Lessons Product Marketing

Four crucial product marketing lessons

Product marketing is an odd role, a combination of marketing, product, and sales. More often than not, product marketers fall into the role rather than determine it as their career choice.

At least, that’s my experience. Thrust from general marketing into product marketing through an acquisition, I’ve now gained over four years of product marketing experience across startups, scale-ups, and bigger businesses. I’ve launched products, corporate rebrands, and helped drive hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. And I’ve worked with many different marketers and product marketers, and learnt from their unique experience and skill-sets.

Based on my experience and those observations, here are four lessons I’ve found crucial to understand and learn to develop as a product marketer.

1. Develop a ‘do’ mindset

Product marketers spend most of their time thinking about concepts, systems, and processes. But that time and exerted cognitive effort is wasted if your plans are never put into action. I get anxious when important decisions are left unresolved and personally feel the cost of inaction, especially if it’s affecting a key goal I’m invested in.

It’s important to always be looking forward. What’s the next step to get you closer to an outcome? What data, insights, or involvement can you bring to the table to help decision makers reach a conclusion?

Another part of the ‘do’ mindset is looking at what you can do now and what you can do later. Set out an MVP, get feedback, collaborate, and iterate: do what you can now.

2. Think like your customer

I’m not going to say you should “walk a mile in your customer’s shoes,” or that “the customer is always right,” or another tired cliche. But you do need to think like them.

Obviously, that requires a good understanding of who your customer is: their needs, concerns, challenges, risks, and worldview. It also requires an internalization that not every customer is your ideal customer; that, while the customer may always be right, the customer may not be right for you.

What is crucial is ensuring everyone in your business is aligned on who the customer is. As a product marketer, you’re charged with ensuring that is clearly understood, and evolves accordingly.

3. Be comfortable with change

The ability to adapt to change is one of the most important traits a marketer can have. In my first product marketing role over two and a half years, our company through three CEOs, three CMOs, three rebrands and repositioning exercises, and two acquired product launches. Non. Stop. Change. And (overall), it was fine. We dealt with it, and made it happen.

Often, change is the only consistency in product marketing .Whether your plans are disrupted by internal decisions or external influences, it’s our job to roll up our sleeves, challenge on the aspects we believe in or disagree with, and bring products to market as best we can.

4. Recognize your approach to communication

I first heard about this in a Pragmatic Marketing seminar, and it really helped me understand how colleagues in other teams think. Most roles fall into one of two communication mindset: ‘one-to-one’ or ‘one-to-many’. Understanding your mindset will make you more aware of how you structure your communication and how it affects your daily role.

One-to-one roles and mindsets are focused on communicating and satisfying one person at a time. Generally, people in one-to-one roles feel each unique customer’s pain and want to ‘solve’ for individuals — whether the ‘one feature’ that a customer really needs, or the ‘one complaint’ that we should go over-and-above for to keep their business.

One-to-many roles focus on the opposite: ‘solving’ for groups and segments. That’s not to say they don’t feel individual pain, but instead focus on broader trends and patterns to identify challenges. One-to-many communicators focus on simplifying broad messages, like marketing new benefits to customer segments, or training teams on new processes.

Support and sales teams are most likely to be ‘one-to-one’ thinkers, while marketing and product teams are more likely to be ‘one-to-many’. Understanding your colleagues mindset will bring perspective and empathy to your professional relationships.

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