Marketing Products Across Type, Classification and in New Industries

In today's agile landscape, one often takes their discipline to new plateaus. It is rare for anyone to settle atop the first mountain they climb. The majority of my personal experience is market management of B2B focused security solutions and this "vertical" experience has helped fuel successful marketing, strategy outside of these products, services and industry. The summit of my experience in one area lies within a range of mountains. This mountain of experience runs the gamut of physical products, tech products, OEM products, integrated software solutions, and as with most B2B solutions, a range of services. From this height, climbing any other mountain looks daunting until you remember how you got to this summit.

From a top the world at the summit of your ascent, you can see the path to climb on your next mountain.

From a top the world at the summit of your ascent, you can see the path to climb on your next mountain.

I was recently hired by a company to help them develop a strategic product marketing plan, a go-to-market strategy for a product I had never worked with in an industry I had no experience in. Why did they hire me to help them climb this new mountain? They hired me because I had ten years working in their target industry, No. They hired me because I knew their product/service inside and out, No. They hired me because the most successful marketing efforts I have led were built on a solid, agile foundation of strategies, tools, pathways, and processes.  

Here are some of the basics that formed the foundation of the strategic plan we were able to ignite.
1. Brand/Product Valuation: Identify product/brand positioning and product differentiation points among client “needs”. In sales, you learn to identify “needs” or as The Sandler Rules define needs, your client’s ‘pain points’.  This information is the same in marketing - we just do different things with it. Tools: Brand Interviews, Competitive Landscape Mapping
2. Context: Quantify and apply the data we compiled in our brand/product valuation to inform decisions moving forward. Tools: SWOT Analysis, Differential Graphs
3. Roadmap Decisions: We put a creative plan into action based on what we learned about our product’s positioning to address the client’s pain points improving our product’s positioning using differentiation. Tools: Incentive Programs, Product Education etc… (more below)
4. Execute and Evangelize (for another case study)

So what were my new client’s pain points and their customer's needs states? How would I find them? What would we do with this information if we could find it? I applied the agile processes that helped build the foundation of the summit on which I stood.

First, I started with some interviews, a ‘15 minute’ talk with each employee involved in the sales and marketing of the product and discussed the product itself, the industry (market), and picked their brains looking for those precious “pains” they had learned from their interactions so I could explore them in data. 

Next, using what we had learned I put together a series of competitive landscape maps based on the various “needs” by which our clients were making their purchase decisions and the state of our product/brand positioning. I presented the short series of graphs to every employee and asked them to easily and quickly identify where our product/brand and the competition were each positioned within a “need”. We mapped product valuations such as price (y-axis):value (x-axis), quality vendors:quantity of vendors, online presentation:buy accessibility, etc… This information was then coded into differential graphs by assigning variable scoring to each result and averaging the scores of each individual to compile a mean score for each product valuation, again such as price:value. For this case study example, quantity of vendors scored weakly favorable to our product at 3.6 and quality of vendors scored poorly at -1.4. I’ll come back to the significance of this data example in a minute. Overall, the data gave us a more clear picture of where our product was positioned and highlighted certain quantifiable pain points such as their distribution channel. This data was then visualized into graphs and summarized in an advanced SWOT analysis. 

Now the data was ready to help inform our decisions. In the example for this case study, we identified that our competition did a much better job working with their vendors as evidenced by the weak scoring of quantity of vendors and the negative scoring of quality of vendors (of 20 variables, only 3 scored negative showed a significant advantage to our competition). In this case, the data helped support a pre-supposition that we made during the initial internal discussions - shared vendors were showcasing our competition much more prominently online and our competition had a much bigger and better presence among those online vendors. This information was then put into action as we formulated our go-to-market strategic roadmap to work better with vendors and focus on our distribution channels which included initiatives such as incentive programs, a focus on more open and frequent communication, shared advertising and paid searches, product education programs to evangelize our product to vendors more successfully, and increased visible community activity like social media, blogging with vendor participation. 

The agility of the process of identifying the “needs” of the customer and the positioning of products, analyzing and then quantifying the data compiled, then using the information learned to inform product/brand decisions will time and time again result in increasing the value of your product. It will improve its positioning, and lead to more sales. This case study used only one primary example, however information we learned from employing a range of basic and advanced tools informed much of our strategic planning and vision. The more data you have and the increasing frequency with which you are able to review the information will invariably make your product marketing substantially more agile and thus more effective. It's the process that climbs the mountain to reach the summit. New processes are constantly developed advancing the sophistication of the core function, but the foundational process works in any industry and with any product/service be it IT, computers, watches, security fence, software, SAAS, or any service.

Illuminate your marketing vision by having the voice of your customer inform your roadmap. The next mountain won't seem so steep a climb.