Product Management 101: How To Market Your Product

by drjim on December 5, 2011

If you don't do a good job of marketing your product, it won't sell

If you don’t do a good job of marketing your product, it won’t sell

You’d think that we’d all know how to market our products simply because we get marketed to every single day. It turns out that this is not the case simply because there are a lot of different components that go into successfully marketing a product. Although you’d think that this kind of activity would be part of everyone’s product manager job description , it turns out that picking which component is the most important is where most product managers go wrong…

What Product Marketing Is NOT

One of the reasons that creating an effective marketing program for your product is so difficult is simply because there are so many different ways to go about doing it. If you go ask an account manager or a business development manager at your company what they are looking for in a product marketing program, you’ll get two very different answers. Simply trying to figure out where to start can be a challenge in of itself.

The first place that many product managers start is with customer segmentation. The thinking goes that if you can figure out exactly who is the best fit for your product, then selling it to them should be simple. Good thought, but it’s not quite right.

The next thought comes down to focusing on exactly what you are planning on offering to your customers. Exactly what you include in your offer (extras, warrantee, guarantee, etc.) is important, but it’s not the right place to start.

All product managers seem to be drawn to the words that we use in advertising and promoting our product. I’m not sure why, but I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that this is one of the few things that we feel that we actually have some control over. Once again, this is not the place to start your marketing efforts.

Price is something that can keep a product manager up all night: am I charging too much or, even worse, too little. I’ll grant that price is important, but when it comes to marketing it’s not the most important thing.

Finally, your distribution channels can be a key part of any product marketing program. Keeping your channels happy and getting them to promote your product is a key goal for any product manager. However, it’s not the most important thing when it comes down to marketing your product.

What Product Marketing IS

Now that it seems as though we’ve just about eliminated all of the possible things that a product manager could use as starting points for a product marketing program, what’s left? Well, the most important thing is left: your product.

Yep, that’s where you need to start your marketing efforts: the product. Maybe I need to explain myself here. I’m not really asking you to focus on your product with all of its features. Rather, when it comes to marketing your product you need to focus on your customer. What does your product really do for your customer? What problems does it solve? What benefits does it deliver? Get the answers to these questions right, and you’ll have an important addition to your product manager resume.

Here’s the key point: do your customers really need your product? Is that need urgent and immediate? If they buy your product, will their lives get better?

If it turns out that yes, your customers do need your product then all of the other components of your marketing program will fall into place. Keep in mind that you first need to nail down what your customers really want.

In the end this is going to require three things from you: market research, testing, and guessing. Yep, sorry about that folks. No matter how much data you have on your customers in the end it’s always going to come down to making an educated guess on your part. Sometimes you’ll be right, sometimes you’ll be wrong. Every good product marketing program has to have the ability to monitor customer reactions and adjust as needed.

What All Of This Means For You

Product managers have a great number of different roles that we are expected to fill in order to make our products successful. One of these roles is to market our product to the potential customers who need it – part of the overall strategic management of our product. The challenge that we face in doing this is that there are many different ways to market a product, which one is right for your product?

It’s all too easy to get lost in the details of marketing a product: market segmentation, defining the offer, creating ads, or even setting the right price. In the end what really matters is the product. Not the actual product, but the bundle of benefits that you are offering to your customers.

There’s an old saying that goes like this “A great product will sell itself even if the marketing is poorly done, but great marketing will never sell a poor product.” Take these words to heart and make sure that your product does the best job of meeting your customer’s real needs.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What criteria do you think that a product manager should use to determine if a product should be killed?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

A quick question for you: are you afraid to fail? Would you be willing to take on responsibility for a product that might not be a success? I’m willing to bet that a lot of us would say “no” – our company’s product managers who are perfect are rewarded while product managers who fail are kicked to the curb. Nowhere on the product manager job description is there a place where you can brag about how many times you’ve failed. However, I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong – get ready to fail if you want to succeed.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Leadership That Gets Results December 9, 2011 at 5:47 am

So true! It pays to know how to sell your product!

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Dr. Jim Anderson December 10, 2011 at 12:56 pm

It sure does! Sadly, this is probable the one place where most product managers are the weakest. We can create the product, but then we just expect our customers to show up and order it. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way…!

Reply

jivendu December 11, 2011 at 2:29 am

So essentially we are talking about communicating to our prospects on how our product will benefit them and show them value/return of the investement.

Now, one of the key aspects and also a major decision is on ‘How do you communicate?’. The ‘communication media’, ‘Frequency’, ‘Timing’ etc.
An effective way is to find where and when and to which media do our probable customers or users spend time, or agreeing to spend time.

for e.g.

a new shampoo launch can be advertised on television during commercial break in a family series

A software for IT department can be present in ‘IT magazines’;’promotion at IT events’ for the CIO.

For above to be effective, Clear and crisp identification of the user of the product is a must. What I am pointing at is that your customer may be a ‘hospital’ but who is your user? Doctor/ Nurse / CMO / CFO / CIO etc.

For example

a software product generally comes comes from the CIO’s budget but is used by the COO and business operations team.

In this case the media for marketing communication should be forums where COO participate.

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Dr. Jim Anderson December 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Jivendu: great point. It can get even more complex if you start to think the entire buying process out from start to finish. You advertise to capture the CEO’s attention. He tells the CIO to look into it. He assigns some software engineers to call you up. Wow — your communication program has to account for all of the different ears that are going to hear it. Nobody ever said that this was going to be easy…!

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