Product marketing is super hot right now.
Luckily, I (Nishant Choudhary) got to work with a couple of product marketers, over the last few years. I helped them with blog content to promote their SaaS product(s). In the process, I learned a lot about product marketing (PM) itself. Those rich conversations… damn!
But unfortunately, to my disappointment, I discovered that not many entrepreneurs squeeze the value that PM presents. In fact, not many understand what’s PMM all about.
And so, I thought of putting up this product marketing guide for entrepreneurs who want to build & launch their own wildly popular and successful digital products, including SaaS, PaaS, IaaS.
Here’s a quick peek into different sections of this PM guide (feel free to be a monkey or a Kangaroo heart, and jump from one section of the article to another).
What’s product marketing?
Product marketing is creating awareness about the product among the target potential buyers.
Product marketing managers (PMM) establish a chord with the target audience, and remove any barriers that they may face in buying the product, or buying the product add-on features.
Effective product marketing is about understanding the target market like the back of your hand.
Know your product inside out.
As a PMM, you need to be thoroughly acquainted with the market like the back of your hand, and must know all the features, the unique selling proposition (USP) of the product like the palm-side of your hand.
Lol, no kidding. I’m serious.
Okay, you don’t need to be a palm reader, of course, but you got my point. Right?
I mean, how is it even remotely possible that you or any PMM end-up creating a stellar product marketing strategy to communicate the USP of your product to the target audience WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING THE PRODUCT???
Let’s say, if someone does attempt to do so, wouldn’t the outcome be exactly like ordering an iPhone, and getting lingerie delivered? 😂
So, don’t skip on this part. The smart work is to do the hard work.
Product marketing is conducting market research, gathering data, and sensing customer needs, preferences, and behavior.
Have it all licked—
- the customer needs
- their pain points
- market trends
- user behavior
Synthesize all this into crafting a messaging and positioning that strikes right where it aches. That’s what product marketing is pal.
Getting the messaging right is the core foundational aspect of a PMM’s job.
The more precisely your messaging resonates with the target audience (TA), the easier it is for you as a PMM to push the TA into the sales pipeline.
Rakhi, PMM with 10+ years roots for avoiding wordplay traps.
When I asked Rakhi, if she is advocating for no fancy wordplay? She explained, “Absolutely! As a PMM, you should first understand your role within the company. Our job as PMMs is to understand the challenges of our ICPs and offer solutions. Our role isn’t to showcase our writing skills or vocabulary. Hence, keeping it simple is the key. I have personally found myself debating a lot more over words than about the core issues we solve with founders. That rabbit hole is a losing battle. The feedback you’ll receive is – it’s not quite there yet. There is something missing. That word doesn’t sound right. So focusing on WHY is so critical. One way to be a lot more confident about your pillars and taglines before the launch is to socialize your story internally. I have also personally used my messaging to pitch to prospects on LinkedIn to check if it resonates.“
The job doesn’t end there, the product marketing team needs to ensure that the sales team possess every possible weapon in their arsenal to close the deal.
For this, product marketing team need to work closely with-
- customer support team to identify issues/challenges
- product development team to fix the challenges
- content creation team to get marketing materials around those challenges
- sales team to fuel them with insights and the customer training/demo materials to assist in the sales process
In addition to creating messaging and positioning, product marketing is also about creating marketing collateral such as product datasheets, brochures, and presentations.
As messaging needs to be consistent across all your marketing channels, it’s not a bad idea for you to be involved in creating and executing marketing campaigns.
Participate, or at least have a birds view of what’s going on in the email campaigns, social media campaigns, and advertising campaigns.
Of course, you can’t have everything on your plate, else you would be burned out in no time.
