by John Mansour
When I founded Proficientz in 2001, my perspective on product marketing was analogous to the awakening I had when I first moved away from home to go to college. I naively assumed most other 18 year-olds were raised similar to the way I was raised. Then I found out differently.
Over the course of nearly 15 years as a practitioner with several software companies, a formalized product marketing function was a staple in every one of them. As I ventured into the world of training and consulting, I naively assumed most organizations had a formalized product marketing function. Then I found out differently. Product marketing was the exception, not the rule, and thirteen years later, not much has changed.
I continue to ask myself, why? My theories run the gamut.
- Organizations don’t know what product marketing is
- Organizations don’t see the value or don’t think they need it
- Product Marketing is a victim of the marketing stigma (which is really the PR and advertising stigma)
- Organizations think product managers do it
- Organizations think marketing communications does it
While I still haven’t uncovered a theory I’d bet on, the single biggest reason every organization needs product marketing boils down to two words – MARKET KNOWLEDGE. In fact, the product marketing function of today goes far beyond the one-armed paper hangers of the past that created presentations and data sheets for each product.
In fact, the “per product” approach to marketing was never that great anyway, for two reasons.
It opened the wrong doors for sales people. Product messaging speaks to users, which means lower level users are initiating contact with your sales people instead of decision makers or influencers. Feature bake-offs and big discounts are inevitable and you rarely have the opportunity to sell differentiating business value when the fate of the deal is in the hands of a lower level user.
It failed to establish a discipline of pure market expertise – industry dynamics, operational business practices and the impact of both on your target customer organizations.
It’s Not Really “Product” Marketing Anymore
The B2B product marketing function of today isn’t really “product” marketing. It’s an expanded role that possesses greater knowledge on vertical industries and horizontal business operations more so than ever before. That stronger level of domain expertise adds necessary horsepower to the sales enablement engine as well as the company messaging, and it also gives product management a much-needed assist on the front-end of the planning cycle.
Benefit to Sales
Sales will engage in more conversations with decision-makers during the sales cycle, especially in the early stages. This happens as a result of marketing messages that target needs at the decision-maker level with a much higher relevance factor.
A strong dialogue – and supporting sales tools – improve the credibility of the sales force, allowing them to have a credible business conversation with decision makers to uncover the real buying motivations before introducing products and services into the conversation.
Benefit to Corporate Marketing
In a nutshell, corporate marketing creates a stronger resume for the company when the messaging is more relevant to vertical industry issues and the subsequent business challenges at an operational level. That higher level messaging will open more doors for sales opportunities at the decision maker level. Capabilities of your products and services are still important but serve as strong proof points to the higher level business value messages.
Benefit to Product Management
Product managers simply don’t have the time get out of the building on a regular basis to dredge the market. An assist from product marketing to funnel market trends and business dynamics would ensure product decisions are made with a balanced view of the market beyond sales deals and “squeaky-wheel” customers.
If the traditional (tactical) product marketing function were up-leveled to a market expert role to drive higher performing sales teams, more relevant value messages and market information that’s consumable for product teams, would more organizations value it?
What’s your experience with product marketing? Enter your comments below.
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