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Product Marketing Spotlight Series: Alex Virden

Alex Virden Crayon's Product Marketing Spotlight is an interview series where we chat with product marketers to get a glimpse into their careers and gain unique insight into product marketing strategy. In this edition of Product Marketing Spotlight Series, we shine the light on Alex Virden, Senior Product Marketing Manager at EVERFI.

ED: What’s your role?

AV: I’m the Senior Manager, Product Marketing for EVERFI’s Community Engagement vertical.  My roadmap is pretty full this year, which is really exciting. I’m also working on personas and competitive analyses, product education for my colleagues, and refreshing content for some of our released products to drive awareness and demand. 

To varying degrees throughout my career, I’ve felt that consistency was lacking around the products/services I marketed. It seemed like there was always a need for consistency between messaging, data, and personas for products and services. And, what I love about this role is that product marketing meets that critical need. 

ED: What does your company do?

AV: EVERFI is an international tech company driving social change through education. We address challenging issues affecting society ranging from financial wellness to prescription drug safety to workplace conduct, as well as other critical topics.

ED: Can you tell me a little bit about your career - what was your first job, and how did you get to where you are today?

AV: I studied Comparative Literature and Communications in college. I love reading, analyzing, and writing. After college, I had a short stint working at a PR agency in Baltimore, my hometown. I was pretty bad at pitching, so I decided to pivot into marketing - it really felt like my skills and interests aligned better to that function. 

From there, I moved to Ocean City, MD, to work at an event/hospitality organization. I did all kinds of marketing work there - event, email, social, PPC, ops, and demand gen. But, ultimately, beach life was not for me. I moved to the DC area and started working in campaign marketing and demand gen. I also began growing a side hustle consulting for B2C organizations and training teams on branding, content, and positioning.

I really love marketing, and towards the end of last year, I realized that product marketing was the best fit for me within the field. I wanted to be closer to the customer and have more ownership of the process. I was also interested in doing more research, analysis, writing, and training. I think the combination of my education in the humanities and my background in marketing has honed my left brain/right brain skills, as well as my teaching and communication skills.

ED: It’s awesome that you work on an all-female Product Marketing team! I’d love to learn more about your team. How is your team structured, and how do you work together for product marketing success? 

AV: We have a product marketer for each one of our business lines and a Senior Director that oversees the team. Our team is really great. We’re very collaborative and supportive of each other (and that makes the stressful times a lot more manageable). We share both our wins and our roadblocks, and we work to make sure the value of product marketing is felt across the organization. 

When I was thinking about switching to product, my conversations with various team members really highlighted how well the work aligned with my skill set (and also showcased what a collaborative, smart, and funny team we have at EVERFI). 

ED: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a job in product marketing?

AV: Don’t think you don’t have the “right” background for product marketing. A lot of product marketers I know have very different backgrounds - marketing, journalism, history, science, the list goes on. Product marketing requires a wide range of competencies, so no single background or skill set alone is a must.

Look for opportunities to showcase and develop key skills that product marketers need - research, analysis, storytelling, teaching, and planning. Product Marketing sits at the intersection of so many parts of an organization, so take any chance you can to play “quarterback” or bring something from concept to reality. 

Read! I think great product marketers understand business fundamentals as well as the market landscape. I recommend reading everything from HBR to industry trades. I have a few Google Alerts turned on for key topics as well. 

ED: What skills do you think are necessary for a product marketer to grow in their career?

AV: Curiosity. I always ask myself, “what else?” as a check to make sure I’m seeing a product’s full scope from the market, the story, the landscape perspective. 

Emotional Intelligence. Customer empathy is critical. The best product marketers are truly customer advocates. 

Business acumen. “What are the biggest business challenges?” is a good question to keep in the back of your mind regardless of where you are on your path to becoming a PMM. Product marketing is becoming increasingly more of a highly strategic function that supports the entire business. If you don’t understand the basic fundamentals of the business model into which the product fits, it’s hard to make smart, reliable decisions as a product marketer.

ED: How do you measure product marketing success?

AV: Great question! It’s something I’m working on defining for my product set. We typically look at things like revenue, launch metrics, product usage, and internal/external product feedback. 

ED: What programs or resources have you found to be most impactful throughout your career?

AV: Developing a personal brand - write about your interests and your passions, and grow an audience. I have met so many people through networking and have been able to learn more about product marketing. It’s really an evolving discipline in so many ways. Creating connections in the community has helped me a lot. 

I head to YouTube, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning when I want new insights or information. I’ve also recently joined the Product Marketing Alliance. 

Given my background in Marketing, I’ve also done a ton of certification courses from HubSpot, MIT, Hootsuite, and so on. This background has given me perspective on how I bring products to life and what my internal key stakeholders (marketing, sales) will need to generate leads and close deals. 

ED: What’s something you wish you knew earlier in your career?

AV: I recently heard the quote, "when people sleep on you, let them get their rest." I wish I had heard that earlier. I've been told a few foolish things in my personal and professional life that I took to heart. Only a few years ago, I realized it's not your responsibility to live up to an idea someone has in their head for what you're supposed to be or what you can do. Some people will not see your potential, and it's essential that you make peace with that and "let them rest". Your only responsibility is to stay focused, set your own goals, and achieve them. 

ED: One final, fun question… if you could travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?

AV: Easy! Cefalù, Sicily. It’s an absolutely beautiful beach town in northern Sicily with a lot to do - you can hike, swim in the water, visit historical sites, and enjoy fantastic food and drink that’s unique to the area. During the summer, it has a pretty active night scene, too. Pro-tip: after a day at the beach or a hike up La Rocca, grab a table on the balcony at Enoteca le Petit Tonneau (there are only about four tables!) and enjoy antipasto and red wine with a stunning view of the bay. 

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Emily Dumas
Emily Dumas is a product marketer who leads content strategy at ZoomInfo, a global leader in modern go-to-market software, data, and intelligence. Prior to joining ZoomInfo, she spent several years on the Crayon marketing team.