Why does Product Marketing even exist? We are here to be Architects of Growth.
How do you build a 2021 product marketing plan for your organization interlocked with others in your organization?
You need to be THE individual that folks come to with a crisp understanding of your competitors, your buyers, and the market you choose to play in. Once you understand that, you will be charged with the differentiated messaging, and then finally take those wonderful insights, package it, and enable and train your messengers, sales, and influencers.
So, the three mandates of Product Marketing are:
Understand the market: Buyers, competitors in your space, marketplace trends
Building the message: Developing challenger content. As you understand your buyers and what the buyer’s journey looks like, you need different messaging and challenger content that’s tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey so that you can influence them.
Enabling the messenger: Enabling the direct sales force, channel partners, and influencers in the space you play such as analysts and other thought leaders
Role of Product Marketing and Required Interlocks
Product Marketing is a strategic function in the marketing ecosystem. It is intentionally positioned upstream next to the CMO/marketing leadership. This relationship will intensify in the near future.
In a recent study by SiriusDecisions, 65% of CMOs plan to support growth strategies over the next two years through the introduction of a new go-to-market strategy. This is a core responsibility for Product Marketing. This vantage point enables product marketers to bring their deep knowledge of market insights to aid in planning and execution.
“Product Marketing creates the raw ingredients for the rest of the marketing ecosystem.”
— Amy Hayes, Research Director, Portfolio Marketing, SiriusDecisions
Oftentimes, Product Marketing teams can take on any number of activities and tasks within an organization. The range of responsibilities indicates the go-to-market activities that product marketers should be doing to drive the most impact on organizational growth and efficiency.
Six priority areas:
- Go-to-market strategy — how an organization merchandises its entire offerings in a way that makes sense to buyers
- Personas and buyer insights — provides an organization with deep insights into behavior and preferences — 86% of marketing functions in high-performing organizations consistently use defined buyer personas
- Messaging and content — Resonates with the persona throughout the buying decision process — In 9/10 high-performing organizations, product marketing owns messaging and content
- Bringing offerings to market — well-defined repeatable process for bringing new offerings to the world — needs alignment with product management and sales in the form of shared goals, defined activities, and deliverables at each go-to-market stage — High-performing organizations are 2x more likely to have a well-defined process for launching new offerings
- Sales knowledge transfer — specifically focused on the expertise that the product marketers bring on buy audiences, the market dynamics, and offering value — responsible for transferring that knowledge to sales so they have the right conversation with buyers at the right stage in their journey
- Functional design and development — effectively meet business goals and objectives, and has the right skill sets in place. Product marketing must evolve from product focus to growth
Product Marketing as a function can be a source of confusion for some companies where the function’s purpose is defined differently. Establish a charter to gain clarity and alignment with business partners and executive leadership. It can be used to help articulate the value our team contributes to the organization and how we’re helping to drive business results. A charter will define Product Marketing’s function and position.
There are six components to the charter, but three that need special mention.
Key Stakeholders — Within and outside of the organization that product marketing needs to be aligned with. We can’t work in a vacuum and still have a demonstrable impact on the business.
Process Interlocks — The team’s involvement in processes it owns and those owned by others.
Success Metrics — These should articulate the impact on business goals, like offering growth, marketing effectiveness, and conversion rates.
Beware: Not all measurements are the same. Measurements communicate product marketing’s value back to the business. The most basic measurement is the Activity. It quantifies what was done and the actions that were taken. We need to be able to count what’s being done. Once something is done, we expect it to have direct results. These direct results are called Outputs. These could be the number of buyer personas completed, sales content usage, or trial registrations. They tell us we’re heading in the right direction. Counting Outputs doesn’t cut it when it comes to reporting business results though. We need measures of Impact. Impact metrics summarize the effects of output to describe performance against business goals, i.e. revenue growth. These three classes of measurement tell you what you produced. They don’t answer the “why”, which is a different class of measurement. In order to do that we need to measure. This tells us how ready an organization is to perform.
Product Marketers are the organization’s internal market expert. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into that! If you’re trying to get your handle on your market, what should you do? The answer is a Market Analysis Playbook.
Define the Players
This includes the customers, competitors, and other players in your market. Remember to include all types of users of your product:
- Customers — Paying customers who use your solution, as well as users (paid, trial, or free) of any of your solutions.
- Competitors — Companies with whom you compete for sales. Include top direct competitors as well as tier 2, tier 3, or indirect competitors who have related solutions.
- Influencers — Partners, thought leaders, or even indirect competitors who also have an impact on the market and how your customers perceive you.
Analyze the Activities
You want to find the activities of each of those market players to identify commonalities and key characteristics.
- Customer needs — reviews and social media posts that help identify what customers are looking for
- Product solutions — consuming as much competitor content as you can. What are the solutions? How are customers using them? What’s unique? What are the gaps? How are market needs being served?
- Marketing strategies — what are your competitors doing? Which events are they attending?
- Customer & use cases — What are the customer segments? Which use cases are being served well? This helps to understand who is engaging with which companies.
Identify the Trends
Take a broader look to see the changes in strategy and direction to understand where the market is today and where it is also going. This is seen in changes to messaging, changes in product features, and changes in product pricing. It can be something as small as a change in a headline on a product web page. Is the competition moving from talking about product features and pricing to customer delight?
