Controlling The Narrative: Product Marketing Best Practices

Product marketing expert Martina Lauchengco sat down with Scott Dorsey to discuss how to best leverage product marketing.

Article By
Tatum Lynch

Product marketing is a powerful aspect of every technology product, regardless of the resources or dedicated experts available within a company. In a competitive landscape with countless players vying for attention, standing out and controlling the narrative is king.

Costanoa Ventures Partner and product marketing expert Martina Lauchengco sat down with High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey to discuss this very topic and advised our audience on how to leverage product marketing to their advantage. Check out my key takeaways below. Bonus: You can watch the whole session here.

First Step in Effective Product Marketing? Get to Know Your Customer

To succeed in product marketing, you must conduct thorough customer discovery work. It's not just about building a product; it's about understanding what the market wants and meeting your customers where they’re at. Having a clear picture of this will help you nail your messaging and positioning.

According to Martina, an important question to ask yourself is, “How would you describe what you do to a colleague?” Typically, most founders will use complex and technical jargon, but this is where companies fall short. Customers will not pay attention to you unless they care about what you’re doing, and they won't care if they don’t understand it. Martina said that companies must provide context to their customers before they can explain what they do.

The question founders then need to ask themselves is, “How do we create a context in which someone cares, and how does that affect our messaging and positioning?” Martina advised our audience to be bold here.

Don’t be so vanilla. What will make your audience react to what you’re saying?
Martina Lauchengco, Partner at Costanoa Ventures

So…Who Owns Product Marketing?

According to Martina, product marketing typically resides with founders at the early stages, but it can be anyone passionate about engaging with the market and seeking direct feedback. Martina said, “You just have to have really big listening ears and the desire to not presume what the market wants to hear.”

Presumptions can be a startup’s downfall, so how do you avoid these when talking to customers?

The Pitfalls to Avoid When Validating The Market

Engagement is key to knowing if your messaging and positioning resonate with your audience, and talking to customers is a great way to gauge that. However, you can't just ask your customers anything.

According to Martina, she’ll hear founders ask their customers, “What do you think about [insert your product]? How would you prioritize these things?” This can set them up for failure as they are still presuming what the customer cares about. Instead, Martina advises founders to ask, “What are the most important things to you? What did you recently allocate your budget to?” These questions will help you determine what your customer cares about and what they spend their money on.

When Should I Hire a Product Marketer? And Who Should They Report To?

Ideally, you should hire a product marketer when you begin making sales.

Normally, Martina has seen product marketing live underneath the marketing function. However, the product marketer must be embedded into what the product team is doing and have consistent dialogue. According to Martina, the dialogue should never be, “We’ve made X decision. Can you go market this?” It must be a two-way conversation.

Okay, I Have a Product Marketing Team. But Am I Using Them Effectively?

A clear indication of whether or not your leveraging your product marketing team effectively is your market position.

Yeah, we're getting inbound. They're reacting to campaigns, but another competitor is pulling ahead and has a clear market position and your company does not. That is a failure in product marketing.
Martina Lauchengco, Partner at Costanoa Ventures

The Balancing Act: Should I Listen to User Feedback or Get The Customer To Buy Into My Vision?

It’s okay for a startup to make bets. Honestly, it’s encouraged. But you have to place a winning bet to succeed. Martina encouraged our audience to take chances, but you must deflect if your vision is not working or customers are confused. Creating a new business category can be exciting, but it can also be very challenging. Expanding or reframing an existing business category may be a better path to ensuring your customers understand and care about what you’re building.

Martina’s Four Fundamentals of Product Marketing

Martina had a lot of great advice for our audience, and it all boiled down to the four fundamentals of product marketing found in her book.

  1. Be an ambassador between customers and market realities.
  2. Be a strategist, aligning everything with the desired market position.
  3. Be a storyteller, securing positioning and messaging.
  4. Be an evangelist, find your customers where they are, and make sure they’re talking about you.

Final Thoughts

Product marketing is a powerful tool for any technology product, allowing founders to control their narrative and effectively position their product above their competitors. Make sure to subscribe to our Jet Stream newsletter, and stay tuned for our upcoming events to gather more insights from dominant players in the startup ecosystem.