It’s that time of year again.
Everyone is focused on priorities, KPIs, and strategy for 2016.
And as a product marketer, that means you were probably just handed a plateful of responsibilities that touch everything from sales to product to customer success. But regardless of what your business goals might be, there are three things that we think you can do to become a better product marketer this year. Here’s the list.
1. Be customer driven.
Customer feedback should be woven into everything you do. Focus first on building relationships, then on getting what you need out of the relationship. Don’t come in hot and get an intro to a customer and pounce on them for feedback — ease into it. You’ll get far more out of relationship marketing if you spend time getting to know them personally and professionally first. Three specific things to focus on:
Messaging. It’s easy to get caught up iterating your messaging when working exclusively with internal opinions. Words are subjective and everyone thinks they’re a marketer. If you’re going to make changes, test them with customers so you can root the decision in the reality of someone who’s pain you’re solving. Default to being wrong.
Competition.Many of your customers will have used your competitors in the past. Don’t miss out on this phenomenal source of intel. Once your relationships are solid, you’ll be able to get phenomenal feedback on things like battle cards, sales decks and other competitive materials.
Product. While your product management friends are wrangling the engineers, be an extension to them and solicit roadmap feedback.
Pro Tip: Never miss an opportunity to meet customers in-person and create opportunities to spend extensive time with them. The best way I’ve found to accelerate the relationship development is by creating a Customer Advisory Board. Customers love the notoriety, swag, and opportunity to provide first-class feedback into the roadmap. These events have built in social time where you can really get to know them too. They’ll love the attention, and as a result they’ll help you any time you need it.
2. Make time to learn from losses.
Win/loss analysis shouldn’t just be for sales. There’s no better way for product marketers to figure out what isn’t working across the board than a win/loss analysis. If conducted the right way, the insight gained will help you build better products, improve your messaging, and fine-tune your selling approach.
Unfortunately win/loss analysis tends to sit in the backlog. That needs to change — and I’m guilty of de-prioritizing it too (there’s analysts that we need to talk to, content we need to create, sales trainings to run, etc.) Commit to turning the tide this year.
Pro Tip: For companies struggling to prioritize the time it takes for detailed win/loss analysis: outsource it. It’s hard to get someone focused on this full-time, and there’s only so much information an individual will share wit you (especially considering they chose not to do business with you). This is why I’ve used DoubleCheck Research. This company is dedicated exclusively to researching wins and losses, and the qualitative and quantitative approach they take gives you invaluable information. They’re an independent party, and they get more information than you could — plus they package it up in easy to consume ways, while still providing the full interview and survey transcripts. It’s well worth the money if you have it.
3. Find ways to learn from partners.
Partners are customers, too. If they aren’t buying what you’re selling, you’re in trouble. The channel is critical. Next to up-sell and cross-sell, this will most likely be your highest converting source of leads. What’s special about partners is that they can help rise the tide of your market. As you create messaging and positioning for your market, if they buy into it, they parrot it. With that additional vested interest, they’ll be even more forthcoming with feedback around messaging and positioning, competitors, and product strategy.
Pro Tip: Compliment the Customer Advisory Board with a Partner Advisory Board. They’re implementing your competitors alongside your product daily. Oftentimes trusted advisors to the customer, they’re in charge of recommendations. They can exponentially increase your knowledge about how to better compete. But use caution: be aware that they’re on your competitor’s Partner Advisory Boards, too. Understand that you need to give to get, but that NDA’s are often superficial in the tech world.
Happy New Year! Kill it.