(guest post by Barry Doctor)

outsideinview.comI was talking with a business owner who posed the question to me, “Why do I even need Product Marketing?”

Now, it seems that many business owners are quick to hire lawyers, accountants and sales people. But when it comes to marketing… well, sometimes they read a book or ask a relative to do it on the cheap. The problem is — they don’t see the value in marketing… at least not enough to bring in a professional.

When they do realize that they need some marketing help, they often think that all they require is a company logo or some business cards, so they seek out marketing communications help or, as Steve Johnson calls them, “fonts and colors”. Marketing communications people typically do not understand the industry or the buyer, so they need guidance and direction from someone. Management is too busy to pitch in on yet another area of responsibility, so marketing communications fails due to lack of knowledge or direction, not by any fault of their own.

Product marketing, referred to by John Mansour as “looking outward”, tends to be more thoughtful and strategic. They build buyer personas and go to market plans targeting specific industries, market segments or buyers. Sure, they do often take on responsibility for generating leads, but they are strategic, thoughtful leads, not barrels full of senseless, and mostly irrelevant inquiries. Product marketing often takes on the sales enablement function since we have researched the buyer persona, can speak in the buyer’s language and are strategic enough to provide the needed artifacts at the appropriate point in the buying cycle.

This sometimes causes friction with sales, who has the attitude of “just get me the lead and I will make them buy.” A product marketer will want to nurture the lead, provide the right information to advance the research process. Product marketing managers should completely ignore sales and focus on the market and the product’s value in the language of that market. In the long run, this will make the organization more efficient and reduce the number of leads necessary to close the same amount of sales – or more.

While I believe that product marketing is critical to the company, really it is just being efficient. We are listening to the market, and, responding to what the buyers are telling us with necessary data for them to make an informed decision. We understand that the buyer’s world has changed. The buyer can go online and do all of their research up-front without interacting with a salesperson. The product marketing role ensures that the company can be found online and that enough information is available to the buyer so that he can contact the salesperson ready to buy. It is becoming a vital role to all organizations.