As an analyst, I’m often asked: “What does the future product or solution marketer look like?” The answer is that the need to shift from downstream launch execution (content and demand creation) to become more involved upstream in the strategy phase (discovery and design) will be mandatory. The product/solution marketer of the future must be equipped to make key contributions that enable customer-driven innovation. Deeper customer domain knowledge, analytical abilities and the skills to collaborate cross-functionally will be required competencies.
The hurdle (real or perceived) is a lack of the requisite skills or knowledge to contribute the analytical thinking and business leadership necessary to evolve beyond product launch practitioners and become more strategic marketers. So, how does product marketing gain a seat at the table with product management to not only launch but innovate offerings?
Whether starting off in the field or transitioning into a new role, newcomers to the process must continuously hone their capabilities. Here are five winning attributes I see displayed by rising stars in product/solution marketing:
- Knowledge expert. The most successful product marketers are able to engage with product management upfront in the discovery and design stages of the innovation process, demonstrating the competencies necessary to contribute strategically as well as tactically. This can be accomplished only if the product marketer has deep comprehension of the product’s particular customer segment (e.g. industry trends, business issues, technology vernacular, customer needs and personas). Future product marketers must be perceived as the foremost knowledge experts on the customer segments they serve – able to construct personas and messaging precisely aligned to customer requirements.
- Collaborator. One of the greatest challenges facing product marketers is being able to step outside the silo of their product category and work on more integrated offerings (bundles, partnerships or solutions). Future product or solution marketers will exhibit superb collaboration techniques; strong communication and interpersonal skills will be necessary to champion and lead cross-functional initiatives such as solutions.
- Ambidextrous. The ability to transition between strategic planning and tactical execution will be critical for success in these roles. On the career path from newcomer to rising star to established leader, product marketers must demonstrate ambidexterity – a willingness and ability to move from strategy to tactics, bringing big concepts to fruition.
- Analytical thinker. As organizations become more data driven, making thoughtful decisions and constructing sound business cases for marketing investments will be mandatory for product/solution marketers. The ability to make logical, fact-based decisions about problems and business opportunities is a key trait that will separate the product marketer of the future from the rest of the pack.
- Storyteller. In addition to strong writing and presentation skills, future product marketers must also be Web savvy, with the know-how to leverage social platforms in order to connect with customers through online communities, Twitter, etc. They must also be able to tell the value story through the voice of the customer (not vendor-speak), leveraging customer testimonials and proof points. When hiring, look for marketers who can craft a unique point of view or compelling value proposition, and test their writing and presentation skills as part of the screening process.
Product and solution marketers who fail to adjust to changes within their organization or external trends will lose relevance and diminish their credibility with sales and product management. Getting a seat at the innovation table can be accomplished only by bringing the skills and knowledge that will enable the product marketer of the future to make a genuine contribution to the breakthrough thinking necessary to create commercially successful offerings.