“If you build it, they will come.” Even the most innovative, “unicorn” startup is destined for failure if they fall prey to this common myth. The truth of the matter is, strong marketing is at the foundation of every successful startup in the Bay Area and beyond. The marketing team of every company is on the front lines of customer sentiment. When you understand the customer’s needs, you can ensure that your product or service is relevant to the marketplace.
Now, with all of this pressure to build a marketing-first company, many founders find it astonishingly difficult to recruit senior product marketing managers. Why are strong product marketing managers so difficult to identify? Well, for starters, “product marketing is nuanced and complicated and so is the role of the product marketer,” says Taru Bhargava of LinkTexting.
If you talk to a product marketing manager at 5 different companies in the Bay Area, you’ll find that their responsibilities differ greatly based on the stage of their company. Many hiring managers eliminate candidate in their search too early, simply because they don’t know what to look for.
Allow us to tune up your good-candidate radar by presenting these five types of candidates you should never eliminate from your product marketing search.
Don’t assume someone isn’t a fantastic candidate because they’ve never worked in your industry. “It’s true that industry experience gives a product marketer a leg up on the competition, but a great product marketer can achieve significant industry knowledge within 3-6 months of starting their job,” says an excerpt from our e-book, Hiring product marketers: the insider's guide. A candidate who worked in a customer facing role would be able to understand a technical product (like OpenTable), because both rely on customer intimacy to succeed.
Former product managers, management consultants, and solution consultants can all make great product marketers. Management consultants are trained to think holistically about business and aren’t just tacticians. Management consultants will have had enough face-to-face time to be effective communicators. “Often times people who are customer facing already have the communication skills and product knowledge they need to be effective in a PMM role,” says Yvonne Chen, VP of Markeing at Udemy for Business. Product managers can also transition into product marketing smoothly, because they will have worked closely with product marketing in the past.
Who’s to say that one is more valuable than the other? Yes, product marketers should have the IQ points to effectively enable sales, perform competitive research, and build a strategic go-to-market plan. However, according to IKEA Group Chief Digital Officer Barbara Martin Coppola, “product marketers have to do a lot of people management, and someone who isn’t emotionally intelligent is going to be a disaster.”
Hiring solely from elite universities limits diversity of thought. If you want to reach a diverse customer base, ensure your candidates are diverse themselves. “The best teams have true diversity of thought, and organizations need to get comfortable with viewing the college a candidate attended as a secondary or tertiary attribute,” says Lydia Dishman of Fast Company. The focus instead should be on technical ability, demonstrated past success, and solid references.
“Less is more” is the new approach when it comes to resumes. “Verbose resumes are a red flag,” says Yvonne Chen, VP of Markeing at Udemy for Business. “I look for strong and concise messaging because strong product marketers pay attention to the way they communicate and craft their content accordingly.” It’s a good idea to give less traction to resumes than in-person interviews. Resumes can be incredibly misleading. That’s especially true for a function like product marketing, where core competencies matter much more than tactical experience. Read more tips about reading product marketing resumes the right way in our product marketing e-book.
Your product marketing manager hire will have a significant impact on the direction of your company. Hire the product marketing manager with a solid set of skills and a willingness to grow with your company, and add their own flair to the company culture you’ve put so much effort into nurturing. Make sure your values are clearly defined, and that those values can easily be accessed through a quick candidate google search.
Candidates should see your company culture reflected in your website, your product marketing manager job descriptions, in Glassdoor reviews, and on your various social platforms. Save time and precious energy in your sourcing efforts by hiring an experienced recruitment consult, and diversify your product marketing interview questions to assess culture fit. Remember, hiring people who “already share your DNA” is the most effective way to build a strong marketing presence that will carry your company to success.
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