For startups, product marketing is an important way to differentiate yourself from the competition and establish your place in the market.
Product marketing doesn’t just refer to a physical item for sale, or even simply a service as a product. When discussing product marketing, we mean the full strategic approach to developing positioning, messaging, competitive differentiation, and utilizing knowledge to successfully align your sales and marketing teams.
By carefully planning a product marketing strategy for your startup, you will be better equipped to differentiate yourself from larger competitors. Let’s dive into this step-by-step process of how to craft effective product marketing for your company.
Step 1: ID Your Target Audiences & Buyer Personas
This is the most important step of product marketing: defining who exactly you are targeting. Start by identifying your target audience. Who are they? How old are they? Any specific gender? Their careers, or job titles? Interests, hobbies, problems? How can your product help them solve a problem in their lives? This process helps to understand your customer on a deeper level, while also removing the generality of a non-targeted campaign.
With this information, you want to write a buyer persona. This is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, drilling down into your target audience to be more specific. Buyer personas represent your target audience and problems your product can solve. You use a buyer persona to explain your target audience to your marketing and sales team, understand your customers better, and set yourself up for success later down the line in the product marketing process.
Step 2: Get to Know Your Market
After you’ve determined your target audience, you can zoom out to the market as a whole. Examining the market means evaluating the business environment/industry your product sits in, top competitors, industry trends, and the needs of the people in your market.
Your market is the larger area that your product serves. By examining your market, you move past your target audience and buyer personas. By moving past your target groups, you consider other groups that may purchase your product/service and the outside forces that might impact your target audiences themselves. The main two components to focus on for startups are your general market and your competitors.
Knowing your market means understanding the following:
- Any changes that might impact the larger target audience/market; these can be political/social/financial, etc.
- Any environmental concerns
- Indirect competitors
Forbes recommends that you know your top three competitors at all times. Competitive information can help you to understand how other groups are targeting your target audiences and what marketing strategies they are using to gain/maintain their customer base, whether it’s B2C or B2B. Knowing your competitors in and out means knowing:
- What consumers your competitors are targeting
- How competitors are positioning themselves
- What are their unique selling products or points
- Competitors’ type of marketing and ad strategies
You can find this information by attending events, trade shows, webinars, and using online tools. By understanding information on both your market overall and your competitors, you are leveraging your startup with information. Information about competitors and your market means you can better inform your startup marketing strategy and plan.
Step 3: Plan Product Positioning and Content
Perhaps the most important part of your product marketing plan is determining how you want your product to appear to your target audience, your competitors, and the industry. Ideally, this will take place after the segmenting of your market into a clearly identifiable customer segment you are targeting. Your positioning will determine the creation of your product assets, product name (more on this later), and all marketing/advertising that you do. To plan your positioning, consider the following:
- Why did you create your product? Why did you want to offer your service to consumers?
- Who will your product benefit? Who is it ideally for? Who will gain the most from your service?
- What challenges or problems does your product/service solve for users?
- What makes you unique? Is it a feature, an add-on, your employees, or something else?
- Where can you reach your audience? Social media? In-store? Blogs?
- Does your product meet your target audience’s needs? Are there needs that aren’t being considered or met with your product/service? What change can your service offer to the market?
- What are competitors doing for pricing? Can you stand out with value-based pricing, or attribute-based pricing?
By answering these questions, you answer how you should position yourself. It will inform your marketing/PR strategies and ways you can reach new users or even indirect audiences. After planning out your positioning, you can feel confident that your product or service will meet the needs of your target markets. Whether you are offering a new product or working as a tech startup offering cybersecurity services, you can benefit from planning your positioning out in advance of launching.
Planning your positioning can also inform your content marketing -- the message you want to share with your consumers. You want to apply your positioning to your content marketing strategy, to ensure that you are standardizing your marketing strategy and branding continuity. For more information on positioning in tech startups, look at Metis Communication’s guide on tech startup marketing.
Step 4: Go-to-Market Plan
While this step might not be as exciting, it is vital to the success of your startup. Your Go-to-Market plan involves the physical documentation of all aspects of your product or service. The Go-to-Market plan should include the following:
- 5 mandatory sales tools for all startups
- Product data sheet → explains all physical components of your product, or all aspects of your service
- “What’s New” data sheet → includes any new information from competitors, the industry trends, and new product features you are testing out
- Sales & Training presentations → a training presentation ensures that both existing and new employees share the same message/positioning about your product
- Customer-Facing presentation → a presentation about your product for customers means you can control the message surrounding your product
- Competitor Battlecard → a one page summary of your competitors and their positioning; helps your employees on all levels know the vital information about your competitors
- Finalize product name → keep in mind the following:
- Consider your target audience, competitors, and positioning before determining your product name
- Gender of your target audience? Level of education? Ethnicity or race?
- Product components like color, weight, height, shape of the product, distinctiveness of your components?
- Do you want to focus on your product’s distinctive features, a memorable message, or an emotional appeal?
- STP plan → segmentation of target audience information, targeting plans and reasoning, positioning plans
- High level plan with overall goals for your product or service
- Budgeting plan
- Define the exact nature of programs you are spending money on for your marketing program, R&D, and production
With these components, you will have a complete Go-to-Market plan. All this information means you are ensuring that your startup has the documentation to successfully launch your product or service, while keeping the information standardized across your organization.
Step 5: 3...2...1...Launch!
Finally! You can release your product or service to your target audience and buyer personas. There are steps both internally and externally in order to launch a product or service as a startup.
Internally, you need to make sure certain aspects of your product are completed. This includes:
- Know your product’s benefits inside and out
- Sales team is trained and clear on product benefits
- Positioning and messaging is clear, based on your product benefits
- Clear and set buyer personas, ideal customers, and target audiences
- Goals for your product and pricing model
- How the product is being launched
By having all of this information established and set up for your internal team, you will ensure that your entire company will have control over your positioning, knowledge of your product, and you’ll be ready to face challenges in the market. The main consideration you should take here is the media with which you’ll reach your target audience. What format is the best for reaching that target audience? Where will they interact and engage with your new product or service? Some options to consider are:
- Social media
- In-store marketing
- Blog postings
- A product launch event (for more advice on planning the perfect event, look at our event checklist)
- Website landing page
- Exclusive product review from an industry expert
- A promotional event or campaign
Product marketing helps startups create a product or service that users will be drawn to. Key steps in product marketing for startups include identifying target audiences and buyer personas, knowing your market, planning positioning, creating a Go-to-Market plan, and finally launching your product and/or startup. These steps will assist you in covering all your bases with product marketing, with a product or service, within your startup.
Stuck with how to even get started? Download Metis Communication’s template on developing buyer personas to make sure you correctly identify your buyer personas. Metis Communication is happy to help all startups, big or small.