December 27, 2016

How and When to Invest in Product Marketing

The following is a guest post by Yan Tang

When fitness startup ClassPass is doing everything to devise new product offering that would satisfy and affect users, its marketing team gets a better understanding of what users wanted and figures out the one process: getting in the mind of your customers. What the biggest public marketing comes from making better products, having a more focused team and making users happier. In an exclusive interview, Joanna Lord, Chief Marketing Officer at ClassPass, clarifies "what product marketing really is and why founders should consider investing in it sooner rather than later." She also shares her professional advice on establishing a top-notch product marketing team. And Ms. Lord correctly emphasizes the importance of putting the customers first in all things.

What is Product Marketing Is – and Isn't

"Product marketing, at its heart, is about understanding what you're building, why you invested in it, and how it will benefit the user—and then messaging that understanding to your customer," according to Ms. Lord. There are four key tasks that can help a company determine the product marketing:
  1. What to build (which typically overlaps with product);
  2. Who to build for (which typically overlaps with UX, or business development/sales);
  3. How to price it (which typically overlap with pricing, marketing, product, or sales);
  4. And how to sell it (which overlaps with marketing and sales).
Primarily, product marketing is "an exercise in communicating with your customers, and helping them understand the full value of everything you build for them." It is more about assisting existing customers to understand the products and features and engage with them.

When to Kick-start Product Marketing

If you are wondering when and how to integrate product marketing, consider these two key questions: How big is your company? And how complex is your product portfolio?

It is easier for smaller companies to navigate resources in marketing and sales." If you have one product, and it's super early for the company, you could even have someone on your product team, or your marketing team, playing this role 50% of the time," Ms. Lord explains. Even CEOs from really small early-stage start-ups can play a role of product marketers.

If your products are complicated, however, you might want to invest in product marketing early, no matter what the size of the company.

How to Hire for the Right Skill Set

It is very important to build an effective team of people who can create great products and message them into the public. When it is time to invest it companies should have a marketing team with a particular combination of hard and soft skills, such as ideation, agile development, launching releases, go-to-market and demand generation.

Except subject-matter expertise, some key traits should be considered when a company looks for a stellar product marketer.
  • Drawn to details
  • Researches by default
  • Fetches feedback
  • Identifies as cross functional
There is always a lot to look for, and companies can design some interview questions or create a process for digging deeper into a candidate's qualifications.

The Fine Art of Launching Product Marketing

Once you have recruit a right person for the job, proceed thoughtfully to integrate the new individual with the rest of your team- there is actually more of an art to it than you might think.

The addition of even one new member requires that the entire team regroup and rebond, finding new ways of working and ultimately recreating their dynamics and working style. Also, new product markers themselves need to take the responsibility of proving their worth and establishing a team that the rest of team members respects and values. Ms. Lords says: "that boils down to open, humble communication. The product marketer has to be an expert at asking questions and understanding both the customer and their internal stakeholder." Being objective and a team player are the keys to great product marketing.

How to Measure Success for Product Marketing

How do you know, however, if you are actually reaching the target customer? The four key elements mentioned above have their own set of metrics:
  1. What to build (engagement metrics: log-ins, usage stats, sales figures);
  2. Who to build for (customer feedback loop, cancellation surveys, funnel conversion rates);
  3. How to price it (surveying and customer research);
  4. And how to sell it (traditional acquisition metrics:click through and conversion rates etc.).
"Every dimension of product marketing is measured a different way, but it's absolutely a measurable science." That being said, at every stage of your growth, all of those metrics should be given different attention. The importance of certain part of product marketing varies at any given time.

So when you are thinking about investing in product marketing, what else you will take into consideration?

Yan Tang is enrolled in the Professional Master of Business Administration (Marketing) program at Seattle University. She also serves as a Business Relationship Management and Small Business Coach at Seattle University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Previously, Ms. Tang worked for Manpower in the company's Shanghai, China office where she served in several roles including Service Consultant, On-Site Project Manager for IBM Shanghai, and Recruitment Consultant. Ms. Tang may be contacted at

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