Product marketing is the process of bringing a product to market and overseeing its overall success.
Product marketers are focused on understanding and marketing to customers. They drive demand and usage of the product, which often includes writing positioning and messaging.
The role sits at the intersection of product, sales and marketing — which means that the role can have a big impact — but also means that the role can be a little challenging to define (and this is especially true when you start comparing product marketing vs. product management).
With that said, we created this guide to help you with your product marketing job descriptions and to explain what product marketing is in more detail.
So let’s get to it.
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What Does a Product Marketer Do?
Before a product launch, product marketers typically own positioning, messaging, gathering customer feedback, and the overall go-to-market strategy for a product.
After a product launch, product marketers help with sales enablement and focus on driving demand, adoption and the overall success of the product.
That definition is the best way that we’ve found to explain the role of product marketing — by looking at what product marketers do before and after product launches (and there’s more information in the SlideShare below, too).
The Problem With Defining Product Marketing
Google the term “product marketing” and you’ll see one definition after another trying to capture the essence of what product marketing managers do.
But most of those definitions are either from outdated marketing textbooks or offer contradicting explanations — one might tell you product marketing sits with product; one might tell you product marketing sits with sales.
Some refer to it as “a liaison between the company and the outside world”.
Others try to be more specific, explaining how product marketing deals with the 7P’s of marketing (remember the 7P’s?)
Many focus on what a product marketer must achieve or do while others try to explain it by its role within the company — and not a single one seems to offer a clear enough definition of the term.
But where’s the confusion coming from?
One reason might be the lack of understanding of what product marketers actually do.
Even with little knowledge about their day to day jobs, most of us can understand what outcomes the majority of functions within a company are responsible for delivering.
Sales people bring in more business. Finance keeps the books in order. Engineers build the product. And support helps keep customers happy.
But product marketing… most people might have difficulty defining the outcome of a product marketer’s work.
The other reason might be that many companies use the term product marketing to describe other functions like product management for instance.
In some companies, a product marketer’s sole responsibility is positioning. In others, they focus only on sales enablement or they are responsible for driving demand and adoption. And then at some companies, a product marketer is responsible for all of those things.
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So What Is Product Marketing Actually Responsible For?
At its core, product marketers need a deep understanding of the customer and the market, to ensure that:
- A product and its new features are appropriately positioned on the market,
- Sales and marketing teams have all the necessary knowledge and materials enabling them to attract new customers,
- The product could satisfy the target audience’s needs and overcome their pain points,
- Product demand and adoption are on continuous rise, and
- The product remains relevant as markets evolve.
Product Marketing Deliverables
The tangible results of a product marketer’s work typically include:
- Buyer personas that provide structure and insight for a company.
- Positioning and messaging that that attracts and converts prospects and leads.
- Sales enablement materials that help reps close more deals.
- Competitive intelligence that gives the team a deep understanding of the market.
- Go-to-market strategy and launch plans that outline in detail how the product will be promoted and sold.
Let’s look at a product marketer’s responsibilities in each stage leading up to a product launch to get a better look at the life of a product marketer.
Stage #1. Customer Development
Pre-launch, a product marketers job is to play a key role in defining the target market and understanding the potential customer.
Stage #2. Positioning & Messaging
After customer development, it’s the product marketer’s job to turn those learnings into something actionable. This typically comes in the form of a positioning document or a list of key messages. Product marketers try to answer these three questions with their positioning: Who is this product for? What does this product do? Why is this product different than what’s out there?
Stage #3. Teaching Out Positioning & Messaging
Now that positioning and messaging has been developed, it’s the product marketers job to make sure that everyone at the company knows it. Positioning won’t stick unless everyone is on the same page, so it’s important for product marketers to get buy-in and teach out they key messages across the organization.
Stage #4. Creating A Launch Plan
Product marketers own the creation of a launch plan, which typically involves various teams from across an organization, including traditional marketing, sales, support and more. At the end of the day, most product marketers are measured on demand (whether it be new signups, cross-sells or feature adoption) so creating an effective launch plan is critical to a successful launch.
Stage #5. Creating Launch Content
Launch content is the glue to any launch plan. Product marketers will work with almost every team inside of an organization on launch content, including everything from demo decks to product screenshots, sales materials, blog content, landing pages and website updates.
Stage #6. Preparing The Team
Internal communication can be just as important as external communication for a product launch. It’s the product marketer’s job to make sure the entire time is prepped and ready to go before launch. This usually means everything from making sure the website is ready to go live to making sure that the support team is ready to field calls.
Stage #7. Launch
The launch is the defining moment for a product marketer. This is when the rubber meets the road and customers start coming in — but the best product marketers are ready to adjust everything for a launch on the fly.
PS. We go in-depth on each one of these steps in our free guide on How To Launch A New Product.
What is a Product Marketing Strategy?
A product marketing strategy is the foundation that outlines the entire product lifecycle, from customer development to launch. The strategy outlines the audience, the market and the product’s value. Although having an initial strategy is important, a good product manager is always willing to adjust the strategy to align it with customer feedback.
Product Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing
Now that you know all that, there still might be one question:
What makes product marketing different from traditional marketing? Aren’t the two de facto the same?
In short, no, they’re not.
Traditional marketing focuses on acquiring and converting customers. Traditional marketers focus on strangers: prospects and leads.
They also promote a company, its brand and ensure the consistency of the marketing message.
Product marketing on the other hand focuses on marketing to customers, driving demand and adoption, all with the goal of creating happy, successful customers.
One of the best ways to think about product marketing vs. traditional marketing is by looking at the marketing funnel:
Product Marketing vs. Product Management
We just covered how product marketing and traditional marketing differ, but now it’s time to cover the number one question when it comes to product marketing:
“How is product marketing different than product management?”
Well, contrary to popular belief, they are not responsible for the same things (but you aren’t alone if you’ve ever wondered what they each do).
The quick version goes a little something like this:
If product management’s job is to create and define new products and features, product marketing’s job is to bring those things to market.
But since that still makes things a little fuzzy, we created this infographic to help breakdown the differences between product marketing and product management.
And if all of this product marketing talk didn’t do it for you, here are a few of our favorite resources for product marketers:
- How To Launch a Product: 7 Tips To Drive Demand
- 12 Books That Will Make You Better At Product Marketing
- Pragmatic Marketing: The 10 Commandments of Product Marketing
- Kapost: The State of B2B Product Marketing [Infographic]
- Quora: What Does A Product Marketing Manager Do?
- Business 2 Community: B2B vs. B2C Product Marketing: What’s The Difference?