Updated: Apr 22, 2021
What is product marketing?
One of the most surprising aspects of startups and small businesses is a general lack of expertise in product marketing. Hubspot defines product marketing as “...the process of bringing a product to market. This includes deciding the product's positioning and messaging, launching the product, and ensuring salespeople and customers understand it. Product marketing aims to drive the demand and usage of the product.” I like this definition as it succinctly defines the broad scope of value product marketing brings to the table.
Why should startups and small businesses care about it?
Product marketing isn't just a function for large enterprises or well funded startups. It's extremely useful for companies of all shapes and sizes. Especially when considering:
It's at the forefront of market and customer research. Identifying customer needs, pain points, use cases, and potential benefits are common responsibilities for product marketing managers (PMMs). Let's be honest, technical employees (e.g. engineers, developers, etc.) want to build product, not talk with customers or perform market research. And most small businesses don't have good programs for hiring product managers with the right skillsets, meaning this can often fall on founders or technical leaders that would be better spent working on other facets of the business. PMMs can fill this gap immediately and help companies keep their technical and leadership resources focused on what they do best.
PMMs leverage research to drive product roadmap and development. Most startup pundits talk about getting to product market fit or minimum viable product (MVP) but there are additional phases of product development that you should think about. Costanoa Ventures wrote a good article on these phases: https://medium.com/costanoa-ventures/the-stages-of-product-market-fit-f7261483364c
Armed with research and insights into the product roadmap, PMMs are uniquely able to build a powerful narrative, messaging, and positioning for the products and company. This is critical for selling and marketing products or even fundraising from investors. PMMs are research experts, so they understand gaps in markets well and are able to translate needs and product capabilities into key messages that customers understand.
Lastly, PMMs enable sales teams to succeed. They are exceptionally valuable in the sales enablement process with the ability to create collateral, white papers, and sales presentations that lead to the creation of repeatable playbooks for sales. Rather than unique, one off sales situations, PMMs enable teams to train and sell more efficiently.
What are common pitfalls to avoid?
Waiting too long to treat product marketing as a core, strategic function in your organization. Without it, product roadmaps aren't as clear to internal stakeholders and product development can be focused on building the wrong feature sets that customers don't value and the sales team can't sell.
Too focused on having specialized technical resources (e.g. engineers, devs, founders) perform PMM responsibilities. Sure you may get lucky and find a person that's able to build product and has a knack for research. But these are needle in the haystack employees that are hard to find at scale as your company grows.
Early stage companies get too busy building product and fail to get aligned on company and product positioning, narrative, and messaging. This is a great forcing function to get all stakeholders aligned internally and think about why certain products are being built.
How should you get started?
Building a product marketing function doesn't need to be an intimidating process. First, work with a company like Persimmon Marketing that can help you build a cohesive product marketing strategy. Discuss tradeoffs and make a decision about building a team in house vs outsourcing to an agency or consultant. Once the resources are in place, start with the foundational elements and you'll be off and running:
Market and customer research
Shaping product roadmap and launch management
Narrative, positioning, and messaging
Sales enablement- First call pitch deck, datasheets / one pagers, & sales primers
Lead generation- website copy, ebooks / white papers, & online demos
Contact us as a next step or check out the Valley Innovators Podcast "How to Navigate the Four Stages of Product Market Fit" with Costanoa Ventures.