There are many factors involved in business success and growth, but one of the most important is product marketing.
Product marketing can be summarized with a simple definition:
This might sound straightforward, but in reality product marketing is a complex space that presents some unique challenges. The definition above doesn't give a proper idea of what product marketing actually is, because the process described will vary from business to business.
Furthermore, this is one of the few commercial functions that encompasses product development, marketing and sales, so there's plenty to think about.
What is product marketing and why is it vital?
Product marketing is a broad, diverse discipline that requires practitioners to have involvement at various stages of the product launch process - all the way from product development through to positioning, messaging and sales enablement.
Some of the most important goals in this area of marketing include building a strong understanding of the target audience and using strategic methods to attract demand and boost revenue generation.
In the context of the typical marketing funnel, product marketing comes into play at the bottom. It's concerned with the steps customers follow to conversion and purchase, often with a focus on those who are already aware of your brand and have bought from you before.
The job of the product marketer typically starts with creating a clear picture of the most relevant buyer personas and target audience for the product. This puts you in a stronger position to ensure the product is properly designed and marketed to meet your customers' needs and solve their problems.
Another key aspect of product marketing is ensuring your offering is properly positioned in the market. Often informed by market research and focus groups, product positioning helps you to ensure that the features and benefits of your product are being presented in the best possible light to the right customers.
Product marketers then work with the sales team and help to enable sales professionals, ensuring they’re focusing on the most relevant prospects to gain maximum revenue returns from the product.
But it doesn't stop there. Once your offering is on the market and being sold, product marketers have the responsibility of:
- Ensuring that it's meeting expectations and demand
- Adoption moving in the right direction
- The product stays relevant as market trends and customer expectations evolve
All things considered, product marketing can be a big challenge. But it's worth investing the time, money and effort required to get it right, given the huge advantages all brands have to gain from effective product marketing:
- In-depth understanding of your customers
- Current insights into your market and competitor activity
- Consistency and collaboration across product development, marketing and sales teams
- Optimum product revenue generation and ROI
Product marketing vs traditional marketing
The key difference between product marketing and traditional marketing is that the former is a specific, focused discipline, while the latter is a generic area that encompasses many methods and practices.
Where product marketing predominantly concentrates on maximizing revenue from customers who are already aware of your brand and supporting them through the final stage of their buyer's journey, conventional marketing is concerned with the whole funnel from top to bottom.
Traditional marketers have the responsibility of raising awareness and generating leads, which means they have priorities like SEO and social media engagement.
Product marketers are more preoccupied with goals such as refining and deepening their understanding of particular products and audience segments, to ensure the business is keeping its customers happy with offerings that meet their needs.
While product marketing falls under the banner of conventional marketing, it's important to remember that it touches on other disciplines and departments as well.
Product marketers will spend some of their time working with dedicated product teams to support launches and monitor market relevance. They will also help sales and ensure the department has all the information and materials it needs to drive conversions and revenue.
The difference between product marketing and product management
It's not uncommon for product marketing and product management to be viewed as synonymous with one another, but in reality there are some clear and significant differences between them.
Simply put, product management is concerned with the actual development of the product and its lifecycle. It has a more internal focus than product marketing, with product managers concentrating on the creation and refinement of products and their features, while product marketers take a customer- and market-facing approach.
Product management has a number of key priorities that are distinct from those of product marketing, such as:
- Coming up with product plans and visions that meet customer needs
- Researching and understanding competitor products and technologies
- Devising and executing a product release plan
- Ensuring the customer voice informs product development from the start
While product marketing and product management are different, they are closely related and should work in harmony with one another to achieve the best results for the business.
These disciplines also share one very important goal that is absolutely critical to any company's success: satisfying the customer.
Why you need a product marketing strategy
Like any key area of business, product marketing needs to be supported by an effective strategy to ensure that you're working in a structured, meaningful way, and your time and budget aren't being wasted on activities that don't generate value.
Your strategy should serve as the foundation upon which all of your product marketing efforts are based. It should cover everything from your first steps to define your target audience and personas, to your plans for taking your product to market and driving demand.
It's vital to dedicate sufficient time and preparation to your strategy, because it will provide the roadmap you need to gain results and rewards from your product marketing. With an ill-prepared strategy, or no strategy at all, you’ll face a much higher risk of inefficiency in product marketing, failed launches and dissatisfied customers.
Furthermore, it's important that you're willing and able to adjust your strategy if certain elements aren't working, or if customer feedback makes it clear that something needs to change.
How to create your product marketing strategy
Key objectives of your overarching product marketing strategy are likely to include:
- Identifying your audience's needs, challenges and pain points, and showing how your product is tailored to them
- Determining your market positioning and messaging to distinguish your product and differentiate your brand from competitors
- Coming up with clear objectives (ideally SMART goals), against which you can evaluate your performance and results
- Outlining go-to-market strategy
- Sales enablement
There will be many processes and tasks involved in the execution of your strategy, such as conducting the research and analysis required to truly understand your target market and to justify why your product is able to meet their needs. This might involve:
- Gathering and evaluating as much customer feedback as possible
- Running product demonstrations or trials to gauge interest early on
- Studying competitors and thinking about how you can succeed where they have fallen short
When it comes to your product positioning and messaging, it can be helpful to approach this challenge as if you are telling a story. How you position your product and the messaging you use to support it should tell a coherent, persuasive story about why it was created and how it can help your customers.
Consider questions such as:
- Why did you create the product?
- Who do you expect to use it and why?
- What customer pain points can your product address?
- How is your product different to competitor offerings?
The answers to these questions will inform your product positioning and messaging, as well as providing valuable insights to support your broader strategy and marketing efforts.
Equipped with a comprehensive, data-driven strategy that sets out your path to success and helps you minimize risk, you can look forward to reaching the next level of success and tapping into new audience segments with outstanding product launches.