10 Important Takeaways from the 2020 Product Marketing Report
Product marketing is still a relatively new discipline, which makes taking stock of where the industry is and where it’s heading especially important. For product marketing professionals, your job and perceived value are tied up in how organizations see the larger field of product marketing. To understand where you fit into the industry and how your experiences compare to those of your peers, you need a way to gauge what’s normal in the field.
10 Takeaways for Product Marketers
1. Most product marketing teams are small.
Even though product marketing teams often have a lot of responsibilities to manage, most businesses aren’t investing in hiring a lot of people to do that work. In fact, 21% of people in the survey reported that they’re the only person on their organization’s product marketing team. Two and three people teams are the next most common, with 15% and 14% of product marketers reporting teams of that size.
That said, 11% of respondents are on teams of over ten people, so some large product marketing departments do exist. The research suggests larger teams are more common at mid and late-growth businesses, while newer startups are more likely to stick with small ones.
2. Product marketers are nonetheless saddled with a lot of work.
Even though teams are tiny, most product marketers are tasked with providing support for multiple products. Over a third of all respondents said their team is responsible for five or more products. For teams having to manage product research, competitive analysis, sales enablement, and marketing support—doing that for five products is a lot.
3. Product marketers don’t feel understood.
For your organization to provide the support you need to do a good job, they have to understand what you do and why it’s valuable. Product marketers are still struggling with that part. Over a fifth of the respondents said people in their organization didn’t understand the role of product marketing and it’s a constant struggle. Just under half reported that some of their colleagues get it, but others don’t.
Only 5% said their organization 100% understands product marketing and why it’s important.
If you struggle with getting support in your organization, this is the first big hurdle you have to manage. Your colleagues—executives in particular—need to understand what your team does and how it will help the larger organization in its goals.
4. Product marketers lack power over the product.
Another common issue product marketers reported is not having enough influence over the products they’re responsible for supporting. When asked on a scale of one to ten how much power they have to influence the products they represent, the average answer was 5.9. Considering how much knowledge product marketers have about the product, where it fits into the industry, and how customers respond to it, that’s a real missed opportunity.
Organizations that learn the value of looping product marketing into decisions about product design are likely to outperform those that don’t.
5. Many also lack access to customers.
A big part of effective product marketing is understanding who your audience is and how they feel about the product. And yet, the survey found that over a fifth of product marketers never talk to customers directly.
A decent portion of product marketing professionals are stuck relying on feedback they get from other internal teams. Sure, you can learn a lot about how customers respond to the product from the sales and customer service teams. But information that comes directly from the source will always be better.
Fortunately, more product marketing teams than not are actively reaching out to customers. 34% report doing so several times a month, and over a quarter are in touch with them at least weekly.
6. Product marketing roles are most common in B2B.
73% of all respondents said they work in business-to-business companies, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products are especially common. This may be due to the complexity of the products that are commonly used by businesses, as well the larger price tags they tend to command.
7. Product marketers are collaborators.
Product marketers often play the role of go-between for different departments in an organization. A big part of the job is working with various other departments within the company. Specifically, product marketers in the survey said that:
- 88% of them work with the product team
- 84% with marketing
- 76% with sales
- 43% with customer success
Considering all the different departments product marketers interact with on a regular basis, it’s not surprising that 78% of them named collaboration as one of the most important skills a product marketer needs. No matter your organization, having the ability to work with people in a range of roles is imperative to being an effective product marketer.
8. Product marketers are also trusted and included by leadership.
Here’s some good news! In addition to working closely with all those other departments, many product marketers work directly with the executive team as well. 55% say that a representative from the product marketing team is included in leadership meetings. And another 25% say they’re invited to those meetings almost all the time.
That suggests that, even as product marketing isn’t as widely understood as we might hope, people in positions of power are paying attention to the input of product marketers. At least at some companies, product marketing teams have a seat at the table that matters most.
9. Software investment is the biggest expense.
Product marketing budgets are divided between a number of different categories. The one that takes up the biggest share is software, which claims an average of 33% of product marketing budgets. Considering how small most product marketing teams are, software products may well be the best solution for making product marketing more efficient.
Following software, content and advertising are some of the biggest expenditures. Video content creation, written content, paid advertising, and conferences are four of the biggest expenses product marketers have.
10. Product marketers have a few key skills and responsibilities.
Product marketing roles aren’t standard across organizations. A job at one company could look completely different than one with a similar title somewhere else. Yet, we did find some clear responsibilities that product marketers are regularly put in charge of:
- Nearly 93% of respondents reported being responsible for positioning and messaging.
- 85% handle product launches.
- Around 74% create sales collateral.
- Over 70% take on customer and market research.
Product marketers are also in agreement on a number of the most important skills required to do the job. Topping their list is:
- Strong communication (80%)
- Collaborating with coworkers (78%)
- Creativity and problem solving (77%)
For anyone trying to pin down just what product marketing is and what it takes to be a successful product marketer, these answers provide some clarity.
Product Marketing Predictions and Hopes for 2020
What does the report have to tell us about the future of product marketing? It presents a few areas where we see room for improvement, or trends likely to come into play in the coming year.
Product marketers will emphasize internal marketing.
Too many product marketers are dealing with colleagues in their organization that don’t understand what they do or why it matters. But product marketers are marketers—it’s right there in the name. You have the skills to figure out the best way to position yourself and make the case for the value you provide to your coworkers. If this hasn’t been a priority so far, it may be a valuable job to tackle in the coming year.
Product marketing’s role will gain more clarity.
Product marketing still means different things to different people. One thing that will help product marketers better make the case to others is to find more clarity and consistency within the product marketing industry. Reports like this one help with that. And the fact that many of the responses show some clear trends in roles and responsibilities associated with product marketing can help professionals in the field better define the term moving forward.
Product marketing investments will grow.
The number of executives including product marketers in their meetings is promising. Hopefully, it will lead to more and more of them recognizing the value product marketing provides and putting more investment into doing it well. In particular, too many product marketers are managing lots of products with tiny teams. Our hope is that 2020 (and the years to come) will lead to an increase in the number of people balancing the many tasks involved in product marketing.
More marketing professionals will treat product marketing as a long-term career path.
Over 66% of product marketers in the survey said they intended to stick with it as a long-term career path. That’s good news for the field, as it means more seasoned professionals bringing years of experience and knowledge to the job. That can only lead to better results, which will reinforce product marketing’s value to executives over time.
Product marketing as a field is likely to grow in importance in the years to come. As long as product marketers can do the work of proving themselves to others in their organizations and making the continued case for their value, the field is likely to gain prominence. And professionals with skills and knowledge in communication, collaboration and messaging will excel.
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