Insights

Positioning for Advantage – a Q&A with Sprint.ly’s April Dunford

(Q) The Product Marketer: First & foremost, we’re interested to hear your perspective on what role a Product Marketer plays in a B2B organization today? 

(A) Maybe it’s because I work more with startups than larger companies, but I am seeing a blurring of lines across Marketing, Sales, and Product. I feel like we are moving away from an organization where teams are very siloed toward one that is more agile and fluid with respect to functions and processes. Things that were traditionally “sales only” or “product only” are now often looking like things that marketing can and should tackle. In a world where this is happening, Product Marketers have the unique opportunity to help bridge that gap. I see Product Marketers (or at least a product marketing skill set, even if the title doesn’t match) as being something that is in increasing demand.

(Q) The Product Marketer & Positioning: The godfather’s of positioning, Ries & Trout, posited that “positioning cuts through the chaos.” In the world of B2B, what’s your definition of positioning? What is it NOT? 

(A) Positioning is about providing a frame of reference for potential customers to understand what you do and why they should care. It’s not a tagline or a slogan and it definitely isn’t branding. Positioning is the context that makes sense of what your offering is, what the primary value is and who that offering is really for. Positioning is the foundation for not just marketing but sales strategy, product strategy and even support and hiring.

(Q) To ensure that Product Marketers are viewed as true Architects of Growth by the C-suite, how should Product Marketer’s position for advantage? 

(A) In my mind the fundamental value that Product Marketers bring to the table is a deep understanding of customers, including what customers hate, what they struggle with and what they really love. Marketing tactics change every week and frankly, they are easy to learn. Deep customer and market understanding however, takes time to develop and once you have it, you are an extraordinarily valuable resource to the company. The keys to unlocking growth are not located inside the offices of your company – they live inside the minds and hearts of your customers. Product Marketers should be the keepers of the maps to those keys.

(Q) Are there any parting words of wisdom you would like to leave with our Product Marketing members? 

(A) Don’t get too hung up on tactics and tricks. With all of the content being created for marketers today, it’s easy to get distracted by flavor-of-the-month lead generation tactics that may or may not drive results for your business and your market. Rely on what you know about your buyers and ignore your marketing FOMO as much as possible 🙂

An engineer by training, April’s worked as a marketing and sales exec for most of her career. She’s run marketing and sales at a number of startups. In October 2015, April acquired Sprintly – an agile project management tool for startups, along with the original founder, Joe Stump. April works mainly as a consultant to early-stage tech companies. Her specialty is on market positioning and go-to-market strategy. 

The “Experiential Shift” and what it means for Product Marketers

Product Marketers should help Sales sell. Research says that the buying experience now drives B2B customer loyalty much more than product features, price, or vendor brand reputation.  So is there more that Product Marketers can be doing to help Sales create experiences that really connect? Yes, there is, and it’s called “experiential segmentation.”

Your customer segmentation model may be perfectly rational, and that may just be a bigger obstacle than you realize

As the differentiating power of traditional sales levers (price, features, brand reputation) wane, the buying experience is growing more important. Product Marketers are responsible for providing buyer insight, often in the form of personas, that help Sales sell. Yet, according to our research at Quarry, the customer segmentation model employed at 70% of B2B enterprises is not meaningfully different from that of competitors.  And that poses a problem.

A persona, like any other form of “target” definition, pre-supposes an underlying segmentation perspective. Take a look: Are your personas differentiated, one from  the other, by means of some categorical framework?  Job title, for instance?  Or company size? Or industry vertical? Each of these categories is a segmentation perspective. Each encodes a theory that says, in effect, “this system of differences between people explains and predicts differences in how they behave.”

These category-driven theories, we must presume, have some basis in fact. But they also suffer from two liabilities that you would be wise to consider.

First, as noted above, for 70% of B2B marketers these theories are not proprietary.   If the segmentation perspective – meant to be the “difference that makes a difference” – embedded in your personas is the same as the segmentation perspective of your competitor, then, even if you have done an excellent job in every other respect with your personas, the utility that Sales can extract from personas for the purpose of differentiating the buyer’s experience has been limited from the outset. Letting this situation persist hinders an experience-led sales and marketing strategy where customer insight is the edge in creating experiences that connect differently and better.

