Over the years, as competition became fiercer and consumers started making better-informed decisions, product marketing went from being an optional piece of the corporate puzzle to a necessity.
However, this change also raised an issue – the exact definition of product marketing, the set of activities that it entails, and how to be good at it, have all become vague.
If you want to gain clarity on what product marketing is, keep reading. In this article, we’ll clear the smoke by talking about:
- What product marketing is
- The difference between product marketing and product management
- How to create a product marketing strategy (or framework, if you’re fancy)
Let’s jump right in.
What is Product Marketing?
Product marketing is a core business process that entails everything, from creating the go-to-market strategy of a product to ensuring its long-term survival after it enters the market. It includes critical processes, such as conducting preliminary research, finding the product-market fit, developing a marketing strategy, and product lifecycle management.
At first, it seems like the above definition of product marketing overlaps with that of regular marketing (or product management). And that’s exactly where the confusion begins.
At the end of the day, it is just a job title. A marketer could have the exact same responsibilities as a product marketer, and their job title would be completely different.
The typical core responsibilities of a product marketer include:
- Study the market and identify key buyer personas.
- Develop the appropriate messaging to communicate how you’re providing solutions to the pain points of your target audience.
- Interview customers to find opportunities for new features that can be launched and areas that can be improved upon.
- Communicate the value proposition and messaging to the product team and the rest of the organization.
- Create/Overhaul the entire marketing strategy of a new product (or an existing product).
- Map out the buyer journey and collaborate with sales and customer support to deliver positive experiences.
- Launch new products or enter new markets with a modified offering.
Of course, those are still broad points. But it’s clear that a product marketing professional takes a more holistic approach.
Considering that, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that product marketing sits at the intersection of marketing, sales, and the actual product teams.
via We Are Product Marketing
Even with all those details, some people tend to confuse product marketing with product management – another core business component.
This brings us to:
What Product Marketing is NOT [A Comparison with Product Management]
Let’s get one thing straight – for maximum efficiency, the product manager (PM) and the product marketing manager (PMM) should always be two separate people.
To save a (relatively) few thousand bucks, some companies make the mistake of hiring only one of the two, and dumping all of their responsibilities on that one profile.
Is there a divine law stopping companies from doing that? Not really.
But it’s just not efficient to put all that load on a single person.
So… What Does A Product Manager Do?
A product manager is a central individual who rallies all teams, creates the product roadmap, and ensures that all goals that help move the company towards the product vision are achieved at a high-level.
In addition to the marketing efforts, a PM may also be involved in product development and collaborating with other teams. They’re also sometimes referred to as the “CEOs of the products.”
In that sense, they have more power and influence than a product marketer. However, for that same reason, they’re also held more accountable in case the product fails.
Breaking Down the Entire Product Marketing Puzzle: A Two-Phase Blueprint
All things considered, product marketing, by itself, is a pretty broad field.
From conducting market research to creating fresh campaigns – there’s a lot that the product marketing role entails.
To make things simple, we’ve grouped the core activities of a typical product marketing strategy under two major umbrellas:
- Phase 1 – before a new product is launched up until it enters the market
- Phase 2 – post-launch/activities for an already existing product
Let’s dive into the details.
Phase 1: Developing a Go-To-Market Strategy [When Launching a Novel Product]
A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is an important part of the product strategy. It is a detailed plan of action that brings a new product (or new features for an existing product) from the ideation stage to the market.
It not only lays the foundations for your entire marketing efforts but also establishes a detailed product launch plan.
Everything that a product marketer working on a novel project does before the launch falls under the GTM strategy.
Here are all the steps:
1. Conduct Market Research and Validate Product-Market Fit
Although not widely considered a step of the GTM strategy (and in some organizations, not the responsibility of the product marketer), I felt the need to throw this out there.
Conducting market research is the first step in setting your product up for success. In case it’s a part of your job description, you should know that it will entail gathering relevant data from your target audience using different tools (such as questionnaires, interviews, etc.).
It also involves studying the existing industry and performing a competitive analysis, asking questions such as:
- Where do these competitors currently stand in terms of market share?
- What extra value could I offer to gain an edge in a competitive market?
- In terms of resources, can I compete with these players?
The ultimate reason to conduct market research is to ensure that you achieve a product-market fit – which basically means that you’ll create a great product that will resonate well with the market.
Because let’s face it: Not all ideas work. To minimize the risk of failure, the best approach is to validate the demand (and chances of survival) for your new product through preliminary research.
2. Understand the Target Market/Create Buyer Personas
The next step is a part of the “customer development” process and involves developing a deep understanding of your target audience.
More specifically, it entails creating buyer personas – fictional/made-up profiles that describe your ideal buyers.
Your buyer personas will help you develop a better understanding of your target audience, which, in turn, will help you create more impactful messaging that hits all the right areas (more on that later).
But what do they look like? Here’s a good example:
As you can see, buyer personas can be quite descriptive. And for good reason.
Here are some actionable tips to help you create the perfect one:
- Make Them Data-Driven – while buyer personas are “fictional,” they’re (ideally) backed with data. This means that your personas will be based on the actual consumer data you collect. Using that data, look for underlying trends.
- List the Demographics – look for common demographic variables and base your persona off them. Try to humanize them by giving them real names and putting up real pictures (you can use royalty-free stock images).
- Jot Down Their Challenges and Goals – what do your prospects struggle with? What do they hope to accomplish? Identifying their challenges and goals will help you create the right messaging (and perhaps even modify what you plan on offering).
Keep in mind that, depending on your market, you may also develop just one buyer persona.
