Engagement and Worklife Study of B2B Product Marketers

Posted on: September 9, 2022
By: Matthew Reeves

In August and September this year — 2022 for those visiting from the future — we surveyed a host of Product Marketers about the state of the world.

We asked Product Marketers hard-hitting questions:

  • Are they worried about a downturn?
  • Do they like their job?
  • And, do their parents know what product marketing is?

We found some interesting insights:

  • PMM job satisfaction has dipped, but most are still satisfied with their role.
  • Product Marketers expect a decline in budgets but feel their job is safe.
  • Product Marketers want to improve at their ability to create strategic narrative and positioning, but there are a number of things Product Marketers want to do less of.

This blog is a write-up of what will surely be recognized as a seminal work of Product Marketing research.

Demographics of our research audience

As the title suggests, we spoke to Product Marketing professionals. We aimed to talk to an audience that skewed more senior and more experienced.

The Roles of People we Surveyed

The majority of survey takers were more senior: Directors or Managers.

You can see below an “other” section, these tended to be variations where the seniority wasn’t clear. E.g., Product Marketing and Growth Manager, or Product Marketing People Manager.

Organization Size of the survey group

It speaks to our research pool and is representative of the type of organization we work with here at Goldpan that the organization most commonly represented in the survey is on the larger size, but not quite enterprise.

How many Product Marketers were in the company?

I found this result surprising. Given greater than 60% of our survey responses came from people in organizations with over 1,000 employees, I’d expected to see more responses in the 26+ range. Not so.

It seems Product Marketers make up about 1% of an organization’s headcount.

Enough about demographics, onto the juicy stuff: are Product Marketers worried about a recession?

Subtitle: recession concerns among product marketers

Recession Concerns Among Product Marketers

Spend any time reading tech news, and you’ll have seen flurries of stories about businesses enacting hiring freezes, cutting staff, and reducing budgets.

I wanted to understand if this translated into uncertainty with Product Marketers.

Many responses come from Product Marketers at larger organizations which are probably more financially stable than a heavily leveraged startup. That said:

61% of Product Marketers were concerned about a recession or slowdown, but only somewhat concerned.

Although it was a split audience.

Take a look at the chart below.

26% of Product Marketers were “not at all” worried about a recession or business slowdown, a minority.

So, knowing that Product Marketers are somewhat uncertain about the months ahead. What specifically are they concerned about? That’s what we’ll dig into next.

Product Marketers’ Economic Outlook

We broke this section into a number of parts. When you think of an economic downturn the most common fears are company downsizing (in general), losing your job, and general budget cuts. That’s what we wanted to dig into.

Here’s what we found.

Are you concerned about the business downsizing?

93% of Product Marketers are not concerned with their business downsizing in the next 3-6 months.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen articles reporting hiring freezes and downsizing, so I’d expected more PMMs to be worried about potential downsizing. That said, and I’ll keep mentioning it, it might a function that larger companies have more security, and larger companies make up more of our research responses.

Are you concerned about losing your job?

Most Product Marketers are not worried about losing their job in the coming months.

While I’m glad PMMs aren’t concerned about job losses, if they are worried about an economic impact (seen above), what are they worried about?

Do you expect budget cuts in the next 3-6 months?

46% of Product Marketers expect budget cuts in the next 3-6 months. Which isn’t quite a majority but a sizeable portion of PMMs.

What about the workload?

Do you expect to have more work with the same or smaller team?

61% of Product Marketers Expect to have more work with the same or fewer resources in the coming months.

What I’m inferring from this — which may not be completely accurate — is that the Product Marketers we surveyed anticipate a slowdown, they anticipate hiring freezes (I wish I’d asked about those specifically, darn) but will not have the ability to outsource support, bring on tools or be able to hire to backfill roles.

I expect Product Marketers to be getting a whole lot more stressed. That leads us neatly into the next section. How is Product Marketers’ job satisfaction?

Job Satisfaction Among Product Marketers

We kept it simple and asked:

Do you currently like your job?

66% of Product Marketers surveyed said they either ‘Strongly Like’ or ‘Like’ their role in Product Marketing.

Not really a surprise given that we interviewed Product Marketers who were Manager or Director level at larger firms. Although we didn’t ask explicitly, the likelihood is that people who didn’t like the role may have transitioned onto something else by now in their careers.

How has your job satisfaction changed over the last 12 months?

60% of Product Marketers said their job satisfaction had stayed the same or declined slightly over the past twelve months.

This isn’t surprising to me. End of 2021, we seemed to be happy with “the new normal” the fears of COVID-19 were dropping, and the tech sector showed no sign of slowing down.

Ok, so PMMs are a little less happy than they used to be: is there a job they’d prefer?

Is there a role you’d prefer more than Product Marketing?

78% of Product Marketers say there is no role they’d currently prefer.

That’s our last question in this section. Let’s recap:

  • PMMs are generally happy with the role of product marketing
  • Their job satisfaction has declined slightly
  • But most say there’s no role they’d currently rather have.

Product Marketers Rate Their Company: Colleagues, culture, leadership, and product.

We wanted to see how if there were areas of the business that Product Marketers rated higher or lower than others.

We started with colleagues.

How do you rate your colleagues?

86% of Product Marketers said their colleagues were good or amazing.

As any employee engagement guru will tell you, some much of our satisfaction from work comes from working with people we like and, respect.

Earlier we saw that most of our survey takers liked their jobs, and here we see PMMs rate their colleagues positively. While not a rock-solid causal link, it’s interesting to note.

Onto culture:

How do you rate your company culture?

79% of Product Marketers had a positive view of their company culture.

Not as positive as colleagues (above), but still a strong positive review.