In short, product marketing boils down to—
- Creating awareness about the product
- Winning trust of the TA
- Helping sales team seal the deal
20+ critical product marketing facets & activities that shouldn’t be overlooked
If you read the last section i.e., “what’s product marketing?“, then you would have understood one thing that it’s a little subjective topic… and so, what exactly falls under it and what not can be the topic of discussion among the marketers. In fact, it might be partially dependent on the working style of your product marketing manager and the strategy s/he devises. But still, a few things must always be part of every PMM’s product marketing strategy, and here we look at exactly the same.
Onboarding customers: first experience boosts key adoption & engagement metrics
Success of product marketing can be well evaluated using user engagement metrics.
And for a matter of fact, user onboarding experience goes a long way when it comes down to improving user engagement metrics like MAU, DAU, Avg daily time, etcetera.
The easier it is for the user to use the product at their first visit, the higher are the chances of the user retention.
- If you are making an eCommerce platform, make sure that the number of steps required to log-in into your platform & placing the order is minimal.
- Ideally, one tap login.
- It’s critical to ensure that they have a positive experience during the on-boarding process. For this, in-app walk-through can be phenomenal.
- On revisit, without compromising on the security aspects, try to eliminate the need for the user to re-enter password or OTP.
- Maintain a good post-purchase experience.
- Keep the user in loop with activities (price drop, back in stock, inventory status, etcetera) related to the product in their view-history, cart items, and favorite collections.
Also, your product, whatever it is, shouldn’t be complex to set up.
Else, customers may become frustrated and abandon it.
Besides, product marketing managers need to ensure that customers who need help, have immediate access to it. For this, you may need to have product manuals, videos, documentation, and a human/ai-bot assistant to help the users with their queries in real-time.
Role of Pricing and packaging in product marketing
Product pricing has to be devised by the business team who sets sales, organizational revenue, and revenue from the product targets.
But product marketing team should equally be involved in the pricing and packaging decision making process. The benefit is that product marketers often get a better hang of the value proposition for which customers can be lured.
- Anyway, PMMs can always help the business team better price the product, or package the product… as they might have data around what features interest the TA the most once the customer reviews starts flowing in.
- Besides, marketers often sit on highly valuable data from marketing campaigns which most companies fail to cream value from.
- This information can be handy for creating catchy visuals, and writing good copy— hook words, slogans, CTA.
- Also, both pricing & packaging should be adjusted to be relevant enough in the evolving competitive landscape of the market.
Customer segmentation: key step for every effective product marketing strategy
If you’re targeting everyone, you are selling to none.
Don’t treat all customers the same way — they all have different needs, cultural backgrounds, and demographics.
Segment them in small-small groups.
The better the segmentation, the precise can be your messaging to the customer base.
Additionally, segmentation does a big favor to your product marketing strategy. It can help identify potential product upsell and cross-sell opportunities… yayyyy!!!!
Brand positioning: to distinguish your brand from the competitors
Brand positioning is how the brands remember you.
Your perception, your image. It is a critical aspect of product marketing, as it helps:
- differentiate your brand from competitors
- consumers understand the value proposition of your product
Your brand positioning could be an strategy edge, an extra knot that strengthens the bonding between you and your customers. This knot is in addition to the usual ones — product features, service quality, pricing, and delivery.
Customer advocacy: the road to exponential growth curve
Ah, word of mouth is such a low hanging fruit. If you can make customers happy, don’t forget to use them as a powerful product marketing tool.
When customers are happy, they want to tell others about you. This is basically because of consumer & social psychology. But we don’t need to go behind why customers tend to give word of mouth. Just know that they do, be it about a movie, a good surgeon, a breakfast outlet, a couple friendly hotel, or a digital SaaS business tool — customers love to share with their friends what delights them.
- So, create opportunities for them from within your application/platform to help your customers share their positive experiences with others.
- This can be a simple ‘invite a friend’, ‘give us a shoutout’, or ‘drop a review on xyz platform’.
- Request your product marketers to work with the customer success team to identify customers who are willing to advocate for the product and create programs to encourage and reward them for doing so.
