Product marketing can be a little confusing... because isn’t it every marketer’s job to… well… market products?
While this is indeed true, there are some nuances to how product marketing differs from the general act of marketing.
How does product marketing operate within a wider marketing team? Is there a specific strategy or process I should use? Are there templates to help organize my efforts?
If any of those questions are percolating in your brain, you’ve come to the right spot. This post aims to clear up any confusion about product marketing and how you can implement a product marketing strategy and process at your own organization.
Product Marketing Templates to Get Started
Here’s a host of product marketing templates to get your strategy started. From planning to execution and reporting, these templates will get the ball rolling on your product marketing process.
A Competitive Analysis Template to better understand your company’s market position.
An Audience Persona Template to craft better messaging for your product marketing.
A User Survey Template to understand what your audience thinks about your product.
A Creative Brief Template to get everyone in your product launch on the same page.
A Product Marketing Promo Matrix to know how to promote your launch to your audience.
What is Product Marketing Anyway?
Product marketing is where sales, marketing, and product development converge.
Marketing: A product marketer typically owns the “marketing” of new products. I.e. the product’s positioning, messaging, and launch strategy.
Sales: From a sales perspective, the product marketer is usually responsible for sales enablement, and making sure the sales team is educated on products and features, as well as how to sell them in a way that resonates with potential customers.
Product Development: Product marketers live and breathe what customers want. They work closely with the product development team to ensure products develop and grow to meet customer wants and needs.
Every marketing funnel is filled with TOFU (Top of Funnel), MOFO (Middle of Funnel) and BOFU (Bottom of Funnel) activities. Each encouraging the prospect to move ever so slightly closer to making a purchase.
The bulk of product marketing activities are usually confined to the bottom third of the funnel – the stuff that helps someone make their final purchase decision and become successful, loyal customers. Although they are not directly responsible for other parts of the funnel, their contributions don’t go unnoticed.
So what makes product marketing different than regular old marketing? Do you really need a Product Marketing Manager, Marketing Manager, Product Manager AND a Project Manager?
The answer is… sometimes. Let’s discuss how each role is different.
Product Marketing Manager vs. Marketing Manager vs. Product Manager vs. Project Manager
That’s a lot of different iterations of words that sound pretty much the same. Each of these positions does indeed have a different set of responsibilities. Although not every organization will need each position and some can be combined.
Marketing Managers are responsible for broad marketing activities like selling the brand and company as a whole or could be region or vertical-specific.
Marketing Managers focus on prospects and leads. They want to bring strangers into the funnel to be nurtured.
They manage acquisition strategies across channels like Paid Search, Social Media, and Content Marketing.
Product Marketing Manager
Product Marketing Managers have a deeper level of focus and are responsible for understanding how to bring a specific product to the market.
Product Marketing Managers are the experts on the market, buyers, and competitors.
They establish the process to conduct and research buyer personas - what they value and how they make purchase decisions.
They manage new product launch efforts and use their market knowledge to help sales align their selling process to customer needs.
Product Managers work closely with engineers to define the product vision and requirements while serving as the “voice of the customer” during design and development.
Product Management is usually a role that is specific to software development.
Product Managers understand and disseminate product requirements and own the product roadmap from planning, development, release and beyond.
They project management the process of developing new products and features like scope, schedule, and cost.
There is rarely a role in marketing that is dictated solely to project management. Rather, this is a skill that is incorporated into both marketing managers and product marketing manager’s job descriptions.
Marketing Project managers manage the development of marketing collateral, events, and promotional campaigns.
Elements of a Successful Product Marketing Strategy
Product marketing is chiefly concerned with bringing products to the market. But what does that take? How does one successfully plan and execute a go-to-market strategy?
Let’s breakdown the essential elements of a successful product marketing strategy.
Listen to Your Customers
The first step in a successful product marketing strategy is to make sure that you fully accounted for customers when creating the product. Product marketers want new features and products to transform customer’s lives for the better.
Here’s how you can make sure that customers have helped shape the development of new features.