Secondly, even where they may be differentiating, these categorical segmentation perspectives are proving to be weak theories. They rest on assumptions that are crumbling under the weight of evidence and changing circumstances. Let’s take the commonplace (some might even say “best practice”) of using organizational titles as the foundational categorization scheme for personas.

Job titles may feel meaningful but…

In my recent interview with CEB’s Pat Spenner, Pat underscores how CEB’s research on the consensus-driven nature of B2B purchases reveals that both job title and organizational rank are weakly correlated with the propensity for an individual to stick their neck out to lead the consensus buying group to consolidate their understanding of a problem, establish the criteria for a solution, select a vendor and seal the deal for a quality solution. In short, according to that research, “Mobilization,” not “job title” or “rank,” is “the difference that makes a difference.”

Moreover, these top-down categorizations of customers (role, size, vertical)  rest on a body of 18th century rationalistic economic and psychological theory that assumes human beings behave in the marketplace as “rational actors.” The last few decades of research in behavioral economics, prospect theory, neuroscience, organizational behavior and cognitive linguistics converge in a way that is extremely harsh to that “rational actor” notion.

Now, chances are, you have a somewhat change-averse colleague. Let’s call him Larry. Larry will argue, “well, maybe our segmentation model is the same as our competitor’s for a good reason; maybe that is just what reality looks like.” For Larry, the fact that your segmentation model is the same as a competitor actually feels reassuring – an independent source of validation. And Larry might also assert that while job titles are a weak predictor of “mobilization,” they still seem indispensable to operationalizing B2B demand-gen tactics.

And here’s where you as a Product Manager need to make a choice. You could defer to Larry. You could spend a bunch of time trying to argue with him. Or you could take the lead in creating and implementing an alternative that is better aligned with our contemporary understanding of how buyers buy, how humans behave and how experience-driven sales and marketing works.  In short, you could embark on an “experiential segmentation.”

When curiosity leads, new insights can follow

What might that process look like? It starts with setting in brackets the current categorical assumptions about the differences between customers that make a difference. It involves a curiosity-driven exploration of your customer’s broader context – not just what your customer thinks about your brand or your category of products. It involves a recognition that the complexity in people’s motivations and the contradictions discovered in their self-stories are not noise to be discarded but instead are foundational assets for building proprietary customer insights. And it involves a certain amount of change management leadership to get your colleagues aligned around an insight-rich view of the customer that is proprietary and custom-tailored to creating differentiating experiences for your customers – both in digital demand-generation channels and in face-to-face selling. If you’d like to learn more about that, you can read about it here.

It’s not necessarily easy. Partly because some reassuringly familiar things must be abandoned.  Simple categories and tidy, “rational actor” assumptions about b2b purchase decisions need  to give way to a more nuanced multi-dimensional viewpoint  on buyer’s motivations.  And, (something that may make Larry nervous) you’ll have fewer “best practice” examples you can point to for reference until you actually get there.   But what are your options?  Buyer experience is increasingly driving sales.  If you take seriously your responsibility to provide Sales with buyer insight, it’s hard to ignore the evidence that segmentation, as it is widely practiced, undermines experience-based differentiation.   There is more that Product Marketers can be doing to help Sales create experiences that really connect. It’s called “experiential segmentation.” And it will separate you from your competitors.

Why Your Buyer Journey Mapping Should Dictate Your Content Spend

Here’s the situation – you have money left in your budget, and you’ve got major content gaps according to the buying cycle. How do you prioritize your spend?

If your answer is based more on gut instinct than actual knowledge of your content inventory and gaps, then a content audit could be extremely beneficial to you.

According to a Sirius Decisions B2B Content Study, 60-70% of B2B content goes unused. This means that 7 out of the 10 content pieces that you’re slaving over right now are never seen by the outside world.

The top reasons why:

  1. Topic is irrelevant
  2. Lack of awareness or the content can’t be found
  3. Low-quality content.

This means that you’re likely misusing your content budget. To prevent this from happening you need to produce content that serves a purpose.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel – start with the content you have. Perform an objective audit across multiple dimensions, including place in customer journey, metrics, format, purpose, etc. The audit will give you a quantifiable result that you can share with your team instead of sitting around the table arguing which pieces should get done.