Next, we wanted to compare which areas of the business were given the highest rating.

As a Product Marketer, which areas of your business are “amazing”?

There’s a lot to take from this. The majority of Product Marketers said their colleagues were Amazing. PMMs are people-people.

But they gave the Product the lowest “Amazing” review. My guess is that because PMMs know every glitc h and flaw with a product: every feature request and roadmaps, they become much more critical.

This is just conjecture, but it doesn’t surprise me that PMMs are critical of the product. I’d love to compare this with a review from actual customers.

Are Product Marketers harder on their own company than customers are — maybe we’ll research that in future?

So we’ve looked at the positives. What about the negatives?

What areas of your business are “just-ok” or “bad”?

The best of the worst is the Executive Leadership.

I can only guess why, but if I were a betting man, it’s in line with what any employee gets frustrated with: a lack of transparency about how corporate decisions are made and diktats coming from “on high” without consultation… just a guess.

A big driver of employee engagement is how well peers understand what an employee actually does. So to cap off this section, we asked.

Which teams understand what Product Marketing does?

Product Marketers are a “glue” role. They keep the core product and market information flowing between groups, but the problem with cross-functional, communication-heavy roles is that other teams start to say, “what is it that Product Marketing actually does?”.

We asked Product Marketers who they think “gets them” the most. Starting with parents.

Do your parents or relatives know what Product Marketing does?

No surprises. 67% of Product Marketers’ parents have “little” or “no idea” what they actually do.

Before we go to therapy and talk about how nobody gets us, let’s look at the positives.

Who has the strongest understanding of what Product Marketing does?

66% of Product Marketing said that Marketing was the team who understands what they do the most.

I’m not going to give Marketing a prize. The word is in the title, you’d really hope they came out on top.

The other word is “Product.” At first glance, it’s surprising that only 33% of Product Marketers said the Product Team had a strong knowledge of what they did. On reflection, Product Marketers tend to work most closely with Product Managers, not the whole dev team.

Let’s move on.

What do Product Marketers work on the most?

When you ask people what they do for a job, they tend to answer in a general sense.

They might say, “I help launch new products,” but I wanted to get past the general and see what takes up most of a Product Marketer’s time.

We asked Product Marketers how often they work on a number of core tasks. Here is what Product Marketers work on most weeks.

What do Product Marketers work on ever week?

73% of Product Marketers work on creating or refining positioning every week.

This surprised me, it seems very frequent, perhaps too frequent.

As a Product Marketer, creating positioning is a crucial foundation, but it needs to be shared with a wider team. Marketing needs to understand it, for Sales, it needs to be second nature. That means at some point, you have to stop tweaking positioning and let it stand up for itself in the wild. Positioning needs to be tested.

I’d love to dig into this more, as the current question could refer to creating new positioning for new product features, not necessarily endless reworking.

What tasks do Product Marketers undertake Daily?

Product marketers are communicators. 80% of Product Marketers are in cross-functional meetings every day.

Positioning drops down the list. 25% of Product Marketers conduct competitive intelligence daily.

But, what about voice-of-the-customer research like win-loss and churn interviews?

How often do you conduct win-loss or churn interviews?

47% of Product Marketers conduct win-loss research either never or on an ad-hoc basis.

But, for 53% of PMMs, it’s a monthly or weekly occurrence.

It’s all very well talking about how often a Product Marketer works on a particular task, but how are they doing? How do they grade themselves and their organization on them?

What Product Marketers are Good and Bad at

What do Product Marketers think they are good and bad at?

Let’s start with how many Product Marketers said they were Good or Great at a certain thing.

What’s not surprising is that 100% of Product Marketers say they are good or great at writing marketing blogs.

Many Product Marketers move into the role from general marketing, where blog writing is a core staple.

What’s surprising is that only 46% of Product Marketers said they were good or great at voice-of-the-customer programs, although, as we saw above, 53% conduct those programs every week or month.

You’d expect that the more a key task takes place, the more successful a team is likely to be at it.

Ok, let’s look at:

What is your Product Marketing team “just ok” or worse at?

The result here is fascinating.

The bottom three things are:

  • Voice-of-the-customer programs.
  • Crafting or refining positioning.
  • Competitive intelligence.

It’s interesting how interrelated these three are. Competitive intelligence is a core reference point in your positioning. To use the landscape metaphor, competitors are landmarks on the scenery, and your positioning is a map that says “you are here” compared with those landmarks.

Voice-of-the-customer programs tell you, the map maker, what landmarks the customer can see. It makes the positioning map readable.

That’s all well that people don’t think they are good. But, what do they actually want to do more of? This is our final part.

What do Product Marketers want to focus more time on?

The top activities Product Marketers say would improve their business.

The top three, again, align closely with what people think they are poor at. 60% of Product Marketers say that improving positioning, VOC programs, and their strategic narrative would improve their business.

Only 33% said more focus on Competitive Intelligence. When you look above and see that many PMMs already conduct regular Competitive Intelligence yet want to prioritize positioning and narrative, I believe that we’re seeing a struggle for PMMs to put competitive intelligence to good use.

Activities Product Marketers plan to undertake less.

The highest response we got for tasks Product Marketers wanted to do less of was about content creation.

20% of Product Marketers said they wanted to do less Sales Enablement and Marketing Content Creation, such as blogs and video making.

Summary

  • We surveyed senior Product Marketers from larger B2B tech companies.
  • Job satisfaction has dipped, but most are still satisfied with their role.
  • Product Marketers expect a decline in budgets but feel their job is safe.
  • Cross-functional communication is the most common day-to-day task.
  • Product Marketers want to improve at creating a strategic narrative, positioning, and voice of the customer programs.

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