Steve Jobs famously said: “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
So how do you know what your customer needs?
This is where product marketing comes in.
That’s because, at its core, product marketing is all about getting to know your customer.
Product marketing is the process of bringing a product to market and driving its distribution effectively. And there is no better way of ensuring the success of this process than knowing who your customer is and what he or she really wants.
Product marketers are customer champions. It’s their job to identify customer needs and pain points, to pinpoint product positioning and messaging in order to communicate value clearly, and to ensure that both customers and the sales team understand this value.
As a function, product marketing touches product development and management, marketing and sales. As a process, it spans everything that happens up to, during and after launch. That’s because while product marketing is about ensuring that the right people know about your product, how it benefits them and how to use it right from the start, it is also about capturing and communicating customer feedback across the entire lifecycle of your product – and ensuring that improvements and updates are continuously communicated and implemented.
Put simply, product management is all about knowing your target customer inside out.
Examples of a good Product Marketer
Getting product marketing right means really getting inside the head of your customer. And there are plenty of examples of brands that do a great job of this.
Take freemium email marketing platform, MailChimp.
You could be forgiven for assuming that MailChimp’s marketing efforts would focus on low costs to the end user. But you’d be wrong.
MailChimp offers an all-in-one marketing suite for small businesses, helping them grow. Their marketing campaigns focus squarely on this benefit – a strategy that puts customer needs, pain points and objectives front and center of the narrative. As co-founder Ben Chestnut put it: “MailChimp has a proximity to its customers that competitors lacked.” The result? More than 12 million loyal customers and 60% of the email marketing industry.
From the get go, Airbnb understood that their customers weren’t just looking for a cheap alternative to hotels. They knew that the key to differentiating their product was to tap into people’s need to feel at home or to “belong,” wherever they were staying.
Airbnb recently introduced the so-called Belo symbol that captures this idea. As CEO Brian Chesky says: “Belonging has always been a fundamental driver of humankind. So to represent that feeling, we’ve created a symbol for us as a community. It’s an ionic mark for our windows, our doors and our shared values. It’s a symbol that, like us, can belong, wherever it happens to be.”
Of course, no round up of key players in the product marketing space would be complete without a mention of Apple.
Apple is a household name, synonymous with great design. Its products are design icons that have revolutionized the way we interact with tech all over the world.
However, take a look at Apple product marketing and you will see that they rarely spend time walking users through product features, however dazzling they might be. Instead, Apple tells the customer how to use their products.
The Apple product marketing narrative consistently zeros in on user benefits and how Apple products can transform people’s jobs, leisure time and lives.
MailChimp, Airbnb and Apple all understand the same thing: marketing to the customer means putting that customer at the very heart of every product story they tell.
What a Product Marketer does
Product marketers occupy an inward and outward-facing role with a company.
Inside the organisation, they typically work with researchers, customer experience designers or data scientists to get insights into how customers use a product. They then share this customer intelligence with the product management team to articulate and set priorities, in order to meet customer needs.
On the customer-facing side, product marketers work with brand marketing, communications and sales teams to develop positioning and marketing messaging, and to identify the access points and channels where target customers will interact with the company and where conversion happens.
Typically, a product marketer’s role will be broken down into 8 key functions.
Identifying the target audience for the product and creating buyer personas.
Articulating the buyer persona pain points that the product addresses.
Benchmarking the competition.
Creating a compelling product value proposition.
Determining the right pricing strategy.
Identifying purchasing and customer interaction channels and methods.
Securing internal alignment across product management, marketing and sales around the product’s purpose, its functionality and core messages.
Ensuring that customer feedback reaches these teams in order to keep the product relevant across its lifecycle.
How product marketing is different from product management
So far we have seen what product marketing is.
So what is it not?
Product marketing should not be confused with product management. While both disciplines have a key role to play in driving the success of a product, product managers are responsible for guiding products through the development process, from defining product functions to managing workflows and communicating with key stakeholders, including suppliers.
As we have seen, product marketing is very much more focused on the customer.
It is the product marketer’s job to ensure that the company understands the customer’s needs, pain points and expectations – and that the development team builds products that match those needs.
To put it very simply, product management is about defining and creating new products and features.
Product marketing is about providing the critical customer insights to ensure these products and features are on point. And then bringing them to the market.
