I recently took part in a panel, together with a number of product marketing experts, on how product marketers can best enable sales teams. With 100 other product marketers in attendance, the SF Product Marketing Meetup was a unique opportunity for us all to exchange ideas and insights.
If you ask 5 product marketers (PMs) what they do, you’ll get 5 different answers. Some PMs spend most of their time with Product teams developing future products, while other PMs spend most of their time with Marketing teams creating messaging and collateral. So naturally, there were a wide variety of opinions at the panel.
That’s one of the reasons why I love Product Marketing — being able to work across all teams in a company. On any given day, I can be working with R&D, Product, Marketing, Sales, or Customer Success – and usually coordinating activities across these teams to ensure a consistent go-to-market strategy and execution.
Perhaps as a result of their unique position within their companies, there can sometimes be some confusion about what, exactly, product marketers do — whether on the part of others within their organizations, or even among some product marketers themselves.
So: What do product marketers actually do?
At it’s core, I think Product Marketing is all about messaging. Product Marketers need to understand what customers want — then translate product techno-speak into customer-friendly language.
You can create the best, most technically-advanced product in the world. But it will fail in the marketplace if you can’t explain that product easily to customers. That’s the job of the product marketer — to understand what customers want, work with Product teams to develop products to fill this demand, and work with Marketing and Sales teams to message and sell the products.
In my opinion, there are three main criteria for success in Product Marketing: Sales, Scale, and Sustain.
Criteria #1: Sales
The first criteria for product marketing success is “sales.”
Can you, as a Product Marketer, sell the product yourself? If I put you in front of a customer, would you be able to do the following 4 things:
1) ask good questions to uncover customer needs
2) pitch the product
3) demo the product
4) explain why the product is better than anything else the customer is considering to fulfill that need?
If you can’t sell the product yourself, then the rest of your product marketing materials will be ineffective. You’ll be creating messaging, sales decks, demos, collateral, and use cases that won’t help sell the product, because the message won’t resonate with the customer.
I personally try to spend 20% of my time in front of customers, to understand their pains, see how they respond to our message, and work side-by-side with sales reps to sell the product. I consider this to be the most important part of my product marketing role.
Criteria #2: Scale
The second criteria for product marketing success is “scale.”
If product marketers can sell the product, why don’t they become sales reps?
Because after product marketers learn how to sell the product, they have to scale that knowledge and their content to the entire go-to-market team. As a product marketer, you have to create the message, sales decks, demos, collateral, competitive positioning, and use cases that will enable Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams to sell the product. These teams are looking at you to create the best message that will resonate with the customer.
In a B2B setting, I am responsible for creating most of the sales tools described. When I worked in B2C, I was responsible for creating messaging, campaign creative, and the public website.
Criteria #3: Sustain
The third criteria for product marketing success is “sustain.”
So product marketers can sell the product and scale marketing materials; is their job done? No. You, as a product marketer, have to sustain your business. That means making sure the product is selling and is always “in demand” with customers.
If product revenue is dipping, you have to collaborate with Product, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success to determine why customers aren’t buying and how to reverse the trend. Is the messaging too complicated? Is the product unusable? Are customers defecting to a competitor? If so, why?
At Leadspace, we have a sales dashboard projected on a TV in the office so we all can see, in real-time, how many leads we’re attracting, and watch leads moving through the funnel to “closed-won.” I can always see how the product is doing revenue-wise for the quarter, monitor its trend towards the quarterly revenue goal, and make recommendations to help the product meet or exceed its revenue goal.
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Image by Bilal Kamoon on flickr | CC BY 2.0