As product marketers, we’re experts at crafting personas, but I want to flip the work we normally do on its head and dive into the personas of product marketers themselves.
Successful product marketing is not a one-man band, it takes a team, and following many interviews over many months I came up with five product marketing personas, which if assembled can create an unstoppable PMM force and award-winning go-to-market team within an org. In this article, I’ll take you through each of these personas in more detail.
My name's Yoni Solomon, I'm Chicago born and raised, and in this article, I'll be writing about my favorite topic of them all - product marketing and go-to-market.
I've spent about a decade launching products, capabilities, acquisitions, partnerships, a little bit of everything in between for some of Chicago's top SaaS companies. Today, I'm head of all things go-to-market at G2.
I want to use this opportunity to introduce a brand new exercise where I'm actually going to flip the script, and I'm going to dive into the persona work on ourselves. That's right, I'm going to do persona work on the team that's always out there doing the persona work.
The genesis of this whole project is threefold.
For starters, when I got to G2, we knew we needed to build out the product marketing organization, the entire function from scratch. For the first time, I really needed to start to think about how I was going to go about building this team and not just bringing in the very best product marketers, but bringing in the right product marketers, the right fit with skills that were diverse and complementary to the stuff that I could do well.
In addition to that, I've also been doing a lot of reading on the side into enneagrams. I find them fascinating. In its own way, that's persona work too, it combines core skills, talents, leanings, with your background, to create this really cool composite of who you are. I think that's really cool and relatable to a lot of the work that we as product marketers do today.
Lastly, this is really top of mind, because the team and I at G2 happen to be in the middle of some pretty intense persona work at the moment.
Combine all of those elements and what we end up with is this exercise today, going through the first-ever reverse exercise persona on ourselves as product marketers.
Living at the intersection
There's never been a better time to do that than now because let me tell you, living at the intersection is hard and it is really getting harder.
Businesses are growing more complex categories, seemingly every day I see this at G2, they're growing more competitive and full, the economy's changing, we're starting to feel that now and for us in software, the way that we release new capabilities to the market, it's really changing too.
It used to take three months or longer to release, now those releases are happening in three weeks or less. AI is writing its own code, and things are starting to snowball and move at this really, really rapid pace for us product marketers.
And aligning it
And yet, it is our job as product marketers to find a way to make sense of it all and to make the intersection that we all live in between product, marketing, and sales, look a lot like this.
A funny story
After nearly a decade of trying, I finally was able to crack the code on explaining to my very non-technical parents, what the heck I do for a living.
We were at dinner a few weeks ago, and yet again, after explaining to my parents that I'm not the one running Superbowl ads, or putting their display ads online, or television commercials, I finally took a step back and I pointed to this surge protector that was on the floor in our living room.
I said, "You see how all of those plugs sort of fit into the size and on the top of the surge protector?" They look at it and say, "Okay, yeah", I say, "Well, you know, the surge protector essentially organizes all of these different plugs that are running their own currents from all of these other systems and they house them and organize them and essentially keep the sockets from busting out. That's what I do for a living".
They were like, "Huh, okay, well, I finally get it now".
That's really what we are, we're human surge protectors, who live at the intersection to keep everyone in product and in marketing and in sales moving in the right direction with speed and efficiency without hopefully burning the house down.
That's the ideal state. In a perfect world, I think every day at the intersection would look a lot like the above image, but we know, it can't always look like that.
It takes a team
The truth is, in order to keep things running smoothly at the intersection of companies, we can't do it alone. It takes an entire team of very, very special human beings with different talents and diverse skill sets to make that happen.
It's true in business as a whole and it's actually true in product marketing, too.
Who are we as PMMs?
But with that said, who are we as product marketers? We're not all the same. Who thinks that every single product marketer has the exact same skill sets?
We all come from different backgrounds, and some of the very best product marketers I've ever worked with, haven't even spent their entire career in product marketing. They've grown into that role.
