Introducing Product Marketing
In recent years, product marketing has undergone a significant transformation, and has become a vital trend and top role, especially in the field of tech companies operating in a crowded and rapidly changing market. In the past, product marketing was primarily concerned with executing tactical activities such as creating sales and marketing materials, gaining an in-depth understanding of buyer personas, and crafting messaging that resonated with customers. As competition in many industries intensifies, customer journeys become more complex. In addition, with the dynamic nature of customer behavior, which places great emphasis on enhancing customer experience, the product marketing role has evolved into a more strategic function. The modern product marketer must possess strategic thinking abilities to navigate the changing market conditions and leverage new technologies to achieve business objectives. Moreover, product marketers must be skilled in problem-solving, creative communication, and collaboration to lead cross-functional teams and work with stakeholders across the organization, ensuring successful product launches that achieve the business objectives outlined.
In this chapter, we aim to provide an in-depth exploration of the product marketing role, examining the various factors that influence the shape and functions of product marketers. We will gain a comprehensive understanding of the difference between inbound and outbound product marketing, highlighting the benefits they offer to businesses. We will explore the impact of company size and structure on the product marketing role, including how larger or smaller organizations may have different requirements and expectations for product marketers. In this chapter, we will address several important questions related to the product marketing role:
- What were the primary factors that led to the transformation of the product marketing role?
- How do a company's size and structure affect the key functions of product marketers?
- What distinguishes inbound product marketing from outbound product marketing?
Understanding the role of a product marketer
In today's fast-paced tech industry, product marketing has emerged as a crucial strategic function that drives success for any business. No longer just a tactical role, product marketing is now at the forefront of strategic decision-making in tech companies. This shift has been driven by several key factors, one of which is increasing competition. With the rapid growth of the tech industry, competition has become fierce, making it crucial for companies to strive to develop products that not only align with the overall business objectives but also deliver significant value to customers, ultimately driving the company's bottom line. Product marketing plays a critical role in this process by conducting market and customer research to help companies better understand customer needs and identify gaps in the market, monitoring competitors' activities to identify opportunities, crafting effective go-to-market strategies, and communicating the value of their products to target audiences.
Another key driver is evolving customer expectations. Customers today expect a personalized, seamless, and engaging experience from the products and services they use. Product marketing plays a key role in delivering on these expectations by understanding customer needs and preferences, developing customer-centric products and features, and communicating the value of those products to customers.
Finally, data-driven decision-making has become a key driver of the shift toward more strategic product marketing. With the availability of vast amounts of customer and market data, companies can make more informed decisions about their products and go-to-market strategies. Product marketing plays a critical role in this process by analyzing data and using it to inform product development, enhance customer experience, and optimize the customer journey and overall Go-to-Market (GTM) strategies.
Product marketing plays a critical role in the success of businesses. By developing customer-centric products, creating effective go-to-market strategies, and communicating the value of those products to customers, product marketers help their companies differentiate themselves and maintain growth in a highly competitive market. In 2020, a tech company called Quibi launched a mobile-only streaming service that offered short-form video content designed to be watched on the go. They invested heavily in developing original content and securing high-profile talent for their platform. However, Quibi failed to consider the changing media landscape and the behavior of its target audience, which was primarily millennials and Gen Z consumers. They also didn't have a strategic approach to product marketing, which led to their failure. They didn't invest in developing targeted marketing campaigns that would resonate with their target audience. As a result, Quibi struggled to attract and retain subscribers. Its product didn't provide enough value to consumers, who could find similar short-form video content on social media platforms for free. Quibi also faced tough competition from established streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. Despite attempts to pivot its product and marketing strategy, Quibi eventually failed to gain traction and shut down in late 2020, just six months after launching.
Quibi's failure demonstrates the importance of having a strategic and customer-centric approach to product marketing, especially in an industry as competitive as streaming services. By not considering the changing media landscape and behavior of its target audience and by not investing in building a strong brand or developing targeted marketing campaigns, Quibi couldn't build a product that provided substantial value to its customers and differentiate itself in a crowded market, leading to its eventual downfall.
