Marketing

What Is Product Marketing? A Definitive Guide

Want to know the ins and outs of product marketing? This all-in-one product marketing guide covers everything about what is product marketing, why it is so important, and a whole lot more.

One of the most important trends in the marketing world nowadays is product marketing. However, this essential marketing tool still suffers from an identity crisis. Since it is often muddled with some other roles and tools in marketing, some people are not aware of what the term ‘product marketing’ actually refers to. However, once they do, it isn’t possible they’ll be launching any product without it.

It is essential to understand what importance the role of product marketing holds and how to apply it to your career or company. Nowadays, you will hear every other company hiring product marketing managers because there is a great demand for expertise in this space so read on for a detailed and strategic answer for what is product marketing.

Product marketing serves as a key connective web between new products and customers. All the vital components of sales, marketing, and customer success come together in this multifaceted discipline to share a new product with the world. It requires a unique role to bring products to life and sell them.

If you are not clear on what product marketing is, how it differs from other marketing tools and what a product marketer is inclined to do, you are not alone. Most of the people who are asked to define the role of product marketing often end up with wildly different answers. So it’s pretty hard to find a good definition of product marketing anywhere. Now, however, you’re at the perfect place to get your queries answered.

This article serves as an all-in-one product marketing guide that will cover everything from product marketing definition to the role of product marketing managers and the tools they use to bring products to the market.

What is product marketing?

Product marketing is the process of bringing a product to the market and aligning its position with customer needs so that customers will actually buy and use those products. It is all about bringing a product to market and making it sellable. Product marketing can be seen as a two-way path; you understand the market and its requirements to shape and develop the product accordingly and lastly, you communicate the product to the market.

Product marketing is a technique through which the product’s value is communicated both externally to the market and internally within the organization. It is a tool that defines a product’s position in the market and lets it get to the people who want to use it. So ultimately, product marketing is what connects the dots between the product and the market in both directions.

The product marketing process includes everything from market research to product positioning to developing effective marketing initiatives solely focused on increasing a product’s adoption in the marketplace. Moreover, the process doesn’t stop once the product has gone to the market. Rather, it is a continual process where the process to ensure that the right target audience is aware of the product goes on. Over the product’s lifecycle, customers and their feedback are being listened to.

Customers’ role in product marketing

Customers are the core of product marketing. A product’s buyers or customers are the primary reason businesses implement a formal product marketing operation.

It is quite simple and understandable that a product is nothing without its customers. If it is unable to get the attention of the people whom it is meant for, the product and the effort behind it is simply wasted. Understanding and identifying the audience of your product, how it’s reaching them, and the story you’re telling to present this product to them are the critical steps included in the process of product marketing.

Customers are an important part of product marketing, not just near or after the product launch but before the product’s shaping as well. Product marketing managers need to navigate the market and the target audience to be well aware of the product’s requirements for it to be successful after launch.

Why is product marketing important?

Now that you’ve read the proper definition of product marketing, you must already be aware of its importance in making a product successful. However, if there’s still any doubt left in your mind as to why product marketing is important, the answer is simple; a successful product can neither be created nor be launched without product marketing. Without knowing what to build and who to market the product to, you cannot take any step forward.

In simple words, the process of product marketing builds up a foundation that the teams use to successfully position and promote products. From product to sales to customer success teams, everyone contributes to the process to ensure a successful launch.

In the world of marketing, brand presence is of utmost importance. Your brand is what makes you stand out in the crowd. Product marketing helps in that as well. It doesn’t always ensure the marketability of the products but it also contributes to the brand narrative. Apart from that, if you want to override your opponents through a successful product, you need to know how to efficiently position and communicate your product’s value to create its demand among the target audience.

In the present era of B2B marketing and sales, customers have more options than ever. Consequently, they find it difficult to distinguish between vendors who sell similar products. An effective product marketing strategy is what will help you be prominent in that crowd and attract customers in flocks. Understanding the 4 P’s of marketing will further help you with that.

Product marketing managers

Product marketing managers or product marketers are the core of any product marketing approach. Product marketers know everything about the product, its target audience, and the market. They act as ambassadors between departments and customer service representatives. Since product marketers cross so many disciplines, people often get confused about what their responsibilities are. Read on to know what product marketers actually do.

You might spot a product marketing manager in a marketing operations meeting, product development roadmap meeting, and customer solutions performance meeting, all on the same day. This is because product marketing managers can move fluidly between several disciplines, including sales, product, marketing, and customer solutions.

