Product marketing can be tricky to define. It’s not sales, it’s not product management, and it’s not “traditional” marketing either. In this article, we’ll demystify product marketing for product managers.
What is Product Marketing’s Job?
Product marketing’s official job is to leverage a deep understanding of the buyer to drive GTM—connecting product, sales, and marketing. They are firefighters that drop into any GTM problem and move the business forward. Product marketing is all about aligning product and go-to-market strategy—product launches, positioning, segmentation, and pricing—and then putting that strategy into practice.”
Product marketing, in many ways, is all tying together parts of the business that barely overlap. But must be strategically on the same page to succeed. Thus, working in product marketing is excellent preparation for eventually running a line of business or even a CEO role because of the exposure and interactions with every part of the operation.
Watch our webinar on how to build a significant relationship between product management and marketing below.
Product Marketing Is About Strategy, Not Tactics
Product marketing is often viewed based on its output. Typically they produce lots of content and assets used by other parts of the business. These are often incredibly useful and keys to the business’s success, but they require a solid foundation to build upon.
One of the ‘death traps’ in product marketing is the ability to do many tactics, especially as it comes to content. Often, those who don’t understand product marketing tend to think that you’re just churning out the content. You’re writing the narrative, creating the thought leadership pieces, and writing the one-pager. You need to make sure you have a way to organize around that and do it in a thoughtful, strategic manner.
That’s why to be effective and maximize their value to the organization product marketing must engage right from the start. Avoid handing them a product and asking them to “position it” and crank out sales materials. Ideally, involve product marketing at the earliest stages of the process. The best time is when businesses are starting to identify and qualify target markets.
Demystifying Product Marketing for Product Managers
Sizing Up the Market
One of the most significant values product marketing brings to the table is quantifying potentials. Founders can dream up great ideas, and product management can identify pain points and solutions, but well-grounded ROI is a must before diving into implementation.
A smaller company might leave this exercise to product management, including product marketing, to bring perspective and expertise. In smaller startups, product management does a lot of that sizing. But as you grow your product marketing org, you can do it jointly.
Product marketers evaluate the total addressable market.
One reason to involve product marketing is their ability to apply an objective lens to the evaluation. They include an honest assessment of the business’s ability to execute and total addressable market. Product marketing helps answer the question, “Why is this an attractive or potentially lucrative market for us?”
They also bring the awareness that the most significant markets may not match the actual product-market fit. A better plan is to target a market where the business already has traction before eventually adapting it for segments representing a much larger market opportunity. This includes adjacent growth opportunities such as international and specific verticals to grow without building a new product.
If you’re trying to move into the growth arena, you need to start focusing on buyers you’re going to grow with so that they feel like that message matches their needs. You might have to go back to creating the persona analysis and doing more research. This should be done every year even if you’re a company staying in the same arena, but you’re thriving. You still have to go back and revisit that and do your interviews with your customers to make sure you haven’t missed something that’s changed for them in their landscape.
Crafting the market story
When it comes to leaping the startup/small/medium business market to enterprise customers, product marketing can help craft a convincing story for converting a few of those first significant prospects. It’s essential to remember that your market is not standing still waiting for you. The research and assumptions you made months or years ago may no longer be valid. The job of product marketing includes checking in and updating the rest of the business when things change.
Collaboration on Pricing
Figuring out how much to charge is a critical decision point for companies. Go too high, and you alienate potential buyers and limit your market. Go too low, and you’re leaving money on the table while increasing the degree of difficulty to get to profitability, not to mention potentially tarnishing your brand.
Product marketing’s outward focus and understanding of the market should put them in the mix if not leading the charge for this activity, yet that’s not always the case. Pricing can sometimes straddle product marketing and product management, but sometimes it’s unknown. Ultimately it has to be a collaboration, but somebody has to be on tap for making that happen. In that case, product marketing should have a big hand in the pricing component.
From Product to Portfolio
Product marketing also plays a pivotal role when businesses expand from a single product to multiple solutions. One approach is coming up with a second product you can cross-sell into your existing customer base (which they’ll prefer because it’s on a common platform). You can then add more bells and whistles to sell to new enterprise accounts as the new product matures.