Something else to look for is investments. Where are your competitors spending their money? Hiring trends are also a great way to get that insight. Are they investing in sales, marketing, or product development? Those will tell you which direction your competitors are heading.
These insights can’t have an impact on the organization unless they get into the hands of all of the departments that can make use of them. That includes Sales, Marketing, Product leadership, and your executive team. Sales needs an understanding of the market and how the insights feed into that. Marketing needs to craft campaigns that are going to resonate and stand out in the market. Product development needs to create something that serves customer needs and is differentiated. All of these boil up to the executive leadership and to the overall company strategy.
We need to understand whether we’ve been effective in arming the company with the market insights that we’ve been gathering. There are different ways to analyze those results:
- Business results — Revenue, campaign metrics, sales conversion rates
- Deliverables — Insights delivered, timeliness of insights
- Engagement — Usage/views/comments of deliverables, inquiries for market insights, actions taken as a result
- Qualitative feedback — Survey or ad hoc feedback from stakeholders (executives, sales, marketing, product)
With the understanding of the market you’re going to play in and the buyers you want to target, dictate the messaging and content you’re going to deliver.
Create Differentiated Messaging
Take a second, and imagine if everything in the world was the same. Homogenous. It would be pretty boring. The risk that we all run as product marketers after we’ve done all of the previous work, with a laser focus on differentiation and creating products that stand out in the market, is that all of that still has to get out and we have to talk about it.
If you want to stand out, you need to get people to care. We need them to understand, why us? This is at the heart of storytelling and differentiation. You can have great data points, but the message can still get lost in the competition.
Why is “why” important?
“Why is your spark. Why is why you should care. Why should we think this? Why should we change what we’re doing and buy your product or service? And ultimately what you want your customers to think about you. That’s the beating heart of why. If you don’t move people, then you will ultimately blend into that homogeny. Your spark is your promise statement that defines how you want prospects to think and feel about your product or brand relative to alternatives.” — Matthew Woodget, Founder & CEO, Go Narrative
You should be asking yourself what you should be considering to bring more “why”.
To move people you really have to understand their story. Then, you have a responsibility as a brand to join them in their story. You’ll be able to help shape their story to their benefit, aligned with your unique value. When you do this you are story-making. You’re influencing their experience, and thus the stories they tell about you. If you’ve helped them shape the story and joined them in it, combined with a rigorous focus on your value proposition and your positioning, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Shaping experiences is the key. We remember experiences first and foremost. Ultimately when you shape someone’s experience you help spread the stories. If you want to be remembered and stand out, you need to occupy the experiential part of people’s brains. The facts in white papers and sales presentations amount to a hill of beans if you don’t activate the 70% of their experiential brain.
Being able to put yourself into the experience of a story is the next best thing to actually experiencing it. Can your customers visualize a similar experience they’re going through?
There’s always a “hack”. Number one, focus on the outside in. Always focus on your audience. Number two, focus on how uniquely you help with that audience. People will not buy a product or service if it does not lead to something better. There always something standing in their way. Number three, untangle it for them.
- Desire — What does your audience want?
- Difficulty — What stands in their way?
- Denouement — How do they (with your help) untangle the knot and find their transformation?
Once you understand your buyer’s journey, you can map the content to that.
This will get you to a full suite with buyer personas, value propositions, stories, and brand narrative mapped to it. You’ll answer the “why”.
With any campaign, remember to measure the impact. Are they coming more often? Are they coming less? Are they moving through the funnel or does the story break down somewhere? Once they’re a customer, are they buying more? What’s the Customer Lifetime Value? Are they becoming loud advocates?
Ultimately, the question is, “why not?”
Enable the Messengers
The next step is to enable your messengers: direct sales team, partners, influencers who help disseminate your story.
94% of sales leaders interviewed agree: “Our sellers struggle to deliver value to customers.”
— Gartner Sales Leader Interviews
This is an illustration of what’s happening in B2B buying. It’s chaotic. It’s non-linear. 77% of buyers say their last purchase was difficult and complex. This is a challenge that salespeople have to deal with.
This puts quite a challenge on product marketing to identify where sales enablement is needed. The answer is, everywhere. This is why when you talk to salespeople, they say, “More. I need more presentations. More content. I’m struggling.”
Like a football team, you have many players on the field, in different positions, you’re not sure who has the ball, or who has what skills and where they are. You can’t just arm them and tell them to get out on the field.
The answer is not “more”. It’s more valuable content. They don’t need more training, they need more valuable sales enablement.
How can we act in a very thoughtful way in this chaotic dynamic buying world? Key recommendations for Product Marketers:
1. Curate and innovate (not proliferate)
2. Learn and adopt new technology when possible
3. Sales enablement content needs to be:
a. Task-based (how to overcome objections)
b. Focused (i.e. business results for financial services)
d. Curated (asset governance, usage analytics)
f. Easily found (push, not just pull)
As you are looking at enabling your messengers with your messaging on customer insights, make sure your sales enablement is highly relevant to your channels. We need to communicate with them in ways that are meaningful to them. It must be focused, by client and industry. It must be quick and easily digestible.
Curate, and innovate for smarter ways to enable the messengers. Soon you’ll be impacting both direct, and indirect KPIs.