Analysts Answer: What Challenges Will Product Marketers Face in 2020?

January 03, 2020

Contributor: Kasey Panetta

Changing business roles and customers create roadblocks for product marketing.

Product marketers face many challenges going into 2020, whether it’s sharing ownership of a customer problem, proving impact on business goals or the increasing expectations for marketing. Smarter With Gartner asked some of our analysts about what those challenges are, what they mean and how to face them head on. 

Helping buyers build confidence

Hank Barnes, Distinguished VP Analyst

The biggest challenge that product marketers face in 2020 is sharing ownership of a customer problem — the lack of confidence in technology purchase and implementation decisions. In the face of constant change, enterprise buyers are continuously evaluating new technology even while they are managing existing technology portfolios.

Through all of this, they struggle to make decisions in a timely fashion, then often find they are not excited about the results. This puts pressure on vendors who are looking for new business, renewals and account growth. Product marketers must learn to frame all of their efforts around how they help buyers make sense of everything going on and build confidence in their ability to succeed.

Proving impact on business value

Ray Pun, Sr. Director Analyst

 Many product marketers serve as "orchestrators" that enable other go-to-market teams to become successful. Consequently, product marketers will face the ongoing challenge of proving their impact in driving business goals such as revenue growth and customer retention.

For example, some will struggle to quantify the influence of sales enablement content such as playbooks, product presentations and battle cards in supporting higher win rates, faster sales cycle and greater revenue. To address this challenge, product marketing leaders should partner with their data and analytics teams to understand the correlation between content usage by sales teams and the influence on sales pipeline and revenue outcomes.

Changing buyer habits and more buyers

Mark Paine, Sr Director Analyst

Product marketers are challenged on a number of fronts with changing buying habits and additional business buyers in the buying team. Over 50% of their time is spent on self-driven research. Product marketers need to embrace new technologies to help in getting the right message to the right buyer at the right time and in a format that the buyer wants to consume.

This is a cornerstone of agile marketing. Additionally, product marketers need to see their indirect channels as influencers, not just fulfillers of product. Partners need to be engaged with at the right time within the buying cycle to move the customer to a purchasing decision. These two things can deliver differentiation for technology and service providers.

Disruption to the business 

Suzanne White, Sr. Director Analyst 

The possibility of unexpected disruption to your business is real and will demand changes from the status quo. The best way to prepare is by implementing an action plan that includes regular environmental analysis to manage changes and increase awareness of where the market is going, rather than where it has been. This advice may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked in exchange for other marketing priorities, like adding new technology or running a higher volume of demand-generation programs, when discovering and communicating what customers find valuable must be a priority.

Start by engaging customers directly to listen to them and their concerns. Seek to understand rather than convince. Listen to what they say (and don’t say) about their situation, what is important to them, and what they notice and value. Seek to gather a view that is broader than the purchase of your product. Apply these insights to how you define your ideal target buyers, the stories you tell in the market and the calls to action you offer.

These actions will not only help you build advocacy and improve retention but can provide additional insight into upsell and cross-sell opportunities with your existing customers and enable you to engage more effectively with prospective buyers. More focus on listening to what customers value can help marketers respond to market shifts and increasing uncertainty yet stay the course and remain true to their core direction.

Expanding ABM program

Todd Berkowitz, Managing Vice President  

I spend most of my time thinking about account-based marketing (ABM). As adoption continues to grow, we’re starting to have a lot of conversations that relate to expanding ABM programs and getting more sophisticated with them. Intent data has (and will continue to be) an important component of ABM, not just for selecting/prioritizing accounts, but also on an ongoing basis when it comes to managing and activating audiences.

Technology marketers will be challenged to really figure out how to best make use of intent and engagement data and build messages and calls to actions to support changing audiences based on that data. This goes beyond actions the marketers themselves take and leads to thinking about how they want to alert sales reps and sales development reps to these changes and how they will best provide prescriptive guidance to act on them. 

Increasing expectations from product marketing

Jen Singleton, Sr. Director Analyst 

Expectations of marketing continue to increase, and the role of product marketing in particular tends to be very fluid based on category maturity, company maturity and corporate objectives — spanning everything from market opportunity and assessment to product roadmap, lead generation and go-to-market strategy, sales enablement and revenue generation.

With trends such as agile marketing, customer advocacy and AI coming to the fore within marketing, product marketers will be required to have fundamental understanding in these areas to help shepherd their organizations through a period of transformation, especially for high-growth and innovative companies. Those product marketers and associated technology service providers that are successful will look at the implementation and impact of these areas from multiple points of view — application/tool adoption, process, talent shifts needed, marketing investment allocation changes, strategy and plan impact, and change management — a tall order for a product marketer.

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