Diving deep into the role of a product marketer – key functions and responsibilities
Product marketing involves the crucial task of connecting the dots between the product and the customer. This involves understanding the customer's needs and wants and ensuring that the product addresses those needs. To accomplish this, product marketers conduct market research to identify gaps or opportunities and work with the product development team to shape the product in a way that meets customer demands. Crafting a compelling message that effectively communicates the product's value to the target audience is another key responsibility of the product marketer. This involves identifying the product's key benefits, developing product positioning, and creating effective marketing campaigns that drive customer engagement and adoption. In addition, product marketers must have a deep understanding of the market and competitive landscape. This knowledge allows us to identify trends, anticipate market shifts, and develop strategies to stay ahead of the competition. To ensure a successful product launch, product marketers must build an effective GTM strategy that leverages multiple channels to reach the target audience, equips the sales team with the necessary tools and resources, and continually optimizes based on feedback and data. The GTM strategy is critical to the success of any product launch. Moreover, product marketers must plan, execute, and measure the success of the product launch. This requires careful planning, execution, and measurement to ensure that the product meets customer needs and achieves business objectives. Overall, a product marketer's core responsibilities can be broken down into three key categories: advocating for the customer, effectively communicating the product's value, and driving product distribution to ensure broad reach and accessibility.
The responsibilities of product marketers have evolved significantly in recent years, with a greater focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences. Today's customers demand more than just a product or service; they expect a seamless and enjoyable experience throughout their interactions with a company. As such, the role of product marketers has shifted to prioritize enhancing the customer experience across all touchpoints, both online and offline. Looking ahead to 2023, this trend is set to continue, with product marketers placing even greater emphasis on understanding and meeting customer needs in order to drive innovation and accelerate the growth of their companies.
AI and machine learning are transforming the way product marketers reach out and engage with their customers. These technologies enable marketers to analyze vast amounts of customer data, such as demographics, past purchases, and browsing behavior, to uncover insights and create personalized messaging and campaigns that resonate with specific segments of the audience. AI-powered chatbots and other advanced tools also provide valuable customer data that allows marketers to predict demand and market trends, adjust their strategies, and make informed decisions on product positioning, pricing, and messaging. By optimizing their GTM strategies and identifying the most effective channels, messaging, and tactics, product marketers can reach and engage customers in a more personalized and effective way.
With the aid of real-time data and automated Continuous Integration (CI) tools , product marketers are now better equipped to identify market gaps and emerging trends. They can track the actions of other players in the market, enabling them to make informed decisions and stay ahead of the competition. The capabilities of analytics tools have also allowed product marketers to track the actions of customers at every stage of the buying journey. They can monitor and analyze customer behavior across various touchpoints, from awareness to adoption. Moreover, product marketers are now tailoring personalized buying and onboarding journeys based on customers' specific use cases, which leads to higher customer satisfaction and product adoption.
Furthermore, in the digital age, businesses have undergone significant transformations in how they connect with customers and engage with them. The advent of social media platforms and chatbots has revolutionized the bond between product marketers and customers, offering novel ways to communicate in real-time and glean valuable insights into their needs and preferences. This allows product marketers to tailor their marketing strategies to better address customer pain points and drive product adoption.
As product marketers, our role involves working on various projects and collaborating with different teams within an organization. For example, we may be tasked with conducting market research to understand customer needs and preferences and then working with the product development team to shape the product accordingly. We may also be responsible for crafting messaging and positioning that effectively communicates the product's value to the target audience, which requires collaborating with the marketing and communications teams. We must stay up to date with industry trends and the competitive landscape, which may involve collaborating with the sales team, conducting market analysis, and attending industry events. We may also work with the customer success team to identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling to existing customers.
Collaboration with cross-functional teams is essential for product marketers to apply a customer-centric perspective, build the right customer experience, develop products that align with customer preferences, and remain competitive in a crowded landscape. Given the diverse responsibilities, product marketers need to be versatile and agile, adapting to different projects' and teams' needs while ensuring all stakeholders are working toward a mutual goal. This requires strong communication and collaboration skills and a deep understanding of the company's product and market. Ultimately, the ability to wear multiple hats and switch between projects seamlessly is critical to success as a product marketer.
