Product marketing – how is it different?

by Ian Rosenwach on 9.5.2013

If you type “what is product marketing” into Google, this is the Google-supplied definition (borrowed from Wikipedia)  –

Product marketing deals with the first of the “7P”‘s of marketing, which are Product, Pricing, Place, and Promotion, Packaging, Positioning & People.

In this post I’m going to try to explain my point of view on what makes product marketing unique.  Specifically in web-based software, which is where my experience and interest lies.

What makes product marketing and marketers unique –

  1. Technology is the champion – at the core of the marketing message is technology.  The technology itself might not be explained, but the way this technology improves the lives of the customer is the value proposition.
  2. It aims to help customers get more utility out of a product – one purpose of product marketing is to increase customer engagement with a product.  The best way to do that is to identify use cases that will resonate the most with a mass audience.  There can’t be many – there’s a very short window of when the consumer is open to the marketing message.  Once you have the mass market use cases, create campaigns that present and re-present that use case in a compelling manner.
  3. Product marketers get technical concepts – ideally a product marketer should have as strong a technical background as possible.  It’s rare for product marketers to write code, but they should be able to understand the technology well enough to distill the key benefit to customers.  That’s what matters.  For example, product marketers have to be able to speak confidently about the usefulness of API’s.
  4. Product marketers partners with product management and engineering – product management and/or engineer are key partners for the product marketer.  Product marketing is involved early on in the decision process around what products to build and how to build those products.  Product marketing should anticipate customer reactions and provide input at the earliest stages.

Product marketing’s functional place in an organization varies. Oftentimes product marketing is owned by product management, but not explicitly stated.  Be cautious of this, as it can result in a lack of clarity around ownership.  It’s best to be as explicit as possible in terms of where product marketing responsibilities sit.  Product marketing is usually part of the marketing or product management group, but it really varies by organization (as it should).

In terms of the difference between product management and product marketing, Marty Cagan has a good piece on this.  My take is that product management typically is more internal-focused, spending most of their time working closely with engineering on the execution of a new product of feature.

If you want an example of a company with a strong product marketing function, look no fuller than Apple.  This is clear in both the quality of their products and their marketing.

Hopefully, now you have a better sense of the product marketing role and how it’s different!

Bottom line:  If you’re a technology company, invest in product marketing.

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