Marketing for success at tech product companies
Marketing is perhaps the most misunderstood function in tech product businesses
Marketing, is in my view, about strategy (rarely acknowledged) and consequently about doing everything to generate leads for your sales machine (universally accepted). A marketing organization should extend all the way to a very sophisticated model that includes:
- Strategy: analysis of markets, product positioning, pricing, placement, etc., on an ongoing basis, and more importantly articulating the strategy and choices made to other managers
- Programs to execute on the strategy: press relations, analyst relations, events, direct mail, search optimization, print ads, broadcast ads, etc.
- Measurement: quantitative and and qualitative analysis of the effectiveness of both the strategy and associated programs
Marketing is supported by strategic thinkers but also effective detail oriented managers. Functionally it needs to be supported well by Product Marketing, Product Management and Program Managers.
These folks manage one or more lead generation activities and are well understood so I will not dwell on them.
This involves two major functions among others: to determine what the market/customers want of your product and communicate to the market how well your product meets the need. Practically a PMMs job implies:
- Constantly monitoring customer needs, the competitive landscape, generating market requirement documents, and feeding this to product management which is a different job but tends to be owned by the same person occasionally
- Working on compelling representations of the product in all outbound messaging: collateral, events, sales tools, user conferences, training and other outbound programs
A PMs job is to ensure that a quality product that meets the markets requirements is delivered on time, with the right set of features and at the right price. He/she owns the product strategy and in most organizations partial revenue responsibility for a product line. Formal processes include generation of product requirement documents, version control, quality control and release schedules. The PM also works extensively with technology and channel partners. In doing so he/she works closely with all of sales, product marketing and with engineering.
As you probably realize, there is a lot of overlap between programs, product marketing and product management. My preferred structure for a tech products start-up is to have marketing as the sole responsibility of a VP/SVP level star manager who owns overall strategy with direct reports responsible for Programs, Product Management and Product Marketing. A marketing engine that is firing on all cylinders is critical for the generation of a quality sales funnel. How well the sales team converts the prospects into customers also depends on good support from marketing.