“Wait, what is it that you do again?”
“So, are you part of the product team or marketing?”
“Is there even a need for a product marketing team? Don’t marketing teams already do that?”
“What is your deliverable exactly?”
If you are a product marketer, you are probably letting out a sigh – a sigh of familiarity & relief – right now, knowing you are not the only one who has had to answer these questions over and over again. And to also know that this barrage of questions don’t necessarily just come from family and friends but even from within your organization, from the C-level executives to managers and others. Not surprisingly, among all the other responsibilities you shoulder, answering these questions definitively, building awareness within the organization about what product marketing does, and advocating for a seat at the higher-level meetings is crucial for you to be able to exercise your role as a product marketer and for the organization to witness the value that comes from it. And hopefully, some of the insights below will come in handy in your endeavor.
So let’s start with…what is product marketing?
I wish there was a universal definition I could share here, but we all know there isn’t one. Like we know, sales drives revenue, IT provides technological support, engineering builds products, and customer success retains customers. But product marketing?
For good or for bad (depending on one’s perspective), there is no one definition for the field. Product marketing can be defined in as many different ways as there are organizations. In every organization, you’ll see that product marketing has found a space that is unique to that establishment. Some are solely responsible for product positioning, some drive demand and adoption while others focus on enabling sales. And in yet other companies, product marketers do all of those things.
You could say that there is a very evident identity crisis here because giving product marketing a universal identity like there is for all other teams isn’t exactly possible. But at the same time, it could be the absence of this identity that gives it the much-needed flexibility to collaborate with various audiences – the internal and external, and also different departments within the organization.
For shared understanding, I’ve put together a definition that, I feel, captures the central essence of what product marketing really is and keeps it flexibility intact:
“Product marketing tunes into the needs of the customer to align the organization’s vision for a product with what the customer needs and enables marketing, sales, product, and customer success teams to deliver accordingly.”
Who does this team report to?
You’ll find product marketing teams reporting to GTM, marketing, and product or sometimes existing even as an independent function. As a team that closely works with product, sales, marketing and customer success teams, it is hard to really say where it should belong. Oftentimes, aligning with one team can skew the focus and efforts of the product marketing team in favor of that team and at the expense of the others. Ideally, the team sits at the intersection of sales, product and customer success teams. But whether it should function independently or as part of another team largely depends on the role that the product marketing team assumes within that organization. However, no matter who the product marketing team finally reports to, your work will always go hand-in-hand and in collaboration with that of the other teams.
Is there a difference between product management and product marketing?
A whole lot of difference, yes. Though given the closeness with which the two teams need to work, it is natural to confuse where the role of product management ends and where that of product marketing begins.
Product marketing is the voice of the customer and market for the product management team and even the entire organization. So, it is the product marketing team that identifies potential market trends and brings it to the notice of the product management team. The product management team then builds a product to solve this problem and through the help of the product marketing team, brings this new product to market.
Clearly, the two teams complement each other’s functions and work hand-in-hand. However, they aren’t the same, and the presence of one cannot make up for the other.
What are the tangible outcomes a product marketing team produces?
And then there are those people who need to see tangible results, which, must I say, is also all of the business world. And that’s fair. Success is measured in data and numbers. So, if you are not already supporting your efforts with data, I highly recommend you do.
Some of the main deliverables of a product marketing team include:
- Positioning the product/feature
- Overall messaging for the product/feature
- Insights into a product’s relevancy as the market evolves
- Collaterals for sales enablement
- Materials for customer success teams to sell/promote new product/feature
- Identifying gaps in customer needs and the organization’s product
- Creating buyer personas
- Develop go-to-market strategy and launch plans
- Provide competitive intelligence
Why have a product marketing team?
And then the most important question. If you are still grappling for answers to prove the significance of product marketing, its history should serve the purpose.
The Software-as-a-service (SaaS) boom sparked a renewed interest in product marketing. As the industry grew bigger and more competitive, the market was suddenly flooded with lookalike products and vendors. At this point, positioning a product became supremely important to stand out in the almost homogenous crowd. The need to build a unique narrative for the product fell directly in the lap of the newly formed product marketing team.
Of course, building a unique narrative isn’t possible unless you get to the heart and soul of customers to know what motivates their purchase behavior coupled with your ability to get everyone in the organization get on board the narrative you have built for the product.
Product marketing, as a field, has been gaining momentum and is becoming an integral part of organizations. Yes, it is true that a product marketing team cannot be defined in a one-size-fits-all way, which I believe is also its merit. Carving out a position within an organization that best suits the organization’s level of maturity, growth rate, line of products, etc. is an essential skill for a product marketer that can define the success of the team and, in turn, that of the organization.