- Affiliate marketing is another amazing channel for product marketing teams to tap into customer advocacy.
By the way, a free tip to maximize customer advocacy is to monitor and respond to customer feedback as quickly and effectively as possible. Ideally, this should be a 30 minutes to an hour thing.
Why reinvent the wheel?
Everyone talks about the first-mover advantage… but what about being late to the game?
Is there no benefit to that?
Your competitor might already have done most of the experiments, and might have struck gold i.e., they might have discovered what works.
To cut costs, just steal their strategy. Everyone does it. Doesn’t sound ethical though… but again, be it movies, food recipes, book writing, blogging, or building digital platforms — everyone does benchmarking and analyzes others to come up with a better and refined outcome.
In product marketing,
- you can take cues from the failed features of your competitors
- analyze what might have gone wrong
- see if you can do something better and make it work for your product
Also, you can take help from their customer FAQs, customer redressal system, and public reviews, and even interview some of their customers to find out their pain points in using your competitor’s products.
Other facets, where competitor research might come in handy, include:
- brand positioning
- sales enablement
- GTM strategy
- TA targeting
- marketing channels
- marketing materials
- product content marketing
- growth hacking
- product CX
In short, getting the pulse of the competitors in the market is beneficial for your lean operations. Helps you save fuel to go the extra mile. Effective product marketing strategies would prioritize conducting regular competitive analysis to understand the strengths and weaknesses of competing products, their pricing strategies, and marketing hacks. And then loop in all the gathered information to shape your product development, messaging, and sales strategies.
Product differentiation: key responsibility of product marketing team
If you belong to the crowd, you will lose your identity.
In a crowded competitive landscape, it’s important to differentiate your products from the competitors to stand out in the market.
- One of the critical responsibilities of a product marketing manager is to identify unique features and benefits that set your product apart. Once you have that, create messaging that communicates these differentiators effectively to the TA.
- Lastly, make use of the insights you gain from competitive analysis, customer feedback, and internal marketing & sales teams to continually improve your product, to keep shipping new features, and delight your customers. That is the best way to keep them hooked to your product.
As the tip goes in the dating circles, keep it all spiced up!
Sales enablement: empower your sales team
Companies with sales enablement in place score 49% win rate on forecasted deals.
So, product marketing initiatives must shoulder the responsibility of sales enablement.
Your sales team can spell some magic, and show it in your revenue charts and ROI reports… but only when they possess the right tools and resources to do so effectively.
Product marketing and sales teams can join hands to co-create sales enablement materials that provide them with the information and messaging to clock more sales. The sales enablement materials can include:
- product collateral
- sales training
- sales playbooks
- battle cards,
…etcetera. Basically, anything that helps generate leads, manage leads, and convert those leads.
Channel strategy: extending the support to sales team
As mentioned earlier, a big part of the product marketing lifecycle is to support your sales team.
And a vertical that can help boost revenue is through channel sales, which is basically selling your product via third-party guys. They can be:
- affiliate partners
- marketplace platforms
- value-added resellers (VAR)
Irrespective of what channels you’re tapping into to clock more product sales — be it through direct sales, resellers, or online marketplaces, product marketing must create strategies for each channel. This is important:
- to attract selling partners
- train selling partners
- provide selling partners with marketing collaterals
- motivate selling partners to sell your product
- offer extra rewards to selling partners
- improve your channel sales partner retention rate & selling partners satisfaction rate
- help selling partners optimize average sales cycle length
Communicate often with your channel sales partners to stand out from competitors and build personal rapport to motivate them for driving more sales. Do this, cuz not everyone does this 😉
Customer retention for a healthy cash flow
Customer attrition is like cancer. It can kill a business. But the good thing is that it’s curable.
Hah! Okay, the cancer analogy is just too much for this. But it’s definitely a wound that every business has, and if this grows into something serious then it can derail the business from growth. So, keep a close eye on this one.
