Product Marketing Strategy vs. Customer-Led Marketing Strategy

Product Marketing Strategy vs. Customer-Led Marketing Strategy

A product marketing strategy for SaaS is crucial for any product launch. Without a proper product marketing strategy, your product won’t reach its full potential and use by your prospective audience. Most product marketing strategies start with the what (the product) in mind and build the strategy around it.

This is an okay approach because at the end of the day you want people to know and buy your product, platform, software,etc. The issue with that is people don’t buy products, they buy a solution to their needs, wants and problems.

There is another approach, a customer-led marketing strategy which starts with the end customer in mind. It starts with the who (customer) rather than the what (product) which is an important distinction because it shapes your strategy and has a huge impact on the ultimate goal, new customers and revenue.

We’ll break down both of these below but let’s start with a product marketing strategy first.

 

What Is A Product Marketing Strategy?

In its simplest form, a product marketing strategy is how you bring a product to market. Crafting a successful strategy comes down to 6 key steps.

  1. Knowing Your Customers
  2. Market Research
  3. Product Positioning and Messaging
  4. Team Alignment
  5. Goal Setting
  6. Go to Market Launch

 

Knowing Your Customers

Every product marketing strategy needs to start with knowing who their customers are for the product. Without it, it’d be like marketing an ABM (Account Based Marketing) platform to engineers at B2C companies. No matter how good your launch, advertisement, messaging and promotion is, it just won’t work. You’re marketing to the wrong people. 

Knowing your customers, means knowing the job titles, departments, typical age, gender, company size, company industries and more. You’ll also want to know their needs and wants when it comes to your product. 

The more information you have on your customer, the better because it will craft your messaging and positioning. To get this information, you should talk to your customers or ideal customers to better understand why or why not they chose or would choose you, and your product. 

 

Market Research

After you know your customers, it’s time to do market research. SOme of this market research is also done in the first step so they should go hand and hand. Market research often starts with a competitive analysis so you know what you’re up against. This competitive analysis will also help inform pricing and features and/or benefits to highlight in your go-to market strategy.

Knowing the competitive landscape is good to know and will help inform your sales and marketing strategy. It’s good to know where the competitors are advertising, and what features and benefits they’re highlighting.

More importantly, this can also expose areas in positioning and messaging the competition is not taking advantage of or doing poorly. Exposing opportunities for you to exploit in your product marketing strategy. 

The goal of this competitive analysis is not to copy your competitors, but it is essential to know what you’re up against so you can better differentiate your product and take advantage of what they’re not doing or doing poorly. 

Quick Tip: Using a third party review website like G2.com, go to any of your competitors profile and look at the reviews. Right above it is a popular mention section of all the most commonly used words in the reviews. By clicking on one of them, you can filter all the reviews that include the word. This is an easy way to find what areas your competition is doing poorly or their customers wish they did.

 

Product Positioning and Messaging

Some of this research will be done in your competitor analysis as you uncover some of features and benefits your competitors aren’t highlighting. With that and your customer research you can then create the messaging that positions you a better or different lens than your competitors.

If you’re a company like Drift in 2020 starting their own category (Revenue acceleration), it is still important to note you do have competition. Maybe it’s not the exact software solution you offer but it is likely the alternative solutions like using excel or doing manual work.

 

Team Alignment

For your product market strategy to do well, you’re also going to need everyone involved to be highly aligned. From Marketing to Sales, Customer Success, Engineering, executive leadership and more. Every single department needs to be aligned. 

What Marketing does to promote your product needs to be in line with what sales is selling. When everyone is aligned on the strategy and execution, that is when you see innovation and growth.

 

Goal Setting

Goal setting is important for every organization and department. Each department will likely have different goals such as marketing being accountable for pipeline and sales accountable for revenue.

 Here are some of the metrics you can use to measure the impact of your product marketing strategy:

  1. Revenue – Revenue is the goal of most companies, and most marketing and sales teams make their living on closed deals. Your product marketing strategy should also be measured on revenue.
  2. Product Usage – This can lead to revenue as well but is more focused on expansion and upselling. For a number of organizations, the land and expand model is where product usage plays a big part in their marketing strategy.
  3. Retention Rates – This is where customer success comes to play as well as innovation of your product. Increasing retention rates also increases the time value of a customer, leading back to revenue and growth.

