7 habits of highly effective product marketer

Q: What do you think makes a great product marketer / marketer in general?

That’s one good question that I don’t think I ever really thought about. When I started, I had no direction or clear example on what a great product marketer looked like. It might be the reason why encountering an effective product marketer is so difficult — there is no playbook for this.

So I try to take some learnings from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Surprisingly, I found that all 7 principles apply the same way to a product.

1. Be proactive & always be one step ahead

Being proactive is all about preparation. Great product marketers are those who force themselves to think one or two steps ahead, even ahead of their managers. They are more proactive rather than reactive, and it gives everyone around them a sense of security when it’s them who handle an important project.

Some ways to build this habit:

  • Send a weekly update to your manager about: latest updates from on-going projects (highlights and lowlights), key initiatives for the next week, and what’s next
  • Carve out 1-2 hours a week to review your projects and strategize:
    • Do my projects actually help the company to achieve its goals?
    • What other potential blockers that I may need to plan against in advance

2. Begin with the end in mind and have clear picture of what success looks like

A great product marketer has this ability to picture what’s not visible yet. This matters a lot since a product marketer will often be tasked to work on something that hasn’t been done in the company.

Some ways to build this habit:

  • In every project brief, try to describe what success looks like, even if you can only describe it qualitatively — after that, try to find relevant metric

3. Put first thing first by ruthlessly prioritizing

A great product marketer prioritizes. There will be multiple initiatives and marketing idea coming from left-and-right, but there is only one YOU. Putting your focus on the most important project(s) is the only way you can give the most value for your team and the company.

Some ways to build this habit:

  • Restrain from saying “yes” right away to every idea that’s thrown at you — instead, say this: “Let us gather our thoughts first and we will come back to you if it makes sense to prioritize it”. Then, actually come back to them with an answer (even if it’s a “no”)
  • Constantly remind the team on your team’s north star metrics — even better, put it in a place that people frequently open (First Trello card, Slack’s pinned message, etc). One of the keys to smooth prioritization is alignment on what matters

4. Think win-win for everyone involved

Win-win thinking sees any situation as a cooperative arena where you work with people from other departments (design, product, engineering, sales) and win together. The most effective product marketer is an expert at this as it earns him/her more respect from the team.

Some ways to build this habit:

  • Before the kickoff meeting for any project, share the brief in a written format in advance. 2 benefits: 1) Your team will come to the meeting more prepared. 2) This gives them a chance to digest and prepare feedbacks, be in in the expectation, the approach, or the timeline.
  • Give them the psychological safety to “push back” on you by saying: “I understand if you might have other priorities or concerns that I’m not aware of. Don’t hesitate to let me know so we can work something out.”

5. Seek First to Understand

There are ways you can build respect, but IMO it starts with making sure that people are heard. Their statements might not always be correct, but showing the intention to see things from their perspectives goes a long way.

Some ways to build this habit:

  • Give your team the psychological safety to state their own opinions
  • If required, you can organize a brainstorming session to give your a team a chance to be heard

6. Drive Alignment

Synergy is basically the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It happens when different people move into the same direction. I personally believe than great synergy can happen if you have a clear picture of what success looks like, you think in a win-win lens, and you seek first to understand.

Sounds abstract, but here are some ways you can build this habit:

  • Create one source of truth for your project, and update it constantly — direct your team members to routinely check the document to keep everyone on the same page
  • Every once in a while, do a review on the way your team cooperate. Your team might consist of PM, analyst, writers, and designers. Obviously, each has different definition of what success looks like for their roles. Taking the time to listen goes a long way

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