Although a product marketer might take on many different roles in many different businesses, product marketing is fundamentally about understanding the needs of an audience and how the product they are marketing intrinsically meets them.
This invaluable insight can then be used by marketing, who’s job is to promote the company and brand as a whole - including the products, as effectively as possible.
Traditionally, marketers could get away with memorizing some surface-level product features and still do their job convincingly, but in a product-led company in this climate, that simply won’t cut it. User expectations are high and where it was once the responsibility of the sales team to demonstrate a product's value and onboard customers, it’s now down to the company website, product pages, and product narrative to convince the consumer they're making the right choice.
“When marketing becomes product driven, marketers are required to understand the product on a much deeper level. In this new world, every aspect of marketing must be rooted in the product experience.” - Marcus Andrews - Group Lead, Product Marketing, HubSpot
Product marketing vs traditional marketing
We asked our community of product marketers on Slack, how they would differentiate the roles and unsurprisingly we received some really insightful answers, here’s a selection:
“Product marketing tends to be more strategic and analytical whereas traditional marketing tilts more towards marketing communications, project management, operations, execution, and the artistic side of marketing. Product marketers spend a lot of time analyzing and solving problems whereas traditional marketing managers spend a lot of time coordinating the delivery of marcom assets. Traditional marketing is closer to what you see in external agencies.
“Product marketers are multipliers in the sense that a lot of their value stems from empowering other people to do their jobs better (e.g. through sales enablement and market sizing). Traditional marketers tend to be less cross-functional.” - Dekker Fraser, Product Marketing Consultant
“My overly simplistic response when I get asked this question: product marketing creates the product/service/company message and marketing gets that message out to the world.”- Ian Thomas, Product Marketing leader at Cognizant Security
“One description we hear fairly often is that marketing is focused on the top of the funnel bringing leads in, and product marketing is focused on the bottom of the funnel — keeping leads engaged, which includes helping throughout the sales cycle and through the onboarding process.” - Robin Verderosa, Product Marketer at Fintechs
“I actually see product marketing as a function of traditional marketing. Just like demand gen is and content is and creative is. PMMs are marketing to everyone (internal, customers, prospects) and making sure we're talking about the right stuff the right way.” - Logan Hendrickson, Product marketer at Chilli Piper
Product marketing's role in marketing
Although they are two separate entities, product marketing and marketing often overlap or work alongside each other, with most product marketers playing an important role in crafting effective marketing strategies targeted at the right people.
Here’s where they’ll typically buddy:
Product marketers are experts in identifying the perfect market for a product or service, they know everything about existing and prospective customers and they know how to map a product’s solutions to meet the audience’s needs. The marketing team are experts at bringing that knowledge to life in order to target that audience effectively.
Product marketers and traditional marketers are responsible for the messaging and narrative that helps position a product as the buyer’s first choice, but product marketers in the majority of cases aren’t copywriters and that’s where marketing should step in.
Product marketers know the message and story to convey, who to convey it to, and at what time it needs conveying- but marketing is responsible for turning that knowledge into blog posts, ad copy, and press releases. While product marketers are the experts in the who, what, and where, marketers are experts at putting those elements into context and perfecting the tone that resonates best with the intended audience as well as which content works best.
Product marketers know where to find customers, they’re consistently engaging with them, whether that’s at networking events and conferences, on various social media platforms or the forums they hang out online. And while marketers are great at where to place the content to reach them, courtesy of their segmentation work, product marketers hold the key to targeting geographical audiences in a way that could effectively alter an entire marketing campaign. By utilizing their know-how, marketing can hyper-target an audience with content that speaks to them specifically.
Now we’ve talked about how marketing and product marketing work together, let’s take a look at where both skill sets combine/crossover to turn a lead into a customer.
“Product people need to think more critically about things like the user experience and time-to-value. And marketing people need to be fully immersed in the product.” - Marcus Andrews, Group Lead, Product Marketing, HubSpot
The marketing funnel
The marketing funnel is a visualization tool used to understand the process of turning leads into paying customers from a marketing perspective.
There isn't one definitive version of a marketing funnel, depending on your industry, your funnel might contain different actions or more stages, but the diagram below does a good job of highlighting the most relevant and frequently used stages.
As you can see there are three top-line parts to the marketing funnel that both traditional marketing and product marketing play an important role in.
They are awareness, evaluation and purchase. Let’s take a look at each stage, the consumer’s needs, and the cross-pollination of the two roles.
Awareness is the earliest stage in the buying process, where consumers are looking around for a solution, researching different products, and generally getting to know brands. At this stage, they know very little about your business and your product so first impressions are everything.
The following types of content have proven to work exceptionally well early on:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts - organic and paid
According to Adweek, 81% of shoppers conduct online research, a stat which product marketers will already have collated, along with which research the consumers are likely to conduct and the information they’ll be seeking in order to move further down the funnel.
This information can then be used to craft content that effectively engages consumers, portrays the company’s knowledge and elicits trust.
Evaluation is slap bang in the middle of the funnel, you’ve piqued a consumer’s interest, and they’re weighing up whether or not your solution is the right one for their particular problem.
You’ll want to focus your efforts on illustrating your expertise and giving people a reason to trust your product over the competitor’s, having conducted some extensive competitor analysis.
At this stage, marketers should send prospective customers further information about products and services with targeted email campaigns, while continuing to keep their interest with:
- Targeted content
- Case studies
The final stage is purchase, the prospective customer has a decision to make - your product, a competitor’s product or none at all. At this point, they might just need a final nudge or a little bit more convincing to fully commit, in which case, it’s time to bring out the big guns and really demonstrate the value and the benefits of your product.
At this stage the most effective tactics are usually:
- Free trials
- Demo videos
- Competitor comparison sheets
- Case studies
As a product marketer it’s your responsibility to ensure the prospect’s journey through the aforementioned funnel is as personalized as possible. A content mapping template helps to make sure you're putting the right content, in front of the right people at the right time. And although creating the content might be the role of the company’s marketing or writing teams, as a product marketer it’s your responsibility to put these content mapping sheets together, using all of the knowledge you’ve collated in earlier stages.
The goal is to target your content according to your consumer’s characteristics and where they are in the marketing funnel. A content mapping template ensures persona personalization throughout the prospect’s journey, offering them content they’re actually interested in, which they’ll engage with, which in turn will improve your chances of closing the deal and turning a prospect into a valued customer.
Once completed, your content mapping sheet should look something like this:
You can unlock the full template in our membership area.
The marketing tactics we’ve shared with you today are a great starting point, but it's worth noting that the product you market and the customer base you serve will ultimately influence what makes the most sense to you and your team. We have a number of resources you can access in our membership plans to help you determine the best tactics for onboarding customers. We also have an entire Go-to-market module you can access in our Product Marketing Core course, choc-full of frameworks and templates you can access any time you like.