5 Misconceptions About Product Marketing

I joined the product marketing team at HubSpot back in October 2013. It has been nothing short of incredible. I’m constantly learning from the people around me and the projects I’m assigned. In short: I’m extremely happy with my career change.

But the more I work in product marketing, the more I see that a lot of people are unsure what product marketers do or have misconceptions about the role. Well for anyone considering a career in product marketing, I am here to call out some of the misconceptions or inaccuracies that are spread about product marketing.

1) Product marketers don’t care about leads.

Now I think it’s important for me to clarify this previous statement. Not everything we do is with the goal of generating leads. Sure, some marketers only goal is to generate leads through their work, and they will not take on a project unless the end result is generating leads. That’s not how it is with product marketing. But at the same time, if something we are working on can be slightly altered to generate leads, then we will take that opportunity.

For example, my team at HubSpot is very focused on creating materials for our customers. However, some of these materials make great lead gen offers as well. A colleague of mine created a workbook designed to help customers use our social media tools. The was product specific information designed to help them not just understand social media in general but understand how to adopt our social media tools specifically. She then created a version of this workbook for lead gen, removing some of those product specific mentions. And voilà!  She had created an offer for lead generation.

So it’s definitely not ALL about lead generation, but we do care about helping the rest of the marketing team generate leads.

2) Product marketing is not data driven.

I’m a bit of a data geek. I LOVE looking at data, creating pivot tables, using VLOOKUPs to help my analysis…basically anything to have data to back up my work. Even I admit that going into the product marketing role, I was unsure how much data I would have to show the success (or failure) of my campaigns or even measure myself month over month. I was COMPLETELY wrong.

Product marketing is more than just creating product positioning and materials. Whenever we create a campaign, we use data to back up our decisions, and we measure every part of the campaign.

In January I ran a 30 Day Blog Challenge campaign. The goal of this campaign was to challenge the public to blog more in January as a way to increase their blog visitors and leads. Seems like something difficult to measure, right? But I wouldn’t have started the campaign without a way to measure it’s success.

A few of the metrics I looked at were traffic to the blog posts promoting the challenge, social media traffic about the hashtag #blogfor30, the number of people who signed up for the challenge (split up into customers and non-customers), and how many customers who weren’t blogging before starting to during this month. Even if you are just tracking traffic to your page, there’s a way to measure your success. (Also, for a shout-out to #1, I took a look at how many leads I generated from my blog posts).

3) Product marketers don’t understand how to run a regular marketing campaign.

Product marketers are not regularly running campaigns that impact the marketing funnel. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t understand or have experience running marketing campaigns that are similar to marketing campaigns that funnel marketers use to generate leads.

My current goals are around product adoption and driving usage of the various tools within the HubSpot product. When I approach a campaign to drive product usage, I run a campaign that has parts that are pretty similar to a lead gen campaign.

One of the ways we drive usage of the tools is through customer adoption. Instead of prospects or website visitors being the target audience to generate leads, customers are my target audience. I create content specific for our customers with the goal of helping them use a tool. How we approach this depends on the importance of the campaign. But the channels we use are pretty similar to other marketing campaigns. We take a look at the impact social, email, paid, offers, etc. can have and then decide which channels to use. The rest…well just imagine a regular marketing campaign!

4) Product marketers don’t provide product feedback.

Product marketers act as a liaison between the product team and all of the stakeholders (customers, sales, services, etc.). Part of that responsibility is being the voice for the customer and really understanding what customers struggle with, what features they want to have, and what problems they are faced with on a regular basis that could be solved by the product. The aspect of that responsibility that may sometimes be overlooked is replicating the struggles of the customer and providing that feedback to the product team.

At HubSpot we are in a unique situation. I’m a marketing working at a marketing software company. Pretty cool, right? So not only can I provide product feedback from the perspective of the customer, but I can provide feedback from the perspective of an actual marketer using the software. Yes, product marketers work with the product team to launch products, but we also have a voice to provide product feedback.

