8 Questions to ask a product marketing applicant
The hiring process for product marketing roles is unusually difficult compared to most other roles. Product marketers have a substantial breadth of responsibility and level of cross-functional visibility in most organizations. Sales, marketing, product, executives ,nearly every department depends on product marketing. This level of cross-functional visibility makes skilled product marketers even more valuable.
For this reason, both employers and applicants have a tough time with the product marketing interview process. Hiring managers have a hard time determining if a candidate possesses the wide range of skills product marketers should bring to the table. Conversely, product marketers can have a tough time adequately verbalizing all of their skills in the short time allowed.
In most organizations, there are five main pillars of product marketing: product launches, messaging/positioning, competitive intelligence, pricing/packaging, and sales enablement. These eight interview questions will help you dig into each of the important skills, as well as identify what you’re looking for from their response.
Can you walk me through your last product launch?
Bringing new products/features to market is a foundational responsibility for product marketers. Launches require product marketers to flex their product, messaging, sales enablement, and competitive intelligence skills all at once. The ability to successfully launch a product conveys competence in all of those areas.
Product launches involve nearly every team in an organization, so candidates should possess strong communication and collaboration skills. Project management skills are also crucial given the number of moving parts involved in a launch. This is a good opportunity to ask for details around how they’ve previously organized a launch, and get a deeper understanding of which particular tasks they were responsible for within the launch process.
What good product do you believe is marketed poorly?
The ability to evaluate a product and the messaging/positioning that accompanies it is a core product marketing skill. This question tests a product marketer’s ability to do that on the spot. Strong answers will address one or more key weaknesses around competitive positioning, messaging that fails to resonate with a target persona, or any number of other blunders.
What steps would you take to help improve the win rate of a struggling sales team?
Good product marketers know that product marketing and sales need to work well together for success. Great product marketers take it a step further and understand that key sales metrics like win rate can be influenced by product marketing collateral like battlecards.
Try to dig into specific tactics rather than nebulous strategies. Improving the messaging used by the sales team is an admirable notion. Getting into specific tactics like trainings, collateral, and new software displays an ability to both strategize and execute.
How do you measure the success of product marketing?
Compared to other marketing disciplines, product marketing is notoriously difficult to measure. The ability to evaluate and iterate, however, is important regardless of the difficulty required to do so.
Qualitative and qualitative measurements are equally valid. Strong product marketers should be unafraid to display a degree of ownership over quantitative metrics like product adoption, sales win rate, customer/dollar churn, or anything else that makes sense given the nature of their business. This is a particularly important quality in product marketing leaders who work closely with results-focused executive leadership teams.
How do you communicate major shifts in your market (one of your competitors acquiring another, for example) to key stakeholders like sales, product, and executive leadership?
Product marketers need to be able to communicate ideas across departments. Even more so, they need to understand the unique goals and challenges of each team they work with. By understanding this, they are better able to tailor information in the way each team needs it.
A blanket email about a competitive acquisition to the entire organization is a good start. An email to sales detailing how to talk to prospects/customers, one to marketing with new campaign messaging, and one to executives detailing M&A information is even better.
Have you ever worked on a product launch that failed in any way?
This is a product marketing twist on a classic interview question. The ability to fail and improve is important in any role. By asking this question, you’ll be able to understand both sides of their product launch experience, and how they were able to transform a negative scenario of a launch into a positive, learning experience. Framing the question in a product launch scenario is a great way to approach it, considering that not every product launch will have a flawless execution.
What steps would you take to drive adoption of an underutilized product feature?
While product adoption may be a metric more closely measured by product management, product marketers are better equipped to actually influence that metric through their work with sales, marketing, and customer success/support.
Given the number of angles from which PMMs can tackle adoption, make sure a candidate provides several tangible tactics. Better educating sales reps pre-sale, providing post-sale relationship managers with better messaging, and working with marketing on customer education are all great tactics.
How would you ensure an increase in price or change in packaging goes over well internally and externally?
Changes to pricing or packaging can be contentious. Customers need an empathetic communication of why prices are changing. Your own sales and customer success/account management teams need a strong understanding of the change, how it will impact existing business, and the logic behind the change. Make sure any product marketing candidate understands the gravity of these needs and is prepared with tactics that ensure understanding and avoid backlash.
Hiring the right product marketer can be a long, frustrating process, but it’s worth the effort. A great product marketer serves as the linchpin of your product and go-to-market organizations. Asking the right questions ensures that whoever you hire will have the ability to tackle the wide variety of critical functions owned by product marketing.
Author: Ben Cope