Defining Product Marketing is like trying to come up with the perfect recipe for Pancakes. Everybody has an opinion of how it should be made, what goes better with the pancake – chocolate or banana, how much sugar should be in it etc. End of the day, the perfect pancake is what you believe you like best and this will vary from person to person. Similarly, Product Marketing also varies with people’s opinion, your boss’s experiences, organizational needs and finally your strengths. Now, if you add a startup to this mix, the definition of what a Product Marketing Manager should do can get as complex as trying to describe a color.
As a rule of thumb, I define buckets that marry the role with the business needs and map activities to these buckets. In this blog, I have defined what buckets have worked well for me in the past. You can argue that with these high-level categorizations, pretty much any task can be force fitted into the categories. While this is probably true, the right set of activities is really up to each individual.
Before I begin my blog, I should be calling out the disclaimer that my experiences so far has been with InMobi, a mobile ad network, and I have looked into B2B marketing for this internet product company.
1. Plan Go To Market Strategy
This is probably the most important and most encompassing function of a Product Marketing Manager. Pretty much all the points that follow will be part of this strategy. But it could include more as well.
- Product Naming
- Product Value Proposition
- Competitive Comparison
- Launch Markets
- Adoption Plan and Beta Programs
- Success Criteria and Tracking
2. Generate Product Awareness
Get your word out there and ensure that your company is synonymous with the product you are trying to market. Having a strong brand image can help no only increase awareness among the industry but will make a compelling story when your sales teams meet clients.
- Product Blogs
- Social media marketing (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare etc)
- Adwords campaigns
- Company website updates
These activities are the easiest to track and see constant improvements. For example, you need to check visits of the blogs, attendance of webinars, whether your posts come up certain keyword searches and so on.
4. Enable Sales
A sales person’s charm can only be as effective as the product knowledge backing it up. Ensuring that your sales teams know enough about the product to talk knowledgeably through different situations is essential to enable sales.
- Product Training
- Knowledge Testing
- Certification Programs
- Guides, Manuals and Training Videos
- Identification Of Product Evangelists
The metrics here is purely product knowledge. After each training, you can have a mini test with 5 questions on the product to know how effective the training was. A full blown out certification program can also help assess knowledge as long as the program includes a way to also track improvements in product understanding. In a subsequent blog, I will cover my experiences in running a certification program and the strategy behind it.
5. Arm Sales
For a sales manager to be most effective in selling a product, they have to walk the talk. This means that as a Product Marketing Manager, it is important to create framework collateral that sales teams can then customize for clients. I am a strong believer of teaching a person how to fish rather than catch the fish. By creating a framework and not the final collateral, the sales person has to actually apply herself/himself to the product and in turn learning the product in and out.
There is a very wide gamut of activities that can go into this and I have only scratched the surface with the below examples
- Sales Presentations
- Sales Packages that can be included in presentations
- Product Handouts
- Product Presentlets to be plugged into larger propositions
- Battle Cards against key competitors
- Objection Handling questions and answers
- Flash Cards on product highlights
- Client Demo Apps
- Case Studies
- …and the list goes on
This is probably the hardest to track. For starters it works well to have an online portal where the collateral is uploaded and you can track the number of hits and downloads. But the bigger question is whether the teams are actually using them. The best way in my opinion is to maintain relationships with your sales teams. Call them, send them mails, ping them, talk to them about things other than just work and maintain an ongoing professional friendship with them. Identify the influencers in the different sales teams and make them your voice in that market. I would also recommend running occasional surveys to get feedback on these collaterals and then share with the field how you are incorporating their feedback.
6. Drive Product Adoption
When a product is just launched, before it falls under the radar of the sales teams and they get incentivized to sell it, you are the sales manager for that product. So run the beta program like your bonus payouts depended on it.
- Identify “friendlies” among clients to be beta customers
- Evangelize beta program to customers by mails, calls, webinars etc.
- Highlight benefits of being beta customers
- Track adoption closely
- Get product feedback and feed it back to the product teams
- Share success stories with clients and sales teams
The success metrics should be simple and straight forward in this case. How many customers did you get on board and how well was the product adopted.
7. Be The Voice Of The Customer
The Product Marketing Manager is the conduit between market and product. So, build your network among the clients and get constant feedback from them. Do what it takes to build these relationships. This could include wine and dine or being their go-to person to help with a product issue.
- Build relationships with clients directly
- Be the go-to product person for clients
- Create MRDs for the product teams
- Be the go-to market person for the product team
- Provide updates to clients about the status of their requirements
The metrics here will simply be your usefulness in the company as a Product Marketing Manager. Are you an integral part of client meetings or for product prioritization. This should tell you how successful you are in this role.
Welcome to the deep sea world of Product Marketing.