Product Marketing Defined

So just what is Product Marketing? When you tell people who are unfamiliar with the industry (even many who are familiar with the industry) that you are in marketing, they invariably say, "Oh, so do you do advertising or sales?"

Once I tried explaining the scope of my product marketing job to my parents, but they were bored to tears by the time I was half way through. After that I just told people that I am responsible for all aspects of a product-line at my company.

The definition of Product Marketing changes slightly and even drastically within each the company. The following loosely describes the scope of the job. In larger companies it encompasses only one or two of these functions. In smaller companies it is all these functions and often more. In start-ups it is all this, Marketing Communications (public relations, advertising, collateral production, trade shows) and other functions such as product quality assurance, documentation and, in the case of one of my raw start-up jobs, delivering the mail! (Don't worry, I promise not to spend too much time here on the most efficient methods mail delivery.)

  • Product Conception - Encompasses market research and includes customer feedback, analysis, tracking product requirements, providing a product road map, positioning, and the product planning cycle, up to the point that a Marketing Requirements Document (MRD) is generated.

  • Product Development - The Product development cycle starts when a product is funded and continues through beta test until the time of the release. It encompasses running team meetings, refining requirements during the cycle, running focus groups, and beta testing.

  • Product Launch - The most intense part of the product cycle is the period where the product is announced to the outside world and the first order can be placed. A good product roll-out requires careful timing and coordination with many people internal to the company as well as external resources.  Product launch includes a product introduction plan, pricing, press relations including: press kit, speaking with press and analysts, press release, reviewer's guide, data sheets and brochures, customer evaluation guide, sales guides, (different for different channels), notifications to customers and channels, product presentation, advertising, BOMs (bills of material) and inventory, web update and promotions.

  • Product Sustaining - An area not to be ignored is the sustaining the product in the market. A product requires constant attention while it is being sold. Product updates and promotion are key elements of maximizing a Product's success. Product sustaining includes writing newsletters and bulletins, road shows and seminars, customer councils, programs, promotions, price changes, and running or participating in sales meetings.

  • Discontinuance - A part of the job many product managers would just as soon ignore is product discontinuance. But regular discontinuance of products is vital to keep a company healthy. Many companies have failed because they needed all their resources to sustain existing products couldn't perform new product research and development to remain competitive. Product discontinuance includes deciding when a product should be discontinued, writing a discontinuance plan, and notifications.

I recently heard "product marketing" referred to as the organization that is supposed to guide sales through lead generation and qualification. I think that is a bit of a stretch even in a small company. But the product manager does have ultimate responsibility for the product and the product's success in the market. The purpose of this book is to walk through each phase of the product lifecycle and outline the product manager's responsibilities and role, and provide guidance on how to succeed at this very important, but extremely challenging position.