Product Marketing is a fairly new domain and the role of ‘Product Marketing Manager’ differs greatly from organization to organization. To help the confused folks considering hiring a Product Marketer (and the equally confused folks trying to get a job as one) – we’ve interviewed 10+ Product Marketers and come up with a guide to the role, skills and hiring a rockstar Product Marketing Manager!
We’ve covered all the bases from how a product marketer fits into your organization chart, what they do, what skills they need to have, when to hire one, and what interview questions to ask them, and how much a Product Marketer earns. So whether you’re one, want to become one, or want to hire one – this post is for you!
You may want to jump to a relevant section:
- Who’s a Product Marketing Manager?
- Product Marketing Manager’s Role and Responsibilities (depending on the company)
- What’s the difference between a Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and a Marketing Manager?
- What should be the KPIs of a Product Marketer?
- How does Product Marketing Manager Fit into Your Organization?
- When to Hire your First Product Marketer?
- Product Marketer’s Salary and Career Path
- What Skills Should a Good Product Marketing Manager Have
- Product Marketer Job Interview Questions
TL;DR – Post Summary
- Product marketer’s role is to convey the value of the product to the market.
- The responsibilities of a product marketer fall into two buckets: pre-signup (acquisition) and post-signup (retention).
- The role stands at the crossroads of product and marketing and is fairly new
- Thus, the responsibilities are not well-defined and vary from company to company
- The more product-led the company, the more post-signup activities the product marketer will do
- The pre-signup activities include planning product launches, writing product and feature pages, writing help docs, FAQs, sales/cs enablement assets, and creating bottom-of-the-funnel educational content
- The post-signup activities include creating and optimizing new user onboarding, creating and A/B testing experiences that increase feature engagement, user retention, account expansion, doing feature announcements, and any in-app communication with users;
- These may to some extent overlap with Product Mananger’s role – however, a Product Manager is usually too busy to execute the product adoption strategy – hence the need for Product Marketers.
- The KPIs of product marketers may range from MQL/PQL conversion rate, trial to paid conversion rate, new user activation, Day 1/ Week 1 retention, feature adoption, and expansion revenue;
- A product marketer’s salary in the UK is £27,000, compared to £ 50,000 of that of a product manager (source: Glassdoor)
- In the US, it’s $104,000 vs. $108,000 USD
- A good Product Marketer will be both analytical and creative, with excellent communication skills
- In a Product Marketing interview, ask questions about their most successful product launch, how they’d announce a new feature, and how they’d improve your product marketing.
Who’s a Product Marketing Manager?
In a nutshell: A Product Marketing Manager is a person whose main task is to convey the value of the product to the market.
This causes a lot of confusion – after all, aren’t all marketers supposed to convey the value of the product to the market?
In a sense, they are. But you can think of a Product Marketer as someone who focuses heavily on the mid-to-bottom of the funnel, the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey, as opposed to marketers focusing more on the top of the funnel – awareness and acquisition. In addition, in a lot of product companies the emerging role of Product Marketer will also be responsible for marketing inside the product – and will have new user activation, feature adoption and engagement, as well as user retention as their KPIs.
Btw. – speaking of adoption:
As you can see, there’s more to the role then post-signup in-app marketing. Working on website copy and feature landing pages, FAQs, sales and Customer Success enablement assets, feature launches, communicating product updates…
This range of responsibilities is what makes defining the role a bit complicated.
This job ad for a Product Marketer from UserLeap wraps it up nicely:
Product Marketing Manager’s Role and Responsibilities – “It’s complicated”
In a sense, this brings the Product Marketer a lot closer to the Product Team than a ‘regular marketer’- so we can say that the product marketer acts as a bridge between the product and the marketing team.
Having talked to 10+ Product Marketers in different SaaS companies, I noticed that the responsibilities of product marketers vary greatly depending on how product-led the companies they work for are.
What does it mean to be ‘Product-Led’?
Product-Led Growth is defined as a go-to-market strategy that relies on using your product as the main vehicle to acquire, activate, and retain customers.
For Product-Led Companies, the main focus of the Product Marketer falls within the product, and post-signup. In a sense – the role of the Product Marketer is to market the product to Product Qualified Leads (free signups that have not converted yet) and to existing paid customers (to improve retention by consistently showing the value of the product, and driving expansion revenue through upsells).
