Validating your product before you launch it is an important step, but how can you make the most of product marketing before and after a launch to get your product into the hands of many people? Product marketer Becca Byers weighed in at a special joint January meetup between ProductTank Waterloo and ProductTank Pittsburgh.
While product marketing may be a bit of a mystery to product managers, the two actually work together to make sure the product is hitting all the right value buttons, said Byers. Want to figure out your target market? Product marketers are your key investigators, gathering information on potential customers, their problems, and how they’re solving them now, and then sharing what they’ve learned. Need to make sure your product is hitting the right note, both with how it looks and how it sounds? The role of a product marketer is to help with positioning. Want to make sure your product jumps the chasm between early adopters to a widespread customer base? Again, you want to tap a product marketer on the shoulder because they can help ensure your product reaches its full potential.
“I’ve seen product management try to do it all,” said Byers, a product marketing manager based in Pittsburgh. “They try to fulfill both the product management and product marketing roles. And I really applaud those folks and everybody who's in a situation where they have to do that, because they don't have product marketing to assist them. But it can be very, very difficult to be focused on the product and the improvements that need to be made on the product.”
So you have a product idea and are preparing to launch it. What happens now from a product marketing perspective?
(A curve showing how customers typically adopt products from the time it’s launched.)
Before the launch
Before a product ever hits the market, product marketing is already trying to figure out how much money the product can make and how many customers it can expect to have.
“We want to make sure that this business decision makes sense,” said Byers.
If there are regulations around the product, product marketers are breaking that down too. They’re also researching the competition (if there is any), what the status quo is in the market now, and, of course, pulling together background on potential buyers — who are they? What is their story? — information that will become valuable when it comes time to think about your product’s positioning. Positioning is all about looking ahead: How can product marketing inspire people to see how the product solves their problem and buy it?
“We’re getting as much ready as possible so that when the time is right, when this product is ready for market, we can go ahead and hit the ground running,” said Byers.
Product marketers will then share everything they’ve learned with product teams so that everyone is on the same page, said Byers.
After the launch
You have a product in the hands of customers. What does product marketing do now? One word: measure.
“At the end of the day, what's really important is to have some kind of key performance indicators,” said Byers.
Even if you’re a small startup, you should have a sense of how much interest you’re driving with qualified leads. How many people are actually buying your product? You need to measure the impact of your product and make sure you’ve found your product-market fit, said Byers.
“There’s a variety of reasons for that. One, you want to be able to celebrate your wins. But on top of that, you want to be able to identify areas of opportunity,” she said.
Product marketing has a role to play in that, added Byers. You want to make sure once your product is launched that customers are finding value in it, she said. But you also want to know how the competition is responding and how your product stacks up now that it’s launched.
If no one is talking about your new product or feature release, something might be missing, said Byers. Maybe customers expected a feature that’s not included, or there’s a new regulation that you didn’t know about and now need to address. Maybe the positioning or messaging is off. Product marketing has their ear to the ground on all of that so you can understand what’s missing the mark and fix it.
Crossing the chasm
Your product has been a hit with early adopters, but how do you cross the chasm so that it has widespread uptake? Crossing that chasm — when your product already has early adopters but you’re trying to get the general majority to buy in too — requires product marketing to step in and help build your reputation, said Byers. What is your reputation now and where does it need to be? If you’re a software company, maybe that means you get certified so users know your product is reliable and stable, she said. It also might mean you run a campaign to raise awareness about who you are and what you do. Part of that campaign, said Byers, may be to show people how your product is competitively different from others on the market.
If you’re trying to break into a new market, the buying process for that new market may be different than the one your early adopters have now. Product marketing can uncover that and share it with the product team to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If the buying process is different, product marketing may suggest offering a trial, Byers said. Trials may help based on where customers are in the buying journey. If customers aren’t aware your product exists, then a trial may not make sense. But if they know about your product but just aren’t ready to buy it, offering them a trial could help them decide.
At this stage, product marketers often find it helpful to boost your reputation, said Byers. That may mean they’re writing case studies or highlighting partnerships with influencers that show potential customers you and your product have a good reputation.
Product marketing is all about helping your product reach its full potential by making sure your customer base is as big as it could be — that means using a product marketer’s expertise before and after your product’s launch to help you jump from a few customers to many. Want to read more about how product validation works with product marketing? Check out our guide on how to ensure you're solving a problem people care about and will actually pay for.
Missed a ProductTank Waterloo meetup? Read all of our ProductTank Waterloo recaps.