2024 Predictions for Product Management & Marketing
What changes and trends will product managers and marketers see in 2024?
Hey BPL fam,
This is going to be last newsletter edition for the year before I take a break for a couple of months.
First off, I want to thank each and every one of you for your incredible support and candid feedback this year. I realize that you have access to a myriad of newsletter options, so it’s truly humbling to see that people still tune into Behind Product Lines.
Today, this newsletter reaches to 11,000+ professionals and it’s because you kept reading and sharing. I cannot thank you enough.
* clears emotional throat *
Alright, then. Here’s what we have in store today:
3 Predictions for Product Management in 2024
3 Predictions for Growth & Product Marketing in 2024
But first, a couple of quick requests:
1- Share your candid opinion
I would love to hear about your opinion and advice for me on this newsletter. I’d appreciate it you could kindly give me 5 minutes of your time to give me your unfiltered, honest perspective:
2- Virtual & Physical Community Meetup
I spent the last 4 weeks meeting with product folks in Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto and I’ve been blown away by the amazing minds I got to interact with.
There are 2 more community meetups planned for the next 30 days and I’d love to meet and learn from more people who read this space:
Virtual Round Table: an online session with newsletter readers [7 seats only]
In-Person Meetup in Lahore on Saturday, January 6th, 2023.
3 Product Management Predictions for 2024
Yes. It’s that time of the year when every content creator turns into a fortune cookie.
I guess I’m no different.
Predictions are hard (and often miss the target). So, I’m going to stick to focusing more on existing trends that I sense will intensify next year.
Also, note, it’s hard to generalize these statements across the board. If there’s anything my recent adventures have taught me, it’s that product management varies on a wide spectrum from one company to another.
I’d say these statements mostly apply to companies with mature product departments that see product and technology as a core business driver and not a cost center. The basis of these predictions are my own observations, discussions with community members and my chats with experts in the field.
1. Product Management roles will become more specialized
There's a growing trend of specialization in Product Management.
While browsing several job descriptions on Glassdoor and Indeed, I noticed that the qualification requirements are getting very specific.
Here are 3 examples:
Listen. I’m an advocate of PMs being generalists at heart, with an ability to adapt to different products by virtue of their transferable skill set. However, it seems that the employer market is shifting demand towards PMs that can hit the ground running.
And these "specialization" requirements have different vectors.
Product Managers are expected to have depth in various permutations of 5 aspects:
1. Industry experience e.g. Fintech, Healthtech, Proptech etc.
2. Skillset experience e.g. Platform PM, Data PM, Growth PM etc.
3. Technology specialization e.g. Mobile, API, Web3, IoT, Hardware etc.
4. Audience specialization e.g. B2B, B2C, D2C etc.
5. Product Type exposure e.g. SaaS, E-Commerce, Marketplaces etc.
Of course, some of these can be combined together. For example, you can have companies pursuing a B2B Growth Product Manager.
If this trend continues, PMs might need to plan their next career moves with an intention to go deep.
The advice I’ve been contemplating on is “1 Major, 2 Minors”:
1. Major in product management.
Product Management is no joke and it takes time to master. Ensure you develop strong foundations in discovery, strategy, roadmaps, prioritization, stakeholder management, and product analytics. Without that, you’ll struggle no matter what the domain.
2. Minor in a product type.
Pick up a product type like B2B and get depth in how the buying cycle works and the considerations PMs have to make in it.
3. Minor in an industry.
Take time to build depth in domain knowledge and get into the weeds of it.
This might seem like an awful lot but a solid 2-3 year stint at a growing company can enable you to achieve this.
My only fear is that employers might start favoring domain experts with weak Product Management skills in an effort to “save time”. That move won’t end well.
2. Higher emphasis on collaborating with marketing
Ever since Brian Chesky’s mic-drop moment in the summers about merging product management into product marketing, product teams have been embroiled in a debate.
Some organizations (especially those with strong design cultures) saw it as a revolutionary move that effectively deemed the PM layer as “needless fat”. Others defended the PM discipline and threw skeptical darts at Airbnb’s bravado.