The benefits of product marketing
Product marketing is an essential part of any company’s marketing strategy.
Executed effectively, product marketing ensures that your product reaches its full potential across your target audience.
The benefits of product marketing can be summarized as follows:
Understanding your customers better in order to target user personas more effectively.
Gaining insight into the competition for business insight and strategic differentiation.
Building alignment between product management, marketing and sales to streamline and drive productivity.
Positioning your product effectively in the market.
Boosting sales and customer loyalty, and driving revenue.
Strategies for marketing a product
Any effective product marketing strategy needs to address three core objectives: positioning, pricing and promoting your product.
A good, systematic approach to building your strategy is to work through the following 5 phases:
Identify your target customer and build personas.
Create your positioning and core messaging.
Establish a set of goals for your product.
Plan your product launch – internally and externally.
Identifying the customer
First and foremost, you need to understand who your target customer is and what they need. Building buyer personas will bring your targets to life and help you to customize your strategy to your audience.
Getting your product positioning right
Once you’ve built personas and pinpointed customer needs, you need to think about how your positioning and messaging answer critical customer pain points. Be careful to think about this from a customer-centric perspective. That means looking not only at what makes your product different or unique, but also about how its features help your target audience, what they will get from the product and why they should choose your company and product instead of the competition.
You might want to create an elevator pitch to help you crystallize your positioning, and to develop a style or tone of voice guide that resonates with customers while aligning with your brand for consistency.
What product goals will you set?
Do you want to build revenue, increase customer engagement or boost brand equity?
The goals you choose will depend very much on the kind of product you are marketing and the strategic aims of your company, but setting goals helps bring purpose and clarity to your efforts – as well as the mechanisms by which you can measure success.
What’s your product pricing strategy?
Product marketing has a key role in pricing strategy. Product marketers have the customer insight and the competitor intelligence to help make critical decisions. Among these is whether to opt for competitive or value-based product pricing, depending on whether your product is similar to those sold by your competitors – or whether it is very niche or unique.
Preparing for launch
Before you go to market, you will need to launch your new product internally. This will entail sharing all the key information about your product – goals, features, positioning and messaging, pricing and how it will be launched to customers.
Once you are on the same page internally, it is time to think about launching to existing, prospective and target audiences. The key pieces of this puzzle are positioning, timing and channels – and how these elements map together.
Depending on your goals, you will need to think about where you will focus your marketing efforts, be that on your website, via social media, in store or by means of events or campaigns.
Tools for product marketing
There are many different tools available on the market to help you execute your product marketing strategy.
Here at ON24 , we offer state-of-the-art product demo services: compelling TV-like demo experience, integrating on-camera talent, video clips and screen sharing.
Among the most popular project and time-management tools are “whiteboards” like Trello which helps teams coordinate, collaborate and prioritize.
Roadmapping tools like Product Board are also great for consolidating everything you need in one place.
In terms of customer intelligence, Typeform is gaining traction among product managers thanks to high usability and readily customisable templates. User Testing is also great for testing marketing concepts and prototypes.
For customer engagement, you might want to explore the array of communication and live chat tools available. Among these are things like Zendesk, Freshworks and LiveChat which are great ways to enable your customers to connect with your product while providing valuable feedback.
There is a plethora of email and analytics tools out there to help you reach your target audience and monitor traffic, among them MailChimp and Hotjar.
And finally, CRM tools will help keep the flow of information moving by consolidating your customer data in one place. Check out HubSpot CRM which lets users log sales data, emails and calls easily.
Product marketing vs traditional marketing
We have covered many of the core functions, responsibilities and benefits of product marketing.
But you may still be asking yourself if product marketing isn’t essentially the same thing as traditional marketing, after all.
The short answer is: no.
Traditional marketing is all about promoting a company or a brand as a whole. It encompasses everything that forms part of a company’s content: lead generation, SEO, acquiring and converting new leads. And it ensures consistency across all of a brand’s marketing messages.
Product marketing, as we have seen, is about understanding a specific product’s audience base, and tailoring that product’s positioning and messaging to meet that audience’s needs.
Product marketing covers everything that leads to and beyond the launch and the marketing strategy of a particular product. Product marketers are the custodians and executors of every aspect of your go-to-market strategy.