This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Product marketing is the process of introducing and selling your goods to customers. Effective product marketing includes determining who your product is right for, finding the right pathways to get it to them, creating an appealing message, and continuing to use insights and smart planning to propel your product forward.
Here are seven steps to get your product marketing plan up, running, and driving your bottom line.
Step 1: Determine Your Product’s Positioning in the Market
Product positioning is the crucial first step when marketing a new product. You must first understand your product and its unique value in terms of price and what it offers the consumer—this will help you pinpoint who your product will most appeal to and get to the next step.
In short, you need to know your product inside out. Think of this step as a way to create a compelling and engaging product story so you can tell it to your suitable market. This is especially true when your product is in its early stages.
- What is my product?
- Why was this product made?
- How does it work?
- Who is this product made for?
- What utility can it give to people?
- How is it unique?
- What problems can it solve?
- What is its competitive advantage?
- How much does it cost?
Be sure to answer all these questions and any others that might help you determine the best customer group for your product because that is the next step—identifying and understanding your audience.
Step 2: Identify Target Audience & Buyer Personas
Whatever information you collected from the first step (product positioning) will help answer the next step’s all-important question: Who is this product for?
Correctly identifying and understanding your target audience is a must to market a product effectively. This requires narrowing your product’s target audience to a specific customer persona because you must know how your product meets their needs and how best to target them—thus, developing a marketing plan that converts them into buyers. Having your ideal buyer in mind will help you to create an engaging product story and determine what tools and channels you should use to reach them.
Typically, you define your target market by region, gender, age range, socio-economic level, and general interests and preferences.
When getting to know your customer base, ask yourself:
- What are their preferences?
- How do they shop?
- What are their interests?
- What makes them engage?
- What fosters their loyalty?
- What other things do they buy?
For example, an online knitting store might target hobbyists and craft lovers looking to buy quality knitting supplies at an affordable price. However, the product persona should be more specific—for instance: Maggie, aged 21, who might be looking for colorful supplies to help her make amigurumi characters (small, stuffed yarn characters).
Narrowing down this product persona (considering age group and specific craft market) will help create a product story that is catered to those creating fun and cute knitted dolls.
Step 3: Research Your Competition
Most products face competition when they enter the market, but that is not necessarily a negative. It can be helpful in three ways:
- Having competition proves there is a profitable market for the product you hope to sell.
- Studying existing competitors helps you see which sales channels and marketing tactics work and which don’t, and uncover what consumers expect from your product.
- Understanding your competitors’ strategies can help you find a unique angle for your own product marketing strategy.
To get an idea of what your competition is doing, start with an internet search using the keywords that describe your product. You can use the search engine results pages (SERPs) to analyze both the current market and the competition for your product.
Specifically, check your competitors’:
Step 4: Create a Compelling Product Story
Once you’ve defined your product and target market and researched your competitors, you will need to craft a compelling product story or image of how your product will benefit your customer. An excellent product story serves two essential functions: to explain a product’s why and how.
The biggest aspect of product storytelling is remembering that features alone will not sell your product. Your story should demonstrate to your customer how your product will fit into their lives, bring them utility, or solve their problems.
To create an engaging product story:
- Tell your product’s why. Answering the why is the beginning of any product story. Why are you doing this? Why will this solve the user’s problem?
- Keep your product story simple. To persuade your target market to buy your product (and keep supporting it), don’t include unnecessary details that distract from your core message.
- Remember that your user is the hero of your product story. Developing a deep understanding of your buyer’s persona (Step No. 2) is essential because it helps center the product story. If your target audience wants to click, read, buy, and remember, you have to understand their unique perspectives and craft the story around them.
- Make it relatable. Tap into the power of shared humanity to help buyers resonate with your stories. Essentially, ensure you can answer this question: Why should anyone care about this?
- Aim to engage. Great product stories are engaging—they should inspire and motivate people to act (whether it’s to buy, sign up for your mailing list, or visit your store).
Examples of Compelling Product Stories
Learn more about creating compelling product stories in our guide to writing product descriptions (+ worksheet) and producing sales-boosting product videos.
Step 5: Decide on Advertising Tools & Channels
Now that you’ve created your product story, the next step is to decide where to market your products to reach your target buyers.
To effectively advertise your new product, you have to meet the consumer where they are. This means looking at how your target market is engaging and where they are doing their buying—which will help you determine what channels will be right for you. Then, you can focus on getting your goods in front of the ideal audience so they have the opportunity to engage and make a purchase.
Consider the following marketing channels when determining where you will advertise your products:
One of the best ways to acquire traffic and get your product in front of buying customers is through your website. While marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are great options that you can keep in your product marketing tool belt, when you have an independent website, you have complete control over how it looks and functions, and you won’t have to pay those marketplace fees.
