Product Marketing: Breaking Down the Keys to Success

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
October 10, 2022

B2B companies are often struggling to meet their goals when it comes to the success of new product launches, according to recent SiriusDecisions research. In terms of reaching both performance and financial targets, 56% of B2B companies say that more than half of their new offerings aren’t up to par.

Underscoring the “enormous” costs of falling short in this area—from concerns about reputation to wasted dollars and time—the SiriusDecisions Product Marketing and Management (PMM) Model research brief suggests organizations lay out clearly defined steps to get all of their ducks in a row and better meet performance and financial targets.

Importantly, the PMM Model’s first three stages—discover, define and align—are generally centered on the crucial aspect of planning. The reality is that many product marketers, despite being allocated a hefty portion of marketing’s budget, don’t have enough of a say in marketing’s planning to begin with. Or, oftentimes, marketing plans are so convoluted that they’re not able to get a view into what’s going on anyway.

Instead of creating content and simply hoping it drives success in the end, product marketers should focus on being less reactive and more proactive, helping drive a structured planning process from start to finish.

An overview of product marketing
The job functions of product marketing can be cloudy.

As HubSpot puts it, defining the job is tricky in part because of its three-pronged complexity, involving not only marketing but also product and sales.

For a quick overview, here’s HubSpot’s definition:

“Product marketing is the process of bringing a product to market. This includes deciding the product’s positioning and messaging, launching the product, and ensuring salespeople and customers understand it. Product marketing aims to drive the demand and usage of the product.”

More than lead gen
Gartner suggests expanding the view even further: For technology product marketers in particular, they should “go beyond messaging and content creation” and instead “take an active role in driving value throughout the buying and owning cycle, helping to improve win rates, deal sizes and customer retention/growth.”

Adding that the most successful product marketers are those who “deliver business value beyond lead generation,” Gartner emphasizes the “significant impact” that the product marketer role can have on an organization—from demand gen at the very front end, to product launches in the middle, and onboarding and advocacy at the back end.

Demand generation from product marketing might encompass tactics like case studies, event presentations, white papers, videos, infographics, podcasts and webinars. On the other side, from a customer marketing standpoint—i.e., beyond just lead or demand gen—product marketers might be focused on customer feedback, product satisfaction, product use and enhancement suggestions, and eventually product onboarding.

Establishing structure
As most marketing organizations use some form of campaign framework and hierarchy in their plans, they also frame the performance of marketing against one or more demand waterfalls (depending on the complexity of the business and the audience).

As organizations move toward more audience-centric tactics, product-oriented tactics will move further down the funnel. In terms of performance, they’ll have less sourced revenue coming from product marketing, but they’ll certainly be influencing it at the product level.

Therefore, to provide this aforementioned “value beyond lead generation,” product marketers should establish a structure for product launches, typically in four tiers.

With the specific details of the tiers depending on the organization, the templatization of product launches might start from a major new product at Tier 1 and go all the way down to the launch of minor releases at Tier 4.

Product marketers can think of them as program templates: The idea is to have a program template ready for each tier, putting in place the appropriate tactics to launch, matched to the tier of the release.

With all the tactics within a program planned and mapped out ahead of time, product marketers will bring a consistency to customer and prospect communication surrounding product launches.

After all, as pointed out by the SiriusDecisions PMM Model, the cause of failure for many product marketing initiatives is a lack of alignment among product, marketing, sales and customer success.

“Different views on target audiences, routes to market or the solution offering itself should be resolved before developing a new product or making major improvements to an existing offering, and creating the commercialization plan,” the research says.

Indeed, as HubSpot puts it, “no product marketing team is complete without a written launch plan, spelling out every last stage of the marketing process and who’s responsible at each point.”

Cross-departmental collaboration is essential for organizations to create an in-depth and complete product marketing plan. However, it’s not always as common as it should be, with teams often left in silos wondering who’s working on what.

Having the right technology in place can certainly play a big role in alleviating this problem. Instead of using disparate spreadsheets, PowerPoints, Word docs or even sticky notes, product marketing leaders should adopt an integrated planning platform through which they can collaboratively build these templates in one place, easily enter planned costs for each tier, and have visibility into aggregated plans to see how they align with budgets, goals and overall strategies.

How to measure success
Having an established structure in place, with input from product marketing, lays a solid groundwork to drive product marketing success. But how can you make sure you’re able to effectively measure that success?

That’s where your martech stack should be integrated, but here’s the pièce de résistance—it places the integration in the context of a marketing plan, connected to organizational goals.

Here’s why you need this context: At the demand gen end of the product marketing spectrum of responsibilities, let’s say you’re looking for product revenue growth. If you achieve 25% product revenue growth over one quarter but don’t know what your organization’s goals for this growth were in the first place, you’re not able to look at product marketing’s success in the right context. Your 25% might look exciting, but if the organization was looking for 50% growth, that’s a whole different ballgame.

At the customer marketing end, you’re looking for adoption, growth and retention. Again, if you achieve a 95% retention rate, but your organization’s goals were 75%, your achievement actually surpassed targets! But alas, without visibility into overall goals, you can’t revel in the excitement.

Instead, product marketers should keep their martech stack in sync across any relevant components and in the context of the plan, with all teams on the same page.

The end result? Improved productivity, better alignment, better reporting accuracy, a single source of the truth and trusted visibility (and clarity around whether to celebrate or commiserate over the launch of a new product!).

Bring necessary structure to your marketing organization

Uptempo captures everything marketers are doing, with approval steps determined by you, enabling you to create templates for activities or entire plans/campaigns that represent a predetermined marketing mix, including timing and spending defaults. No marketers get lost in the shuffle wondering who’s working on what.

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