I've been in the marketing business for over a decade, and one thing I've learned is that product marketing is hard. It's not just about writing copy and making sure your messaging is on point—it's about understanding your target audience and figuring out what makes them tick. And if you don't have a plan for reaching those people, then it's going to be hard to make them fall in love with what you're selling.

That's why we're here at DataDab—to help you get started with your product marketing plan. We're going to present nine questions that every product marketer should ask themselves before diving into their new project:

What problem(s) does the product solve?

There are a lot of products that have potential, but the marketing teams sometimes miss the mark in articulating them. They might be too close to their product or not sufficiently understand their customers' problems. The result is, customers don't buy their products. To get started, we recommend asking these questions:

  • What problem does the product solve?
  • Does the customer have this problem? If yes, how often?
  • What exactly is the customer's pain/problem?
  • Why does this problem exist? What (objective) facts make it accurate?
  • How is this problem most commonly experienced by your customer(s)? Is there a way to improve upon it through your product and/or service?
  • Why do they buy your product over something else when they could change what they need instead of buying your stuff?
  • Who else is selling similar products in the same category as yours? What advantages do you offer that others don't at all or less well than you do so far (at least)?

Who is the target market for this product?

Writing a marketing plan starts with knowing exactly who you are targeting so that you can effectively do just that. Your target is not two groups—your target is one group of people with a shared problem or similar goals. Often, new entrepreneurs and companies get caught up in launching their products to “everyone” or just starting a niche business when in reality, they might not be thinking hard enough about who their perfect customer really is. By identifying your ideal customer, you’ll begin to look at your business from their perspective, which will help guide all future decisions, including pricing, features, and promotions.

What are the most critical aspects of your marketing program?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be better equipped to create a marketing plan that will accomplish your goals and help your product succeed.

It’s also important to ask yourself who will be in charge of executing the marketing plan. If you don’t have an internal marketing team, hiring a third-party digital agency specializing in B2B software marketing might make sense. One option would be to outsource your entire demand generation strategy and execution. However, some businesses prefer a hybrid approach where they handle the strategy but rely on an agency for assistance with tactical aspects like designing landing pages and reporting on key metrics. In either case, one of the most important steps you can take is making sure that whoever is involved with the development or execution of your demand generation plan has a thorough understanding of who your ideal customer is.

How is this product different from its competitors?

Next, is a question you have to ask yourself before you even get started:  What makes your product different from its competitors? It’s important to make this distinction to help sell it. Potential customers are always looking for something unique and different about a product. Even if your product is similar in nature to another, there could be one or more features that make it better than the competition. So even if you can’t think of anything truly unique about your product, don’t worry! It’s just as important to highlight its strengths over the competition and why customers should choose yours.

What is the value proposition of this product?

That's a question that every product marketer needs to be able to answer at a moment's notice. The value proposition isn't something you can just rattle off out of thin air. It takes weeks, even months of thought and planning to come up with. When you know the value proposition, it guides what your marketing strategy will look like and it becomes easy to write the rest of your marketing plan.

The easiest way to define your value proposition is with a promise: If you buy our product, you'll get X, Y, and Z. This is different than a mission statement or customer-facing tagline because they're almost always too high-level to be useful as part of any real-world marketing decision making process. A promise lets you answer questions like: What makes this product different from other products in the marketplace? Why would someone want this? Is it worth spending money on?

As an example, let's say that we're working on a new mobile app for small business owners who want help managing cash flow better—apparently, there's no shortage of them out there! One possible value proposition could be: "With our app, small business owners can predict their cash flow 60 days into the future."

What steps will you take to generate awareness of your product?

Awareness is the starting point of a customer journey. Before a customer considers purchasing any product or service, they must first be aware of it. Whether your product is a new service, an extension to an existing product line, or a replacement for your legacy item, people need to know that it exists and where they can purchase it.

To create awareness of your new product, you will likely employ a variety of methods. Your marketing plan should include the steps you will take to generate awareness of your new offering via advertising, social media, public relations, direct mail campaigns, and email canvassing (if you have an existing customer base), trade shows, and industry events (if that's appropriate for your type of business), webinars and guest blogging opportunities (if you're in an industry where thought leadership is valued), as well as content marketing via search engine optimization and retargeting. There are many other ways to generate awareness of your new product too—the list above just scratches the surface!

What training and support will be provided to your sales reps, distributors, and partners?

Ask yourself how you will support their training. This is a crucial part of the process and will ensure that your sales reps, distributors, and partners are successful advocates for the product. Will you be providing a support system for your training program? If so, what type(s) of support will be offered? Who will provide it? How long will it last?

And finally, how do you plan to measure the success of your training program(s)? Ensure that all parties know from the outset how success is measured as this can often lead to disputes down the line if expectations were agreed as one thing but performance is assessed against something else.

How do you plan to measure the success of your marketing efforts?

Several different analytics tools can help you measure the success of your marketing efforts. Google Analytics is a great place to start. You can use the platform to set goals and track them in real-time. For example, if you’re focusing on driving traffic with content marketing, then you may want to track how many shares your content gets on social media or how many people sign up for mailing lists after reading your posts.

When will you launch this product and how long do you think it will take for it to start generating revenue for you?

You might not see revenue generation right away, or even in the first year. You need to have realistic expectations of your product's rate of adoption.

Your product's readiness should determine your launch date, not some arbitrary date. Your timeline depends on various factors, like when you started planning, when you've completed all the necessary steps and have a validated product, and whether or not you have any significant milestones coming up (like a product launch event).

We hope you've enjoyed our list of 9 questions to ask before writing your product marketing plan. If you're looking for help on creating a successful marketing plan, feel free to get in touch with us.