Why A Product Marketer Should Be Your Next CMO

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Back in 2021, I started receiving many LinkedIn messages from executive recruiters placing Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or VP of Marketing roles for business-to-business (B2B) SaaS companies.

Some of these companies were pre-seed or seed, but the majority fell into the below profile:

  • Closed funding rounds from series A to C.
  • Offered a highly technical B2B product in either DevOps, data, AI, or cybersecurity.
  • Already a marketing leader in place, or recently parted ways with one.
  • Had a functioning demand engine.
  • Experimenting with product-led growth (PLG) strategies.
  • Specifically stated that they were looking for a marketing leader with “a strong product marketing background.”

As a “product marketing OG,” I was curious to understand why there was an uptick in demand for prioritizing candidates with product marketing vs pipeline-building backgrounds (e.g., demand gen, growth).

A CMO needs to lead both workstreams. But could a candidate’s product marketing background provide a competitive advantage over other marketing disciplines during a CMO search?

Well, I’ll let you decide after you read this article. 🙂

In this article, I will break down the top 7 reasons why product marketers are uniquely positioned to be your next B2B CMO. I’ll weave in my real-world examples in my journey from sales engineer to product marketer to CMO at Databand.ai.

Plus, I’ll give practical examples at the end of each section.

Top 7 reasons product marketers make great CMOs

#1: They are product and industry experts

One of the recurring quotes I got from recruiters was,

This company is looking for a marketing leader that has deep technical knowledge of the industry and the product they are building.

Now you might think, “Well duh, all marketing leaders should put in the work to understand the space and the product that they’re marketing.” However, lots of CMOs do not attempt to understand the buyer’s industry or the product that they’re marketing.

That’s why you’ll hear sales leadership complain that they don’t believe their CMO knows what their company even does.


Usually, these CMOs have come from a company brand or demand generation background which involves a lot of execution of marketing activities. Since they didn’t invest in understanding the actual product and how it’s solving customer use cases, their reusable playbook causes problems down the line.

I’ve seen a lot of time and money wasted on activities like PPC, public relations, email marketing, web design, field events, etc. that lead to poor ROI because the marketing leader didn’t “get it.”

Product marketers live and breathe the product.

When I joined Databand.ai, I didn’t shy away from understanding how our product solves data quality and reliability problems for data engineering teams. I’ve never coded in my life, and that didn’t stop me from requesting my own demo environment from the product team.

Since product marketers (Ryan Sanders is one the best at this) have product and industry expertise, it makes it easier for them to lead workshops on:

  • Outlining how the product solves customer use cases.
  • Designing an ideal customer profile (ICP).
  • Curating real-world personas of customers using the product.
  • Understanding how the product compares to DIY or competitive vendors.
  • Aligning marketing campaigns with industry trends.

This knowledge also makes them the perfect leader for GTM and demand generation strategy.

#2: They lead GTM strategy and guide demand generation

Let’s do a quick analogy.

Pretend your entire marketing team is a car driving on a single-lane highway. The weather looks great and there are no other cars in sight. And this isn’t just any old car, it’s a top-of-the-line luxury car with all the features you want (e.g., leather seats, heated steering, AWD).

Now, it’s nighttime. Rain starts to pound the windshield. The single-lane highway is now three lanes. Tractor-trailer trucks surround the car on both sides as it weaves down a mountain highway road.

If demand marketing is the car driving down the road, then product marketing is the headlights guiding the way through hazardous conditions. Without the headlights, the fancy car has little hope of making it down the highway in one piece.

Here are just some examples of how product marketers set GTM direction and guide demand generation:

Web Strategy

  • Copywriting engaging web content for higher conversion.
  • Provide direction on product placement and value propositions.
  • Building a playground of product content for PLG.

Field Marketing

  • Identifying which industry events to attend.
  • Speaking at industry events or round tables.
  • Providing subject matter expertise for booth conversations.
  • Writing compelling booth messages.