I started in CS myself. I'm finding with most product marketers I interview at G2, we all fell into it in some way, shape, or form. This was something in particular that was a recurring theme in the dozens of interviews I was running when we were trying to build in the team.
Before I get started with these personas, I think it's really important to acknowledge the fact that we all come from a slightly different area and that tweaks our professional experiences, that tweaks our skill sets, and it perhaps points us into a specific avenue in product marketing, where we can add value to a team.
Not all or even many PMMs have a traditional marketing degree. Some have a degree in creative arts, or perhaps music or advertising or creative writing. Again, we see a bunch of different skill sets come through, I was an advertising and theatre major myself. You really never know how all of those talents get fed into the product marketing role.
With that, I'm going to do a persona exercise here and as I go through this, you may start to do a little bit of self-evaluation and start to plug your skill sets and backgrounds into these five different types of product marketers, that I've tried to round up.
Meet our 5 product marketing personas
For a little bit of background, this has been gleaned from over 150 interviews, both with candidates and on the side, over the course of approximately eight months. So since the start of February 1.
I always like to use celebrities when doing some persona work and in this case, they all really fit and so we before I go too far in, just in case anyone reading doesn't know who these people are in the images, we have:
- JK Rowling, who obviously wrote the Harry Potter series.
- Freddie Mercury, the legendary frontman of Queen.
- Steve Jobs, you're probably using a phone that he built in some way, shape, or form.
- My personal favorite, and also my fiance's personal favorite Marie Kondo.
- The greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan.
Now I'm going to dive into some persona work on all of us product marketers.
I wanted to keep these as easy and digestible as possible so all of these persona cards are going to follow more or less a similar formula, in terms of:
- Who this persona is,
- What their core skills are,
- What do they bring to the table?
- What do they best understand on their team of product marketers? Finally,
- What are the most addressable KPIs that we can use as team leads to manage and benchmark their success?
Meet the storyteller, the core skills that she brings to the table?
This is your expert story builder. Ultimately, what this means is she understands our buyers and their problems, quite frankly, better than anyone else on the team.
She really knows how to articulate those in the written word in a way that totally resonates. How does she do this?
Well, her signature output is probably going to be what we call 'message houses' at G2, but foundational messaging documents or messaging platforms is also what they're known as.
Whatever we want to call them there is no one better to do a capabilities messaging exercise to hone in on the value than her. She also understands our personas really well as well. So if you're looking to create persona battle cards, and cue cards, this is probably a great output for a product marketer who leans heavily into the storyteller mode.
As far as the metrics that we use to gauge her success, at least from what I see a G2, our message houses actually are a handoff and they feed into the creative and brand side of the house, where we have demand generation, copywriters, landing page builders, and everyone in between, who essentially use this source material to run their campaigns.
Really, it's a great litmus test to having an understanding of how well your message is performing, when you're literally seeing that demand come through or not. It's either resonating at the very top of the funnel both with Demand Gen MQLs in terms of net new business and also with customer MQLs, upsell, renewal opportunities.
But getting those stories right is absolutely mission-critical to building these top of funnel tools that convert. With that said, this person ultimately is the product marketer in your team who is going to write the value messaging that inspires people to care and to share and ultimately to convert with your content.
Up next, meet the performer. By the way, if you've seen Bohemian Rhapsody, the film, I was totally obsessed with this movie. There's an amazing YouTube clip online of Freddie Mercury live at Wembley Stadium where they were doing a big concert. He goes through this exercise of basically singing scales to the audience and then pointing back at them.
I have never found a better example of human being alignment than Freddie Mercury leading 50,000 people in this scaled chorus, it was unbelievable. He would have been the world's greatest product marketer if he'd decided to go into it.
What is the core skill set that this person brings to the table? These are your expert in-person enablers of the capabilities, the tools, and the value stories, that you're rolling out to their teams. These are the expert storytellers and they, at their core, understand your people facing teams in sales, in CS, and more.
They understand really how these teams like to learn and also, just as importantly, they understand how to add excitement and enthusiasm, and fun to training.
