It’s almost impossible to sell a product that no one understands, or, worse, no one knows about.
Product marketing provides the facts and the flash to fix that.
Product marketing is the process of researching, testing, and aligning with your customers so each product has a successful launch. It applies techniques like product messaging and brand storytelling to explain to your target audience how you can solve their problems.
Whether you sell a physical product (e.g., food, shoes, makeup) or digital service (e.g., games, SaaS products, online teaching), product marketing can help you reach more people and generate more sales.
What is product marketing?
Product marketing leverages insights from your sales, customer success, and product experience teams to bring your product to market. It also makes sure your products stay relevant long after your launch date.
Product marketers employ carefully crafted messaging and marketing materials to increase demand for your offering and encourage customers to continue to use it. They also ensure your sales and customer success teams know how to position your product to get maximum results.
Product marketing vs. growth marketing
Understanding the difference between product and growth marketing will help you strategically build your teams.
Simply put, product marketing focuses on the product and the customer. Product marketing teams study your products and how they can communicate value to potential customers at the right time.
Growth marketing, on the other hand, focuses on growth, whether that’s lead acquisition, building brand awareness, or optimizing for conversions.
Product and growth marketing has different functions:
|Product marketing||Growth marketing|
|Beta test and launch products||Plan and lead growth marketing campaigns|
|Make pricing decisions||A/B test projects|
|Conduct competitor and audience research||Optimize your marketing funnel for conversions|
|Craft product messaging and positioning||Implement marketing automation|
They also have specific goals, though some overlap:
Your company size and marketing requirements will determine the types of teams you need.
For example, If you’ve built an amazing SaaS product that you want to tell the world about, you’ll likely want a product marketing team. But, if you’re an eCommerce company with a handful of products that would benefit from going viral, you’ll need a demand generation marketer on your side. If you’re a new startup looking to extend your runway and improve overall acquisition, you’ll likely want to find a capable growth marketer.
Why is product marketing important?
Product marketing forces you to understand your customers so you can create products they want to buy. It synthesizes target audience research and buyer personas to help you personalize your messaging for your target audience.
Before you launch your product, product marketers learn all about your target audience. They conduct customer analysis through personal interviews and surveys. They also conduct competitor research to discover how other companies talk about similar products.
With this information, they can craft an unforgettable story, and messaging that clearly tells your target audience why your product is the perfect solution for their needs.
In addition to launching your products and keeping them relevant, product marketers also ensure your team is aligned on how you communicate your product.
They work with the sales, product development, customer success, and broader marketing teams (if you have them) to unify your messaging across the organization.
5 Product marketing basics (+ product marketing tools) to launch your product
You can’t sail a boat without learning all the controls. Similarly, to create an effective product marketing strategy, you first need to master the basic steps.
Here are six product marketing basics that’ll help you build a robust product strategy.
1) Define your target audience
The first step in developing a product marketing strategy is getting to know your target audience. To construct a product your target audience will want, you have to identify the individuals who make up your audience.
Pinpointing your target audience means finding out the following information:
- Demographics (age, job, industry, location, stage of life, etc.)
- Hobbies, affinities, and interests
- Current goals and pain points
- Frequent online hangouts (e.g., Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit)
- Current solutions to their pain points (and the drawbacks of those solutions)
- Brands and influencers they follow
You can collect that information through in-depth consumer research.
Step 1: Conduct consumer research
You can conduct consumer research in three ways: customer, trend, or behavior analysis.
Customer analyses reveal more about your current users on a personal level—their demographics, specific goals and pain points, and what they’re looking for in a solution.
Conducting customer analyses is incredibly insightful (if a little time-consuming). What better way to learn about your audience than by simply talking to them?
- Send your existing customers surveys through email.
- Invite your ideal customers onto quick calls and ask them about themselves and how they interact with your product.
- Talk to your sales and customer success teams to find out what questions your potential and existing customers are asking.
Speaking with your customers will give you a solid starting point for your research.
Trend analyses are useful for discovering your target audience’s current interests. They provide information about their hobbies, affinities, and interests and sometimes offer a brief glimpse into their pain points.
To run a trend analysis, look at what your potential customers are interested in. Luckily, there are a few apps available to gather that information.
Google Analytics can tell you how your existing customers behave on your website. It gathers data on which pages they interact with, which channels convert better, and how that behavior has changed over time.
For example, in Google Analytics 4, go to Reports > Engagement > Pages and screens to see how your pages perform.
