There’s an iconic scene in Mike Judge’s deservedly renowned film Office Space, where an employee of a company is asked, “What would you say…you do here?” The question results in the employee stammering through a justification of his position, but his answer reveals he’s as confused about his role as his superiors.

When working with our clients at Evolved Media, it’s apparent that many organizations are just as confounded about the nature of . This perplexity is well-founded, as the majority of results of a quick Google search tend to classify product management as internal and product marketing as external functions. But this is a wild oversimplification.

Product marketing is actually quite aligned and similar to the work that we do at Evolved Media. The foundation of product marketing is to do everything possible to understand your customers, both existing and future, and then figure out ways to ensure they recognize how your products tie into their needs.

But the entire topic of product marketing deserves greater attention than it typically receives. This post kicks off a series of posts about the topic in which we hope to offer a comprehensive overview of why quality product marketing is vital to the success of tech companies.

A Definition of Product Marketing

Most of the companies we work with at Evolved Media are tech companies trying to promote, sell, and encourage expanded adoption of complicated products and platforms. Their products will be used for years by the customers who purchase them. And in truth, the purchase price is only a small fraction of the total customer investment: Companies also invest time, resources, and skill development in learning how to use the technology.

To get companies to dive head-first into this type of investment requires sophisticated marketing that not only grabs their attention and convinces them to use the product, but also gains their buy-in to ramp up their use over time. That’s where product marketing comes in.

Anytime a company is considering buying a product, those in charge of procurement ask themselves a number of questions:

  • What will the product do?
  • Will it solve my problems?
  • How can I use it for the problems I currently have, but also to address the ones that arise in the future?

Answering these questions is the beating heart of successful product marketing. Product marketing is making the connection between your products and what your customers need out of them, and then ensuring that you make this connection clear to them.

As this great Drift slide show about product marketing illustrates, what’s unique about product marketing is that it’s equally situated in the middle of products, marketing, and sales. If you’re too focused on any one area, you sacrifice the rest.

The Goal of Product Marketing

The goal of product marketing is to build from awareness that the product exists to an understanding of how product capabilities matter to your customers. Customer satisfaction is the North Star of product marketing. You want to use the marketing funnel to take customers on a journey that highlights how you solve their issues in a sophisticated way. In the first phase of the funnel, that means outreach through blogs, SEO, social media, and white papers. But then product marketing also assists the sales team in closing and keeping accounts through the use of analytics and persuasive messaging.

So, just how do you accomplish all that?

The Tenets of Quality Product Marketing

Practice these principles to get the product marketing you want.

Start with a strategy

Product marketing straddles both pre-product launch and once the product is on the market. But the strategies for both of these phases must be hammered out up front. As Saeed Khan wrote in this excellent blog post on product marketing, “The strategic work — positioning, messaging, understanding the buyer and market dynamics etc. — is the foundation for virtually all other activities. Once defined, it can support other groups such as corporate marketing in creating consistent, highly effective collateral.” Product marketing is responsible for your go-to-market strategy and then delivering on its potential. As this great infographic shows, it should move from assessing how your product fits into the existing market, to focusing on what it does differently, to positioning it with potential and existing customers, to creating collateral that can be used in the sales process, to finally producing materials that can be used once a company purchases a document and encouraging expanded adoption. Product marketing spans the life cycle of the product and the customer relationship.

Product marketing is about positioning

That strategy must include positioning and messaging, the basis of any product marketing campaign. But don’t think of the positioning as useful only for the initial attraction phase of the marketing funnel. To convert, close, and keep customers, you constantly must show them the unique value add of your products or platforms. Your messaging should drive demand about your products and its various uses, and contextualize how it is different than anything your competitors can offer. To really be successful, all the clever language and compelling graphics must be rooted in how the customers use the product to help their businesses succeed.

Connect with your customers

Product marketing should always return to two central questions: “What do our customers need?” and “how can our products help them?” Being able to answer whether and how the product solves a meaningful problem for your customer is what should guide your strategy. Product marketing is focused on marketing to customers rather than just prospects or leads (though it can be used for those as well). It’s all about showcasing your product capabilities in terms of your customers’ unique issues.

Support the sales staff

Additionally, your strategy must incorporate sales enablement. Based on your knowledge of your customer, you should know how the sales team can successfully position and differentiate your product to close the sale. In other words, a product marketer should be able to do a killer sales call.

Focus on the right problems

To get your product marketing right, ensure it revolves around addressing these questions for your customers. You should begin by knowing your who, your target audience and market, so that you can map a successful buyer’s journey from the start. Thus, here are the questions you should be asking yourself to know if you’re on the right track:

  • What are our buyer personas and what do we offer each of them?
  • What are the capabilities of our product(s)?
  • What makes them unique?
  • What is our product’s use case for individual customers?
  • How do we effectively communicate those capabilities throughout all areas of our company so that sales and marketing have the tools they need to reach our clients where they are?

Again, this is just the first blog in a series of posts where we’ll highlight product marketing techniques and heroes of the business. As we go through this series, I want to cover how to answer each of the questions above, as well as the key skills need for product marketing, the best ways to produce quality content, and how to incorporate data into product marketing. Product marketing is essential to linking your product to your customers.

Become a master product marketer.