Why can’t I stop gushing about the summer of 2018? It might have something to do with working as a Product Marketing Intern at SmartBear Software; an experience that truly changed my life and defined my goals for the future! Wait, hold up, SOFTWARE? For someone crazy about clean energy and saving the environment, how did I end up working for a software company? Follow me back in time to a sunny September day in Hanover, New Hampshire.
I’m at the annual fall career fair where I catch the eye of someone in the opposite stall. Little did I know that in less than a year, she would become my mentor and friend. I walk over and as she eagerly talks about how SmartBear helps software professionals create better software, I’m hit by waves of memories. My dad’s job as a Software Engineer at IBM took our family of four around the globe - we’ve packed up and moved about seven different times in the last twenty-three years. Although the software bug hadn’t bit me growing up, I always appreciated how it was deeply ingrained in today’s technology-driven age, and how it contributed to me living out of a suitcase for most of my life.
Hello??? Earth to Lekshmi! I tune back into the conversation and eagerly drop off my resume after learning more about SmartBear, only to find myself standing next to a tall, yellow Lego giraffe in the middle of Assembly Row, eight months later.
Equal measures of enthusiasm and trepidation gripped me as I embarked upon my first corporate internship, and the summer of a lifetime! During this time, I worked with people across different departments, corporate offices, and countries, led the launch of a Beta program, picked up beach volleyball, conducted my first webinar, and learned how ready-to-eat hard-boiled eggs were made. In addition, I had amazing mentors who taught me everything I know about Product Marketing and now, it’s my turn to pay it forward by sharing what I learned with you. I’m your host Lekshmi Unnithan, and welcome to Product Marketing 101!
Product Marketing 101
Product Marketing is a versatile role that sits at the intersection of Product, Marketing, and Sales in a company. It combines business skills and technological knowledge to shape the go-to-market strategy of a firm’s products or services. Product Marketing Managers (PMMs) are responsible for developing the unique value proposition of a company’s offerings and bringing it to life by driving demand through all the company’s channels. They create the targeted positioning and messaging for products and new features, as well as product collateral in the form of presentations, datasheets, blogs, webinars, case studies, ROI calculators, and website content.
PMMs work closely with Product and Engineering teams to translate technical product information into tangible, user-friendly benefits and influence product development; keeping in mind the competitive landscape, product gaps, and customer feedback. They also collaborate with Sales teams to ensure that they are well equipped to close more deals through trainings, sales decks, and competitive battlecards. A large part of the job is also being an evangelist of the product or technology and communicating with the outside world by attending tradeshows and analyst briefings. Most importantly, PMMs need to be keenly aware of their customers’ pain points and leverage this information to drive demand for the brand and product at every stage of the customer journey funnel.
Throughout my internship, the various tasks that I undertook reinforced these core Product Marketing functions and taught me many lessons along the way; some of which I want to share with you.
1. Focus on the Job to be Done
One of the most important parts of the job is weaving a narrative that draws in the customer, appeals to their needs, and convinces them that your product is the solution to their problems. Acknowledging that the customer is key isn’t enough, nor is profiling them into user personas based on demographics. I learned that the most powerful tool is understanding the job to be done, since it encompasses the rationale behind making a purchase. Designing products and the associated messaging around the jobs to be done creates a powerful emotional experience in the minds of customers and compels them to buy your product.
2. Optimize Your Content
For one of our weekly one-on-ones, my manager and I stepped out of the office and followed the walking trail along the Mystic River where he shared some useful tips about how to write great content. For content that effectively sells your product, it needs to be useful, concise, coherent, compelling, diversifying, and optimized for both the human and the machine.
Time is a valuable resource, so people will not be willing to read long, complex, or redundant material - keep it relevant, short and simple. Tailor your content to make readers feel compelled to buy your product. A great way to do this is to back your claims with hard numbers, or what we call at SmartBear: Hero ROI Metrics. For example, saying “the product saves 10x time” strengthens the claim that it will help you work faster. Buyers will often thoroughly research all their options before making a purchase, so it’s important to highlight what makes your product different and unique from the competition. These tips can help create content that people love to read, but is it optimized for the machine? In this age where many companies turn to inbound marketing, the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) is undeniable. Because of this, it’s important to keep track of things such as keyword research and content length, to metadata and backlinks when writing.
3. Don’t be Afraid to Start Writing
Writing is an essential part of Product Marketing, and PMMs need to be passionate about writing and storytelling. Growing up, I loved to read and write, so I wholeheartedly embraced this aspect of my internship. However, during my first month, I would often be stumped by long periods of writer’s block. That’s when I was introduced to the concepts discussed in SmartBear’s Book Club read- Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley. As someone who would try to create the perfect blog or article in her first try, the concept of “The Ugly First Draft” helped me put all my thoughts on paper first (without regard for coherence or quality) and then work my way editing and polishing my draft. I found that this improved the quality of my work and saved me considerable time, which would have been normally spent staring hopelessly at my keyboard.
4. Time is a Frenemy
Being a PMM is never boring because you’re working on so many different things - you could be writing articles, launching a product, holding webinars, cultivating industry relationships…. the list is endless! However, what makes this job so exciting also makes it equally challenging. Time becomes a frenemy and you need to be strategic about completing your tasks.
When deciding the order of tasks to complete, tackle those that yield the maximum business value first. For example, shipping a webinar landing page before revamping an old blog will provide a higher benefit for the firm, since it encourages the prospects who are lower down in the customer journey funnel (and closer to the purchasing decision) to interact with your company earlier, as opposed to increasing the organic traffic to your site for those higher up in the funnel. At times when you’re bogged down with work, it also helps to ship a minimum viable product that fulfils the basic requirements, and then iterate and improve upon it later. If your team is Agile and works in Sprints, monitor the time you assign to different tasks and see if you’re underestimating or overestimating how long each task actually takes. Use this information to then optimize your future sprints.
5. Metrics are Friends, Not Foes
Pondering what to write about next? Look at your company’s Share of Voice metrics and tackle an area you’re trailing behind with a new blog. Are bounce rates high for an important webpage? Add a meaningful Call-to-Action to keep visitors on your site and improve conversion. By leveraging the power of data, you can make strategic decisions to keep your products competitive!
Interested in a career in Product Marketing? Use this simple PMM checklist to see if you’re fit for the job! A good PMM is someone who:
- Is a product expert who understands their users
- Is passionate about storytelling, writing, and presenting
- Possesses technical and communicational fluency
- Excels at cross-functional collaboration
- Can prioritize and multitask effectively
Well folks, that’s it for today’s session of Product Marketing 101. If you love technology and talking to people as much as I do, then Product Marketing may be the perfect role for you! If you want to be part of a fast-paced, high-growth company on the leading edge of innovative software tools, then SmartBear Software is the place for you! Co-Ops, internships, jobs, you name it! Visit the careers page to take the next step towards becoming part of the SmartBear family. You won’t regret it!