9 Rules of Product Marketing
⏱ Reading Time: 9 minutes
A great product marketing manager (PMM) knows how to drive demand and boost sales. To achieve this, skilled product marketers build their campaigns by focusing on the steps prospects take before buying. In today’s market, it’s more important than ever for PMMs to understand the needs of their buyers.
Product marketing strategies typically cover the launch, building awareness, and driving demand. For strategies to be effective, the work of the PMM involves bringing together efforts of the marketing, sales, and product development teams. PMMs can perform better by following some rules for best practices and here are the most effective ones.
Most Important Rules of Product Marketing
1. Define Your Unique Selling Proposition
Advertising Age magazine named DeBeers’ tagline as the best slogan of the 20th century. “A diamond is forever” is DeBeers’ promise that your diamond ring will signify eternal love. A brand’s tagline or slogan should clearly communicate the unique selling proposition (USP). DeBeers’ USP is part of the reason the company is the world’s leading trader of diamond engagement rings.
Having a clear USP makes it easier for the sales team to perform their functions. In negotiation classes, attendees can learn how to use customer benefits to define a USP.
To drive your product marketing goals, define a USP that your target customers can identify with. A clear USP communicated in a catchy slogan can draw attention to your products and benefits. Your USP communicates your commitment. It also tells the customer what your brand stands for. With a great USP, your product can help you stand out on the market.
Picture 1. De Beers Group example
2. Identify Your Prospects
Which types of consumers are likely to care about your product? Which kinds of customers will want to spend money on your product at your price point? The answers to these questions can define your product marketing strategy.
Identify your prospects by creating a buyer profile, also known as a buyer persona. Having a deep understanding of your ideal customers can be critical in:
- Crafting your messaging.
- Addressing customer pain points.
- Designing your product.
- Driving your sales follow-up.
- Powering your customer acquisition strategies.
To identify prospects, PMMs can use information like age, gender, location, and business background. The buyer persona could also include information such as the challenges the prospect may be facing.
For instance, in a world full of social media apps, it can be difficult to penetrate the market. Yet, TikTok, formerly musc.ly, exploded to become one of the three topmost downloaded smartphone apps. TikTok early on targeted teens and young adults. The app appeals to the young demographic because of the ability to post short, entertaining video stories.
3. Research Your Competitors
Researching your competitors is a vital part of product marketing. With research, your brand can gain better insights on prospective customers to aid negotiations.
For effective competitor analysis, you should pick the right competitors to analyze. It’s crucial to not focus only on the major players in your industry. Instead, choose a cross-section of big and small, direct and indirect competitors. Decide which aspects of the competition’s business are worth your analysis. Some online tools available for real-time competitor analysis include SpyFu, QuickSprout and Alexa.
4. Prepare a Go-To-Market Plan
Nike faced a disastrous product launch when introducing their Nike+ FuelBand fitness tracker. According to the International Business Times, Nike’s problems were mainly due to concerns over user data.
Consumers believed that the brand gave misleading information about the band’s ability to give accurate fitness reports. The FuelBand may have also failed because of Nike’s focus on iPhone users. By ignoring Android users, they also ignored almost 70% of the fitness wearables and apps market share.
To avoid launch challenges, marketers should be strategic about how they deliver their USP to target customers. In contrast to the Nike+ FuelBand fiasco, Southwest Airlines adopted a more customer-centric approach. The airline rejected the traditional “hub-and-spoke” flight routing system and adopted the “point-to-point” system. Southwest’s approach meant customers had more options for direct flights without going through different connecting flights.
5. Adopt an Outside-In Approach
Many companies today are realizing more success by using outside-in strategies. An inside-out approach leverages an organization’s strengths. In contrast, inside-out strategies focus on maximizing customer value.
The problem with inside-out strategies is they tend to distract companies from providing value. Inside-out also limits the organization’s ability to adapt to marketplace changes. Negotiation class leaders often stress how creating value and being adaptable on the market are vital value to closing deals. This is especially true when introducing new products into the market.
The Best Buy retail brand offers one of the best illustrations of the outside-in approach. When most PC retailers were reducing their costs and downsizing their services, Best Buy formed the Geek Squad. From 2012 to date, these tech-savvy employees continue to provide support to customers. In that period, Best Buy stock has risen 174%. Meanwhile, other retailers such as Radio Shack and CompUSA fell by the wayside.
