Product Marketing is often considered the tip of the spear for a marketing team. Product marketing decides on what messages should be brought to market — and then those messages are driven into the market thanks to the heft of the shaft, comprised of all the programs run by the rest of the marketing team.
If product marketing crafts weak messages, your tip will be blunt, and you won’t penetrate your target market. And no amount of marketing programs will help.
What’s unmeasured is unmanaged
But here’s the rub: while nearly your entire marketing department’s performance is quantified and tracked over time, product marketing’s output is largely unmeasured.
This is stark contrast to the rest of a marketing team:
- Demand Generation and Field Marketing team is tracked by number of leads.
- Analyst Relations, by number of meetings per quarter.
- PR, by number of media mentions.
- Content Marketing, by blog pageviews
- Web Marketing, by traffic
- Digital Marketing and Social Media by clickthrough rates
Each team within marketing can use their respective performance data to test new ideas and improve their performance. And they do (or should). Digital ad platforms automatically favor the best performing ad units. Web Marketing does A/B testing of pages, and uses the one that converts best. Content Marketing can test different blog headlines on WordPress, and automatically switch to the most effective one. And so on.
But Product Marketing? There’s no way for us to measure which of our messages is most effective. We’re crafting spear tips in the dark, not quite sure of which one is actually the sharpest.
For a thoughtful product marketer, there are messaging questions that come up every day. These can include:
- Category name. What’s the most effective category name? For instance, a decade or two ago, there was a debate around whether to use “Salesforce Automation (SFA)” or “Customer Relationship Management (CRM)”? (The latter won out eventually — but we can’t wait years to figure out optimal messaging.)
- Messaging pillars. What pillars to use in your message house? “Fast, flexible, secure” or “Budget-friendly, open, compliant”?
- Aperture. Use a simpler, more concrete hook word like “database” that a prospect will easily understand, or broader term like “platform” that implies greater breadth and higher value?
- Synonyms. Which nouns works best? For example, “developer” or “coder”? “SRE” or “sysadmin”? “Visual AI” or “Vision AI”? Which adjectives work best? “Cheap”, “inexpensive”, “cost effective” or “efficient”?
- HIPPO protection. Is an executive’s suggestion an outdated term? For instance, is “next generation” a tired term that won’t convert?
- Style. Dash, space, or one word? As in “open source”, “open-source”, or “opensource”. Even if each of these have single-digit performance differences, there are enough decisions to make where those single-digit differences can cumulatively become significant.
Some of the above examples overlap with what Christopher Lochhead calls “languaging”, an incredibly important activity.
But unfortunately, we have no way of testing our messaging hunches with actual data.
Thankfully, there’s a way out.
The Message Lab
A “message lab” is simply a Google Ads account where product marketers can test out new messages, on their own, without involving the Digital Advertising team. This lets product marketers quickly spin up experiments in the form of multiple Google text ads. Look at the clickthrough rate, and you data indicating which messaging will work best.
In practice, most Message Lab ads will quickly get thousands of impressions, ensuring that product marketing can, in short order, compare clickthrough rates (and thus messaging effectiveness) on a statistically significant number of experiment runs.
With a Message Lab, it’s easy product marketers to see if there are performance differences between geographies, since this is built into Google Ads:
Or see if a particular type of messaging might not resonate in a particular country. This can be useful to settle debates around whether some kind of messaging is too US-centric. Again, Google Ads makes this easy:
The ad budget is intentionally kept small —less than 1% of the entire digital advertising budget, to limit the impact of any ineffective messaging that’s tested out. Again, easy in Google Ads:
Overlap with digital marketing
Now, a digital marketing team might not be thrilled with handing over control over even a small portion of their ad platform to product marketing. They might propose alternatives, such as asking product marketing to submit tickets for various experiments they wish to run.
This is another version of a debate that’s played out over decades. One group wants to maintain control, at the cost of reduced agility and sped.
Time and time again, we’ve seen that agility and speed is the better choice.
This is why websites shifted from something engineering-controlled, back in the day, to something where marketing can make their own content updates. After engineering got their umpteenth ticket to tweak some wording or fix a typo, they realized they had better things to do with their time.
It’s why we now have a multi-billion dollar SaaS industry. Back in the IT would say, “fill out a ticket, and we’ll install the software you need.” They forgot to add, “in a few months.”
Enough of this, and people asked, why require IT to procure servers and install software, when I can simply create an account on a SaaS provider?
It’s the same dynamic here. Do you really want your Digital Marketing team to get buried with running experiments and generating reports for Product Marketing — and Product Marketing to get frustrated with a lack of responsiveness?
Or instead, do you want your Digital Ads team to focus on their job and drive ad campaigns that actually move the needle on lead generation?
Google Ads is a sophisticated product that allows a number of guardrails to be put in, such that Product Marketing doesn’t step on the toes (or campaigns) of the Digital Ads team.
A Message Lab is an easy way to bring much-needed data on messaging effectiveness, so that product marketing can deliver the best-crafted messages for the rest of the marketing and sales team to use.