A majority of companies hire product marketers reactively when one or more of the following occurs:
- A product launch fails
- Initial product success stagnates
- Their product becomes more complex
- Their customer base is new or changing
- Market conditions change
- Competitors leapfrog their product
They make matters worse by asking the newly-hired product marketer to work on positioning, framing, and GTM without allowing them to start with understanding the customer. This is problematic. The underlying foundation to drive a successful launch is developing a deep understanding of the customer — and this happens before positioning, framing, and GTM. Bringing a product marketer into the mix late in the game and skipping the research phase sets the product marketer, the rest of the team, and the product for failure in the long-term.
“It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when they have lost their way.” — Rollo May
During the product development process, product managers or business development partners spend some time speaking with and learning about their customers. But oftentimes, this isn’t enough to develop a deep understanding of the customer. These team members are generally interested in understanding the problem as it relates to their own role and responsibilities, and don’t extend beyond their immediate domain to develop or communicate deeper, holistic insights on the needs and psychology of the customer. To exacerbate the issue, they store a majority of the customer feedback in their own heads.
Product marketers work cross-functionally, but most often interface with product managers, growth marketers, business development, business operations, and other partners — depending on the company. Because a product marketer’s primary responsibility is to deliver the right product to the target customer at the right time, cross functional collaboration is essential to build the optimal product roadmap and feature set.
It is a product marketer’s responsibility to understand the key themes, construct the story of the product launch, communicate it across a broad and diverse internal audience, and earn buy-in from leadership. Further, an effective product marketer will understand these cross-functional dependencies, identify the customer unknowns, do the research, document learnings, and create a GTM strategy coordinated with product, business, and operational functions. Just as important, they will take the lead on communicating the strategy to leadership and other stakeholders.
Put simply: a product marketer’s first and most important skill is clear, cross-functional communication.
This part of a product marketer’s job is so important because it’s impossible to launch and service a product unless the entire company rallies behind the effort. And this kind of cross-functional collaboration and buy-in takes time to build; it needs to start early in the product development process.
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