Product marketing is the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience. Product marketing, as opposed to product management, deals with more outbound marketing or customer-facing tasks (in the older sense of the phrase). For example, product management deals with the basics of product development within a firm, whereas product marketing deals with marketing the product to prospects, customers, and others. Product marketing, as a job function within a firm, also differs from other marketing jobs such as marketing communications ("marcom"), online marketing, advertising, marketing strategy, and public relations, although product marketers may use channels such as online for outbound marketing for their product.
A product market is something that is referred to when pitching a new product to the general public. Product market definition focuses on a narrow statement: the product type, customer needs (functional needs), customer type, and geographic area.
- What products will be offered (i.e., the breadth and depth of the product line)?
- Who will be the target customers (i.e., the boundaries of the market segments to be served)?
- How will the products reach those customers (i.e., the distribution channel and are there viable possibilities that create a solid business model)?
- At what price should the products be offered?
To inform these decisions, Product Marketing Managers (PMMs) act as the Voice of the Customer to the rest of the product team and company. This includes gaining a deep understanding of—and driving—customer engagement with the product, throughout their lifecycle (pre-adoption, post adoption/purchase, and after churning). PMMs collect this customer information through customer surveys and interviews, and when available, product usage data. This frequently informs the future product roadmap, as well as driving customer product education to ensure improved engagement.
PMMs answer these questions and execute on the strategy using the following tools and methods:
- Customer insights: interviews, surveys, focus groups, customer observation
- Data analysis: product marketing managers are highly quantitative, particularly in internet companies where results of marketing attribution to revenue is easily measured
- Product validation: particularly for internet companies, teams often use marketing as a channel to test and validate product ideas (the minimum viable product or rapid prototyping), before engineering resources are committed to develop the product
- Testing: optimal prices and marketing touch points are developed through exhaustive A/B testing of language (copy), prices, product line-ups, visuals, and more
Comparison with product management
Product marketing frequently differs from product management in high-tech companies. Whereas the product manager is required to take a product's requirements from the sales and marketing personnel and create a product requirements document (PRD), which will be used by the engineering team to build the product, the product marketing manager can be engaged in the task of creating a market requirements document (MRD), which is used as source for the product management to develop the PRD.
In other companies the product manager creates both the MRDs and the PRDs, while the product marketing manager does outbound tasks like giving product demonstrations in trade shows, creating marketing collateral like hot-sheets, beat-sheets, cheat sheets, data sheets, and white papers. This requires the product marketing manager to be skilled not only in competitor analysis, market research, and technical writing, but also in more business oriented activities like conducting ROI and NPV analyses on technology investments, strategizing how the decision criteria of the prospects or customers can be changed so that they buy the company's product vis-a-vis the competitor's product, etc.
One issue that faces Product Marketers is that they are chartered with developing much of the content for the various constituents (sales, marcom, customers, blogs, etc.). Creating content tends to be given more value than the actual research and thinking that is behind all the content.
In smaller high-tech firms or start-ups, product marketing and product management functions can be blurred, and both tasks may be borne by one individual. However, as the company grows someone needs to focus on creating good requirements documents for the engineering team, whereas someone else needs to focus on how to analyze the market, influence the "analysts", and understand longer term market direction. When such clear demarcation becomes visible, the former falls under the domain of product management, and the latter, under product marketing. In Silicon Valley, in particular, product marketing professionals have considerable domain experience in a particular market or technology or both. Some Silicon Valley firms have titles such as Product Marketing Engineer.
The trend that is emerging in Silicon Valley is for companies to hire a team of a product marketing manager with a technical marketing manager. The Technical marketing role is becoming more valuable as companies become more competitive and seek to reduce costs and time to market. Another trend is to have one Product Marketing Manager per group of Product Managers. This is the model that leads to the issue of PMMs being pressured to write content instead of connecting with the market.
In health care marketing products are rarely purchased by the end user and are often purchased or paid for by government, intermediaries, payors, healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations, as a result in the Biotech/Pharmaceutical and Medical Device markets there are "6" P's; the core 4: Price, Product, Promotion and Positioning as well as: Politics and Perception.
The typical education qualification for this area of business is a high level Marketing or Business related degree, e.g. an BBA, MBA, M.A./M.S. in Marketing, M.A./M.S. in I/O Psychology, not forgetting sufficient work experience in related areas. As a key skill is to be able to interact with technical staff, a background in engineering or computing is also an asset, given the highly quantitative component of the role.
1. ^ This is described in further detail by S. Wheelright and K. Clark in Revolutionizing Product Development (1992), p. 40-41; at the beginning of the section titled "Product/Market Planning and Strategy".