Account-based Marketing

  • Describing the core user and buyer personas to target.
  • Identifying which accounts fit within our ICP.
  • Highlighting keywords to track for intent.

Email Marketing

  • Copywriting top, mid, and bottom nurture streams.
  • Segmenting templates for awareness, consideration, and decision emails.

Content Marketing

  • Providing subject matter expertise for research reports, white papers, eBooks, videos, SEO, webinars, etc.
  • Launch new products, features, and integrations.
  • Setting quarterly themes that align with market and company moments.

Partner Marketing

  • Designing better together campaign programs.
  • Educating partners on joint market opportunities.

Besides being the “true north” for demand generation, product marketers are also sales best friends.

#3: They are sales best friends

Making sales easier is the main goal of B2B marketing. That’s it.

Yes, we have a bunch of cool marketing acronyms but at the end of the day, we want to make the sales cycle as easy as possible for sales. From MQL to closed won.

Sales love product marketers because sales trust their knowledge to help engage and close deals. Here’s a typical conversation that product marketers (aka me) will get from sales on a random night around 10 PM:

AJ: “Ryan, you up? Working on something for [Insert big name company] and need some help.”

ME: “Yeah man, what do you need?”

AJ: “Can you put together a video on X…Can you send me a competitive battle card on Y…Can you show me the latest messaging for the Z product launch?”

ME: “Yeah man give me 30 min.”

AJ: “Dude you are the best! Thanks!”

Yes, that was AJ Brandenstein :-).

Product marketers want sales to succeed. I can’t remember how many sales development representatives (SDR) and account executives (AE) I’ve trained in the last decade but it’s a lot :-), just ask Corey Boyer.

And I love doing them. From whiteboards to sales cadences to compelling InMail hooks, product marketers love seeing sales succeed.

A little-known fact is that a lot of product markers come from a sales engineering/pre-sales background. This means your next CMO might have worked in the trenches with sales before they got into marketing.

All these skills translated into an empathy for “the sales struggle” that I’m still deeply attached to today.

My time as a sales engineer Tricentis equipped me to demo technical products and showcase value on customer calls. I constantly worked with product management to bring new features and products to market. I demoed five hours a day the best “wow” moments to prospective customers. I talked to existing customers to understand their use cases post-sale.

Here are a few assets product marketers make that help sales sell easier:

  • Sales narratives, value messaging, and elevator pitches.
  • Prospecting and discovery kits tied back to your ICP.
  • ROI assessments and total cost of ownership (TOC).
  • Competitive battle cards and objection handling.
  • Why change client presentations.
  • Datasheets, product demos, and how-to guides.
  • Pricing and quote guidance with level tiering.
  • Thought leadership for awareness.
  • Set up an AMA session before a major product launch.

There is a reason why sales narratives are listed first on this list. Without a compelling story, sales are dead in the water. Good thing product marketers love to tell stories.

#4: They are master storytellers

What if the problem wasn’t the product? What if the problem was the way we talked about the product? – Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand

I love this quote. You might have an amazing product, but your story about your product, company, and audience might be as unoriginal as the new Star Wars sequels (sorry, no sorry). Or, your story might be too original that it ends up being as confusing as watching Tenet (no one should object to this).

Product marketers geek out on telling stories. They know the right story can make you stand out in an overcrowded market, capture inbound interest, win head-to-head deals, and motivate an entire company.

What about messaging, positioning, tag lines, elevator pitches, etc.? All those are needed, but they branch from your story.

