One can often think of a complex business activity as a business process that consists of a set of sequenced or parallel steps or activities, decision points and branches, roles to perform the steps, artifacts that are produced along the way  completion criteria for each step, milestones, and more. There is also a need for monitoring and metrics so one can measure how well the process is running. This can provide some insight into bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the process and help identify opportunities to streamline and optimize the process in subsequent iterations.

Marketing is no exception. In An Overview of Marketing I looked at some marketing basics and reviewed various marketing functions. Here I want to explore marketing as a multi-stage business process to show how these functions come together to successfully bring a product to market.

Marketing Process

The figure below is a high-level marketing process based on the Pragmatic Marketing Framework which defines a market-driven approach to developing and marketing products. Market-driven means that the product is grounded in early research and understanding of the market needs so that it is a solution of value for the intended customers. The process goes through a series of stages starting with Market and ending in Sales Support. Each stage consists of a series of activities or processes. For example positioning is defined in the planning phase and marketing plan is part of the Programs phase.

High-level marketing process

High-level marketing process

The activities in the first three stages — Market, Focus and Business — tend to be more strategic while the activities in the last three stages — Programs, Readiness, Support — tend to be more tactical and deal with go-to-market (GTM). The early stages dealing with market and strategy may be used less frequently than say steps dealing with product launch and programs. That is for a set direction, strategy and plan, there may be several products, many releases for each, and numerous programs for each such release.

Let’s take a look at each stage of this process in a bit more detail:

  1. Market: Understand the market, its trends, challenges and opportunities, and the competition.
  2. Focus/Strategy: Define strategy as to what types of products you are going to meet the target market needs, and how it is going to be delivered.
  3. Business: Define business plan, how you will create the solution (i.e. build, buy, or partner), determine its pricing and profitability.
  4. Planning: for each product define positioning, product requirements and use cases, profile buyers and users, and identify use cases. At this stage there is collaboration between product marketing and product management which along with engineering is responsible for building the actual product. So there needs to be alignment here with the build process as depicted in the graphics.
  5. Programs: define marketing plan, plans for demand and lead generation, launch plans, programs for target industries, and define customer reference/success program.
  6. Sales Readiness: Align with the sales process (which is a separate process owned and managed by the sales organization), prepare assets and tools for sales and train the sales and channel.
  7. Sales Support: A continuation of the previous stage where the sales and channel are supported on an on-going bases with the appropriate content, tools, and demos. Note that competitive intelligence that is listed under Market, is also part of this sales support. So the stages are not strictly sequential and are inter-related.

Process Deliverables and Checkpoints

Each stage in this process requires a set of deliverables and assets such as business plan, marketing requirements document (MRD), product requirements document (PRD), launch plan, product brochures and data sheets, white papers, presentations, demos, videos, etc. Large organizations may define templates for each such deliverable so that there is consistencies in terms of what is expected in each such document.

There are checkpoints at each stage of the process where the stakeholders need to review and approve the generated assets and results to ensure successful and complete execution of the process. There should be some measurement and metrics as how well each step is executed. Some activities such as number of qualified leads generated from an event are easier to measure than others, such as how well a strategic decision or a positioning statement is working. generally more tactical activities to the right are easier to monitor and measure than the more strategic activities to the left.

Participants in the Process

I previously covered various marketing functions. The participants in this marketing process include all of those roles. Product marketing, product management, solution or industry marketing, programs marketing, demand and lead generation, event marketing, field marketing, partner marketing, corporate communication and PR all participate in this process and perform tasks.

Alignment with other Processes

As I mentioned before, the marketing process has touch points to other processes that it must align to and integrate with. For example the engineering or development process gets kicked off in the Planning stage once the market requirements are defined. This process includes (but it is not limited to) design, prototyping, coding or manufacturing, and testing and quality assurance activities.

Another important and relevant process is the sales process. The final two stages in the process — Sales Readiness and Support — tie in to the sales process. Sales relies on the support it gets from marketing in terms of sales tools and assets and the qualified leads that are generated by marketing.