Contributed by Steve Robins
Done right, product marketing can make a tremendous impact on the organization by providing market insight, guiding strategic direction, and developing compelling messaging – while contributing to sales enablement, marketing campaigns, sales tool development, content creation and much more. A few months ago, the BPMA’s Product Executives Forum gathered to discuss this topic. Let’s take a look at strategies the team discussed to accomplish this:
#1 Market focus
The starting point for sound product marketing is an external market focus balanced against more tactical, internal activities. This will vary by organization and by members of the team. But each product marketer needs to understand their market as much – if not more than – their product. They need to understand who they’re marketing to, how they buy (think buyer’s journey, and the overall challenges that they are trying to solve. And they also need to understand the business and technological trends driving their market, and finally they must understand their competitors.
#2 Using market data to drive strategy and tactics
The market data points mentioned above are useless if they never make their way into the organization. So product marketing must use external data to drive strategic decisions – such as the top markets, new product opportunities, pricing, distribution strategies, messaging and value propositions, optimal marketing tactics and more. Equally important, product marketing must share that external data with the rest of the organization through buyer personas, sales cheat sheets and playbooks, competitive tools and more.
#3 Internal leadership matters
In additional to an external market focus, product marketing needs a balanced focus within the organization, working collaboratively as both equals and leaders with product management AND sales AND marketing. Some organizations use a three-in-a-box model that brings together the product owner, product manager and product marketer as equals.
#4 Early involvement and smooth handoffs
Sitting at the intersection of other functions, leaders and team members must ensure smooth handoffs to and from product marketing. For example, product marketing should be included early in the product release process – providing external data to guide market requirements, developing messaging, and/or ensuring a smooth transition from product management, among others. Similarly, sales should be included early in new product launches, and product marketing needs to work closely with sales as they create new sales tools. And early in the process, message/value prop development needs to incorporate input, buy-in, and commitment from sales, product management, executives and others.
#5 Clear roles and responsibilities
All of this works best with clear roles and responsibilities, something that is as much a function of process planning (such as RACI charts) as cross-functional collaboration, strong senior leadership, and strong product marketing leadership.
Product marketing should support sales – but sales should also be incented to do what it takes to be successful. For example, salespeople may be incented not only on revenue but also on training and message proficiency to ensure that they are successful in the field. 100% alignment will never happen. But when functions are well-aligned, they will work more effectively and produce better overall results.
#7 Working backwards
Especially with game-changing new products, product marketers can learn from Amazon, which “works backwards” from the press release to the product spec. Regardless of how it’s done, product marketing should provide input into the new product planning process.
#8 Agile product marketing
Product marketing needs to adjust to agile development. Whether or not product marketing employs agile methodologies to do its job, it may need to rethink product launches and the frequency of content and sales tool/training updates. Better yet, agile provides more frequent opportunities for product marketing to provide strategic input into the roadmap.
The discussion actually focused more on sales and product management than on the rest of marketing – such as content marketing, social media, and demand gen activities. Nonetheless, today’s product marketers have a great opportunity to harness the power of external market insights to develop better strategies, and play a role that is both strategic and action-oriented. And by incorporating others early in the process, they can develop more effective launches, messaging and sales tools.
BPMA’s Product Executives Forum brings senior leaders from product management, product marketing and other product functions together for a monthly topical discussion. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Image from Flickr
Steve Robins is the principal of Solution Marketing Strategies, a strategic marketing consultancy that advises companies on marketing and demand gen strategies, segmentation and messaging. For the last 15 years, Steve Robins has been transforming technology firms into market-leading, customer-focused solution providers. Steve has held senior marketing roles at FirstBest Systems, EMC Documentum, and KANA Software. An industry thought-leader, Steve started the top-rated solution marketing blog, writes a marketing tech column for TechTarget, has co-chaired the ProductCamp Boston unconference for several years, and was a senior analyst at The Yankee Group where he analyzed new markets and emerging Web technologies.