Here are a few tips to help make your website easy to find and an effective product marketing tool.
- Name: Choose a website name that is easy to spell and remember so customers can easily search for you.
- Remarketing: Use remarketing and retargeting strategies to keep visitors in your marketing loop so you can start to build loyalty.
- Product descriptions: Be sure that your product descriptions include all relevant information and clear photos. Also check that any questions your customers might have are accounted for in your descriptions.
- Blog posts: Integrate a blog post section into your website to help boost your site’s visibility and foster a following.
- Update: Keep your website updated with all your newest products and with news about your business.
- Wholesale page: Consider adding a password-protected wholesale order page to your main website to expand your market.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
SEM strategies are designed to boost the visibility of your website on search engines like Google or DuckDuckGo, making it easier to attract people to your website.
Some SEM methods like search engine optimization (SEO) are low-cost or free ways to help your website rank high in the search engines. Others, like paid advertising, can help you attract customers more quickly, but with added costs.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO is the practice of writing website content designed to rank high in the search engines for specific keywords. When creating your retail website, you will want to look at best practices for ecommerce SEO. This will include things like how to lay out your site, optimize URLs, and design your product pages and descriptions.
Every product marketer should incorporate SEO into their website marketing strategy from day one. It takes some work to learn. But, it’s a very economical way to increase site traffic and generate sales long term.
While free SEM tactics are a great place to start, you also will want to consider utilizing paid advertisements on Google to maximize your reach and boost your site in the SERPs. Google Ads is an online advertising platform where you can bid to display brief advertisements, product listings, or videos to web users.
Google lets you set your budget and gives you other cost controls, so it can be a great way to attract visitors to a newly launched site. Even with the cost controls, you should monitor the revenue your ad is generating and ensure that it is enough to offset the cost of running it.
Most online ads are pay-per-click (PPC), meaning that when a viewer clicks on the ad and arrives on your site, you’re charged for the “click.” Others, called cost-per-thousand (or cost-per-mille, CPM), charge by how many times your ad is displayed (typically in blocks of 1,000), regardless of whether viewers click on your ad or not.
Social Media Pages
This is another technique that you can use to help increase traffic to your website and boost your site in the SERPs. With affiliate marketing, you pay a third party to generate leads or traffic to your site. Then, you compensate your affiliate based on the success of their lead generation.
For example, let’s say you decide to work with salons in your neighborhood and ask the stylists to give out scannable QR code business cards that take people to your website. You then use a QR code program to help track the QR code-generated leads and reward the stylists based on their success at driving traffic to your site.
The most successful affiliates have access to a similar customer base to your own, but exist outside of your current reach. Use affiliates to increase your customer base and reach customers you otherwise could not.
Another way that you can use social media to bolster your product marketing strategy is through influencer partnerships. In this case, you create a partnership with an influencer, and they wear, advertise, show, etc., your product in hopes of inspiring sales and bringing awareness to your brand.
When selecting the influencers you want to work with, be sure to research their audience, conversion rates, and fees. Bigger influencers with large followings will cost more, whereas micro-influencers will have a smaller reach but will be less expensive. However, if the micro-influencer’s follower base is more in line with your target market, working with them might be just as effective without the hefty price tag.
Another thing to consider when doing influencer partnerships is how you want to structure your contract. How the influencer promotes your product, as well as your payment terms, are completely customizable. You might exchange tagged posts for free merchandise, or you might operate on a sales commission structure. Figure out what will work best for you, and consider your options.
Outreach Marketing: Email & Text Campaigns
Once your website and/or storefront are in place, it’s time to start building your customer contact list. This is not only a great way to get your products in front of people quickly but also to foster long-term loyalty.
Most email and text marketing software, like Klaviyo, offer free starter accounts that you can integrate into ecommerce platforms, including WooCommerce and Shopify. Once set up, you can start collecting your customers’ email addresses and phone numbers and begin marketing to them right away.
There are several ways to build up your contact list quickly, and one of the most effective is offering a coupon or a free item like an informational ebook related to your product. You can also create a customer loyalty program that offers perks and rewards in exchange for customer information.
When determining the outreach channels you will use, figure out where your target market is engaging and what messaging is most effective for inspiring them to shop. Is it when you alert people to a deal? Is it when you announce new arrivals? Or, is it personalized messages that remind them you are still around?
Be sure that you tailor your messaging both to your brand voice and customer responses as you create your outreach marketing strategy.
For your brick-and-mortar storefront, one of the biggest components of product marketing is merchandising. Merchandising is all of the non-verbal tactics involved in presenting retail goods in a way that promotes their sale. There are many different merchandising strategies that you can use, but overall you want to be sure that your merchandising reflects your brand and appeals to your desired audience.
