Product Management Rule #32: Determine Your Marketing Approach Early and Wisely

42 Rules of Product Management

Product Management Rule #32 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Management, was written by Barbara Rice, Senior Principal Consultant, 280 Group

A brilliant product without the right marketing approach to support it can result in company failure.

As product managers, you always have to struggle to meet customer needs in the context of an unrealistic schedule in order for the company to meet its objectives. It’s easy to get caught up and over- whelmed with turning out a perfect product. But a brilliant product without the right marketing approach to support it can also result in a company failure. Determine your marketing approach early—at least twelve months prior to launch—and you will avoid wasted energy, course correction, and effort with no return. It’s the difference between “product readiness” and “market readiness.”

Here are some common mistakes companies make when determining the right marketing approach:

They try to do everything possible in order to create maximum buzz.

This is also known as “spray gun marketing,” and the basic misconception is that the more marketing you do, the more successful your product will be, even if the marketing efforts are unfocused. You may find you’ve spent lots of money for mediocre results, or that your team is trying to think “big” but not critically.

They do what’s easy and cheap.

This is easy to fall into when finances are tight, and top management may applaud you for making “the tough decisions,” but if you follow it, you’ll still waste precious marketing budget. It’s not only a matter of what you can afford—but finding the right marketing strategies that will be transformational for your product.

They focus on the kinds of programs the management team loves.

Maybe they love PR because they’re pumped by industry kudos, or maybe they’re fascinated by social media because they want their company to be leading edge and hip. The problem with these pet programs is that while they may stimulate interest or activity, they may not be most effective in reaching your audience.

So what’s the best way to avoid these critical errors, and get marketing on the right path early on?

While it will likely take many planning sessions to come up with the best marketing mix, here are a few questions that can lead you in the right direction, keep you grounded in reality, and optimize marketing efficiency:

What (or who) influences your customer the most?

Is it other people (industry influencers, colleagues, friends), certain publications or news sources, evidence or proof that your product works? Identifying the “sweet spot” helps ensure your message is on point, and that it’s coming from a credible source.

Are people ready for the “whole product,” or do they need to try before they buy?

It may be that you want to test different offerings or packages to find out what lowers the barrier to entry.

What drives your audience to buy?

In other words, are they viral, aspira- tional, data-oriented, etc.? Make sure your message and communication channels support this.

What is your company’s current brand image, and how much latitude do you have with marketing programs?

Always be sure your marketing is con- sistent with this. Don’t do a social media program just because someone thinks it’s cool; if it’s not consistent with your company personality it will almost certainly not be cool, and it probably won’t have any impact anyway.

What metrics does your company need to see in order to deem your product a success?

Remember that metrics can mean anything from industry buzz to blog pick up to homepage clicks to sales conversions. But don’t overlook profitability! Be sure you have a healthy mix of programs that indicate people are moving through the sales cycle.

Overall, make sure you get alignment on your marketing approach early—before you dive into the detailed marketing mix. It will go a long way to save time and ensure success. And if you go through your marketing approach early enough, you might find that your product may need some changes itself.

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