Product marketing, the term is so familiar and yet so vague. Vague in the sense that still today there’s no clear-cut definition for Product Marketing. However, anything that Product Marketing does, it involves three elements – product, marketing, and sales. It is a connection between product, sales, and customer.
Before a company creates a product, it needs to have an assurance that there is a demand for it. However, how does a company get to know what the customer wants? Customer feedback, surveys, market trends are good leads of information. People in Product Marketing need to have a deep understanding of customer and market, especially for a go-to-market strategy where the company is launching a new product. They need to deal with the market directly, i.e. customers. Product Marketing is also responsible for collecting data from the customers and providing it to the development team which the group uses as parameters and features for the product design. PM is the customers’ representative in the development process.
Product Marketing is not just about putting the product in the market. There’s a lot more that goes into the process which starts from the product manufacturing. PM uses a combination of market research, design and advertising for product's success. It requires a lot of market analysis before making a product for a specific market. Demand and supply drive the market. Needs of the customer propel demands, and supply quenches the need. Marketing should be able to stimulate demand and usage of the product. There are two aspects: Supply for demand, and Demand for supply.
Supply for demand is less challenging because demand is already present; the company only has to satisfy them with their products. Demand for supply, however, is altogether a different thing. The company has to create demand for the product to achieve its sales target. This strategy is only possible with companies like Apple who have a sizeable customer-fan base. PM sets the tone for the how the product gets perceived by the customer. Market perception depends on the way a product gets introduced to the market. Think about the message it gives or the way a company positions the product in the market. A good product will struggle in the market with a wrong perception. A case study, the world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano. Tata Nano is not a bad car, but the way it was marketed as ‘cheap’ caused its downfall. If Tata had gone with the tag ‘The world’s most affordable car’, maybe it could have done better.
Product Marketing does have its fair share in making product sales. Before a product launch, i.e. during the development, PM identifies the market opportunities and relays it to the development team. The development team then comes up with a product that aligns itself with the market demands. From here, PM takes on the task of appropriate product positioning in the market, along with product awareness and the message the product has to deliver (messaging). It also needs to decide how the product reaches the market from the production. All this comes under the Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy.
To make product sales; companies need to understand the customer needs and propose value addition via the product. An in-depth understanding of customer and market ensures apt positioning and promotion of product while maintaining demand and adoption and providing customer satisfaction by solving their problems (needs).
PM is responsible for customer development, creation and educating positioning and messaging to the sales, creating a launch plan and launch content, and finally releasing the product.
Let’s go in-depth to understand the process of Product Marketing better with shedding light over some of the common strategies adopted in PM.
This can be an incredibly powerful growth tool but also really annoying to the consumer. Tools like Twilio have made it increasingly easier to send text messages from a dashboard, much like you would experience with a tool like Intercom. But, you have to be mindful about how you are using it. Collecting phone numbers during a signup funnel is easy enough, and knowing when the user or customer fails to complete a form is also fairly easy— so at that point you have a great entryway to communicating with that customer. That’s just one example of how you can use SMS.
Email marketing still works, though it's increasingly more difficult to get someone to respond. Tactics these days seem to be around personalization and simplicity of the message. You have to be sure you aren’t including the sales pitch as part of the automated or custom email. Your goal should be to connect with the customer and then try to build raw communication. If you are simply automating your sales pitch, that most likely won’t work. For eCommerce, the abandoned checkout automation seem to work well. But in this instance, you usually provide the customer with a 10% discount, and that gets them to pay attention to the email.
There are so many ways to remarket your visitors these days. Your goal for remarketing should be to reinforce your messaging across all social platforms, using cookied visitors to your site. Ideally, your goal here should be to offer some type of discount for coming back. Similar to abandoned checkout marketing, you want to incentivize the customer. Remarketing is considered as part of a top-down approach to marketing, meaning you are reinforcing your brand and awareness for it. The creative that you use should be well thought through and considered. The messaging is important. Facebook and LinkedIn are fantastic routes for remarketing as they cover a lot of ground for both B2B and consumer remarketing needs. Facebook primarily for Instagram awareness. Keep in mind, depending on your product, a customer might not convert from an Instagram ad because they are on mobile. If you are in the eCommerce space, you’ll also want to think through how your product makes a conversion from that remarketing point of entry easier. For instance, can you skip a few steps of a signup form, that’s ideal.
