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Product Marketing Guide

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Blog header image: Product marketing guide represented by a compass graphic in the center of the illustration.


There’s a key connective web between new products and customers in the market — product marketing. This multifaceted discipline brings together vital components of sales, marketing, and customer success to share a new product with the world. Product marketing requires a unique role to bring products to life and sell them — product marketers.

Product marketers are the ones who research, define, and articulate the position of your product in the market. They create a plan and work across departments and teams to bring products to customers. These unique product experts are responsible for everything from launching new products and building awareness to getting user signups, converting sales, and growing revenue.

In this product marketing guide, we’ll cover what product marketing is, what product marketers actually do, how they measure their success, and the tools they use to bring products to market. Let’s get started by defining product marketing.

What is product marketing?

Product marketing is the art and science of defining the position of your product in a market and getting it to the people who want to use it. It starts with the foundation of an existing product strategy and builds that into a marketing program to create awareness, convert sales, and grow revenue.  

A solid approach to product marketing comes from a combination of market research and close collaboration across multiple departments. For example, your product marketing and product management teams will work closely together. They’ll share tools like personas, user stories, and journey maps — but they’ll each use them for their own unique functions.

The core of any product marketing approach is the person in the role of product marketer or product marketing manager. They’re the one who knows everything about your product, they’re the ambassador between departments, and the one who’s listening to your customers. Since they cross so many disciplines, it’s easy to get confused about what their responsibilities are. Here’s a look at what product marketers actually do.

What do product marketers actually do?

Product marketers can move fluidly between sales, product, marketing, and customer solutions disciplines. You might see them in a marketing operations meeting, product development roadmap meeting, and customer solutions performance meeting all in the same day. So which team are they on? They’re most often placed in the marketing team — but could sit with the product team as well. No matter their organizational team structure though, they always work closely with product managers.

So what exactly does a product marketer do? They start by defining their product’s position in the market, come up with a launch strategy, a long-term communication and performance plan, and organize the marketing execution across teams. Easy to say, complicated to do. Just defining the product’s market position can take long research cycles and require in-depth customer interviews.

Product marketers are many roles wrapped into one person. Your product marketer is responsible for understanding the market, the language your audience speaks, and using all the information they have to bring your product to life in the eyes of the customer and sell it. They’re good at understanding the needs and goals of many groups, and synthesizing all of these things into a cohesive strategy. They can switch between doing the work and delegating tasks across project teams. 

Product marketers don’t need to code but they need to be well-versed in the essential e-commerce tools. They’ll need to understand everything from email marketing tools to product information management (PIM) software. It’s also important they understand how to interpret analytics and make performance metrics easily digestible for others. 

Here’s a cross-section of all the skills product marketers need to be successful.

Market intelligence

Product marketers need to shape their company’s understanding of the market and where their product fits. Where is the competition positioned? How does our product fit in the space? What trend might change all that? These are the kinds of questions they need to study and answer. With a deep understanding of the market, they can define a clear approach to entering or changing the market with a new or updated product.

Their market intelligence can come in all shapes and forms — from the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant to morning coffee conversations with their social connections in the industry. Your ideal product marketer is attending conferences, participating in online communities, and nurturing a strong professional network. They need to be truly interested in the product and market so that their intelligence is a combination of research, direct experience, and intuition about the way trends are developing in the market.

Positioning

Positioning includes everything from your brand position to the product’s position in the market. You need a product marketer who can understand each of these layers, display them simply, and skillfully place your product in the right space. Product marketers need to be able to start with the basics of brand positioning and then translate it to your products in a skillful way. 

Does your brand hold such a strong position that all you need is to introduce the product to the market? Or are you selling a product with heavy competition from trusted brands? Will your product features or price set it apart? These are the kinds of questions your product marketer needs to answer confidently. With the answers to these questions, you can start to define the position of your product in relationship to the competition.

Sometimes your brand and product position are practically the same thing. For others, they’re very different and you need to establish product positioning in the market for each unique product you launch. A strong product positioning statement can help with this and product marketers need to be able to create these from a combination of their market intelligence and your existing brand position.

Your positioning models and statements should also consider the future. Understanding how your product can adapt with changes in customer experience and markets is essential. With clear positioning, you can start to build a story about where your product came from, how it fits, and where it’s growing.

Narrative

From strong market intelligence and clear positioning, it’s possible to build a compelling narrative for your product. Your product story is what ultimately sells it. A good story is simple, meaningful, easy to explain to a meeting room, and can be told across many channels. 

