Product marketing is where product development meets sales and marketing. It’s about matching a product’s features with what customers want, announcing and promoting them.
The product lifecycle is central to product marketing. It outlines the stages a product undergoes – from its birth to its eventual decline. Each phase presents unique challenges and opportunities. It’s the product marketer’s job to tailor marketing strategies accordingly.
Sometimes, it’s about introducing a new product to the market. Other times, it’s reviving interest in a mature product. In any case, product marketing is indispensable in ensuring products’ success.
Why does it matter? In today’s crowded market, even great products can go unnoticed. Product marketing helps them stand out and connect with their audience.
In this guide, we’ll dive into product marketing essentials and answer the question: “What is product marketing?” If you’re an aspiring product marketing manager or even a product owner, you’ll find something helpful in this article. We’ll explore the product lifecycle, messaging, and more. Let’s get started.
The essence of product marketing
Product marketing is about making a product shine in the market. But not only that. Product marketing involves more than you think. Let’s break it down.
Product marketing links development, marketing, and sales. Product marketers:
- Take what the development team creates
- Turn that into a story that the marketing team can share
- Give the sales team the right tools to sell it
How it’s different from other forms of marketing
General marketing creates strategies based on overall brand awareness or company goals. Product marketing hones in on the distinct attributes of a particular product. It tailors messages to highlight the product’s unique value. Product marketers ensure those messages resonate with the specific audience they are intended for.
Product marketing vs. product management
These roles sound similar but serve different purposes.
Product management shapes the product’s development, deciding what to do and how. Product managers explore market needs and demands, user pain points, and customer sentiment. Then they oversee new feature and update development.
Product marketing, on the other hand, showcases the product to the world. It decides how to tell people about the product and explains why they should care. They capitalize on how new products and features solve users’ pain points.
In short, product marketing is the bridge between a product’s creation and its journey to the customer. Its job is to make the product visible, understandable, and desirable to its audience. Let’s explore how to do that next.
Successful product marketing
Understanding product marketing is just the beginning. But how do you make it effective? You need to start with the basics – research.
You need a deep-rooted understanding of the market to build a successful product marketing campaign. This includes market trends and how your product fits in compared to the competition.
Understanding your audience
Before marketing a product effectively, you must know who you’re speaking to. This means digging deep to comprehend the customer needs, desires, pain points, and habits of your target demographic. By gaining a clear picture of your audience, you can tailor your messaging to resonate more powerfully.
You have to keep tabs on your competition.
- How are they different?
- In what ways are they better and worse than you?
- What can you learn from them?
When you understand your competitive landscape, you can find an underserved niche much easier.
Feedback is a goldmine of insights. Actively seeking, collecting, and analyzing feedback helps refine the product and the marketing approach.
It’s about more than just hearing what your audience says. It’s about acting on that feedback. This will help you uncover common pain points. And then you can create a product and a message that aligns closely with the customer’s needs.
Tools and methods for effective research
Using the right tools can help you gather actionable insights. This can range from surveys, focus groups, and interviews to analytics platforms and social listening tools. You shouldn’t rely on just one of these methods. Instead, try a mix of qualitative and quantitative research approaches. Only then can you get a holistic understanding of the market and its dynamics.
With solid research, marketers can craft strategies that hit the mark every time.
Understanding your customers goes beyond knowing who they are. It’s about delving into their habits, preferences, challenges, and motivations. Proper customer analysis offers invaluable insights that shape product development and marketing strategies.
By studying how customers interact with your product or similar products, you can discern patterns.
- Which features do they use the most?
- What paths do they commonly take within the product?
Such insights can guide feature enhancements and marketing emphasis.
Not all customers are created equal. Segmenting them helps to tailor marketing strategies to different groups. You can segment based on:
Each segment might have distinct needs. Addressing these directly can lead to better engagement.
Example 1: heavy vs. light user
Imagine you have photo editing software. Here’s how you can separate your users and market to them differently.
|Segment||Features||Product marketing message|
|Professional photographers||Advanced features: layer manipulation and color grading||Extensive toolset and customization options|
|Amateur photographers||Quick filters, easy-to-use tools for minor edits||User-friendly interfaces and one-click solutions|
Example 2: different industries
Suppose your product is a project management tool used by various industries. A marketing agency would have different needs than a construction company. Let’s explore that.
|Marketing agency||Content planning and collaboration||Achieve your marketing OKRs by having a clear plan and working better together|
|Construction company||Scheduling tools and resource allocation||Stay on track with your projects and optimize resources|
Pain points and needs
Identifying your customers’ needs and challenges is fundamental. For example:
- What problems does your product solve for them?