Natália Kimličková – Product Marketing Manager at Kontentino:
“My job is to take care of the users post-signup. So basically – [new user] onboarding, product discovery, feature discovery, product adoption, retention and so on. All my tasks are around product – product updates, feature releases, video tutorial, written tutorials and so on…plus some data analysis”
KPIs: Activation, Adoption, First Month Retention
Even though Natalia works as a part of the Marketing Team, she is very close to the Product Team.
Since Product-Led, self-serve subscription businesses rely on the product itself to drive business growth, a Product Marketing Manager in such a company will focus on creating scalable, self-serve marketing experiences inside the product:
- Creating and optimizing new user onboarding – both in app-experiences such as building product tours and interactive walkthroughs, as well as writing onboarding email sequences – aiming at increasing new user activation;
- Working on secondary and tertiary onboarding flows (aka evergreen onboarding) within the product – to boost feature adoption and retention at every stage of the user journey;
- Communicating the value of new features via feature announcements – both inside the product (in modals, as well as by adding experiences aimed at increasing the adoption of these features to the evergreen onboarding flow) and outside (via email feature announcements)
- Coming up with hypotheses on how to improve various product metrics, e.g. new user activation, feature engagement, product adoption, in-app conversion rates etc. and translating it into product adoption experiments
- Promoting e.g. user webinars, advanced features, and special promos for existing users inside the app
- Coming up with upsell opportunities based on product usage
- Any in-app communication with users e.g. about planned maintenance, any product or pricing changes etc.
Parth Shrivastava, Head of Marketing, former Product Marketer at Kommunicate.io:
“As a product marketer in a product-led company, I was responsible for the whole funnel from the signup, through PQL, through customer acquisition to retention”
On the other hand, Parth admits that Product Marketing happens also before the signup:
“[Product Marketers are responsible for] defining the whole value prop also before the signup – you need to somehow nudge the users to sign up”
This is what Ahrefs refers to as pre-boarding:
‘Creating these ‘Aha’ moments before the user signs up for our tool – via educational content like these videos.’
This means that in some companies, Product Marketing Managers will also be responsible for creating content that conveys the product’s value for leads before the signup:
- Educational posts, playbooks, and videos focusing on solving specific problems using the product (also known as ‘pain-point SEO’)
- Case studies showing how existing users have achieved success with your product
- Sales enablement assets such as playbooks and PDFs showing how to use the product in different use cases
- Landing pages for different solutions, features, use cases of the product
- Writing help docs
- Writing FAQs
As Surya S, Product Marketer at Animaker Inc. said in our conversation:
“My day shuffles between checking where the user is coming from checking if they are coming back to the app; then circling back to the product team to report a bug or a feature feedback; then I’m busy defining the user journey on the website and other collaterals, and fixing the positioning and content across all platforms – on the website, on the blog, on the FAQ…Being a product marketer you cannot leave out any form of content. For either the people who are just coming in, or for people who are already using your product – all the content that is going on any collateral – either internal or external. The third thing is monitoring the sales pipeline – what is happening on the demos, why we are losing deals – and then I’m coming up with sales enablement collaterals, to educate the leads better.”
In general, the proportion of the different activities in the Product Marketer’s daily work depends on the companies’ go-to-market strategy.
Generally: the more product-led the company, the more the Product Marketer will be focusing on the post-signup activities.
What’s the difference between a Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and a Marketing Manager?
As you can probably figure out by now (and as the name itself suggests) – Product Marketing Manager falls somewhere between Product Managers and Marketers.
How do these three roles fit together then?
Let’s start with the Product Managers, as these are the closest to shaping the product itself:
Product Manager’s job is consists of three main goals:
1. Understand the needs of the users and to translate that into product vision, and then translate that into a tangible product roadmap (new features, UI and UX improvements, workflow changes etc.)
2. Communicate that product roadmap to other stakeholders, especially the development team, as well as the marketing and sales teams;
3. Making sure the development team ships on the product roadmap in a timely manner
Now, what happens after the new features have been shipped?
Who analyzes the product usage, user behavior, and feature engagement? Who measures product adoption and collects user feedback to see if the features that have been shipped have already worked?
Enter the grey zone.
In most companies, this would still fall under the real of the Product Manager. Product Analytics is a complex field, and learning how to do it properly (including how to use product usage analytics tools like Heap, Mixpanel, Amplitude etc.) takes a lot of time.