- Retaining your existing customers is critical for exponential growth of your product.
- Product marketing and customer success teams together need to identify what is a turn-off for the existing customers, what’s turning them away from using your product, and where do they land after ditching you.
- Next, once you have identified the pain points, you got to find a remedy.
- Work with the product management team to fix the issues, make customer channels as robust as possible and use them often to communicate all your efforts to make life simple for them.
- Identify different strategies for keeping customers engaged, delighted, and satisfied.
And as mentioned earlier,
don’t assume anything, let data do the dancing, and not your biases.
Create opportunities for customer feedback, and proactively addressing any issues that arise.
Additionally, effective product marketing teams can look for offering additional features.
Let’s say, small add-on tools or functionalities that your customers can sign-up for to save time & money.
This helps to keep your customers happy and as the offering might not be easily available on other platforms, they stay on yours! Not to mention, upsell and cross-sell opportunities do reflect dearly on the revenue charts.
Localization: local is the way to being global
We have often seen national and international politicians speaking in local dialects and using local slang to impress the citizens. It helps create a positive image and improves acceptance amid the masses.
The same goes with your product marketing.
As products become increasingly global, thanks to the ease of entering new markets with SaaS & digital products, it’s important to prioritize localization of product marketing. It could be:
- translating marketing materials and adapting messaging to local cultures with local lingo
- customizing in-app experience in terms of the colors used, the icons
- making the UI consistent with the products popular in the region
Product roadmap communication: keep them hooked
Competitors always keep pushing new glittery features, and if you do not then your audience will feel left behind and may start feeling attracted to your competitors. Yup, it’s a lot similar to dating.
You have to keep surprising them to keep them hooked.
Hah! If they need a feature, and you keep them in the dark for long enough, of course, they will switch to your competitors. Now, when they leave and the next day you email them that “hey, we are proud to launch this new blah BLAH feature, try it on”, trust me, you’ll get a big “EFF YOU” in response (maybe not in reply, but that would be your ex-customer’s reaction for sure).
Besides, not just for need, customers desire to know what’s coming next for your product …cuz they want to discuss that with their colleagues, they want to prove that they are on top of what’s going on within the product-niche community. AND you need their loyalty, if you want your product to succeed. For the most loyal & passionate consumers, you need to give them something that makes them appear cool & lit in their circle.
- One way of doing so is to communicate the product roadmap every few months/weeks.
- Product marketing teams should work to prepare a compelling product roadmap that communicates upcoming features and benefits.
- Do not reveal everything.
- Remember, you still need the element of surprise to get the community talking when you actually release the product.
Additionally, it also helps create a feedback loop with customers to gather input and shape future product development.
Data analysis: keep biases at bay
Data is the fuel for product marketing teams. But you need to use it effectively.
As a product marketer, you can take help of data analysts to uncover emerging customer behavior and then cream it to strike a chord with the target audience. You may also use the data to understand how your customers are using your product, and then identify opportunities for improving the product marketing messaging/strategy for better ROI.
Basically, in product marketing, the data is handy in:
- analyzing customer acquisition and retention metrics
- monitoring customer feedback
- identifying trends and patterns in customer behavior
User experience: the ace factor of product marketers
I don’t remember exactly where, but some legendary team/individual has said, if it is taking more than 3 steps for a user to complete an intended task on your app, then your UI/UX can still improve a lot. Optimize it. This is what makes proper design thinking very crucial for product businesses.
Anyone can design, but not everyone can design it right.
Gather CX feedback from customers and iterate on the user experience over time to improve your Customer Experience Metrics.
It’s a forever process. Don’t ever settle.
Product partnerships: together it’s better
Ah, what better way to increase product awareness and reach new customers!
Product marketers often identify potential partners and create partnership programs that provide value to both parties.
It could sometimes mean providing:
- integration support for that potential partner platform
- some sort of coupon
- platform specific features in your product
At times, companies do even go to an extent to launch cohesive marketing campaigns — but that’s usual marketing and not specifically product marketing.
