Guest Column | July 6, 2018

Product Marketing In A Perfect World

By Jeff Keyes, Plutora

Finding The Best Charts And Graphs For The Job

What does the term “product marketing” really mean? In the past, this question has confused software companies and resulted in product marketing being a somewhat abused position. It’s not a new role, but it has evolved a lot. In the early days, product marketers created data sheets and a little bit of messaging. Now it’s been extended to offer four essential questions that a software company has to grapple with, specifically:

  • What are the products?
  • Who are our target customers?
  • How do we reach our potential customers?
  • Where are pricing and promotions going to be used?

Despite this overarching focus, software companies tend to push product marketing teams to one of two extremes. On one hand, some combine product marketing and product management into a single role. This doesn’t work efficiently because each role is a full-time job in-and-of itself and has very distinct goals. In other software companies, product marketers are simply utilized as writers resulting in a content marketing role where their sole focus is messaging. Neither of these get the most out of product marketers or answers all of the above questions software companies need to be successful, although there are some aspects of each situation that ring true. Thus, product marketing is a mix of product management and content marketing responsibilities, with its own unique twist.

What Is Product Marketing?

Product marketing is a mix of all things strategy. Product marketers own the product from an external point of view. They don’t just focus on writing and communicating the company’s message, but also play a big role in driving visions and evangelizing them while working directly with others throughout the organization to get tailored messages out to customers. All of this then turns into a packaging discussion — what is the product we sell, what is the pricing of these products, how can we group them into different bundles, what channels should we sell through, and how do we position these products against competitors? What it boils down to is product marketers are actively involved in the product process from beginning to end.

What Makes Perfect Product Marketing?

Product marketing is the ultimate responsibility without any authority. No one reports to product marketers, but they are responsible for driving revenue and making sure the business moves in the right direction. Sales doesn’t report to them, but they measure success by increased market share and revenue. Product management and development doesn’t report to them, but they measure success by alignment of the product and brand vision. Customer success doesn’t report to them, but product marketing ensures successful case studies after proven implementations. Demand generation doesn’t report to them, but increasing leads is crucial. And finally, PR doesn’t report to them, but every successful product marketing manager is focused on reach, awareness, and the quality of the message.

When utilized correctly, product marketing is an opportunity to come up with interesting programs and campaigns to drive the messaging — for example, via conferences, working with analysts, building case studies with customers, issuing surveys or hosting webinars, etc. This all starts with product marketing, but it needs support from the wider product team and the entire organization.

What Internal Stakeholders Need Product Marketing?

Looking a bit deeper, a well-run product marketing machine is a few smart people driving key areas and feeding their output into the rest of the company’s marketing machine. The ideal product marketing team is able to contribute to all departments. This covers many you wouldn’t often think of, including from the web and creative teams who produce large amounts of external facing content and need guidance to ensure the brand is portrayed accurately. This then feeds into the demand-gen world where they create messaging personas, campaigns and outbound marketing. Some additional ways product marketing teams feed into other departments include:

  • For the executive staff, product marketing managers collaborate on corporate messaging and positioning. This basic message then permeates every other bit of product positioning.
  • For PR, product marketing managers evangelize both corporate and product messaging. This results in writers, bloggers, and industry influencers promoting content.
  • For creative teams, product marketing managers are involved with brand messaging and how its imagery impacts the overall corporate and product messaging. Infographics are an expressive representation of product marketing messaging.
  • For demand generation, all of the messaging converges for nurturing campaigns, events, PPC, content marketing, and other lead generating activities.

A product marketer can add a unique skill set to the work of each of these teams through a data-driven perspective measured by prompting awareness, accelerating lead generation, increasing overall revenue, raising the rates of product adoption and encouraging and leading content effectiveness.

Product marketers need to be innovative and collaborative to be used efficiently, so my biggest advice would be stop having product marketers and product managers as one person, stop having product marketers simply be writers, and have them be agile.

About The AuthorJeff Keyes, Plutora

Jeff Keyes is director of product marketing at Plutora.