5 keys to being a successful product marketing professional

When you say you're a Product Marketing professional, do people ask you what that is? Or possibly confuse it with Product Management? How about those people that don't understand where the lines between the traditional marketing function, sales and creative/promotions begin or end.
I've been in this game for years, have seen it from multiple angles and there are five distinct activities a Product Marketing professional much master to become successful. Now my background is primarily in IT Services (managed services, outsourcing services, consulting, advisory, etc.), so when I'm saying "product", I'm really talking about services - regardless, the five activities are the same for any product or service - high tech or low tech - it's merely the nuances of the particular "thing" being marketed.

Key Activity 1: Market Analysis

If you don't know your target, then anywhere you shot will hit the mark. The first key activity is Market Analysis - and it's more than just doing a quick internet search or making a bunch of assumptions. It is a systematic process of determining where to spend a limited budget (even big budgets have limits) to do two things: (1) expand your market, revenue and client base and (2) deepen your existing client relationships.
As a Product Marketing professional, it's your job to understand the market - past, present and future. Domain knowledge is helps, but more important is having the mindset of a treasure hunter, looking for opportunities to solve problems.
Get this one right, and your job is much easier with the other activities.

Key Activity 2: Service Strategy

Through your Market Analysis, you've discovered market areas matching your service criteria. Moving that analysis to the next phase, requires understanding how these opportunities can propel your organization towards it's goals. Translating a big number such as the total value of the market to what is available to your company, taking that available market and matching it to your company's financial goals, understanding if you can credibly enter the market or if your sales teams can be trained and motivated, are all part of the overall strategy of the service.

Key Activity 3: Service Planning

Service planning is where the "rubber meets the road". As a Product Marketing professional, you know the market, the competition, how those match to your specific company and now it is time to start planning the service for release to the market. Working hand-in-hand with Product Management, you start putting together what features, functions and capabilities are included. Working with sales, you determine the best positioning and what value will resonate with clients. Other key areas of involvement come from engineering, delivery and operations. Service Planning is that key activity where managing relationships and working with cross-functional teams will be the driving force of success or failure.

Key Activity 4: Marketing Programs

As marketing professionals, this is where most of us shine. Taking something from an idea to market, seeing it mature into a real product, is exciting. Now it's time to talk about it; using a variety of tactics, from traditional "push" advertising to engagement and social media. We match our messages to our audience, we tell the story of the service, we begin the process of gaining trust with those mostly likely to purchase. One of the areas which gets overlooked by many companies, especially in the service industry, is "testing, testing, testing". At the point of introduction, although we believe we have designed the right "plan" - it is merely an assumption until we release it. Once released, the Product Marketing professional has to be willing to follow the path of least resistance, and change course as required. I believe we only have ownership of the end goal, the path is dictated by too many forces to control, flexibility is the watchword as we manage our services.

Key Activity 5: Sales Readiness

In my background, the route to market was through a sales force - the problem is, a sales force only gets excited after the first "win" - it gets easier with each successive win. They have limited time to sell, are compensated for closed sales and want their lives to be as easy as possible. Our jobs as Product Marketing professionals eliminate as much "friction" in the transaction as possible - make it to engage clients and close the sale. To do that, we also have to ensure our clients understand the service, the benefits and how to purchase. If there are no sales, you don't have a real product - it's still just an idea.
There you have it, the five keys of to being a successful Product Marketing professional. You may love one or two, but you've got to master all of them to be successful.
In future articles I'll explore each one in more depth.

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