Considering the external factors outlined earlier, along with others, product marketers are compelled to shift toward a more strategic approach rather than a tactical one. Nowadays, product marketers prioritize a customer-centric perspective and emphasize innovation, identifying gaps in the market while collaborating with cross-functional teams such as product management, sales, engineering, and customer support by bringing in the customer's voice. This collaboration helps to create the right customer experience, develop products that cater to customers' preferences, and maintain a competitive edge. Such strategic focus allows companies to innovate, accelerate growth, and drive revenues. However, internal factors within an organization, such as company size and team structure, can significantly impact the scope, responsibilities, and reporting structure of product marketers. The next part of this chapter delves deeper into how these internal factors shape the role of product marketing.
Understanding the impact of company size and structure on the product marketing role
Product marketing is a critical function in any organization, as it is about connecting the right product with the right audience at the right time with the right message to ensure product adoption and drive growth. However, the scope of product marketers' responsibilities and their involvement in the organization are often defined by the size of the company. In larger organizations with ample resources, product marketers typically have a more specialized role, focusing on specific aspects of product marketing and collaborating with various teams. In contrast, smaller companies with limited resources require product marketers to wear multiple hats and take on diverse tasks. This demands a broad skill set and a deep understanding of the market, the customer, and the product.
In a small company or a start-up, the role of the product marketer is closely tied to the product's growth stage. As the company or product grows and evolves, the product marketer's responsibilities will also shift and expand to align with the product's changing needs. In the early stages of a small company or start-up, the product marketer's role may be focused on market validation, conducting customer research, defining the product's value proposition, and developing a go-to-market strategy. This may involve working closely with the product development team to ensure that the product meets customer needs and that the messaging and positioning align with the product's features and benefits. As the product moves into the growth phase, the product marketer's role may shift toward driving customer acquisition and retention. This may involve developing marketing campaigns, optimizing the sales funnel, and developing customer loyalty programs. The product marketer may also be responsible for analyzing customer data to gain insights into user behavior and preferences. In the maturity phase, the product marketer's role may shift toward optimizing profitability and maintaining market share. This may involve identifying new revenue streams and exploring expansion opportunities.
As previously mentioned, product marketers in smaller organizations have a broader role that may encompass both the technical aspects of inbound product marketing, which focus on activities around the product, as well as the execution-oriented aspects of outbound product marketing, which involve product adoption. For mid-stage organizations and enterprises, product marketers have a more specific focus on particular aspects, and their roles are more clearly divided between technical, inbound product marketing and execution-oriented, outbound product marketing. These companies typically have more available resources, including product and sales teams, as well as various marketing teams, such as customer acquisition, content creation, and brand marketing. However, having more resources may make the launch process more complex due to the need to coordinate and enable more teams, which requires additional efforts to ensure effective communication and organization to foster collaboration between different teams. As a result, product marketers tend to focus on developing repeatable processes and clear templates and frameworks to ensure alignment between teams and maximize effectiveness. This includes the use of launch checklists, sales collateral templates, messaging frameworks, and other tools to streamline the launch process.
For mid-stage organizations and enterprises, the role of product marketers is to focus on a handful of key products, typically distributed by region. At this stage, there may be several verticals to consider, and the core goals of the product marketer will be defined by the maturity of the product and the sales and marketing teams. Product marketers also work closely with cross-functional teams, including sales, product management, and customer success, to ensure that the product is effectively positioned and that sales teams have the necessary tools and resources to sell the product. As a result, team enablement becomes critical, with product marketers focusing on developing sales and marketing collaterals at each stage of the customer journey.
