Global Product Marketing is a rapidly evolving field, yet for many growing B2B technology companies a full-time product marketing manager is not yet a justifiable full-time position. Still, it’s never too early to begin incorporating product marketing into any B2B company’s approach to product development, sales and marketing messaging, and competitive intelligence. This article focuses on core global product marketing functions and how to make smarter business decisions from a fuller set of data and perspectives.
I first encountered global product marketing at a healthcare software company located north of San Francisco, California. It was in response to a business disaster. 150 product development professionals (nearly 100% of programming hours) spent a year developing a new order management system for hospitals. The only problem was that when the software product went live, the company’s healthcare clients hated it. They said they would never be able to use it. The company needed better product direction that was truly aligned with market demand. They hired 3 product marketing managers – 2 registered nurses and 1 technical staff – all with healthcare informatics background. The next try at order management proved to be a greater success, along with additional products and upgrades sold worldwide.
The problem with the California healthcare software company was one of isolation. The software development department was more than two thirds of the company headcount and stacked with PhDs who knew architecture, coding, etc. on every level. But no one thought to ask current clients what they wanted. No one bothered to find out features and functions of competitive products. Build product in a vacuum and you are very unlikely to hit the mark.
What Are Proactive Product Marketing Functions You Can Start Adding NOW?
I still run into CEOs of US$50M companies who have no clue that the value of marketing goes well beyond handing out company-branded swag at a trade show or printing a brochure for sales to leave with prospective clients. Product marketing is just one area, but here’s what you can start doing even before you reach the point where product marketing staff can be hired:
- Understand the uses of your product and purchase motivations across all global markets.
- Leverage company competitive advantages.
- Gather and Analyze international competitive intelligence.
- Look at trends and other changes in the competitive, regulatory and industry environments that will affect sales.
- Provide key marketing insights into the product development process in the early stages to help define product features and functions that will best serve current and future clients.
- Create messaging for sales, marketing, partners, and company executives to stay on point not just at home but in all markets.
Tips for Great Product Marketing
Product Marketing is a field that attracts professionals from technical, marketing, analytical and research backgrounds. Here is my advice to making the most out of any product marketing project:
- Ask questions, even when you think they may sound stupid. This is particularly key in global markets. We often assume that other markets buy and use our product for the same reasons as the home market. There can be any number of reasons why that would not be the case. Any number of corporate casualties have littered the global business landscape with their failure to adapt.
- Listen proactively. It is not enough to ask a good question, but the answer may lead to the right follow-up questions. This can sometimes lead to uncovering a new market segment or product use, among other valuable insights.
- Stay on top of trends affecting your markets. Set aside time each week to know what is happening in your industry. Is a competitor releasing a major product? Does a new regulation in Germany now reduce access to that market? Is the latest economic downturn going to affect market demand for your product? Knowing what’s coming can help your company to prepare.
- Follow your curiosity into the data and with industry experts. I once uncovered a $24M market for a software company just by noticing a trend in existing company data and making a phone call on a hunch to a professional colleague I know from Twitter. Do ask some dumb questions. Follow those hunches!
- Form strong relationships with product development staff. Instead of dictating product features, functions and appearance, it is better to partner closely with product development to jointly problem solve on key product definitions.
Product Marketing by its nature is proactive. Instead of waiting for competitors to leap ahead in product development or wondering why competitors are gaining market share or why the sales close rate has fallen, it is time to take control of your company’s destiny and growth path in a more systemic way.
Onward & upward!
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