Product marketing means different things at different companies, but there are common traits that seem to be shared across the truly great ones. Here are my observations on habits that set the rockstars apart from the rest.

1. They practice empathy

Empathetic marketing is the habitual practice of putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience, beginning with developing a deep understanding of their pain points. Get out of the building, meet your customers, and ask them probing questions about their goals and impediments to those goals. This isn’t an exercise with a stop whistle, it’s an on-going process.

Of course, any good product marketing manager should really know their customers’ pain points, but the difference between a good product marketing manager and a great product marketing manager is sensitivity to their customers’ perspectives. If I were a prospect who received this email, would I click on this button? If I were sent this video, would I be intrigued by the content or put off by the tone?

It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm and internal rhetoric around your product’s value proposition, but developing genuine empathy will keep you honest, on-point, and pragmatic in your marketing.

2. They tell a story

The writers at Pixar are some of the most talented storytellers out there. They know how to build up a struggle, get their audience to relate to that struggle, and then bring about a satisfying resolution.

Product marketing managers are the storytellers of the organization. The great ones recognize that people respond emotionally to a shared problem, leading them to follow your narrative through to a triumphant resolution with tangible results.

Whether you are writing copy for product messaging, crafting a webinar script, or giving a demo at an industry event, the great product marketing managers can draw in their audience with a story. In the same way you wouldn’t skip to the last 15 minutes of the movie, you shouldn’t jump straight to your product’s solutions without cultivating a relatable struggle.

3. They understand the technical

Product marketing managers in tech organizations are often sandwiched in between marketing and product, and must be well-equipped to explain the product benefits externally, while acting as the voice of the customer internally.

Great product marketing managers are able to speak the language of the product team to accurately comprehend the solution, while understanding the customer well-enough to articulate the value proposition. Product marketing managers also need to anticipate technical questions or objections, and work with the product team to enable sales to respond appropriately.

While you don’t need to fully understand the underlying building blocks (read: code) of your product, great product marketing managers have a high degree of technical curiosity which enables them to better articulate the why by appreciating the how.

4. They keep it simple

If you’ve ever read a piece of product marketing collateral and were confused by its complexity, it’s likely the author didn’t fully understand it either. It’s not enough to nail point #3 above – product marketing managers also have to distill the complex into simple terms.

Here’s a test: if you can’t explain your product to a 10-year old, you probably don’t truly understand the value proposition.

Another bad sign would be long and wordy collateral. Whether it’s internal sales enablement or outbound marketing, the ability to craft a succinct and compelling message is a difficult skill to master.

5. They strap on that bulletproof vest

In a fast-growing a company, you’re constantly under fire across the organization for a variety of “high priority” items. You’re in demand from the sales team, product team, marketing team, and customer success team all at the same time.

A great product marketing manager has a well-honed ability to prioritize projects, manage expectations, and execute quickly. When colleagues put on the pressure, they don’t get frustrated.

Make sure everyone understands what’s on your plate and let them advise on your priorities. They’ll appreciate being part of the process and empathize with your workload.

In my experience, these five habits will set you up for success, although there are many more best practices to follow.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ll throw in this bonus tip: Stay humble about what you don’t know.

Your colleagues are your greatest resource, seek out the ones who will be generous with their time and help you better understand the customer, competitive landscape, and sales strategies. Ask for their expertise, diversify your sources, and your job will be much easier.

Thanks for reading, I’d be curious to know what you would add to this list?

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