Back many moons ago, or at least far enough back that I had a lot more hair (and far less gray in it), I began my career in public relations. But within a few years, I realized I wanted to go into product marketing, so much so that I left a really promising startup because they didn’t have any openings. I don’t exactly remember why I wanted to move into product marketing, but I suspect it was because it seemed like the perfect position. Know the product and create the external “story.” Then act as an evangelist to sales, prospects, customers, analysts and press.
This was almost 15 years ago. The Internet was becoming a big deal, but it wasn’t the primary source of research for technology buyers. This was long before lead management systems were in vogue. Selling was about relationships, and PR and trade shows (seemed like there was an event almost every week) were the primary ways marketing generated leads.
I did that for several years and then took some time off to get an MBA and be with my kids and shortly after that I took a job running marketing for a startup. Suddenly the world had changed. Marketing’s focus had shifted to lead generation and product marketing started getting measured by how many MQLs they could create. At companies with strong sales cultures, product marketers found their jobs changing. At companies with technology-driven cultures. product marketers became more focused on content as product management took an even more prominent role. Many experienced product marketers soon found employment in other positions and the function became even less influential.
But as the B2B technology buying cycle started changing over the last few years, many technology providers tried to create ever more content to appeal to prospects who were doing more research prior to engagement. But then the number of MQLs that turned into actual sales started to decline and providers realized that revenue was more important than lead volume. And this started causing a lot of headaches for sales leaders and individual sales reps (a topic we’ve explored in detail as part of the Gartner Future of IT Sales special report). And it’s even forcing a re-thinking about the basic go-to-market models, from product or market-led to “connected” (subscription required).
All of this change opens up an opportunity for product marketing to take a more prominent role. The connected model requires sales, marketing and product management to work more collaboratively As I detail in my new research note entitled “Tech Go-to-Market: The Connected Model Requires a More Strategic and Expanded Role for Technology Product Marketers” (subscription required), there is a need for product marketers to take the lead in certain areas and facilitate collaboration in other areas if providers want to be successful in a connected go-to-market model.
In my note, I highlight several ways that providers should be utilizing product marketers to drive success in a connected environment:
- Allow them to create compelling stories for internal and external purposes
- Focus their attention on conversions to closed deals rather than generating leads
- Provide market-based input into product road maps and strategy
- Collaborate with sales and product management to improve segmentation, win/loss analysis and sales enablement
Providers don’t have to make this happen at all once, nor is it particularly feasible to simply “flip a switch” and change responsibilities. In addition, culture shifts take time and adoption of new models are often multi-year events. But as your organization moves towards a connected model, consider broadening and strengthening the roles and responsibilities of product marketing.
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