Why is product marketing so critical in organizations?
So many companies have great products that have the power to solve problems, but the dots just don’t seem to connect.
Go-to-Market strategy sits between your organization and your buyers.
Today I’m gonna walk you through the key functions we need to work with to make go-to-market successful.
Here’s our main talking points:
- Why Product Marketing is so critical in leading cross-functional GTM
- Best practice functional collaboration
- Highlight leadership role by sample product launch
Let’s go ahead and dive in 👇
I've been in the tech industry for about 20 years where I've worked for both hardware and software organizations. I've also worked for larger enterprises, as well as smaller organizations. In fact, most of my experience has been working for organizations between around 200 and a thousand employees.
Although the first half of my career was more focused on field marketing and demand generation, the second half of my career has really been around product marketing and in many ways that's what I consider my home.
There hasn't been a lot of looking back, because there's distinct personality traits that identify us as product marketers.
One would be our natural curiosity, we like learning and understanding products at a very deep level, but we also enjoy human psychology and having an empathetic view towards individuals and the challenges they're facing.
That allows us to create the voice of the buyer and connect those pieces together.
Why Product Marketing is so critical in leading cross-functional GTM
Common challenges in GTM
When organizations aren’t able to implement a proper go-to-market strategy, it’s often because of three common challenges.
🤖 Being disproportionately technology focused vs. commercial operations
This applies to smaller to mid-sized organizations usually founded by individuals who were technologists or engineers themselves, so that's where the organization's weighted.
It makes sense, developing the product is where you want to put your resources first, but eventually you need to take it to market.
However, that necessity of resourcing and taking it to market can often slow things down, which is why you need to have that focus on commercial operations from the get go.
❓Incomplete understanding of the buyer and their journey
These organizations developed a product for a specific use case or for a specific challenge they see. However, they may not be fully aware of all the different buyers impacting these decisions, how they influence the purchasing decision, the various decision makers, as well as the various use cases where the technology can be applied.
Product marketing can provide an extra perspective to help organizations solve this issue.
🤝 Business lacks operational cadence
There can be quarterly operational cadences, or for private organizations, more of an annual slant, but operational cadence can be solved through product launches.
It adds a heartbeat for the organization and for a lot of these functional areas to get behind, work together, and then make a difference.
Product Marketing at the core of the GTM ecosystem
We can add value by better working with the functional organizations: product management, sales, corporate marketing, and senior management.
As Product Marketers, we can do this because we’re at the centre of a lot of these functional areas and in a unique internal view of the business to understand the internal operations and product capabilities.
Then, we have another step outside the business, which is understanding the market, competitors, the buyers, and putting all those pieces together.
Best practice for cross-functional collaboration
Individuals in product management are typically high-technologists or engineers who have risen out of the ranks of that discipline because they're able to wear more of a commercial hat.
When they look at the business operations, they look at the applicability of the product to the market.
Go-to-Market strategy goals
You have to understand what the product portfolio is today. What are the marketing revenue opportunities? How can you make the best product to maximize revenue opportunities?
You have to prioritize engineering and resources, where typically those resources are limited.
I've seen product managers very often assist in complex sales. These individuals are the technical experts and they understand the integration issues when it comes to implementing the technology.
They own and maintain the product roadmap. They're understanding, not just what's available today, but what we are going to build in the future.
When it comes to product management challenges, one is the incredible constraints on their time and pulled in multiple directions.
You may also have a myopic view of products because they're typically inside the corporate walls.
Product managers are looking at products from a functionality perspective (what we can do) vs. this is what the market needs. Providing an extra perspective so you can get more of that market view will help them do what they need to be doing, which is building the best products in the world for your company.
If they are producing assets, they're very feature driven not value driven, specifically product roadmaps, and because of the nature of the position they're caught in between management and sales.
Where can Product Marketing help?
Product marketers can help take some of the burden off their shoulders by supporting them in the field, at conferences and customer meetings, generating and producing as much product collateral and assets as possible.
We can add a lot of value in ensuring that the product features they are focused on are ones that will really resonate with buyers. Product managers typically have a good understanding of the challenges buyers are facing today, but they may not be thinking about the challenges buyers are facing tomorrow or future market trends.
Bringing that to them and helping them understand the product features and how they're applicable to the different buyers we're working with, helps them better prioritize resources, and better refine the products themselves.
Another way we can help make that happen is competitive intelligence; we’re responsible for creating analyst reports and market research. What I've tried to do is to summarize that in a way that helps educate them so they don't have to read some of the longer format documents.
I’ve seen product roadmaps that are just like a laundry list of features, by quarter of introduction, and there's not a narrative behind it or explanation of what these feature sets are and if they fit together under functionality pillars.
Our buyers don't want to just buy products for today, they want to buy into the vision our organization has for the future. There's a real value we can add to product management to make those roadmaps much more interesting and compelling.
Their goals are fairly straightforward, they need to win sales opportunities and achieve their quota targets.
Sales need to inform customers of new products and features, in many ways, they're one of our communication channels. In today's world, they’re an even more important communication channel because our buyers are being educated. In fact, 50% of their journey is completed before they talk to a salesperson.
