This is the 19th post of a 50 article series for beginners building marketing at B2B startups.
A B2B marketing organization typically has two core functions: demand generation and product marketing. Put simply, product marketing is responsible for 3 things:
- Define messaging, positioning and value propositions (the story)
- Enable the sales team with collateral, training, and go-to-market strategy
- Analyze market, competitive, 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 we use in all of our demand gen activities. Everytime we create an ebook, host a webinar or write a blog post, we should be reinforcing the same core message that resonates with our 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 that is answering these questions to define the story, messaging and positioning. This must be done prior to scaling the demand gen team, otherwise we won’t have a clear focus for our 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 also 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 debunk 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 properly enable the sales team to sell the new feature, product marketing needs to define how we are introducing 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:
- Defining the name of the features
- Determining pricing strategy
- Identifying sales channels
- Creating collateral
- Launching Introductory email blasts
- Building landing pages focused on the new features
- Making website updates
- Drafting press releases
- Writing content (ebooks, blog articles)
- Hosting webinars
- Creating waiting lists for customers to sign-up
It’s important that product marketing works closely with demand gen since many of these activities overlap the two functions. Overall, the go-to-market strategy for a new feature is very involved (and will have its own blog post with more detail later in this series).
The product marketer is often an analyzer. She is looking 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:
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 our ability to sell. This tactically involves reading industry publications, setting up google alerts on relevant topics and sharing weekly or monthly briefs with the team on the pulse of our industry.
We never want our sales team to 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 our competitors, identify how our product is superior, and create easy-to-understand collateral that delivers that message.
Our product marketing team needs to be digging into product data, alongside the product managers. What features are most used? What success metrics are we 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.
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 the product marketing function has a full plate in a cranking B2B marketing team. Some teams will align product marketing closer to product management, and the lines sometimes get blurred between them. It’s critical that as we are establishing a product marketing function, we clearly define the difference in responsibilities between that and product management. Here is how my team’s 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: Defining 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 help 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. Write customer-facing feature descriptions and copy, create illustrated feature examples for collateral.|
|Go-to-market strategy||Support role: Summarizes product roadmap and development processes. Reports on timelines and writes use cases in which why and how were the product were 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.|