How to Launch Product Marketing

This is article #19 out of 50 in The Startup Marketing Playbook.

A B2B marketing organization typically has two core functions: demand generation and product marketing. Put simply, product marketing is responsible for 3 things:

  1. Define messaging, positioning and value propositions (the story)
  2. Enable the sales team with collateral, training, and go-to-market strategy
  3. Analyze market, competition, product and customer data to unlock insights

Let’s dig into each of these responsibilities to gain a better understanding of product marketing.

Define the Story

A startup’s story is the messaging and positioning that is used throughout your demand gen activities. Every time you create an ebook, host a webinar or write a blog post, you should reinforce the core message that resonates with your target personas. It’s product marketing’s role to determine what that story should be, define it clearly, and package it in an easy-to-use way for the demand gen team. This involves understanding the answers to 4 questions:

  • Who uses the product?
  • What are the top 3 benefits gained for that person by using the product?
  • Why is that person buying the product over a competitor?
  • What are the big trends in the industry that mandate use of the product?

In the very early days of a startup, it is often the marketing lead who is answering these questions to define the story, messaging and positioning. This must be done prior to scaling the demand gen team, otherwise you won’t have a clear focus for your inbound content strategy. As the company builds new products or features, product marketing is responsible for evolving the current story to include those new innovations.

Enable the Sales Team

When a startup is small, the early marketing team is often responsible for building a pipeline of qualified leads and maintaining the CRM, creating collateral and defining messaging. As the team grows, it’s important to enable the demand gen team to focus purely on creating the pipeline of leads. Therefore, product marketing often owns all other aspects of enabling the sales team. This likely includes:

  • Creating 1-pagers, feature overviews and slide decks for use in demos
  • Interviewing customers to write case studies and success stories
  • Writing articles that overcome specific sales objections
  • Training the sales team on messaging and new features

In addition to those continuously needed tasks, product marketing is responsible for go-to-market strategy when a new product or feature is being launched. To enable the sales team to sell the new feature, product marketing needs to define how to introduce the new features to customers, leads and opportunities. This translates into a timeline with a comprehensive set of marketing activities that build on each other. Specifically:

  • Define the name of the features
  • Determine pricing strategy
  • Identify sales channels
  • Create collateral
  • Launch introductory email blasts
  • Build landing pages focused on the new features
  • Make website updates
  • Draft press releases
  • Write content (ebooks, blog articles)
  • Host webinars
  • Create waiting lists for customers to sign up

It’s important that product marketing works closely with demand generation since many of these activities overlap.

Analyze Data

Product marketers are often analyzers. They look at market, competitive, product and customer data from a variety of sources, wrangling it together and packaging it in ways that are valuable for other functional areas. For example:

Market Analysis

At the macro-level, product marketing should be continuously researching the current market landscape and identifying potential partners, emerging competitors, and trends that may impact your ability to sell. This involves reading industry publications, setting up google alerts on relevant topics and sharing weekly or monthly briefs with the team on the pulse of your industry.

Competitive Analysis

Your sales team should never be in a demo, get asked about a competitor, and not have the information needed to sell against them. It is product marketing’s job to understand all of your competitors, identify how your product is superior, and create easy-to-understand collateral that delivers that message.

Product Analysis

The product marketing team needs to dig into product data, alongside the product managers. What features are most used? What success metrics are you using to determine if customers are getting value from the product? This information can be translated into talking points and collateral for the sales team. Product marketing needs to be highly data-driven to access and unlock insights from this data.

Customer Analysis

Customers all have unique stories and use-cases. It is the product marketer’s job to capture these stories and turn them into actionable collateral, content or messaging guidelines for the sales team to use when speaking with opportunities.

Overall, product marketing has a full plate in a B2B marketing team. Some teams will align product marketing closer to product management, and the lines get blurred between them. It’s critical that as you are establishing a product marketing function, you clearly define the difference in responsibilities between that and product management. Here is how product marketing manager Frank Wang defines that:

Responsibility Product Management Product Marketing
Product Roadmap Owner: Sets vision and strategy, works with engineers to build the product. Support role: Defines the messaging, positioning, and value proposition of the product, sharing and collaborating with product management.
Product Development Owner: Meets with engineering teams and defines priorities, sets timelines, and organizes teams around product development. Support role: Helps deliver information (customer feedback, market research) to define priorities. Kept up to date on roadmap timelines by product management.
Product Specifications, Features, and Use Cases Owner: Writes documents outlining product specifications, features, and use cases. Support role: Gathers documents to be used for marketing plans. Writes customer-facing feature descriptions and copy, creates illustrated feature examples for collateral.
Go-to-market strategy Support role: Summarizes product roadmap and development processes. Reports on timelines and writes use cases on why and how the product was created. Owner: Creates the Go-to-market plan by defining the value propositions, market segments, channel strategy, pricing strategy, competitive analysis, and marketing plan.
Customer Feedback Loops Support role: Reviews with Product Marketing customer feedback KPIs and utilizes them in future product development. Owner: Implements the customer feedback process (e.g. customer focus groups, customer interviews, NPS) and summarizes data to be reviewed with Product Management.
Sales Enablement Support role: Provides product expertise and user case studies to Product Marketing to be translated into sales enablement materials. Owner: Translates product information into sales enablement materials to be used for sales calls, internal and partner-facing presentations, and product trainings.
Marketing Collateral Support role: Similar to sales enablement, provides information about the features and user case studies. Owner: Takes product information and defines what marketing collateral needs to be created and sets schedule for delivery of marketing contents. Reports back to Product Management on what marketing messages resonate with customers.
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