9 Questions Product Marketers Should Ask When Job Hunting

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9 Questions Product Marketers Should Ask When Job Hunting

According to Indeed, the average tenure for a product marketer is two to four years. Working with B2B SaaS companies over the last decade, I have found it to be even shorter – more like one to two years. While some great product marketers quickly gain responsibility and have a long-lived impact on marketing team success, others can’t overcome the organizational headwinds. In a previous blog post, I described some common factors that cause product marketers to fail and recommended steps that CMOs can take to improve the situation. In this post, I’ll offer advice for product marketing job seekers, to help uncover the best opportunities.

When assessing potential product marketing positions, ask these questions.

1. What is the reporting structure?

If the position sits in a Products/Engineering organization, the focus will likely be on market requirements and product capabilities. You’ll need to be sure that lines of communication are open with marketing, to ensure alignment between ideal customer profiles (ICP) and demand generation strategies. You should also ask questions to understand how the organization balances the need for long-term strategic work and tactical tasks like sales support. If Product leadership doesn’t recognize the value of the tactical work, you may be set up for burnout or missed performance objectives.

If the position sits within the Marketing organization, it’s important to understand how market inputs—customer needs and competitive analysis—flow to the Product organization. It can be frustrating to see product innovation that doesn’t seem to align with what customers want or what differentiates the product.

2. What exactly are the job responsibilities? 

Product marketing teams can have a range of responsibilities, from product requirements to demand generation to sales support. (The Pragmatic Marketing Framework is one of the better laundry lists.) Where these responsibilities fall can tell you a lot about the organization. In evaluating each position, understand the areas where you bring a lot of strength and use storytelling to show your strength in your interviews. Also, look for opportunities to grow your skills in the new job and be prepared to explain any skill gaps that interviewers may see in your resume. For example, you may have had sales or product management job titles but done significant work that falls into the realm of product marketing for a given job.

3. How am I measured, and how are those metrics calculated?

Product marketing jobs often come with a lot of responsibility and little direct control. You may be measured by work that must be completed by demand gen teams, sales, and/ or product. Be sure you understand those metrics and the strengths of the organizations upon which your success depends. Alternatively, you may be measured based on “soft” metrics with arbitrary calculation methods. In these cases, your performance evaluation could end up being quite subjective.

4. How do my performance metrics map to the company’s goals?

Some companies are squarely on monthly recurring revenue (MRR) while others are looking to create a new market or build market share. Some want to get the product to a certain point which would make it an attractive acquisition target, while others are aiming for an IPO. All of these are legitimate goals, but each comes with distinct implications for product marketing’s priorities.

5. How does product marketing work with sales account executives, sales engineers, customer success, product management, and customer success in this organization? 

Successful product marketing teams are deeply interconnected people across their organizations. If you hear something like, “Sales never talks to product marketing,” you should ask why. Sales may be waiting for the right product marketer to build a bridge, or they may have a long history of shutting the door.

6. Where have there been disconnects between these groups in the past?

By digging deeper into the relationship between marketing, product marketing, and the rest of the organization, you can gain valuable clues about how you’ll be able to operate—and whether you can overcome the barriers that may exist today.

7. What programs or mechanisms are in place to engage directly with customers? 

Formal customer communities, user groups, and customer events are a great way for product marketers to listen to customers and channel their voices into product decisions and messaging. They also are indicators for how much the company invests in its customers—and its products. Engaged customers provide honest feedback, and they’re also more likely to serve as references and provide public testimonials. They’re willing to engage because they realize value from the company’s products and believe that their involvement will increase the returns.

8. What are the strengths of the CMO, and how does product marketing complement or extend her? 

In the most effective marketing teams I have worked with, the product marketing leader is the CMO’s most important lieutenant. A fair number of CMOs were once themselves product marketers, but others come from other disciplines. To work effectively with the CMO, you will either complement her skills or extent her capabilities and bandwidth.

For example, one of my serial clients was once a fantastic product marketer. She knows what needs to be done and appreciates the value of the work. While she knows that she cannot do the work herself and run an effective marketing organization, she’s always there as a sounding board. Conversely, another serial client finds me to be an opposite part of her brain. Together, we can create some amazing strategies and campaigns.

9. Where have the previous product marketers in this position run into difficulties? 

Product marketers run into some barriers and difficulties in every job. While this question could stimulate quite a nasty discussion about an individual’s shortcomings, it can shed light on a number of unresolved organizational issues.

There are still quite a few attractive product marketing jobs out there, and sometimes it can be hard to determine which are best. I hope that these questions help you uncover some critical company dynamics before you accept a job and also give you some ideas about putting your best foot forward during the interview process.

How do you look at what lies beneath a generic product marketing job description?