The Role of Product Marketing
Product marketing is the function of understanding the target customer’s needs, and promoting and selling the product to the target customer. In many organizations this is a different function from product management, which is responsible for defining the product that the company will build. Obviously the two functions must interact closely, but each has a different primary focus.
The product marketer is focused on the market. This includes analyzing and understanding the market, and presenting the product to the market. In other words, product marketers must bring information in and get it out. These activities are summarized in the table below:
|Inputs to the company||Outputs to the market|
|Define market needs or problems that the product should address||Define key messages to the communicate product benefits to the target market|
|Complete a competitive analysis to understand other offerings in the market||Create marketing materials about the product|
|Identify which market segments the product will target||Define the sales approach|
|Define market requirements for the product||Create lead generation plans|
|Create buyer persona documents that describe the personality, behavior, and desires of buyer types||Develop sales materials such as Web site content, brochures, presentations, and product demonstrations|
|Determine price||Provide training and support to distribution channel partners|
The product management function will use the inputs from product marketing to define detailed product requirements and oversee the development of products that meet those requirements. We will discuss the complexity of this process further when we delve into new-product development.
Product marketing and product management are both functions that must be managed well, but in different organizations they are managed differently. The specific roles of individuals will vary significantly depending on the company and the types of products. In a very large company there may be teams of individuals in the product marketing function filling very specialized roles. In a very small company, a single individual may fill both the product marketing and product management functions. In general, it is difficult to span both product marketing and product management because the skills needed to understand and translate broad market needs are different from the skills needed to create detailed product requirements.
The Marketing Mix
As you can see from the list of responsibilities, the product marketing function is not confined to only one aspect of the marketing mix. Instead, the product marketing function focuses on a single product or product line across the marketing mix. Let’s look at a specific example of the product marketing role and a corporate marketing role, and see how they each use the marketing mix.
When Apple introduced the Apple Watch, they had a large team responsible for product marketing. The team was following emerging technology, consumer, and societal trends and identifying what would impact customer needs. They became experts in the features and marketing of competitive products. Product marketers defined the target buyer for the watch and identified the key features the buyer would require. They met with distribution partners. The product marketing team developed pricing recommendations. They managed tradeoffs involving features, schedule, cost, and pricing. They also traveled to trade shows, customer briefings, and press visits to talk about the watch. The product marketing team was Apple’s resident expert on the target market for the Apple watch and the marketing strategy for that product.
Prior to the product launch, product marketing worked with Apple’s marketing communications team to develop the press releases, press strategy, and marketing materials for the launch and ongoing sales. Marketing communications is a corporate function that works across all products. They do not try to become experts in each product but look to the product marketing team to bring that expertise. Instead, the marketing communications team are experts in promotion across all of Apple’s products.
Product marketing understands the right message for the Apple watch’s target market. The marketing communications team knows how to get a writer at the New York Times to write a story about that message.