- Are there any gaps or unmet needs?
Understanding this can shape both product development and the messaging around it.
Developing buyer personas
This is a great exercise that puts together all the previous research we mentioned. Product marketers can create these user profiles to understand each buyer persona better.
They visualize their lifestyle, challenges, and preferences. Then they curate tailored messaging and strategies. In essence, these personas serve as a compass. They guide every marketing decision to ensure alignment with the target audience’s core.
Let’s go over some sample buyer personas.
|Persona||Demographics||Goals||Challenges||Content preferences||Product marketing ideas|
|Startup Sally||Late 20s, founder of a small startup.||Streamline the team’s workflow and increase productivity.||Limited budget and lack of technical expertise. Needs an affordable and user-friendly solution.||Quick, bite-sized educational content and testimonials from similar startups.||Highlight ease of use, affordability, and quick setup. Use case studies from other startups that have found success with your product.|
|Enterprise Evan||Middle-aged IT manager at a large corporation.||Integrate a new tool that complies with strict security standards and can scale with the company’s growth.||Needs a product that can integrate seamlessly with existing tools and requires minimal training.||Values detailed product guides, security certifications, and personalized demos.||Showcase the product’s security features, integration capabilities, and scalability. Provide comprehensive guides and offer personalized demos.|
|Freelancer Fiona||Freelance graphic designer in her early 30s.||Help organize her projects and streamline communication with clients.||Cost-effective solution with responsive customer support.||Visual content, quick tutorials, and a vibrant community forum for support.||Affordability, ease of access to customer support, and vibrant user community. Use visual content to showcase product features and tutorials.|
This involves tracing the customer’s path – from the moment they become aware of your product to the point of purchase and beyond. It highlights touchpoints, moments of decision, and potential drop-offs. This provides a blueprint for optimizing the buying journey.
A robust customer analysis sets the foundation for personalized and impactful marketing. It ensures that every strategy, message, and product tweak resonates with your audience.
Product positioning and messaging
Now, it’s time to position your product in the best possible light for your target consumers. You need to determine how your product stands out and solves your audience’s problems. Here are a few ways to do so.
Craft compelling narratives & value propositions
Every product should tell a story. It’s tough to sell product features. It’s much easier to sell the benefits. In other words, how does the product help? What problems does it solve? A compelling narrative speaks to the heart.
These narratives form the value proposition. This clear and concise statement articulates the unique benefits and advantages of the product.
Differentiating your product
Differentiation can come from different areas:
- Innovative features
- Exceptional quality
- Unparalleled user experience
- Brand ethos
Capitalizing on your strengths is a sure way to stand out. You can also carve a distinct niche and foster customer loyalty.
Price is more than just a number. It communicates your products’ value.
When setting a price, it’s essential to consider factors like:
- Perceived value
- Competitive landscape
- Your audience’s willingness to pay
A well-thought-out pricing strategy is instrumental. Here’s our pricing journey if you’re interested!
Collaborating with product management
Working with the product team is vital. They know the product’s ins and outs. Marketers should team up with them. This ensures the marketing message matches the product’s features.
Sometimes, the marketing team can make some claims in their messages that don’t correspond to the product’s current capabilities. To avoid that misalignment, communicate.
When both teams align, it’s easier to keep the promises you made in your marketing. This builds trust and customer loyalty.
Successful product launch requires a robust go-to-market (GTM) strategy. This is your plan to put your product in customers’ hands. Here’s how you can master it.
Planning and execution
Start with a solid plan. Define your target audience, sales strategy, and marketing channels. Set clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). Once the plan is set, execute it with precision. Make sure every team member knows their role and responsibilities.
