A Guide To Putting “Strategic” Back Into Strategic Product Marketing

Are you looking for a guide on how you can put the “strategic” into your next strategic product marketing campaign? This blog post will help outline some of the essential elements you’ll need to make sure you’re being more “strategic” than “tactical” with your product marketing.

The impact and value of a great strategic product marketing plan cannot be understated. However, all too often, product marketing teams feel that their work has devolved from strategic marketing management to tactics and execution. Management seems to have stripped the “strategic” out of the “strategic product marketing” plans they have spent their careers honing. Rather than playing a key role in strategic marketing decisions that help steer the company, they sometimes feel like a boat without a rudder. Product Marketing decisions made or heavily influenced by Development, Sales, Management, or other teams sometimes are implemented in a hurry, without regard to the impact they could have. The adage “Ready, Aim, Fire” may feel like it has been turned on its head. We see this in a number of common situations:

  • Example 1: Sales of XYZ product are not where we want them to be. Let’s do some social media campaigns.  Not ready (no strategic marketing plan). No aim (where is the problem, and what’s the best way to solve it?) Fire – unfortunately, yes.
  • Example 2: We’re told by product management that our latest product release is ready to launch. Let’s do a press release and get the sales team spun up on the new features.  Not ready (no strategic marketing plan). No aim (no clear messaging to support strategy). Fire – yes, unfortunately.
  • Example 3: There’s an analyst briefing coming up. Let’s pull together a presentation and assign someone to deliver it.  Not ready (no strategic marketing plan). No aim (what is the messaging? How are we building on past relationships?) Fire – yes, probably without the desired result.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, you know all too well the consequences of a mediocre strategic product marketing plan.  “Strategic” product marketing plans that do not start with strategy management are doomed to fail.

Ready, Aim, Fire the Product Marketing Management way

Done right, strategic product marketing can ensure that the right actions are taken, at the right time, using the right methods, and targeting the right audience. Ready, Aim, Fire.

READY starts with a strategic product marketing plan. Product Marketing has its finger on the pulse of the market and should know the customer as well as – or better than – anyone else. Product Marketing Management bases the plan on trends in the market, synchronized with corporate objectives and informed customer input. It lays out, on a timeline, what position the company wants to have in the market. One easy way to phrase this is: “What big fat claim do we want to make a year from now? Two years?”

AIM is based on the target market identified in the plan, understanding the buying behaviors of customers in the market, the decision processes of prospects, the role and impact of market pundits and industry influencers. There are literally hundreds of things that could be done to increase sales, improve the close rate, shorten the sales cycle, etc. Which should you use in which situations? Product Marketing Managers can choose based on the expected outcome and alignment with the plan. That’s a lot more scientific (and yields better results) than simply choosing the most obvious approach. Sales playbooks are a good way to codify this type of information, with sales enablement to ensure it is front-and-center. 

FIRE is not just a simple act. It’s executing to plan, with a clear focus understanding the target audience and expected results. But it also means transparency, synthesis, empowering the direct and channel sales and market influencers with a clear, believable, provable message.

Four Ways to Ensure Product Marketing Management is Strategic

Building the plan, aiming efforts at the right target and executing well calls for four activities: understanding the customer, understanding the market, taking a leadership position and watching the metrics. These activities are essential to start a strategic product marketing campaign on the right foot.

1) Understanding the Customer

This means going beyond platitudes. Talk to them – early and often. From conversations, develop models of markets and customer types, as well as the speed at which they move and adapt. Test assumptions and continuously assess the market size, your market share, and customer lifetime value. Importantly, document your assumptions and areas where you are simply guessing. Building relationships with customers is never a waste of time, and can lead to a lifetime of insights.

2) Understanding the Market

Be the expert on market trends and important market factors, and bring that market expertise to the rest of the company. A deep understanding of this market knowledge can drive solution requirements, determine product life cycles, and fuel innovation. Keep in mind the “whole product” philosophy, because it’s not just products and services. It’s awareness, purchasing, deployment, usage, lifetime value. As with customers, build solid relationships with industry analysts. Because of their reach, they can see things that are invisible to even a large Product Marketing Management team; they can help explain trends and give color to what is happening in your market.

3) Don’t be Reluctant to Take (and Keep) Center Stage

Driving the “Read-Aim-Fire” approach means enlisting the entire organization. Customer support, management, development, finance, marketing, operations and sales need to be involved in the product definition process and stay involved throughout development and launch. While involvement levels will vary depending on the department and the stage of development, it’s important to ensure that no relevant group is left out.  

4) Don’t Ignore Product Marketing Metrics

Keep a watchful eye on market size and share, customer satisfaction, perceived value, process effectiveness, and of course, product specific metrics. Track specific product or service capabilities and tie them to revenue goal achievement. It’s important to track the right metrics as discussed in Product Marketing: Measuring Outcomes that Matter.  This will help ensure alignment in the future and will assist in removing emotion from marketing management decisions.

It’s easy to get caught up in tactical, day-to-day activities, but unless you focus on the underlying value you can bring to the organization, you’ll never be given a chance to be truly strategic. Putting the “strategic” back into strategic product marketing is the first step to a successful product launch.  For help with your next strategic product marketing campaign, contact Aventi Group by clicking here.