Or, in the Explore section, you can build segments based on specific behaviors observed on your website.
To look for trends outside of your company, check out Exploding Topics. This tool “listens” to web users—what they’re saying on social media, what they’re searching for, etc.—to identify up-and-coming topics of interest.
Finally, behavior analyses pinpoint where your target audience hangs out online. They also tell you which brands and influencers they follow, as well as their current goals and pain points (albeit broadly).
To perform a behavior analysis, focus on how users interact with your pages. It’s not enough to know that X% of visitors converted; you need to know what buttons they clicked on and if they tried to click anywhere else before that.
Again, you can obtain that information through audience intelligence tools like FullStory.
FullStory gathers data to paint a complete picture of your customer behavior. They track metrics like new accounts created, conversion rate, daily usage, and more.
Additionally, the tool records rage clicks—clicking out of frustration because something is broken, loading too slowly, or just annoying.
It also records what your customers click on and where they stopped scrolling on your site through heatmaps. If something seems off, you can investigate by checking out their session recordings, which display the actions of individual customers and visitors on your site.
If you need more tools and tips, check out our complete guide to consumer research before moving on to the next step.
Step 2: Create profiles and personas
After you collect information about your consumers, it’s time to create an ideal customer profile (ICP), buyer persona, and/or user persona.
Although they share similarities, ICPs, buyer personas, and user personas are all distinct models. You might need to develop more than one of each—or none of a certain type.
An ICP is a profile that describes your perfect customer. Instead of pinpointing an individual, it defines a company that needs your solution. If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) brand that targets other organizations as customers, you’ll likely need to craft an ICP.
This outline contains the company’s background information, budget, funding status, main decision-maker, current tech stack, and pain points. It’s usually formatted like this:
Our ideal client is a [type of company] company in [location] that has a/an [team and team size] and a/an [metric, e.g., ARR] of at least [number, e.g., $20 million]. Their customer base comprises [customer profile] that require [customer needs].
Here’s a complete template from Terminus to get you started.
A buyer persona, on the other hand, is a profile of the single person you have to convince to buy your product. That individual can be a solopreneur who wants guidance or a small business owner who needs more time.
It contains your potential buyer’s demographics, psychographics, needs and pain points, and goals. By knowing more about your potential buyer(s), you can craft a product message that directly addresses their desires.
Lastly, a user persona is a profile that describes your existing ideal customers. If you have consumers who stand out because they engage with you, subscribe to your product every month, and provide helpful feedback, build a profile for them.
Your existing perfect customers serve as the ideal model for who you should target with your marketing efforts.
Once again, if you need more information, we have a comprehensive guide that can walk you through designing the profiles or personas you need to see results.
Step 3: Distribute that knowledge to your team
Share this potent information with your team so they know who they’re talking to and trying to please. This will allow them to provide a personalized experience, which is crucial: Data shows 80% of consumers appreciate personalization and are more inclined to buy because of it.
Add your ICPs, buyer personas, and/or user personas to a shared knowledge base that all teams can access at any time.
2) Perform product research
Once you know more about who you’re talking to, you need to know what to tell them. And product research will reveal that answer.
Product research is conducted both internally and externally. While you’re not in charge of developing your product—that’s what your product development and user experience teams are for—you do need to know the ins and outs of your product to communicate its benefits to your target audience effectively.
Start by consulting with your product team. Ask them what the main features of your product are and what they think differentiates it from other options on the market.
Next, research your competitors. Look at how they describe themselves and what they’ve identified as their unique selling point (USP). You can use tools like Ahref’s Site Explorer to find out what keywords your competitors rank for—keywords your target audience also likely searches.
Lastly, decide on pricing by speaking to your target audience, chatting with your existing customers, and looking at your competitors. Although you probably won’t have the final say on cost, your product’s price tag will affect your messaging, so you should weigh in.
3) Determine your product positioning
Now armed with the relevant information, you’re ready to craft your product’s story, also known as product positioning.
Product positioning tells your target audience:
- What problem of theirs your product solves (JTBD)
- Why they should choose your product over all other options
It influences what they associate your products with, and thus what they think and feel about your brand.
For example, when people hear “Colonel Sanders” and “11-herb marinade,” their minds commonly drift to KFC. And if I tell you “fast food chain with a snarky social media account,” you might think of Wendy’s.
Your product positioning helps you control the narrative of your brand and products. While that sounds (and is) difficult, we’ve made it easier for you. Get started by answering these eight product positioning questions:
- What does your company stand for (i.e., mission, vision, and values)?
