We've been defining product marketing wrong

A guide to audience-focused product marketing for early & growth stage startups

Whenever we talk to founders about their first marketing hire they say “I need a product marketer.” But, if you ask what that means you get a different answer every time. Likely because product marketing means a range of things, and it varies from company to company, industry to industry, and early-stage to large public companies. 

In most of these product marketing definitions a key point is missed: product marketers should be just as versed in who the company is building for, as they are in what the company is building, if not more.

This newsletter covers:

  1. Definition of product marketing

  2. A huge and dense table of all product marketing responsibilities (also in this Google Sheet)

  3. An explanation of audience marketing and audience analysis

  4. A template to do your own audience analysis

Forget the product, start with your audience

Side note: This heading might be more accurately written as, “Forget the product for now, start by understanding your audience.” But that’s not quite as catchy.

Being an effective product marketer starts from deep audience knowledge, then deep product knowledge, and not the other way around. With this in mind, here’s how we define the function:

Definition: Product marketing deeply understands the company's audience and product and determines how to effectively communicate with this audience.

Founders and marketers need a perspective change—we need to think of product marketing as audience marketing. This makes all the difference in the success of not only the product marketer, but the whole marketing function and growth trajectory of the company. In fact, we’d advocate for changing the name of product marketing to audience marketing. 

Note: To quickly define “audience”, an audience is the set of entities and/or people that will use your product now or in the future. For B2B, this tends to be a type of company or team. For B2C, it’s a type of person.

PMM responsibilities (re)defined & (re)framed

Here are the responsibilities of a product marketer at a B2B startup (but there’s lots of overlap with B2C), and how those responsibilities become more impactful when thought of through the lens of audience marketing.

WARNING: This table is super dense, we recommend you look at it in our Google sheet to save your eyes.

How to get started on audience-focused product marketing

Whether you’re a product marketer, a founder, or a content or growth marketer moonlighting as a product marketer, owning all of this and more can be a challenge. Product marketing includes a lot of responsibilities, but now that you are thinking about this role as the owner of the company’s audience it becomes clearer how you get started.

Before you do anything else in marketing, define and analyze your audience. This will help you create a marketing strategy that works—and it’s a lot easier than starting with a blank page.

When diving in and understanding your audience, you should make sure you know:

  • The audience’s goals and problems, well beyond the scope of what your product solves

  • What other tools the audience uses, or is looking for

  • Where the audience goes for information

  • How your product fits into the audiences’ lives or workflows

  • If and how your product meets your audience's needs

  • How competitive and complementary products meet your audience's needs

To kick off product marketing efforts, actually all marketing efforts, don’t start with a positioning statement using Geoffrey Moore’s template. Fill in this audience research template instead. To do this, talk to as many people in your target audience or what you think is your target audience as you can. Update this on a 3-6 month cadence.

We will explain how to turn this audience research into marketing strategy in a future post. If you have requests for posts, let us know.

About MKT1: We advise B2B founders on GTM strategy and coach marketing leads through our mentorship program. You can reach us at kramer@mkt1.co and kathleen@mkt1.co.

If you’re a marketer in an early-stage role or an aspiring early-stage marketer, sign up for our early-stage marketer email list to be notified about future online events and job opportunities.

We write monthly-ish newsletters. It’s entirely free.