Content marketing is becoming more and more difficult, similar to email. I wouldn’t invest time here unless you already have traction with your product. But it is a valuable tool to start investing in building an audience who cares deeply about your subject matter. Tactically, content marketing plays a significant role in trying to identify ideal customers via unique research information and then funnels them into a product or eCommerce shopping experience. The best content marketing thinks through the platforms for which it will be shared. Making great content for Google is not the same as making great content for Facebook. You should consider your platforms, the audience who is on those platforms, and what they are looking for. There isn’t one major Company out there who aren’t investing in content marketing or some type of content creation being distributed to potential customers. B2B content marketing has a much different path than the consumer, primarily because of where you have to access your audience. If you are in this particular space, you may want to think about research papers, white papers or some other types of accessible resources that can be included in sales emails or in the footer of every person in your Company.
Automated telephone follow-ups
Coming up in 2019, a more recent tactic has been to robo-dial customers and reinforces messaging. I’m not a huge fan of this tactic from the angle of the customer. When this has happened to me personally, it doesn’t convert me. But I could see this working for certain consumer scenarios, like student debt consolidation services looking to connect with the customer in some way.
Tools like Intercom and Drift are market leaders in this technique. It’s quite simple, being able to have a human conversation with someone can be a compelling factor. Just knowing that there is someone real behind the machine can be quite helpful for a customer to know they’re important. Integrations with Slack make this simple to operate during the day and can also be useful for gathering customer feedback or product research in real-time as well. Some of these tools are attempting to automate the conversation. Allowing the user to have a ‘choose your own adventure’ style path of conversation. I haven’t seen this work well yet because it goes against the reason why conversational marketing works in the first place, a real human answering your questions. Think back to when you used to call customer service and once you did, they would help you create a sale. Either when you were ordering furniture or even clothing sometimes. The guidance was appreciated and gave you the loyalty and buying confidence to create a sale.
New types of affiliate marketing
Affiliate programs have been around for a long time, but recently they’ve been working well again. As marketing automation tools begin to be more robust, tactics become more difficult to execute, your goal should be to neuter a group of marketers who know exactly what they’re doing. If you can incentivize this group of people well, you can have big returns. Mattress companies like Purple have made a profound impact on their categories using high payouts for affiliate marketing programs. The best thing to consider here is your payout. Affiliates have to spend as much time as you marketing a product or service. Ensure you are thinking through and calculating an affiliate payout that equates the degree of work they may have to do. Or else you could risk not having affiliates take on your program.
Friend referrals for actual money
Referring a friend for a discount is the usual tactic. But what I’ve seen work well these days is when you give the customer real dollars. Not dollars they can use at your store or as a discount to your product. But real compensation. It doesn’t have to be significant. But paying $5 for the referral will most likely be cheaper than the amount you would spend on advertising or marketing, consider that. And when you already have a fan of your service or product, who wants to tell their friend about you already— giving them additional reasons just puts it over the edge.
This is a newer technique that has risen in interest of the last few years. The way it works is similar to remarketing. In fact, it is very similar to it aside from the fact that you are targeting professionals who are within a specific geography of where your target audience’s HQ is. It uses a mixture of audience information and geographical data to conclude that certain visitors are part of your target customer base. Because of this, you can have very specific messaging aimed at a particular Company and level of professionalism. This is primarily used for B2B Product Marketing.
As you can see from the above tactics, sometimes Product Marketers have to work closely with designers and engineers as well. To produce the required materials ready to get into the market. They become a pivotal part in the customer acquisition strategy and execution. When hiring a Product Marketer to be well-equipped to enable them sometime with your Product team. They may have to request features and design related to the go-to-market plans.