Create a User Group on Facebook or LinkedIn
Creating a user/fan group allows you to easily connect one-on-one with customers. You can listen first-hand to what they struggle with; how they use your product in real-life; and understand gaps in your product offering.
Here’s an example of a Shopify user group on Facebook that connects other Shopify entrepreneurs with each other to troubleshoot issues and discuss strategies.
Distribute a User Survey
What better way to understand what your customers what than to ask them directly. Crazy, right?!
Speaking directly to customers helps you focus on creating a product or feature that adds real value. It also helps you understand what language they use and how they describe their pain points, rather than just making an educated guess.
A few great free survey tools include SurveyMonkey, TypeForm and ZoHo.
Not sure what to ask? Here’s a User Survey Template to get rolling.
Sync with Customer Support
The customer support team is on the front-lines of customer interaction. They speak to your customers day-in and day-out. They know better than anyone what struggles they encounter and what direction they’d like to see your product development in.
Another way to do this is to go into your customer support software, like Zendesk and search for support tickets. Here you can see most requested features and issues that your company can resolve.
Check Review Sites
There are loads of sites out there dedicated to helping customers voice their opinions about products. G2Crowd, Capterra and Gartner are just a few in the software industry. Others include Google My Business, Yelp, Manta, and Angie’s List.
This gives you a public forum to learn about what customers really think about your product and where they see issues to improve. Remember to also check your competitors’ reviews. This allows you to see holes in the market and give you the opportunity to develop your product in areas where other companies are struggling.
2. Use Personas to Shape Your Product Marketing Strategy
Truly understanding who your target customer is serves as the backbone for all your marketing activities – product marketing and otherwise.
After product marketing has researched and surveyed the audience in the previous phase, they can break it down into fictional personas that form your target audience.
From here, product marketing tailors landing page copy, talking points, content marketing strategy, and sales enablement materials so they are in sync and speaking to the persona in a relevant way.
In order to fully understand the market, product marketers must understand the competitive landscape your company operates in.
Competitor research helps your company understand what product and/or features are must-haves for your company to compete in the marketplace. It also helps your company figure out key differentiators which will encourage potential customers to switch from competitors to your company, as well as make your products stand out.
Here’s how to start your competitor analysis.
Find 3-5 Competitors
Most of your initial research will be done on Google or your preferred search engine. Start by searching for your business’s name and a couple of keywords that describe your product or business area.
Look for companies that are placing ads on your relevant keywords, as well as the top organic search results.
Identify Their Positioning Strategy
Figure out their language and how they’re presenting themselves. This will help you get a feel for your customer’s expectations.
A good place to start is to ask the following questions:
Why would a customer buy from them?
How do they stand out from the competition? What benefits do they talk about most?
Is there anything that is unique?
Snoop on Their Social Media
This can be done by manually checking each of their channels, or you can enlist a tool like RivalIQ to help. Uncovering what they are doing on social media as a lot of benefits. For starters, you’ll get a good idea of how much energy you’ll need to work on your own social media, as well as what types of content resonates most with your target audience.
Look for the following items:
How do they speak to their audience?
Which channels do they use the most?
How often do they post?
What were their top performing posts?
What does their content strategy look like?
Are they doing anything unique like contests, etc?
Once you fully understand your audience and the competitive landscape, it’s time to figure out your messaging, positioning and how to formulate a compelling story around your product.
This messaging is often referred to as your brand narrative. Crafting an articulate narrative makes your business relatable, your product features understandable and helps potential customers visualize how your product will improve their lives.
Start by creating a unique selling proposition. According to Neil Patel, a unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from its competition. It is the unique things that you want to be known for.
Here’s some advice on how to find your own Unique Selling Point.
Your USP should show how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation.
It should illustrate the specific benefits (quantified value) your product offers.
It should tell the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).
Keep in mind, this is not a slogan or catchphrase.
Your USP should check the following boxes:
What product or service is your company selling?
What is the end-benefit of using it?
Who is your target customer for this product or service?
What makes your offering unique and different?
Here are some examples of unique selling propositions in various industries.
