Product Marketing for Startups

For organizations of all kinds, product marketing plays a critical role in defining product positioning and messaging. It’s arguably one of the most important components of business strategy. In fact, at large organizations, there are often entire teams dedicated to product marketing. But for small startups, founders often find themselves struggling to effectively market their great idea. While dedicated resources for product marketing isn’t viable for startups, founders can find success by familiarizing themselves with product marketing strategies, ultimately building a strong foundation for growth and increased adoption.

What is product marketing?

Product marketing comes into play whenever organizations are launching new products or features, upselling products to current customers, or creating campaigns to increase net new business. Product marketing is different from conventional marketing in a few ways. While conventional marketing involves all areas of the business, including branding and brand awareness, product marketing is focused on strategy and messaging related to the product itself. It’s centered around understanding the product’s appeal to certain audiences, as well as the messaging needed to communicate with those individuals. Conventional marketing tactics encompass more areas of the business, but they often build on the key messaging discovered through product marketing.

Some typical product marketing responsibilities include:

  • Creating competitive analysis docs
  • Creating product 1-pagers
  • Creating go-to-market (GTM) strategies
  • Crafting messaging
  • Understanding product nuances
  • Defining audiences

Creating relevant messaging for product marketing

Before you can decide how to market your product, you need to develop a deep understanding of how your product fits into the market. Become an expert in the wants and needs of potential customers, how your competitors are solving customer pain points, and the market landscape. Be able to communicate the benefits your product provides, along with any weaknesses the product may have. It’s always best to begin with the pain points or challenges your customers are facing today that your product is going to solve. It can be tempting to start with how great your product is and what functionalities it offers, but that content doesn’t resonate with buyers. Start by answering the question ‘why should I care?’ for potential customers.

Understand your customers

Take the time to define your audience. Using tactics like customer surveys, focus groups, and broader market surveys, find out what current and potential customers care about, and where they struggle. Familiarize yourself with what matters most to your audience. Is it saving time? Is it increasing revenue? Think about their personal goals as well as their business goals. Do they want a promotion or to be seen as an expert in their field? Do they want to save time at work so they’re less stressed at home? Through this framework, you can create messaging that will resonate with potential buyers.

Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your product

After you determine who your customers are and what drives them to take action, consider how your product addresses their wants and needs. How does your product solve their pain points? Dive deep into the specific functionalities of your product and describe how each one benefits the buyer. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your product. Is there anything your customer needs that is not addressed with your solution? Consider if you’ll remedy those weaknesses through product enhancements later on, or how you’ll craft a message that will positively communicate perceived shortcomings if they exist.

Understand your competitors

Do some competitive research. Who are your top competitors? How is their product different from yours? Where do the two products overlap? Check out how they are positioning themselves and their products. Decide what you like about their messaging and how similar ideas may work for your business. Consider the components of their messaging you don’t like and why it doesn’t work. Understand who the audience is for your competitors. How big is the overlap with your ideal customer? Are there niches they address that you don’t, or niches you plan to address that they don’t consider?

Understand the market landscape

Take a look at the larger market landscape. In addition to direct competitors, are there organizations with similar offerings addressing different customer profiles? For example, if you’re targeting enterprise companies, is there a similar solution targeting SMBs? Understanding the overall market landscape will help you define where your product fits. Think about how you can differentiate yourself from other offerings. It’s critical to understand your unique value proposition. The unique value proposition should clearly define the benefits of your product and how it solves each specific pain point customers experience. It should also explain why your solution is better than the solutions of your competitors. Spend significant time doing research and highlighting your key differentiators. Be as specific as you can and include evidence that can support your claim, like any third-party validation from customers or analysts. Include customer stories, benchmarking results, analyst reports, testimonials, and more. Finally, review the pricing strategies of other organizations to help you craft a pricing strategy that will be successful in the marketplace.

Creating a product marketing strategy

By understanding these foundational pillars, you can begin crafting a successful product marketing strategy. From here, work on building core positioning and messaging components. Use this information to build a messaging and positioning framework that exists as a foundation for all marketing content delivered through various channels. It will help organize your thoughts (and eventually your teams) and ensure consistent messaging across platforms.

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