By far, the most important component of the audit, is mapping your content to the buyers journey. This requires a deep understanding of the following

  • Who’s involved in the buyer journey?
  • What are their needs?
  • What are the triggers that have them initiating their search and at each subsequent stage?
  • What are milestones they need to achieve to move onto the next stage
  • Where channels and influencers will they use to find content?

Once you have a strong handle on this, determining the content you need to have at each stage of the buying journey becomes much easier. You’re striving to provide helpful content that educates and provides answers to their questions.

After you’re done with the audit, don’t be surprised or offended if you realize that much of your existing content should be shown the door. We’ve conducted audits for several clients and found that anywhere between 30-50% of the content they give us to evaluate either needs a face-lift, needs reconstructive surgery or simply needs to go. We also find that most marketers tend to have a lot of late stage content (sell sheets, product briefs, case studies) but are often missing the helpful content found in the beginner and middle stages.

While the process of conducting a content audit can be as painful as passing a kidney stone, the inevitable relief in sensational. You’ll have a better understanding of what pieces you have that are actually worth sharing with prospects or customers, and you’ll know what purpose each piece serves. You’ll also know which pieces just need a minor update, which need a major overhaul and which pieces should never see the light of day again. You’ll be a much better position to leverage it for the variety of demand gen, lead nurturing and/or sales enablement programs you’re on the hook for. Most importantly, you and your stakeholders will be much more confident on how your content budget should be spent.

David will be reviewing the Content Audit Template that the GET LIFT Agency team uses with their clients at the Product Marketing Community Conference on April 22nd. If you’d like a sneak peak, please reach out to David.

Kenneth Wong on the dynamics of a Product Marketer’s role

(Q) What do you believe are the primary responsibilities for a Product Marketer (PM)? 

(A) ” Product Marketers have a responsibility to serve as a conduit between the enterprise and its customers. That is, Product Marketers (PM) have a responsibility to insure that Product Managers understand market and competitive conditions, and a responsibility to insure that customers know and understand what and how the enterprise creates value for customers. PM’s cannot do that unless they appreciate that they have two sets of customers: internal customers (e.g. product managers) and external customers.”

“Product Marketers need to sell information and insights to Product Managers just as they do to customers. Just as in marketing to customers, a good PM understands its internal customer using the same tools and concepts they apply to marketing to external customers. Thus, while PM’s may not have, for example, bottom-line responsibility for a product, they need to be acutely aware of what drives that bottom line performance in order to understand the context under which a Product Manager will use (or decide to ignore) their advice. This raises some interesting questions: for example, if concepts like segmentation, positioning and branding are central to a PM’s responsibilities in dealing with external customers, do we apply these same concepts in dealing with INTERNAL customers? Surely these must be added to a PM’s responsibilities.”

“As scale and complexity increases, it becomes near impossible for a single person to serve both- the product manager and product marketing roles. Indeed, given the plethora of media now available, one person may not even be able to manage the Product Marketing function and other specialists may be needed. Strict definitions of roles and responsibilities may seem a logical way to allocate authority across many people but, ultimately, someone must coordinate and curate or decisions are made in silos. That “someone” is the product marketing manager.”

(Q) How can Product Marketers directly influence revenue growth, customer retention and awareness? 

(A) “There are only four ways to enhance profitability: Get prices up; keep costs down; get a bigger share of existing customers and expanding the base of existing customers. This is not opinion but basic accounting definitions. Thus, the question could also be phrased in four parts:

  1. How to support premium pricing and/or avoid price cutting (Answer: By meaningful and relevant differentiation)
  2. How to contain or reduce costs (Answer: Through scale, scope, organization and process innovation – the same as every other function)
  3. How to increase market share (Answer: Choose the right customers to serve; minimize waste/ lean marketing; better understand the path to purchase; know where we lose customers along that pathway
  4. How to expand market size (Answer: Refer to the Blue Ocean strategy).”

(Q) What role does a Product Marketer play towards helping an organization become market-driven?

(A) “Product marketers manage the interface between customers and the firm. This does not mean they are advocates for the customer but rather that they start their decision-making process, regardless of the decision area by asking, “What would the customer prefer?” Once known, economics will dictate how much of that preference can be accommodated.”

(Q) What challenges do Product Marketers face both within their organizations and externally as they look to help their companies become market-driven?

