It’s too easy for Product Marketers to get caught up in a never-ending loop of go-to-market (GTM) product release launches and the PowerPoint ghetto of sales enablement slides and training decks. There’s an endless supply of tactically-focused projects for short-term gains. I once even had a business unit leader who wanted to know exactly how Product Marketing would contribute directly to the monthly bottom line. Now THAT’S a formula for a perpetual tactical hamster wheel with no planning for long-term success. Yikes.
A wise Product Marketing leader told me years ago that GTM needs to include everything from ideation to expanding post-launch growth. This wider view helps to balance the strategic and tactical value that we bring to the business.
In working with technology businesses, I’ve found that it’s rarely enough to build the best product. You also have to get it to market before the competition dominates the space and begins pulling away with today’s quick-turn agile release cycles. And in today’s business market, the Global Pandemic quickly has now grown existing Digital Transformation projects in many industries to rapid deployment. Many companies seek to keep pace with this transformation, the Pandemic recovery and other trends, but copying the competition is normally just a recipe for reaching mediocre long-term results. That’s where product ideation becomes a key differentiator.
Product Marketers can contribute to product ideation on multiple levels. We are often the researchers for market and competitive intelligence, giving us a wide view of the external landscape. We form deep relationships with marketing, sales, and product management colleagues, gathering ideas from various sources throughout the business. We’re normally involved with Voice of the Customer research, giving us direct input from buyers and users. And finally, we keep a practical lens on all idea concepts because Product Marketing will be responsible for launching any successful ideas into the market. Here are some additional ideas on how to utilize the Product Marketing role for better product ideation:
Combine the Super Powers of Product Management-Product Marketing
There are powerful synergies to be had between Product Managers (PM) and Product Marketing (PMM). By now, most of us have been through some sort of Pragmatic Marketing training. The lines between PM and PMM are quickly blurred, which can potentially lead to energy-draining turf wars. But the truth is that there’s almost more than enough work to go around to stay competitive. The technical experience and first-hand buyer knowledge from Product Management is complimented by the persuasive storytelling and strategic marketing lens that Product Marketers bring. I try to have close-enough relationships with my PM counterparts that we can literally finish each other’s sentences.
Beyond Customer Feedback to the Truly Innovative
“We’ve conducted 100+ Voice of the Customer interviews and we still don’t know how to lead the market”, said an exasperated Product Manager at one company I consulted with. Both interviews with customers AND non-customers is important to understanding product expectations and areas for product improvement. But people normally focus on products and problems they already know.
Top technology firms in the world have hired leagues of futurists, economists, and other forward-leaning thinkers to develop products based NOT on what the market needs TODAY, but what it will need in the next several years. As Product Marketers, we need to either research leading-edge trends in our industries or else contract with futurists and other experts to provide the best strategic insights.
Be Open to Product Ideas from all Sources
Some of the best Product Marketers I know are gifted listeners. They are always tuned into conversations with colleagues, industry conferences, and also to sources outside of industry. For example, think of how many industries have been influenced by Uber’s business model of using underutilized cars and drivers wanting extra income? (Hint: food delivery, home rentals, pet care, and so many more). What ideas can be cross-pollenated in your company to build smarter products and outthink the competition?
I like to follow a 1:10 ratio – for every 10 ideas, find the best one to take forward. Of course, this ratio isn’t rigid. But it should drive the need for greater ideation if you’re pulling through 1:2 ideas. Programs like Hackathons and other contests to ideate have been popular with some of the worlds most innovated companies.
Wishing you all faster, better product development to solve the world’s challenges!
Onward & upward