What the PMA's Product Marketing Salary Survey 2020 Report Means for You.
The repercussions of a frankly torrid year continue to emerge throughout 2021 and beyond.

Just last week, the Product Marketing Alliances' (PMA) Salary Survey 2020 dropped and gave us some clues about the impact the pandemic has had. As with all PMA reports, it's a statistically robust [1] consolidation and dissection of compensation in the product marketing world with 3,000 contributors.

After giving 116 pages across three reports (global, European and US versions) a thorough going over, I've come to some interesting conclusions of my own. Are you ready to learn how you too can interpret this report by going beyond the stats and crucially, realising what it means for you? Here's what you need to know.

The United States of Product Marketing.

The immediate and striking impact in the data reveals a gap in average pay between PMMs in the US vs Europe. It's not a gap actually, it's a chasm with Europeans earning just 55% of what their US counterparts earn.

So, why is that? Well, it's not that hard to understand if you dig deeper elsewhere in the reports.

The below top line segmentation analysis of my career splits along two key dividing lines: Global vs regional and strategic vs tactical.

The bulk of the roles are global with strategic remit and people manager responsibilities. Product marketing has a longer backstory in the US than anywhere else, and this plays out strongly in the report. The cities that pay the best salaries in the US are San Jose, Seattle and San Francisco. Home of big tech. Even within the US, the gap between big tech and rest is double if you live and work in Portland vs. San Jose.

Furthermore, global roles tend to compensate better than regional, and global roles tend to be US-based. Orientation around company cultures reports that in the US, most are product-oriented and in Europe, sales-oriented.

Simply put, (product) strategy pays more than (sales) tactics.

Salary Is Not Necessarily Correlated To Cost Of Living.

London is a very expensive place to live in. I know, I've lived here for nearly 30 years. It's a bit of a shock to see some prime locations actually paying way below the average wage, London included. There's a multitude of countries in the report below par on salary, that have a high cost of living. So why is that? Well elsewhere in the report the mist begins to clear on our answer. It's linked to the disparities in global vs regional and strategy vs tactical.

In Europe, 72% of roles are more junior than director level, whereas in the USA this figure stands at 61%. Roles at director level or above in Europe account for just 15%, whereas in the USA, they account for 29% of roles. The USA has twice as many senior-level product marketers.

With a higher proportion of roles below director level in Europe and a sales-first orientation confirmed in the report, this leads us to conclude that GTM is the lead activity in Europe. And it pays less.

To Be The Fairer Sex Isn't Exactly Fair.

In the report, we continue to welcome more women to the role of product marketing. Actually, to the point where more of the fairer sex (55%) are in the role than men (45%).

What is not fair and pisses me off massively is that I have to report there's a gender pay gap. Women earn just 82% of what their male counterpart would in compensation. What the hell is that about in 2020? The gaps are unacceptable but, in most markets, closing the pay gap with the right focus does not seem insurmountable. Unless you are in Africa where female product marketers are reduced to the level of water-bottle carriers to their male counterparts. I'm being diplomatic by only saying there is much, much more work to be done here.

Something else that's a big concern is the career trajectory for women in our beloved world of product marketing. Simply put, the glass ceiling for professional career women gets lower and lower, the higher you want to go.

The boardroom seems to still be the old boys club and clearly lacks gender diversity. A recent survey of more than 8,600 companies in 49 countries, found that women hold just 16.9% of all global board seats.

Wake up in the boardroom, please! It still staggers me that to this day, that some see diversity as something on a scorecard in which they have to tick a box. If you want to look beyond the scorecard, gender-balance and diversity overall is a competitive advantage.

Company Growth Stage Hits Your Pocketbook Directly.

Not only does where you live affect how much you make (no matter how 'cool' your employer is), but the company growth stage is a key benchmark for what you'll be paid too.

In fact, if you constantly veer towards the most achingly cool start-ups for each career move, your personal pocketbook is going to be slimmer than you'd like it to be. It's a simple economic fact that to make more money yourself, you need to work your way up the growth scale of companies with a final destination of mature companies that are making $1B+ a year who will pay you more.

So next time you think about a career move, evaluate the company revenue trajectory and growth stage.

It Takes 12 Years To Get To The Top.

