Product Marketing Manager: How to Find the Right Professional

Who is a product marketing manager? What do they do? Kristina Shtaudínger, the head of online marketing of Admitad Startups, explains how to hire the best candidate and if it’s possible to survive without a PMM

A product marketing manager (PMM) works at the intersection of sales, marketing, product, and client service. They accumulate product-related information from various sources and coordinate activities of several departments. 

The product marketing manager doesn’t occupy a higher position in the business hierarchy than other marketing specialists. Here’s the list of typical PMM duties:

  • Setting the goals for other marketing professionals
  • Monitoring their work progress and making sure their actions align with the product goals
  • Determining target audience with the product manager
  • Bringing customer demographics to other team members
  • Sharing value propositions verified by sales and product departments
  • Letting others know about results of customer success studies

Finally, the product marketing manager helps other professionals outline their spheres of responsibility. 

Example of a product marketing manager’s routine

Let’s imagine a scenario where a business wants to earn a certain amount of money. To reach this goal, the company has to make 100 sales, each worth a specific sum. The product marketing manager realizes that with the existing conversion rate, the business needs to get 300 leads per month. Depending on the goals that they identified, the PMM outlines tactics that can help them obtain 300 leads:

  • SMM
  • Paid traffic
  • Content marketing

The product marketing manager gets in touch with the SMM specialist and sets a clear task for them. It may look like this:

“We need this offer to attract people from social networks. Please draft a plan to explain:Which social networks we should useWhich message we’ll distribute on each platformWhich content we’ll postWhich community management methods we’ll applyAlso please kindly advise if we should interact with the audience or just post the information for them to read/watch.Our goal is to get 300 leads per month in total. 100 of these leads should come from social media marketing efforts.”

Then, the product marketing manager approaches the traffic manager and gives them a similar task of getting 100 leads per month from paid traffic. Following the same template, the PMM specifies how many leads to get, how to spend the money, which content to create, which strategies to use, and which hypotheses to test.

The last 100 leads need to come from content marketing. The PMM contacts the content marketing manager and decides what articles, interviews, and emails the business needs to produce in order to attain its goal.

The product marketing manager stays in touch with these specialists and helps them fine-tune their workflows. Then, they get the results and compare the efficiency of the three marketing methods used. Based on the outcomes, the product marketing manager will be planning further marketing activities for the product.

Can a startup survive without a product marketing manager?

Of course,  a startup can survive without a PMM but the quality of its existence will be substandard. We sometimes accept startups without product marketing managers. And after we explain to them how to integrate these specialists into their workflows, they begin to deliver better results. They test hypotheses faster and more efficiently, thus saving time and money.

A product marketing manager and a traffic manager are two professionals that a startup needs from the onset. If a traffic manager is good enough, a company can outsource them. But a product marketing manager should be hired as an in-house specialist. Otherwise, it would be difficult for them to establish a strong connection with the team and the product. This professional acts as the founders’ right-hand man — or as a part of their brain that is responsible for marketing.

Where can a company find a top-notch PMM?

It’s not enough to graduate from a university with a diploma in marketing to land a job as a product marketing manager. The classic methods that are taught at universities are outdated and irrelevant to the modern market. Good PMMs are often self-taught. They dip their toes in the water, realize that they like this niche, and keep learning. Ideally, founders need to help their team members grow to become top-notch product marketing managers. The perfect candidates for this position are people who are passionate about working for this startup but lack the necessary qualification yet.

An enquiring mind is a vital prerequisite for this position. The previous experience might or might not matter. Soft skills are more important than hard ones because it’s quicker and easier to acquire the latter.

Here are the two essential questions I ask during an interview with a candidate on this position:

  • Which product case are you most proud of?
  • What was your biggest failure?

The fact that the person can assess their success reveals that they are capable of reflection. Whereas if they know how to admit their failures, it means they’re ready to bear responsibility for their actions. If the candidate feels shy to confess their failures, then I share a failure story from my experience to diffuse the situation. 

They can also offer a real-life or made-up case for the candidate to solve. That’s vital for understanding their way of thinking. Typically, 80% of candidates fail to pass the interview, so founders have to choose from the remaining 20%.

Final thoughts

A product marketing manager determines the general vector of the marketing efforts produced by different product-related departments. PMMs collect information from various sources, process it, and spread it among team members. They make sure each professional understands what they should do and how their goals align with the work that other specialists carry out. The PMM makes sure the whole team looks in one direction, everyone shares the same vision of the product, and transmits this vision accordingly in their area of responsibility.

When hiring a product marketing manager, it makes sense to focus not on their education or previous experience but on their enquiring mind. If the person has the right soft skills, they can quickly acquire hard ones.

The product marketing manager serves as the mouthpiece of the product and the founders’ right-hand man. They should be hired in a startup as an in-house specialist from the onset.

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