(A) “We court customers but we record our success with customers on financial statements like P&L. Within the firm, Product Marketers need to understand how their decisions impact those statements, including an understanding that, sometimes, firms will do whatever is required to support their bottom line regardless of whether the decisions reflect customer focus. Showing the long term implications of such shorter term thinking is vital.”

“Second, convincing the world that Product Marketing is NOT the same as advertising or personal selling.”

(Q) What metrics should a Product Marketer use to measure success? 

(A) “It all depends on what PM’s are trying to accomplish. You cannot manage what you cannot measure but since we adjust what we do, depending upon results achieved, following the wrong metric for your strategy means you only succeed via blind, dumb luck.”

Ken Wong is a faculty member and the Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Smith School of Business, where he has held both teaching and administrative positions. He was the principal architect of the first full-time degree program in Canada to operate completely outside of government subsidy: a distinction that earned him the cover of Canadian Business in April 1994. (The new Program has been rated by Business Week as #1 worldwide among non-US MBAs in the last four bi-annual rankings). Ken is also the Vice President, Knowledge Development for Level 5, a marketing consulting firm focused on brand strategy and execution.

10 Steps To Squeezing More Out Of Your Marketing Budget

squeezing imageAs marketers, we tend to start the new year with high hopes for innovative new campaigns, but by February or March, we’re already beginning to feel defeated.

The biggest reason: Our budget and internal marketing resources are stretched thin across an increasing number of channels, including digital and social media. We’re under greater pressure to achieve the ideal mix of spending among those channels—and to prove our worth as marketers. 

In fact, 58 percent of chief marketing officers said they felt increasing pressure to prove the value of marketing and business communications to their CEO, according to the 2015 CMO Survey.

Meeting those demands requires taking a hard look at every aspect of our marketing budget, time and talent to ensure we’re using them as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

It’s a combination of reducing unnecessary spending we’ve taken for granted in the past and digging deeper to uncover insights that increase revenues. 

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Sure, that all sounds great, but what does it look like on a day-to-day basis?” 

Obviously, there’s no single formula that works for every industry and business model, but there are best practices.

As the Head of Marketing for a company that has built its business model on streamlining processes for some of the world’s most profitable organizations and a company that is in the midst of its own transformation, I can tell you what has worked for our clients and for us.

[button link=”http://www.datacm.com/blog/10-steps-to-squeezing-more-out-of-your-marketing-budget” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Download our 50-Slide E-Book[/button]

Author: Jeff Gladwish

5 ways you should be using your marketing automation for product marketing

5 WaysThe strength of most marketing automation platforms (MAP) is that they can be used in as many creative ways as you can come up. While MAP isn’t typically thought of as a tool for product marketing, there are some really great ways to use your platform to help your product marketing team be more successful.

1. Create product interest segments

A list of leads and/or contacts with similar product interests can be very helpful for product marketing and these segments can be created using data from a variety of sources. For instance you could have your sales team tag product interest directly in CRM when they speak with prospects or you could use visits to product pages on your website or you could create a list based on product specific content requested. You can even use a combination of these sources to find the products your contacts are honing in on.

2. Use contextual content on your website

Most enterprise marketing automation platforms can connect your contact database to your website content and allow you to dynamically offer different content action based on who they are and their past history. Practically this means your website can personalize each interaction by recommending specific content and products based on past interactions. You can create recommendations for other relevant content and even modify your call-to-actions to match any given contact’s product interest.

3. Product relevant nurture campaigns

As leads progress through the sales process and seek out more product-focused content, lead nurturing campaigns are a highly efficient and easily measured tactic. You can use them to focus on your prospects’ pain points and how your product can address them as well as the key features and benefits that help. You can also encourage interaction with other MoFU (middle of the funnel) content assets like testimonials, case studies and data sheets. These kinds of campaigns can also help you identify the most active leads and accelerate those to sales.

4. Use product info in lead notifications to help sales

Alerting sales when a lead is ready for some human interaction is a very common practice. What isn’t as common is including product information to help provide context for that follow up. An excellent best practice is to include which product pages the lead has viewed, how many times they have viewed each page and a list of associated content they’ve downloaded or read.

