What is Product Marketing? Why is such an important function so misunderstood?
One of the biggest challenges for marketers today is that we are too often focused on the most tactical aspects of the job: promotion, contacts, reach, social marketing, etc.
We forget that the most important part of marketing, the source of value, is our understanding of customers, what customers want, and how to align your products to their needs and how they buy. Most marketing teams don’t have anyone dedicated to this function.
This is especially important in B2B because buying processes are more complex, there are usually more buyers involved, and products tend to be more technically complex. To solve this problem, a relatively new function has been created, which is often referred to as product, audience or solutions marketing.
Does your company have a Product Marketing discipline?
I have observed technology companies start by creating a product management role, which is also responsible for the product marketing function. They don’t want to be called marketers, so they call themselves Growth Hackers. Only when these companies achieve critical mass, they realize there is a gap in their understanding of the market and their ability to connect the product with customer needs.
There are clear signs that indicate the way your organization could use help in the product marketing function. Here are a few:
- Product strategy and roadmap discussions are made without someone whose main job is to understand the market, customers, competitors, and how to influence them.
- Decisions to invest in a product do not include a product launch plan and budget.
- Product Marketing is seen almost exclusively as a content shop that owns collateral, website updates and sales training.
- Demand generation, marketing and customer growth plans are not being guided by product marketing, as the team who most deeply understands customers.
- The product marketing team does not have the right skills, time, and resources to develop understanding of products, competitors, markets and customers.
Let’s start with a definition.
What is Product Marketing?
Product Marketing is the function accountable for the success and growth of a product by connecting customer needs to product capabilities. The value of Product Marketing comes from its deep understanding of markets, customers and their needs.
For a more information of the Product Marketing function and the specifics in terms of day-to-day activities, I suggest reading this slideshare presentation.
When Inc. Magazine asked Mozilla’s CMO what is the most critical hire in marketing? Jascha Kaykas-Wolff answered “Without question, product marketing…. If I were a marketer re-starting my career, I would start in product marketing.”
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker
How successful Product Marketers think about their role
Becoming a successful product marketer and establishing the function as the value and growth engine for the company starts with you. Here is how the successful ones think about their role:
- There are no boundaries. This job is what you make of it.
- Take ownership of the long term success of your products. You are accountable for everything that impacts growth. Think like a business person.
- Balance long-term goals with short-term objectives.
- Lead by influence. Product Marketing teams are small. Their influence should not be small.
- Product Marketing is the most cross-functional function in most companies. You are the interface between customers, your marketing team and the product team.
- Customer knowledge and insights is job #1. Knowledge is your power. Understand who is your customer, and who is not. What problems customers need to solve and what drives value for them. How they make decisions and who influences them. How they perceive your company and alternatives. And how to influence their choices and preferences.
The value of Product Marketing in the early stages of a company
Earlier this year, a startup founder asked me if an early stage company should prioritize hiring a demand generation leader or a Product Marketing leader. My response was that hiring a good product marketer would help the company in many ways, for example:
- Ensure product-market fit, with better understanding of customer problems
- Hone in your perfect customer via segmentation, targeting and personas
- Help the company understand competitors, alternatives, and validate competitive advantages
- Ensure all communications, from PR to the website to sales conversations, are consistent in message and aligned with the value you bring to the market
- Determine the best way to capture the value the company creates, in turn adjusting the pricing model
- Build the programs to generate demand, based on how the customer buys, the CPCA, AOV and other key business factors
- Determine the role content marketing, PR, analysts, influencers, partner marketing, community marketing or demand generation should play for the company, its priority and overall strategy
“Marketing starts before there is a product. Marketing is the homework the company does to figure out what people need and what the company should make” Philip Kotler
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