Don’t let one or two customers drive your roadmap just because they’re the first beachhead enterprise accounts you’ve landed. Instead of being a real product company, you will be stuck doing custom work for a couple of companies.
The previously described work can go all for naught if product marketing can’t execute well in go-to-market tactics. These deliverables get the most attention and use, so they command the lion’s share of the organization’s attention.
It’s essential that any messaging connects with audiences where they are. To do that well means putting in the time to understand the customer truly. Which requires many customer interviews, referring to Pragmatic Marketing’s mantra for product marketers: NIHITO – Nothing Interesting Happens in the Office.
A customer-centric strategy
You’ve got to get out and talk to customers at least a couple of times a month, especially when you’re doing one of these new market sizing or launch opportunities or new vertical segment opportunities. You need to make sure you talk to a lot of customers and prospects both. Try joining customer calls to learn more about customers and coach and provide feedback to the sales and business development teams.
Defining the persona
The target market can be further narrowed down and described to the sales team. Try to answer these questions before actually defining actual messaging verbiage:
- What is your Ideal Customer Profile?
- Who is your target buyer/user (personas)?
- What pain points are you solving?
- How is your product unique in the market?
- What is your positioning/narrative to connect with target buyers?
- How are you strategically pricing and launching your product?
It would be best if you had specificity to establish differentiation. Vertical focus is a much better approach. When you can create solutions and bundles, it’s just better for internal teams to be able to wrap their head around it and execute against it much more easily than the broad, broad overview.
3 Tips on Sales Enablement by Product Marketing for Product Managers
Giving the sales and marketing teams the tools they need to succeed is where the rubber meets the road for product marketing. The team must understand what makes a good prospect and how to connect with them.
Please don’t assume the sales team will go after the right targets. You need to help them hunt for the right customer profile. For instance, create a messaging doc with the Ideal Customer Profile. Include the company’s location, vertical, size, and budget, along with the persona to target and their specific pain points and areas of interest.
1. Tell a good story.
A good sales call doesn’t list product features and pricing. They create a narrative that the prospect relates to.
- Why now: What is the impetus to buy our product?
- Name the enemy: What is the pain or problem the product will address or avoid?
- Promised land: What’s the ideal future look like if they use this product?
- How to get there: What steps to acquire and implement the solution, and what might that timeline look like?
Be aware of what’s happening in the customer’s universe since your solution doesn’t exist in a vacuum. People on the buying side are looking beyond just your product – they’re looking at you as a trusted partner.
2. Map the Buyer’s journey
Enterprise solutions are seldom purchased as impulse buy. Thus product marketing tactics and messaging must align with where the customer resides along that path. That customer journey funnel includes four key phases:
- Awareness: I have a problem, and there’s a solution.
- Consideration: Would that solution actually work for us?
- Conversion: I’m ready to buy but want to be sure I’m making the right move.
- Advocacy: I’ve got it, I use it, I want to tell others how great it is.
In each step, the customer wants and needs to hear and know differs dramatically, supporting materials and messaging that matches where they’re at. There is a unique value that partners can add to this journey. Particularly when you’re trying to crack a new vertical or geography, they can leverage their established relationships and credibility to lay the groundwork for your new entry.
3. Make enablement fun
There’s nothing worse than a sales meeting with an uninspiring presentation of a new sales pitch. The team will zone out and then freelance when they’re in front of a prospect.
You’ve got to present that pitch deck like you’re presenting to the buyer, and you have to get the sales team excited about that deck. Use quizzes or rewards to keep the sales team engaged, especially in multi-product companies where you’re fighting for sales team mindshare. Sales team members can opt to sell something else they find easier or have more familiarity with.
Product marketing can’t rest on their laurels once they pull off a product launch. There’s plenty of room for improvement based on careful analysis. Track metrics continually, including win rates. Win/loss analysis is a great way to refine and improve is Win/loss analysis, so coaching sales reps during office hours or after shadowing a sales call.