A key value proposition is the centerpiece of a good product narrative. In a sentence or two, why does your product exist? From there you can surround it with a map of the key story points and why they matter to the audience. 

Creating a foundation of a clearly defined story makes everything in the product marketing process easier and more effective. If you have a product marketing sheet with the story defined, you can hand that off to teams and get the same message across consistently. Without this, you’ll have everyone describe the product differently and that can weaken your brand and negatively impact your ability to sell products.

Launch plans

Product launches are complex, delicate, and large undertakings. Your product marketer needs to work with product, marketing, public relations (PR), sales, and customer-facing teams to get the launch timed and executed. They have to be comfortable leading, taking feedback, and empowered to make snap decisions. 

Creating and communicating a version of the launch plan is an art in itself. Your product manager needs to be able to do this to get everyone on board with the timeline, messaging, and get all the marketing assets produced and approved in time for launch. This takes coordination with everyone from external PR teams and agencies to internal customer solutions managers and your sales force.

Marketing and sales enablement

With a launch plan in place, you need to ensure all the training and marketing tools are accessible to your marketing and sales teams. This can involve everything from scheduling live training sessions and sales briefings to giving access to sales materials and digital assets through portals and microsites

When everyone has access to the same product narrative, campaign images, and marketing materials your product launch has a better chance of hitting its goals. Dedicated focus on marketing and sales enablement can help your sales force accelerate deal velocity, increase win rates, and support retention.

How product marketers measure success

Measuring success is critical for product marketers and it’s one of the most complicated things they do.  Who owns the attributed sales and revenue that come through email? How do you measure success on a product launch that uses print and billboard ads or traditional TV spots? While it’s easier to measure engagement across more and more digital channels, it’s still a challenge to connect all the dots. 

When you know what to measure, it’s much easier to manage the complexity of all the data. Product managers across companies tend to focus on some of the same core metrics — e.g. signups, product usage, and paid activations. Other measures of success like lifetime customer value and revenue are commonly measured, too. Here’s a shortlist of some of the most common metrics and KPIs that product marketers use to measure success.

Metrics and KPI examples

  • Sign-ups
  • Active product usage
  • Paid activation
  • Revenue
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Cost per acquisition

Tools for product marketers

You’ll find product marketers using almost every tool at your company — from email marketing platforms to PIM software. They’ll use certain tools like project management systems every day and with others, it just helps to know how they work. Here’s a shortlist of the most common product marketing tools.

Common product marketing tools

Project management tool. Managing a product marketing strategy involves numerous stakeholders, deadlines, and overlapping processes. Your product marketers will have to keep track of creative production and marketing execution which means they’ll need a project management tool to help. This gives them the overview they need to manage all their project deadlines and milestones to make sure product launches and campaigns go according to plan. 

Email marketing tool. Email is still one of the most effective marketing tools. 82% of marketers use email to communicate with customers and prospects — according to Salesforce’s State of Marketing Report. Whether your company uses a platform like Active Campaign or HubSpot, it’s for product marketers to know its capabilities. That way they can help strategize with the email marketing team and step in to help if needed.

Digital asset management tool. Product marketing requires images, logos, videos, illustrations, and many digital assets to tell the story of your product and brand. Using a digital asset management (DAM) platform helps you organize, share, and publish these assets across global teams and channels. Product marketers can use DAM software to drive results through the whole lifecycle of their product — from launch to future marketing campaigns.

Product information management tool. PIM software is a powerful ally in building effective e-commerce products and selling retail goods online. Product marketers can use it to build effective search features, product comparison tools, and other digital experience products. PIM tools can aggregate technical info from engineering platforms, enhance product information, and transmit product listings to your marketing tools. 

Customer service tool. At the center of every new product is the customer and how they experience it. It’s vital to support their questions and needs during the launch of a new product. Once a product has been established in the market, product marketers can use customer service tools to research customer interactions and listen to their users directly.

Choose tools to support your product marketing team

Product marketing relies on a whole suite of hard and soft skills, complex orchestration across departments, and an ability to oscillate between responsibilities at the drop of a hat. Product marketers are unique individuals who can cross disciplines and still maintain focus around their own goals and initiatives. When you support your product marketing team with the right tools, they’re more likely to get new user signups, convert sales, and grow revenue for your products.

DAM and PIM solutions are two crucial tools that support product marketers through the whole product lifecycle. Over 700 brands around the world trust the Widen Collective® to power DAM and PIM for their product marketing needs. Get in touch to request a demo and see it in action. 

 

Topics: Marketing, PIM

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