Advice on how to be exceptional at product marketing.
All product marketing managers are expected to do essentially the same things:
1. Understand the market and competitors.
- Create competitive comparisons, articulate product differentiation and value propositions
- Articulate competitive differentiation
2. Determine the target audience and customer segments to market to.
3. Be the voice of the customers. Create buyer personas, conduct qualitative and quantitative research, conduct customer satisfaction surveys, win-loss research; monitor and contribute to social media. Represent “the voice of the customer” in decision-making.
4. Develop the product marketing strategy, positioning, messaging and value proposition that will be used throughout sales and marketing activities including advertising, packaging, merchandising, PR releases, sales presentations, brochures, websites, direct marketing and in social media marketing.
5. Determine the Go-to-Market Strategy and Plan.
6. Introduce new products. Manage product Launches – launch coordination, processes, and updates to customers. Work with product teams to develop and prioritize market requirements and coordinate release timing and overall roadmap. Conduct post-launch postmortems to ensure continuous improvement of product launch process.
7. Determine pricing and forecast demand.
8. Recommend new products, new product features and line extensions.
9. Be the product expert to support the sales and channel. Meet with customers. Demonstrate the products. Be a key spokesperson about the product.
10. Determine the packaging strategy – what to say to get people to buy when the packaging has to act as the sales person for the product.
11. Strategic Analysis and Opportunity Assessment – market research, competitive analysis, M&A strategy, strategic direction, lost business research.
12. Direct the marketing communications and advertising teams on how to sell the product with a consistent brand positioning, tone and manner.
13. Champion the development and marketing of individual products within a portfolio of products
14. Oversee and direct the team across the entire product lifecycle (new product development, launch, ongoing management and enhancement of products, and product retirement)
15. Focus on growth via innovative new products, new markets and new channels as well as maintenance of existing products in portfolio.
16. Remain current to trends and issues as they relate to the product offering as well as emerging technologies, standards, and market trends.
17. Create sales tools and provide sales support and escalation for deals contributing to customer wins.
18. Deliver sales training
19. Talk to the press, bloggers, the media
20. Work closely with other internal teams on the overall product roadmap, beta customers and product promotion.
21. Identify strategic go-to-market partnership opportunities and execute partner marketing strategies.
22. Nurture relationships with industry organizations
23. Own the product/service award process
24. Drive Sales Enablement – Create effective lead-generation and selling strategies. Help sales teams to win more deals. Offer competitive insight and attend customer meetings. Deliver webinars as well as targeted presentations for strategic partners. Represent the product and company as requested to the press and industry analysts. Represent company and product at various trade shows and lead-generation events. Collaborate with Lead Generation team to develop winning campaigns.
How to be an exceptional Product Marketing Manager
1. Realize that positioning and customer research is the foundation of all marketing. Nail that. It’s the 80% return.
The positioning is the foundation for the marketing strategy, the advertising strategy, and marketing messaging.
TIP: Learn about Messaging Research. It’s often the best ROI for marketing. It will give you the authentic, most persuasive words to use.
2. The positioning statement won’t ever be seen by a customer.
The positioning strategy and statement you obsess over as a product marketing manager ultimately needs to come to life in packaging, advertising, point of sale merchandising, sales presentations, PR releases, product data sheets, direct mail, and on product pages on websites.
3. The positioning strategy will be “interpreted” by many other people.
- If it’s not clear and compelling, it won’t be used.
- If it’s filled with jargon (words most customers won’t understand), it shouldn’t be used. Or if it is, it will get rejected by customers in messaging testing and ad testing.
- If it’s too long, it won’t be used.
Know this: The ad agency, PR consultant and internal marketing communications people won’t say to the product manager, “This positioning statement isn’t helpful.” Instead, they’ll politely listen to the long PowerPoint presentation and product demonstration given by the product manager and then go off and figure out by themselves what to do or say to make an effective ad and PR release. Why?
Because they want to avoid conflict and they know that they will be the ultimate “throat to choke” if the ad doesn’t work well, not the product manager who developed an ineffective positioning strategy. Don’t believe us? Do you know the mission statement for your company? Does it influence what you do? Probably it’s too long and irrelevant to remember and use. Same thing applies to poorly constructed product positioning statements.
