The role of Product Marketing is in need of innovation and evolving as the world goes social, mobile and content driven. Like any good evolution, this would also be a time to re-think the moniker of Product Marketing as well. The downfall is in part due to the name, Product Marketing. The moniker is outdated and inside out, product focused. Customers are more savvy these days, they do not need to be sold on the functions of a product that they have already researched the market to find as a short list of products that:
- Performs the task they are seeking
- Has the features they are seeking
- Are endorsed by previous buyers
- Are market competitive
Let’s face it, very few of us represent products that are bleeding edge, leaving most marketers polishing the message of products in mature markets where feature differentiation is all but a distant memory of higher flying times. Far too much time, energy and content is spent on the product, what it does, how it does it and a lengthy list of features that the buyer already understands. At this point it becomes a difficult conversation regarding price and cost to the buyer. What happened to the value delivered?
There are so many Dilbert strips picking on Marketing, I had to do a double take when providing this link that there hasn’t been a strip on the topic of marketing since 2010. Blessing or Curse? Could that be right? Well, there are 272 strips out there, so it is high time for a reprieve on marketing.
In all seriousness, the nature of marketing must be an outside in function in knowing the challenges of the consumers in the market and the solutions they are seeking. I have found many marketers have objectives of:
- Driving leads for a product to drive sales for the product
- Training a sales and/or partner organization on the features of a product
- Growing awareness and education of a product in the market
Surely if the market, our sales staff, sales engineers and partners had a better grasp of the product and how it functions, then surely they would be selling it like umbrellas in a hurricane. These are all internal goals that cannot be achieved by continuing to educate and preach how a product functions as benefits or value of the product, if even attempting to articulate value. These are all achievable as a by-product of focusing on the customer and the solution they require, whether they are specifically looking for it by name or not.
Features and how they work are not benefits and value to the customer. In these situations, the customer already knows more than you and your sales teams and they end up in an uncomfortable situation they never want to be in, again merely discussing price.
I think back a few years ago when I picked-up my first Smartphone. The sales associate asked me what I like about my current phone and my response was very blunt, matter of fact and to the point, “That it works. When it rings, I answer it. When I want to make a call, I make a call. That’s it, no need for all this texting, browsing, apps and such, I have a laptop for all that.” I might have mentioned I traveled for work frequently and since he was obligated to start with the high end phone first, what he did next was hone in on the GPS feature and the link to my address book for fast directions to hundreds of locations already in my hand. I obviously did not have this feature with the phone I was currently holding and I travel. I stopped him mid sentence and asked, “You mean I don’t have to carry a second device? I don’t have to pay extra for the usage? It works everywhere in this country? SOLD, don’t say another word or you will mess up this sale.“
I was in this store because I apparently liked my current carrier and their service, I just needed a new phone. The associate honed in on the one thing of value creating a solution for a challenge I never stated, above what I had currently to move me to the next level of service without selling me on all the new service features I had already decided I didn’t want at an added price.
I reference this story as the role of Product Marketing has made a shift in the market to stories of solutions and getting to the why solution for your audience or customer. I say audience or customer because as marketers, we are always required to tell the stories that pique the interest of our internal sales channel, our external sales and consulting partners, current and future customers. The story must focus on what is the perceived value of the audience and is different based upon the audience – one story does not fit all. Examples of the story might include the following:
- Internal Sales Channel – How can they make money as fast as possible? How easy is it to sell this product and what solutions can be derived from it? What is the customer value for this solution?
- External Partners – Similar to the internal sales channel, how can we make money with your products over a competitors products? Do these products help us generate services revenue and what are these solutions? How much care and feeding is required for these solutions?
- Current Customers – What’s in it for me to upgrade? Upgrades are work, how do I improve my place in the organization with this upgrade? How will it make my job easier and get me that next promotion?
- Future Customers – What is the value to my organization for this solution? How is that quantified? How will this help us save money or generate money? How does this get me recognition and promoted?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but examples in a change of mindset from products to solutions and speaking to the why value solution based upon your audience in the form of a story – provide a solution to named and unnamed challenges. Be sure you are not explaining why the product arrived at this point with a history lesson. Nothing annoys and puts your audience off more than hearing a why and how history.
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Have you made the shift from Product to Solution Guru and the creator of value for your sales teams, current customers and future customers?
Photo Credit: JoshBerglund19 (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)