The basics

Name: Jeff Schaffzin
Location: San Francisco Bay Area (Mountain View, CA)
Title: Principal and Managing Director
Company: Genysys Group
Education: BSC: Decision and Information Sciences – Santa Clara University
Social handles: Twitter, Skype: schaffzin.jeff

Tell us about your path into the tech world and your product marketing role.

I started my career in IT at a large multinational corporation, but quickly moved into project management because of my ability to successfully bridge the divide between “technical” and “line of business”.

After conquering that, I moved into pre-sales/post-sales, and ended up in product marketing after the VP Marketing at a well known software company obtained a copy of my resume. At the time I was given the choice of pursuing a more “functional” role (aka marketing program management) or “technical” one (aka product marketing). I chose the latter. It was not an easy transition, but I came to enjoy it very much.

How did you know product marketing was for you?

A few years after I became a product marketer, I was asked to speak at a new hire sales training event for an hour about the products I was responsible for. At the end of the presentation, not only did I receive a standing ovation (no one else even received applause), I was told by the head of sales enablement that my presentation was the only one that will be remembered.

As a result, I was asked to be one of the lead speakers at nearly every sales training event the company held until I left the company.

How did you learn about product marketing and gain specific skills?

Websites, books, classes (AMA, UC Extension), reviewing materials from more experienced product marketers and other departments (e.g. engineering, product)

How would you describe product marketing? To a peer? To your parents?

Product marketing is the function tasked with both conceiving and driving the strategies, tactics and initiatives related to increasing both thought as industry leadership related to a company’s product (or products).

To a peer: Product marketing is tasked with both defining and ensuring the company’s product(s) are being promoted effectively and to lead the efforts related to that mission (e.g. sales enablement, competitive analysis, content creation, public speaking)

To my parents: Product marketing is responsible for leading the efforts to promote the right product(s) to the right people … right now!

In your words, how is product marketing different from product management or traditional marketing?

Product Marketing vs Product Management
Product marketing traditionally focuses on more outbound efforts – such as working with sales as well as customers. Product management is more inbound – working with engineering to define and build a product.

Product Marketing vs Traditional Marketing
When most people think of traditional marketing, they think of marketing communications or public relations. Product marketing provides the key information (messaging, positioning) to help these organizations do their jobs more effectively.

Tell us about your current role

As Managing Director with Genysys Group, I am the primary resource for our “business partners” related to best practices in product marketing. Depending on this “partner” I may lead strategic efforts such as formally establishing/defining product marketing or creating the marketing plan for the company’s products. At other companies, I could work on more tactical efforts such as creating sales tools, collateral or content, leading competitive/market analysis, and potentially train the company’s sales force on how to sell the company’s products to their prospective customers or partners.

From time to time, I am also asked to participate in briefings with key influencers such as industry analysts, the media or high profile customers to ensure that my partners are presented in the best possible light.

What challenges are you currently facing as a product marketer in your current role?

Due to the wide charter that product marketing often has inside a company, many people often tend to hire product marketers last or simply assign various facets of it to different people. A product marketer should be the first marketer that is brought on board.

Many people often confuse “product marketing” with “marketing communications” or even “growth marketing”. Each of these disciplines are important, but require different skills to be successful.

Last but definitely not least, since product marketing is the function tasked with defining the company’s product messaging and positioning, it’s critical that everyone follows the lead of product marketing instead of coming up with their own.

What’s a particularly fulfilling project you’ve worked on?

In 2013, I led go-to-market efforts related to bringing an early stage company’s data visualization / social platform to market. It was a high profile effort which got the attention of major media outlets globally such as the BBC, CNet, Geekwire and the Strategic News Service.

What’s your secret to staying productive?

As a tech junkie, I rely heavily on my iPad and my smartphone to help manage my day to day activities and to organize my work / thoughts.

Definitely a huge fan of applications like Slack, Skype, Evernote and the Google Productivity Suite to help me with keeping on top of everything.

What’s your favorite recent read?

Mostly product documentation and collateral from companies that I have been working with.

However, I also read a lot of magazines (paper and online) as well as various websites to stay on top of what’s going on in the industries I am working with and the world in general.

Why do you think product marketing is an important function?  

Product marketing is the function that ties all the other marketing functions together. Without a strong product marketing presence, a company will have a hard time in communicating product information both inside as well outside the company.

What’s the future look like for product marketing?

I see two possible outcomes:
1. Product marketing becomes more vital inside a company and CMOs become expert product marketers, not just marketers.
2. Product marketing ceases to become a discrete “function” and the role is taken over by multiple groups such as growth marketing, marketing communications, product management and sales enablement.

What’s your advice to someone interested in breaking into product marketing?

Great product marketers are made, not born. Start your career in a more technical field to learn about how products are developed. If possible, work in sales or customer success as well to become familiar with how products are positioned.

Find a mentor that will help you. Product marketing is not as easy as it looks – it only looks that way when it’s done right.

It will take time to learn – be patient.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Feel free to contact me if you are looking to hire your next product marketing executive or if you have any additional questions that weren’t asked here that you would like an answer for.

Want to be featured in our “Coffee with a Product Marketer” series? Email

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