It took me 40 years to find my passion for product marketing

What do I want to be when I grow up? It’s a product marketer, and it took me 40 years to figure that out.

When I was a child, I didn’t have the same dreams as most of my friends. I didn’t want to be a firefighter, a policeman or a baseball player. In fact, when relatives asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always the same….

“I don’t know.”

Flash forward to my senior year of high school. Most of my friends had a basic handle on their goals, colleges of choice and future career paths. When my guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to major in, my answer was the same…

“I don’t know.”

I hoped in my 20’s I would have figured it all out, but after graduating college, I struggled with where to apply for my first professional job because…

“I just don’t know what I wanted to do.”

Sometimes we don’t choose a path in life; we let life decide for us. When it came to my career, I’ll say life did a lot of the picking. My first job wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. It was a paycheck, a ticket out of my parents’ house and a free trip to NYC every week.  That was enough to make me happy, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed my daily work. It wasn’t a grind, but it sure wasn’t a passion.

While I didn’t love that first job, it did open many doors for me, and I wouldn’t have had a career without it. I just didn’t know where that career was heading. But that changed this year. I hit the big 4-0 and was recently promoted to head up product marketing, a newly created position at my company and a new role for me.

Now I’ve worked in marketing, sales, and general management positions for many years, but something was different with this job. I have a heightened level of excitement and enthusiasm when I walk into the office every morning.  My mind is racing after work and working on the weekends isn’t painful, it’s fun. And then it hit me. This is the job that I’ve always wanted to do.  I just didn’t know it until I started doing it.

So why is product marketing my perfect job?

You get to tell stories. Good product marketing is more than highlighting product features and functions; it’s telling a story. Psychology Today wrote an interesting article on why people buy:

In addition, a warm customer needs constructivist support, i.e. things that make the product or service personally meaningful.  This can be as simple as helping the consumer envisions a future where their problem has been solved with the proposed product or service. Testimonials or social proof can help with this.”

Product marketing develops the materials to help customers envision their future with (and without) the product. In B2B, telling a relatable story that connects with a prospect’s need to solve a business problem can be the difference between winning or losing the deal. If the potential customer can see themselves as a hero because of your product, you’ve done your job.

You work with multiple teams and different personality types. Product marketing gives you the opportunity to work with technical, creative, sales and business leaders. All are bringing a different point of view to help influence the product strategy. This opens your eyes to new ways of thinking, different questions to ask and fills critical gaps you would miss. Diversity of thinking drives successful companies. It also drives successful product marketing.

It’s a customer-centric role where you can make a difference. Product marketers must understand the customer better than any other position in the company, as they’re responsible for defining the target buyer. While other marketing and sales roles are heavily focused on customer development and success, product marketing’s proximity to product management means they have the best chance of representing the customer in product development meetings, making sure their needs are being addressed with future product releases.

You hold the keys to competitive intelligence. If you have an unhealthy obsession with winning, product marketing is for you. You’re responsible for providing competitive analysis, positioning points and supporting materials to prepare the sales team for competitive battles. Good product marketers are the go-to resource for insight on competing products, pricing, and positioning. Keeping up on new competitors and products is a critical part of the job.

Every day brings new challenges. Product marketing can sometimes feel like you’re the only person holding up a leaky dam. Every time you plug one hole, a new one opens. While it can be frustrating, it’s also invigorating. You usually have multiple priorities and no day is ever the same. I find that this variety of projects makes me more productive, stimulates different parts of my brain and reduces burnout.

While product marketing may not be for everyone, it’s a dream job for me. If there are any other product marketing geeks out there (especially in the Boston area) who would like to share ideas, best practices and just geek out on all things product marketing, feel free to add me on LinkedIn. We’re a small community, and it’s always great to meet others who share a similar passion.

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