However, with Product Experience and Experimentation tools like Userpilot, which offers feature adoption data and A/B testing for the experiences built by Product Marketers – some basic product usage analytics such as analyzing the completion rates of new user onboarding experiences may fall under the scope of the Product Marketer:
So where do the role of Product Manager ends, and the role of Product Marketer begins?
While the Product Manager role is to ship features and identify areas for improvement regarding product adoption, new user activation, feature engagement and user retention – it is increasingly the Product Marketer’s role to translate the data provided by the Product Manager into product adoption experiences and experiments that will move the needle.
For one – because adding the product adoption to the already full plate of the Product Manager has proven too much for most (and that’s why we see product adoption lagging behind)
Especially with the rise of code-free product experience tools – it has become increasingly possible for the product marketer to create such experiences and A/B test within the product themselves. And thus – have a real impact on the ‘pirate metrics’ without involving the development resources.
What about the ‘general’ Marketing Manager then?
General marketers, unlike product marketers, focus more on the ‘broader’ spectrum of acquisition activities intended to generate leads and boost brand awareness.
This may include:
- Top-of-the-funnel content marketing – writing blogs and email funnels on topics relevant to the target audience and the problems solved by the product, but not necessarily focusing on product features
- Branding activities such as hosting webinars and sponsoring conferences
- Working on paid acquisition channels
- On-site SEO, guest post outreach, backlink building
- Coordinating the work of the marketing team
…and countless others.
Of course – in the beginning, with limited resources – the responsibilities of the Product Marketer may be split between the ‘general marketer’ (the pre-signup activities such as creating educational content on how to use the product, sales enablement documents, and help docs) and the product manager (post-signup activities such as building product experiments to improve new user activation, product adoption, retention etc.).
Why do you need a Product Marketer at all then?
Let’s face it…running user interviews, translating them into a product roadmap, and then liaising with all the stakeholders to make it happen is a job and a half in its own right. Usually – a small product team will not have the time left to create experiences to improve product adoption, engagement and retention. And these metrics have a critical impact on the revenue of a SaaS business.
So in the long run – the job of a Product Marketer has a significant impact on your bottom line.
What should be the KPIs of a Product Marketer?
We have already mentioned a lot of the KPIs of Product Marketers, but let’s recap them again here.
Based on the pre-signup/ post-signup dichotomy of Product Marketer’s responsibilities, the KPIs can also be divided accordingly:
- MQL to PQL ratio – with the caveat that the signup flow may affect it to a large extent, and if this has not been created and optimized by the Product Marketer, then his/her impact on the MQL/PQL ratio is significantly reduced;
- Trial to paid conversion rate
- New user activation
- Product Adoption
- Feature Engagement
- User Retention (eps. Week 1 and 1st Month Retention)
- Daily Active Users and Monthly Active Users
These KPIs, again, may be shared with the product manager depending on the level of their involvement.
How does Product Marketing Manager Fit into Your Organization?
Before hiring your first Product Marketer you may be thinking…How will they fit into your organization chart? Should you put your Product Marketing Manager on the marketing team, or on the product team?
Which Department should own Product Marketing?
If you’ve read the previous sections, you should already have a clue where to place a product marketer in your organization: on your marketing team.
How would they work with other roles within the marketing department though?
If I were to create my ‘perfect’ marketing team for a self-serve, product-led SaaS, it would consist of the following roles:
- CMO/ Head of Marketing
- General Marketing Manager
- Paid Channels Specialist
- SEO specialist
- Content Marketer (a content writer) x 2
- Product Marketer
I would say though – the Product Marketer on your team should report to both your Head of Marketing and Your Product Manager – as their output will be largely relevant to both the marketing and product adoption strategies.
Should Product Marketing work on the acquisition side or retention side?
Well, the answer is…both.
The pre-signup activities will fall on the acquisition side, while the post-signup ones will be largely relevant to retention.
When and How to Hire your First Product Marketer
Usually, a product marketer is not your first marketing hire. Being more on the retention than acquisition side, and being responsible for mostly ‘lagging metrics’ – they won’t be prioritized in a company before the bread-and-butter of customer acquisition.
- when you already have your acquisition team in place; and
- if your product manager in your product-led company is not coping with creating in-app experiences and experiments to improve new user onboarding, feature engagement, product adoption etc. because they are too busy with the product roadmap;
…it seems that you have reached the right time to hire your first Product Marketer!
I don’t need to tell you that your product manager is busy.
