Recently, I’ve been working on a number of searches for our clients to help them find a Product Marketing Manager. This has been a slight pivot from recruiting Product Managers or Product Designers, but it’s been great to round out my experience in building world class product teams. With the rise of Product comes the rise of Product Marketing, due to the critical nature and complexity of a launch.
Throughout these searches, I’ve noticed a number of interesting trends in the market for this particular type of talent.
How do you know if you need a Product Marketing Manager?
In general, Enterprise B2B Software companies bring in a Product Marketing Manager around the time they secure Series B investment (or occasionally following a Series A). By this stage in the company’s development, they have established product market fit, have an established Product Management function, and have big plans for growing the business. They likely have a handful of marketers running demand generation, content, social, etc. who are all working to grow the funnel, and customer success is in place to support all the new clients that sales are bringing in.
At this stage in the company’s growth, the Product Marketing function becomes mission critical. This person will work closely with Product Management, and with every cross functional team that has anything to do with the product (so in a software company, pretty much every team except for HR). They become the centre spoke of the wheel that connects users, prospects, sales, partnerships, integrations, and distribution.
At the Enterprise level, partnerships and integrations are critical for a Product’s success. That software needs to plug into other complex systems, and play nicely with the ecosystem of other products that the client is using. This means that any changes to the Product need to be built with the ecosystem in mind—and effectively communicated to all the partners.
I’ve spoken recently with at least one VP of Product who was managing the API integration strategy—which included more than 600 different partners. Effective integration and communication is critical for the overall success of the product—just as failing to manage these pieces accurately can result in failures that are difficult to bounce back from.
When clients engage us to recruit the Product Marketing function, it’s typically because the leadership of a company realizes that without an effective go-to-market strategy, product adoption, sales, and growth may not be realized to their full potential.
Before hiring a Product Marketing Manager, many organizations find that the responsibilities of Product Marketing fall on a number of different shoulders—some of the go-to-market plan is established by Product Management, by the Head of Marketing, and by the individual contributors within sales, marketing, and product.
Generally speaking, we’ve seen that there’s typically a ratio of one Product Marketing Manager to four marketers—so if you’re finding that your Product Marketing strategy is being managed by a number of different people (and suffering from delays, miscommunications, and roadblocks that often occur when it’s not a core component of one person’s role), it’s probably time to bring in a dedicated Product Marketing professional.
What kind of Product Marketing Manager do you need?
Similar to a Product Manager, Product Marketing Managers have to influence across a broad range of functions, and keep the needs of a variety of stakeholders in mind as they plan and prioritize the go-to-market plan.
For Enterprise B2B SaaS, the Product Marketing Manager needs to know the ins and outs of every new feature, release, and function, and be adept at communicating how those changes will add greater and greater value to their client’s businesses. Anyone who is part of how the product is released, marketed, sold, or integrated into other systems needs to be informed about upcoming changes—and the Product Marketing Manager is responsible for planning and executing those communications.
In general, these candidates will come from more established startups or larger companies, especially if you’re looking for a senior candidate who has experience developing and executing successful go-to-market plans for products.
When you’re thinking about adding a Product Marketing Manager to your team, you will have to make a decision early on in the process: do you require someone who owns the function today in it’s purity, or are you comfortable recruiting someone who owns Product Marketing as part of a range of other responsibilities?
If you need someone who owns the function, you should target candidates from larger and more mature organizations (and be prepared to create a competitive compensation package). These candidates will likely be more experienced with complex integration strategies, and with managing communications across a broader portfolio of products and functions.
Product Marketers who also own other marketing functions can often be found at smaller/mid-sized companies, and may be more comfortable in a scrappy startup environment. However, you may have to trade off experience or industry/vertical knowledge.
Overcoming challenges in attracting and hiring Product Marketing Managers.
If you’re at the stage where it’s time to recruit a Product Marketing Manager, there are a number of challenges you may need to overcome.
There are fewer Product Marketers in the market than there are candidates for other marketing functions. Because it’s a specialized role, the pool of talent can be small, especially if you factor in limited geography and a need for subject matter expertise. Think about how you can expand the scope of your search to include a wider geography, or place less of an emphasis on exact industry knowledge. You’ll likely need to think carefully about how you approach candidates, design your interview process to be attractional, and be prepared to offer competitive compensation packages.
If you make the decision that you’re prepared to look at someone who has done product marketing as part of a broader portfolio of functions, that person may not have subject matter expertise in the kind of product that you have. This person may be a very well rounded marketer, happy to do their own writing, testing, data analysis, etc. This person will probably be coming from a startup or small business, which means that they will be used to working in agile environments, and feel comfortable pivoting when things don’t work.
If you’re looking for a candidate who is a standalone Product Marketing Manager, you’re likely to find them in a larger organization. They are often looking for opportunities to grow—since they’ve already done the function, they are looking for the next step on their career path. Will Director roles be opening up that they can take on? Can you leverage their experience in a more prestigious client facing role? These candidates will need more of a vision painted for them of why they should move to a smaller company to do the same job.
Like Product Management, Product Marketing is a unique and valuable function within a growing organization. While Product Managers are focused on user behaviour, Product Marketers are focused on buyer behaviour. And while Product Managers work cross-functionally to get the product released, Product Marketers work cross-functionally to make sure that there’s a plan to bring that released product to market successfully.
Are you ready to bring on a Product Marketing Manager? We’ve got a number of searches for this role underway, and have been speaking with some exceptional talent. Reach out for a consultation with our team of executive recruiters in Toronto today.