Riding up a ski lift with a buddy of mine, we got to talking about our jobs. He asked the question, “so just what is product marketing?” I unleashed a number of overused terms, such as “positioning,” “messaging,” and “go to market strategy,” at which point my buddy’s eyes glazed over. Returning home from the ski trip, I was determined to develop a better definition.
Product Marketing is the art and science of generating attention, interest and adoption of your organization’s products and services.
Let me explain further by breaking it down.
It’s the job of many groups within an organization to generate and attract attention: the “C Suite,” corporate marketing, product marketing, sales and others. Attracting attention is all about getting your foot in the door (and then hoping that door stays propped open for you). Typical ways a product marketer can attract attention:
In the bygone days, a launch campaign involved a large venue, invited press, analysts and customers, loud, rollicking music and copious amounts of food and beverage. These days, a launch campaign may comprise a series of blog posts (and guest blog posts) reinforced via your social media channels. However they’re structured, one of the goals of a launch campaign is to generate attention by introducing new products (or product features) to the market.
Write informative (and eloquent) posts and articles about your industry and you’re bound to attract attention. Post your words of wisdom on your blog – and when possible, sprinkle in customer case studies, as well as insights from customers about how they’re using your products. You’ll not only attract the attention of prospects, but search engines as well (and they play critical roles in attention gathering).
Simple Products or Simple Pricing.
A great product is one that sells itself. If you can make your product simple to understand (and also easy to use), then you may not need to take explicit steps to attract attention. If I can start using your product this minute – and then pay you $10 per week to continue using it, that’s a great thing. And as long as I continue to like the product, I’m apt to tell others about it. The product that sells itself becomes even more powerful when others sell it for you.
Now that you’ve got your foot firmly planted in the door, it’s time to wedge the door further open. Here are a few tools used by product marketers.
A subscription to your email newsletter amounts to an electronic contract: “send me occasional content (via email) and if you provide value and don’t send too often, I’ll remain subscribed.” If you’re successful honoring this contract, then email newsletters can be the start of a great relationship. Every month (or every few weeks), you can “re-sustain” your attention.
Product marketers should think of an ongoing webinar campaign as the “pulse” of their “sustaining attention drive.” Expose your best product managers, customer service staff, engineers, customers and partners to the world. Have them pitch in to your sustainability (of attention) efforts. I’m sure your target audience wants to hear more of them (and less of “marketing”).
If budget (and your ROI analysis) permits, hitting the road for a multi-city road show gives you the opportunity to meet with customers and prospects face-to-face. They give you the chance to generate new business from existing clients and help move prospects further along the sales cycle. You may also combine road shows with launch campaigns.
Drive Attention Towards the Close
Sales has engaged with prospects during certain phases of the “attention period,” and may need to further engage product marketing to move prospects further down the sales funnel. Here, product marketers may need to focus on:
At this stage of the buying cycle, prospects often want to see the vendor’s view of the market. Often done in matrix form, they’ll want to see comparisons around feature set and pricing. Product Marketing ought to maintain up-to-date versions of these matrices and be prepared to develop custom versions for particular business opportunities.
Detailed Product and Feature Sheets.
A prospect may need to drill down and understand how particular product features work. It’s the Product Marketer’s job to maintain this library of collateral – and, to provide information (or help track it down) as needed. For instance, if there’s a Sales need to provide documentation around an upcoming release feature, Product Marketing is called on to deliver on that.
Pricing Sheets and Rate Cards.
If Product Marketing owns pricing, then they’ll be called upon to maintain pricing sheets and rate cards – and help in the pricing of complex programs as necessary. Product Marketing may also be called upon to approve pricing discounts on particular deals.
I omitted “customer retention” in my definition (above) because every single employee is responsible for it. That being said, here’s where Product Marketing plays a role in customer retention:
Good Product Marketing Breeds Retention.
This may be presumptuous to say, but good product marketing can make for more satisfied customers. If your marketing collateral is top notch, your customer case studies insightful and your content marketing frequent and informative, then customers will be more likely to keep giving you their business (assuming other conditions are also met).
Customer Advisory Boards.
Invite selected clients and partners to join a Customer Advisory Board (CAB). Schedule regular CAB meetings to discuss your particular product features – or, brainstorm on where the market is headed. You not only show customers that their input is important, but you help feed Product Management and Engineering with important feedback to inform the product roadmap.
Promote Your Customers.
While often the domain of Corporate Marketing or Marketing Communications, product marketers can help turn their customers into rock stars. Write a blog posting about your customer’s successful program – or, shoot a YouTube video of them and publish it to your followers. Pitch and promote customers when fielding media inquiries. I find that media would much rather cover a customer’s use of a product over anything else.
Phew. After reading all that, you might think a product marketer’s job is never done. Don’t worry, though. I intentionally took a broad view of things. Many organizations will segment these responsibilities across a number of people (or groups) – and some may skip particular ones altogether. Let me know your thoughts on product marketing. Did I miss any roles or responsibilities?
- 12 Most Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Improve Your Products
- Product Marketing Is Dead. Long Live Product Marketing!
- New Book: 42 Rules of Product Marketing
Note: I invite you to connect with me on Google+.
Awesome breakdown and helpful to get the brain wrapped around things! Thanks!
I’m curious: where do you see sustainability in this system? Product marketing seems to work hand and hand with building trust so is it something that is in the retention bucket? Or ideally occurs throughout?
One challenge I often experience is that product marketing can ignore the sustainability piece or may make a claim about ‘green’, but not really understand the technical aspects of the claim, leading to expectations not met. For example I recently had to dissect product marketing information about ‘green’ name badges that led to several claims being debunked and a lot of disappointment. My trust is eroded and I wound up more confused than when I started!
I think you’ve provided an awesome breakdown and wonder where the sustainability touch-points could be? But maybe that’s another post! 🙂
Shawna: I think there are two distinct angles here:
1) Product marketing for sustainable products.
Here, I think it’s absolutely critical that your product “backs the claims” that you make in your marketing. As you’ve observed above, if it’s revealed otherwise, then you’ve lost a potential customer – and, you’ve damaged your brand.
2) Introducing sustainability into the product marketing process.
To be frank, I hadn’t considered this. The good news is that product marketing very much occurs via online marketing these days, so that’s sustainable (for the environment). But just as sustainability is a consideration in events these days, perhaps we ought to be talking about it for marketing as well.
[…] So Just What Is Product Marketing? […]