What do B2B business leaders want from their product marketing team (whether that’s a team of one or a team of many)? Based on dozens of top job descriptions for product marketing managers, here’s what they claim to want:
Be the expert on the customer: Know their pain points
Influence the product roadmap based on customer needs
Differentiate products with compelling positioning, messaging and content
Enable sales with the right tools to sell effectively throughout the sales cycle
Yet, when I talk with product marketing managers in my network, I hear things like:
Sales doesn’t want me talking to their customers without them
The product management team is launching new features I didn't know about and can't tie to the majority of customer requests
The CXO is really pushing this new messaging, but it sounds similar to our competitors
A recent survey by the Product Marketing Alliance reported that
95% of product marketers aren’t sure their role is fully understood within their organisation.
21% of product marketers don’t directly speak to customers: instead, they rely on gathering feedback from other internal teams. Another 34% speak with customers maybe a handful of times a month.
Product marketers feel they have less influence on their product’s direction.
Why the discrepancy between what leaders ask for and what actually happens?
Product marketers are hired to do an important job. But they're sometimes derailed for a number of reasons - all unintentional, of course. Sometimes their roles are not fully understood by others in the organisation (ask five people in the same company what a B2B product marketing manager does, and you'll get three to five different answers). Sales teams believe they "own" customer relationships. Product management teams believe they "own" product strategy and roadmaps.
Product marketers need to be the curators of market and customer insights, ensuring that product, marketing and sales strategies are anchored in those insights. Leaders can get more intentional to ensure their product marketing team is empowered to consistently add value and contribute towards meeting company goals.
It all starts (and continues) with understanding customers and prospects to capture urgent pain points, operational challenges, and expected results if they choose your solutions. Ideally, product marketers join their sales colleagues on calls on a regular basis (several times a week, at minimum). Outside of sales calls, product marketers should feel free to contact customers at any time to gather information to help them position products, enable sales with the right tools, and work alongside marketing colleagues to create demand and attract the right prospects. Go beyond encouraging this: as a leader, require it, not just from product marketers, but from salespeople as well. Sales teams will benefit greatly.
Product marketers are most effective when they are actively involved in every stage of product development, from initial concept through launch and beyond. Limiting their involvement in this critical area only weakens their ability to effectively align products and features to customer benefits and competitive differentiation. Gathering qualitative and quantitative customer data at every stage from product idea to post-launch strengthens marketing campaigns, content strategy, and sales enablement.
Impactful product positioning and messaging doesn’t come from product management, sales or even the executive team. Their input is important, but strong positioning comes from understanding market dynamics, the competitive landscape and customers' perspectives on how your solutions deliver the value they need. This is the product marketer's job! As a leader, default to a position of trust in your product marketers, and ask them for the customer and market insights that inspired their recommendations.
Weave collaboration into the fabric of your company and culture. Align goals across departments so your teams are racing toward the same prize: More market share, more revenue, and higher profits because of happier and more successful customers.
Your product marketers will love you for it. And you'll love the results.