Why is product marketing so hard?

Last week I had a call with a former colleague who is a sales enablement genius. We were talking about changes in both marketing and sales.

It occurred to me that the change has been dramatic over the course of my career and so we talked about why. I just love those conversations where something suddenly becomes clear; so, let me share.

It started with the shift that’s occurred with how B2B buyers buy… more and more (and I know you’ve heard the stats) these buyers do preliminary research on their own, relying less on vendor websites and increasing their use of review sites and third-party comparisons. This is why content marketing became such a focal area for marketing, to ensure that content was put in market to help interest and entice those that were in the research phase of their purchase cycle.

With content marketing came an intense focus on form factors and where content should live, spurring growth in MarTech that outpaced all predictions. This led to a need for resources to administer and drive all this technology and create all this stuff.

And, so marketing departments grew. There were people who created the stuff and people who ran the tech stack and people who analyzed the results and people who ran the team and people who worked with sales and people who research the customers and people who managed social and people who get the leads and … Well, you get my drift.

Overall, it’s meant a fragmenting of “marketing” into a zillion different specialist roles: marketing ops, social media, demand generation, customer marketing, public relations, digital marketing, content marketing, etc. And while marketing departments were growing, sales got jealous (I’m kidding) and began to develop their own specializations: sales ops, sales enablement, etc.

What’s remained a constant in all this? The need to create compelling, differentiated messaging that compels buyers to pay attention and ultimately buy from you. Sure, I know that sounds obvious, but what might be less obvious is this: today’s messaging isn’t your Grandma’s messaging.

Today’s messaging needs to enable content for the self-service buyer. It needs to power the voice of the website to capture and maintain attention. It needs to be woven into product collateral to carry the story forward as solutions are considered. It needs to be shared with press and analysts so they can reinforce it in market. And, it needs to be a part of each salespersons’ vernacular – so they are fluent in telling the story through every last detail.

And, THIS, my friends, is why product marketing is so hard. I’ve seen this come to life in too many client organizations where product marketing feels overworked and under-appreciated, the rest of the organization is screaming “we need more leads,” “our inbound engine is failing,” “our message isn’t unique.” Yet the root of the problem, for me as an outsider, is all too clear.

Amid all this fragmentation of sales and marketing roles, there is not a clear best practice associated with who owns the message and how to deliver it fragmentally. Product marketing has historically “owned messaging” but today, that messaging needs to be delivered via many functions for internal and external consumption. In a worst-case scenario, this leads to a veritable free for all of messaging, where each function takes what it wants from the messaging provided by product marketing and overrides the rest with whatever they want. In most scenarios, it leaves product marketing scrambling to be the “messaging police” and get and keep everyone from going rogue. Either scenario is bad for the employees and bad for the brand. Without a blueprint in place, these departments can’t figure out how to work together.

If product marketing is going to own the messaging, then the first job of product marketing is alignment. The following are some of the top of mind ways that I see product marketing helping to put this alignment in place:

• Get alignment with all stakeholders that product marketing OWNS THE MESSAGING
• Develop an agreed-upon process for building and approving messaging with the appropriate stakeholder, including them in the process so they feel shared ownership
• Communicate this broadly across GTM teams. When folks understand that the process for building messaging isn’t arbitrary, they are more apt to follow messaging guidance.
• Create rules of engagement for working with the different groups in the org. For example: How do you enable sales enablement to deliver training on messaging? How do you enable demand gen team to carry the messaging through their campaigns?
• Add message testing to the process, so the messaging is validated, and people are less apt to go rogue.

Failure to drive this alignment creates friction across the team. It results in the all-too-familiar familiar scenario where the only time product marketing OWNS the message is when someone doesn’t know what to do and they dump it in product marketing’s lap. Product marketing has a vast array of responsibility. Intercompany politics and friction just makes the job harder.

Let’s make it easier.