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MAY 8, 2020 - 30 MIN

Hiring Your First Product Marketer with Ryan Goldman

  • Marketing

Ryan Goldman discussed what product marketing looks like for early stage organizations, and how founders can find their first product marketer.


For many startups, your first marketing hire will be a product marketer. Now more than ever, a great product marketer brings clarity and focus to your product messaging, positioning, and business goals. But finding the right hire to fill the role can be challenging. In his session on Hiring Your First Product Marketer, Pendo VP of Product Marketing Ryan Goldman discussed what product marketing looks like for early stage organizations, and how founders can find their first product marketer.

Learn more about the role of early-stage product marketers and how to evaluate candidates in this recording of Ryan’s full presentation on Hiring Your First Product Marketer, and read on for our key takeaways from the session.

Great product marketing starts with market intimacy

It’s important for product marketers to know the product inside and out. The traditional model of product marketing starts with the product and builds a strategy around it. However, this “inside-out” model can lead to issues with adoption and stickiness, as it starts with features tries to map them to customer needs.

A more modern approach is to build off market intimacy. This model begins with the needs of the market, and develops a product narrative that fits into the larger problems and needs of its audience. Look for a product marketer who is eager to dive into the market and understand your user base. “The best advice I can give about hiring a product marketer is make sure they understand your market, and your business, and your customer,” advised Ryan during the session. “They have to be focused on driving outcomes and strategy for your community.”

There is space for product marketing in a product-led organization

Many teams building technical products believe that they don’t need marketing because their product is good enough to speak for itself. The industry is full of stories of products which have built a cult following seemingly based on word of mouth alone. But neglecting product marketing does have a cost, especially as your customer base grows. Ryan pointed out that these product-led organizations tend to spend far more on R&D expenses compared to other organizations.

Product marketing does the work of positioning and messaging that will actually drive adoption as you introduce new products and features. “Without thinking about the market and the customer, and only thinking about what you can build, you stop thinking about what you should build — and for whom.” said Ryan. A product marketer can ask the right questions about your market and how your product fits into it before you build the next feature, ensuring that you’re seeing the ROI you need from product development to be successful.

Your first product marketer’s role won’t look like a product marketer for an mature org

If you’re considering hiring a product marketer, you’ve probably seen the complex map of activities and responsibilities (something like the one below) that fall under the mantle of product marketing. Many founders look at these lists of priorities and believe that they need to hire a first product marketer who can do everything right out of the gate.

Source: Pragmatic Institute

Not only is it nearly impossible to find a marketer who checks every single box, it isn’t necessary. In the earliest stages, product marketing will likely focus on a few key go-to-market initiatives. Focus on which areas within this framework are will have the greatest impact right now, and hire for those needs. This will ensure that your product marketing initiatives are aligned with your business goals.

Product marketing is about more than lead generation

Ryan noted that the most common question people ask him is about the best KPIs for measuring the success of a product marketer. He warns teams against taking a lead-focused, funnel-based approach, as product marketing encompasses much more than demand generation. “There will never be metrics that product marketing wholly owns,” said Ryan. “Product marketing’s entire measurement should be on how well it multiples other people’s work.”

Instead of focusing on lead generation only, think about the lifetime value of your relationship of your customer and how product marketing influences that value long-term. From improving conversion rates through the pipeline to better enabling customer success, a high-functioning product marketer will touch many parts of the organization.

Learn more about early-stage marketing best practices

Learn more about product marketing and other go-to-market best practices in the Heavybit Library. For more from Ryan, watch his panel on Efficient Lead Gen and Marketing Ops.