At Tricentis, Keyfactor, and Databand.ai I led our storytelling initiatives. Sometimes we used the help of an external agency, and other times we built it with a small group.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned:

  • Keep the project team small. The more voices you add, the worse the output.
  • Do exhaustive competitive and adjacent research before ideating. I made the mistake one time of coming up with an amazing tagline that was already used by a competitor.
  • Complete one storytelling template, then use others. Don’t start and stop with five different templates. Complete one then do the same exercise to see how they compare. For example, you might use the Narrative Design first then experiment with April Dunford’s model.
  • Define the villain of your customers, not their challenges. According to Zach Messler, “The fastest path to a sale is when the villain is something we’re fighting against TOGETHER.” We’re fighting the same villain our customers are fighting, and it’s not their fault.
  • Test the story in the field. Get out of your echo chamber and talk ask your customers if you can use them as sounding boards for the new story. You’ll be surprised by what hits and misses.

Our ability to tell compelling stories leads us to be the top communicators and evangelists within the company.

#5: They are your company’s resident evangelist

In my article 9 Tips on How to Build More Memorable Presentations, I noted your audience will not remember every point you make. Therefore, you must communicate in a style that makes the most important thing you say also the most memorable.

Product marketers are excellent communicators because they’re used to making highly technical concepts in B2B software easy to understand for the masses. From corporate messaging to technical sales enablement, product marketers constantly must switch their communication styles to fit their audience.

This communication style allows them to operate as your top evangelist both internally and externally. They do this in ways such as:

Internal evangelism

  • Capturing sales attention with what’s new with the product for sales cycle acceleration.
  • Connecting sales with account-based marketing (ABM) programs for better prospecting.
  • Driving awareness to marketing programs for new logo and expansion plays.
  • Communicating “why change”, “why now”, and “why us” with corporate messaging.

External evangelism

  • Building hype and awareness around emerging topics.
  • Capturing public reviews on 3rd party platforms.
  • Partnering with analyst relations and public relations.
  • Speaking on industry panels and round tables.

#6: They are dynamic leaders across teams

Product marketers have a superpower.

Here it is: product marketers can get their peers (who do report to them) to do things they normally wouldn’t do for the greater good of the company.

This might sound manipulative, but it’s not. They simply show how the company benefits from their peers helping them with a project.

This translates into being a dynamic leader who can work with sales, demand gen, product management, finance, ops, and customer success leadership like they are all on the same team.

Here are some examples:

  • Showing sales engineering that helping them build some amazing product demos will cut down their live demonstrations.
  • Highlighting the competitive gaps in our product so product management prioritizes feature development.
  • Getting sales to invite you to a win/loss review so they can package lessons learned for the entire sales team.
  • Asking customer success to introduce you to a “white glove” customer to highlight their success story.
  • Exciting demand gen to promote a new product launch that will lead to X new leads.

#7: They thrive in data and process-driven environments

Making data-driven decisions was a growth area of mine during my first few years in product marketing.

I stayed in my ‘product launch’ lane and let demand generation tell me the performance details around MQLs, SQLs, SALs, etc. because, at the time, pipeline forecasting wasn’t in my control.

However, as I took on more marketing leadership roles, I had to start embracing numbers. And guess what I found out? It’s not that hard to grasp. Especially after you soak in everything that David Kellog has to offer or be on a team with Jamie Walker Ellen Kindley Kira Mondrus.

Coupled with business acumen, product marketers are uniquely fit to quarterback both your GTM (see #2) and marketing pipeline.

Their GTM responsibilities require them to set up internal systems of management, and KPIs such as:

  • Internal communications.
  • Product launch readiness.
  • Improving nurturing, management, and scoring mechanisms.
  • Implementing and optimizing marketing automation.
  • Tracking the success of marketing attribution for PLG and sales-assisted programs.
  • Pivoting marketing strategies based on leading and lagging indicators.

Their marketing pipeline leadership requires accountability in areas such as:

  • Marketing sourced pipeline (both in leads and revenue).
  • Marketing source pipeline conversion.
  • MM/QQ pipeline coverage across marketing, sales, partners, and SDRs.
  • Cost per lead / Cost per opportunity.
  • Market awareness, web traffic, analyst recognition, etc.

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