If you are wondering which specific team they belong to, product marketers are often a part of the marketing team. However, they could still sit with the product team as well. It doesn’t matter what the team structure of their organization is, these managers always work closely with all product teams, be it product development or product management team.

Product marketing doesn’t involve just one thing. In fact, there are many responsibilities wrapped into one role. A product marketing manager’s role starts by defining the product’s position in the market, creating a launch strategy, along with a long-term communication and performance plan, and organizing the marketing execution across teams. Where all this might be easy to say or read, it is a much more complicated task. Defining only the product’s market position can be quite a handy task, requiring in-depth customer reviews and long research cycles.

A product marketing manager is responsible for understanding the market, decoding the audience’s language, and using all this information to bring your product to the target market and make it sellable to customers. These managers are good at understanding the needs and goals of many groups, and synthesizing all the information into a cohesive strategy. Product marketing managers can be a one-man team or they can lead a team of few individuals and delegate tasks across them.

Product marketers need to be experts at e-commerce tools and marketing techniques, including email marketing tools and product information management (PIM) software. Understanding how to interpret analytics and making performance metrics easily understandable for others is also an important task for product marketers.

Key differences between product marketing and traditional marketing

While product marketing has its roots in traditional marketing, there are still some key differences between the two strategies. Product marketing is, perhaps, the latest approach to marketing or you can call it an upgrade. Also, product marketing is often confused with product management as well. Down below, we have explained the differences clearly.

Product marketing vs. traditional marketing

Marketing is a broader term that encompasses all functions responsible for communicating value to prospects. The technique of traditional marketing is all about promoting and creating value for a company and its products as a whole. On the other hand, product marketing focuses solely on the products your brand sells, while driving demand and adoption for the product.

Traditional marketing techniques aim to get people interested in your company. For example, your email marketers and campaign managers work to establish awareness of your brand or company and build trust with potential buyers.

Meanwhile, product marketers are responsible for targeting a specific audience for products and solutions offered by your company and working on making these products sell as much as possible. Product marketing might include targeting new customers but most of the time, the target audience comes from the existing customer base. The end goal of product marketing is to promote products in a way that resonates with customers to increase customer lifetime value, drive product adoption, and eventually, increase win rate and revenue.

Product marketing vs. product management

Product marketing and product management, these two disciplines are often confused with each other. A product manager’s role is to define and build new products and features. Product marketing managers come into the scene to commercialize those products and drive demand, revenue, and adoption to them. They can efficiently do some of the tasks that product managers do on the side.

The function of product management is to oversee product success over the entire lifecycle of the product. The responsibilities include understanding market needs, driving product strategy and plans, and ensuring product alignment across company departments and teams. The function of product marketing is also to understand market needs, but with the focus of understanding the customers of the company’s products and services.

In simpler words, product marketing managers are responsible for bringing the voice of the customers to the product team, which is headed by product managers and is responsible for translating the information into user stories and features. Once developed, product marketing managers are then responsible for navigating the newly made product into the market and driving value and adaptation to it.

While product adoption should be a collaborative effort with product managers, product marketers are ultimately responsible for communicating features. Oftentimes, in organizations, there is a mix of product management and product marketing to create and run experiments inside the product to drive adoption.

To put it simply, a product manager’s responsibilities include understanding the problem that the customers are facing and then scoping and building a solution. On the other hand, a product marketer owns the commercialization strategy and the narrative and defines the product’s position in the market.

Since product managers and product marketers are both well aware of the project, they work together on a daily basis in terms of scoping the product and putting together a roadmap. However, ultimately, their responsibilities are vastly different from each other.

How to plan an effective product marketing strategy?

In order to effectively market your product, you need to lay out a product marketing strategy which is a roadmap that will guide your product from development to launch. A product marketing strategy is what will help you in deciding how you position and promote your product, pre, and post-launch.

When product marketers understand their customers clearly enough and know exactly whom their product caters to, the marketing process can begin. Here are eight things that can help product marketers before, during, or after their product enters the market.

Product research and customer development

An effective and sellable product isn’t just the work of luck; it takes weeks and even months of research to make a product successful. During this time, product marketers sit with product developers to test the product both internally and externally through rigorous testing and controlled beta environments. So if you are a product marketer, mark down this step as the most necessary one to start with.

Moreover, before you start marketing your product, make sure you know who your audience is. When you have researched and tested your product, the next thing you must do is define the target market and create buyer personas. This way, product marketers get a grasp of who the buyer is, as well as, what their needs and interests are. Moving forward with this information, product marketers are able to create messaging that resonates with the product’s target audience.