In my view, product marketing got it’s much needed spotlight moment but sadly, it was at the expense of Product Management. Airbnb is a unique company with a talented founder with exceptional design and product sense. That asset isn’t available in every company and thus, the mantra that “everything goes through the CEO” isn’t universally applicable. Moreover, engineering and design teams work differently in different markets. More on this here.
Having said that, employers are reacting to push product managment closer to the product marketing function in some capacity. In leaner teams, the “full stack” PM role is being expanded to take more PMM duties. In mature teams, there is higher emphasis on squad models and tighter coordination on product launches and GTM.
Now, this may not be news for the B2B segment of Product Managers as they traditionally have been closer to sales and marketing. But it will be a systemic shift for other sectors.
For example, here are some real statements in product manager JDs you’ll see a lot more of:
Serve as the subject matter expert for our products and as a product evangelist to build external and internal awareness
Partner with internal and external stakeholders, such as…Marketing to define and manage the ongoing implementation of new website search features
Launch industry-defining products, leading the team through phased testing and release process, prioritizing feedback and iterating quickly, and coordinating promotional activities.
Work in tandem with sales and marketing teams to guarantee effective promotion and marketing of our products.
Moreover, there will be a bigger emphasis on thinking about go-to-market activities upfront as opposed to an afterthought.
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3. The second wave of AI will accelerate PM activities
I guess you were expecting this one. Mentioning AI in a prediction list is probably the safest (and most cliché) thing to do at the moment.
We’re about to enter the second wave of AI products (between Q2 and Q3 2024). I feel this is when we’ll start to see more practical tools make their way into active consideration by product and marketing teams.
The first wave (2022-23) showcased several mini-products but while there were fascinating possibilities, they were:
🚩 thin executions e.g. fancy shell interfaces sitting on an Open AI API.
🚩 compelling ideas but lacked sufficient training data to be truly useful.
🚩 not accurate enough to reduce human intervention significantly.
I’d say Notion and Canva were notable exceptions.
Moreover, the sheer volume of disparate AI tools popping up doesn’t help. Professionals and companies can't pay for 10 different subscriptions! In that respect, Microsoft has got it right. They’re efforts to weave BingGPT across their product fabric is the way to go.
Now, this wasn’t because of a lack of imagination. The reality is that large-language models are probability-based and are still on their way to exhibit intelligence that can reliably “take over” high-impact and critical tasks.
Having said that, I feel we’re not too far away from that tipping point.
In the early part of the year (especially Q1), there will be a lot more improvements in the AI building blocks. Experts will keep a keen eye on ChatGPT, Anthropic’s Claude, Bing AI, and Gemini to see what capabilities they can unlock.
But by mid-2024, things will start changing dramatically.
Some use cases that will get a whole lot better:
✅ Action-based outcomes vs. just mere text/image generation
AI tools will start moving data and executing real actions on behalf of users. ChatGPT’s Actions has already taken a stab at this. PMs will benefit from creating workflows that actually commit “actions” instead of getting intelligent text back.
Ex: Imagine tools that reads your feedback ecosystem like emails, call transcripts, and Slack and then frame new tickets that can be added into the JIRA backlog with a click.
✅ Predictive Analytics Tools
Soon, PMs will be able to hook their analytics stack into an AI engine. It won't just be about proactively flagging anomalies but also contextualizing them with potential reasons and externalities.
Remember the funky era of “data-driven” PMs? Well, that might make a return to LinkedIn headlines :)
I feel Product Managers have always wanted to mine data for insights but creating meaningful data views and extracting nuggets was painfully time-consuming. Many PMs simply didn’t posess those data chops either. But as AI tools become better at consolidation, data analysis will get commodotized (ChatGPT is getting there) and PMs will start relying a lot more on them for decision assistance.
Ex: Imagine seeing a dip in your MAUs but with explanations like seasonality along with suggestions on what to investigate further. DataRobot is heading in this direction.
✅ Customer Feedback Analysis
PMs will be able to configure tools to harvest a variety of sources of feedback (e.g. review sites, emails, customer interviews, CSVs, ticketing systems, etc.) and automatically categorize and summarize trends by OKRs, cohorts, topics, and priorities.
Ex: MonkeyLearn and Zeda are making progress on this.