You need to inspire some serious product market confidence, especially with your sales org, so they can hit the ground running, and feel confident and excited to sell what you just introduced to them.
That's why some really interesting success indicators for this persona would include go-to-market certification, hopefully, they're working side by side with sales enablement, and they're measuring time to first deal. Quite literally:
- How fast are you delivering training, certification materials, and resources to a sales team?
- How fast are these human beings taking this information into their brains, hitting the market, and closing those few critical first deals when your capability launches?
In particular, I love finding non-traditional candidates in product marketing who tend to lean heavily into the performer mode. This is a great example where folks with a background in creative arts and education can be strong fits.
I actually have one of these folks on my team today and when she's not absolutely crushing product marketing at G2 she actually has another full-time job as a wedding singer over the weekends. She is just everywhere and in constant performer mode and a great archetype for this persona in particular.
This is a face that everybody should know, he probably pounds for pound, the most famous product marketer of all time - Steve Jobs. Meet the evangelist.
This is your ultimate product expert in your go-to-market function. I've found that in organizations these tend to typically be really long-tenured marketing team members who perhaps started in something like CS, or as a CR/BDR, or perhaps even in ops and they moved over to the product marketing team because they could write and story tell, and there was a really significant need for someone to start producing content.
At the end of the day, it's not hard to understand why they're so good at their roles. Every team needs a product marketer who knows the ins and outs of your product and its nuts and bolts. When they're great communicators on top of that, they're actually tailor-made for simplifying your tools and capabilities for the masses, so that everyone and anyone can understand them.
That's why signature outputs for these folks include really amazing user guides, FAQs, they can go really deep on objections handling, and some of the best work that you'll find out there for enabling your sales team with product-related information that they need.
Because they're so close to the product, they're actually in a really ideal position to manage some of the KPIs that we could associate with this team. I would love to focus my team, in terms of really dialing in on product satisfaction, collecting feedback, even managing a beta group to make sure that we are eliciting customer feedback and taking it back to improve our messaging and improve our products.
Again, I actually have one of these folks on my team today. She's just celebrated her fourth year anniversary at G2, she started in CS and again, moved into the product marketing and enablement function because they didn't have anything at the time. She fell into that naturally.
Actually, when I started my career at a company called Fives, I spent five and a half years there out of school, and I started in CS, I got really close to the platform, on the phone all the time with customers, and at the end of the day, they needed someone who could write and I found my way into that role as well.
So if you're looking for younger members of the team, who've perhaps always called your organization home, who at the same time have really good natural skills for communication and simplifying complex messaging, it's probably a great indicator that you have a potential evangelist that you can loop into your product marketing organization.
Up next, again, my fiance's favorite persona of the bunch, meet the strategist.
We all know that we need one. We need someone who's going to be there to ensure an extremely successful and organized go-to-market launch. Where everything happens in sequential order and everyone across all functions in product, sales, and marketing, knows exactly where they need to be, and when and what they need to do.
This is a great example of someone that we need on all of our teams. These personas are experts in essentially bringing go-to-market concepts, that your storytellers are probably infusing into their messaging guides, bringing those concepts to life, meaning they can look at those message houses, and they can actually conceptualize a real way to introduce this value story into the world.
These are experts in execution, they shine truly by bringing creative campaigns, defined segments, and expert workflows to the table, and knowing enough about all three of those areas, to really have a strong seat at the table with your ops and demand Gen teams to basically ensure that things get launched the right way.
That's why I focus on pipeline creation and influence as actually a really good baseline for addressable KPIs for this type of product marketer.
Generally, look for product marketers with a fun background in growth or project management or ops. Perhaps early in their careers, they worked for an agency or perhaps they implemented and managed a marketing automation tool. They're close to the tools, they understand campaigns intuitively.
Finally, whatever the background may be, these are the folks with the expertise you'll need to bridge that really important gap between product marketing on the backside versus go-to-market external launches on the front, to ensure that your campaigns are truly being brought to life and being brought to market in the most effective way possible.
