Product marketing is essentially the process of bringing a product to market, promoting it and selling it to a customer. It involves understanding the product’s target audience and using strategic positioning and messaging to boost both revenue and demand for the product. It also happens to be a critical part of your marketing strategy and approach. But what kind of product marketing approach do you need to truly achieve product-led growth?
To get some outside perspective, Mopinion recently interviewed a product marketer active in the SaaS industry whose organisation is very much invested in product-led growth and marketing.
Meet Michelle Matus from Meister. In her role at Meister, she helps drive the vision and voice of Meister’s collaborative team software. And with roots in multimedia journalism, she approaches marketing with a focus on storytelling and strives to develop unique insights into the product and user.
*At the time of this interview, Michelle was the Product Marketing Lead at Meister (the maker of collaboration software MindMeister and MeisterTask). She is now Marketing Director.
Note: this interview has been transcribed from Mopinion’s 360 Digital podcast series. Prefer to listen to the podcast interview?
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The everyday challenges of a Product Marketer
“Product Marketers sit at the intersection of product, sales, marketing and customer success. So in my role as a product marketer I really look at myself and our team as the voice and the advocate for the user. That means we have a lot of communication with each of the departments both internally, and then also with our users and partners externally.”
Meister comprises two products: MindMeister and MeisterTask. MindMeister has been around since 2007 making it a very mature product, whereas MeisterTask (task management solution) is a bit on the newer side. This makes Meister an interesting case as these two products are in two different product stages. They are also popular in different places, i.e MeisterTask is popular in Europe, whereas MindMeister is popular on a more global scale.
“There are a lot of different challenges that come with each of the products on a day-to-day basis. In fact some of the challenges that we have are centred around communication both internally and externally. We communicate a lot with each of the departments to make sure that we are aligned and understand that we’re moving in the same direction with each of the products. As for external communication, we’re always communicating with our users, whether that be surveying or speaking with users on social media or communicating with them through our sales and customer success teams.”
All in all it’s a pretty broad level of responsibility that requires a lot of communication and organisation, in addition to the more traditional expertise in marketing and research.
Overcoming these challenges with the right tools
To facilitate good communication, the product marketers at Meister ‘drink their own champagne’ in a way. The product marketing team brainstorms and plans projects in MindMeister, and then perform their task management and execution of products in MeisterTask. This enables them to communicate with one another easily. They also use Slack and other tools in that regard.
“We also place a lot of importance on gathering quantitative user data that tells us what our users are doing. And on top of that, we gather qualitative data as well with feedback tools such as Mopinion and Survey Legend. This is critical as it enables us to get a pulse and understanding of what our users are doing, how they’re interacting with our products and what their pain points are. These types of tools help provide us with context which is really important for the job as a product marketer. We need this information so that we can inform the product team and really work in tandem with them.”
They also use these insights to inform their sales and customer success teams.
Achieving Product-Led Growth With User Feedback
If your strategy is based around your users, how can you stay aware of their needs? The answer: user feedback.
Teaming up for a multi-pronged approach
Product marketing is a newer field and the approach therefore depends on the company. Michelle tells us what works for her and Meister…
“I sit in the marketing team, so we work alongside both the content marketing team and performance marketing teams. We work very closely with these teams to hone the message and ensure all messaging is on point on all of our channels.”
“I think it’s really important to take the multi-pronged approach to marketing, so we as product marketers are deeply invested in the user experience, the story that we’re telling about the product, and creating empathy. And then our content marketers help translate that into really compelling blog posts and other consumable content for our users. This amplifies the message and helps our users really understand how to use the product. Then our performance marketing team takes this one step further with landing pages, Google ads, and social media ads, etc.”
In other words, close collaboration and communication with other departments – especially those helping you tell the product story – is absolutely essential to the success of the product.