Simultaneously, a company's culture, leadership, and team structure can greatly impact the product marketer's role, and working within the existing culture and structure is equally as important as understanding the market and customer needs. For example, in a company that is product-led, such as Facebook, the product is at the core of the company's culture and is the main driver of innovation and growth. In this type of culture, the role of the product marketer is to work closely with the product development team to ensure that the product meets the needs of the target audience and that the messaging effectively communicates the value of the product to users. On the other hand, in a company that is marketing-led, such as Apple, the role of the product marketer is to work closely with the marketing team to develop messaging and positioning that resonates with the target audience. In this type of culture, the product marketer must understand the features and benefits of the product and develop messaging that highlights its unique selling proposition. In a company that is design-led, such as Airbnb, the role of the product marketer is to work closely with the design team to ensure that the user experience of the product is aligned with the brand and meets the needs of the target audience. In this type of culture, the product marketer must understand the user journey and work with the design team to develop user interfaces that are intuitive and easy to use.
Product marketers play an essential role in ensuring the success of a product in the market. They work closely with cross-functional teams to understand the needs of the target audience and ensure that the product meets those needs while effectively communicating with users to bring the right product to the right audience at the right time with the right message. The activities and responsibilities of product marketers can vary significantly depending on the company culture and team structure. However, they typically fall into two categories: inbound and outbound.
Inbound versus outbound
Inbound product marketing, also referred to as technical product marketing, encompasses a range of activities that focus on the product itself and the processes involved in bringing it to market. This type of marketing is predominantly internal facing, with key stakeholders including product management, UX teams, and designers. Some examples of activities involved in inbound product marketing include conducting market and user research to gain insights that can inform the product roadmap, overseeing the product launch process, and developing product enablement programs. The primary objective of inbound product marketing is to understand which features to prioritize, how to release them, when to bring them to market, and how to incorporate customer feedback into the product development process. Inbound product marketing and product management are closely aligned, as both functions share the goal of understanding customer needs and preferences and how to create and bring products to market that meet those needs.
Outbound product marketing, in contrast to inbound product marketing, is focused on executing the GTM strategy for a product or solution. This role involves being ultimately responsible for revenue, pipeline, win rate, and the sales cycle and ensuring that the product or solution hits its revenue targets. As an outbound product marketer, you'll work closely with sales, customer success, and business development teams to drive product adoption and customer retention. Unlike inbound product marketing, this role is more external facing, with key stakeholders including analysts, customers, and others who interact with the product in the market. The activities involved in outbound product marketing are numerous and varied, but they often include developing a comprehensive GTM plan, identifying and prioritizing key customer segments and potential markets, and producing effective marketing collateral that supports customer outreach and engagement.
Outbound product marketing is an essential function for ensuring that a product or solution is successful in the market. By working closely with sales and other teams, outbound product marketers help to drive adoption, retention, and revenue growth, while also helping to build the brand and reputation of the product in the market.
In an ideal scenario, the product marketing department would take ownership of the entire product marketing process, from end to end. This would involve leading both inbound and outbound marketing efforts to influence both product innovation and GTM strategy. For some companies, this integrated approach can ensure greater efficiency and continuity, particularly when resources are limited. However, not all organizations adopt this approach. Larger companies, such as Google and Amazon, typically split their product marketing functions into inbound and outbound. Inbound product marketing is focused on the product itself and is often split by product line. Outbound product marketing, on the other hand, is focused on the GTM strategy and is often split into segments and verticals.
While the integrated approach may work well for some organizations, the split approach can provide a more focused and specialized approach to product marketing. Ultimately, the approach that a company adopts will depend on a range of factors, including the company's size, culture, and available resources.
Over the past few years, product marketing has become a critical trend and a top role, especially in tech companies. The key functions of the role are dynamic and can vary significantly between organizations, influenced by internal and external factors. External factors such as real-time data and the rapid growth of technology have a considerable impact on the responsibilities of product marketers, while internal factors such as company size and structure can also shift the focus of the role.
Furthermore, the product marketing role can be divided into two key aspects: inbound and outbound product marketing. Inbound product marketing tends to focus on the product development side, including understanding customer needs, developing value propositions, and driving product roadmaps. Outbound product marketing is more execution-focused, centered around GTM activities such as demand generation, sales enablement, and customer advocacy.
In the upcoming chapter, we will explore inbound product marketing in depth and learn how it can be leveraged to drive innovation.