The way that I explain product marketing to others—from fellow product marketers to CMOs and CEOs—is through the W.i.N. framework that I developed.
It’s the core role of product marketing to understand and communicate:
- WHO you are going to win with and who you are going to win against
- IMPACT you provide through the value you offer
- NARRATIVE you need to craft internally and externally to convey your value
On the latest episode of The Marchitect, my guest co-host, Jason Oakley, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Klue and I break down the W.i.N. framework with input from three savvy product marketing leaders: Jam Khan, SVP Product Marketing at 6Sense, Julien Sauvage, VP Product Marketing at Gong, and Jarod Greene, VP Product Marketing at Highspot.
Jam, Julien, and Jarod gave us a crash course in product marketing and shared how each of them uses the W.i.N. framework to position their companies to, well, win.
Listen to the full episode here, or skim the highlights below.
Start by establishing the who
Who you win with
The first thing a product marketer needs to do is determine who you choose to serve. You can’t be everything to everyone, so you need to drill down on your ICP, customer target segments and buyer personas.
“Knowing your audience’s pains, frustrations and drivers is half of the job done”, says Julien. “I'm personally really big on research and by research, I mean all kinds of research—from scrappy internal coffee chats with your top-performing AEs to bigger third-party-lead external buyer research”.
“We look at the segments that are driving intent”, says Jam. “What keywords they're searching and what topics of interest they have. That lets us know where we want to direct our efforts, even as we expand into other segments”.
While all three product marketing leaders agree that conducting in-depth research to establish the “who” is a key first step, they warn against dialling in too much.
“I have a love-hate relationship with buyer personas”, says Jam. “I think they're very necessary but we tend to get too obsessed with them in product marketing”.
“As much as I love in-depth research, I do think that personas can be really complex and very fluid", says Julien. “I think it’s a great first step, but it should not be the end of the road”.
Who you win against
Once you know who you’re targeting, the next step is to identify who you’re up against. This means scoping out your competitive landscape and target market.
Product marketers need to lead the charge on competitive intelligence and win-loss analysis to understand who you’re sharing the space with and what your core differentiators are. Then, you need to arm your go-to-market teams with the right “differentiation daggers” (as Jarod calls them) to win against your competitors.
The secret ingredient to competitive differentiation? Value drivers.
“You're only going to win the feature fight for so long,” says Jarod. “It comes down to how you connect those features to value better … Context is everything”.
Focus value on impact for buyers
Hang on to those value drivers you just established because you’re really going to need them here. Once you know who you want to serve and who you’re competing against, you have to ensure buyers understand the impact your product will have on their business.
A rich understanding of your product’s impact will also help you win against the silent competitor that often gets overlooked: the status quo.
“We know who our competitors are”, says Jarod, “But we also look at the no-decision competitor, the status quo competitor, the getting the buying committee to align competitors” and so on.
“The biggest hurdle we have to get people over is just the need to change”, agrees Jam. “Competitive positioning around initiating change is something that needs as much attention as your direct competitors”.
What drives buyers to initiate change? The promise of impact.
And once they buy and become customers, they need to see that impact in action to remain loyal customers to whom you can up-sell, cross-sell, and eventually leverage as brand advocates.
To ensure your product is always having an impact on your customers, Jam recommends focusing on advocacy and adoption.
”You can have the best message, but if people aren’t actively using the product, that’s a good indicator something needs to change. We look at advocacy, adoption, and then typical marketing metrics like net retention rates and churn to see whether we're telling the right stories”.
Wrap it all up in a clear narrative
Speaking of “telling the right stories”, the final step in the product marketing W.i.N. framework is packaging all of these audience, competitor, and value insights into a powerful narrative that works internally and externally.
“Crafting the narrative is the hard part”, says Julien. “It’s very iterative. It's like composing a song, or a painting. It's often messy, as we all know. But that's where all the data on the market and all the customer context that you've amassed will really help you unleash your creativity”.
Another reason why many product marketers believe crafting a narrative is the hardest part of their job is that their job is never done. As markets shift, buyers’ needs change, and your product evolves, you need to continually iterate on and test your narrative—making sure it’s the right one for the right time.
“Messaging has to be tested out and if it doesn't resonate, you can tweak it and then it'll be better next time,” says Julien. “I also like including sales champions. I think it makes sense to capture their voice and have them do the pitch almost as an early adopter. I also like testing with prospects and [industry analysts like] Gartner and Forrester… Bringing all the right stakeholders in and then measuring adoption and impact is key to a successful narrative".
“There’s no such thing as the perfect narrative”, agrees Jam. “You’ve got to iterate fast and make sure you're bringing the right people with you for the ride”. At 6Sense, Jam meets regularly with an internal committee made up of sellers, SEs, and CSMs selected by the management team to act as a testing ground for new messaging.
“I look a lot externally to build the narrative because it's always in the context of the buyer,” says Jarod. “They don’t understand your history yet, they don’t understand your product portfolio yet, but if you can relate to them and meet them where they are, you can tie your value to what they're trying to solve for”.
Ready to learn more about how these product marketers leaders position their companies to W.i.N?
Listen to the full interview.