The job of product marketing is to make selling easier. I invested the last five years selling to C-level executives, business owners, and school districts. Each role differed but one constant remained true: how do I make more money, faster?

My sales teams, from experience, always had a never-ending mental checklist of product features and customer collateral. Each one, a silver bullet, of how it would help me hit quota faster and make more commissions without breaking a sweat.

The main problem was product messaging did not always match customer expectations. I don’t get it, tell me what you do, why should I care? These comments, when prospects shared them, were selling gaps. The more gaps present meant they were discrepancies in the sales funnel that caused the following:

  • Greater effort wasted to reach prospects
  • More time spent on the call explaining features
  • More stalled deals in the pipeline

For a salesperson, this reality was the next closest destination to Hell.

With that knowledge, I made the jump to product marketing to, well, fix those problems. There are a few lessons I’ve learned this past year that draw back to my selling days:

  • Ensure product messaging is obvious to your target audience.
  • Facilitate collaboration across other departments (i.e. marketing, product, customer support) that actually helps sales
  • Encourage customers to want to buy from you

What is the outcome we are seeking to achieve with ______?

Yes, product marketing owns messaging and that means developing content that speaks about the product capabilities.

However, that work is lost if the message doesn’t connect with your target customer profile. Your customers have goals. Your sales team is goal-oriented. You see where I am getting at?

Whatever you develop must have a clear goal in mind. I loved white papers that saved me time in explaining features and gave me more time to find the customer’s buying trigger, when I used to sell. Trust me, no salesperson is going to say or do anything, unless it helps them hit quota faster.

Where does _____ live within the customer journey?

Whatever you say, do, or create should help guide the customer closer to buying your product. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

Awareness, evaluation, decision. There are many ways to think of a customer journey, but this is how I saw it in sales, and how I equip my thinking as a product marketer today. Each compelling story needs a beginning, middle, and end. Those stages in the customer journey serve that purpose.

Your product should tell a compelling story to win the hearts and minds of your audience. Without a story, why should someone buy whatever you are selling?

Who is the target audience for __________?

Everyone should buy your product. Yet, a product that speaks to all will never connect with anyone.

I’d imagine throwing myself off a cliff anytime our product manager used to tell my sales team, “This feature is for everyone” whenever we’d ask “Who would care about this new feature?”

Okay, your sales team talks to everyone in their book of business and only a select few buy — what happened? You hit nothing when you don’t aim at anything. It is no different: product features, sales plays, or customer collateral.

Whatever the deliverable may be, it should hit one of these three buckets:

  1. Land new customers
  2. Expand adoption of new product or existing features
  3. Retain existing customers

This paradigm shift transforms how to engage with sales whenever that question comes up. It will spark a dialogue and help further uncover how to acquire more customers or whatever the goal may be to be effective.

Product marketing brings it all together for the customer. I am grateful I started my career in sales five years ago because I could not imagine better training that would prepare me for what I do each day. Your customers should not have to strain their eyes to see your product’s value.

The product messaging must be one that speaks to the heart and mind of your target audience.

Sales teaches you how to solve business problems, while product marketing teaches you how to speak about those problems.

The customer’s business is your business. Though you can’t wear their exact pair of shoes, it’s your obligation to understand the road they must walk to keep their dreams alive — and yours.