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Planning and Skills Development Product Marketers Need

2020 is at our doorstep, and if you’re like most product marketers, you’re likely being pulled in a dozen or so directions as you strive to support various teams and initiatives across your organization. Despite the incredible demands of product marketing, now is an outstanding time to be a product marketer. We’re going all-in and calling it now: 2020 will be the year of the product marketer

Why? Because there is more opportunity than ever for product marketers to have reach and impact across their organization. Between the advances in technology, specifically built for the competitive landscape, and the rise of (price obtainable) automation, product marketers finally have their own set of tools to help dominate their responsibilities. Not to mention, a recent PMA Salary Survey found that product marketers are on average in the six-figure salary pay range— $117,041 on average globally to be exact.  

Over the past year, we’ve had the chance to chat with dozens of leading product marketers at a variety of businesses to learn more about their careers, challenges, and get their take on all things product marketing in our Product Marketing Spotlight series.

With the new year on our doorstep, let’s take a look at how a few products marketers think about planning for the new year and the skills they think are critical to develop in the years to come. 

The Evolution of Product Marketing

While product marketing can cover a variety of needs, depending on the organization, the future of just what product marketing might look like seems to be becoming even more encompassing of a variety of skills. As product marketing interacts with almost every department, the skills needed by product marketers are unshockingly vast as well. 

“I believe the role will continue to evolve into a highly strategic function that supports the entire business - I often refer to product marketing as an internal management consulting team. Our unique value lies in our ability to solve complex problems, identify patterns, and tell compelling stories.”  — Tamara Grominsky, Unbounce

Let’s take a closer look at two of the critical skills we think will be most impactful in the year ahead. 

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Big Picture Strategy & Organization 

In any role across any organization, understanding and tying back your goals to that of the company’s challenges or OKRs (objectives and key results) is essential to ensure you’re focused on the right projects. Then, you have the ability to work backward to determine what should be the highest priorities for your planning. 

After establishing what your biggest business challenges are, it’s time to dive deeper into what particular projects (including launches) will work to tackle those challenges. Using a project management tool such as Asana, Trello, or Basecamp is a great way to make sure those projects are progressing on schedule. They can also provide visibility to those who are in other departments. 

“At any given time, my department is planning 5+ launches, all deploying at different points within a six-month time frame. We have a tiering system that’s worked really well for us (i.e. “Tier 1 - Major,” “Tier 2 - Minor,” and “Tier 3 - Mini”). 

It takes into account the impact of the launch, and gives my team a north star of sorts when we need to refocus. I highly recommend using a project management tool like Asana - especially when working cross-functionally with other departments!” — Andrew McCotter-Bicknell, ZoomInfo powered by DiscoverOrg

Consultant, Storyteller, Complex Problem Solver

It’s no surprise to see that communication-based skills are key to the continued evolution of product marketing roles in the years ahead. Let’s dig into “storytelling” more, a phrase that was first popularized by the content marketing boom and has been seeing adoption across every role on a marketing team ever since. 

Here’s what leading product marketers had to say in regards to storytelling as a core competency of their role: 

“One of the things that I think is core to being successful in product marketing is storytelling. I know that’s an overused term in business these days, but if you can be good at taking a piece of technology that has a bunch of features and functions and helping a potential buyer paint their own vision of what their world could be like with that tech, without necessarily even talking specifically about individual features, then you’re an excellent product marketer. It’s really hard because we fall so easily into feature/function language in tech, especially when speaking internally. I still don’t get it right all the time. It takes work and it’s different for every audience. And that’s just it, you need to know your audience as well as you know your tech, and that takes time, research, and creativity.” —Alex Kevork, Vice President, Employer Integrated Segment & Product Marketing Strategy at Monster


“Storytelling!! A marketer’s job is to communicate a company’s vision and frame how its products serve the mission. People don’t remember product pitches as much as they remember stories rooted in emotion. Don’t focus your awareness and go-to-market strategy around the features and implementation details of your product. Instead, tell a story about how your product can remove proverbial thorns and make your customers’ lives better. Paint a picture of the happy ending.” —Annum Munir, Product Marketing Manager at Google Cloud

In the year ahead, we’ll continue to see product marketers as the driving forces behind a plethora of initiatives across their organizations. Fortunately, they finally have both the planning and data-backed tools to help support them in delivering critical updates, crafting effective stories, and staying ahead of the competition. 

If you’re looking to freshen up on your storytelling skills in the year ahead, I recommend checking out Ann Handley’s, Everybody Writes as a great first step. In this book Ann dives into how marketers (or everybody) can tell a story well and, “learn how to write with economy and style and honest empathy for your customers.”  All crucial skills for product marketers. 

For more resources to help you level up in 2020, be sure to check out our round up of 12 books product marketers should read in the year ahead. 

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Alicia Thomas
Alicia Thomas, a Crayon alum, is the head of Brand & Community at Postscript, a provider of SMS marketing technology. She is a veteran of the marketing analytics space, and her award-winning work has been featured on sites like TechCrunch, Performance Marketer, and Shopify Plus.