✅ Faster wireframing/design cycles
While primary UX/UI research will still require effort, AI will expedite the design process by generating and iterating design options based on prompts and references.
Ex: Visily and Figma are making inroads here.
✅ Adaptive product copy
Web development frameworks (and CMSes) will be able to generate and embed production-level quality success/error messages, descriptions, and onboarding sequences into apps that PMs can simply review and tweak. But the real magic will be when the copy adapts as the product evolves, rare conditions are encountered, and/or the copy gets hyper-personalized to the user’s unique profile.
But make no mistake - there will still be a LOT of noise in this arena moving forward. I also suspect that AI ethics will become a hot topic at some point in 2024. If left unregulated, we’re heading towards some massive data privacy breach or equivalent incident that will trigger governmental intervention at a global scale.
All in all, some of the classic textbooks on Product Management with tactical advice might have to be rewritten with AI tools in mind.
That’s it for product management predictions!
3 Product Marketing & Growth Predictions
1) LinkedIn will be the prime PR engine for products
In 2024, expect LinkedIn to take center stage as the primary Public Relations engine for business leaders and management.
Prospects are tuning out from brand accounts and are more likely to listen from domain experts who can tell real stories and create relatable connections. Leaders will increasingly use LinkedIn to narrate their product stories, share original research, and express strong opinions. This approach will not just attract potential customers but also engage them in meaningful conversations about the product and the philosophy behind it.
We’re already seeing CXOs of product companies take part in this movement. Rand Fishkin (SparkToro), Peep Laja (Wynter) and Chris Walker (Refine Labs) are a few examples.
And it’s not just one person like the CEO - people from the same company are working like strike teams. They’re building their personal brands while amplifying each other’s narrative.
Ex: Rand Fishkin, Amanda Natividad and Brendon Hufford from Sparktoro create demand generation content together across multiple channels like LinkedIn and Threads.
Moreover, apart from leadership, I see more SaaS marketing teams pursuing LinkedIn influencers for endorsements. I’ve personally been approached a lot more in 2023 compared to 2022 for sponsorship and promotion deals. And influencer discovery tools like Favikon are facilitating this trend. Expect more of this in 2024.
2) B2B SaaS products will opt for cheaper alternates to freemium/free trials
The product-led growth model was sold hard to B2B SaaS products in the past couple of years. However, complex products that require heavy upfront setup have struggled in embracing them.
Adding a product-led motion to a historically sales-led product is harder than you might think. It requires a mindset shift that many leaders simply aren’t able to cope with.
But we’re seeing companies opting for a middle ground now.
Instead of burying themselves into quarter-long freemium and free trial projects, industries with complex SaaS solutions will lean towards sandbox environments and interactive demos to deliver tangible proof-of-concepts.
In fact, we pushed out an interactive demo for vFairs this quarter and it’s been a massive hit with prospects.
3) Product-led Sales will intensify
For products that have rolled out their self-serve modules but live in crowded markets, they will intensify their efforts to influence trial-to-paid conversion rates through sales assists.
And yes, this even applies to $50 per month B2C SaaS products.
The “human touch” in product-led sales will become a key component of conversion and upsell strategies to push customers for the plunge.
Of course, done poorly, the results can go the other way. Overly aggressive pursuit of product-qualified leads, especially those based on a shallow criteria, can backfire.
Bonus: AI Again
It’d be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the role of AI in growth and marketing. We already are seeing the adoption of tools like Hypotenuse, Copy.ai and Jasper for marketing copy and creatives.
But I’m predicting massive changes in how marketing analysis is done.
Ex: I’m impressed by Gong’s latest AI assistant. Sales managers can now ask it to analyze all the data points tied to a single company account and predict if the deal will close. It can even recommend remedial actions. That will be a gamechanger.
Similarly, tools like DataGPT will change how marketers view their data. By hooking into datastreams from your entire marketing stack (from CRMs to paid social to GA4), this conversational chatbot can explain anomalies, trends and areas that need attention.
Alright then! That’s it for my Nostradamus roleplay for today.
Hit me with your predictions in the comments.
Finally, thank you again for reading. Happy holidays to everyone in advance!
Behind Product Lines will be back in Feb 2024.
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