5. Use (and automate) social listening for product not just brand mentions

The social-sphere is full of conversations and you should know when they are talking about your products. If your MAP has social listening functionality, you should set up campaigns to listen for mentions of your products just like you do for your brand name. You want to know if the market is happy or indifferent and you want to know why. Listening to social media can help you develop important insights you can use in future campaigns.

These 5 ideas for product marketing with MAP will depend on the feature set of your platform but even if you can only execute one or two – you will see some powerful results.

About the Author: Chris Hokansson is the managing director of One Red Bird.

One Red Bird helps B2B marketers use software and data to craft better marketing.

Photo by Ell Brown. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Why B2B Product Marketers spend too much time on value propositions

B2B buying has changed, and this changes the type of work that B2B product marketers should be doing.

Trade between companies in anything from a corporate order of photocopiers to a consulting engagement for a struggling business unit has changed dramatically in the past decade.

Employees must collaborate and cooperate more than they ever have to get their jobs done, and almost any B2B purchase now requires integrating with a company’s technology and IT systems. This means that a lot of purchases that once required a single “yes” from a senior decision maker who paid for it out of his or her own budget, now need to be discussed by a whole array of people.

This often includes someone from IT to ensure the product integrates with existing systems, someone from an information security or data privacy team to make sure there’s no reputation-destroying data leaks, two or three senior managers with responsibility for whatever it is the B2B purchase will help with (you can imagine a product manager, a country manager, and a marketing manager all being involved for example), maybe someone from HR if employees need to be trained on the product, and so on.

The average number of decision-makers now involved in making a purchase decision for a B2B product or service is 5.4, and that number is growing.

What’s Changed

As this post explains, these consensus purchase dynamics stall deals, often before they even get to a stage where customers engage with any marketing collateral, much less a sales rep. Worse, the growing number and diversity of stakeholders involved in purchases means they are less and less likely to find consensus early enough in the purchase process to give suppliers the chance to get a pitch in (research shows that the optimal point for suppliers to influence a purchase decision is 37% of the way through the process).

There is a lot that marketing and sales teams can do to respond to these problems; the rest of this post looks at what product marketers can and should be doing, and future posts will look at other marketing roles (see this marketing role guide for more).

What Product Marketers Should Stop Doing

A common refrain from sales teams when their conversion rates – of contact with a buyer into actual sales – are not where they should be is, “Our value proposition isn’t clear enough. It just isn’t resonating in the marketplace. We need to make our value proposition more crisp.”

And in response, product marketers feverishly set about making the value proposition simpler and – “crisper” – than it already was. It might sound like the right thing to do but, based on thousands of data points and years of CEB research, product marketers actually spend too much time on their value propositions.

The data show that customers will unapologetically agree with a supplier that what’s being sold will improve performance of their company but that they just aren’t willing to pay for that performance. They’ll say, “We know. We get it. Your solution outperforms this other one because it has more uptime. But we don’t need all that incremental uptime. We just need X amount of uptime, and we’re only willing to pay Y for that.”

What Product Marketers Should Start Doing

The primary thing a product marketer should do is to cut the time spent sharpening value propositions by 50%, and instead shift that energy to developing “commercial insights.”

A commercial insight teaches the customer something new that changes the way they think about their own business, and leads uniquely back to the supplier. When crafted well, commercial insights help customers value — and so pay for — the incremental performance the supplier provides.

Product marketers — with their knowledge of the marketplace, product vantage point and relationships across the marketing and sales organization — are in the best position to orchestrate the creation of commercial insight. And it really is orchestration — it takes a mix of characters from the product team, Sales, Marketing and sometimes other parts of the firm. But if product marketers don’t take the lead here, no one else will. At least, not as effectively as a product marketer could.

Beyond this, product marketers need to rethink the way they gather information on customers and how they get an understanding of what customers are struggling with, and how they go about creating marketing collateral that will help guide potential purchasers through their increasingly difficult decision-making (there’s more in this post and in the Challenger Role Guide for Product Marketers).

Author: Patrick Spenner

Are you a modern Product Marketer?

Sirius - 5 Key Traits ImageProduct marketing is undergoing a massive sea change as the functional role adapts to changing internal and external conditions, such as the product to solution transformation, shifts to greater customer-centricity, an increasing need to rationalize robust and outgrown offering portfolios to the marketplace and most notably, changes in b-to-b buying behavior.