3. Create Your Value Proposition and Positioning
Value proposition, as the name suggests, is what a business proposes or promises to offer through its products.
This can be a unique feature, the problem it solves, and/or the overall experience.
A good value proposition ticks the following boxes:
- It is crystal clear and relevant in terms of defining what value you’re offering.
- It differentiates you from your competitors.
When you’re done creating a value proposition statement, the next step is to determine your positioning (a subset of value proposition).
The simple textbook definition of positioning is “how you want to be perceived in the market” or “the place you want to take in the existing market.”
A few examples of positioning statements include:
- To offer a more cost-effective alternative to SEMrush.
- To be known as the DoorDash for pizza.
Once done, all your marketing efforts will be focused on achieving that position. It is, therefore, important to get the entire organization on the same page.
4. Create the Messaging
A crucial aspect of product marketing is getting the messaging right.
But what is that?
Put simply – messaging is the way you address the specific pain points of different buyer personas.
It’s a blanket term used for the different versions of your value proposition that are adjusted for the challenges and frustrations of your ideal customers.
Your messaging will act as the foundation for creating relevant marketing content and helping your sales team convert more customers.
To keep track of everything, consider creating a value matrix. It’s a table that lists your buyer personas, the value they see in your product/feature, and the corresponding messages.
Here’s a sample value matrix by Saleshero for a hypothetical sales software:
You can create your matrix however you like, as long as it’s clear.
5. Develop a Marketing Engine
With all the foundational aspects out of the way, it’s time to jump into the fun part of product marketing.
This entails working on the following:
- Branding – depending on your positioning and your target market, what type of branding do you want for your new product? Remember – your brand is your identity. Spend some time experimenting with different themes, typography, and the overall persona you want to go with.
- Goals – what are your short-term and long-term goals? How many leads do you want to generate? How many sales are you expecting to hit in the first year of the launch? Create goals that you can directly tie to marketing.
- KPIs – settle on relevant metrics that will help you measure progress and allow you to stay laser-focused.
- Channels – what platforms will you use to communicate with your target audience? Website, email, and social media are the golden, must-have trio. Aim for platforms where your target audience exists.
- Content Strategy – initially, you’ll be better off creating content that educates your prospects about the problem(s) you’re solving and/or informs them about your solution for some sweet brand awareness.
- Sales Enablement – settle on an appropriate sales strategy, develop supporting resources, and get tools that will help increase your conversions.
Remember – a PMM will start executing the marketing strategy before the product launch.
6. Settle on the Pricing
We’re nearly there.
Based on your competitive analysis, the market you’re targeting, the overall costs, and the positioning you want to go with, settle on an appropriate pricing strategy.
The 5 main types of pricing strategies that you can go with include:
- Freemium – with this strategy, you can offer the basic functionalities or features of your products for free, but to use the entire product, the user will have to pay a custom or a set price.
- Skimming – with this strategy, you charge a higher price right off the bat. However, this price isn’t sustained and when other players enter the market, you’ll eventually have to settle for a lower price tag.
- Economy – this is the lowest price you can charge your customers. Economy pricing, by itself, can be a part of the value proposition. Furthermore, this price is maintained throughout the product life cycle.
- Pricing Penetration – with this strategy, you enter the market at a low price. However, as time goes by, you adjust your pricing to match with your competitors.
- Premium – this is meant for luxury products. You enter the market with a higher price tag, and you stick with that pricing throughout the PLC.
Of course, you’d have to work closely with the finance department at your company to come up with appropriate price points.
7. Launch Your Product
The last step is to actually launch your new product.
While it may sound simple enough, it could make or break your efforts.
Here’s everything that it would entail:
- Creating a Distribution Plan – how will you sell your new product? It is all going to be online? Would you need to send personnel to the field? Or are you planning on selling consumer products through a brick-and-mortar store?
- Planning and Executing a Launch Event – plan a formal event (either live or in-person), invite your prospects, and industry peers, and launch your product with a bang.
While reaching this milestone calls for some champagne, the work is far from done.
Phase 2: Overseeing the Marketing Post-Launch [Or for Existing Products]
Product marketing, like most things, is a never-ending process.
After launching a new product, a product marketer initiates phase two, which is basically just meant to keep the product alive and ensure that the marketing goals are achieved.
Here are the specific steps:
1. Evaluate Where You Currently Stand
After a while (usually six months into post-launch), the product marketing team evaluates where they currently stand.
By taking an honest look at the sales and marketing data, see if you’re on your way to achieving your goals or not.
If yes, continue doing what you’re doing.
If not, try to pinpoint the culprits and change things around. Get direct feedback from your prospects and customers – if the problem is the product itself (a business problem), and not the marketing, deliver that feedback to the product manager.
2. Identify New Opportunities
You can’t go on offering the same product forever. Whether we like it or not, consumer preferences almost always change.
If you want to stay relevant, you’ll need to adapt.
This would entail identifying new and fresh opportunities to either:
- Improve your existing product with additional features/new qualities.
- Give more priority to other product(s) with greater potential.
Remember – to keep an eye out for these opportunities, you’ll need to consistently gather feedback from your customers and stay on top of industry trends.
Wrapping it Up
All things considered, product marketing is no walk in the park.
Bringing a new product to the market, collaborating with multiple departments, and setting up a marketing engine – all the while staying focused on the larger picture – can really test a person.
But that’s also what makes it so great.
Watching your marketing plan come to life and bringing in tangible results that impact the bottom line has to be one of the best feelings in the world.
As a final piece of advice – don’t limit your creativity. In the end, great marketing is all about experimenting and doing things differently.