Storytelling and product positioning

Once you have figured out your audience, the next step is to plan what you are going to say. Obviously, you will need to include details about the product but you need to know exactly what details to cover. For this purpose, you will be needing to use the information you learned about your target audience to create a narrative that positions your product as a solution to their problems.

If you have been in the product and service market for some time, you might know what important part storytelling plays in the launch process. Most often, products are brought into the market in the form of a story that clearly defines the product’s problem-solving techniques. What problems has your new product addressed, how are those problems being solved by your product, and who is facing the problems? Such concerns need to be directly addressed.

Moreover, the story must also include how your product is different and better than the competitor’s products in the market. You need to emphasize what makes your product unique because that is how you will distinguish yourself from your competitors.

Product-focused content and message sharing

Content is the core of any marketing strategy. So as a product marketer, your next stop is at the content creator’s desk. Product marketers need to create and test various content including marketing copy, case studies, demos, positioning docs, pitch decks, product screenshots, blog content, landing pages, and more. This content is strictly product specific as it will directly be facing the target audience.

Another important thing to ensure is tracking. While you are working with the content teams to develop all the above-mentioned content, make sure to think about tracking. Tracking your content is the only way to measure the success of your launch.

Product launch plan

A product launch plan is indeed the best way to prepare your team for a successful launch. Without a written launch plan, no product marketing team can march towards launch. Until you write down every single stage of the marketing process from start to finish and who is responsible at each point, your product marketing strategy is incomplete.

Although a product launch involves teams from across the company, from marketing to sales to the customer support department, product marketers are the lawful owners of the launch plan and they must keep track of all the stages involved in the launch plan.

An effective product launch includes a clear goal and launch date, as well as the strategy to successfully launch on time and reach the specified goal. All in all, an effective launch plan is critical to a successful launch of the product.

Community engagement

Through product marketing, the product is able to get enough buzz within the industry. Keeping this in view, it is common for marketing teams to capitalize on what the market is saying about them. Product marketers can do this by reaching out to influencers, partners, and existing customers for a quick shout-out. This helps engage and build community, leaving a lasting impact on the new audience as well.

Sales strategy

Amongst this marketing hustle, someone who is eagerly waiting to start work is the sales team. As the product is being prepared to launch, the sales team is waiting to create a sales strategy around this new business opportunity. For this purpose, the product marketing team must meet with the sales team before, during, and after the product is launched in the marketplace to make sure that the messaging created for this product is consistent throughout.

Product launch

Eventually, the product is going to be launched soon. But you need to do one more thing beforehand. While telling the customers about the new product and its wonders, make sure to keep your team in the loop. In order to have a successful product launch, internal communication is as important as external communication. So you need to make sure that your entire team, across sales, customer success, marketing, and product, is prepared and ready to go.

Once everything is finalized and ready, it’s time to launch the product. This is the most important moment for a product marketer as your product is out on the marketplace and customers start rolling in. If everything doesn’t go as planned, make sure to have a plan B, just in case.

Post-launch

You have launched the product, now it is time to assess how everything went. In other words, this stage includes everything that needs to be taken care of after you have launched the product and it is out there in the marketplace.

In some companies, it is in the form of a retrospective meeting to look back and see what you could have done better. Also, don’t forget to celebrate your achievements, including the small ones along the way and the big ones on the launch day. Even if things didn’t work out as planned, you need to celebrate the effort in order to lift up the team to do better next time.

Feedback can lead to dramatic improvements within the product. So, another important post-launch action is to measure the success of your launch plan by monitoring customer and internal feedback for at least some time. This also includes aligning with your product team on what the adoption metrics are and then using those metrics to further evaluate the performance of your product’s launch.

Product analytics is an important part of the post-launch strategy. Product marketers shouldn’t be guessing how users have engaged with the process, they need to track this with analytics software like Heap, Mixpanel, etc.

Ending notes

Putting it out simply, product marketing connects the dots between the product and the market, in both directions. It plays a crucial role in the success of a product and startup, and will only grow in importance and value as we continue to embrace a product-first world. Product marketing has evolved and it will continue to do so over time.

In the all-so-competitive product market, product marketing is essential to making you and your product stand out and shine through the crowd. And it will continue to be more true as more competitors flood the market. After all, marketing a product cannot be done without product marketers.

So, in order to get ahead of the curve, one needs to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of product marketing managers and empower them with executive visibility and sufficient tooling. Since their major responsibility is to be the customers’ voice, they are highly knowledgeable in figuring out your customers’ challenges and goals and relaying those details to their respective teams.

This article has clearly explained what is product marketing, how it is different from traditional marketing and product management, why it is important, and the steps to plan an effective marketing strategy.