PM’s work is a balancing act between what the customer wants, the business’ objectives, and then translating it all into actionable deliverables for the dev and sales teams. Most PMs scramble to just deliver on the product roadmap – if you’re stuck in meetings all day, how on earth you can strategically plan for the next year, operationally plan for the next three sprints, and handle today’s daily challenges, all at the same time?
Honestly, if you throw product adoption metrics to the mix, your PM will just laugh – or walk away. So don’t try it. Hire a Product Marketer to take care of that end instead.
Another good reason to shift some of your product team responsibilities to your product marketer is that…they are a lot cheaper than product managers and developers.
Especially if you give them code-free tools like Userpilot and independence to create their own product adoption experiments – you will save not only your product manager’s precious time, but also your dev time. Which you don’t really have to spare anyway…
That combined the improved product adoption and retention and more upsells – means not only higher savings but also more retained revenue for your company. Everybody wins!
Product Marketer’s Salary and Career Path
As I already mentioned – Product Marketers are cheaper than Product Managers (let alone developers!) – cf. the average salary of £27,000 in the UK compared to £ 50,000 of that of a product manager (source: Glassdoor):
The differences are less pronounced for product marketers vs. product managers in the US (which may be a good reason to leverage the remote work trend and hire in the UK):
Regarding the career progression for product marketers – it’s still quite early to say exactly how the role develops, but with the growing trend of SaaS companies becoming more and more product-led – one can imagine in a few year’s time there will be proper product marketing teams in every larger product-led SaaS, with Head of Product-Marketing leading the product adoption activities.
The pre-signup and post-signup activities that most Product Marketers have to juggle now may be split into two more distinct roles too.
What Skills Should a Good Product Marketing Manager Have
Now – before setting out to writing your job descriptions – here are the skills you should consider. A good product marketer will be:
- will have great communication skills
- will have a background in marketing & great writing skills
Let’s have a look at the requirements in more detail:
Obviously – you’re looking for someone who will get the ins and outs of a tech product pretty quickly. It would be best if this person had extensive experience using SaaS products, ideally in a similar industry to yours, and flair for technology in general.
As we mentioned earlier, while most product analytics falls within the responsibility of the product manager, the Product Marketer’s role is becoming increasingly analytics-heavy as well. The ideal candidate should be a ‘born scientist’ – with a penchant for experimentation, coming up with hypothesis how to improve things, and finding relevant opportunities for such improvements based on product usage and adoption data.
The person will need to create A/B tests and measure the effectiveness of the experiences they build.
Having said that, the ideal Product Marketer will also need to be very creative – to come up with the right experiments to run, as well create your in-app communication strategy and write compelling in-app copy. This may be challenging – especially considering how short it is. This brings the role close to that of a conversion copywriter.
Your product marketer will spend long hours coming up with hypotheses, testing them, and trying to figure out how to push the needle. Your product manager won’t have the time to hand-hold them. Make sure you pick someone independent, willing to learn and…have their own opinions.
Great Communication Skills
If standing in between Marketing and Product and trying to synch everything wasn’t bad enough – a good Product Marketer will need to talk to customers a lot and write in their language. Your ideal candidate will have great communication skills and
Will have a background in marketing
While Product Marketing is closer to the product, basic SEO knowledge, and understanding how marketing tools work are not off-limits. Your company will definitely benefit from a Product Marketing Manager with a background in marketing.
Product Marketer Job Interview Questions
Once you’ve shortlisted a few Product Marketing candidates and invited them to an interview, there are a few questions you need to ask:
- Tell me about your most successful product launch
- How would announce a new feature in a SaaS product?
- Do you think XYZ [Your company name] has good product marketing? What would you improve?
- How would you announce a pricing change to your customers?
- Tell us about the product marketing strategy you executed in your previous role
- How do you measure your success?
- How would you improve the feature adoption of an underused feature?
- How would you improve new user activation in a SaaS product that has a linear product tour?
- What retention experiences have you created in your previous role?
- How do you measure the success of a product launch?
- What makes new user onboarding successful?
- How would you enable a struggling sales team for demo calls?
…of course, there are many more – but you get the idea.
If your product-led SaaS business with a product management team and a marketing team, you will definitely benefit from the addition of a Product Marketing Manager. A good one will not only improve your MQL/PQL and trial to paid conversions, but also your overall product adoption.
Good luck hiring!
About the author:
Emilia Korczynska is a growth enthusiast & marketing manager @Userpilot with 5+ years of experience in startups and content marketing.
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