Product Strategy vs. Marketing Strategy
August 26, 2019

Product Strategy vs. Marketing Strategy

by Brian de Haaff

“But why?” You have probably heard this question countless times if you are a parent. Children have a seemingly insatiable curiosity to learn the reasons and causes for things. This yearning tends to diminish as we get older. But knowing “why” is important for people of all ages and it is critical in business. I am going to focus on why it matters to product and marketing teams at fast-moving technology companies.

It is essential to have both a strong product and marketing strategy that defines what you want to achieve and how you will get there.

Product strategy defines what will be delivered to customers and, importantly, how that will support the overall business objectives. It lays out the vision, goals, and initiatives that will lead to success in the market.

Marketing strategy explains how you will reach your target audience and achieve a competitive advantage. It defines how you will communicate the value of the product to prospective buyers, users, and other influencers in the market.

Now, I am sure you have seen conflicts when strategy is misaligned and responsibilities are unclear — no matter what you are working on. Teams should work closely together off of their respective plans. This requires a positive relationship between product and marketing, which begins with the strategic approach.

Here are the main differences between the product strategy and marketing strategy:

The “who”
Product leaders (whether an executive role or individual product manager) set the product strategy by researching the market and gaining a deep understanding of what users need. This person guides the product team and works with engineering on the implementation. The CMO or VP of marketing usually sets the marketing strategy, but the entire marketing team helps drive it forward.

The “why”
The purpose of a product strategy is to align the organization around a vision for how the product will accomplish business goals. It informs the product roadmap and guides the team through the actual work. The purpose of a marketing strategy is to define how you will promote the product, reach the right customers, and succeed in market.

The “when”
Product strategy should be defined early on — whether it is for a net-new product or an approach for enhancing an existing one. Throughout the product lifecycle, ideas and new features should be evaluated against the strategy. Likewise, marketing strategy comes before you begin any of the tactical marketing work. Ideally, both are long-term yet flexible enough to adjust to changes in the business or market.

The “what”
The product strategy usually contains the following:

  • Company vision and goals

  • Strategic models such as business model, segment profile, or lean canvas

  • Product goals and initiatives

  • Positioning

  • User personas

  • Competitor analysis

The marketing strategy usually contains the following:

  • Strategic model such as the marketing mix or a SWOT analysis

  • Marketing goals and initiatives

  • Customer personas

  • Creative brief (if needed)

So that is a high-level breakdown of how the two strategies are different. What is next?

Visibility is a good first step. People need to have access to the strategy in order to understand — strategy should be a vital part of your everyday work, not some dusty relic seen by a few. Make it accessible to the entire team. You can do this in a few ways. You could use an internal wiki system or share strategy in a visual roadmap that highlights what work is planned.

Incorporate strategic thinking into every part of your work, from regular meetings to planning sessions. And encourage yourself and your teammates to never stop asking, “Why?”

How do your product and marketing teams set strategy?

Help your team do great things — sign up for a free trial of Aha!

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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