What is Product Marketing?

I was catching up with a friend and former colleague over coffee the other day and the topic of Product Marketing came up. He shared with me what I considered one of the best perspectives on defining what Product Marketing is — particularly within software companies.

First takeaway: It’s different for every company.

Product Marketing is a relatively new discipline. The concept stems from the 1990’s era of enterprise software after Microsoft Windows made it easier for companies to build software for corporate use. Since then every company has done it differently and there is no one right way to do it. The needs of a large well establish company versus a smaller startup are drastically different. It also varies by industry and depends if the technology is addressing an existing market or trying to create a new one. Not to mention how it may vary between B2C business models and B2B. Perhaps for that reason there are no good books on the subject. But there is plenty of content online

Second takeaway: Product Marketing is very different than Product Management. It’s also very different than Sales Enablement.

Product Management owns taking product requirements from the business and translating them into technical specifications and working with Engineering to come up with actionable work streams. Product Management also owns managing product roadmap and keeping it aligned with the vision of the company, needs of prospects and needs of current customers. Product Managers tend to be more in the weeds on product features as a result. Product Marketers should be able to understand the use case for each feature and answer the question Why? each feature matters.

Sales Enablement can be a little more tricky. Sales Enablement is also defined a bunch of different ways but their primary responsibility is sales training, sales process, sales methodology, on boarding plans and other efforts to help Sales Reps win more deals. Given that product is at the core of most things within the entire company the overlap can surface within many of these areas.

Third takeaway: In spite of its lack of consistency across the software industry, there a few main things a Product Marketer should always own.

  • Product assets
  • Services assets
  • Support assets
  • Product representation at events and trade shows
  • Product story
  • Competitive framework and strategy
  • Value framework and strategy
  • Pricing analysis and strategy
  • Alignment: bridging communication gaps across functional areas of the business such as Product, Sales and Customer Service

Fourth takeaway: If there is one skill a Product Marketer should possess it is the ability to tell a powerful story.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is: “A perfect demo tells a story, with a beginning, middle and end. At the end of that story the prospect is the hero, not you, not your product and not your company.” (I consume so much content on the web about sales and marketing I honestly couldn’t tell you where I found that otherwise I’d give proper attribution. If you know please comment and I will gladly attribute.) This type of story telling should originate from Product Marketing and pushed into Sales. There are too many feature jockeys out there today demonstrating product. Particularly among Sales Engineers but I see it in Sales Reps too.

Fifth takeaway: When done right the value is immense.

All too often I’ve seen Product Marketers fall into the powerpoint trap. For some reason they always think they need to be working on a new deck and everything goes from there. I’ve also see Product Marketing operate in a vacuum. Never sitting in on sales calls, never talking to customers and sitting there watching Sales Reps stroll by their desk on their way to the Product team to ask a question.

When Product Marketing is firing on all cylinders — understanding their market, aligning product fit, knowing their role, producing great assets, etc. — you will see an increase in pipeline, higher win rates and larger deal size. Outside of great sales coaching I can’t think of anything else that Sales and Marketing can do that has more influence over these outcomes.

If I wasn’t so passionate about sales leadership I would love to be a Product Marketer.

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