Let's face it. Everyone loves to poke fun at marketers. And that's OK, we're pretty tough, we can take it. But this morning I read a post from software developer Erik Sink that features fictional marketers Daisy and Goofy (yeah, you get it) at a planning meeting for a new product launch. Erik has good points about targeting markets, but his portrayal of marketing people inspired this post about one of my favorite topics; how tech companies underestimate the role of product marketing, and why its costing them a lot of business.
I agree with Eric that it's best to identify the market before you build a product. In fact, I partner with Pragmatic Marketing because they do a terrific job teaching product managers how to understand market problems and define products the market will want to buy. If you are fortunate enough to work for a company that has implemented their market-driven practices, cherish your job.
But let's say you work for a sales or development-driven company and your product managers spend most of their time with the developers, project managing the next release. On the rare days when someone leaves the building it's to help a sales person win a deal, not to listen to the market and gather market data. Therefore your product isn't targeted to any validated business need, it's a collection of features that the developers thought would be nice or a few customers wanted. You've got the requisite benefits statements, but they were reverse-engineered by thinking about the problems that the product could solve. No one can say with confidence that there is a match between the persona's buying criteria and the message.
So about that product that has been languishing on the shelf? It might belong there, but what if someone who really knows the buyer persona got involved? There could be a market segment that would absolutely love it -- if only the message and program strategy were aligned with the persona's needs.
Message to software developers everywhere: Before you develop a product, bring in the market experts. And if you want the product you've already built to succeed, consult with product marketing -- in their role as the buyer persona experts, not the t-shirt or events department.