What is product marketing? Can you give an exhaustive definition? Do you understand how it works and how it’s different from other kinds of marketing and who is responsible for it? If not, it’s okay. You’re not alone.
It’s hard to explain what product marketing is. It varies from business to business and depends on many factors. Let’s get to the bottom of what product marketing is and what it is not.
Since it’s difficult to answer the question What is product marketing? let’s start with what it’s not:
- It is NOT product management
- It is NOT content marketing
- It is NOT digital marketing
- It is NOT brand marketing
- It is NOT growth hacking
- It is NOT service marketing
However, it’s important to understand that modern product marketing has become cross-functional and contains parts of almost all types of marketing.
If you google “product marketing definition,” guess what? You won’t find one definition; you’ll find tons of variants. There’s no universally accepted definition of product marketing. Wikipedia, for example, defines it as a process of promoting and selling a product to a customer. Here are some other variants:
The process of attracting people's attention to a product and persuading them to buy it.
Source Cambridge Business English Dictionary
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.
Product marketing is the overall process of conveying information about a good or a service to the potential customers. It includes defining the scope of the product line, identification of potential markets for the product, determining optimum price through relevant pricing methods & strategies for the market, encouraging potential customers to make purchase decisions in favour of the product or service and finding the most suitable distribution methods for delivering the product to its customers or to the appropriate sales-locations.
Source Marketing dictionary
Let’s say that product marketing is the strategy, science and art of bringing a product to market and building a sustainable business around it.
Product marketing was, is, and will remain the holy grail for businesses.
Like a bridge that helps you get to the other side of the river, product marketing helps you get your product to market. The job of a product marketer is to gather and analyze data from different channels, understand what customers want and spread knowledge about your product to the target audience.
“Marketing starts before there is a product. Marketing is the homework the company does to figure out what people need and what the company should make.”
– Philip Kotler
It’s essential to understand that product marketing isn’t just about discussing a product’s value or positioning. It’s about setting the whole strategy for your product.
Product marketing is responsible for stimulating demand, understanding the market, and engaging new and existing customers. It helps customers feel happy and satisfied. It also involves analyzing the market to make your product fly off the shelves ”. Honestly speaking, this list can be virtually endless.
Without product marketing, even a brilliant product can get lost in the abyss.
A product marketing manager, or PMM, can also be called a product marketer.
So who is a product marketing manager?
A product marketer’s primary goal is to deliver the right product to the target customer at the right time to ensure customer adoption.
Because PMM is a relatively new role, there are a lot of uncertainties regarding the core responsibilities and focus areas. In the table below, you can find extracts from real job posts on Indeed.com that describe a PMM’s responsibilities.
Product marketing manager
Product marketing manager
Source: Job postings on Indeed.com
These two vacancies have a lot of commonalities, and they even share the same title. But despite all this, it’s clear these two companies have a different vision of the role. That’s because different companies have different goals or are at different growth stages.
Marketing will differ from stage to stage. For example, at the development stage, you’re planning which marketing activities you’ll use prior to the product launch. Marketing at this stage, first of all, involves coming up with ways to bring awareness of the product to potential customers.
Or let’s assume your product is in the growth stage. This means customers are already aware of the product and sales are growing. It’s important to continually make refinements and stay ahead of the curve. This can be a good time to invest in brand development.
As you can see, a PMM’s responsibilities can change depending on your product’s stage and needs.
Product marketing is crucial for products that are already on the market as well as for new products that are only trying to get a place in the sun. Getting it right is tremendously hard because it requires a deep understanding of the audience and their needs. Even if you’re already on the market and gaining traction, one serious mistake can cost you millions —or even everything.
Product marketing brings insights into what makes your product unique, your customers’ pains, and how you should tell the story of your product.
Let’s dive into some great examples in which you can see the necessity of knowing what you’re creating and for whom.
Have you ever heard of Burbn? Probably the answer is no. It was a rather basic social app, and it was too complicated at the same time. Burbn allowed users to check-in, post plans, share photos, make plans with friends, and earn points. Location-based check-in apps were all the rage in 2010.
When the founder of Burbn, Kevin Systrom, analyzed how people used his app, he found that photo sharing was the most popular and frequently used feature.
At the time, an app named Hipstamatic stood out from the crowd because it had interesting features such as filters for photo editing. But it didn’t provide an easy way to share photos to other social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Kevin saw an opportunity that many others didn’t. He and his partner Mike Krieger cut out almost all features from the app except uploading photos, commenting, and liking. Then they renamed the app Instagram. On Instagram’s first day, 25,000 users showed up. At the end of 2010, Instagram had an overwhelming number of users. The rest is history.
Let’s try one more time: Have you ever heard of Zimride? No? Okay, and what about Lyft? Yes, you’re right. It’s a ridesharing service that was previously known as Zimride.
When Lyft appeared on the market in 2012, Uber had already been there since 2009. And there was little faith that Lyft would succeed. But somehow, a small player has grown to become a real contender. The numbers are quite staggering. Lyft says it now has 28.4% of the US ride-sharing market. In comparison, Uber has a 69.2% market share.
“Lyft was seen as one of many Uber-wannabes. Now, thanks to wild expansion and a brilliant marketing campaign, Lyft is seen as substitute service.”
– Farhad Manjoo, “Uber and Lyft Have Become Indistinguishable Commodities,” The New York Times, 28 August 2014
Lyft is similar to Uber in many ways. So how is Lyft different? What’s the reason for its popularity? One of the major reasons Lyft became so immensely popular was that the founders encouraged community building. For example, Lyft’s heartwarming animated promo film about a lonely widow who was inspired to start sharing rides has almost 8 million views!
“This story of this one driver is a journey that takes you on a tour of Lyft’s relationship with transportation, of matching the fantastic and the mundane together. It’s about people driving around in a car, but it’s also about the connections these drivers and passengers can have with each other.”
– Terry Flores, “Lyft Picks Up Oscar-Winning Animated Short Director John Kahrs for 7-Minute Toon to Hail Its Drivers,” Variety, 14 December 2016
Lyft’s marketing is friendlier and more casual than Uber’s. It appeals to the younger generation. The emphasis on community and fun makes Lyft different from its competitors.
Lyft has created a unique ecosystem. It’s an excellent example of a company that’s distinguishing itself by building a brand around values.
WhatsApp, founded in 2009 by two ex-Yahoo employees, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, has more than 1.5 billion users. It received marvelous success over a very short period.
What was the secret that made WhatsApp the largest messaging platform in the world?
First of all, the founders understood how much people hate flashy advertisements in apps and made WhatsApp totally ad-free. Both founders hate advertisements, and Jan even had a note from Brian on his desk saying “No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks.”
Second, the app’s idea was quite simple and clear: give people a chance to stay in touch with friends and family wherever they are. Also, WhatsApp focused on a younger generation that didn’t want to spend money on SMS.
The core ideas from the outset were:
- No advertising
- Satisfying experience
- Privacy (WhatsApp doesn’t store any messages)
Additionally, WhatsApp is entirely free, without any handicaps such as a message or call limitations.
Jan and Brian had a clear vision for their product. Moreover, they both were on the same page and understood exactly what their product was and what it was going to be.
We hope this article has helped you at least a bit more understand the importance of product marketing and what impact it can have on your business. If you have any questions about product marketing or want a free consultation from the Steelkiwi team, get in touch with us.