Here are some ideas to get you going. Let’s imagine that your product is a graphic design tool. You would likely target:
- Freelance designers
- Marketing agencies
- In-house creative teams
Here are some go-to-market tactics you might employ.
|Channel||Planning||Content & execution||Success measurement|
|Social media:||Define your target audience|
Engage with comments and tags
Quick design tips
|Email marketing||Segment your email list based on user behavior and purchase history|
Set clear goals – increase open rates, drive more product sign-ups
|Personalized email campaigns for each segment:|
New subscribers – welcome series
Existing users – new feature updates, tips about the product
|Content marketing||Identify topics that resonate with your audience|
Pick platforms (Google, Facebook, etc)
Set goals – increase product trials, drive traffic
A/B test different ad creatives and copy
Return on ad spend (ROAS)
There are many different channels and tactics available. Focus on understanding:
- Where can you reach your target audience?
- What is the most impactful content for them?
- What can you accomplish within your budget and resources?
Based on those questions, you can devise a plan that works for you.
The market is constantly changing. Be ready to adapt your product marketing strategy based on what’s working and what’s not. Use data to guide your decisions. Be flexible and stay alert to industry trends and customer feedback.
When your product hits the market, shout it from the rooftops. Use blog posts, emails, social media, and other channels to announce your launch. Make your message clear and exciting. Highlight what makes your product unique.
Pay attention to user feedback after the launch. Reach out to users, especially those who leave comments or suggestions. Show them you’re listening. Close the loop by updating them on changes or improvements you made based on their input. This builds trust and shows your commitment to customer satisfaction.
You can use Canny to close the loop! Our changelog helps your announcements shine bright, and your customers always stay up to date.
Arm your sales team with everything they need. Provide them with:
- Product information
- Sales scripts
- Answers to common questions
- Slide decks
- Case studies
Make sure they understand the product’s unique selling points. This enables them to sell confidently and effectively.
A strong GTM strategy isn’t just about launching a product. It’s about building momentum and sustaining growth. With careful planning, adaptability, and a focus on customer feedback, your product is set for success.
The product marketing framework
Check out this strategy for your product marketing. It’s designed by The Product Marketing Alliance and includes the following phases:
- Get set
Let’s discuss each stage.
It’s time to put on your detective hat. This stage involves:
- Talking deep dives into market research
- Getting to know your audience inside out
- Sizing up the competition
What’s missing in the market? Where can your product shine? This step is about laying the groundwork and spotting the golden opportunities (or the potential potholes).
Now that you’ve got the intel, it’s strategy time. You’re plotting out the grand plan, setting some solid goals, and figuring out how you will hit them. Which channels will you ride? What tactics will you pull out of our marketing hat? It’s all about getting your ducks in a row and aiming for the bullseye.
Here’s where you roll your sleeves and nail down what makes your product the superstar. What’s the big selling point? How are you going to talk about it? It’s storytime, and you’re making sure yours is one to remember.
4. Get set
Let’s get everything else ready for the big show. This involves:
- Coordination with your teams
- Aligning marketing materials
- Preparing the launch plan
The product’s out there, and it’s your job to keep the momentum going. You’re on the lookout for ways to bring in new customers and keep your existing customers happy. You’re also making sure your product’s presence in the market keeps getting bigger and better. At this stage, you’re analyzing, optimizing, and scaling.
You can use this framework to organize your product marketing initiatives. Give it a try!
Customer success and retention
We mentioned keeping customers happy in the previous section. And this point deserves its own section.
Customer success is all about making sure your users are getting the most out of your product. It’s like being a helpful friend who’s there to guide them through.
Work closely together with your customer success and support teams. Here are a few ideas.
Be proactive. Don’t wait for customers to come to you with problems. Reach out, check in, and make sure they’re doing okay.
Create educational content: put together guides, FAQs, and video tutorials. Make it easy for customers to find answers and learn quickly.
Have regular check-ins: schedule calls or send surveys. It’s all about keeping the lines of communication open.
Getting them to stick around
Customer retention is your measure of how good you are at keeping your customers coming back for more.
Always add value. Show your customers that you’re continually improving and giving them reasons to stay.
Consider rewards or incentives. A little thank you can go a long way.
Take customer feedback seriously. Show them that their voice matters and that you’re always on the ball.
Customer success and retention are like peanut butter and jelly – better together. Focus on making your customers successful, and they’ll want to stick around. Keep them happy, keep delivering value, and you’ll have a recipe for lasting success.
Putting product marketing strategies to work
Let’s talk strategy and apply all the principles we’ve explored.
Product marketing is a bit like being a chess master. You need to think a few moves ahead and have a solid game plan. Here’s how you can sharpen your skills and master the art of product marketing.
