Why do I even need Product Marketing?

(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.


4 thoughts on “Why do I even need Product Marketing?

  1. Ah so much to possibly write about, but first this is an excellent post. Is Barry really a “guest?” 🙂

    You capture a lot of what I have experienced, and am experiencing now. I would argue that having a MarCom person who “thinks” they know the market and the technology is hazardous, as they usually get big things wrong. And they tend to cling to old, bad practices (like having gateways on content to collect leads that sales will not follow up on).

    A huge +1 on the friction with sales. I have found by and large that they are operating in the 1990’s and still fervently believe that it is their prowess at golf or arranging elegant meals is the closing difference. Not universal, but still too many of them are lead chasers, and their minds numb when you talk content marketing and sales enablement. Or they pick up a buzzword and think it will magically generate “leads” (last week on a sales call, someone said they were waiting for all the new Twitter leads they would be getting )

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Very good post and I agree with Geoffrey that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    However, I disagree that we should “completely ignore” sales. While we should take our insights from the market, the sales team are a critical part of our success. We must engage them at the right time to get buy in.

    By taking a balanced view of all the inputs, including the Sales teams, we can be far more effective.

  3. Effective product marketing brings clients to our sales team when they’re ready to buy. Most of “old school” selling was dribbling out information in sync with the selling process to force clients through the funnel. I recently heard a sales guy say “They won’t buy our product if we don’t force them to.”

    Nowadays, the clients move themselves through the funnel by reading the general information that’s available on the web and only want to talk to a sales guy when they’re ready for specifics. Product marketing is nurturing the client from the general to the specific. Of course that means you have to solve a real problem in the market with your product and it also means that you must build product content that meets your clients information needs.

    To do product marketing, you’ll need to have expertise in products, domain, and market. See my free ebook on product management expertise at http://www.under10templates.com/writing/expert

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