You can't be a VP of product marketing until you are at least 33 years old. In theory, anyway. It takes 12 years to get to the top in product marketing according to the report. So if you go into product marketing straight from university, 33 is theoretically the youngest age you can be a VP.

However, the reality is somewhat different. According to Marketing Week's 2019 Career and Salary Survey, 50% of marketers did not start out in marketing. From this we can assume, together with the twists and turns that life has to offer, you are most likely going to be closer to 40 or more.

You'll still be young enough to push a stroller and get a minivan. Only now you can afford to pay cash for them as you'll see your starting salary triple over the 12 years.

The More You Learn, The More You Earn.

There are two lenses to look through, the lens of university and the lens of professional training. BOTH have a direct correlation to where you are going on vacation or what car you will drive.

A university qualification will automatically put you on a different playing field. The credibility of institutions, such as Ivy League colleges, will increase your earning potential too. All while improving your statistical chance of avoiding unemployment. [2]

Yet according to the PMA report, the impact is more nuanced. In global terms, there's little earnings benefit to the 96% of people who have a degree but, in the USA, a college degree will increase your earnings potential by 53% if you have a masters. This is despite the daunting debt profile that comes with an American college education.

However, accredited professional training also carries weight, especially earlier on in your career. Generally, 54% of marketers have no marketing training [3]. In the product marketing world, a whopping 71% have no accredited training such as PMA Core Certification, Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) or Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

But the good news is, that no matter where you are in your career, MBA-level education is now accessible for the global audience to consume. With prices and access that play to the masses, it's no longer reserved for the privileged few.

If this topic interests you, watch out for news on my free PMA webinar in the new year on career development and training.

The Covid-19 Effect.

It's no surprise to anyone that two-thirds of us are now working remotely because of Covid. Whatsmore, the prevalence of permanently remote distributed teams is at 19%, which is a signpost for the future.

In many ways, we in product marketing are really lucky. Most of us work in tech in some way, with our products and services distributed across the internet. The global nature of our businesses negated the need for centralised physical teams.

The inevitability of a hybrid work model is already here with 2021 plans in the workplace already, offering employees a more empowered choice of where to work becoming the new 'business as usual'. This in itself is a structural change due to Covid but one that was already happening. Covid simply compressed the timeline from 10 years into 10 months.

Many of us have been displaced from former roles, tackling the challenges of 'normal' unemployment married with the unprecedented complexities of finding a job during a global pandemic. I've been fortunate to be back to work and heard shared stories of successes and challenges throughout the live classes I've hosted for the PMA.

For those still in work, it's a mixed picture.

Those who see no impact and or are less optimistic, combine to make up 61%. Those who are just being thankful to be working, experienced a pay freeze or even a pay cut make up 36%.

It's hard to interpret this without any job loss statistics. But nearly 1 in 10 of working product marketers reported being in a worse financial position, obviously this causes real hardships for those concerned.


It's hard not to come to a conclusion that in the midst of a global pandemic, the product marketer function has proven more robust in the face of unprecedented challenges in 2020 than many other professions.

The move to remote working is an evolution, not a revolution. The core base of most of the businesses being internet-based and global in nature has provided some level of inoculation that other professions might not have had privy too.

Outside of Covid, positive trends are sustained. Pay expectations continue to rise for 61%, seniority at director level forms a significant 24% of the mix in the US, and we welcome more women to the role.

But there's no getting around the challenges.

The DNA and global HQ nature of product marketing and its indelible stamp in the USA still suggest that the role still has a way to go in its development in Europe and beyond. We need more companies headquartered outside the US to recognise the strategic value we bring, not just the ability to go to market. Until that happens, the data on the US vs rest of the world is not likely to change much.

More product marketers need to get accredited training (71% not trained) as we under-represent the number of people training in marketing already (54% not trained).

Simply put, if you want to gain, you need to train.

But the real blot on the copybook is in workplace equality. It's wonderful more women come to the role. But any gender pay gap and the lowering of the boardroom glass ceiling is not only indefensible, but a missed opportunity to gain leverage in the depth and breadth that diversity can bring in delivering a competitive advantage.

Stay safe. Look after one another.


Get the PMA Salary Survey 2020 reports Take the PMA Core Certification Course Sources and references:

[1] Confidence Level 99%, 2% margin error

[2] US Bureau of labor statistics report 2018

[3] Marketing Week 2019 Career and Salary Survey

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