They then need to take customer feedback from the market and provide it to internal organizations, like engineering, and the product teams. They clearly need to maintain the installed base and make sure they're maintained to win deals.
Finally, ensuring cross selling opportunities are taken advantage of, which is definitely something product marketing can help with.
Like product management they’re time constrained but they're also susceptible to information overload. More and more organizations today have a richer product portfolio. Trying to understand all that, like we do as product marketers, while also maintaining relationships with all your customers, is a lot.
They have to be successful in very competitive markets. There's a lot of market entrants these days and it makes their job harder.
The differentiation between product A and product B, is becoming much narrower. As they try to differentiate the product, those features are becoming different sub features and becoming much more granular.
Where can Product Marketing help?
Product Marketing has to stay ahead of sales, especially from an energy standpoint, being able to evangelize the products. It's part of our job to get them excited, so they can deliver that excitement to their own customers. Bringing this energy with you on sales training calls and sales kickoffs is really valuable.
We have to be sensitive of time and deliver these messages live as it’s much more meaningful and more likely to be taken on board.
We also have to make sure the materials we create are up to date, which can be a challenge within product marketing when we're trying to create many different assets in a fast moving tech market. A lot of salespeople would rather have a smaller set of assets, which is kept up to date.
First call deliverables are an area we should focus on in Product Marketing. Within the first meeting, it's critical to get it to the second stage. We can contribute on the demo, product roadmap or by spending time on that first call deck.
One of the main goals of corporate marketing is maintaining consistency and brand identity across an entire portfolio, setting the communication plan and the overall strategy.
They're the experts on the channels on which content will be delivered across to reach the buyers and so making sure this strategy is in place is one of their goals.
Getting the awareness for the entire organization, maintaining awareness, generating new leads and ensuring the conversion rates are staying high are also important goals.
Buyers are harder to reach these days. The sources of information are becoming more numerous and buyers are going to websites and market research pages to get their information.
Those communication channels are still valid but there's more of them and there's more that corporate marketing needs to maintain and as they're maintaining them we're all producing more and more assets.
It’s also difficult to ensure brand identity is staying consistent across all those assets. They have a lot of deadlines we may not be aware of. Their marketing tech stack is evolving and becoming more complex.
Where can Product Marketing help?
We have to make sure we're aligned with them really early on. When we map out our buyer personas and their journeys, they can start thinking about the right communication channels for the messages for those specific buyers.
From a financial perspective, the planning is also more resource effective because they can eliminate some channels and maximize others.
It's very important for us to support any PR and social marketing initiatives because product marketing is one of the strongest corporate voices in the company. We need to better understand the communication channels and strive to do that.
Speaking to their hard deadlines, we have to be on time. It’s basic but it does truly help them and what they need to do in their go-to-market motion.
One of their goals is overall revenue and margin attainment and making sure they're meeting the plans they have in place while ensuring all the different functional areas are resourced.
Sometimes the challenge with that is the technical or product entities within the organization can be better resourced than go-to-market.
Reviewing any kind of merger and acquisition opportunities to strengthen offerings plays very heavily into go-to-market because if there's a new technology that's acquired, sometimes they want to bring that to market rather quickly and we need to get involved right away.
In general, they’re always focused on keeping everything moving, but at such a high level they can be detached from reality and from what's going on at the salesperson level.
They can leave parts of the commercial organization not resourced; deciding which areas of the business to prioritize can be difficult when every business stakeholder is making a very strong case and resources are limited.
Where can Product Marketing help?
We can help provide some cadence to the business planning where they may be very quarterly driven. Within those quarters looking and helping marketing lead sales in the organization, we can add a lot of value there, making sure product launch plans are integrated into their overarching operational plans.
Product marketing can typically own and add tremendous value to our win/loss programmes. We're uniquely positioned to run them because we're close to the buyer, we understand them and we have a more holistic view of the market as opposed to driven by hypotheses.
In running those programmes, effectively, we can demonstrate to senior management whether or not their hypotheses are accurate.
The chief revenue officer is typically the hero of these programmes, but allows the whole organization to go-to-market much more effectively. It’s a highly strategic programme, that helps not just marketing, validating the messaging, and the go-to-market on that side of the business, but also the product choices the organization is making.
As product marketers, we can better help the senior management understand the market segments, where the opportunities are and better help underline the resources to go attack them.
Finally, making sure the corporate narrative is tightly aligned to the product story is an essential way we can help. Sometimes I've seen corporate tax and product tax are completely disjointed and need to be uniform. In other words, making sure the product marketing and product slides can basically be part of the corporate narrative.
Putting it all together: Launch timeline & stakeholders
An important aspect in leading cross functional good marketing efforts is timing.
Within product launches, the timing is crucial. Research and business operation planning, even messaging development, can all happen in parallel but other parts of product launches need to happen sequentially.
This is absolutely critical when we are quarterbacking some of these initiatives so we're not walking over anyone else while we're doing what we need to be doing.
To wrap up
We’re in the middle of the go-to-market motion and cognizant of being both at the front, but also at the centre and making sure we're empathetic of everyone else's challenges and how to work best with them to add tremendous value to the whole go-to-market motion.
Identify the key stakeholders early, especially on any large initiative projects and bring your energy, passion and enthusiasm. They’re contagious.