How to Get Into Product Marketing
Alfred Lua / Written on 23 September 2020
I'll be taking a break from work for the next two weeks. I was originally planning not to publish for the next two weeks but I might slip in a short piece on vacation-work balance next week. I have added this to my publishing schedule for the year.
Thank you for your understanding and support!
How I got into product marketing
You might not know this: I did not have any formal training in marketing when I joined Buffer. I was studying for an accounting and finance degree when I got the job. Before that, I had a contract job in the marketing and communications team of a big finance company. But I was running errands and doing manual labour work more than anything else—setting up booths at events, packing gift bags, and delivering items (within the same building).
I joined Buffer as a Community Champion, organizing online events, moderating our online forums, and doing customer support. I was lucky in that Buffer was much smaller back then (~50 people) and there was a need for people who are willing to do a bunch of different things. And I did. After a year, I switched roles to be Content Crafter, writing long-form content and managing our blog SEO. I wrote how I became a Content Crafter on my personal blog, so I won't repeat it here.
About two years later, I switched roles again, this time to be a product marketer. This is a story of luck meets hard work. A year before that, our CEO Joel Gascoigne decided we would adopt a multi-product strategy, growing from one product to three or more. We only had one product marketer back then and thought it would be good to have another product marketer to support the group of three to four product managers. I expressed my interest to my manager. Thankfully, I had worked with him for about three years and he had seen the blog posts I had written (well, he trained me), the marketing emails I had sent, and the campaigns I had executed on. Also, despite being a content writer, I was doing things traditionally outside of my role, such as building websites, shipping changes to our website, helping with product newsletters, etc. I guess all that helped. And unlike the rest of the marketing team, I had an interest in product development and design. So I was moved to the product marketing role. My first project was to launch our new product (no pressure), which showed the level of trust my manager had in me. And thanks to all the extra work I was doing before, I had at least the basic skills for putting together a product launch. (I also wrote about the launch on my personal blog.)
Since then, I have been learning more and more about product marketing, such as packaging, email campaigns, in-app messaging, positioning, customer research, and so on. I have also been able to help with the product development because we are selling marketing software and I'm a marketer.
How others got into product marketing
I recently asked on Twitter how product marketers got into product marketing. I also look at a few product marketers' LinkedIn profiles. From what I found, I noticed a trend: most people moved sideways into product marketing from marketing or product.
Based on my experience, moving into product marketing within the same company seems to be the easiest way to get into product marketing. This makes sense because product marketers need to both know marketing and understand product development. By being in the company already, you likely know how the marketing and product teams work and know the product well. This makes it easier for you to get into product marketing than to get a product marketing job at another company.
A few of my friends had gone through this path:
- Mike Eckstein, my fellow product marketer at Buffer, first joined Buffer as a product researcher. He shifted into product marketing after about a year. He had worked in various marketing roles before that, which meant he had experience in both marketing and product before becoming a product marketer.
- Bozena Pieniazek, Director of Marketing at Maze, was a social media and outreach manager at Typeform before she got into product marketing at Typeform.
- Eva Tang, Director of Product Marketing at Precision Nutrition, was a product manager at Precision Nutrition before taking on product marketing at the company.
- As you might have noticed from above, this is my experience, too.
Another pattern I noticed is people getting product and marketing experiences before taking up a product marketing role:
- Anand Patel, a product marketer at TeamSnap, was recruited for a product marketing role by Paysafe because he had seven to eight years of experience in marketing and product. He started his career in social media and online marketing, then product management, then marketing, then product management again.
- Hrefna Helgadóttir, a product marketer at Avo, [h](https://twitter.com/HrefnaHelga/status/1306393015062233088)ad been a product manager with a marketing focus. Before that, she had been switching between product management and marketing at a small team, which required her to wear multiple hats.
- Piyush Varanjani, Product Marketing and Partnership Manager at TransferWise, had been an organizer of Startup Weekend Singapore, a product manager at ZALORA Group, and a product manager intern at Viki. I imagine those experiences gave him a good foundation of product and marketing.
- James Doman-Pipe, Head of Product Marketing at Headstart, was a marketing manager at PredictiveIntent before he took on product marketing at SmartFocus.
- Evelina Sinkevičiūtė, Product Marketer at Detectify, took on several marketing and product roles before becoming a product marketing specialist at Fyde.
This isn't to say you must have marketing or product experience before you can become a product marketer. But having one of those experiences can help you a lot. Based on my limited experience, I think it's easier to get into marketing than product without prior experience in either of them, especially in tech.
Then how can you get into marketing?
How to get into marketing
Start something, grow something.
This is the essence of marketing. It was how I got my first experience in marketing; I started a blog and grew it. It gave me the opportunity to learn many aspects of marketing. For example, writing blog posts is the foundation of content marketing. Then I wanted to grow my audience, so I set up a mailing list and learned to distribute my content through email and social media. I also wanted to understand how my blog is performing, so I set up and learned how to use Google Analytics. I didn't have the budget back then but I could have run ads to learn about advertising, too.
I grew a blog but you don't have to. You could grow a YouTube channel or even a TikTok account. Video content is not easy to create, which makes video creation and editing valuable skills. Or you could grow a Twitter account, as Harry Dry did with @GoodMarketingHQ (an amazing account, by the way). Or grow an Instagram account. There are many other options today.
Pick something you have interest in and build an audience. This will make it easier to get a marketing job, or even a product marketing job, directly.
If you have any questions about getting into product marketing or product marketing in general, let me know!