B2B Product Marketing In The Digital Age

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Although many aspects of product marketing at high tech companies have changed over the last two decades the role of B2B product marketing and the responsibilities within companies has not changed much over the years. The primary role of B2B product marketing is still organized around product launch activities, driving the creation of marketing collateral and gathering of information on buyer needs and sales enablement, according to a recent survey by marketing research firm Regalix. Regardless of the industry B2B product managers have one thing in common; they are responsible for the marketing, and often, the financial performance of the products and services they manage.

The actual execution of B2B product marketing tasks in the digital age has dramatically changed the way products are launch and product lifecycle is managed. Today, we have tools and technologies that enable us to launch products faster, target them better and track their adoption more closely.

Product Marketing Responsibilities and Activities

The Regalix Research survey revealed that 76% of the companies they surveyed identified their product teams as owners of product launch activities within the company. 80% of survey participants said that creating marketing collateral was the most important activity they carry out to achieve their product marketing goals; while 70% revealed that sales enablement and product positioning are the primary tasks of B2B product marketers. While Regalix highlighted the fact that 67% of respondents mention market research as part of their product marketing initiatives, it is surprising that collecting product feedback and measuring product satisfaction (48%) and win/loss analysis (44%) were rated low.

Product Launch Strategy

The core B2B product go-to-market strategies have not changed much over the last two to two decades. Slightly more than two-third (69%) of respondents believe that understanding the buyer’s needs or pain points is the most important go-to-market strategy to a product launch. Enabling the ecosystem came next at 58%, followed by creating demo and launch videos, PR and partner/channel activities with 55%.

Sales and Distribution Channels

81% of respondents mentioned direct sales, including online and offline selling, as their top sales distribution strategy. Channel partners came at a distant second with 41%. 

Marketing Channels

Most of the popular traditionally digital marketing channels continue to dominate, although some marketing channels are better suited for certain phases in the product lifecycle (introduction, growth, maturity and decline) than others.

Digital Marketing Channels. Nearly all B2B product marketers believed that their website and email marketing are the most important digital channels they rely on for marketing products. Other top digital channels used to market products are webinars, social media, search engine optimization, and blog. 

LinkedIn continues to live up to its business-to-business reputation. The social media platform ranked as No. 1 among social media sites used for product launches among 81% of B2B marketers. Twitter, which landed in second place, trailed by 10 percentage points, while Facebook and YouTube tied for third, at 54%. Google+, SlideShare and Pinterest didn’t even come close.

With the fast proliferation of mobile devices one would expect mobile optimization of at least the website, email and blogs to be a high priority for the large majority of product marketers, but it was only important to 28% of the respondents.

Offline Marketing Channels. Nearly three-quarters of respondents picked tradeshows as the preferred offline channel for generating leads. Promotional events came in next at 51%, followed by partners at 50%. Regalix found that except for print media other mass media alternatives like television, radio and outdoor advertisements are hardly used by B2B product marketers for lead generation.

Most Effective Marketing Channels At Various Phases Of Product Lifecycle. Which marketing channel to use often depends on the product lifecycle phase (introduction, growth, maturity and decline) products are in. B2B product marketers told Regalix that the majority of marketing channels they use are also used during the growth phase of the product lifecycle. This includes all popular marketing channels that were preferred by the survey participants including website, social media, email and trade shows.

Not surprising, print magazine articles, press releases and direct mail were favored in the introduction phase of the product lifecycle, while infographics and FAQ documents were found most suitable in both, the introductory and growth phase.

Digital video is becoming more important during the introduction and growth phase. Especially among the content types, product videos got the most nods from product marketers because of their suitability during the introduction and growth phase of the product lifecycle. Only television and radio were found to be more suitable during the decline phase than at any other stage of the product lifecycle.

Key Metrics For Measuring The Impact Of Product Marketing

With increasing pressure on sales, more and more product marketers are defining revenue generation as their top priority marketing objective. It is therefore no surprise that new customer acquisition is seen by 89% of product marketers participating in the Regalix survey as the key metric for measuring the impact of product marketing. An increase in product ROI was ranked as the second most important success metric at 62%. Generating revenue (70%), the number of leads generated (67%) and developing a lead pipeline (67%) are surpassing all other metrics in defining the success of a product launch.

Surprisingly, customer retention or generating revenue from existing customers in the growth and maturity phase of the product lifecycle is not even part of this mix, while other research has indicated that this is the least expensive and most profitable way to generate revenue.

Marketing Automation

 The Regalix survey also revealed an increased awareness amongst B2B marketers of the importance of marketing automation platforms for creating a more efficient content delivery and lead managing system. The increased dependence on marketing automation tools is changing the way lead conversions are being managed, said 59% of the survey respondents.

B2B Product Marketing Budgets And Other Resources

Three-quarters of product marketers disclosed that their company allocates up to 25% of their marketing budget towards product marketing. The majority of product marketers see their budgets either increase or remain the same in the next 12 months. Most companies still spend still spend more than half of their marketing budget on traditional marketing channels. 

B2B Product Marketing Challenges

Difficulty in measuring ROI and generating qualified leads are the most prevalent challenges faced by product marketers. Half of respondents mentioned difficulty in measurement of ROI as their most challenging task, while 44% mentioned customer awareness building and qualified lead generation as a major hurdle to success. Slightly more than one-third of respondents said lack of budget is holding them back.

2015 b2b product marketing stats