Product Marketing vs Marketing: Understanding the Differences

Product marketing vs marketing?

You see a lot of SaaS companies hiring for product marketing roles and it’s a bit confusing.

Don’t they have the same skill sets? Is there even any difference between product marketers and your regular marketer? Which does your company need? How do you decide on which will bring you the highest ROI for your business?

There’s a difference between product marketing and traditional marketing.

And this blog post will look at both concepts and answer every question you have about them.

Let’s get into it!

TL;DR

  • The key differences between product marketing and traditional marketing lie in their job description/responsibilities, and what stage of the user journey you are focusing on
  • While marketing is meant to attract prospects, drive demand and create brand awareness, product marketing doesn’t end after the acquisition stage
  • A product marketer’s job extends beyond the go-to-market strategy. It also includes positioning, generating demand using a mix of marketing strategies, onboarding new users, driving them to activation, adoption, and retention.
  • Product marketing sits at the intersection of different teams, from sales enablement to customer support.
  • Your product marketing team will depend on the size of your business and your goals. Some of the most common roles include; the product marketing manager, content marketing manager, SEO specialist, and growth marketer.
  • To measure the success of your product marketing efforts/campaigns there are several key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll need to track all through the customer’s lifecycle.
  • Several product tools exist to help your team work better by automating most of the necessary jobs like Drip for email marketing, Userpilot for product adoption and also self-service support.

What is considered product marketing?

Product marketing is a form of marketing that’s focused on the product itself and the entire sales funnel, rather than just driving brand awareness and acquiring marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

It’s all the efforts made to drive demand, acquire new customers who’ll try out your product, and ensure they have a great experience that drives retention. Product marketing sits at the intersection of typical marketing strategies, sales enablement, customer success, and the product itself.

product marketing vs marketing
Source: Userpilot

What’s the difference between product marketing and traditional marketing?

Traditional marketing focuses on creating demand and acquiring MQLs for the sales team. The job of this form of marketing is to put the word out there about your brand/product and try to attract qualified leads.

Everything after this is no longer a function of traditional marketing.

Product marketing on the other hand uses your product as the primary driver of acquisition by getting potential customers to try out the product through trials and freemium models.

Product marketing’s focus is to drive product growth across different stages of the funnel/customer journey (activation, adoption, retention, and referral).

Let’s use Spotify as an example.

Traditional marketing campaigns for a streaming platform like Spotify will include writing ad copy that clearly states their mission as a music streaming software.

They could also create several landing pages comparing themselves to their competitors.

Product marketing campaigns on the other hand goes a step further than these acquisition and awareness strategies and focus on driving engagement inside the app and increasing freemium to paid conversion.

What’s the difference between product marketing and product management

Product marketing and product management both work hand in hand, but while the former is responsible for the product, the other is responsible for how users see the product.

Product marketing is focused on developing a go-to-market strategy that drives demand, signups, adoption, and retention of your product.

While product management focuses on everything that goes into the creation/development of the said product.

From user research to product roadmap to backlog prioritization, and collecting user feedback these are all functions of the product manager.

Product marketing’s role in marketing

Product marketing is a form of marketing that requires you to keep pushing the product to your target user at each stage of their journey.

product marketing vs marketing description
Source: Userpilot

The role of the product marketing team in your company will depend on your size and company needs but these are the common responsibilities:

The role of product marketing extends beyond the regular responsibilities of a marketing team to look at the entire funnel and keep driving users to the next stages across the user adoption flywheel.

different stages of the customer's journey
Source: Userpilot

What is the role of a product marketing manager?

Product marketers or product marketing managers perform various roles across the product’s lifespan.

These include:

  • positioning
  • targeting and messaging
  • creating the go-to-market strategy
  • generating demand with content writing
  • user onboarding with in-app communication

Positioning

Positioning refers to how you present your product to your target users, and how they perceive you.

And because the product marketing manager is responsible for driving demand and signups, how users see your product is part of their core responsibilities.

Product marketers do this by clearly understanding the product and who it’s for, as well as how it’ll help them.

Targeting and messaging

Product marketing managers should know the user persona inside out. Their pain points, what they’ll need a tool like yours for, what success means to them, etc.

With this, product marketers can create personalized messages that speak directly to users.

If positioning is how you are known/present on the market, targeting and messaging is how you communicate your value effectively to the right audience at the right time.

Creating the go-to-market strategy

Your go-to-market strategy is a plan on how to launch your product successfully and move the customer through each stage of the funnel.

This details everything from your target users to your competitors to the best mix of marketing tactics to get in front of customers, drive them to a trial, convert them to paying users, and beyond.

Driving demand with content writing

For most SaaS products, SEO and content writing will be a primary marketing channel.

Your product marketer must gather insights from the users/target customer to find out what content can be created around them to drive not just awareness but also demand.

The goal is not only to answer the user’s questions, but it’s also to include your product in the content while showing them how to use it and giving them room to try it out.

User onboarding with in-app communication

Product marketers are also responsible for optimizing the user’s onboarding experience.

The focus is on optimizing the onboarding process to increase activation, adoption, retention, and account expansion.

