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Portfolio Marketing – Strategic Product Marketing At Its Finest

If you had $1 for every time someone said, “we need to be more strategic,” you’d be a retired millionaire living on your own private island. Consider the fact that portfolio marketing just might be your ticket to strategic product marketing in its purest form, making everything a lot easier with better results.

What is Portfolio Marketing?

In the simplest terms, portfolio marketing is a set of business practices for positioning and marketing the strategic customer value of your portfolio to chosen market segments with supporting practices that integrate the marketing of individual products. 

Your marketing messages and sales narratives always lead with the strategic customer value of the portfolio. Individual products are marketed as components of the portfolio that eliminate the obstacles standing in the way of the customers’ strategic goals. 

The Honest Truth About Traditional Product Marketing

As long as you’re marketing products individually and working in silos, your organization will never reach its full potential for marketing and selling strategic value! And you’ll be working way harder than necessary to get results. Here’s why.

The quantifiable strategic value of each individual product, to both your customers and your own organization, pales in comparison to the strategic value of all products collectively, your portfolio.

Here’s the other thing. If you’re marketing products individually, especially if you’re competing with best-of-breed products, you’re diluting what truly differentiates you, a common platform with integrated products that help customers break down their own organizational silos so they can run their business more seamlessly and better serve their own customers!

That’s a pretty powerful message with a ton of strategic implications when you weave the customer’s industry and business context into the message. Marketing products individually only dilutes that message.

Does Portfolio Marketing Inhibit Our Ability to Sell Individual Products?

Absolutely not. If anything, it enhances the value messaging of individual products. In a portfolio marketing model, your value messaging employs a top-down structure. You’re always leading with the strategic value of your portfolio which done right, mirrors the strategic priorities of your target customers.

Each product is then positioned to remove the customer hurdles preventing them from executing their strategic priorities. It makes for a simple message that by default, addresses executive buyers, department heads and users.

Does Portfolio Marketing Change Our Messaging Structure?

You bet it does, and for the better, meaning easier to create and easier to understand! This might surprise you but hang with me for a minute. Building your positioning around buyer and user personas (traditional product marketing) is fundamentally flawed. Here’s why.

First and foremost, personas do nothing but complicate your messaging by forcing you to create at least two versions of positioning for every product, one for buyers and one for users. Put yourself in the shoes of your salespeople trying to sell 5, 10 or 50 products. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so hard on salespeople for their inability to articulate our product positioning when you look at it from that angle!

Second, there’s another layer between buyers and users that’s completely missing in most positioning structures. What about department heads, the VPs and directors that heavily influence executive decision-makers? Crickets!

Third, let’s go back to the fact that most products on their own aren’t that strategic. Should you really be creating strategic value messages for something that’s not that strategic?

The Beauty (and Simplicity) of The Portfolio Positioning Structure

The beauty of the portfolio positioning structure is this. Whether you communicate value from the top down or bottom up, the dots always connect and it keeps everything simple.

Here’s the easiest way to look at it.

If you explain value from the top down, it goes something like this.

  • The value of your portfolio makes customers better at their business by…
  • Eliminating operational obstacles in one or more departments with products that…
  • Have well-designed features to make people in the trenches (users) quantifiably better at their jobs.

If you explain value from the bottom up…

  • Well-designed features make people in the trenches (users) quantifiably better at their jobs to…
  • Improve the performance of one or more departments with products that… 
  • Help the customer organization execute its strategy and improve the overall performance of their business with your portfolio.

You don’t need to create positioning around buyer and user personas for a portfolio messaging structure. You just need some rock solid top-down customer discovery and your messaging will be easier to create, easier to understand and easier to repeat. It’ll also raise your credibility with buyers because you’ll be speaking conversationally in their language, not the language of your products!

The Most Important Thing About Strategic Product Marketing

This just might be the most important aspect of strategic product marketing and sales enablement. Prospective customers don’t engage or buy because they understand you. They engage or buy because your messaging convinces them you understand their market dynamics and their business operations as well or better than they do.

This might be hard to swallow, but traditional product marketing by default is tactical because the focus is on individual products with more tactical value than strategic value. Portfolio marketing on the other hand, harnesses the strategic value of all products collectively. The focus is customer outcomes with measurable strategic value that individual products just aren’t incapable of delivering on their own. Products play a critical role in the form of supporting proof points.

Product marketers, here’s your top change management consideration. Figure out how to spend a lot more time collaborating with your fellow product marketers and amplify the strategic value of your portfolio instead of working so hard to message, market and differentiate the tactical value of each product. You’ll get far better results with a lot less effort and stress.

Click here if you want to experience the easiest way to learn product management, product and portfolio marketing, pre-sales demos and customer success with our unique hands-on learning format. Be sure to check out our Product Management Framework that simplifies everything by making customer outcomes the starting point for building, marketing, selling and delivering strategic value.

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by John Mansour on September 4, 2023.