As a research analyst at SiriusDecisions and the director of the Portfolio Marketing service, I have the unique privilege of observing the amazing transformational trends occurring in product marketing.  Here are the five key traits of a best-in-class product marketer who thrives and succeeds in the midst of all the change.

  1. They design audience-centric go-to-market (GTM) strategies. Modern product marketers devise the GTM strategy and architecture for how offerings will be expressed to the marketplace, and determine the market requirements and competitive analysis to fuel innovation.
  2. They know their customers and buyers – deeply.Modern product marketers understand buyer personas and how these personas buy. This information informs campaigns, content and innovation. They have exceptional skills and techniques that enable them to segment, size and gain alignment on the buyer audiences to target.
  3. They create messaging that resonates. Modern product marketers can craft effective audience-centric messaging and value propositions. They are adept at interfacing with enterprise-wide content processes for both sellers and buyers and are focused on content effectiveness.
  4. They drive alignment across product, marketing and sales. Modern product marketers incubate or improve the go-to-market workflow process for bringing new or existing offerings to market. They are passionate about driving clarity of roles and alignment between marketing, product management and business units.
  5. They help sales sell. Period. Modern product marketers enable sellers to sell more via knowledge transfer, content and programs that increase sales productivity within the offering portfolio. They care about sellers; driving sales productivity is what keeps them up at night. They break down barriers and stop at nothing to ensure sales has the knowledge they need to inform buyers, as well as the content and tools they need to create demand, compete and win new business.

Author: Marisa Kopec

The 10 Commandments of Product Marketing

10 Commandments LogoWhether you’re a fan of Charlton Heston or Mel Brooks, you likely understand the concept of a commandment: It is a foundational command or directive or an essential requirement with no compromise. In the course of managing today’s crises and worrying about tomorrow’s problems, we as product-marketing professionals can lose focus on the essentials needed to be an effective product marketer.

Having been at the product-marketing game for about a dozen years at three different companies (more if you count how many times I was acquired) and having had the distinct honor of working for a master of product marketing, I submit to you this list of the essentials, which we call “The 10 Commandments of Product Marketing.” I hope they help guide new product marketers or reintroduce core product-marketing fundamentals to veteran practitioners.

The 10 commandments are built around the constituencies we as product marketers serve: sales, product management and business, press and analysts, competitors, partners and most importantly, customers.

1. Have an up-to-date positioning document and buyer persona for your product. How often do you start developing product or marketing materials without fully knowing who the target buyers are and what their pains are? It happens more than it should when we are going too fast, but without this fundamental understanding you run the risk of losing control of your message. Never forget: YOU own the message.

2. Know the business plan for your product and have a measurable go-to-market plan for it. Regularly perform a marketing activity analysis against budget to measure this. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you can’t achieve an objective without understanding what it takes to get there. I recommend setting a regular cadence of operational reviews with your functional marketing counterparts, where you can review a standard set of results to measure what’s working and what’s not. And when marketing issues come up during quarterly business reviews, make sure your business leader is prepared with the numbers. It’s your responsibility as steward of the marketing budget for the business.

3. Know how customers are using your product. Observing customers in their native habitats need not be intimidating. Ask for a ride-along with a sales rep, or talk to an established customer willing to give you honest feedback. (Customer reference program members are an ideal source for this.) Use these conversations to determine if how you’re positioning your product is real or just hype. Be prepared for an opinion different from what you were expecting and take it in context with other conversations. Just because you have one conversation with one customer who says something completely divergent from what your buyer personas say doesn’t mean you have to shift how you market your product. Keep it real by speaking to a real customer at least once per month. This is also a non-threatening way to gather win/loss data.

4. Know where your product’s customers and users are coming from. This one can be tricky, especially if your business lacks the operational maturity to have consolidated business metrics. There will be someone—likely multiple people—who are able to tell you how many active customers you have for a product (maintenance or support records); the sizes and industry verticals of your customers (Hoover’s et al); average sales price, discount and margin (bookings database from finance); and new customers vs. existing (finance). The trick is to consolidate this information so you have the right information when you need it. For example, wouldn’t it be great if—when your business leader indicated you needed to focus on selling to existing customers to drive penetration—you had that data at your fingertips and could weigh in on the addressable market?

