One of the challenges of product marketers face is that in many organizations they are asked to “market” a product which they had no say in defining, worse they may not see much customer value in. The pig shows up at their door, so to speak, for some lipstick and the product marketer knows no matter what they do, this pig cannot fly! So what’s a good and diligent product marketer to do?
The key here is to find ways to influence the product development process and outcome long before the pig shows up at your door. In my career, including my consulting practice, I’ve observed really successful product marketers – like yourself – do these few things really well. Not only do these practices make your work more meaningful, it helps you wield influence when you have little power and it also makes you invaluable to the organization.
1. Be the voice of your Target Market & Customer: Even as product strategy is being developed, bring your knowledge to those discussions. Sometimes the business goes out looking for a market to address. In such cases product marketing has an important role to play in identifying which markets are large, growing, addressable with your business' assets and satisfy other criteria. As a product marketer you should be integral to leading this effort. On the other hand if you're in a situation where your company has a cool technology looking for a market, once again, you should be helping/leading the effort to identify the target market, your target user (often different vs. target buyer if you're in a B2B business), and your core promise to them. If you are seen as someone who brings the target customer's voice to the table, then your influence on product strategy, definition and future road map will be welcomed – even sought out. The key here is to make sure you're seen as a thought leader in seeking, developing and integrating such customer knowledge with what your company or team is doing. The best product marketers understand their customers AND freely share this information such that the initial product strategy and roadmap is greatly influenced by this knowledge.
2. Zero in on Value & Differentiation: Before you develop one piece of marketing collateral ask all key stakeholders two critical questions: i) what’s the VALUE your offering will create for your target customer ii) what's DIFFERENT about your offering vs. other offerings/ substitutes that your target customer can use. Why would they pick, try and stay with your offering? Get your team, organization focused laser-like on these aspects. And lead the team to agree on 1-2 sentence answers for these questions – not whole paragraph where your poor pig tries to be all things to all people. Good product marketing managers make sure their product strategy teams remember these as they develop product requirements definitions.
3. Help Product Managers make Smarter Choices: The best product marketers also use their customer understanding to drive product management make smarter choices about features & functions! This can be done in many ways and I leave the politics and diplomacy up to you; but the idea here is that product managers often have several trade-offs and tough choices to make for new product releases and they would always appreciate a more customer- and criteria-driven approach vs. a shoot-from-the-hip one. They may be forced into the latter in the absence of good data or lack of time to gather good data. This is where you, the well-informed, communicative, focused product marketer can weigh in and influence the selection of features/ functions particularly for enhancement releases. Customer and market insights about what your customers need – both articulated and unarticulated – where the market is headed and what your competition is up to are invaluable to this discussion and to your product’s success.