- What makes you valuable to your customers?
- Who are your three closest competitors?
- What makes you stand out from the top competitors you identified?
- Who needs your product the most? Why?
- What’s your market category (e.g., 3PL, warehousing)?
- What would your customers do if your product didn’t exist? Would they be bothered?
- How would you summarize your product’s value to your ideal users in three sentences or less?
After you answer those questions, craft your product positioning statement:
[YOUR PRODUCT] provides [UNIQUE SELLING POINT] for [TARGET AUDIENCE], who [TARGET AUDIENCE’S PAIN POINT].
In practice, that should look like this:
Ahrefs [product] provides an accurate search engine research tool [unique selling point] for small business and enterprise-level marketing teams [target audience] who need more data and organization to improve their marketing initiatives [target audience’s pain point].
If you have time to delve deeper into your positioning, we suggest asking yourself other questions found in our product positioning questions bank.
4) Plan and test your content
Your content reinforces your brand’s story. This importance requires you to plan your content carefully so each piece is connected and tells the same narrative — that of your product.
Start with your homepage, solutions pages, and product landing pages. Your page titles must grab attention, and your word choice should resonate with your target audience so they click and convert.
Learn what works best using tools like Crazy Egg. This landing page A/B testing tool lets you publish two versions of your page with subtle differences to identify what your target audience and website visitors better respond to.
Then, move on to your blog content and case studies. Decide what topics you want to write about based on what your target audience is searching for, and aim to rank for those keywords.
You can find keywords through free SEO research tools like Ahrefs’s Free Keyword Generator. Simply plug a keyword you think might fit your product into their search bar.
The tool will then generate a list of options that could work for your brand. This list also contains data like keyword difficulty (how hard it is to rank for that keyword) and volume (the estimated number of searches that keyword receives per month).
Ideally, you want keywords with high volume and low difficulty.
Finally, lay out your social media content. Based on what resonates with your target audience (according to your A/B tests) and what they’re searching for (according to your SEO research), create a strategy outlining post types that’ll make your target audience want to learn more about your product. Here’s a template to help you begin.
Nail your content — the copy used to describe your product, how you phrase your target audience’s pain point(s), and how you present your product as the solution.
Let your findings inform your product launch copy across all the channels where you intend to launch.
5) Design your product launch plan
All the research and planning you’ve done thus far should help you create your product launch or release plan.
Use your customer research and target audience data to inform your messaging. Build marketing materials around your product with guidance from your product positioning. Lastly, lean on your content plan to solidify what you need to schedule — right up to the date of your launch.
A product launch plan includes:
- Distribution channels and launch activities
- Teams and team members responsible for specific tasks
- A customer support plan
- A product release timeline
For example, many SaaS products launch on Product Hunt, relying on social media and email marketing efforts for a boost. A Product Hunt launch plan contains:
- Social media copy to post on your chosen channels
- Promotional email copy to send to your beta testers, waitlisted users, and other subscribers
- Blog post(s) you plan to publish pre- and post-launch
- Press release copy for chosen news sites
- An FAQ and answer list for your customer support team
- Product goals for analytics
Easily plan your product launch with tools like Atlassian’s Confluence and Asana. Both project management tools provide templates that users can easily personalize.
When you’re ready, launch your product and start collecting data.
Remember, a product marketer’s job continues well after you launch. Continuously gather insights and tweak your product messaging until it completely aligns with your existing customers and target audience. (Warning: This can take years, and is never truly done.)
Want a shortcut? Hire a product marketer
Your product is like your kid: You put the work in, watch it grow and change, and then launch it into the world, hoping everyone loves it as much as you do. But even with so many guides and tools available, product marketing remains a difficult undertaking.
Although we’ve outlined product marketing basics in this article, we recommend hiring a product marketer to handle your launch.
An expert product marketer will:
- Beta test your product
- Plan your product launch
- Contribute to pricing decisions
- Build your product messaging and positioning statement
- Research your competitors
- Get to know your target audience
- Gather feedback to help you improve
Invest in a product marketer and give your launch an exponentially higher chance of success.
Wrapping up — Make product marketing a priority for powerful messaging
Product marketing is your key to understanding your audience and product, and the different ways they relate to each other. Investing in product marketing means gaining all the building blocks for powerful content, from understanding your buyer and user personas to the different jobs to be done of your product.
You can then leverage your product marketing knowledge for more successful conversions, better relationships with your audience, and marketing assets that make a stronger impact.