A product marketing strategy goes hand-in-hand with the product strategy — the plan that identifies and defines what you want to accomplish. A good strategy points everyone (from the CEO to engineering to sales and customer support) in the same direction. It keeps you focused on your customers and your market. It’s your guide to working together on what matters most.
A product marketing strategy will have several components:
A product starts with your organization’s vision. The product must sit squarely in the strategic vision of the organization. That vision feeds the development of the product and conveys energy and excitement to your customers. It outlines your customers, what they need, and how you will address those needs. You might even get a sense of the life cycle of the product, what it could become and when it might reach its end stage.
You have a vision about what you want to achieve. Now you need the information that turns this vision into reality. Here are some vital areas:
Your Competitors: What companies are offering what you want to offer? (Find at least the top three.) How will your product be different? What makes it unique? Who are their customers? What problems will your product solve for those customers? Competitive research, also known as a market review, is key to your success. Learn more about conducting a competitive analysis.
Your customers: Which ones will you target with this product? What is their pain point? What is the customer or buyer persona? What are the demographic and psychographic traits (age, gender, education level, values)? What are their buying patterns? How are they using current products? How many customers will you talk to? (These conversations will help shape your product messaging down the road and help target your marketing and advertising.)
Your market position: How will your product offer value? What is the real problem that your product solves? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
You may have had a rough idea of how you wanted your product to function. Armed with these insights, you can nail down all the details that will make customers happy and drive your business forward. You will be able to speak with confidence about the specific product functions that meet the consumers’ requirements — from features and colors, to additional services and warranties. The product description you craft tells the story of how this product meets your customers’ needs.
Understanding the Product Life Cycle
Few products last forever. From the beginning of your product, you should prepare for the growth, maturity, and drop in demand. At some point, sales will decline. Competitors will offer a comparable product. Insights are the key to identifying the stage your product is in. Always monitor the life cycle of your product and be ready with improvements, updates, or even a new product that builds on what exists. (For example, while pay phones barely exist today, the problem they once solved still exists, and has been replaced by cell phones.)
Goals and Initiatives
Management guru Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” That’s not only true in the C-suite, but also extends to every product and department in your company.
Once you’ve defined the product, it’s time to define what you want to achieve. Without goals, how will you know whether your product succeeds? Use simple, clear, and precise goals (whether it’s improving your market share, re-engaging with customers, or driving revenue) to keep on track. Keep in mind that the product goals don’t stand alone. They need to align with your company’s strategic and business goals. After all, your product is part of the company’s success.
Finally, ask how this product fits with the initiatives of your business. Your product may be a better mousetrap. It meets customer needs by making them feel safer with fewer mice. (They buy solutions, not products.) The product also addresses the company’s initiative to move into new neighborhoods, territories, or areas. You can map your product’s features to the larger initiatives of your company.
Although there are no hard-and-fast rules to executing a product marketing strategy, here are some tips and best practices:
Be realistic when setting your goals. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can expect X% revenue from your product, Y% annual growth from your growth stage product, or Z% margin from your mature product. Set realistic expectations for your company’s business goals, and also keep in mind the guidance contained within the Preparing Your Business for Product Marketing and Sales chapter of this book. Be flexible as you develop your plan. Include unexpected and unplanned events or occurrences on the road to success, especially sales, distribution, and product development.
A good marketing plan includes the customer, how the customer uses the product, and how you can meet the customer’s needs.
Keep track of what’s working and what’s not. Spot changes in your customers’ behavior or your competitors’ offerings that could indicate you need to alter the way you market or develop your product.
Identify your competitors. Keep a list of those products you or your customers find most likely. These are your competitors. You need to study their strengths and weaknesses and try to predict how you can fight them, while avoiding what they do so well.
Demonstrate the value of your product by showing how it will affect your customers. Perhaps just having the customer take it apart, or showing the capabilities of the product can do it.
The best marketing plan includes an opportunity assessment that determines where your competitors and products are strong and where they are weak. You will have to decide where you can use your product’s strengths to your advantage and where you don’t want to fight a lost battle.
Ensure that you know how much of your budget should go toward product marketing. If sales is struggling, then you may need to cut back on product development efforts. If your target demographic is small, you may need to increase your advertising budget.
By understanding how your product, your competitors, and your customers work together to make something happen, you can make a well-thought-out and well-executed marketing plan.
Marketing Strategy For A Product:
Product development is not simply a matter of designing and manufacturing a new product and dumping it on the market. Good product development is all about bringing the product to life, understanding the customer’s experience, and making sure the product is perfect. No wonder product marketing management is so important.
Some product management principles that can help you make your marketing strategy successful include:
Much of what you do as a product manager involves managing people, as both a marketing and a product development task.
Networking and relationships with other employees and managers can be the difference between strategy and success.
