The role of product marketing in technology companies is a fascinating topic in part because it is so poorly defined and inconsistent. We’ve managed product marketing now for various early-stage startups and in each case the expectations for the role were different from team to team and company to company. It’s a chameleon role that is often defined by circumstance, such as the first hire of a marketer to support the product development teams. Often, this first hire creates a precedent on product marketing’s role and contribution within the organization which results in wildly different roles from company to company. What then do product marketers do?
The role of the product marketer is to accelerate product growth by championing the customer, communicating product value, and driving distribution. It may even be just one of many hats, like what it is today in our role working with Brands. Regardless, effective product marketers are focused on ensuring the product connects with its ideal customer. The “work” of product marketing may look very different due to the variety of products out there, but generally they share these common pillars.
Championing the Customer
Product marketers work closely with their product teams to define the target customer and champion them throughout the product development process. During initial product design, product marketers are often focused on researching and defining the ideal target customer. This often takes the form of customer development interviews, market research surveys, and competitive analyses. Key insights such as a customer’s purchasing process or industry information during this phase can influence product teams to make radically different decisions. For instance knowing the primary complaint about your competitor’s feature might inspire a team to double down in that area.
After a product is launched, product marketers often play the role of data aggregators, sifting through customer data to provide actionable recommendations for development teams. While many product teams are on top of product metrics, other sources of data may be overlooked. What are the top trending issues from the customer support teams that are receiving feedback from customers? What is the reception from early sales conversations with prospects? What can we learn from the traits of the most engaged or profitable customers? What is the general sentiment of about product & brand on social media? While product and engineering teams are deeply focused on the work of product design and execution, product marketers play a key role in enabling them to easily leverage customer insights from other sources. Often, product marketers have a seat at the table as a proxy for the customer’s voice. Working with Game Studios, we had debates over which feature to prioritize next for their game developers, Our Team would message key customers for quick feedback to drive an informed decision. For a B2B SaaS Startup, we monitored our product’s Net Promoter Score and verbatim feedback, and analyzed the results to provide roadmap recommendations.
Examples of a product marketer’s role in championing the customer:
- Coordinate and execute customer research for validating key product hypotheses, such as product-market fit, definition of target customer, pricing strategy
- Create competitive overview of industry and products with deliverables such as internal digest of competitor news, competitive training, or collateral communicating product differentiation
- Train R&D and sales teams on who the customer is and how the product helps them
- Develop buyer persona and customer segmentation as a resource for product development and marketing programs
- Collate and deliver regular stream of customer product feedback such as NPS, support issues, sales team feedback, and other channels
Communicating Product Value
Successful product growth and engagement is fundamentally linked to whether customers understand and realize the value it offers. While all product teams aspire to create an elegant user experience and functionality that enables customers to intuitively “get it” after they try it, product marketers are focused on conveying the product’s value to the customer to engage, convert and retain them. Product marketers play a key role in driving awareness and trial as well as packaging the product to appeal to customers. They accomplish this by packaging a product’s features and functionality into messaging and positioning, pricing, and collateral.
Prior to launch, product marketers spend time helping the team gain an understanding of the customer. During this process, the team reaches a clear understanding of who the ideal target customer is, their motivations, and what pain points are driving them to purchase. In a crowded landscape with limited budgets and many options, competition is fierce, and product marketers are responsible for developing product messaging and positioning that explains how the product provides unique and differentiated value that resolves pain for the customer.
Without someone owning this critical component, even the most well thought out strategies and plans will fall flat.
At Growth Engine, our team of Product Marketing Specialists have helped many Brands revitalize their growth by integrating deeply into teams and understanding the needs of customers and users. Finding and hiring a great Product Marketer may cost time that you don’t have the luxury of. We can work with you to quickly help solve your Product Marketing needs and provide a solution to get things back on track.
Growth Engine is an Integrated Branding & Marketing Agency that helps Businesses Grow through Customized Growth Strategies to Leave Lasting Brand Legacies.
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