Something not many people know about me is that I’ve got a twin sister.
She’s brilliant. If you are into the left-brain right-brain dichotomy of categorizing people, then she is the pragmatic left with a PhD in biochemistry and I the demiurgic right with a career in marketing communications and a propensity for trusting my intuition.
As everything in life, however, we both exhibit a holistic blend of both left brain logic, and right brain creativity.
In the industry of marketing, we are often quick to separate those in our profession into these two categories - data-driven and analytical marketers against creative, visual, and artistic. Whether you’re left, right, or center… marketing is about empathy.
I’ve written before about the need to tap into not only both sides of that three pound lump in our heads, but also another vital organ in our systems:
“The new truth is that marketing is a trifecta of art, heart and science.”
And while it’s true that many of our colleagues could be easily categorized into one or the other, the best marketers I’ve seen are a stellar mix of left brain, right brain and empathy. And perhaps nobody characterizes this blend more eloquently than a great product marketer.
5 Characteristics of Great Product Marketers
One of my very favorite people in this world is Hally Pinaud, a product marketer at Marketo. She’s the best at what she does, and we are all going to be very lucky to work for her someday… until then, her and I recently chatted about what great product marketers look like:
1. "They are great storytellers, but never tell a fairytale."
Studies show that our brains (those three pound lumps I mentioned earlier) are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. They are wired to understand and retain stories. When used right in marketing, with emotional drivers and authenticity, storytelling results in persuasion and action.
Great product marketers understand their product, of course, but more importantly they understand how it connects to the pain of the buyer. They should articulate that story better than most, putting it together in a powerful way that resonates with a customer's day-to-day life. They not only do it for themselves, they can scale it to the rest of their organization, leading me to our next trait:
2. They are great trainers
Not only can great product marketers tell good stories that tie product back to a problem, they can equip the organization to do the same. A hallmark of great product marketing is their collateral. Good collateral does a lot of the heavy lifting for somebody – but it's not enough by itself.
A PDF can't teach someone when, and how, to use it effectively. Research has found that up to 70% of B2B content goes unused (SiriusDecisions), partly due to its irrelevance, and partly due to a lack of training.
Product marketers must therefore be excellent trainers, able to put tools in front of people and teach them to look for the right clues to leverage them correctly. When in the sales cycle, or in the lifecycle of a customer, is this part of the story relevant? When in that lifecycle are you making this connection?
They must not only create content that moves people along a journey, demonstrating how the solution can solve for pain every step of the way, but articulate when and where to use that content in context. Excellent product marketers are able to evolve from simply equipping the team to true empowerment.
3. They understand the lifecycle – yes, including post-sales
Speaking of lifecycle, great product marketers have a keen understanding of the whole lifecycle of a customer, not just up to the point of acquisition, but also what comes after. They understand meeting with current customers, and knowing the process, can illuminate whether what you’re doing delivers the right level of impact to them.
While many product marketers are great with sales, see my next point, they often risk ignoring the post-sales team. In an age of buyer mistrust and strong competition, our post-sales team is critical to delivering the type of customer experience that creates advocates.
This team brings the product vision to reality, and forms the very foundation for word-of-mouth marketing. For product marketers to have true impact, they’ve got to foster clarity and collaboration with this often grey area of the customer lifecycle.
4. They respect and work with sales
This really should be point #1. One reason I’ve always respected, admired, and appreciated great product marketing is their position within the organization, connecting product development and management to the marketing team, and most importantly acting as a liaison to the front lines of the business, sales.
More than a liaison, great product marketers understand and respect the profession of sales. They forge powerful partnerships that transcend a near-universal narrative of “animosity” that predicates the sales and marketing relationship. They respect that intangible aspect of great sales that requires a high level of emotional intelligence (or EQ) – that je ne sais quoi that you can’t teach.
Product marketing gives sales the ammunition they need to have honest conversations with people, making sure they’re informed so they can channel that EQ in an authentic way. That means being a realist, giving them real-world examples of your competition – the good, bad, and the ugly. They have to speak authentically, and informed, about shortcomings in order to do what they do best.
Great product marketers challenge their colleagues across the organization to do their best work, and trust that they will.
5. They work in the grey areas
“People are delighted and deals are won in the grey areas.”
This was one of my favorite quotes from Hally, who explained that a great PPT deck can’t get into the nitty gritty of a customer’s experience. Every buyer is different. The ultimate role of a great product marketer is to ensure their organization has empathy for these grey areas, and feel empowered to make decisions with authenticity and realism that allows them to operate in good times and bad.
At the end of the day, product marketing sits in a very strategic arm of the organization. Blame comes to them when things don’t go well, respect comes when they do. There's no mystery why the good ones are in high demand. As someone who comes from and gravitates to the wedge of the marketing pie chart that deals with comms, I find good product marketers to be inordinately invaluable.
I raise my glass (err… of coffee) this morning to each of you. Happy Monday.
Thank you to Hally for these insights - you can follow her on Twitter here.