Method Cleaning Products
Method is known for their design led bottles as well as their non-toxic formulations. These two things set them apart from their competitors.
Everlane’s USP centers around “radical” transparency in materials sourcing and pricing. The company informs customers about the cost of producing all aspects of products.
Would be easy to mistake Zappos’ USP to be their vast variety of footwear, however, the company really sets itself apart with their amazing customer service and return policy.
Babies keep parents awake at night in more than one way. The Owlet’s USP is that it monitor’s your baby’s heart rate while sleeping and alerts you if something seems off.
5. Create a Promotional Strategy
Just because you have an awesome product that meets all your customer’s needs, doesn’t mean they will come flocking. They’ve got to know you exist, the value you provide and how you’re different from the competition.
This is where strategic promotion comes in.
In a world where there are 2.75 million blog posts published on WordPress every single day and 80% of new products fail, your content distribution strategy has to be well planned.
Promotion is all about getting the right message, to the right people, at the right time. By following the first few steps in this product marketing strategy, you should have successfully created the right message and determined the right audience.
Now you’ll need to create a promotional strategy to deliver your message to your audience.
This is where the promotion matrix template will come in handy.
To start, determine the priority of your product launch. The spreadsheet defines P1 as the biggest and most important. This type of launch will entail the most promotional activities. P4 is the smallest launch with the least amount of activities planned.
Here are the definitions we provided:
P1: These are big announcements. A new product that solves problems in an entirely new and better way. Present biggest opportunity to attract new customers. Requires the most promotion and marketing effort.
P2: This is a new product for your company. A competitor already offers a version of this product. This presents an opportunity to attract new customers.
P3: This product is a new solution to problems that are most valuable to our existing customers. Powerful product, but alone - it's unlikely to convince a new customer to use. Our product over an existing solution.
P4: This is a product existing customers have been asking for, but it hasn't blocked any new sales. Not a game-changing product. Could also include a feature update or enhancement to a product.
After you’ve chosen the priority of your product launch, navigate to the template tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet.
Here you’ll find a template of all the promo activities you should do for your product launch and a planning timeline.
You can also use a tool like CoSchedule to plan all your activities and delegate tasks to your team members.
Here’s how to plan all the elements of your strategic promotion with CoSchedule:
To start, create a project in CoSchedule and select Marketing Campaign.
From there, give your project a title and select your beginning and end dates.
You’ll be able to plan every marketing element that you want to be included in your new product launch campaign, and you’ll want to exhaust every channel, so this campaign is going to be big.
You’ll need emails to ads to social media to webinars (and so much more)...
Once you’ve added your start and end dates to the project, you’ll see the campaign’s timeline illustrated on the calendar in CoSchedule.
Next, you’ll start adding individual marketing projects to your promotional campaign.
Either hit the + sign on a date on the calendar…OR
…click the tab at the top of your marketing campaign.
This will prompt you to add a project to your campaign.
You’ll probably want to create ads for your new product launch, so let’s add the ad project type.
From there you can…
Assign tasks and due dates for your team members.
Get approvals on things like graphics and copy.
Add attachments and make comments.
Have full visibility into every task, project and campaign your team is working on.
After you’ve added all of your individual projects to your marketing campaign, you can see what your timelines look like and how they fit into the entire strategy.
You should promote your product through the channels that make the most sense for your brand and audience. Make sure you plan your promotion well in advance to ensure everything runs smoothly once you’re ready to launch.
Now that you know the best way to create a killer product marketing strategy, you’ll be well equipped to avoid the new product graveyard and be in the elite 20% of new products that survive.
You’re probably gonna have a lot of new marketing campaigns to plan with all your success… why not check out how CoSchedule can save you a ton of time and get your team more organized than ever?
Leah Johanna is currently the digital director at North Dakota United. Previously, she was the Customer Marketing Lead at CoSchedule. Outside of work, she loves hunting for cool stuff at thrift stores. If not for marketing, Leah would be a psychiatrist, given her fascination with Dateline NBC, true-crime podcasts, and Netflix documentaries about cults.