Don’t hire a product marketer.
So you’re thinking about hiring a product marketer. Your investors said something like “hey, I hear product marketing is a thing. You should have a few.”
As a product marketer for a few tech companies large and small, I’m here to tell you why it’s a really, really bad idea. Let’s break it down:
Product Managers love to do tasks outside their core area of expertise. They like the idea of needing to juggle product requirements, specs, scrum teams, sprints, launch delays. If they’re already juggling six balls, you might as well ask them to do twelve, right?
After all, it’s not like companies such as Salesforce, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Lyft, GitHub, Glassdoor, or others that have scaled successfully have ever hired product marketers. Their product managers are thrilled to add pricing, packaging, messaging, persona building, focus groups, customer advisory boards, feedback loops, and everything else to their plate.
See? Twelve balls to juggle. No big deal - it’s still a multiple of six.
And then there’s Sales. Sales really loves talking to Product instead of the customer, you know. They love taking time away from prospecting, business development, hitting revenue numbers, keeping customers happy, and handing contracts back and forth. It’s an enjoyable process for sales folks to take something abstract and technical - the world that Product often lives in by necessity - and translate it into a strategic set of content that specifically meets the needs of myriad personas at the right place and time. And because a white paper results in instant revenue(!!) no harm done, right? Having sales train themselves on new product releases is also a treat.
Of course, the other disciplines of Marketing are there to clearly drive the final nail in the coffin for PMM’s obsolescence. Digital marketers aren’t guided by metrics or anything of that sort, so they don’t mind doing the strategic work around crafting messaging based on carefully curated personas. And technologists (like Product Managers) understand marketing in such clear and understood ways, that the relationship there is silky smooth. Nobody’s ever been burned by a marketing campaign before, especially engineers!
And content marketers - well, it’s simply natural that they know exactly how to craft a good message and tell a good story. They’ve spent so much time (in between copywriting, editing, publishing, and the like) researching the personas they want to communicate to, it should just be as easy as hitting “Publish” on that Medium post.
Okay, that’s enough: I don’t think I could have laid the sarcasm on any heavier if I tried here.
If you, as a founder, have ever said something like “product marketers aren’t useful” or “product can just do that job”, prepare to feel the cold and wintry burst of product burnout, sales frustration, and customer disconnect.
Everything - everything - I stated above can be placed on the steady shoulders of a solid, seasoned product marketer, and in due time, you’ll wonder what took you so long. And the proof of their worth is measured in their future success: Stephanie Buscemi (CMO of Salesforce) was a product marketer. So was Dave McJannet, CEO of HashiCorp. And now, many recruiters place product marketing alongside Product or Engineering as critical roles that predict future success as a C-suite executive.
Be forewarned, though: underutilizing a product marketer is probably just as bad as not hiring one - and this is not an uncommon epidemic. I loosely surveyed some of my fellow product marketers on whether they felt under-appreciated in their role - or whether they had to educate their organizations on their true value either during the recruiting process or (gasp) after they were hired. In nearly unanimous response, they said “yes.” Asking a product marketer to build an email campaign for you is like asking a CTO to run a daily scrum: it could work in a pinch, but it’s a real waste of talent.
…with all that in mind, you probably should hire a product marketer.