Product managers don’t do everything by themselves. People, processes, and the other tools of the trade need to be managerially engaged as well.
Marketing, engineering, design, and manufacturing are all involved in bringing a product to market. In product development, these are relatively discrete tasks, but in marketing and commercialization, these tasks are integrated.
This is where people management is at its best. You need to focus on people and the company’s people management practices. You must have clear expectations of those you work with. Your marketing or product development plan must include clear roles and responsibilities for the relationships essential to success.
Good people management practices help promote effective teamwork, stimulate team creativity, and provide an atmosphere conducive to pursuing a company’s short- and long-term goals.
So much of what you do as a product manager involves managing people, as both a marketing and a product development task.
The art and science of managing people involves communicating effectively, planning for success, and ensuring people are at their best plants, and caring for the people who work under you.
Communication and the sales process are at the core of successful people management.
Identify WHAT is important to the customer. Create a (marketing) product concept that is likely to succeed based on this.
The product manager’s job is to make the customer’s experience with the product as good as possible.
However, customer experience is highly complex. When most people think of optimal customer experience, they think only of the experience customers have in the intended use context. A lot happens to make up a customer’s experience, and not just what’s directly happening in the customer’s mind or body.
Productive brainstorming, investor-related marketing, and aggressive sales promotion that attempts to secure a buyer’s promise of commitment are all typically part of a product’s marketing.
A product is a physical representation of the company’s commitment to bring the product to market. In product marketing today, product concept is typically done as a response to feedback from sales and marketing. A marketable product concept is an integrated combination of similar customer-focused and market-ready product ideas.
Example: I will outline how to identify what is important to the customer, create a product concept, and identify a marketable product concept in a minute.
To successfully market and sell products, it is important to understand the customer and her outlook on life.
The above considerations are all foundation stones of understanding how to create a successful product concept.
Some product concepts do best when they are:
The product concept and marketing plan are often intertwined. Just as customer focus often helps define a product concept, the company’s goals often help define the goals of the marketing plan.
There are many tools and techniques to help with the product concept development as described above. If you need some help, check out the product strategy chapter of this book. You should also talk to other product managers about your ideas. You will learn a tremendous amount.
Product concepts may easily change as the product idea develops. Many engineers are reluctant to merge ideas from different groups. Engineers are usually very protective of their ideas, and unless the person is really influential, they may not give you a chance. You need to be willing to merge ideas with other groups. Be willing to search out ideas, and be accountable for merging the ideas together.
Something works for you, but what if it doesn’t work out?
Some products may be bound to fail due to a few reasons.
A good product manager knows that being good is not enough. If the product is not good, it may not sell.
The product concept is the result of a complex mix of factors arranged to produce the consumer’s optimal experience.
There are many opinions on what constitutes a good product concept.
Underestimating the importance of the Product Manager and the marketing manager to the marketing mix is a common mistake made by many companies. These groups must be given the respect they deserve.
Many companies have successfully pursued product strategies that were not marketed with their best ideas.
Every product manager can benefit from the information and knowledge of others.
The amount of knowledge that is out there in the world is astounding.
Just as the Internet can make it easier to learn and share knowledge, the Internet can be made easier to work with.
Just as people create their own products, some companies create their own information tools.
Some ideas are more difficult to market than others. It is not always possible to make all the materials for a product related CD or book available for free.
Sometimes the best ideas are “after-market support” – the idea is so good, customers and users tell you it is a great idea, and they help you get the products made.
Some organizations encourage people to come up with their own idea and build the required product.
The customer is the most important person in the development of the product. In fact, the customer is absolutely essential. The quality of the product itself can’t be significantly improved until it has gone through the customer’s experiences.
The product manager’s role is to create a product concept that best represents what the customer needs – and it must represent the needs of a large number of potential customers, not just one or two.
Research can be useful in a product’s concept development, but equally important is getting customer input into the development of the idea. Many product managers undertake market research before identifying a product concept.
The product manager should start out with a clear understanding of the customer, and what she thinks and feels. The product manager must understand and know both what the customer needs and wants and how to make it happen. The product manager must use market research techniques to uncover potential customers’ needs in the products area.
The product development begins with identifying the potential customers and finding out what they need and want. The investigation should begin with identifying the customers’ motivations for making purchasing decisions, and finding out the conditions under which they make them.
In order to market a new product successfully, you must establish a clear product concept that will interest potential buyers. The best product concepts are focused on solving specific customers’ problems.
A solid product concept may be one that appeals to many different customers. The product manager must be able to create vision for many different markets to work together in the same product area.
The product concept must transform what is available (it should be better by the customer’s standards) and make it unique. The product concept must be better than the competitors’ products. The product manager must make the product concept offer something that is undervalued by other potential vendors. The product manager must unearth issues that will attract customers to the product selection.