What is SaaS Product Marketing, and How to Do it Successfully

With any smaller SaaS company or a company just starting their marketing journey, bandwidth and resources are always a hurdle most companies face. Where do you start, and how do you implement a powerful marketing engine? What type of teams do you need to have? Or at least how do you set yourself up to one day expand into different marketing departments? To set yourself up for success, it’s important to know first the difference between the marketing departments, and then how to build them effectively.

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What is Product Marketing?

If you’re starting out doing any form of a marketing campaign, you’re probably thinking “can’t I just find a marketer that does it all?” The answer, unfortunately, is no. Here’s a high-level breakdown of the differences between general marketing teams and product marketing teams. 

General Marketing Teams

  1. Distill “who you are and what you do” to a clear message
  2. Find and execute the best ways to communicate this to your target customers
  3. Get them to your doorstep (or website or conference booth, etc)

Your general marketing team will manage your brand collateral, public relations channels, conferences and speaking engagements, website content and many other things. This job is a lot harder than it sounds; the best marketers simply make it look easy.

Of course, making your products stand out requires an understanding of the ins and outs of the product, the market, and the competition, which brings us to the…

Product Marketing Teams

  1. Know the technical minutiae of your product inside and out
  2. Understand (and predict) industry trends
  3. Know what your competitors are doing with their products and how they compare and contrast against yours
  4. Determine what you need to do with your products to be Number One

Product Marketing teams will: manage your product and sales collateral, write your white papers and product feature announcements, train your sales team and partners in the most salient points, and evangelize your product’s strengths. The best Product Marketing teams seem to have a built-in “Magic 8-Ball” that tells them what will happen next. Normally you have a Product Manager that the Product Marketer works with, but if you have a great Product Marketing Manager, they might be able to do both roles simultaneously. It’s an added bonus, and not required for success, but well worth it if you find someone that can fit that part.

Understanding Of How Product Marketing Fits Within Your Company

So now you’ve learned what the difference is between product marketing and more general marketing. But how does product marketing fit within your company? Product marketing oftentimes tends to not get a lot of thought within organizations because it’s still unclear as to where product marketing fits. Is it sales enablement? Is it part of the general marketing team? The Product team? It’s an incredibly cross-functional role that serves a variety of purposes and when done right, it is an enormous asset to companies and their sales orgs. You will truly reap the benefits.

Your product marketing team will be able to help bring your product and users together. Here is how you can set up your team for success.

Focus On The Middle- to Bottom-Funnel

As mentioned above, Product Marketers touch everything from market research, product design, positioning, messaging, and product launches, to the enablement of both sellers and customers. And typically they fall into two buckets: those that manage marketing efforts before a product launch, and those who manage marketing efforts after it. But most of the time, in small companies, they handle both, which makes their job incredibly difficult.

Product marketing as a function focuses on the middle-to-bottom part of the funnel, leaving more top-of-funnel lead generation duties to demand generation marketers and brand marketing teams. If your product marketer is spending his or her time trying to re-engage leads via email that went cold after one touch, then I’ve got news for you: Something’s not right.

What will happen if your product marketer focuses his or her time on top-of-funnel content? You’ll be spending all your time and effort on top of funnel marketing and once you capture those leads, you’ll have no bandwidth or content to develop nurturing campaigns to bring them through their customer journey. It’s important for product marketers to focus on product messaging, market research, and assisting demand generation marketing teams and sales teams when it comes to selling the product and its features or upselling a customer with new upgrades. This allows you to cover all your bases and not drag your team into functions they’re not responsible for. This will also avoid confusion for your prospects as they’re going through their customer journey with you.

Develop A Close Relationship With Engineers

It’s safe to say that, if you’re a product marketer, you’d better have a great relationship with your engineering team who is developing the product itself. I’ve worked at companies where I’ve had a very close relationship with the engineering team and I would join as many of their regular meetings as possible. You need to be in the know of what’s happening in the product development process and when. This also helps with developing marketing content, and identifying who on the engineering team is interested to be a contributor to that content. It’s an added bonus when an organization creates an engineering blog or product blog and tries to highlight talent and engineer perspectives — but you have to build up a culture that appreciates that. You don’t want to force it!

In addition to getting engineer contributors to your marketing content, you’ll also be aware of where the product is heading. Most likely your development team is working towards a product roadmap. Knowing the roadmap and where the product is going gives you the knowledge to go out and research your competitors and industry trends to see how best to position your product in the marketplace.

Understanding Your Personas

While this is true for everyone on the marketing team, it’s especially true for your product marketers. In the enterprise SaaS space in particular, your personas are often split between buyers vs users. You’ll need to understand both of them deeply and really cater to how you talk about your product to each of those personas. You’ll want to leverage your marketing channels effectively. How you talk to CxOs and financial decision-makers is different than how you’d talk to the end users of the product. Really understanding the key benefits of your product and how to translate that to both buyers and end users is crucial. Learn more about how to build buyer personas here.

The Power of Two

It can seem like a daunting task to build out a product marketing subspecialty within your overall marketing team, but believe me, when you have a product marketing team up and running, you will see just how beneficial it is to your organization. Let your general marketing team focus on your brand and who you are, and let your product marketers worry about feature sets, positioning, and competitive differentiation. These two teams together are a force to be reckoned with and your competitors won’t even know what hit them!

This post was originally published September 2020 and has been updated for completeness.