Complicated, But Important: What is Product Marketing?

Out of the many different forms of marketing that exist, product marketing is one of the most difficult to properly define. Most people know that it is a process for promoting and selling products to customers, but this doesn’t fully encompass what goes into a product marketing strategy. Serving as an intermediary function within a business, it serves as a middle ground between marketing, product development, sales, and customer success.  These are all fundamental to any good business, so while product marketing can be a bit difficult to understand, it is nonetheless vital for any successful company. As such, it is important to understand what it entails and how to best integrate and support product marketing in your business.

Defining Product Marketing

There are many different definitions for what product marketing is, but ultimately it serves as a method for managing the relationships between a company’s key stakeholders: the product, the sales team, and the customer base. A product marketer’s job then is to support and grow the relationships between these stakeholders, ensuring nurturing them through effective communication and marketing strategies.

What exactly is involved in product marketing tends to vary. In their 1992 book Revolutionizing Product Development, Steven Wheelwright and Kim Clark state that product marketing addresses five key strategic questions:

  • What products will be offered?
  • Who will be the target customers?
  • How will the products reach those customers?
  • At what price should the products be offered?
  • How should we position the product in the minds of the customer?

Additionally, Eventbrite CPO Casey Winters once wrote that product marketing is in charge of three things when done correctly:

  1. Deciding on a soon-to-be-released product’s positioning and messaging.
  2. Launching the product and making sure users, customers, and/or salespeople understand its value.
  3. Driving demand and usage of the product.

Ultimately though, a product marketing position is one that is defined by circumstance, as there are several factors that can determine what you are doing on a day-to-day basis. For some, the focus might be on doing customer research and sales training to help teams better understand their audience, while others might focus more on their company’s brand messaging and GTM (go-to-market) strategy. The main takeaway is that a product marketer needs to be adaptable and versatile, as while they might not need to do all of these things all of the time, they will likely have to do all of them at least some of the time. 

Product Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

If product marketing is a bit difficult to define on its own, it becomes easier to understand when you compare it against more traditional brand marketing.

In simple terms, brand marketing is a general strategy that aims to promote your products or services in a way that highlights the value and unique qualities of your brand as a whole. An effective brand marketing strategy not only sells a product, it tells a story: the story of your brand. It encompasses your core principles and values, your mission statement, your company culture, and your relationships with your customers.

Product marketing is a bit more specialized, focused on connecting your target audience and their problems with your product solutions. When developing a product marketing strategy, you need to have a firm understanding of your customer base, your product offerings, and the current market.  While the product is certainly a part of the brand marketing equation, product marketing is ALL about the product, from empowering product development with customer insights and fine-tuning brand messaging to supporting product launches and driving demand post-release.

Why Is Product Marketing Important?

There are many businesses out there that have excellent products and services but aren’t reaching their ideal audience. Product-market fit is one of the most common reasons that new businesses fail, as it doesn’t matter how good your product is if you are selling to the wrong audience. Product marketing is the ultimate protection against this, as it all comes down to matching your products with your customer base. With a good product marketing strategy, you can quickly and easily introduce your product to the market and know that you are reaching people who are interested. It also allows you to further tailor your products based on your target audience’s pain points, helping you stand out from the competition.

What’s Your Product Marketing Strategy?

Product marketing can be difficult to explain, but its value cannot be overstated. When markets get crowded, you need to be sure that you are reaching your target audience and delivering something that matches their needs. It can take on many different forms, but one thing is consistent: product marketing is the best method for connecting your products and your customers!

Mark Buckner
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Mark Buckner is a freelance writer and editor from Hammond, Indiana. A recent graduate of Purdue University Northwest, he has edited two books and written on topics ranging from social media to science fiction film. At this time, he is open to other freelance writing and editing opportunities.

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