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The ins and outs of product marketing in the age of conversations

The vision of product marketing touches practically every department at a company. Product marketers must know the wants, needs, and desires of both current and potential customers, in some ways responsible for predicting what people will get excited about in the future.

This means collaborating with and educating everyone in marketing, sales, development, customer success, and support. With such a large role to play, it’s important to have a foundational understanding of the ins and out of product marketing and what it can entail.

This post breaks down not just what product marketing is but why it’s so important for businesses that want to stay customer-focused and build better relationships with the people who make business happen.

What is product marketing

Product marketing encompasses getting a product released and then making sure people buy it and use it.

Product marketers figure out what customers want and/or need, strategize how to get a product to them that will fill a need, and get their whole company on board with how the product will be launched and delivered.

Their work doesn’t stop once a product is released though. They help ensure it not only gets adopted by customers but also that it keeps getting used. Without creating a plan for long-term retention and growth, product marketers will be back at the drawing board in no time.

Product marketing ultimately touches everything from product development to users’ adoption and everyday usage.

Why product marketing is so important

Without product marketing research and strategy, you eventually end up wasting a lot of time and resources on projects that don’t matter. You either end up:

  • Creating a product that people don’t care for or need
  • Creating a product that people do want but not in a way that makes them willing to pay for it

Product marketers get everyone in the company on the same page to streamline the release and maximize adoption to increase the lifetime value of customers. Right now consumers heavily value humanized brands and companies that treat people like people. For product marketers at B2B and B2C companies to succeed, they need to focus on solving problems and positioning solutions that reflect that desire for a human experience.

In order to be competitive in your industry, whatever that may be, you need to engage in product marketing. And that product marketing needs to be driven by customer relationships.

The product marketing framework

A product marketer won’t necessarily handle these things as individual steps while helping product, development, marketing, sales, and customer success teams create and launch new solutions or updates. However, these are key areas that product marketers must focus on to create and launch successful products.

Product research

Research is the basis for any update or new product. The amount of time that goes into background research varies depending on how different or expansive you expect the new product to be.

It requires researching your own customers and competitors. This creates the basis for figuring out your exact product/market fit. Everything you learn when researching sets up the foundation for your company’s differentiators in the market.

Product story

Product marketers need to understand the origin of the product, or rather the “why” behind it. Why is this something worth creating and sharing with your audience? This product story directly influences how you communicate with the people you hope will give you money for it.

Product-focused content

Product marketers must first be the expert on the product before they help create any related content. In this case “content” includes everything from in-house documentation, sales enablement materials, customer-facing training, and external marketing assets.

All product-focused content is solution-focused for a specific audience.

Product launch plan

The launch of a new product must be preceded by a launch plan. Depending on how expansive the new product is, the launch plan will involve more people, more training, more resources.

A launch plan will need to include things like:

  • where the new product should be marketed and advertised
  • key messaging points for selling and marketing to new and existing customers
  • basic documentation for how to use the new product
  • how current customers will be contacted and who will do that contacting

Sales enablement

Well before launch and when the new product will be available for people to buy, your sales team needs to understand what’s being released and why it’s important to customers.

To a certain extent, it’s the product marketing team’s responsibility to make sure every sales rep knows how the product works so they can identify who exactly to sell to. Sales reps must accurately understand its value and capabilities. Otherwise you risk a disconnect when communicating product/market fit.

Product launch meeting

Ideally, the product launch meeting will take place a few days to a week in advance of launch. Holding this meeting early makes sure all teams know what’s going on and gives everyone time to make changes to the product launch plan if necessary.

The product marketers will already have collaborated with different departments, so the launch meeting should generally be a higher level overview of what’s going to happen.

Community engagement

Product marketers need to be loyal to the target audience, both current and prospective customers. The whole point is to help create solutions that help people. What you sell needs to matter to your overall community.

Without this focus, product marketing easily becomes misaligned. So, seek out feedback and start conversations surrounding product ideas and their execution. Do this on a regular basis, at least quarterly and maybe monthly.

What exactly does product marketing do?

The framework above includes the top priorities of product marketing teams. Now we’ll dive deeper into a more detailed outline of what exactly a product marketer does to help a company when launching a new solution. Again, notice the focus on creating an experience built for customers.

Develop a product marketing strategy

In the most general terms, a product marketing strategy represents the guidelines for going from idea to development to launch to adoption. It’s the umbrella for determining everything from positioning, pricing, marketing/promotion, and adoption.

Everything that follows in this post makes up the basis of a product marketing strategy.

Know your customer

Who is the person who is going to buy what you’re selling? Why will they want to buy it? How will you make sure they know about it? What matters to them when buying something like this?

These questions mark the beginning of creating an ideal customer profile when doing your product research. With this profile you know who to target and how to do it successfully.

Sometimes your current customers will be the ideal customer for whatever you develop. Other times you’ll go after a whole new group of people.

Regardless, “knowing your customer” requires external research as well as research from talking to actual customers. Never skip or neglect this process.

Create foundational positioning & messaging

Creating your positioning and messaging starts with your product and market research. Understand how features equate to value and benefits. By knowing your customer, you know the problems they have and why your solution matters to them.

Develop your ideal customer profiles or customer personas to then develop your positioning. You must know what matters to people so you know how to sell to them.

Knowing your customers also means knowing your competition. Don’t skip out on market research! If you want to ensure people choose your product, you have to know what advantages you have over competitors — and where your messaging will have to stand out if you don’t have a perceived advantage or you’re creating a new category.

For example, price is always a major deciding factor. How will you position your product to still be the desirable product even at a higher price point? Or how will you justify your price when offering a product that can’t be easily compared to what’s already out there?

