The nature of product marketing is constantly evolving. Campaign marketers chase new channels each year, content marketers adopt new content mediums; the phenomenon of change isn’t unique to product marketing.
However, the changes product marketers face are more foundational.
With the onset of a new year, thought leaders across industries are waxing philosophical about the cutting edge strategies, trends, and technologies that will take root in 2020 and beyond. Several of these trends impact product marketing in a foundational manner.
For those eager to extend the reach and impact of their role, 2020 will provide no shortage of opportunities. But it will also test the bandwidth of every product marketing team.
The Scarcity of Time
Broadly speaking, product marketers are responsible for successfully commercializing their product(s) in the market. Two of the more specific responsibilities within this broad function are sales enablement and market/competitive intelligence. The importance of these two responsibilities has increased dramatically recently, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
In one of their 2020 prediction articles, Forrester predicts that the sales enablement function will expand in scope this year and beyond. Further, they believe sales enablement will increasingly be executed by the marketing department rather than sales. As organizations increasingly recognize the value of sales enablement activities, product marketers should expect more of those activities to become a priority for their team.
The need for competitive intelligence is also spiking. Startups are challenging incumbents in nearly every industry, and with cheap capital and inexpensive technologies available to fuel their growth, they are becoming increasingly formidable foes. 90% of businesses report that their industry has become more competitive in the last three years. When markets become crowded and buyers crave differentiated buying experiences, the ability to effectively position your product becomes critical.
As these two core responsibilities of product marketing expand in importance, how are product marketers supposed to keep up? The same way nearly every other business function has responded to increases in expectations: technology.
The Rise of the Machine
While we might be a long way away from sentient robots taking over, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) developments are becoming less of an interesting trend and more of a practical necessity. Gartner discusses the rising role of automation in their Strategic Technology Trends for 2020 in a number of contexts. The underlying theme is that AI/ML-driven automation is becoming table stakes in most business functions.
Product marketers have traditionally been less reliant on technology-driven automation than the rest of their marketing peers. The changing nature of product marketing and the evolution of solutions available to product marketers is changing that notion. Forrester recently completed its first-ever evaluation of market and competitive intelligence solutions. In that evaluation, effectiveness of AI/ML capabilities was one of their most important evaluation criteria. AI/ML capabilities were also key when Forrester evaluated Sales Enablement Automation platforms last year.
In both of these examples, AI/ML technology is tackling the most time-consuming challenges product marketers face. In competitive intelligence more specifically, it addresses the considerable time product marketers spend on competitive research. Competitive research performed online involves sifting through a massive amount of noise to find helpful competitive intel. This is why Forrester rated AI/ML capabilities so highly in this particular evaluation and in so many others in similar categories - competitive research borders on impossible without the help of AI. With the help of AI, it can become a major differentiator in go-to-market strategy.
Those are two examples of technologies that were neither necessary nor available to product marketers a few years ago. Now, they’re quickly becoming a necessity in response to the convergence of market trends that are changing the nature of product marketing. Product marketers have more on their plates than ever. Much like every other business function that has changed in recent years, technology is part of the solution. Those who embrace AI/ML-driven technology will find themselves valuable additions to product marketing teams in 2020.
Ellie Mirman is CMO at Mulberry, helping ecommerce retailers grow revenue and increase customer loyalty through a consumer-first platform for product protection. Mirman is an experienced marketing leader with a track record of building and scaling marketing at high-growth tech companies, including Crayon, Toast, and HubSpot. Prior to joining Mulberry, Mirman was CMO at Crayon, where she built the marketing foundation and led all areas of marketing through the company's 10x growth. Before that, she built and scaled the marketing function as VP Marketing at Toast, named one of the fastest-growing companies in North America by both Forbes and Deloitte. Previously, she was one of the earliest members of the HubSpot team and held multiple marketing leadership positions during its growth from 100 customers to IPO.