Hiring your first product marketer is an important milestone.
It can add structure and strategy to your product launches.
It can generate alignment across your entire company.
And—if you get it right—it results in more effective sales people, happier customers, and a stronger brand.
Alas, it's not all puppy dogs and rainbows.
Getting your first product marketing hire right is hard. And just to raise the stakes, consider this: Product Marketing might just be your most important hire.
This true for any company…and it's especially true in B2B tech.
“How can you say that? We’re nothing without our offering. We’re nothing without sales.”
Product Marketing connects your offering—and all the amazing things it can do—with your audience…and everyone and everything in between.
It's why great product marketers are a unique breed: They have to be.
They are the go-to experts for what to say about your offering…and how to say it.
They are the go-to experts about your target audience: what moves them…what motivates them…what stops them in their tracks.
And, they are the connection of everything that comes in between…
Translating whiz-bang cool capabilities into the value propositions and messaging and content that persuades your audience and empowers your sales team…
...and, eliciting and shepherding critical market and customer feedback to Product Management (or even Engineering) so your offering can become indispensable for your target audience.
When the Product Marketing function is in place and operating as it should, your entire organization benefits:
- Your company, as well as the market you serve, understand and buy into your positioning: where you are and where you’re going.
- Your messaging is crystal clear and compelling to the multiple audiences—both internal and external—that consume it...so you never have to sell—or compete—on price.
- Your sales team—and your delivery team—are more capable and confident, equipped with the right messaging, materials, and approaches to take full advantage of their own expertise and stop wasting time focused on the people that are never going to buy.
But, there’s a catch.
It doesn’t matter who makes up your target audience.
It doesn’t matter how your organization is structured.
People—and how people buy into ideas—have changed dramatically over the past decade.
Now, you may read that and think, “Whoop de doo! Ten years is a long time. Marketers have adapted!”
But here’s the thing. Largely, they haven’t.
And there’s the trap.
There are a bevy of old-school marketers hidden in plain sight…especially in tech.
It’s why you see companies with mature marketing departments still pumping out messaging and materials and go-to-market approaches that are too focused inward…more focused on their own product than the people they want to serve and the problems they claim to solve.
But Zach, you are talking PRODUCT Marketing! They should be focused on the product!
No. They shouldn’t. The product is the last thing in this equation.
The audiences and markets you want to serve are far and away the most important things to understand. FAR AND AWAY the first place to focus your marketing engine.
Audience understanding leads to product innovation.
Audience understanding leads to more sales.
Audience understanding leads to predictable growth.
It is impossible to understand your product or service and its value if you don’t deeply know the audience you want to serve.
It’s impossible to fulfill your organizational potential if you cannot adapt and evolve with that audience.
This is a market-fit thing. AND…it’s a basic tenet that (still) many marketers have trouble living.
Consider this: Because of a long-term, powerful mindset shift that’s affected everyone in your addressable audience, the sales and marketing approaches that used to work are now annoying…at best.
Now more than ever, it’s critical to understand how your specific audiences prefer to buy and adapt your go-to-market planning and execution to their preferences.
In short? That means no one cares about your product, your awards, your testimonials, your features, your events, your customers, your anything…
They care about themselves.
And yet…the me-me-me approach continues…especially in tech.
Hell, do a quick search on LinkedIn for Gartner MQ. See what comes up!
So what’s this have to do with your first product marketing hire?
When it comes to candidates, you have a choice.
You can hire a proven product marketer. Someone whose resume looks great. Someone who talks the talk and can go deep on any product they’ve marketed.
Or you can hire the product marketer with potential. They have less experience in product marketing, but are super smart and driven…And their digital marketing chops and campaign experience are off the charts!
BOTH are good choices. And BOTH have risks.
If you hire someone set in their ways or otherwise trapped in an old-school approach, you’ll set your company back.
If you hire someone too malleable…too easily influenced by you, the founder, the Sales leader, or anyone else within your organization, you’ll set your company back.
How? You’ll miss out on connecting with any part of your audience that isn’t ready to hear about your offering.
And, you’ll do a disservice to your sales organization, forcing the sales pros on your team to create their own messages and materials, which may or may not support the positioning you're after.
In short, you’ll hurt your company’s prospects for meeting your full potential.
This is heavy stuff.
The good news is you can head this risk off at the pass.
Ask all candidates this question:
“In your opinion, what’s the most important thing in Product Marketing?”
Great product marketers—no matter their experience—adapt and evolve with their audience. They change their approaches in lock step with the markets they hope to serve.
When your candidate has audience top on mind, you’re on the right track.
AND…one more thing.
I love this stuff.
If you’d like to further discuss what to look for in your first product marketing hire, and how to make sure you’ll put your company on the right path…
Zach Messler spent 20 years doing product marketing for tech.
Now he helps founders and marketers unleash the power of words to attract more buyers and ignite growth.
Schedule your free 15-minute consult to talk about building out product marketing here.