Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How to Transition into Product Marketing

My first job out of college I was a online marketing web analyst. It was a great first job but after a year and a half I was ready to look for something else. At the company I worked for, internal transfers were encouraged. Naturally, I looked first at the different functions I interacted with every day. After working with Product Marketers, I always thought it seemed like a cool role. The role seemed strategic, analytical and creative. I liked the kinds of people that were in Product Marketing. Eventually, I was able to transition into a Product Marketing role, but it was no easy task. Below are a few tips I learned during my transition and from helping others make the move into Product marketing.

meme about transitioning into Product Marketing

Make the transition at your current company. In my experience, companies are much more willing to bet on an internal employee transitioning into a new role, than an outside hire. It's no secret that recruiters are not incentivized to read between the lines. If you apply for a Product Marketing job at another company, you probably won't make it past the screeners, especially if you have no prior explicit Product Marketing experience.

Get to know every Product Marketer at your company that you can, at all levels. You want to have as many "lines in the water" as possible. Especially in large companies, the more Product Marketers you talk to, the more your name will come up when they are looking for new team members. While I do encourage you to talk to PMM hiring managers, lower level Product Marketer will often have a say in hiring decisions and even more importantly can have the ability to put in a good word that can mean the difference between getting an interview or not.

Succeed at your current job. A hiring manager I know was considering hiring an internal transfer, but after asking around about this person she learned that this person had a reputation of being hard to work with. If your reputation is not stellar or you're underperforming, you will be unsuccessful making the transition into a strategic, in demand role, because the hiring manager will always ask around.

Get your current manager to be your advocate.  This advice will help for trying to transition into any role, but it will go a long way if your manager and further up the chain think you're great and are willing to put in a good word for you.

Connect the dots on your relevant skills. In your resume, interviews, and casual chats with PMM's help them connect the dots on how your experience will help you succeed as a Product Marketer. This might mean highlighting transferable skills, spending more time talking about your work at a previous job or talking about a side project. I helped hire a Product Marketer from our sales team, that connected the dots by wisely positioning her popular food blog as an example of her marketing abilities.

Develop relevant skills. Pick up a side project at work. Help a friend's start up, or launch a blog. If you don't have any of the skills on a Product Marketing job description. Get busy!

Become a product expert. Product Marketers need to understand the product and the needs of the customers. Your position will be much stronger to make the transition if you are an expert in the product.

Be patient. The first time I tried to transition into a Product Marketing role, the hiring manager was a good friend and I was the company's expert on the product. I thought I was a shoo-in, but ended up getting beat out by someone with an MBA and more marketing experience. I was devastated. I almost quit. I called up a mentor and he told me to be patient. Sure enough, a few months later another role opened up and I got the job. Keep at it!

Hope this helps. If you are interested in other ways to get into Product Marketing other than transitioning within your company, check out my other post How to Get a Job in Product Marketing.