 

Go to Market Launch

Now that you’ve done all your research, know your buyers, your messaging, positioning, your team is fully aligned, it’s time to promote your product with your go-to-market strategy!

This is typically done on all the normal channels

  • Emails and newsletters
  • Paid Social – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Organic social
  • On your website

These 6 steps of a product marketing strategy will get you from customer research to going to market.

 

Why is a Product Marketing Strategy Important in the SaaS Industry?

Having a strong product marketing strategy is crucial for the SaaS industry because it allows 

  1. Your product to reach its full potential and helps as many of your customers as possible. No matter how good your product is, without a proper strategy, execution and promotion it will never reach as many of your customers as possible
  2. Allows innovation and expansion – Being able to reach as many customers as possible increases revenue, feedback and learnings that fuel product innovation, iteration and expansion into new markets and customer bases.

 

A New Approach to Product Marketing – a Customer-Led Marketing Strategy

The typical product marketing strategy is good and has worked for a number of years but the way people buy products has drastically changed and our strategy needs to adapt with it. There is a new approach to bring a product to marketing which is called a Customer-Led Marketing Strategy.

The biggest difference between a Product Marketing Strategy and a Customer-Led Marketing Strategy is that one starts with your product in mind and one starts with your customer in mind. In other words, a customer-led strategy starts with who they’re selling to rather than what they’re selling. 

It still has a lot of the same factors and benefits of a product marketing strategy. The 6 factors explained earlier are still very relevant.

  1. Knowing Your Customers
  2. Market Research
  3. Product Positioning and Messaging
  4. Team Alignment
  5. Goal Setting
  6. Go to Market Launch

The biggest difference being a more in depth emphasis on the go to market launch and product messaging.

  1. Knowing Your Customers
  2. Market Research
  3. Product Positioning and Messaging
  4. Team Alignment
  5. Goal Setting
  6. Go to Market Launch

 

What is a Customer-led strategy? 

A customer-led strategy focuses on your most valuable customers, giving you the power back to increase business KPIs such as average contract value, conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, lifetime value and more.

It’s a shift from what you’re selling to who you’re selling to. To better understand this, let’s look at an example:

 

Customer-Led Example: Workable 

Workable is one of the well known recruiting softwares and that’s likeky because they are customer led. Workable has their customers in mind throughout the whole experience.

The screenshot below shows a dual CTA (call-to-action) so you can see their product demo before you talk to sales. This is a very customer centric approach because you are giving people the option on your website options. If they know, love and are ready to talk to someone about moving forward, they can get started and request a demo.

If they aren’t ready to buy, doing their research, heard of Workable but not quite sure what they’re all about they can watch the video to learn more. If they’re ready to talk to sales after watching the video, the second CTA is always there.

Workable also gives a third option which is an easy to sign up free trial so you can buy before you buy.

Workable is giving thie buyers every option to see and try their product. Digging deeper, another great example of how Workable is customer-led is their main navigation.

Workable leads with the who and the solutions they solve for them

  • Solution A – Source & Attract
  • Solution B – Evaluate & Collaborate
  • Solution C – Automate & Hire

Under each of the solutions are the product specifics, benefits and features their platform offers to solve their pain points and needs.

Most organizations lead with the product (Recruiting Software) and within that, they lead with the features and benefits (sometimes, not always) of their products. Features in SaaS are a commodity these days so it does not make as much sense anymore to do so.

Customer Led (Like Workable) leads with the solution in mind

  • Solution A
  • Solution B
  • Solution C

 

Customer-Led Strategy Leads to Better Messaging

The other benefit of starting with your customer in mind rather than your product, you can have specific messaging tailored to each of your prospective customers.

 

Customer Led Example: Segment.com 

Segment does this particularly well for each department because each department has very different use cases for their product and their messaging to speak to that.

Segment has separate landing pages and experiences for each of their buyer personas.

It’s all the same product but by having different messaging for each department of their prospective customers, they can better speak to them, digging into why and how they could use their product for the solution they’re looking for.

This is important because at the end of the day B2B is people to people and your buyer is going to care more about messaging that speaks to their needs and wants and more likely to care about your product due to this.

 

How to Develop a Customer-Led Marketing Strategy

As mentioned earlier, it is similar to a product marketing strategy as it has 6 steps but it does have it’s distinct differences.