A heavy focus on product-led growth
Meister identifies itself as a product-led organisation. And for them that means that they are deeply invested in the user, the market and where they sit in the market. They also consider themselves product-led in that they consistently adapt their tools, create features that really satisfy the needs and alleviate the pain points that their users are experiencing.
“A product-led strategy relies on research and developing deep insights, and then subsequently implementing a strategy to fit. I like to view our product marketing team as the people with the finger on the pulse of what is happening in the market, what our users are saying, and what our competitors are doing. And then we translate that into information that our product team can use to help brainstorm and create new features that will complement the product. It helps us make better decisions about what we’re doing on a company level, where we are headed and the broader vision of the product”
Michelle goes on to share that a lot goes into a product strategy, especially product positioning.
“Some of the product positioning efforts that we make include continuing to understand the market. In other words, where the market is going (including mind mapping software and task management solutions).”
At the time of the interview, Meister was also in the midst of launching a third product, MeisterNote:
“We also have a third product that we’re launching and that we’ve been working on for about a year. So creating the product strategy with a new product is really exciting because you need to perform a lot of research, i.e. look into what’s out there, what people are doing, what they’re talking about.”
By conducting this research, Meister grows and develops their personas and can identify who is actually going to be using the product, what problem the solution solves for the person, and with that information they can develop that story with the product they’re working on.
“This understanding of our personas also helps us understand which pain points people are having with either existing tools or with our tools. These insights help us develop the product roadmap going forward for the next six to twelve months.”
“You never want to build a solution in search of a problem. In other words, you want to ‘fall in love with the problem not the solution’. So we focus on trying to find that problem and that issue that people are having and to solve that for them instead of being fascinated by technology.”
So your product strategy is all set up, what’s next?
Then it’s all about maintaining strong communication, continuously striving to understand the users and their needs, and collaborate effectively with internal departments.
“Once a plan has been put into action, there’s a lot of action and a lot of work going on across all of the departments. As a product marketer we’re in the room getting updates on the timeline of the product, when it’s going to be in testing, and when it goes live and making sure this information is relayed.”
“In other words, we watch as it’s developing, and then take the information and share it with our customer success team. They are the ones who know our customers intimately and can ask them what they need, whether that’s an article, a tutorial video or a new training course, etc.”
This close collaboration helps them identify what the user needs to really understand and use the feature that is being rolled out, or the features that will be soon be rolled out as per the product map. It is also essential in helping them be agile. For example, if a feature isn’t working in the way it was meant to (or intuitively), the product marketing team takes the data received by surveying in-app or from product feedback that customer success team is getting from users. Armed with this information they can communicate with the product team to implement these changes back into the roadmap and optimise the product or feature.
Curious how Meister leverages user feedback surveys?
Once the process of bringing the product to market begins, the product marketing team focuses on the commercial teams as they are the liaison between the product and the user.
“Then at a later stage we loop in the sales team, who must have an innate understanding of the feature, the pain points it solves, and how to actually have our direct customers adopt this feature.”
Enabling product growth
“Product marketing has a huge impact on the growth of the company. Especially in the SaaS industry, where there’s a lot of competition and a ton of innovative tools that keep sprouting up, it’s important to have people who are there to keep an overview of what’s going on in the market and relay those insights back to the company in a way that is understandable and actionable for the product team.”
Source: OpenView Venture Partners
Put simply, product marketing is a bit of a catch-all (keeping in touch with all different departments) which is there to smooth the path to understand where a product fits, where the opportunities lie and where the potential areas of growth are.
Takeaways and Tips for Product Marketers
Need a recap? Here are the main takeaways Michelle has left fellow product marketers with:
- Create a product story. Your product story is what will allow people to quickly understand why your products matter.
- Maintain regular communication internally with your teams. Keep an overview and relay insights to keep everyone in the loop.
- Find creative ways / solutions to understand your users, i.e. user feedback surveys.
- Learn to be empathetic towards both the user and your fellow collaborators
- By better understanding how users leverage your product, you’ll be in a better position to identify potential areas of growth.
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