The press, bloggers and the sales team will also be interpreting the product positioning.
The ultimate product positioning will be done by the press, bloggers and customers. They will simplify and define what is unique, compelling and most relevant about the product in the market.
4. The product positioning strategy must “come to life” in an emotional and rational way through advertising, packaging and sales presentations.
For that reason, it’s helpful when developing your positioning to think ahead to understand how it will be used by ad agencies, people developing packaging and merchandising and the sales team working to win deals. This will give you a significant competitive edge as a product marketing manager.
From our experience: The rubber hits the road when the ad agency creative team and the PR consultant creates the first product ad and the press release. Can they translate the positioning into relevant, persuasive marketing messages that will convince the prospective customers to buy?
5. Ultimately, a product manager wants to create a compelling Brand Strategy and Brand Experience that creates “Brand Fans” (customer advocates) who share positive word-of-mouth online and in person about the product
A Brand Fan marketing strategy is far more than getting people to “like” the product Facebook page. It’s creating a powerful free sales force for the product who naturally share authentic praise and referrals.
6. Think of yourself like an Orchestra Leader
Ideally, you want everyone to be singing off the same song sheet when they are developing the marketing communications, packaging and sales presentations for the product. You need to be exceptional at understanding the different “players” and motivating and influencing them.
In many ways, you are a “middle man” (or woman) as a product manager. You won’t be producing the packaging, advertising, website, PR release. You may be reviewing and approving it but ultimately other people are the ones playing the “instruments,” not you. To get great advertising, you have to influence a lot of people.
Common mistakes made by product marketing
1. Defining the target audience too broadly
As the product manager, you may think it’s best if more people can be included in your target audience. That’s not necessarily true if it’s a new product. There won’t be enough money to reach everyone. Your job needs to be editing and focusing the list to create a roadmap of who the first customers (the early adopters) will likely to be and then expand the target audience from there to reach the early mainstream buyers and then finally the mass market who is far more risk averse and cost sensitive than the early adopters.
2. Focusing on the features, not the benefits of those features
Many product managers expect the advertising strategy to convey a long list of product features. Most customers and certainly the press will only pick up on a few (one to three) features of a product. They will be far more interested in the benefits of those features.
3. Not understanding that most people, even business buyers, make purchase decisions based on both emotional and rational reasons
It’s best to “lead with the heart” in marketing and to share the emotional benefits about a product followed by rational benefits. Look at the best advertising. It’s not a data sheet about product features. It conveys an emotional reason to buy something.
4. Listing far too many messages for marketing communications and advertising to try to convey
Many product managers expect advertising to convey far too many key messages. They’d benefit from understanding how an ad agency develops the copy strategy or advertising brief. It’s based on focusing on what the accepted customer belief is and then conveying one key message that will be most compelling in the headline.
5. Forgetting the new customers to the product category
An effective way to sell more is to focus on people who are “new to the category.” What that means is people who haven’t bought a particular type of product before.
For example, someone who is a new parent has never bought a baby stroller, car seat, or all the other things they need for a new baby.
A small business owner may never have bought email marketing software before.
Someone just getting into running may not understand what’s important to consider when buying shoes.
Someone buying a new computer may want to understand the pros and cons of buying a tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
Someone new to the product category (they’ve never bought the type of product before), won’t understand the industry and company jargon and terms. Google’s tools are very helpful for understanding what people are searching for. By adding the words “what is ______” (insert your product category and product in the blank space) you’ll get an instant answer to how many people don’t understand something. For example, there are more than 1 million people searching on Google in the U.S. each month asking, “What is the cloud?” Yet product managers selling cloud computing keep using that term and alienating people who are new to this concept.
TIP: There’s a simple way to sell more. Use the words your customers use and understand in your marketing. Avoid industry and company jargon.
Your positioning statement should answer: why/how is this (company, product, service or person) relevant to ME? Why buy this?
Positioning is how you want a customer/client or a prospective customer/client to view your company, product, service, brand or yourself personal brand.