Inc. Magazine asked Mozilla’s CMO, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, what’s the most critical hire in marketing? Kaykas-Wolff answered “Without question, product marketing… If I were a marketer restarting my career, I would start in product marketing.”
This is encouraging. Especially because throughout my career as a product marketer, I have explained, defended, promoted, and demonstrated the importance of product marketing. It’s a paradox that a function this important is commonly misunderstood.
Despite this comment, some companies still struggle to understand the value of product marketing. Here’s why product marketing is so essential to organizational success.
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? Hiring a good product marketer would help the company in many ways, for example:
- Ensure product-market fit, including a stronger understanding of customer problems
- Hone in on 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, and 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 roles content marketing, PR, analysts, influencers, partner marketing, community marketing, and demand generation should play for the company, its priorities, and overall strategies
“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
Does Your Company Understand Product Marketing?
As companies evolve, their understanding of product marketing evolves, especially in startups that begin with a technical product, i.e., software. Engineering does some of the product marketing functions, although they sometimes call it “growth hacking.”
Later, most companies hire a product manager. It’s often only when the company reaches a critical mass that they realize there’s a gap in their understanding of the market along with their ability to connect the product with customer needs.
There are clear signs that indicate the way your organization understands product marketing needs help. Here are a few:
- Lacking a well-informed team member: Product strategy and roadmap discussions are made without someone whose main job is to understand the market, customers, competitors, and how to influence them
- Poorly planned product launches: Decisions to invest in a product do not include a product launch plan or budget
- Limited view of product marketing: Your product marketing team is seen almost exclusively as a content shop that owns collateral, website updates, and sales training
- Ignoring customer knowledge: Demand generation, marketing, and product teams are not being led by product marketing’s customer knowledge
- Not enough bandwidth: The product marketing team does not have the right skills, time, or resources to develop understanding of products, markets, and customers
Building a Solid Product Marketing Foundation
Let’s take a step back and outline a clear definition of product marketing. While there is no “official definition,” this one is the result of over two decades doing it and building product marketing teams. Feel free to suggest improvements or to adapt it to your organization.
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.
Establishing Product Marketing as the Value Engine for Your Company
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:
- Think big. There are no boundaries. This job is what you make of it
- Take ownership of the long-term success of your products. You’re accountable for everything that impacts growth. Think like a business person
- Prioritize. Balance long-term goals with short-term objectives
- Lead by influence. Product marketing teams are small. Their influence should not be small
- Connect Product marketing is the most cross-functional function in most companies. You’re the interface between customers, your marketing team, and the product team
- Customer knowledge and insights are job #1. Knowledge is your power. Understand who is your customer—and who is not. What problems do they need to solve and what drives value for them? How do they make decisions and who influences them? How do they perceive your company and alternatives? And how can you influence their choices and preferences?
“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
Here is a SlideShare presentation with more details about the product marketing role and the specifics in terms of day-to-day activities. Hopefully, you find it helpful in making the most of your product marketing role.
The Marketing Alignment Your Team Needs
Fundamentally, product marketing allows for cohesion between what your customers want and what you offer. But an effective marketing strategy does more than just that; it aligns your teams so that you can not only produce great content but also use that content to drive sales. To refine your entire strategy, download The B2B Marketing Playbook and see how your marketing team can better serve your organization.