What Is Product Marketing? An Easy Introduction
Have you ever been scrolling the internet, minding your own business, when all of the sudden, an advertisement catches your eye? You’d think you were immune to all ads at this point, but despite your finely tuned internal ad filter, you notice. In fact, you want that thing.
Moments like that might feel like a perfect storm of luck and boredom—but it was anything but chance. That advertisement for that product appearing before your eyes at that moment was the result of long hours of intentional work by product marketers.
To help you better understand the nuances of product marketing, we’ve interviewed various product marketers and marketing managers for their perspectives on what makes product marketing such a unique field.
What is product marketing? 6 questions beginners need to know
We’ve addressed several key questions about product marketing to help you get up to speed on this important marketing focus area.
1. What is product marketing?
Product marketing is a unique branch of marketing focused directly on what it takes to bring a product (or service) to market. It combines marketing, sales and promotion since product marketers need to know what they are selling, who the product is for, the best way to reach them and the best ways to get the product in their hands.
“Product marketing requires you to understand the purpose of your product and how it works but also why people will want it,” says Chris Muller, VP of Money Under 30®. “You have to be able to get inside the head of your customers and understand what they need, then tailor your message to them.”
Additionally, product marketers need to have a strong understanding of the products and services they’re competing with and how they are positioning themselves. This can help inform strategies for important factors like distinguishing features, pricing and more.
It is this intimate understanding of the product and the competitive landscape that makes product marketers’ work stand out in advertising.
2. What is a marketing mix?
A marketing mix refers to the set of actions or strategies that promote and refine a product. A product marketer’s job does not end when the product is released. Marketers continue to work with various data points and are constantly striving to refine the story of a product. The most well-known elements of the marketing mix are called “The 4 Ps,” which will lead us directly to our next question.
3. What are the 4 Ps of marketing?
First introduced by E. Jerome McCarthy in his book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, the 4 Ps of marketing are product, price, place and promotion. While others have built upon and tweaked this framework for their specific needs, this concept remains foundational for developing product marketing strategies. So what do these pillars of product marketing mean in context? Let’s take a closer look.
Product: Define exactly what the product or service is, who it’s for and why they need it. Typically, the product needs to stand out in some way, so the first part of a product marketer’s job is to define what makes their offering so unique and necessary for the consumer.
Price: “How much?” is the first question a consumer will ask, even if they’ve been convinced of the value of the product. Product marketers need to consider all the elements of price: supply costs, competition, appropriate times for discounts and more. This factor will also need to consider the competitive niche being targeted—an extremely low-cost product being advertised as upscale or luxurious is likely to cause friction.
Place: Where can you purchase the product, and where will the advertising happen? Should this product be available in larger convenience stores? Online orders only? Are there certain media that would reach the right kind of potential consumers? All of these questions come into consideration of the place of a product.
Promotion: This is the process by which product marketers show potential consumers why their product is worth their financial investment. Advertising, web page design, public relations efforts, social media influencer outreach—promotion involves the whole strategy involved with getting the right consumers to hear about the product in the right way.
4. What does working in product marketing look like day-to-day?
For a product marketer, the day-by-day activities vary quite a bit based on what the larger goal of the day is. Is it a day for data analysis? Planning and strategizing? Creative brainstorming? Market research? Presenting findings and recommendations for approval?
“There are three significant pieces that are part of my daily routine,” says Jason Cordes, founder of CocoLoan. “Connecting and communicating with frequent core team meetings, learning and evaluating by looking at income figures and examining KPI indicators, and determining next steps through creating potential statements and hypotheses while sharing them with the appropriate parties.”
These three steps greatly inform one another, as data analysis will lead to team meetings which will lead to goal-setting and potential changes to make. While the focus of a given day can shift significantly, a lot of this work relies on critical thinking and refining varied streams of information in order to produce a comprehensive and well-thought-out plan.
5. What are some of the challenges of product marketing?
The biggest reason that product marketing is challenging is because it combines a lot of different parts of the brain into one job. “Product marketing is a unique mix of art and science,” says Helga Dosa, head of marketing for Brand Rated. “On the one hand, you need to be creative in order to craft effective messaging and positioning for your products. But on the other hand, you also need to be analytical in order to understand your customers and figure out what's going to work best for selling your products.”
Product marketers need to be both creative and analytical to stand out in their job—and that’s not always an easy mix to find.
6. What advice would experts give to future product marketers?
One piece of advice from our experts begins with an expression. "It's easier to sell hot chocolate on a cold winter's day than a hot summer's one,” says Ryan Webb, founder of AppIntent. Webb points out that it is essential for product marketers to be able to put themselves in the best positions to be successful. “If you understand your customers, and you understand their needs, and you do your research, then marketing becomes more about providing a product or service that meets demand, rather than creating demand for a product or service that customers may or may not need.”
This role demands powerful communication skills. “Develop strong writing skills,” says Dosa. “In product marketing, you'll be responsible for crafting messaging and positioning for your products. It's important to make sure this messaging is clear, concise and resonates with your target market.”
One last piece of advice likens product marketing to a board game and the importance of planning ahead. “It's like playing a game of chess,” says Muller. “You're constantly thinking six moves ahead of your opponent—but instead of trying to outsmart an opponent who knows what they're doing, you're trying to outsmart all of the people who might buy from or compete with you in some way.”
Where could a marketing degree take you?
Are you the kind of person who enjoys having both the analytical and creative sides of their brain stimulated? A career in marketing could be the perfect direction for you. Now that you know more about what product marketing is, you may be interested in learning about some of the other potential roles associated with a Marketing degree.
To learn more about some of your potential options, check out “What Can You Do With a Marketing Degree? 10 Potential Options.”
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