Additionally, monitor partnership metrics and iteratively adjust the partnership efforts over time to ensure that it is effective.
Brand voice and tone: be YOUnique
A product’s brand voice and tone play a crucial role in improving the product’s recall quotient.
Product marketers, in tandem with the demand generation and advertising team should define the brand’s personality and create messaging that is consistent across all marketing channels. Then be it the tone, the language, or the messaging… all should align with the brand’s values as well as resonate with its target audience.
Customer education: treat them like blank slates, maybe not
Not every customer knows how to use your products to its full potential.
They usually buy it for on e pain point and that’s what they use it for.
If you solve multiple pain points, you need to educate your customers about the same.
In fact, sometimes, customers buy a product because their peer/competitor uses it or someone recommended it, and the customer has no clue about why/how to use it. In such scenarios, it becomes crucial to educate your customer base. Help them understand the value of your product and how to use it effectively. Create educational materials including:
- how-to guides
- video tutorials
- case studies,
…and other resources.
Product reviews: keep your ears, eyes, senses active
Need social proof for the success of your product?
Want to understand what influences purchasing decisions for your product?
Encourage your customers to provide honest & detailed reviews on third-party sites and social media platforms.
Monitor these reviews and respond to any positive/negative feedback to appreciate happy customers, and address issues for unhappy users.
This improves customer satisfaction and goes a long way in building lasting customer relationships.
And shhh.. this is your secret to getting repeat customers.
Product testing: ship without hole
If you do not test, how do you know if it is glitch-free?
Before launching a product, ensure that your QA team tests it thoroughly and verifies that it meets customer needs and has no critical bugs. Perform user testing, functionality testing, and performance testing. QA guys can also savor customer feedback to improve its quality and functionality.
Product lifecycle management: the end is not the end
I’ve not seen a proper closure for products going out of business, or reaching the end of life. Two exceptions to it would be Google+ and UA analytics of Google.
So, I won’t use any product from the founders of the products which saw an abrupt end of life with a mere sudden message “we had to shut operations…for alpha beta reasons” on their homepage.
I would rather use a product that respects transparency and gives customers times to switch to other products or be prepared to embrace changes.
The concluding questions
Product marketing vs Content marketing: Is product marketing the repackaging of content marketing?
Product marketers shoulder the responsibilities for promoting and selling a specific product or service. They work closely with the product development team to understand the unique features and benefits of the product. Then they develop messaging and positioning that resonates with the target audience. They conduct market research to understand the competitive landscape, and then identify growth opportunities personalized for the product. In short, they are focused at bridging customer expectations, educating customers, and identifying revenue channels for the product.
Content marketers, on the other hand, are responsible for creating and sharing valuable, relevant, and engaging content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. This audience may later become your product’s customers. Content marketers develop a content strategy, and create a variety of content formats, such as blog posts, social media updates, videos, white papers, and e-books. The goal of content marketing is to build brand awareness, establish your brand as a thought leader, and generate leads and conversions.
Yes, there is an overlap as well. Product marketers need to collaborate with content marketers to co-create blogs and marketing materials for effective marketing.
When should YOU start product marketing for your SaaS application or digital platform?
Product marketing should ideally start during the product development process or shortly thereafter. This allows product marketers to have a deep understanding of the product and its features, benefits, and target audience, and to develop messaging and positioning that resonates with potential customers.
Starting product marketing early on in the development process also enables product marketers to provide feedback to the product team and help shape the product roadmap. This can lead to a product that is better suited to the needs and preferences of the target audience, which can result in better sales and customer satisfaction.
However, if a product has already been launched without any product marketing, it’s never too late to start. In fact, it’s essential to start marketing the product as soon as possible to ensure that potential customers are aware of its existence and value (how to use it for what).
In summary, the ideal time to start product marketing is now or during the development phase.