What is Product Marketing? PMM 101


Raise the bar that is Product Marketing

This is the first in a long series of articles I’m writing to better the craft that is Product Marketing. While still a young field, a lack of real understanding in this field, leads to two problems forming a “Catch 22”.

  1. Not a lot of companies understand the true value Product Marketing brings to the table
  2. There are not enough Product Marketers that know how to do it properly

Thus, companies hire bad product marketers, who don’t provide value to the business. The company then believes it’s not as valuable, thus not spending enough budget and resources in the department. We train not enough people on strong Product Marketing, and the circle continues.

It’s my hope in these articles that as practitioners and hiring managers, we can understand what good looks like and uplift this career path. The more people I can help become better product markets, the better value they will bring to their businesses, the more value a company will place on Product Marketing, and the more jobs they will open for this position.

Product Marketing is not the same as marketing products

Ask yourself what Product Marketing means to you before continuing on with the rest of this article. If your first instinct was that Product Marketers are great content and headline writers, who really know how to market their products — while technically not wrong, you’re missing about 90% of our job.

If we wanted to be content writers, we would have become content writers — but we are not writers, we are Product Marketers — and that’s a huge difference.
~ VP of Product Marketing

While yes we are ultimately responsible for the narrative, we put into the market, it’s how we get there that is hypercritical. There are 7 primary pillars of Product Marketing, which form the basis of the work we do that fuels far more than just messaging and content

The 7 Pillars of Product Marketing

Many companies I spoke to, associate Product Marketing with blog writers, speakers, and webinar presenters — and that’s unfortunately the depth of the value they believe we bring to the table. While a lot of our work contributes to a product’s positioning, messaging, and narrative in the market, the work we do to get there, contributes to the success of many areas of the business. Whenever I’m interviewing, hiring, or mentoring for Product Marketing I always look to these 6 pillars to frame the maturity of the PMM program. Whether you run the PMM program or you are a Product Marketer, try to assess your department on how deep into these pillars you go.

This will be an overview of these pillars, I intend to break these into more details in subsequent articles… for those with a keen eye, you’ll notice that this resembles a lot of the SiriusDecisions framework, one of my favorite PMM models.

Pillar 1: Target Buyer & Market Insight

Visit the deep dive on Pillar 1

Everything starts here, and it’s part of bringing an audience-centric level of product marketing to the business. Too often I hear companies say “We sell our products/services to any vertical, segment, and industry in the market”. While you probably can, that doesn’t make it a target market or buyer.

As Product Marketing, we must define:

  1. The target market (think geography, industry, company size) we created our product and services for. Which departments in those companies buy and use your products & services, and who takes part in the entire buying process. (in many B2B sales, the decision maker can differ from the users and the champions of your products).
  2. What the buying process looks like. What type of information does each person involved need at each stage of the buying cycle? Is this a disruptive technology with a lot of greenfield, or is the market primarily mature? What are the compelling events during the process that will make each person take action? When do users/champions/buyers enter and exit the buying process, and how much pull do they have on the purchase?
  3. What the personal, departmental, and organizational needs are of every person. Deep connections to your customers and the market speed up your understanding of this. Many people will have needs they aren’t even aware of, so by understanding their current needs in the market today, you can decide how to guide them toward your products/services.

Besides the help this provides for messaging/narrative requirements, we can feed a lot of this information back into your Product Managers for their roadmap (because you understand the buyer from end-to-end). When Corporate Marketing needs to launch demand campaigns, they can turn to Product Marketing for insights on which targets will provide the highest propensity to convert.

Pillar 2: Product & Services Subject Matter Expert

Visit the deep dive on Pillar 2

I truly believe that the only way you can up-level a message, or translate something from technical jargon to buyer needs, is through a deep understanding of the products and services you sell. If you’re in the technology space, you must be able to demo your product in person, and answer most of the technical questions associated with it. You’ll learn with your PM where you can draw the line and rely on them to take the technical nuances. Within the first 30 days on the job, you must be able to demo and/or pitch your products & services you are responsible for — bonus points if you can demo/pitch the entire portfolio.

It’s only when you are familiar with how the product works are you able to truly message it. This helps you avoid common pitfalls of your messaging being too generic, and not directly applicable to the needs that your product specifically solves for.

Pillar 3: Messaging & Narrative

Visit the deep dive on Pillar 3

Now that you understand the target market and are intimately familiar with how the product works, you can match up the needs of the buyer with how the solution solves for them. There is no guesswork here! If you’ve done your homework/research, you really understand the needs of the buyer and how they buy your solution, you’ve nailed down your target market, then the rest of it is essentially a science. You will make a hypothesis, on which of the needs are greater, and how to best highlight the way your solution solves for these needs — but you’ll also run experiments with Product Management, Sales, and Marketing around the messages to find the perfect fit.