5. Know your product’s license and maintenance revenue targets and progress toward those targets. As a product marketer, you are the VP of marketing for your product. The main focus of your role as a marketer is contributing to revenue. How are you influencing license bookings? Pretend for a moment you work for a “company-is-the-product” startup. You own marketing for that product—and therefore the company—soup to nuts. What do you need to know to be successful? Knowing your progress toward targets helps you move your marketing investments to meet current business objectives.

6. Know who sells your product. Also know what their comp plans look like. Sales reps are coin operated; their behavior follows the money. Knowing how your reps are compensated helps you know what to focus on in sales-enablement discussions. For example, if reps have their comp plan tied to growth in enterprise-level accounts in their region, they’re not going to respond to products and training that address a small- to mid-market customer. Hand-in-hand with this is an understanding of quotas, average deal sizes, whether they’re comped on other parts of the portfolio, professional services, etc. This helps you better understand the folks who are taking your product to market and how to talk their language. You can then be better positioned to influence comp-based incentives or spiffs for your product. 

7. Ensure sales, partners, field marketing and others can successfully evangelize for your product with accurate and up-to-date sales tools. Gather feedback from the field and provide regular updates. This seems like a no-brainer and will likely be 75 percent of your job. Notice the nuance here, though. Your role as a product marketer likely revolves around building messaging, enabling the sales force and influencing campaigns to drive leads and awareness. But turning other marketing shared-services personnel into advocates for your product increases internal mindshare and ultimately improves focus and results. It’s not just about the blocking and tackling of producing sales tools and a good website, but also ensuring the folks building those tools and that website or managing that event can tell the story well. Part of your success will be dependent on turning others, not just sales, into evangelists. Remember, you’re likely competing with other products for mental shelf space across the company. Be aggressive: It’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

8. Know your product’s top three competitors and be able to explain how your product is different. I bet this is the No. 1 request you get from sales. But if you’re like many companies, analyzing competitors is a tricky undertaking. It’s frowned upon to download a competitor’s product under false pretenses or break the law in any way, so you rely on publicly available materials that are either authored by the competitor or from an expensive third-party source. My advice is to stay above it and simply provide strengths and advantages of your products.

9. Know who the key analysts and market influencers are and how they position your product in the market. Don’t rely exclusively on the analyst relations, public relations or social media teams to give you regular updates on analyst reports or industry articles. You need to take responsibility for knowing who your top influencers are and how they feel about your product, and you can do that by subscribing to their blogs and Twitter feeds. Also, establish a quarterly cadence with those influencers to talk business strategy, product updates, etc. It doesn’t even have to be formal, and some of the best influencing I’ve done is over coffee or standing on a tradeshow floor. Begin with the end in mind: How do you want this conversation to end? Courting these influencers is as critical to your success as educating your sales force. Ever had a deal go south when a customer said that Analyst Firm X hadn’t heard about your product before?

10. Know your product’s release schedule and roadmap and execute product releases on time. Another “duh” moment. But seriously, how many times have you been surprised that a product is ready to release, and you nearly caused a delay in its release? At the company I work for, product management owns the release to marketing/manufacturing date, but product marketing owns the generally available (GA) date when the product is actually live and sellable. There are typically 10 business days between these two dates (with some flexibility on either end), which gives product marketers 10 days to shepherd sales tool updates, marketing programs and sales training through the processes needed to post it all live. To keep up on when the release is coming, attend your product or program manager’s regular release meetings and be prepared with a plan on how you will market the product.

Breaking It Down

Remember the old maxim that you either are in sales or sales support? Master these 10 commandments, and you will be better connected to the business, be able to measure your results with what really matters (bookings), be closer to the customer than you ever thought possible and less likely to have to answer to sales.

Remember, you have execution teams to help you. Leverage them so you can be a marketing representative to the business. Overlaying these commandments on top of the Pragmatic Marketing process—and using the templates and tools available to you—adds rigor, discipline and a professional quality to your role as product marketing and business representative to the marketing department.

Author: Scott Lang

 

 

Knowing Why You Lose Won’t Always Help You Win

Person holding a 'I'm a winner' buttonAlan Armstrong – founder and CEO of Eigenworks, gives you his point-of-view on winning how winning more deals means identifying, capitalizing on and replicating your successes.

Winning more deals means identifying, capitalizing on and replicating your successes.

