What is Product Marketing?

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Product marketing is one of product management’s primary functions, along with market intimacy development, product strategy, and product lifecycle management. See the figure below.

Product marketing shown as one of the four primary product management functions
Product marketing shown as one of the four primary product management functions

But what is marketing? According to Investopedia, “Marketing refers to activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling a product or service. Marketing includes advertising, selling, and delivering products to consumers or other businesses.”

Merriam Webster’s take goes like this, “Marketing is the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.”

General-purpose marketing definitions like these are not particularly helpful to you as a capital equipment product manager. Both definitions emphasize distribution and advertising. While these are part of the marketing mix, they do not deserve the lion’s share of a capital equipment product manager’s attention. Both definitions also include “selling” as part of “marketing.” Selling-as-part-of-marketing is only appropriate for markets where transactions are so inconsequential that they occur without a salesperson, such as online sales. However, marketing and selling are distinct processes for most capital equipment markets.

Capital equipment marketing falls under the umbrella of a discipline called industrial marketing, broadly described as the marketing of goods and services from one business to another. In industrial markets, companies purchase goods or services in anticipation of using them to generate profit. Industrial markets are much different from consumer markets, where goods and services are merely consumed. Capital equipment marketing is a specific category of industrial marketing distinguished by its large transaction sizes, complex buying processes, and the significance of the buying decision on the profitability of the buyer’s enterprise. It is the nature of the buyer, rather than the nature of the product, that distinguishes capital equipment marketing from other disciplines.

Capital equipment buyers

  • Seek to improve profit by investing in capital equipment,
  • Are relatively few as compared to consumer and many other industrial markets,
  • Are organizations in which many people work in teams to evaluate, purchase, and implement capital equipment, and
  • Are often making a decision that can have a significant effect on the success of the buying enterprise.

The nature of capital equipment buyers leads to a sales process characterized by

  • The requirement to substantiate the equipment’s value proposition (i.e. the ability to generate profit for the buyer) before the purchase is made,
  • One-to-one selling with short, often direct distribution channels,
  • Long sales cycles that can take months or more, and
  • Multiple stakeholders participating in the purchasing decision.

The primary objective of your marketing efforts is to enable a sales process with the characteristics described above. The product marketing process that can accomplish that objective follows these three steps:

  1. Determine the product’s master value proposition for each target market and how to communicate it.
  2. Create the capability to substantiate that value proposition through the sales cycle.
  3. Deploy that capability with training to the sales force.

That leads to the following definition of capital equipment product marketing.

Capital equipment product marketing is the process that creates and deploys the capability to substantiate a product’s value proposition in a sales cycle.

Marketing is Not Selling

Product marketing defines the target market segment and the product’s master value proposition, positioning, and price. It then creates and deploys the capability to substantiate the product’s value proposition, competitive positioning, and price to the sales team.

Marketing activities include

  • Developing standard sales presentations,
  • Validating selling tool effectiveness before releasing to the sales team,
  • Creating a sales materials library,
  • Generating data to substantiate equipment performance claims,
  • Building value models,
  • Creating equipment configuration tools,
  • Creating pricing tools,
  • Conducting and publishing competitive analysis,
  • Establishing equipment demonstration capability,
  • Training the sales team,
  • Documenting product specifications,
  • Building and deploying content marketing campaigns,
  • Preparing to introduce new products to the market, and
  • similar activities.

On the other hand, salespeople tailor the master value proposition, positioning, and price to individual prospect’s situations and execute the sales cycle.  

Selling activities include

  • Defining and executing strategies to win individual orders,
  • Advancing prospects through the sales cycle,
  • Determining a prospect’s buying decision drivers
  • Identifying all the participants in the buying decision,
  • Determining the competitive situation for individual sales opportunities,
  • Tailoring master value propositions to specific sales situations,
  • Customizing standard sales materials for specific prospects,
  • Negotiating specifications, terms, and price,
  • Making sales presentations,
  • Responding to prospects’ requests for information,
  • Developing proposals, and
  • similar activities.