The goal of Product Marketing, with messaging, is to create a messaging document/framework you can hand to multiple different departments in the company, who can all create their own assets that when viewed together tell a cohesive narrative — all without you having to review a single piece. You will still review nearly everything, but you should be setting yourselves up with the right vehicle and enablement of this messaging (and how to use it), so you don’t HAVE to involve yourself. When marketing creates a top of the funnel asset, sales has a pitch deck, and services have created a case study — they should all tell the same story, even if made from different groups.

It’s important to understand that there is not a “one size fits all” for messaging. Messaging must be slightly different depending on whether you’re talking to the financial buyer, champion, or the user. It should also be different depending on where in the buying cycle the prospect is (early/middle/late).

“Do I really have to create all of that messaging?” If you want to be really successful, you do! Just make sure it’s used.

Pillar 4: Pricing & Packaging

Visit the deep dive on Pillar 4

This is one of my favorite controversial topics for Product Marketing. In MOST companies, you find that Pricing & Packaging sits with Product Management, however I think that’s an inefficient place for it. When you take an audience-centric approach to Product Marketing, you understand the buyers and how they purchase. Which means you, in PMM, are the expert on how people will buy your solution. It’s historically been a Product Management function because they understand the product costs well, and many companies price their products based on a simple “cost + margin” or “less than the competition.”

We should do pricing & packaging based solely on the needs of your target market (see pillar #1). There are several ways to do this, from the agile/experimental, to the completely in-depth data analysis. You still have to care about costs and margins, but worry about those after you find out how much your target will pay for your product. Then it’s a discussion with your PM on whether they can lower costs to increase the margin, or deliver more to the product to increase the value and raise the price.

Pillar 5: Go-To-Market Strategy

Visit the deep dive on Pillar 5

Once you understand your target market, you know the product intimately, you’ve nailed down the messaging, and your pricing/packaging aligns to the market’s willingness to pay — it’s time to have a Go To Market (GTM) Strategy. Essentially, this is how you will take the work you’ve done, and get it into the world. This is almost like a roll-up of all your work to date: the target market, your routes to reach them, the messaging you’ll use, the campaigns to align to, the product capabilities and roadmap, the pricing/packaging, the competition in the way, and any other moving pieces that outlines how you will meet your annual revenue goals with this product.

Don’t have revenue/bookings targets for your products? You need to get them.

Pillar 6: Launch Governance

Visit the deep dive on Pillar 6

Product Management has met their roadmap goals and new products/features are ready to go to market. This is one of my most favorite parts of Product Marketing. There are several ways to run launches, which I will cover in another article, but essentially your goal is to ensure that the organization is Commercially, Technically, and Operationally ready for a release. You will align the goals of your plans to the different audiences impacted (prospects, customers, influencers, internal, partners, and sales) with measurable metrics and goals; how else are you supposed to know if a launch was a success if you measure nothing?

Your responsibility in the launch process is to:

  1. Tier the launch by how big of a revenue impact it will have on the business
  2. Align product goals to the business objectives and get executive & department sign off on achieving the goals
  3. Capture plans from the different departments on how to make the launch successful and achieve the outlined goals
  4. Work on the tactical outline (your launch checklist), the messaging, and quarterbacking the launch process the entire way.

You will rarely have a launch go off without a hitch, but the more you do the smoother they will become. Remember to stay flexible, recognize red flags immediately, and pivot as fast as you can. You’ll be working closely with Product Management, to ensure that the release is on track, while working with every other department in the company to ensure everyone is ready to go. You will be a cross-functional leader.

Pillar 7: Knowledge Transfer

Now you’ve done these things, you’ve got to deliver value back to the business. At the beginning of this, I asked what you thought Product Marketing comprised — and if it wasn’t these things; I encourage you to dive into one of these pillars and give it a go. Content is an important part of our job, but it’s also a tiny part. We do so much research, talking to customers, analyzing the market, working with analysts, and tracking product revenue goals we are a wealth of knowledge for multiple departments. We can help the paid ad team create the perfect copy from our messaging, the demand generation team to target the right market, the product management team to perfect the roadmap, the sales organization to understand the needs of the prospects they engage with, and the services organization with growing the account.

It’s not good enough to know these pillars, work through them, and then keep the information to yourself, you must actively work to share this knowledge and enable the rest of the company. Most of your work here will be with the Sales Organization, and your Sales Enablement team, if you are lucky to be in a company that has one.

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