When you’re unhappy with your win/loss ratio, sales and marketing leaders naturally gravitate toward examining losses to find ways to turn things around. The reasoning is simple: When something’s broken, you look for ways to fix it. Maybe it was the demo, or the price was too high. Maybe you couldn’t fulfill an essential functional requirement, or sales couldn’t overcome the customer’s misperception of your company and/or product. These are all valid issues that come up during a post-mortem on losses, which is typically a conversation between the buyer and sales rep.

A real win/loss analysis is not a sales function. It’s a product marketing or product management function. It means talking directly with customers involved in the purchase decision. Although you can learn a lot by listening to the sales team’s view from the trenches, they rarely have a 360 perspective of the battlefield. Moreover, the customer often won’t fully disclose the reasons for their choices to the sales team. Like most of us ending a relationship, buyers want an easy way to exit the conversation without making anyone uncomfortable—but also without leaving room for the rep to come back with a counter offer. This can color what they say.

Winning more deals means spending more time on deals you have the best chance of winning, and conversely, spending less time on deals you can’t win. It means identifying, capitalizing on and replicating your successes. But the only way to replicate success is to model your successes; losses give you nothing to model.

By examining the details of your successes (rather than simply assuming you had the best product at the best price presented by the best sales rep), you might discover new market niches you hadn’t previously targeted, new use cases that customers have identified on their own, or competitive weaknesses that you can exploit.

 Misunderstood Needs

A win analysis is also more effective than a loss analysis in identifying customers that buy from you in spite of misaligned sales and marketing messages. A web self-service company had once been successful selling its product on the basis of cost savings. Recently, though, the value proposition was finding less traction with customers, either because it was no longer believed or the savings were too small to make a difference. Sales cycles became longer and more unpredictable.

After a detailed win analysis, the client discovered a segment of the market that found a value the product provided, but the company wasn’t actively pitching: customer experience. Yes, the product could reduce call-center costs, but that wasn’t what the segment was interested in. These customers had a high-level mandate to improve customer experience. With this new information, both sales and marketing developed the type of messaging and sales approaches that aligned with the needs of this type of client.

Competitive Intelligence

Win analyses are also a great source of intelligence on competitor weaknesses and strengths. Customers will often share with you the major factors that influenced their decision to choose your product over the competition, in terms of sales process, messaging, product differentiation, price and other factors. If the competition was heavy in your wins, you can learn a lot about what sets you apart. By identifying your strengths (and competitor weaknesses), based on actual customer feedback (rather than the intuition of sales and/or marketing), you can better capitalize on your advantages and emphasize them within the sales process.

But it’s important not to be too complacent about your perceived advantages, because they may be fleeting. You may have won this time, not because your product was seen as being overall better, but because competitors couldn’t provide one key feature that was a deal breaker. The things you think you’re doing particularly well at may not have as much value to the customer as you imagine. Uncovering this information, gleaned from detailed win analyses, can help you anticipate future threats and capitalize on your strengths in a way that better aligns your process with the needs of your customers.

How Can We Win More?

Of course, focusing only on wins will provide the same distorted view into customer needs and your sales process as focusing only on losses. A balance of both wins and losses provides a more complete, actionable picture. When the analysis is done well, you can better model your successes to win more deals and learn from your losses what to avoid. The caveat here, of course, is doing win/loss analysis well.

A balanced win/loss analysis program that focuses equally on wins and losses provides the type of synergy necessary to drive your sales and marketing efforts forward. By modeling your successes, you can develop repeatable processes that increase wins. With that knowledge, loss interviews also can become more productive, because you can test potential changes to see what effects they have on future decisions.

Instead of asking yourself, “why are we losing?” turn the question around. Ask “how can we win more?” That simple change in focus can help you uncover opportunities you never anticipated.

About the Author

Alan Armstrong is founder and CEO of Eigenworks, and specializes in win/loss analysis for enterprise B2B companies. He is a seasoned B2B product management and sales executive with three successful tech exits: Sitraka ($60M to Quest Software in 2002), Wily Technology ($375M to CA in 2006) and Fortiva (to Proofpoint in 2008). Alan has held director and VP roles in product management, marketing, sales and business development. In 2001, Alan co-founded the Toronto Product Management Association. He can be reached at alan@eigenworks.com or www.eigenworks.com.