  1. Knowing Your Customers
  2. Market Research
  3. Product Positioning and Messaging
  4. Team Alignment
  5. Goal Setting
  6. Go to Market Launch

 

Knowing Your Customers

Deeply knowing and understanding your customers is crucial for a customer-led strategy. 

This not only means knowing the job titles, departments, typical age, gender, company size, company industries, etc. It also means understanding each buyer personas goals, Jobs to be done (JTBD), where they hang out (Slack channels, Reddit, etc.) and how they would use your product.

The more information you have on your customer, the better because it will craft your messaging and positioning. To get this information, you should talk to your customers or ideal customers to better understand why or why not they chose you, and your product. 

 

Market Research

Market research is important here starting off with a competitive and industry analysis so you know what you’re up against. What will be important though is understanding the market in terms of how your buyers buy currently. 

Are they aware of the problem your solution solves, do they not, do they need education on your space? All important aspects that tie into your go to market strategy (Step 6).

 

Product Positioning and Messaging

It is likely that your product will have competition so it’s very important that you highlight what makes your product different in your positioning and messaging. This also ties into knowing your customers because your messaging will be different if speaking to accountants vs. engineers, v.s sales people. They all look at products with different lenses and therefore it is important to tie your messaging closer to them. 

 

Team Alignment

For your product market strategy to do well, you’re also going to need everyone involved to be highly aligned. Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Engineering, executive leadership and more. 

Every single department needs to be aligned. This is extremely important in customer- led because when you have messaging specific to each persona, deeply understanding what matters to them from marketing to sales is going to be crucial and help increase close rates.

 

Goal Setting

Like anything, goals and KPIs (Key performance indicators) for your product marketing strategy are going to be important so you know what to strive for. The things that get tracked, get managed and improved so what does that look like for a SaaS product marketing strategy?

 Here are the metrics you can use to measure the impact of your product marketing strategy:

  • Revenue – Revenue is the goal of most companies, and most marketing and sales teams make their living on closed deals. Your product marketing strategy should also be measured on revenue.
  • Product Usage – This can lead to revenue as well but is more focused on expansion and upselling. For a number of organizations, the land and expand model is where product usage plays a big part in their marketing strategy.
  • Retention Rates – This is where customer success comes to play as well as innovation of your product. Increasing retention rates also increases the time value of a customer, leading back to revenue and growth.
  • Market Share – How much of your total addressable market (TAM) are your customers? How are you increasing that? If you’ve mapped out your TAM, this is a very important metric to track. As you close in on market penetration, you will see things like CAC (Customer acquisition cost) increase as you decrease the number of customers you could work with. 
  • Top of Mind – You can also think of this as brand recognition but at its core, when someone needs your solution do they automatically think or recommend yours?

 

Go to Market Launch

Now that you’ve done all your research, deeply know your buyers, your messaging specific to each buyer, positioning, your team is fully aligned, it’s time to promote your product with your go-to-market strategy

Nowadays this is done on all the normal channels

  • Emails and newsletters
  • Paid Social – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Organic social – Usually LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • On your website
  • Influencers (B2B does do this much yet, but it will come)
  • Community Slack channel

 

Customer-Led Marketing Strategy > Product Marketing Strategy

We just broke down two strategies to bringing a product to marketing so when you’re launching a new product how should you approach it? Both a product marketing strategy and customer-led marketing strategy have their places.

  1. Product Marketing Strategy – The best use case for this is when your product is for the masses. B2C SaaS products are a great example of this because you want to get as many people to use your product and there is less barrier to entry to buy.
  2. A Customer-led Strategy – If your product is not for the masses (Most B2B SaaS brands), this is where a customer-led strategy fits perfectly. That is because for most B2B SaaS companies, your product can only work with a certain number of companies based on certain criteria. This is going to depend on your business but is usually based off.
  • Employee size
  • Company revenue
  • Other tech they use (Ex: Your product only integrates with Salesforce)
  • Industries

With a customer-led marketing strategy, by starting with who you can work with and work backwards from there you can have a much bigger impact on important business KPIs and reduce CAC that fuel growth and innovation.

If you’re looking to learn more about implementing a customer-led strategy for your go to market or product launch, book an intro call with us.

 

Tim Davidson

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