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What does a Product Marketing Manager do? A year in the life of a PMM

Product Marketing is a tough job to wrap your head around. Here's what your first year will look like.

Dear diary: I want to be a product marketing manager.

I’m pretty sure I know what that means: I’ll take products from inception to launch and, along the way, ensure the consumer is made aware of the products through email campaigns, PR blitzes, social media drives, and solid content offerings. I need to develop a concrete go-to-market roadmap, and I need to have constant (and sometimes annoying) contact with my team. Oh, and I’ll probably be doing 10,000 other things like defining positioning, refining pricing, and all sorts of research.

I know a  product marketing manager is different from a product manager. A product manager delivers the product, makes sure it works and makes sure all of the product’s features perform as expected. A product marketing manager takes it from there, making sure the consumer sees a worthy, useful, and finished product. A product manager is a champion dog breeder — a product marketing manager is a groomer who makes sure the dogs are presentable.

But what will I specifically be doing in this role? After my first month, am I going to stay with this? After six months, will it still be exciting? And after one year as a PMM, what will my company expect of me?

Let’s start by looking at the goals a PMM should be meeting at the 30-day, six-month and one-year mark.

What Should Be Done In the First 30 days

For the first month that you’re at a company as a product marketing manager, you should:

Understand the product and deep dive into extensive market research — You can’t help market a product unless you know it inside and out. You can’t draft a strategy if you don’t know what the product is, what it does, and why people would want it.

40% of marketers say their decisions are driven by market research, which is alarmingly low. Don’t be one of the other 60%. You can use survey feedback, social media posts, and the company website. You should also set up interviews with your SMEs (note: SME means subject matter expert. Start keeping a glossary of terms you don’t understand).

Partner with your PM — You should attach yourself at the hip to your PM partner, because as you refine the narrative around your product you’ll need someone to answer questions at a deeper technical level. Close partnership with your PM also means you’ll be involved earlier in the roadmapping process, helping avoid both misunderstandings around the product, and miscommunications on timelines. Don’t work in a bubble — start looking for the people most invested in the product. In the first 30 days, you should shadow the PM and get to know everything about them — their working style, their schedules, their good days, and their bad days.

Partner with Sales, Marketing, and Support teams  - After you get acquainted with your Product Manager, you should get to know the rest of the team as well. Success in any product launch depends on the teams behind the launch, and you are not the only team working towards success. Attend sales calls, share your GTM strategy with other marketing departments, and find out what the customers are saying to customer service through their call logs. Working together and consistent communication will guarantee success. Constant communication is a must, but it's not easy. Try to have meetings at a consistent time each week for each group. Open your calendar to everyone involved, so they can see where you're busy and where you might have some time to discuss issues.

Start framing “macro” GTM strategy — You should start understanding the overall company’s GTM strategy, and developing how the GTM strategy for your product lines fits within it - keep it to a broad overview for now. You‘ll have time to sharpen it in the next few months.  A GTM strategy is a roadmap that defines who the product is for, why it’s important to them, and how you’re going to attack (and win) the market you select - but in the first 30 days, just look at more sweeping objectives.

Get a quick win or two - deliver on objectives you can easily achieve, like providing sales enablement materials (one-sheets or research), or delivering summarized insights on early research you’ve conducted or sales calls you’ve attended.

What’s Expected at the Six-Month Mark

At six months, the detailed work sets in. This is where your training in research, communication, and go-to-market will start to kick in. Status updates are now a given - you should be gathering and disseminating information once a week at this point. Everyone is depending on the updates -  94% of teams say communication through status updates is of vital importance.

Establish your north stars - develop your buyer personas, determine product positioning, and figure out your narrative. Sit with the product manager and go over their product roadmap, which should answer why you’re making this product, how it will benefit the customer, and how it's going to get done (all responsibilities of the product manager)

Strengthen your GTM process - now is the time to operationalize your GTM process and make it repeatable. This is the point where you should develop tiering frameworks, clear communication channels, and measurement processes. Look for metrics like overall revenue goals, customer satisfaction scores, and internal and external feedback.

Launch at least one major product - and several smaller ones. This is the mark where you should be using and implementing your GTM strategy and process to prove its value to internal stakeholders.

Lay customer communication groundwork - you need strong customer communication methods in order to help the product. This means looking at ways to deliver messaging, whether through email, advertisements, content or release notes.

Add to your sales enablement war chest - keep developing and refining your sales enablement tools to help the sales team push the product. If anything in your GTM strategy has changed since you started, amend the sales enablement tools to reflect those changes.

Start building your post-launch muscle - because retrospective post-mortems are a great way to improve the product and process next go-around, you should be practicing consistent follow-up protocols. It’s also helpful if you hold post-mortem feedback sessions for Success, Support, and Sales teams to identify for everyone what went right, what went wrong, and what could be improved in your GTM strategy for the next round.

What the End of the First Year Should Look Like

At the end of your first year, make yourself a checklist and ask:

Did you make sure the website reflects your new positioning?  By this point, you should have significantly updated any web destinations related to your products. The website needs to reflect your positioning and messaging strategy, and if that has changed at all during your first year, the website may need a full refresh.

Did you conduct thorough pricing/packaging research and implement improvements? By now, your research skills have evolved and you should be able to pull research and analytics from a multitude of sources, and have built the internal trust to be able to make significant recommendations based on your findings. This is a perfect time to be thinking about pricing research to optimize the way your product is bundled and/or priced, to drive better market penetration.

Are you a strategic internal leader and go-to person for customer insights? At this point, you fully own the product. People from around the company will be looking to you as the go-to person for information, including any research you’ve gathered.  They want a single source of truth - you are that truth by the end of the first year.

Did you hire a team? No PMM is an island, and you certainly weren’t expected to get this far on your own. By now, you should have found dedicated and passionate product evangelists to help you with content, planning, and launch execution deliverables.

With Covid still a concern, you can also stage virtual events that rival in-person announcements. At the end of your first year, you should be attuned to industry trends for virtual events, including hybrid events (virtual events with a small audience in person) and seminars used as marketing tools. In 2022, 40% of events will be virtual, and 30% will be hybrid, according to a survey by Salesforce.

CONCLUSION: And Now I Get To Do It All Over Again

This is just a sample of what a product marketing manager might look forward to. With an average salary of $121,642,  an 8% growth rate, and over 190,000 openings as of May 2022, being a product marketing manager can be lucrative and exciting.

Ignition can take all of the components of a PMM job and give you a convenient dashboard to follow those components while also offering research, content, and tracking solutions. Ignition is the assistant that makes sure your plan is organized and delivered on schedule. Dear diary — check out Ignition: The GTM Platform today.