As we discussed in So, What is Product Marketing, Anyways , product marketers come in all shapes and sizes. There is no standard definition of the role and it takes different forms from company to company. So, the skillset that product marketers bring to the table varies widely. That said, in my experience at several different companies and from observing some of the best in the industry, I think there are a few common traits that lead to success. These traits seem to repeat themselves in top notch product marketers that I meet.
- Ability to influence – Product marketing works with a wide band of roles within the organization, and usually has no direct reporting power over any of them. A good product marketer must possess the ability to bring multiple stakeholders to a common goal/vision. This requires empathy and superior communication skills. It requires the ability to influence people. You must be able to understand the motivations of others and then unify them with the rest of the group to have the organization march in step with the vision of the company/product plan. You need to have a game plan BEFORE the big meeting on how to get executive A and executive B on the same page. You need to think about how to position the outcome you desire in terms that benefit others.
- Organization and attention to detail – Since product marketing requires the coordination of so many different activities that depend on a multitude of stakeholders, the product marketer must keep everyone on track and meeting deadlines. A product launch will include corporate marketing/marcomm, product development, content creators, sales, QA, and many more groups. Someone needs to manage this plan and make sure it’s moving along. Successful product marketer will also have an eye for detail, catching errors that others miss in order to prevent delays.
- A healthy dose of paranoia – Good product marketers are always asking themselves, what am I forgetting? What am I missing? What needs to be done that no one else is doing? What are others figuring out right now that I should already know? The answers to these questions are where your product’s competitive edges come from.
- Storytelling – This doesn’t mean simply putting together PowerPoint slides and reciting them. Product marketers have to be able to tell stories. The audience needs to feel the pain that your product eases. If you can’t tell the story, how can you expect sales to tell it? And yes putting together slides is still important task, so make sure you learn the Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.
- Penmanship – The written word is central to product marketing. You write for the people inside and outside your company. You write white papers, data sheets, web content, training materials, competitive strategies and summary documents for management. You must be able to communicate and engage, through text.
- Business-orientation – A skilled product marketer will have an eye for the bigger picture, understanding the daily operations of the company and how the success of products are affected by and in turn, affect general business operations. Too many product marketers forget the simple truth that their products are there to drive revenue for the company and that aligning their goals with the company’s goals leads to greater success. Once you realize this, not only will your products benefit but your career will as well.
- Social media savvy – It’s the new frontier in product marketing. A successful product marketer will be well versed in social networking in order promote the brand and stimulate dialogue with customers. Social media also provides the opportunity for networking within the industry personal growth. Get comfortable with Twitter, Facebook and blogging. And help usher your company into the era of social interaction with customers. Don’t just broadcast to prospects, converse with customers.
- Technical expertise – While no one expects a product marketer to code (although it helps your credibility if you can), a working technical knowledge of how software actually works can help you writer better marketing requirements and make you more credible to product development/management.
- Genuine enthusiasm for technology – You are expected to be a thought leader, and the voice of the product. If you can’t get excited about what you are doing, how can you expect anyone to?
- Comfort in chaos –There are no easy answers, and many moving parts involved in product marketing. And it never ends. You need to be able to live in this chaos, keep your cool, lead, and enjoy it along the way.
If you checked “yes” next to each of these traits, you have what it takes to be a product marketing rockstar. If you are hiring one, look for a person that possess these capabilities. Are there any vital traits I haven’t uncovered? I’d love to hear what you think.