What is Product Marketing, and Why Does it Matter?

Picture this scenario: you’re at a dinner party with the perfect number of people––just enough to make good conversation and have fun without being too overwhelming or loud. As you are making new acquaintances and networking, at some point someone is bound to ask what you do. You reply that you work in product marketing…and you get blank stares all around. 

Has this ever happened to you? Do you struggle to define your role at your company and why it’s essential to, well, just about everything? 

If so, you’re not alone. It’s difficult to give a simple answer about what product marketing is because by nature it encompasses multiple different areas within an organization. As an illustration, take a look at which teams product marketers collaborate with most often: 89% work primarily with Product, 85% with Marketing, and 77% with Sales. 

In short, product marketing is a strategic intersection between marketing, sales, and product management. It doesn’t fall clearly into a single one of those areas, but it is essential to all three. In this blog, we will look further into that intersection, how it works, and why product marketing is so important to the success of your business and the product you sell. 

What is product marketing? 

OK, so we understand that product marketing exists in the area of overlap between marketing, sales, and product. But what does that mean, exactly? And why is that an asset for your company? 

The four Ps of marketing

Product marketing strategy is built on an understanding of the four Ps of marketing

  • Place: Where will you sell your product, and which distribution channels will you use to get it to your customer? 
  • Product: What product or service will you design to meet your customer’s needs? 
  • Promotion: What marketing strategies will you use?
  • Price: What will your customer pay for your product or service? 

Defining these four things allows you to better understand your competition, your buyers, and your offering. In this way, the market and the product both communicate with and inform each other to ensure that 1) your marketing efforts have an audience, and 2) you’re not creating a product without any demand. 

Or, to paraphrase the movie A Field of Dreams, if you build it, will they come? Well, unless your product meets an existing need in the market and you tell the market it exists to meet that need––probably not. 

Why does it matter? 

So there is your response to that inquisitive person at the dinner party: product marketing helps you understand your customers’ needs before you launch your product, then position your product to meet those needs better than anyone else’s can. 

Easy, right? 

If that is how you answer the dinner party question, don’t be surprised if you’re still met with blank stares. Why would anyone go to all that effort of understanding and positioning their product when a few social media ads and a good website will do? 

A good go-to-market strategy is what ensures that your company pays for the right social media ads to reach the right people. Product marketing also determines what goes onto that website to make sure it catches and keeps customers’ attention. By ensuring that you have the right product for the market at the right time, product marketing maximizes the ROI on your marketing dollars by keeping your marketing assets lean, mean, and ultra effective. 

What does a product marketer do? 

All of this might not help your dinner companions understand what it is that you actually do every day. Even that is, of course, a complicated answer––any given day might involve meetings with the sales team and product development, conversations with sales representatives and customers, and/or hours of industry research. 

Boiled down, a product marketer must study the market to see where their product sits; research who their ideal customers are and where they get their information; familiarize themselves with their competitors’ offerings; devise go-to-market and product launch plans and organize the execution of those plans across multiple teams; and then carefully monitor the performance of their product after it launches. 

To manage all of this, a product marketing professional must be comfortable wearing many hats. They can synthesize information quickly while maintaining a deep understanding of their audience and main competitors. They are strategic storytellers who are equally comfortable delegating tasks to others as they are doing the work themselves. 

With so many roles involved across so many teams, it’s no wonder that only 5% of product marketers said they are sure their role is fully understood. 

What is the difference between product marketing and marketing? 

As we saw above, 85% of product marketing professionals surveyed by the Product Marketing Alliance said they work most closely with their marketing department, so the two really do go hand-in-hand. 

Without this collaboration and the deep context that a product marketing strategy provides, marketing collateral risks falling on deaf ears (or rather, eyes). In today’s B2B market, many offerings appear at the outset to be nearly indistinguishable from each other, and as a result, customers tend to rely largely on their own research to reach a buying decision. According to Gartner, sales reps get only 17% of a customer’s time during their B2B buying journey. By contrast, 45% of a buyer’s time is spent doing independent research, both online and off. 

With such a limited window of opportunity to influence buying decisions, companies have to ensure that their marketing and sales efforts are hitting the right note the first time, every time. Having a product marketing team helps to ensure that they do––and how to redirect when they don’t.  

Why product marketing matters

As product marketing leaders, it can be challenging to define what it is that we do––and with good reason. We are located at the intersection of three major areas within a company, and the team that we report to and/or work most closely with varies depending on the size, industry, and offering of the company in question. But when it comes to differentiating your product or service in the crowded B2B marketplace, a solid product marketing function can make all the difference to the success of your marketing efforts.