Let’s continue with our example of a graphic design tool.
1. Targeting the right audience
First, you need to know who you’re playing the game with. Who needs your product? Who will love it the most? Who is your target customer? Here’s how to approach targeting.
- Research: dive into market research to really understand your audience and the competitive landscape. Who is the competition targeting? Can you find an untapped market?
- Personas: create detailed buyer personas. Think about their needs, habits, and pain points.
- Segmentation: break your target market down into smaller groups. Tailor your approach for each one.
For a graphic design tool, you’d perform the following analysis:
- Research the graphic design industry as a whole. Key players would probably include Figma, Canva, and similar products.
- We identified a broader target market in the go-to-market section. Now create buyer personas to narrow it down. Ideally, you have a separate persona for a freelance designer, a designer in a marketing agency, and a designer on an in-house creative team.
Now you understand the market and how your product fits in. Maybe this research gave you some ideas for differentiation. After all, you need to stand out.
Define your positioning – how do you stack up against the competition? Where does your product belong relative to competitors? How does it solve your buyers’ pain points?
Maybe your graphic design tool is cheaper than competitors’? Or comes with more robust features? Or targets a very specific industry?
3. Building a strategy and campaigns
Outline what specific product marketing activities you’ll execute.
- What’s the goal of your activities?
- What kind of content will you produce?
- Which channels will you prioritize?
- How will you know your strategy is effective?
Break down your activities into campaigns. Create a separate one for each feature, launch, and focus area.
Let’s illustrate this with our graphic design tool.
- Goal: increase product adoption
- Content: educational, helpful, and informative
- Channels: paid search, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest
- Success measure: new signups
- New features (e.g. AI, stock image library)
- Existing feature improvements
- Promoting under-used existing features
3. Creating engaging content
Content is king. In product marketing, content marketing is your MVP (most valuable player). Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Variety: use a mix of blogs, videos, infographics, and more.
- Value: make sure every piece of content brings value to the table. Solve problems, answer questions, and be helpful.
- Voice: keep your brand voice consistent. Be authentic and relatable.
A graphic design tool should have highly visual content. Create walk-through videos and feature clients’ designs (with their permission of course). Write helpful articles and guides about design principles. Share ideas and tips to help your users succeed.
Think back to your buyer’s journey mapping. What are the pain points and motivations at each stage of that journey? Try to have content for each stage.
4. Leveraging marketing channels
You’ve got your audience and your content. Now, where are you going to share it? Here are some ideas.
- Email: perfect for personalized and direct communication. Be strategic and avoid spamming your audience, though.
- Social media: great for building community and brand awareness. You can pay to amplify your posts and get reach more of your target audience.
- SEO: optimize your content for any relevant search terms/topics to make sure it’s easy to find on search engines.
- Paid search: helps you get traffic quickly. You know what search terms your buyers use when searching. This lets you run ads on those searches.
All of these channels can be effective for the graphic design software. Share the latest updates via email and social media. Optimize each blog and webpage to outrank your competition.
There are many channels you could leverage. What’s important is knowing which work to help you reach your audience.
5. Monitoring and measuring performance
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. First, determine what metrics you want to influence with your campaign:
- Feature adoption
- Feature usage/engagement
Keep an eye on how your strategies are performing. Use the following:
- Analytics: use tools to track website visits, engagement, and conversions.
- Feedback: pay attention to what your audience is saying. What do they like? What could be better?
- ROI: always measure the return on investment. Make sure your efforts are paying off.
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of product marketing, especially if you’re doing lots of activities at once. But try your best to track all of the above. Then you can double down on what’s performing best.
Maybe Canva publishes 3 blogs per week and gets lots of traffic. And Figma might be running ads everywhere you look. How do you know what will work for you? Test and experiment. Avoid simply copying the competition.
6. Iterating and refining strategies
The game of product marketing is always changing. Stay on your toes and be ready to adapt.
- Test: don’t be afraid to try new things. Run A/B tests and see what works best.
- Learn: take every campaign as a learning opportunity. What can you do better next time? What feedback did you get?
- Optimize: keep tweaking and improving your strategies for better results.
Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is one of the many challenges in product marketing. Let’s discuss those next.
Common product marketing challenges
Product marketing can be a thrilling journey, but it has hurdles. Here are some common challenges you might face and how to overcome them.