Finally, meet the playmaker. This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest product marketing personas to find because historically, I've always felt that the KPIs and revenue had been more on the demand side of the fence, it just ties in a little bit more naturally.
With product marketing, we're now just starting to get really wise about the way that we build KPI stories and revenue stories for the products that we launch. This is a really critical role to have nonetheless.
Basically, the summary on this product marketing type is to give them the ball and then just get the heck out of the way. Because they are going to find ways to get revenue for your products, they're going to find a way to attribute it so you know exactly the impact that your team is making on the bottom line.
For whatever reason, these product marketers are exceptionally and naturally close to the sales organizations, perhaps they're former SDRs themselves.
A member of my previous team at my previous company actually started as an SDR and as a result, she had this really intuitive understanding of the right way to work with sales, to get products into the market, and most importantly, which reports to access, which reports to build, and how to measure success.
So perhaps they are former SDRs, maybe they've worked in Ops, or maybe they've been in enablement up to this point and they actually want to jump from the other side of the fence from sales enablement into product marketing to give that a spin.
Ultimately, these people understand how your sales cycle operates. They know where the revenue opportunities lie, they understand the companies, they understand the deals, and they know when the best time to launch is.
Is it the beginning of a quarter? It's probably not the end of a quarter, where in the middle and how does that change from an SMB crew, to mid-market, to enterprise? All of these different things that you need, when you're really tied into the sales organization, they're going to be your leader to establish best practices and how you work with that team.
They are amazing partners and collaborators with sales, they can drive win-loss, which we know is extremely important. They can also conduct expert analysis on anything from competitive intel to new market entry.
At the end of the day, that's why we ultimately benchmark these personas with closed-won. That includes new business, that's going to include renewals, and of course, upsell with existing customers.
What do you all get at the end of the day? I've covered a lot and there are quite a few different personas and backgrounds and skillsets, all under the product marketing umbrella.
An unstoppable team
But what's really interesting about all these personas is when you really look at them from end to end, they all fit in really seamlessly with each other.
Because at the end of the day, when you take these persona considerations into heart, and you build a balanced and versatile team, based on some of the strengths that these product marketers bring to the table, they're not only capable of adding value, but they're going to take that value, and they're actually going to run with it end to end.
- They're going to be capable of essentially uncovering the value stories that you need.
- They're gonna be able to articulate those stories in-person to your teams so people feel inspired and educated to take them and use them.
- They're going to root those stories in the actual capabilities and tools that you sell so people know how it ties back to the actual functionality and the capabilities that you offer.
- They're going to introduce it to the world in the most organized and easy-to-understand way possible that drives leads and pipeline.
- Finally, they're going to understand your sales process well enough to take that value story at the very end and utterly transform it into value that's measurable and provable.
I mean, that sounds pretty good to me, right? That sounds like a really great take on a product marketing team.
I think when I bring this up in interviews, candidates start to go through this process of 'Alright, so I'm kind of a storyteller, and I'm kind of a performer...', well, what if you're not a 10 out of 10 in all five?
The truth is, no one is. If you find anyone with a 10 out of 10 in all of these areas, please let me know, because I'm really looking to hire at the moment.
But I think the best-case scenario that I've seen more often than not, is that if you can find product marketers who are really strong and lean heavily into two of these areas where they're like, an eight, nine, or even 10 out of 10, and you can up-level the rest of their toolkit to be a six, seven, certainly an eight, then you've found yourself some really dangerous product marketers who can play in all of these areas really effectively:
- Crafting stories,
- Presenting those stories themselves,
- Rooting into the product and understanding exactly what they're selling,
- Launching an extremely specific, highly organized, go-to-market campaign, and, of course,
- Working hand in hand with sales in those very moments to make sure that there's demonstratable revenue.
That's a pretty great product marketer if you can find them. Ultimately, I think if we keep true to these five characteristics, we're all going to do a great job of developing this next generation of product marketing rockstars who are going to take this practice that we all love so much to the very next level.
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