Hi, I’m James. Thanks for checking out Building Momentum: a newsletter to help startup founders and marketers accelerate SaaS growth through product marketing.
Before I get into it, I don’t mean this to be a negative. I think it’s just stating the facts, and we have to deal with it regardless.
But product marketing is often a thankless role.
I’ve seen firsthand how crucial product marketing – both fundamental strategy and execution – is to the success of a product. From initial discovery and validation, to searching for product/market fit, scaling revenue, and eventual sunsetting – product marketers bring something special.
That special something can’t be replaced. It’s a mixture of customer empathy, commercial nous, pragmatic execution, frameworks and gut intuition, second-order thinking, and a hundred other attributes.
And yes, other teams might have some of the same ingredients: our friends in product, marketing, sales, strategy. But it’s not quite the same. Their worldviews are generally fixed on one level only. Product managers think about the broad customer. Sales are all about the one-to-one. Marketers think in segments. Only product marketers can zoom in and zoom out, organically, effortlessly.
What a product marketer brings is more valuable than the sum of its parts.
Our role is complex, interdisciplinary. We’ve got to know enough about everything – or be good at learning it. What other role needs to know about market research methods, how to educate others, sales process, product development fundamentals, copywriting and positioning, and marketing channel strategy?
We’ve got to work with literally everyone to make anything happen. So our professional skills need to grow too. How to build trust, balance expectations, influence teams without authority. And, for what it’s worth, most of this is invisible work, in Slack conversations or Zoom calls or IRL 1:1s – hidden from plain sight. We face the brunt of internal politics, conflicts, disputes. We try to represent the voice of the customer, maintain a delicate balance between stakeholders, and cross the line just enough to advocate for what we think is right.
Because our influence work is hidden, we have to show we’re doing work. But customer research – is barely valued. We spend countless hours building mental models of customers, and competitors, and the landscape. We transform that, on the fly, from thin air, into positioning, messaging, that become how our product is perceived in the market. But this, generally, is also unrecognized. It’s only writing, right? It’s not creating real value, right?
So, we then have to put all of that into stuff. PDFs, website copy, go-to-market documents, marketing and sales collateral. But no revenue is ever won because of one PDF, or one webpage, or GTM motion initiative. Our efforts might contribute significantly to product adoption, growth, revenue… but we can’t quantify our influence. And if you can’t quantify it, you need to build trust. You have to build an internal narrative that product marketing is a long-term investment and whilst it might not be apparent in the numbers right now, the full extent of its value will come.
With all of these multiple conscious and unconscious worksteams, we’re always in a state of flux and generally under-resourced. The market changes. Sales need more. We need more leads. Product need more support. Who’s going to deal with all that? You! Can we hire more folks? Probably not. There’s no ‘off’ day; you’re always on. Even on days off, you can’t help but think about your todo list, the big rocks you’ve got to tackle, or how you need to approach a certain conversation.
But, at the same time, product marketing is probably the most rewarding role in the marketing space.
It’s a thrilling and fulfilling career path for people who thrive in dynamic environments. We work with tons of different people and gain exposure we never would have otherwise. We build diverse relationships that quickly become less ‘work’ and more ‘support’. We get to know our colleagues deeply and intimately. We become half-PMM, half-therapist.
We’re adaptable and versatile. We can do – and do do – anything and everything. We can learn faster, harder, deeper. We build a holistic understanding of the business, its mechanics, and all of its facets. Of the customer, the market, the variables at play. We develop core skills and mental models for thinking, not just processes for doing.
We recognise that success is a team sport. Our success is the businesses success, and vice versa. We enable others to meet their goals, exceed the targets, to feel confident. We thrive on building momentum – things getting faster, easier, growing, building. We feel pride and accomplishment in unique ways – when a customer repeats our positioning, when we win a great logo, when users love the product, when we learn new things that can help us build better.
Product marketing may be a thankless role, but the inherent challenges – and opposite opportunities for growth – make it an exciting, fulfilling career choice. While recognition may not always be immediate… and while the day-to-day may be stressful… we can enjoy the unique experiences that product marketing offers, and take pride in contributing to growth more than many people will understand.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought – find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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