Product managers are the tip of the marketing spear. They develop overall product strategy, identify target customers, develop positioning and messaging direction, and create the roadmap for sales and marketing teams. As the unnamed (and often unheralded) marketing expert within the company, the product manager is tasked to ensure customer-focused products are developed and effective sales and marketing tactics are deployed for optimal market success.
Many marketing teams are constrained with limited budgets and immense pressure from executives and board members. In addition, too many marketers are using a traditional marketing playbook that is inefficient and ineffective today. Most marketing teams do not have budgets for national campaigns which result in a miniscule number of effective leads; though they continually focus on TV, radio, and print and pushing product information to groups of people who are not interested. Sales leaders spend large amounts of money on sales incentives which devalue the brand must. These are not long-term strategies to survive. It is time to stop. It’s time to rethink what you do.
With increasing “noise” in the consumer landscape, traditional sales and marketing tactics ineffectively result in large amounts of wasted scarce and valuable resources. So, how can your organization build a loyal and excited following that spreads word of your new product and they line up to purchase your products? Inbound marketing, often referred to as content marketing is the optimal method to build loyal and rabid fans. Inbound marketing uses less money (than traditional marketing/advertising) and results in high engagement, specifically with targeted customers. The goal is high conversion rates.
Inbound marketing is all about engaging with targeted customers and providing valuable content where these customers consume information. It is not about selling. It is about educating, entertaining, and informing. Organizations need to be a valuable source of information and content. Don’t talk about your product and all its features. Demonstrate how the product solves the customer’s problems. Develop stories of how customers use your product to make their lives better. Focus on customers.
A Journalist Mindset
To become a great inbound marketer (and a great marketer in general), you need the mindset of a journalist marketer. You need to create blogs and podcasts to engage customers. You need to make informative (and often fun) videos to attract your targets. You must leverage the power of social media and share informative posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You need to develop effective calls-to-actions (CTAs) to drive engagement.
You must change your mindset and embrace the new reality. The days of national TV campaigns that have horrible ROI, press events that focus on dying media channels (where your targets are not spending time) and websites that are basically “digital brochures” are over. The communication landscape is a messy, noisy, and congested environment. To ensure you are “surgical” with what you develop and to engage your targets, you must be laser-focused on the optimal mediums, and continuously monitor performance and adapt as needed. Ongoing “tweaking” of everything needs to be a key part of your organization’s culture.
Time to Change
As Bob Dylan noted 40+ years ago, “the times they are A-changin”. The days of spending millions on TV ads to “interrupt” a wide range of targets and (mostly) non-targets is over. The mentality of “shotgun blast” tactics is inefficient and ineffective. It is time to have fun, be extremely creative, and closely engage with potential customers. It is time to develop an internal army of marketers who continually improve; they build-measure-learn.
Product managers need to focus on developing an intimate understanding of the target customers and determine where and how they can be engaged. What medium do they use to find out about products to solve their problems? What type of content do they prefer to learn about new products? Most importantly, who are they and where do they spend their time (I’m talking about how they access information, not necessarily geographically or physically where they reside).
Product managers must carefully identify their target customers, develop a product that helps them meet their needs or overcome pain points, and provide engaging content where these targets spend their time. What I’m talking about is really Marketing 101, but is even more important in this chaotic digital world that we try and navigate effectively.
Train your teams. Build a powerful organization of skilled inbound marketers. Empower your internal teams and create a Marketing Army. Build trust. Everyone must be a marketer of your product, not just the folks in PR or your social media team. Empower employees to write blogs, create podcasts, or develop video series. Have engineering teams develop effective frequently asked questions (FAQs) or how-to videos. Develop an endless stream of valuable content to keep the focus on your customers and how you solve their problems.
Develop the core skills and encourage co-workers from all parts of the organization, not just sales or marketing to engage with customers. Train teams in copywriting, photography, search engine optimization, etc. Make it easy for your teams to develop great content. Develop standard operating procedures (SOP) with clear constraints of what they can and cannot do. Provide helpful hashtag terms (#) to allow everyone to use the same keywords for the most effective engagement. Most importantly, this must be done in-house. DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, waste your precious dollars outsourcing most of this to ineffective creative agencies.
Test, Fail, Learn, Repeat
Test and experiment. Most marketing teams just shoot out a lot of “stuff” and hope some of it sticks. Advertisers have been testing and experimenting for over 100 years. Unfortunately, most marketers avoid this. They prefer to focus on fancy websites, pretty designs, and avoid effective content. They build it and hope people will come. Unfortunately, they do not know their customers or what they need. They stare at spreadsheets but never talk to actual customers. There are no plans to measure what works and what doesn’t. There is not an incentive to continuously improve. They don’t test different messaging or media. They avoid the hard work of constantly tweaking and experimenting to determine the optimal and most effective engagement tactics. In other words, they are unprofessional and lazy.
The “good ole days” are over. Marketing communication teams must stop wasting time and pretending to live in an episode of Mad Men. Product managers need to drive marketing strategy. This begins with a deep knowledge of the customer and their struggles. This begins with knowing exactly where to provide content and engage with these audiences.
Get out and learn who your targeted customers are. Learn everything you can about them, create amazing products that solve their problems, and then develop remarkable content to engage these target customers. Don’t “spray and pray”. Be a sniper. Be focused on your target. Keep adjusting until you “hit” them over and over again.
Inbound marketing is fun and effective. Enjoy being creative and developing awesome and amazing products and content. Watch your teams’ morale skyrocket. Be constantly engaged with customers. Build a community. Don’t focus on “one and done”. Use inbound marketing along with traditional methods and measure everything. Focus on what works and stop wasting time and money with marketing tactics that were developed before the internet and social media. Rethink how you think.
The following are excellent references to become a master of inbound marketing.
HubSpot Academy - https://academy.hubspot.com/
David Meerman Scott - https://www.davidmeermanscott.com/
Ryan Holiday - https://ryanholiday.net/
Brendon Burchard - https://brendon.com/