Product marketing encompasses all of the various tasks related to explaining a product (or set of products) to the market of existing and potential customers.
If this sounds vague, it is. Not only are there a wide array of different functions that traditionally fall under the product marketing umbrella, the product marketing role takes on very different forms depending on the stage of the company.
Product marketing functions
In most marketing organizations, you can expect the following functions to fall under product marketing.
Positioning and messaging
Fundamentally, positioning and messaging describes the way a company talks about their products to the public. The way a company describes itself affects the way potential customers think about the company, how the product helps them, and how it differs from competitors.
- naming products and features
- codifying how users and customers should think about products and features
- determining the existing categories of products and in which (if any) the company’s product belongs
- writing copy for the marketing website, product UI, and other collateral
These functions need to be completed when a product is first released to the public but with every major update to it. Additionally, changes in the market require constant adjustments to be made.
Product marketing must keep track of market changes like:
- shifts in customer preferences
- new or changing competitors
- technological advancements
Messaging and positioning can also be impacted by internal changes in strategy. For instance, the release of a new product can shift how a company describes itself to the public. Additionally, the creation of new products may require clarification for how products can be used together. In many cases, product marketers will intentionally create flexibility within their messaging to allow for these changes.
When Amazon first went public in 1997, it described itself as ”the world’s largest bookstore.” Almost 25 years later, this description has evolved to a statement of Amazon’s core principles. Amazon no longer needs to explain what they do. Additionally, this positioning allows for the company’s continued expansion into almost every conceivable industry.
In addition to the way a company describes itself as a whole, product marketers must also consider how each feature and service should be thought of by potential customers.
For many companies, their websites are the primary way potential customers form an understanding of what they do and what value they provide. As a result, product marketers are often responsible for the marketing website.
A company’s website primarily educates potential customers about what the company does and how their products add value.
However, websites can have other functions including facilitating online purchases (e-commerce), generating leads for a sales team (B2B), and more. In these cases, responsibility for website may be shared with other functions including growth marketing, demand generation, digital marketing, and more.
While the design and construction of the site itself will be owned by other functions, product marketing sets the overall tone and direction for the site, determines pages that need to be added or modified, and will write the copy (the words) that a visitor sees.
These responsibilities can occupy a large portion of a product marketing team’s time as the website needs to consistently reflect changes to positioning and messaging, communicate new features and products, and stay relevant to constantly-changing market conditions.
Industry analysts are teams that research various elements of a market and publish their findings. These findings can help investors considering deploying capital into an industry and they can assist consumers considering making a purchase.
Analysts can look very different depending on the industry they cover. For example, Gartner is one of the world’s largest analyst firms covering topics relevant to large enterprises. Companies can subscribe to their research to understand which vendors to buy from or invest in.
By contrast, publications like CNET can serve a similar function for B2C and e-commerce vendors.
In each case, product marketers engage directly with researchers to not only solicit coverage of their offerings, but attempt to influence the way the analysts discuss them.
For example, whether an analyst describes a product as a new contender in an existing market or a first mover in a new category can be of significant strategic importance for how potential customers think about the company.
Companies with both B2B and B2C models often employee sales teams to facilitate the consumption of their products. In these cases, salespeople must stay up-to-date with new products and features, understand shifting competitive offerings, and ensure they are using the most current messaging and positioning.
Often, product marketing is tasked with the training programs that ensure sales teams are kept informed of these changes.
Additionally, sales teams may require public-facing materials like presentations, information sheets, and pricing documents. Again, product marketing will frequently play a major role in the development, distribution, and maintenance of these resources.
As sales teams grow, these responsibilities often require a dedicated sales enablement team.