Name: Amanda Goetz
Location: New York, NY
Title: Director of Product Marketing
Company: XO Group – The Knot
Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business
Social handles: LinkedIn
Tell us about your path into the tech world and your product marketing role.
After years in professional services and brand marketing, I took the plunge into the world of tech startups because I knew there was so much more to learn and master.
I co-founded a tech company for the wedding industry in 2013 and was invited to join the Startup Leadership Program (SLP) accelerator. Like most startup CEOs title meant nothing. I managed the backlog for our developers, worked as the sales manager and made tons of daily cold calls, and simultaneously led all marketing, PR and fundraising efforts. I always say that my two years running Availendar were my “MBA equivalent.” I quickly learned about (and appreciated) all areas of building and launching a product.
Then, in a serendipitous moment, I met with the founder of The Knot around the same time our startup was running out of funding. I was asked to join XO Group to help with the go-to-market strategy of a new product.
Product marketing wasn’t a defined role when I joined XO, but after two years of working in lock-step with our heads of product and meeting with leading tech companies in SF and NYC to understand their org charts, we formalized the department and started hiring to ensure a product manager:product marketer ratio for each of our products. I now lead product marketing for our core wedding planning tools across desktop and mobile.
How did you know product marketing was for you?
Many of the things I liked most about running my startup fell under the product marketing umbrella (vs product management or some other area). I get a rush from doing market analysis and macro user research to understand competitive advantage. I love thinking through UI/UX challenges to minimize drop off while figuring out where we can infuse our brand to increase NPS and overall brand loyalty.
I like the challenge of a fast-paced environment (who wants to do the same thing every day?!) and I have a strong desire to shape the products we are marketing so it was important for me to learn about and become a leader in a product marketing organization.
How would you describe product marketing? To a peer? To your parents?
I grew up on a farm in Central Illinois so I just tell my parents I work on “the internet” 😉 … but to others I would describe product marketing as the cornerstone of a great product org. Without it, products may be usable and bug free BUT are the marketing value props resonating with your target audience? … does the UI properly onboard and educate the user and reinforce the brand pillars? … and does the product ultimately contain the x-factor that creates high switching costs to competitors?
In your words, how is product marketing different from product management or traditional marketing?
We like to call it a cold-war balance of power. Ultimately the product manager owns the product roadmap but every inception should be met with constructive debate backed by data AND instinct. The product marketer should be involved throughout the entire product development lifecycle to ensure maximum user acquisition and retention.
Product managers may be flying the plane, but product marketers gave the pilots the flight plan while getting people to buy tickets, sit in the right seats and leave the plane with a smile.
Just like traditional marketing, product marketers have the ability to tap into all paid, owned and earned channels but rather than increasing brand equity/social followers/etc, you have a specific and measurable goal of acquisition and retention of a product or feature.
What challenges are you currently facing as a product marketer in your current role?
The biggest challenge for any product marketer as I’ve talked to others is the ambiguity behind the role. It’s important to have clear roles and responsibilities laid out, broadcast and reinforced from the top down. Share case studies among your organization (both positive and negative) as you continue to learn how to work best together.
In my current role, I’ve found it’s important to remember two things to help avoid challenges with your product manager: Outspoken users don’t always represent the majority, and features are different than functionality.
Listening to users is vital – there is no debating that. But outspoken users can sometimes shape a product roadmap away from building transformative, innovative features/products because you are constantly iterating on the functionality of an existing product. Friendly PSA: Functionality is a lot harder to build buzz around than new features.
Always start with the user problem and greatest market opportunity/KPI impact and work to prioritize possible solutions from there. It’s ok if something takes up three sprints vs one if it’s something that we can market as a competitive advantage, build a campaign around and exceed user acquisition/retention goals.
What’s your secret to staying productive?
First of all, stay proactive and productive with your product manager to limit surprises. I keep a shared user problem/possible solutions document with each of my product managers. If we think of an idea or possible solution, we add it to the doc. In our weekly 1:1 we review and determine what user data we would need to validate possible impact and then prioritize the roadmap accordingly.
Second, drive/attend effective meetings. Have an agenda or ask for one. As I became more senior in my career, I started refusing to go to meetings that didn’t have an agenda or clear owner/decision makers. Have you ever walked away from a great meeting but had no clue who was going to do what, next? That doesn’t help get anything done (at least not quickly).
Third, do your most important work in the morning. I block out my first 90 minutes – 2 hours every morning to get my most important work done. That still leaves plenty of time for meetings. Typically before I leave work the night before I write down 2-3 big items that need my full attention to be moved forward. During that time I keep my email closed and Slack notifications disabled, sip my iced latte and crank away.
Fourth, use #slack. It saves so much time and gives everyone transparency into what is happening. Your email inbox will thank you.
What’s your advice to someone interested in breaking into product marketing?
If you are fresh out of college (I’m jealous!) I would strongly suggest getting a marketing job at a smaller tech company where you can work closely with a product manager. You have to be a jack/jill of all trades in product marketing, so jump in and get your hands dirty.
Also, read-read-read or audible-audible-audible. Learn about lean startup methodology, product management and marketing best practices, driving user acquisition, SEO, ASO, etc etc. Become knowledgeable about as much as possible so you can talk the talk and eventually, after real-world experience, you will walk the walk.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I live in NYC with my cryptocurrency-loving husband and three toddlers under the age of 4. So the chaos of product marketing pales in comparison to bedtime routines at my house.
Want to be featured in our “Coffee with a Product Marketer” series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.