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(Product) Marketing for Growth: The Marketing Plan

Credit : Maura Woodman

The Product Marketing Community is all about connecting product marketers and sharing ideas. Last week, we brought five bright minds and one extremely talented graphic recorder together to talk about the Product Marketing Plan. The result was a lively and insightful conversation, and some pretty kick-ass visuals to go along with it. If you want to watch the recording, you can do that here.

So, for all the product marketers out there looking for some digestible advice for putting together your GTM plan, here’s a recap of what we learned last week. Visual learners are welcome!

What are you trying to achieve?

It’s the beginning of the year and it’s time to think about your product marketing plan. The guiding question is big but simple; how are you going to achieve your revenue and profit targets?

Every product marketing plan should start with the business objectives you are striving to achieve. To be successful, product marketers need to always link their daily activities and their goals directly to the objectives of the business.

If you fail to align your product marketing plan to business objectives, and instead cater your plans only to marketers, you’ll limit your ability to have a real conversation about impact with the rest of the business.

Get obsessive about the market

With an eye on your business objectives, it’s time to turn your attention to the market. It can be tricky to get a firm understanding of the market, after all, it is always shifting. But zeroing in on the market is a key step in building a killer product marketing plan.

This means having a keen eye on market size. Sizing the market is a fuzzy science so you need to take a few different approaches and bring the facts into focus.

Projections and measures from analysts can provide external validation, and help you gauge the number of target companies in a given vertical. You can pair this with internal knowledge (think current contract value and usage metrics) to come up with a revenue opportunity measure. As the market size starts to come into focus you’ll gain a better sense of how to allocate marketing resources.

You also need to keep a pulse on how the state of the market is shifting. Is it growing? Contracting? A great way to stay in tune with these trends is to be hip to hip with your customers. Knowing your customers thoroughly (their pains and their successes) will help you cultivate a sense of the how the market is changing.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer

With the veil lifted on the size and state of the market, it’s time to take this effort full circle and consider the competitive forces at play.

Competitive Intel is critical across the business — from preparing the field to informing product strategy. In this way, CI is multidimensional. Strategic CI aims to map your own products and solutions against others playing in the same market, considering both direct and adjacent competitors. Then there is CI at the more tactical level — where you are arming Sales with the information that they need to outmaneuver the competition on a deal-to-deal basis.

Analyst, trade publications, earnings calls, competitors’ websites, news releases, social media, and win-loss analysis all inform the collective CI.

Your product marketing plan should capture foundational CI information, and spark your future strategy (resource allocation) for keeping this information sharp and significant.

Who’s ready for a story?

With the business objectives clear, and a careful eye on the market and competitors, it’s time for product marketers to turn their attention to crafting a brilliant story.

This part is fun, and it calls on your creativity and inventiveness. But don’t send your right brain home too soon. Crafting the perfect story requires a scientific approach. And it starts with asking, who do we want to appeal to?

We want to tell our story to our ideal customer. That very special customer who will buy and adopt our solution.

The definition of your ideal customer should be captured in your product marketing plan. The ideal customer is essentially a representation from the target segments that you have decided to go after. Once defined, it’s imperative that the entire company becomes hyper-focused on winning that ideal customer.

There is a distinction to make between the ideal customer and buyer personas. Defining the ideal customer involves measurable groups of customers that are bucketed based on firmographic variables. Personas, on the other hand, are descriptive representations of who buyers are.

First comes the ideal customer, then come buyer personas

Plain and simple, a buyer persona is a fictional character who is a stakeholder at your ideal customer’s business. We take the time to understand these wonderfully influential people so that we can capture their attention, appeal to their emotions, and build a lasting relationship with them.

Gainsight offers a great example of how to create and champion buyer personas — they embrace diversity, drive adoption company-wide, and even make life-size cutouts to keep these personas top of mind.

There are two keys to being successful with your buyer personas — keep it simple and focused, and keep asking why.

When you keep your personas simple (think fewer categories and fewer bullets) your company is much more likely to adopt them and find them useful when creating new marketing materials and when messaging to prospects.

And when you keep asking why you peel back the onion. You can then begin to understand the emotional motivation behind the purchase decision.

Okay, let’s talk about the ever intimidating buyer journey

Once we know our ideal customer, and we can bring our ideal customer to life with a set of high-impact buyer personas, it’s time to hold the magnifying glass up to how you and this customer come together.

The buyer journey encompasses everything from how buyers discover your company in the first place to how they interact with the marketing funnel, sales funnel, and post-close.

If you have no idea how your prospects and customers get from point A, where they don’t know you, to point B, where they give you money and love you, you’re going to waste a lot of time and energy on things that don’t matter.

Where to start? Well, the good news is this knowledge lives in the brains across your organization. Demand gen knows how to acquire, sales knows their funnel, CS understands post-close, upsell, and cross-sell. Talk to them, and talk directly to your customer. This insight will help you avoid wrong turns and wasted effort in the future.

Once you’ve gathered this information, you have to structure it. Here’s a simple framework for sorting these insights into buckets: acquire (awareness), nurture (marketing funnel), accelerate (sales funnel) and post-close (customer success). As you map out instances and circumstances, you’ll start to see primary buyer journeys emerge.

Now, hit ’em with a wicked value prop

The moment we’ve been waiting for. Time to bring all of this insight together and transform it into a message that hits the spot.

A value proposition is a statement that is useful — it helps the buyer understand, in simple terms, the purpose of the product and the benefits of the purchase. To be successful, the value prop needs to seamlessly join the conversation already going on in the customer’s head. It needs to be precise, clear, and devoid of buzzed-up hype words.

Take time with this very important statement, test it, and make sure it identifies how you’re different, and why you’re worth it.

And drive it home with positioning and messaging

With the value prop ready to go, it’s now time to think about how we are going to position ourselves and craft our messages as we go to market.

First, let’s get these different elements straight. The value prop relates to your customers — and because there are many personas to consider the value prop has to be able to stretch to offer a wide appeal. Product positioning starts with the product, and should specifically target one of your buyer personas.

Messaging then stems from positioning. Informed by your personas and aligned to your positioning, messaging should motivate your prospects to act, whether that means filling out a form, hopping on a call, or making a final purchase decision.

From tactics to strategy

We’ve made it to the final section of the product marketing plan. Now it’s time to talk marketing strategy, the tactics that support it, and how we measure success.

At this point, we are clear on our foundational elements, and there are a lot of tactical approaches on the table. We now have to think about how to assemble these tactics into the bigger picture of our goals.

How you assemble those tactics depends on what you are trying to achieve, and the environment you’re operating in. Innovate, Grow, Retain, and Farm are four common strategy types used to achieve business objectives.

You are what you measure

Once we are clear on how our tactics lead into strategy execution, there has to be a measurement that allows us to ensure that we are heading down the right path.

Ultimately the efforts that product marketing is driving forth need to map back to overall business objectives, and it’s critical to measure impact so that you can communicate across the organization what success looks like. Without doing this, it’s also hard to figure out how you can improve year over year.

So there you have it, the product marketing plan — informed by some of the brightest minds in the Product Marketing Community.

Thank you to Sudeep Cherien (VP of Product Marketing, LinkedIn), Jenn Steele (CMO Madison Logic) Mike Berger, (VP Product Marketing, Gainsight) and Jane Bailey (VP Product Marketing, GE Digital) and Rowan Noronha (Head of Product Marketing, Cognizant and Found, Product Marketing Community) for your awesome insight, expertise, and advice. And thank you to Kelly Kingman ( for bringing this conversation to life!

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