Take a moment and Google What you’ll find are endless blog posts and articles all trying to explain what exactly product marketing is, and it’s not hard to see why.
At best, product marketing’s fit within an organization can be described as unusual. At worst, it’s hazy, with roles, responsibilities and even metrics that vary from company to company. Product marketing isn’t quite sales or product management, but it’s not quite classical marketing either — at least not in the way most companies define traditional marketing roles related to demand generation, digital, brand/creative, content, search and events.
In its current state, I define product marketing as the process of bringing a product or service to market. To do this successfully, product marketers live at the intersection of sales, product management and marketing — and are responsible for understanding how a product technically works, articulating its value and defining its market fit, price and the right personas to sell to. Then finally, we are responsible for tactically managing the way a business introduces its new product to the world.
Aligning Product Management, Marketing And Sales
Product marketers help product management teams understand the real-world problems their solutions solve for the people they’re building them for. We also help sales and customer success teamswith the tools, training and context they need to actually sell a new-value story to another human being. And finally, we provide marketing teams with the content they need to launch campaigns and the knowledge of whom to target.
A good product marketer puts themselves in the shoes of others for a living, including the internal folks they work with on product management, sales and marketing teams. This means that product marketers understand how their company’s product road map, sales pipeline and marketing programs individually work — and how they all fit together.
The Problem With Software Product Marketing: Too Many Products, Too Much Marketing
I believe that software product marketing as we know it needs to evolve. There are too many products making too much noise. With an estimated 10,000 private software-as-a-service companies in existence, there are more software options available today than ever before.
It’s a crowded market, in every market — both in terms of buyers’ appetite to adopt products and their willingness to listen to product announcements. And with the average attention span somewhere between eight and twelve seconds, we risk our market getting lost in our marketing.
Less ‘Story-yelling,’ More Storytelling
This change likely won’t be easy. It may mean leaving the one-off announcements I playfully call “story-yelling” behind and getting started on the real work — the hard work — of intimately understanding the human journeys that our buyers are on. Human beings inherently don’t want to be sold or marketed to, but they do love stories — especially stories that they can relate to and can even visualize themselves in, and those probably aren’t being communicated through your latest product press release.
According to neuroscience professor and researcher Antonio Damasio, “Emotion is a necessary ingredient in almost all decisions” — and that includes buying decisions. That tells me that for product marketers to continue to connect to buyers, we need to tell authentic, creative and deeply personal human stories that buyers actually love.
The Future’s Already Here
Luckily, software product marketing is already changing before our eyes. This year, both Shopify and Mailchimp announced in-house studios to develop long- and short-form content like documentaries, podcasts and even series — all dedicated to telling inspiring and true stories of entrepreneurship in a variety of different formats that people love.
Read press releases and news articles about these companies’ entertainment studios, and you won’t find much about the e-commerce or email tools they actually sell. Because that’s not the point. This is the next step in the evolution of software product marketing that we’re beginning to see at organizations as expectations shift from “Can you write a one-pager on how this product works?” to “Can you connect the problems we’re solving to the real-life stories of our customers in a medium that’s fun, creative and accessible to our buyers?”
It may sound silly, but I believe that software product marketers need to start paying attention to the most successful communication formats we have — as in the storytelling we all actually consume for fun. I recommend that to start, you take a step back from your daily lives as product marketers and begin analyzing the communication mediums you admire as consumers. If you aren’t already, begin listening to podcasts, watching documentaries and even going to live comedy shows to begin to understand how these outputs are created, who you’d need to hire and what you’d need to build to support the creation of campaigns like these. Then, begin drafting actual scripts and project proposals that fit your product stories into these new storytelling formats. This is how we can cut through the noise in the software world and usher in a future that’s less about traditional marketing and more about journeys — less about products and more about people.
In doing so, the primary responsibility of product marketing will be to tie human empathy, understanding, trust and even love to the software products we sell. From what I’ve seen, brands like Shopify and Mailchimp are not only setting the standard for product marketing; they’re ushering in its future in that sense. Because when you put in the work to build deep human connections through the stories you’re telling to buyers, the software tools that they’ll instinctively use to accomplish their goals will likely be yours.