Product Marketing Rule #17: Wield Influence, Even When You Have Little Power

42 Rules of Product Marketing Facebook

Product Marketing Rule #17 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by Reena Kapoor, Founder & President, Conifer Consulting

Bring the customer’s voice to the product strategy table and you will never have to worry about power in the organization again.

One of the challenges product marketers face is that you are sometimes asked to market a product which you had no say in defining, or worse, you may not see exceptional customer value in. The pig shows up at your door, so to speak, for some lipstick and no matter what you do, you know this pig may not fly! So what’s a smart and diligent product marketer to do?

The key here is to find ways to influence the product development process and outcome long before the pig shows up at your door. In my career, including my consulting practice, I’ve observed successful product marketers—like yourself—who do a few things really well. Not only do these practices make your work more meaningful, it helps you wield influence when you have little power and it also makes you invaluable to the organization.

Be the Voice for Your Target Customer:

Even as product strategy is being developed, bring your knowledge to those discussions.

Sometimes the business is looking for a market (need) to address. In such cases, product marketing has an important role to play in identifying which markets are large, growing, and addressable with your business assets and satisfy other criteria. As a product marketer you should be integral to leading this effort.

On the other hand, if you’re in a situation where your company has a cool technology looking for a market, once again, you should be helping/leading the effort to identify the target market, your target user (often different vs. target buyer if you’re in a B2B business), and your core promise to them. If you bring the target customer’s voice to the table, then your influence on product strategy, definition, and the future road map will not just be welcomed—it will be sought out. The key here is to make sure you’re seen as a thought leader in seeking, developing, and integrating such customer knowledge with the company’s or division’s objectives. The best product marketers understand their customers and freely share this knowledge to strongly influence the initial product strategy and roadmap. Bring the customer’s voice to the product strategy table and you will never have to worry about power in the organization again.

Zero in on Value and Differentiation:

Before you develop one piece of marketing collateral, ask all key stakeholders two critical questions:

  • What’s the VALUE your offering will create for your target customer
  • What’s DIFFERENT about your offering vs. other offerings/substitutes that your target customer can use

Why would they pick, try, and stay with your offering? Get your team/organization focused laser-like on these aspects. And lead the team to agree on one or two sentence answers for these questions—not a whole paragraph where your poor pig tries to be all things to all people. Good product marketing managers make sure their product strategy teams remember these as they develop product requirements—and as YOU develop market positioning.

Help Product Managers Make Smarter Choices:

The best product marketers also use their customer understanding to help product management make smarter choices about features and function enhancements.

This can be done in many ways and I leave the politics and diplomacy up to you; but the idea here is that product managers often have to make trade-offs and tough choices for new product releases and they always appreciate a customer and criteria driven approach vs. a shoot-from-the-hip one. They may be forced into the latter in the absence of good data or lack of time to gather good data. This is where you, the well-informed, communicative, focused product marketer ca weigh in and influence the selection of features/functions for enhancement releases.

Customer and market insights about what your customers need—both articulated and unarticulated—where the market is headed, and what your competition is up to are invaluable to this discussion and to your product’s success.

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