I’m getting an MBA – How do I get started in Product Marketing?

I have an MBA... now what?

First of all, apologies for the recent infrequent postings.  I know that is a major sin if my goal is to ever drive a lot of traffic (it’s not) and remain relevant in the blogosphere (I’m not that narcissistic but I digress).

So through the miracle of LinkedIn, which I find is becoming and increasingly important social business tool (especially for recruiters), I was contacted by a young MBA student seeking advice.

He will soon graduate with an MBA from a good school, and having had some experience working in web based marketing for Oracle, was asking advice on how to get started in Product Marketing.  He wants to be able to “analyze market needs and set product direction and strategy”, but claims “I don’t have experience with the 4 P’s….how do I get that first job… which will let me do what I want to do?”

When I read the e-mail I envisioned someone still very young and “wet behind the ears” when it comes to a lot of business experience.  I’ll share my response in a nutshell, and while it may seem obvious to a more experienced person, it may be enlightening to someone “new to the business”.

First of all, I learned that if you want to work in *any* type of marketing role (product marketing, PR, product management, brand marketing, etc.), you better be able to market yourself.  You better know your own 4 P’s….

How would you describe yourself as a Product?  What are your distinguishing features? Your special expertise? (e.g. “in my MBA, I excelled in the marketing classes”)

You should also understand how to Place yourself as a product in the job market.  You better be leveraging LinkedIn, recruiters, and your “good old boy / girl” network in your job search.

You should also actively Promote yourself as a product.  That resume (especially the opening paragraph) should be a killer.  That LinkedIn page should have good recommendations from peers or bosses.

Also, you should understand your market value or Price.  You may have a $$$ figure in mind for a salary, but know that compensation is determined by supply and demand.  If you have expertise / experience in high demand (e.g. anything with “cloud” in technology), your price goes up.  If not, your starting salary may be subject to the economy and other factors.  Get help / consulting on what the compensation climate is like, and think not about a specific salary, but a range of salaries you would accept.

Finally, I will mention a “5th P” that was taught to me in Pragmatic Marketing – Positioning.  This is a statement that says what a market problem is, and what your solution to that problem is, in plain English.    For example, a common problem in technology marketing is that engineering has built a hammer, and to sales, everything looks like a nail.  A true marketing professional would seek to understand the market needs, and along the way, might discover that some people prefer screws, so engineering should build a screwdriver.

Anyways, I know it’s dog-eat-dog out there for you new grads (BS / MBA or otherwise), but heed my advice.  If you want a job in Marketing / Product Management, the first thing you better be able to market is…. yourself.

Heck, I guess that’s good advice for any grad these days.


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