1. Internal communication and collaboration
In an ideal world, everyone in your company would be on the same page. But that’s not always the case. What can you do about it?
Clear channels: establish clear communication channels within your team and across different departments. Give people a way to communicate effectively. It’s in-person meetings for some and Slack and Zoom for others. Empower your team to communicate the way they prefer.
Regular meetings: hold regular meetings to update everyone on marketing initiatives, product updates, and customer feedback. Don’t overdo it with meetings though – lots of conversations can be a Slack thread or an email chain.
Collaborative tools: utilize collaborative tools to keep everyone in the loop. Project management software like ClickUp, Monday, Jira, and Trello work great.
Stay in the loop: stay on top of feature and product development. Get clear about timelines so your strategy is proactive versus reactive.
Support success and sales: make sure you produce supporting materials for sales and success teams. They rely on you for this content.
2. Keeping up with market trends
The market is constantly evolving, and staying current is essential.
Continuous learning: dedicate time for you and your product marketing team to learn about new trends and technologies.
Networking: connect with other professionals in your field. Attend conferences webinars, and join online forums.
Customer feedback: pay close attention to customer feedback. They’re often the first to notice shifts in the market.
Competitive intelligence: don’t forget to evaluate your competition continuously. Keep tabs on their progress and how you stack against them.
3. Handling feedback and product adjustments
Feedback is gold for product development. As a part of the product team, user feedback affects you too. But it can be a challenge.
Sometimes, feedback can throw your product strategy off the track. So product managers need to prioritize it. And you can work together on this.
Not every piece of feedback will require immediate action. And not every idea needs to become a reality. The trick is to figure out which ideas are the most impactful and focus on them.
Product managers are experts in prioritizing and managing feedback, so lean on them. Learn to be agile and ready to make product and strategy adjustments as needed.
Keep these ideas in mind whenever product marketing becomes challenging. Some essential skills will help you tackle them too.
Product marketer’s arsenal: top skills and tools
In product marketing, you’ll need more than just a sharp mind. You’ll need a well-stocked arsenal. Let’s break down the top skills and tools every product marketer should have.
1. Interpersonal and communication skills
First and foremost, a product marketer needs to be a people person and a storyteller. That includes:
- Empathy. Understand your customer’s needs and emotions. Put yourself in their shoes.
- Clarity. Communicate clearly. Whether it’s writing copy or speaking in meetings, make sure your message is easy to understand.
- Persuasion: Master the art of persuasion. Learn how to convince others and sell your ideas.
2. Analytical tools and software
Next, you need tools to help you make sense of the data and derive actionable insights.
- Google Analytics – for tracking website traffic and user behavior.
- SEO tools – Moz or SEMrush for keyword research and website optimization.
- Customer feedback tools – Canny can help you gather and manage customer feedback efficiently.
- Product analytics tools – track product and feature engagement. If you don’t have a dedicated tool for that, you can also get this data through a CRM. Just make sure that your team is adding that information into your CRM.
3. Continuous learning resources
Never stop learning. The product marketing world is always changing, and you need to stay sharp. There are many ways to do that.
- Online courses. Platforms like Coursera or Udemy offer a plethora of marketing courses. Product Marketing Alliance is a great specialized resource for this industry.
- Blogs and podcasts. Follow industry blogs and podcasts to stay updated on the latest trends and best practices.
- Networking. Connect with other product marketers. Learn from them and share your own experiences.
With these skills and tools in your arsenal, you’ll be well-equipped to conquer the challenges of product marketing. So, arm yourself and get ready to make your mark!
Conclusion: how product marketing can help your teams align and grow
We’ve gone through a lot in this post, unraveling the world of product marketing. We’ve seen how it fits into product management. From the product lifecycle to crafting compelling stories, we’ve covered it all.
Product marketing is more than making noise – it’s about connections. It helps you understand your audience and put your product on top. It’s about adapting and always listening to feedback.
And for product managers? Product marketing is your secret weapon. It bridges gaps. It turns features into real value. It turns users into fans.
We talked market research, messaging, positioning, and pricing. We’ve looked at challenges and how to tackle them. We’ve listed skills to hone and tools to have.
Canny is here to help with the right tools to boost your product marketing. So here’s to making smart choices and creating standout products.