For example, at an artisanal goods store where you are trying to appeal to tourists and gift givers, you might emphasize the local sourcing, use homey, warm colors, and feature a gift section for your merchandising. Keeping your audience and brand image in mind will help guide your merchandising to attract your customer base and promote product sales.
Pop-up Shops or Mobile Stores
Pop-up stores are temporary retail locations for new or existing brands. They are not only an effective way to increase your reach and expand your product market, but a great product marketing tool for showcasing new or featured items.
For example, you might hold a pop-up shop for your new jewelry line to drum up hype as you introduce accessories to your boutique. Pop-up shops are great for featuring single products or many, but featuring one item will allow more focus and excitement to center around that single product.
Where your pop-up will be most successful depends on your particular target market. Hold a pop-up at a farmers market, another store, a flea market, or other venues that allow temporary storefronts. A supplements brand might not do well at a farmer’s market, but would probably be a hit at a fitness expo or stationed at a gym.
Online Marketplaces, Password-protected Stores & Trade Shows
If you want to expand your potential customer base, you can sell your product wholesale at online marketplaces, password-protected storefronts, or trade shows.
- Online Wholesale Marketplace: Online reseller marketplaces are a budget-friendly way to get your product in front of resellers searching for wholesale goods online. Vendor marketplaces like Faire, Shopify’s Handshake, Etsy Wholesale, and US Made Wholesale mainly cater to specialty and small product manufacturers, while others, like Alibaba and Wholesale Central, list product manufacturers of all types and sizes.
- Password-protected Storefront: A password-protected storefront is an online store that restricts access to business owners or bulk buyers through a password system. You can easily set up a password-protected shop through Shopify, or add wholesale capabilities to your existing storefront with an app like Wholesale Club.
- Trade Shows: Trade shows are buying events for retailers where a collection of wholesale brands gather so retailers can view their merchandise and make large purchases, often for a season or quarter.
Step 6: Set Long-term Goals & Plans
To ensure that you are staying on top of your product marketing and continuing to drive sales, you need to create long-term goals and plans. As you plan how to market a product, think in terms of a marathon dotted with sprints.
You have your long-term player such as your website, email marketing, social pages, marketplace listings, and brick-and-mortar store. With these, you market products day in and day out, build an audience, and attract buyers over time.
Then you have your short-term sprint tactics such as trade shows, online ads, and influencer partnerships. These will help you expand your reach with short-term investments and boost engagement for a limited period of time.
So, as you plan how to market a product, start by being selective in your channels. Don’t feel like you must attempt everything at once. Plan to put a few long-term channels in place first, then test out audience-specific and short-term tactics to see which ones receive the best response.
Start with your essential product marketing channels. For instance:
- Your website: Your website should feature SEO-friendly product listings and content (including blog posts, product instructions, and even how-to’s)—that help tell—and sell—your product’s story.
- Email marketing: You should be able to build a customer contact list and a loyalty program that helps your outreach marketing efforts.
- Social channels: Your business pages on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter should be set up, where you regularly post engaging content and interact with your followers regularly.
Next, work on long-term, audience specific channels:
- Try seller marketplace listings like Amazon and eBay
- Sell on vendor marketplace listings like Faire, Shopify’s Handshake, Etsy Wholesale, and US Made Wholesale
- Ensure your product listings are promoted on your social sites for social selling
- Connect with social influencers via affiliate marketing
Finally, build out your sprint-type marketing tactics to boost traffic and brand awareness:
- Implement and track online advertising through Google Ads
- Join and exhibit at trade shows and buyers’ markets
The takeaway here is that you have many options when it comes to marketing channels, and no one channel is an expressway to instant sales. All of this sets the stage for long-term growth, plus helps you make the most of short-term marketing boosts like market attendance and ad campaigns.
Step 7: Reassess & Refine Product Marketing Campaigns
Even when your product marketing scheme is up and running, you are not done. Do not forget to analyze each marketing launch or campaign you do—identify wins and pain points. Either manually or via an integrated POS system you will want to track your sales and transactions to measure the success of your product marketing efforts. This will help you to identify areas where you were successful so that you can mimic those behaviors in the future and find places that did not go as well so you can improve.
Your sales are the biggest metric you will want to pay attention to when monitoring your product marketing. For example, let’s say that you decide to buy some Instagram ad space for your shop’s new car part. You pay around $75 for the space and find that it generated $300 of sales. This would show you that Instagram ads are a good technique for marketing your products and boosting sales.
Product marketing is bringing a new product to a specific market, advertising it, and selling it to a customer. Choosing the right marketing channels, devising a product story, and creating long-term plans will help you create a product marketing plan that will grow your business. Use this guide to show you the steps to get your product marketing plan set to go.