There are 3 different stages of onboarding users will experience in your product:

  • Primary onboarding: this is the first experience with your product. This should be optimized to effectively communicate and quickly drive users to their aha moment. Doing this improves their chances of progressing to the next level.
  • Secondary and Tertiary onboarding: you use this to show more advanced and useful features to the user.

Product marketers use in-app communication at different stages to promote key features, upsell to your users, and also gather user feedback.

In-app messages are simple ways of communicating with users inside the app and contextually guide them through the onboarding process.

For example, Postify uses an onboarding checklist (built with Userpilot) to drive users to the activation point.

Postfity checklist setting in Userpilot dashboard

What does a product marketing team look like?

Every product marketing team is different and structured to fit the company’s needs, size, product type, etc.

Remember that your product marketing team will be driving customer progression across each stage of the user journey.

Because of this, you need to figure out the various skill sets you’ll need to achieve overall success on the budget you have.

A typical product team however includes these key roles:

  • Head of Product Marketing/Product Marketing Manager who oversees the whole team
  • Growth Product Marketer who’ll be more focused on optimizing in-app experiences using A/B tests, feedback, etc.
  • Content Marketing Manager who structures and plans your content strategy to attract demand and drive prospective customers to signups/free trials.
  • Customer Success Manager who’ll help both existing and new users with the various friction points they may experience with your product.
  • SEO Specialist to ensure you’re visible to the right users you’ve positioned your product for.
  • Chief Marketing Officer to oversee all your marketing efforts.

Measuring the success of product marketing with KPIs

Product marketers typically cover each stage of the customer journey.

So the success of each strategy implemented is measured by tracking several KPIs, at each stage of the user journey.

product marketing KPIs
Source: Userpilot

These KPIs are indicators of how well or not you’re doing. They include:

Product marketing examples

Let’s look at how three different brands are using product marketing to increase product success/growth.

#1 — BacklinkManager using a secondary onboarding checklist

As mentioned before, onboarding doesn’t stop after the user reaches the activation point and a product marketer’s job is to make sure the user gets repeated and continuous value from the product.

That’s the only way to drive adoption and retention.

BacklinkManager, a tool for tracking and building backlinks with partners, implemented a checklist for their secondary onboarding stage to drive users to adopt more advanced features.

You can build onboarding checklists using product adoption tools without having to hard code them inside the product. Any product marketer can do them in under 5 minutes. Get a Userpilot demo and see how!

BacklinkManager secondary onboarding checklist built with Userpilot. Get a demo and start driving product adoption with checklists.

#2 — Hubspot — Using highly optimized content marketing to solve their target audience needs

Content marketing is different in a product marketing vs marketing scene because where a typical content marketing strategy will include just blog posts, product content marketing includes more.

Hubspot for example has a ‘Build My Persona’ tool which is an engaging way of solving their customers’ problem of developing clear and comprehensive user personas.

Hubspot's build my persona tool
Source: Hubspot

Once you’re done answering the questions, you get a detailed breakdown of your user persona which they create with the data you provide.

Most product marketers go the route of developing content like this because it’s a quick and more engaging way of getting prospective customers into your product funnel.

make my persona overview
Source: Hubspot

#3 — Monday.com — Using in-app onboarding micro surveys to enhance the product experience

In-app onboarding is the user’s first experience of your product.

You want to drive them to their aha moment quickly and also use a more personalized onboarding experience to increase the chances of activation.

Monday.com uses micro surveys during their onboarding process to quickly collect useful data from new signups so they can better serve them with a personalized experience of their product.

When you understand who each user is and what problems they’re trying to fix with your tool, it makes it easier to sell the right features to the right people.

Monday.com micro survey
Source: Monday.com

Product marketing tools and software to have in your stack

To nurture the growth and transition happening at each stage, you need the right product tools to help you engage and keep customers happy, while also meeting your team’s needs.

Luckily, a lot of the jobs to be done at each stage of the sales cycle can be automated so your product team can stay focused on customer development and implementing insights found.

Here’s a list of some product marketing jobs that can be automated, and the necessary tools to have in your stack:

Looking to automate in-app onboarding and increase product adoption and retention? Get a Userpilot demo and see how you can do it.
  • Email automation tools: Active Campaign, Customer.io, Drip
  • Self-serve support: Userpilot, Intercom, Zendesk
  • User communication: Hubspot chatbot, Intercom chatbot, Drift chatbot
  • Social media tools: Kontentino, Buffer, Hootsuite
  • Paid campaigns automation: AdRoll, Adzooma, AdExpresso

Conclusion

For product-led businesses like your SaaS company most likely is, product marketing is the right choice to achieve product growth.

Where marketing helps you inform a prospective customer about your product, product marketing shows them its distinct functionalities and aids them through each stage of their journey from acquisition to retention.

To get the best results from your product marketing efforts, you need to hire for the roles most important to your company’s size and growth.

You also need onboarding and product adoption tools that help your team create personalized experiences while still being able to monitor and measure the effects of each strategy employed.

Want to build product experiences code-free? Book a demo call with our team and get started!

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