Ask any marketing professional what are some of the first questions that they receive whenever they tell someone their job title and their eyes will probably light up—followed by a smile appearing on their face as they recall some of the most comical presumptions that many outside of the marketing industry make about the profession.
That’s because most people outside of the industry have what I call a “Mad Men Mindset” as it pertains to their preconceptions of just what it is that we, as marketing professionals—do for a living.
Regardless of your job title, once you tell others that you’re a marketer—most people automatically assume that you sit in crowded conference rooms with erratic people like the fictional character Don Draper from the television show Mad Men; devising crazy ways to entice consumers to purchase products.
And while most of their presumptions may be imprecise in regards to what it actually is that most marketers do, when it comes to product marketing managers—many of their presumptions are pretty accurate (except for the Don Draper part). Here’s what great product marketing managers know that makes them so great at what they do.
1. That enthusiasm is contagious
Take a minute, and think about a material item that you purchased that ended up becoming your favorite possession. It could be a car; a pair of shoes, a smartphone, a laptop, office furniture, heck, it could even be a house. Whatever it is, I’m sure that it probably holds a great deal of sentimental value to you. And therefore—you exhibited a certain level of enthusiasm towards it before and after purchasing it.
Great product marketing managers are just as enthusiastic—if not more—about the products for which they market. Even if they have to conjure up that enthusiasm (hey, it happens).
The reason why it’s imperative for a product marketing manager to be enthusiastic, as well as passionate about the products that they market, is because at its core—marketing is about building a connection with an audience.
Great product marketing managers understand that for a product to connect with an audience—enthusiasm must resonate with everyone involved in presenting that product to the public. Which begins with management. Think about it this way, if you’re not excited about your products—why should anyone else be?
2. How to articulate anything to any audience
Is there anyone that you know personally that tells great stories? If so, have you noticed that every time that they come around—you welcome their presence and look forward to having a conversation with them because you just never know what interesting adventures they may have had since the last time you spoke to them?
That’s because we’re all susceptible to gravitating towards a great story. It’s literally in our DNA! Great product marketing managers understand the power of a great story, and better yet—they’ve perfected the art of crafting and delivering them.
One of the greatest storytellers in the history of product marketing was Apple co-founder and former CEO, the late Steve Jobs.
Although Jobs’ official titles at Apple were chairman and CEO—when it came to product launches for the brand—it was often Jobs that stood front and center showcasing those products to the public via presentations. Jobs was such a great orator and storyteller—he often increased the demand for an Apple product solely due to his enthusiasm and inspirational stories on stage about how and why a product came to be.
Great product marketing managers use storytelling as their superpower to inspire and allure their audience. That superpower is so special—they could articulate anything to any audience in a way that they’d understand. As Jobs himself once said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller."
3. That you must understand your audience
While storytelling is one of the greatest skills that someone can possess; and being able to articulate anything to any audience could make you a really good product marketer—to be a great product marketing manager—you also need to have an understanding of your audience. In other words, be culturally cognizant.
A recent example of the ramifications of a brand that made a product marketing mistake due to a lack of cultural cognizance in its marketing department is Walmart’s Juneteenth ice cream blunder.
In May, 2022—Walmart attempted to commemorate Juneteenth with the release of an ice cream themed and named after the recently added U.S. holiday. However, the release was met with overwhelming outrage and disdain from the African-American community—which consequently led to Walmart pulling the ice cream off of its shelves and issuing an apology to those offended by the release of the Great Value product that the retail chain sold in its stores.
To be a great product marketing manager, you must have a great understanding of your target audience—which includes understanding their culture. That way, you’ll not only know what would offend them—you’ll also have a clear understanding of what would appeal to them.
4. How to contrast the competition
Part of launching and overseeing the development of a product is being able to convey the differences between your brand’s products, and other similar products that are either already on the market—or will be.
“Companies need to position themselves different than their competition. That means finding a point of differentiation unique and meaningful in their industry.” Says authors Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin in their critically-acclaimed marketing book, Differentiate Or Die.
As a product marketing manager, it is imperative that you communicate a clear contrast between your brand’s products, and every other product in the market that may be similar to yours. And more importantly—convey key benefits to consumers to help them understand why they should purchase your brand's products instead of those from your competitors.
5. How their industry works
No matter which industry it is that you may choose to enter—one thing is certain—change is inevitable. Which means that trends are also inevitable.
For a product marketing manager, by having extensive knowledge of how your industry works—you’ll be able to better prepare and withstand any changes, and adapt to trends that are sure to occur in your industry that may have an impact on your brand’s products.
Great product marketing managers are proactive. Therefore, they conduct extensive research on both past and present events that have occurred in their industry so that they could make the best decisions in times of uncertainty.
6. How to be a Cartographer
To be able to effectively oversee the development, launch, and growth of a product—you'll need to be able to create a great roadmap incorporating each step of the process to give the product the best chance to be a success.
So, in a sense—you'll need to be a good cartographer.
If you’re unfamiliar with cartographers, they’re the people that make maps. If your goal is to be a great product marketing manager—focus on the future by making comprehensive road maps to get your products to a desirable destination—which should be in the hands of consumers that purchased them.
7. How to effectively coach a team
In order to be a great manager in any field, you have to be a great coach. Product marketing managers also have to be great coaches because they're often in charge of managing and directing large marketing teams. The position also requires working in a cross-functional capacity with other departments within your organization.
To effectively get the most out of those that they work with—great product marketing managers master the skill of putting the right people in the right position because they know that’s what it takes to win.
Even if a company only hires the most brilliant minds around, great product marketing managers understand that it’s their job to ensure that everyone works well together with one common goal. As Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said, “Leaders can’t just surround themselves with brilliant people; they need to ensure the pieces work well together.”
8. That data is extremely valuable…but it’s not everything
One of the most coveted resources in the marketing industry is consumer data. That’s because consumer data helps marketers understand consumer purchasing habits while also providing insights on what may or may not appeal to them.
And while data is a very useful tool for any marketing professional—great product marketing managers realize that data is just that—a tool. It’s not the be-all and end-all to creating concepts to connect with consumers.
Despite what many in the marketing industry may believe—great instincts and storytelling skills are a marketer’s superpower—not consumer data. Don’t get me wrong, consumer data is extremely valuable; it’s just not everything. And great product marketing managers know that.