5) Product marketers aren’t actually “marketers.”

Product marketers are in this unique position straddling the product team and the marketing team. We work extremely closely with the product team (and at HubSpot even sit with them!) but are also engrained with the core marketing team. So where do we really belong?

Different companies have different answers to that question. Sometimes the product marketing role is rolled up into the product management role. Sometimes it is completely separate. Your company’s structure and priorities should help you figure out where your product marketing team should belong.

But at the end of the day remember that product marketers are running marketing campaigns based on product launches, product adoption, or another goal they may be focused on at your company. At the end of the day, product marketers are just that…marketers.

What do you think I missed? What questions do you have about product marketing?

TripShield: Beyond the Plug

This semester, I have been working on a team of seven other students to develop a new product and create a business plan incorporating the marketing, operations, information systems, and finance for the product.  We came up with the TripShield (http://www.f09a02t03.info/), a small electrical adapter that can be attached to the end of an electric plug on any household appliance and then plugged into a normal wall outlet. The adapter is comprised of 2 pieces held together by magnets to provide a simple breakaway when the cord is tripped upon or pulled, thus helping users avoid potentially tripping or damaging the device.

In the beginning of the semester, we spent a lot of time working out the kinks of its design (http://www.f09a02t03.info/product.html).  Its final design is 1 x 2 x 1.313 and includes a breaker mechanism to avoid electrocution when the two parts are separated.  We also wanted to be able to explain how our product actually works: When connected, electricity flows from the electrical outlet to Part 1, the outlet component.  Inside Part 1, the wire is soldered from the blades to a positive, negative, and ground plate made of brass.  Also within Part 1 is a non-traditional breaker mechanism that cuts the electrical flow whenever Part 2, the appliance component, is not in contact with Part 1.  However, when Part 2 is connected to Part 1, the central magnet inside Part 1 engages a central magnet inside Part 2, which mechanically holds the two parts together.  Electricity flows through the Part 2 magnet and subsequently, through wire soldered from the magnet to a receptacle.  Finally, the receptacle accepts any typical appliance plug.  (This may seem complicated for people without engineering backgrounds, but the point is, the TripShield is effective.)

Throughout the rest of the semester, we had workshops every week to develop aspects of our business plan.  For our Marketing workshops, we figured out our target markets, developed questionnaires, analyzed surveys, and created ads.  For our Information Systems workshops, we decided how we were going to utilize the Internet, created a website, and figured out how to sell our product online.  For our Operations workshops, we created our factory layout, contacted suppliers to find out how much our product would cost to produce, and developed supply chains.  For our Finance workshops, we figured out sales and cash flows and created a balance sheet and income statement.

Many issues also came up while creating the business plan.  How do we utilize the green trend?  (We are actually using recycled plastics for our product and packaging as shown at the bottom of http://www.f09a02t03.info/product.html.)  Should we use Amazon to ship online?  What retailers do we want to get in?  What types of advertisements do we want to use?  Which suppliers should we use?  Do we get a discount if we order a certain amount of parts for our product?  How do we make sure we make positive cash flows despite all of the necessary costs?  How much should everyone’s salary be?  There are so many questions to answer (beyond these) that all have to be compiled into one report.

For a brief run-down of the website (http://www.f09a02t03.info/index.html), more information of the product, a demonstration video, a CAD drawing, awards, and recognition can be found:http://www.f09a02t03.info/product.html. Our company blog can be found: http://tripshield.blogspot.com/. FAQs can be found: http://www.f09a02t03.info/support.html. The TripShield can be purchased: http://www.f09a02t03.info/purchase.html.Our Twitter page can be found: http://twitter.com/tripshield. Our Facebook page can be found:http://www.facebook.com/pages/TripShield/174417422607?ref=nf.

If you have any questions about this project or our product, leave a comment!