Picture 2. Geek Squad by Best Buy
6. Refine Your Messaging
As a PMM, you may know and love the product you’re selling. However, your prospects may not be as keen straight off the bat. Your messaging is what can build up a prospect’s passion for your product. One of the first things PMMs should consider is how to get people to notice the product. How can you make prospects come knocking?
For example, at a time when shoppers were turning away from big retailers because of cheap imports destroying local industries, Walmart changed their messaging. The brand slogan changed from “Always the low price. Always” to “Save Money. Live Better.” While Walmart’s old slogan focused on the “what,” the new slogan focused on the “so what?”. It spoke clearly about the benefits of shopping and saving with Walmart.
Your messaging should convey your product’s core purpose and your brand values. For effective messaging, start by identifying the real benefits of your product. Give your product an identity that resonates with customers’ experiences. Developing a unique and fact-based product story to illustrate your USP. When designing your product story, think about:
- The customer angle: What does the customer care about?
- The brand angle: What do your sales reps feel about the sales process? What are your brand’s long-term goals and vision?
- The competitive angle: How does your messaging compare to others in the market? How can you attract sales without buyers confusing your brand with a competitor’s?
7. Develop Your Marketing Channels
Talking to the right prospects at the right time can lead to better negotiation outcomes. PMMs can reach the right candidates in more ways than ever before. The internet and social media are especially full of marketing opportunities.
With so many options, you want to spend your time and money on the most impactful tactics. You don’t have to be on every available marketing channel to succeed. Instead, you need to focus on the right channel for your brand.
A marketing channel can be any platform or method for reaching your prospects. Some of the most popular product marketing channels include:
- Digital resources such as websites, apps, and social media.
- Print media such as newspapers, magazines, and brochures.
- Broadcast media such as radio and television.
- Live events such as a product launch.
The options and methods are as many as they are varied. You may also have to figure out whether to invest in:
Investing in too many channels may overstretch your resources. Target the class of channels where your prospects are most likely to take action on your message. Choosing a channel that has measurable benefits is also important. Make sure to track your progress and tweak your approach.
8. Leverage Impact Stories
Consumer impact stories are heartwarming anecdotes about how your product or service has benefited a customer. Impact stories express a satisfied customer’s point of view. Told in the right way, an impact story tugs at the audience’s heartstrings. Authentic, relatable stories forge emotional connections. In turn, the audience is more likely to make a purchase.
For example, Shopify features video stories of how people are using the platform to run the businesses of their dreams.
A different type of impact story is like the strategy by MouthFoods. The Indie-food retailer highlights the personal stories of the farmers and small business owners who make indie foods. Underscoring the impact your business has on suppliers can work great in adding value to your products. Supplier impact stories can attract buyers and smooth negotiations with new suppliers.
When you’re launching a new business and don’t yet have customers, supplier impact stories work well.
Picture 3. Supplier impact stories from MouthFoods
9. Invest in A/B Testing
Most market environments are in flux. For PMMs, there are almost always new trends to consider and new demographics to target. A/B testing is a great way to compare the effectiveness of one experience against another.
In most A/B testing, the customer usually isn’t even aware of the two variant experiences. For example, A/B testing might involve showing two different web pages and tracking which one provides a higher impact. You may experiment with different wording, different calls to action, or different designs.
A more sophisticated alternative is to use the A/B/n test, where you use more than two variations. The most famous example is when Google was deciding which hue of the color blue to use on search result pages. Google tested over 40 different shades.
A/B testing has the benefit of continually improving your strategy and results. The key to successful A/B testing is to know what to measure and vary. A simple hypothesis template would look like this:
Our current stats for …. is ….
If we …(define what changes to make)
Then …(explain your desired effect)
Because …(mention changes you expect in user experience)
For example, imagine your sales page’s call to action button currently averages two clicks per one hundred page visitors. That represents a 2% click-through rate (CTR). If you change the call-to-action button from green to red, maybe the CTR rises to 3.7%.
A/B testing is a continual process that may last throughout the product’s lifetime. You test, pick the winner, and then test against another. Rinse and repeat the process as you grow your market.
Product Marketing Wrap-Up
Product marketing can be a long game, focusing on attracting and retaining customers. To boost the effectiveness of campaigns, PMMs often follow the above nine rules.
For instance, without a clear USP, your target market may find it difficult to relate to your offerings. Identifying your prospects makes your campaign much more focused, with greater chances of success. Done right, each of the nine rules work to bring you return customers and build your brand image.
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