Product Marketing Advice for Small Online Businesses
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Q&A with Product Marketing Expert, Emilie Murphy: Product Marketing Advice for Small Online Businesses

Published: | Updated: | By Aimee Thompson

1. To start, what drew you to Product Marketing?

I got my first job in Product Marketing at a large global company headquartered in the UK called SDL, having no prior Marketing experience. I applied to it initially because I was unhappy in my previous job working as a Project Manager. As it turned out, Product Marketing was the perfect job for me! It also helped that I had an amazing manager, who was invested in my career progression and development. It’s such a varied role that enables you to interact with pretty much every other department in a company, from Sales, Field Marketing, Engineering, Support and Product Management. I love being able to understand the technicalities of a product and come up with its unique value propositions and benefits. Most of all, I love helping the end user be successful using the product and making sure that the products I’m marketing are helping them to achieve their goals.

I wasn’t drawn to product marketing. I AM product marketing. 💁

2. How do you define product marketing?

Honestly, I’ve seen countless different definitions and I would define it differently in the two positions I’ve held with the same title. That’s because what you do as a Product Marketer largely depends on the product you’re selling, your discovery and distribution channels, and who your customer is. At POWr, I define Product Marketing as the bridge between product development and increasing brand awareness. Here it’s a lot more about product lifecycle management than about big product releases and go-to-market strategy, as we already have a large and pretty complete plugin library. Product Marketing here is, in large part, about driving demand, adoption and the overall success of our products.

Defining Product Marketing--Basically, it’s the lifeblood of any business 😏

3. How important is product marketing to the success of a small business?

Very important! This is true of any function within an organization though. Especially in a small startup, it’s all very well having an awesome product, but if the value of that product isn’t communicated to both existing and prospective customers, it doesn’t matter how great the product is. Messaging is key, as well as making sure your message reaches the right people. To do that, you need to understand who your customers are and what the competitive landscape looks like. You have to know what sets you apart from the rest and what’s unique about your product, then you have to make sure that’s clearly communicated in all your marketing. Good product marketing can be the difference between a product failing and succeeding, so it really does impact the bottom line.

Product marketed. Boom! 💰

4. What are some misconceptions about product marketing you’d like to clarify?

The main thing is the difference in perception with regard to what Product Marketing actually entails. As I mentioned above, this role is so varied and ultimately is molded by the person filling it, but also by the product they’re marketing and their audience. It doesn’t encompass all marketing, though. Just as you have different types of engineers, like front end engineers versus full-stack engineers, you have different marketing roles. A product marketer typically doesn’t have the same responsibilities as a field marketer, content marketer or digital marketer (although in startup life you do need to wear all of these hats)!

Wearing all the hats because I’m a Product Marketing boss 😎

5. For businesses working with a limited budget what tools and resources would you recommend for their product marketing efforts? 

I follow a variety of blogs and one of my favorites is by the Content Marketing Institute. I read their posts often during my commute and it gets my brain going in the morning and thinking about things I can try to do and apply to the projects I’m already working on. Otherwise, attending events and connecting with people in the industry is very valuable. You tend to find that you know someone who knows someone else who can help provide insight or a solution to a problem. There are also great LinkedIn groups, like the 280 Group for asking questions and getting advice and great content from other Product Marketers.

I’d say I’m pretty much covered in the tools and resources department, what do you think? 🙃

6. Similar to many small businesses, you’ve had to build a marketing team from scratch, what insight have you gained from this? Is there any advice you’d like to share?

For me it was a huge challenge at first as POWr had no specific Marketing department. My advice would be, as I’ve already mentioned, to spend time understanding your customer, their pain points, their journey and their goals. Then, really understand the product you’re marketing. How does it work technically? How does its price and features compare with your competitors? What is unique about it? From there, find your ‘lowest hanging fruit’ in terms of what has the highest impact and is relatively low effort when putting in place your first marketing campaigns. For us here, it was building out our email funnels and establishing better relations and co-marketing opportunities with our partners. Once we established this base, we were able to iterate and introduce new initiatives. 

Lowest hanging fruit, you say--mmmm, B-A-N-A-N-A-S 🍌. 

7. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding product marketing?

This isn’t necessarily specific to product marketing, but one valuable piece of advice I’ve received is “Don’t be afraid to fail”. As a marketer it’s important to be creative and try new things. You should always be testing new ideas and if your test doesn’t work, you learn valuable lessons. Failure isn’t actually a bad thing, provided any tests you do run are well-researched and you’ve considered your desired results and made sure that they’re measurable. Often your ‘failures’ spark new ideas on how to optimize processes and how to improve moving forward.

I’m unafraid! Okay, maybe a little afraid...😱

8. It’s often said that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes, have you found this to be true of your experience? Can you share an example?

I think this definitely does apply, as my answer above suggests. One of my mistakes in my first marketing role was not knowing when to push back and say ‘no’ to people. The reality is, you have your priorities and goals and you can’t do everything that people ask you to do. Personally, I hate disappointing people and it’s hard to establish those boundaries especially when you’re new to an industry or perceived to be less experienced. There’s a feeling that you have to try to do everything, but it can actually be detrimental. Being able to recognize when an ad-hoc task doesn’t align with your individual, departmental or company goals is important and then being able to push back on that task and be confident in your own abilities is key in order to progress and deliver results. 

Sorry, buddy, I only have this much bandwidth, and it’s spoken for 🤷‍♀️.

9. If you got to build your dream marketing team, what 3 qualities would be most important to you and why?

For me, a marketing team must always be innovative, customer-centric and data-driven. Innovative, because no product or marketing methodology should ever be stagnant. Customer-centric, because if your customer isn’t the focus of everything you do from development through to marketing, it won’t be nearly as successful. Data-driven, because you’re more effective the more data you have. It helps you to identify gaps, learn more about usage and behavioral patterns and therefore be a more effective marketer. 

That sounds like me! Innovative, customer-oriented, and data--squirrel 🐿

10. What encouragement would you like to offer small online business owners just beginning their marketing journey?

Don’t be afraid of trying new things! Most importantly, understand your customers and do what you can to get in their shoes. Not everything you try will work, but that’s ok. Recognize when things aren’t working and move on. Make sure you use all the free resources available to you and keep reading and connecting with people. A great way of coming up with new ideas is to sign up to competitor products and see how they onboard new users, message their product, the emails they send, the discounts they offer etc. We’ve learned a lot here by doing that! 

You got this! Now, go kick some ass! 💪