Digital Marketing Interview Series with the Product Marketing Associate at HubSpot
Maggie Hibma is a Product Marketing Associate at HubSpot. Here are her thoughts on product marketing:
What do you see as the biggest challenge for product marketers over the next year?
On my team, we talk a lot about digging into the product story to find the “why it matters”. Companies launch new products to solve the problems of their customers. To that point, it’s up to the product marketer to convey that message to buyers and customers. For the “why it matters,” it can be easy to fall back on what the technology does, as opposed to what the technology does for your customers. How will it benefit them? What problems does it solve for them? Why should they care? Pulling this messaging and positioning out of each and every product launch and getting it to really resonate with your audience isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Over the next year, it’s up to product marketers to pull out this differentiation to stand out in markets that are becoming more saturated with products and solutions.
How did you get the background and skills necessary?
Actually, my background isn’t in traditional marketing -- it’s in journalism (learn about content marketing and other digital marketing programs at the P.A.C.E digital marketing training workshop). But it turns out that’s exactly what I needed to build up my skill set to be a product marketer. It taught me the most essential skill in my job: Communication. Not only good, strong writing skills, but communication methods, too. Every product launch has several audiences, like your customers, your prospects and your internal teams at your company. They all need to know about the release, but the approach for each audience is different. Your sales team needs the same information as your customers, but not always presented and communicated in the same way. Being a journalist taught me how to work well under pressure, all about cross-team coordination and the ability to drill down into the crux of the story and pull out what really matters. All those skills, in my opinion, are a must-have for product marketers.
What advice would you give to young people who want to become a product marketer some day?
If you want to become a good product marketer, you have to be able to recognize good product marketing. And luckily, it’s happening all over the place right now. For example, Apple has always been a leader in how they launch new products and features, and our team here at HubSpot has taken a page from their playbook here and there. It's important to stay current and inspired when it comes to crafting your product's story. If you think you want to become a product marketer, take a look at new products through a different lens. What’s the story here? How is this company positioning this new product or service? What’s the difference between them and their competitors? How do you know? Bonus points if you write down your thoughts on your own blog on your own website. That’s one surefire way to get noticed by hiring managers.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in product marketing teams in recent years compared to ten years ago?
One thing that we as product marketers have today that hasn’t always been readily available is the sheer amount of information we have on how our customers are using our products, what they like our about products, and what keeps them from adoption. Some of the data we think about on our team is product usage stats, especially around our newer customers, which gives us some good insights into how our launches are performing. We also look at any engagement metrics on the content we create for launches, like downloads, click-through rates, shares and more. The time-to-feedback on how our launches perform keep getting shorter and shorter, and we’ve become more agile in our marketing strategies because of it.
What do you consider essential skills for product marketers these days?
Here’s a couple on my list:
- Storytelling. This absolutely encompasses “good writing skills”, but telling a good story isn’t just writing a good story. If you can’t grab a reader and make them care about or relate to what they’re reading, the less likely they are to care about or buy your product.
- Communication. Product launches require communication not only to your customers and prospects, but your internal team as well. Knowing who needs to know what is important, and understanding how best to communicate that information to them is essential. Having the ability to tell a story is one thing, but being able to translate that story across channels from your email copy, to your product page, to your in-app copy in a consistent and valuable way requires some savvy communication and writing skills.
- Curiosity. Okay, this may not be actually dubbed a “skill,” but it’s essential for product marketers to be curious. You have to be curious about your customers, what makes them love your product and how it helps them solve problems. You have to be curious about your industry so you can understand past trends and spot new ones. As a product marketer, you have to dig deep into the people using your product and why they use it.
What’s an underrated skill for product marketers these days?
There’s one particular skill I think is really important in a product marketer, and I’ve dubbed it “Flexation.” (You can use it too, if you’d like!) Part of my job is being organized enough to know what kind of activities or content can be worked on before, during and after a product launch so that I’m always preparing myself for what’s next. The other part of my job is being flexible enough to adapt when that “what’s next” changes at the drop of a dime. That’s your day-to-day when you work with a product team. If your product team is listening to their customers, there tends to be changes and adaptations to the way a feature looks and feels throughout the pre-launch process. If you’re organized on what needs to happen on your end, you’ll be able to be flexible when these changes happen. Let me tell you -- this is not easy. But mastering this skill can make a product marketer’s job a whole lot easier. (See what Sunny Lenarduzzi, a Huffington writer and popular YouTuber, has to suggest to young marketers.)