When I tell people I am a product marketer, one of 3 things happens:
- They say, “Oh, you’re in sales!”
- They pretend to know what product marketing is
- They get a puzzled look on their face and ask me, “What is that?”
So, it occurred to me that there was a need for education on what exactly product marketing is, and what we do.
There are product managers and there are marketing managers. Then, there are product marketing managers. We are the 'double agents' who bridge the two.
Product marketing usually emerges at companies after product management and marketing departments become hyper-focused on their own disciplines. Company growth or increased velocity (out of desire to keep up with competition) is often the catalyst for this. As a result, product management and marketing become siloed. They’re too busy scaling their own operations to have an effective relationship with each other.
Warning signs for this include:
- You begin to notice that marketing activities (or effectiveness) are plateauing, are out of sync with the company’s vision or no longer resonating with customers
- You ask people on both teams when the last time they talked to the other team was, and their answer is “Uhhhhhh…..”
- Marketing plans or strategies don’t match up to the product roadmap
- You have a product launch that is silent or falls on its face
Enter the product marketing department.
Our responsibilities fall into three categories:
- Keep a steady pulse on the industry, market, and competition
- Create and maintain up-to-date competitor profiles for use across the organization
- Conduct qualitative and quantitative research with current customers and target users to discover their needs and identify opportunities for new features or products
- Recommend and implement iterative improvements to our products based off all research
Messaging, positioning and pricing
- Humanize the technology in messaging – What problems does it solve? What benefits does it deliver?
- Train the rest of the company on how to talk about products
- Create MARCOM materials that drive sales by communicating this value, positioning, and differentiation
- Package and price products scientifically, to drive higher consumption and revenue for the company
Product launches and lifecycle management
- Architect and execute go-to-market strategies for new products and features
- Coordinate with all other departments (Dev, Support, Marketing, Sales) to establish launch readiness
- Make a splash with a perfect product launch
- Once in-market, drive conversion, adoption, usage and revenue for all products
- Analyze performance and take actions to continuously improve
Usually after I explain this, people say, “Wow, that’s a lot.”
Yes, it is.
Product marketing is often the most cross-functional department in the entire company. We have to be, since we are responsible for a product’s entire lifecycle. We do the research to determine what is built; message it after it’s built; launch it into market; monitor its consumption and health once in market; and work with company leaders to ensure the portfolio is powering the company towards market dominance.
We are conductors. Our job is to coordinate teams to make, deliver, market and sell something that our customers love. Over and over again.
We are the glue that connects departments laterally, and makes top-down and bottom-up sisters (not enemies). We knock down silos, smooth out speed bumps, make connections and move mountains to get shit done. All of this requires a holistic mindset and understanding of how every area of the company (and its activities) is interrelated.
That sounds awesome! What qualifications do I need to be a great product marketer?
- Rock the mic – Not just in karaoke, but in all forms of communication (i.e., talk well and write good stuff). You’re representing the company’s brand, internally and externally. Take your voice seriously.
- Project manage like a boss, and juggle many complex projects, all with deadlines, simultaneously.
- Sleuth better than Sherlock Holmes – From following industry trends to conducting market research and interviewing customers, being a product marketer involves major investigative work as well as qualitative and quantitative analysis.
- Be terrifyingly efficient (like the Germans). Be organized, ahead of schedule, communicative, and accountable. Your work and projects have direct impact on the company’s success. If you mess up, you mess up other peoples’ or the company’s timelines, revenues, etc. All eyes are on you.
- Embrace being a double agent. Possess a mind for product with a knack for marketing. Interact regularly with leaders from all departments. Move swiftly and with agility. If you hear about a problem you aren’t already solving, you probably haven’t been paying close enough attention.
- Be a joy to work with – Exude energy, integrity and positivity. Have a hunger for knowledge, and a passion for product marketing. Articulate and keep everyone marching towards the grand vision. Educate those around you and give them what they need so they can do their best work.
Ideate. Prioritize. Articulate. Coordinate. Inspire. You’ll do great.
If you’re interested in learning from 40 of tech’s top product marketers, check out the Product Marketing Summit.