Share the product’s positioning and messaging

After determining your messaging and positioning in the market, you have to start sharing it with your company. The sooner you start this, the better prepared everyone will be to actually help you launch.

This includes training the marketing and sales teams, as well as customer success team members. You’re the expert, so carefully plan how you’ll get everyone to understand what the product does and why your solution is THE solution people need.

Start giving teams the knowledge to overcome objections and work through barriers to adoption sooner rather than later.

Create a launch plan

As development continues and you nail down your product’s specific value to the market, you must start planning the “go-to-market” plan of action.

In other words, how will you get the news of your new product to all the people who matter? What needs to happen so current customers and potential customers are targeted?

This includes preparing for customers’ reactions to any changes. If this is going to change or disrupt how people use your product, be ready to address that.

In addition, your launch plan and GTM strategy must include setting goals for how you’re going to measure the launch. Is this about new sign-ups, feature usage, or something else? What’s considered successful adoption?

Create launch content

A successful go-to-market strategy and launch plan aren’t complete without launch content.

Prep everything from technical documentation, how-tos, blog posts, sales enablement materials, landing pages… The list goes on, all dependent on your target audiences and campaign goals.

To make this as simple as possible, provide the preliminary data and evidence that prove the value and ROI of your solutions.

Granted, product marketers create a lot of this content in collaboration with the marketing team or delegate it as necessary. It’s the responsibility of the product marketing team to make sure it’s done and ready for launch.

Prepare and train all departments

Launches interrupt the normal routine, so product marketing teams must carefully plan and execute releases. Employees must be able to do their jobs on launch day and seamlessly integrate the new product into that.

Everyone needs to know what is happening and when. Your launch plan should be properly shared in the correct channels with sufficient lead time. Not all of this training will happen at once. (It literally can’t.)

Here’s an overview of the prep and training you’ll need to do.

Marketing

One of your earliest priorities in the launch plan needs to be collaborating with the rest of the marketing team. When you get their buy-in about a product and its value, the easier everything proceeds.

Depending on the type of air cover or media buying needed to surround the launch, some of this work will take weeks of planning and prep.

While marketing will have been involved when you initially shared the product’s messaging and position in the market, follow up to make sure they have everything they need to distribute content and announcements. This includes helping them determine the type of customers they need to target and in what channels that information should be shared.

Will you reach ideal customers through email, text messaging, phone calls, billboards, social posts, online ads? Determine that together.

They’ll also be marketing to current customers, so, if possible, give them specific lists of the customers that should be contacted.

Customer support and success

Your customer support and success teams must know about new launches and upcoming changes as soon as possible. Because if CSMs can’t help their clients, you risk ongoing retention problems. Or if customer support can’t readily onboard new customers, that’s going to hurt the brand.

Your customer-facing teams must have all the info on how to answer questions about the new thing that’s being sold.

Similarly, if current customers need to be notified pre-launch of any changes, make the plan of action. When do they need to be notified, what should they be told, and who will be in communication?

Sales

The sales team needs a similar introduction to the marketing team about the positioning and messaging of a new product.

Specific sales enablement training will help them understand exactly how it’s used and frequently asked questions they’re likely to receive while selling. For reps who will be doing product demos, they need a super clear understanding of how the new product fits in and what problems it solve for potential customers.

Providing sales enablement materials for the new product is also key. Share with them content and assets they can use to sell. This might be one-pagers, battle cards, and sales decks. These materials don’t need to focus on “how” a product works but instead on “why” your product matters to each of your different audiences. Tailoring the sales process will always benefit you.

General launch meeting priorities

Most launch meetings will not require every single person at your company (that’s unrealistic). But make sure you gather key team members who will be directly affected by the launch.

You will likely have representation from all departments, primarily key developers, sales managers, marketing managers, customer service managers, and customer success managers.

Those in product marketing will review positioning and messaging as well as ensure everyone knows how the product works (if training is required). It’s in the launch meeting that the product marketing experts give people the final tools they need to talk about the new product in a unified way.

Clearly communicate and confirm launch times in your final pre-launch meetings.

Launch your product

The product is ready. Campaigns are set. Everyone’s been trained. Time for launch!

On launch day, keep in touch with all the teams. Check in with each department about how things are going and set aside time to help them solve any issues that may arise.

As the expert on the product and its perception to your target audiences, be prepared for any and all questions.

Evaluate post-launch

As launch day goes on and subsequent days pass, take time to evaluate your GTM strategy and the reception of your product.

Do some growth marketing analysis. How did people perceive the launch?

How are customers adopting the solution or update? Are new customers finding it valuable? This is a big part of your community engagement: seeking to understand how people are using your new product. Give people plenty of opportunities to provide feedback and engage in conversations with you.

At the same time, get feedback from all your internal teams. What went well and what was awful about launching? Are there ongoing problems with the product or things you didn’t foresee? Once you get this feedback, internalize it and start creating a plan for how to negate similar problems in the future. As needed, start implementing immediate changes for how the product is positioned and sold. This of course requires continually working with sales, marketing, and customer success.

Your post-launch evaluation — of all aspects of your GTM strategy — won’t happen in a single day. Certain things you’ll know immediately if they went well or not. Other things will become apparent over time.

Should product marketing sit with product or marketing?

It’s perhaps the No. 1 question asked by product managers, marketing experts, and product marketers themselves. Should product marketing sit with product or marketing?

Our answer? Yes.

Any product marketer needs to carefully involve themself in the efforts of product and marketing. Without the alignment of those groups, no product lives up to its potential. No matter how good and important it actually is.

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