If you watched much television in the early 2000s, you may remember Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign, featuring John Hodgman as a stuffy PC and Justin Long as a young, laid-back Mac.
Across 66 commercials, this Effie Award–winning campaign positioned Apple’s Mac line as the coolest and most functional computer product on the market. The memorable and highly effective ad campaign is a winning example of product marketing.
What is product marketing?
Product marketing is the process of bringing a company’s products to market. But where does product marketing begin and end? There’s no straightforward answer to this question.
Some companies have product marketers laser-focused on launching new products. But others expand the scope of product marketing to inform and guide product development, as well as ongoing sales strategy, years after a product’s debut.
To take a broader view, product marketing is the intersection between products and the market. The demands of the market will inform which products are made and how they are presented to consumers in every marketing campaign. In this sense, product marketing can encompass every aspect of developing, launching, and selling a product.
What do product marketers do?
Because the definition of product marketing can vary, it follows that the roles of product marketers (or product marketing managers, as they’re often known) can be quite different, depending on their industry and their company.
Product marketing can be a responsibility shared across several different people and departments, or assigned to a product marketing manager. There could even be a dedicated product marketing team. The key responsibilities of a product marketer include:
- Conducting and analyzing market research
- Assisting in product development
- Determining the positioning and messaging for new products
- Developing and executing a go-to-market strategy for product launches
- Measuring product and campaign success via customer feedback and key performance indicators
Product marketing vs. brand marketing
Product marketing focuses exclusively on the product and is based on the belief that the product that best serves the market will always win out, regardless of other factors like name recognition or advertising. In other words, a product marketer’s role is to launch a product that creates the market.
Brand marketing, on the other hand, is based on the belief that those other factors determine what wins. In other words, a brand’s established emotional connection with a customer will sway them more than the details of the product.
Sometimes, especially at smaller companies, marketing managers will be responsible for both product marketing and brand marketing, and marketing campaigns may include elements of both.
Product marketing vs. product management
Product management is all about creating a product and ensuring it functions optimally for customers. Product marketing, on the other hand, is more about positioning the product in the market and communicating its benefits to a target audience.
Without product marketers, product managers wouldn’t have the insight they need to create an effective product roadmap, including ideas for new products or feedback for improving existing products. And without product managers, product marketers wouldn’t have a functioning product to sell to potential customers. These symbiotic roles are usually performed by different people who work collaboratively.
Product marketing roles and responsibilities
Product marketing is involved in every step of developing a product, bringing it to market, and promoting the product once it’s been released.
1. Market research
To ensure product-market fit, product developers need to look at their work through a product marketing lens from the very beginning. One of the best tools for this is market research.
To determine whether a product idea is worth the investment, it can be helpful to answer questions like the following:
- How many people are interested in this type of product? Is that number growing?
- How much, on average, are people willing to pay for this type of product?
- Why are people interested in this type of product? What do they want out of it?
- What does the competitive landscape look like? What are your competitors doing, and how can you make your product better or different?
- Of the people interested in this type of product, who could be served better by something new, and how?
2. Product development
Product marketers may help screen ideas early in the development process to ensure they align with business objectives, such as gaining new customers or generating new revenue from existing customers. A product marketing team also shares learnings from research with product developers and consults along the development process to make sure a product addresses consumer needs.
3. Positioning and messaging
As the product development stage nears its end, product marketers get to craft positioning and messaging: how the company will share its “product story” with its audience.
Product positioning is typically determined by answering some version of the following questions:
- Who is the target audience for this product?
- What does this product do?
- What customer need is this product solving?
- Why should customers use this product? Why will they love it?
- How is this product different from its competition?
4. Product launch
The product launch—a key component in any product marketer’s job—is a dynamic and multichannel endeavor. Product marketers are in charge of making a product launch plan, which includes:
- A detailed product launch schedule
- Sales enablement to help sales teams leverage the messaging that resonates with the target market
- Specific product messaging to be rolled out across the company’s website, social media, email, and blog
- A paid advertising plan, which could include digital pay-per-click ads and IRL (out-of-home) ads, like billboards
- PR efforts, which could include reaching out to relevant media outlets to let them know about the product
Product marketing strategy doesn’t end when the product hits the market. Product marketers will monitor sales and engagement to learn which channels and messages are the most effective, and make decisions about turning down underperforming strategies and turning up winning ones.
For example, you might test different product positioning in a series of ads. If a clear winner emerges, a product marketer might replace the underperforming ad creative with the most effective messaging.
Product marketers will also collaborate with support and customer success teams to conduct surveys and analyze customer feedback, ensuring that a product remains competitive throughout its product lifestyle.
Finally, if you’re marketing an innovative product, you may need to educate users on how to take advantage of new features. A product marketer may create content to facilitate user onboarding or increase feature adoption, ultimately cementing the product’s position in the market even further.
Measuring the impact of product marketing
The product marketer is accountable to many different metrics, including:
- Sales. Obvious and valuable, sales are often one of the first metrics product marketers will look at to determine the success of a campaign.
- Product adoption and usage. Is your product living up to its promises? Understanding how and why people use your product can illuminate critical information. If your product is an app, product usage is easy to track. Companies that sell physical goods can obtain some of this data with surveys and product reviews.
- Market share. A growing market share, calculated by dividing a company’s sales by the industry’s total sales, is a great indication that your business’s success is keeping up with or exceeding the market.