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Rethinking Product Marketing

By Steve Gaylor, Pragmatic Institute, and Rowan Noronha

When it comes to product marketing, typically your focus is on the product. You want to tell people how great your product is, how awesome its features are and why they should hurry up and make a purchase … but not so fast.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this approach. But, in today’s world, it’s harder to impress consumers because so many of them have “seen it all.” Today’s customers don’t care about the amazing features of a product; they care about how that product will help them in their everyday life. The key question in their minds is, “What’s in it for me?”

With that said, your customers — not your products — should be the center of your product marketing. If they aren’t, then it’s time to rethink your strategy and make some adjustments. If you’re ready to make this transition, it’s important to know that moving from a product-focused launch to a target-focused strategy brings its own unique challenges.

To effectively address these challenges, an agile marketing strategy that adapts and responds to change is a must-have. It’s time to abandon yearly marketing plans, yearly marketing budgets, and rigid organizational charts. Gather a team to respond in real-time to changes and opportunities in the market.

5 Pillars of Agile Marketing

1. Customer

To gauge how your product will be received on a wider scale, build communities you can regularly call on for feedback. The test market can provide you with valuable information on customer response, marketing channels, and distribution issues. Results in a test market will reveal fundamental problems with your product such as product packaging, advertising and so on. From there, you can adapt your product to meet customer needs, iterate what seems to be working (e.g., messaging, sales enablement content, collateral) and enhance your prototype based on the feedback you receive.

2. Market Definition

As you move toward building your product marketing strategy around customer needs, it’s important to define your market and understand who you’re selling to. Conduct market research to learn about the needs and preferences of your customers. When you obtain adequate information to define your market, get your product development team to come up with a design that addresses those needs. Then, right before launching your product, consider the following factors:

  • Feasible: Once you determine and understand who’s going to buy your product, ask yourself, “If I launch this product, will it be worth it?” Is the market large enough to make it worthwhile for you to undertake the project, spending money on development and marketing? How often will your target market use or buy your product? How much are they willing to pay? Asking these questions helps you gauge the feasibility of your product market.

  • Repeatable: Is your sales process repeatable? Are your customers very similar to each other? Do many of them have the same problem? Do they compare your product to others in the same way? The answer to these questions can help you determine the product/market fit. If you have repeatable sales, then you can build a strategy that helps attract and retain more customers like them.

  • Scalable: Can you control the volume of sales? Do you have enough resources to dedicate to your sales channel? Can you expand the supply of your product to meet changing levels of demand? Can you produce it quickly enough to meet demand? Can it scale fast enough within a particular budget? If you want to see real growth, you must be able to meet ever-changing market demands and meet the needs your customers have in the moment.

  • Profitable: Is the money you’re getting out of your product more than what you put in? If so, that means it’s profitable. For example, when it comes to building a product, you’re paying for manufacturing, marketing advertising and so on. When you sell that product, your revenue should be more than what you put into your product. This is what’s going to determine profitability.

3. People

What is your team structure like? Is it a traditional hierarchy where everyone has a different role and there’s limited communication? Or is your team more integrated? Teams tend to perform better when they put the customer at the center of an integrated team composed of product, development, marketing, sales enablement and support. Your plan and strategies should encompass every member of your team so that everyone is on the same page, speaking a common language. Your sales enablement, product development and marketing teams all should know what your customers want and need.

4. Process

An agile product marketing process includes a marketing backlog, a planning session and evaluation. Prioritize your list of upcoming work, plan how you want to execute it and test your results. Make changes as needed — or start over.

5. Systems & Tools

You can’t start a process if you don’t have a system and tools in place. Market context tools include qualitative and quantitative market data such as market visit reports and surveys. You also want buyer stories that reflect your customer’s persona, including what they want and their goals. Because your strategy needs to be more customer-focused, you need as much customer data as possible. The more information you have about your customers, the easier it is to design your product and use the right marketing channels to meet their needs.

You also need feedback and measurement tools such as prototyping, progress tracking, measurement, and reporting. Always track your progress and measure your results when you create a product with a laser-targeted focus on the customer. Gathering feedback from your customers, looking at the number of sales and measuring the effectiveness of your marketing channels can help you determine what’s working and what’s not.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

To successfully place your customers at the center of your product marketing efforts, you must go beyond ads to reach your target market. Foster conversations and create interactions with your customers and potential customers. In the end, this will help you deliver a personalized customer buying experience that is based on your customers’ interests and preferences.

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