 👇

Product marketing life [podcast]: Alexander Becker
This week on Product Marketing Life we got together with Alexander Becker, PMM and Managing Partner at Dorm Room Fund to chat all about his must-read new book The Product Marketing Field Guide.

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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The future of B2B product marketing