This guest article comes to us from Sid Khaitan, a product marketer and content strategist who’s used almost every marketing tool in the book. Sid was most recently the Senior Product Marketing Manager at Chili Piper.
Google “tech stack for product marketers” or “product marketing tools” and you’ll get a list of tools owned by other teams.
- Content management system? Marketing already bought one.
- Sales enablement software? The sales team has Gong (and no budget left).
- Competitive intelligence? Your enablement team has it covered.
The problem is there aren’t many hubs in the equation for product marketing software—just a bunch of point solutions.
Your buyers expect a unified experience across channels. Websites aren’t the source of all truth like they used to be. People want to “buy on their own time,” which means our tech stacks need to evolve to their expectations.
In other words, product marketers need a better home so they can give their prospects and customers a better home. Read on for a comprehensive list of product marketing tools to help you supercharge your product marketing team in 2023.
How to Think about Your Tech Stack
In a 2019 report from SaaS buying platform Vendr, they found that the average mid-market company used around 123 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools. 123!
Even worse, almost half go unused or are transitioned out within two years. What gives?
There’s normally no system in place for buying software.
To build a repeatable process, product marketers should to ask themselves these five questions:
- How do revenue teams (Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and RevOps) collaborate?
- What systems and tools do they already use? How are they integrated?
- Are there any automations in place?
- Is there budget for new technology? What does adoption of current tools look like?
- How does the overall customer experience currently work?
Software buying is a team sport
A decision memo brief is a great way to capture all of these questions.
Madeleine Work from Chili Piper wrote a great guide on the decision memo framework that she used to save her team over $70,000. As the world goes remote, following this type of process promotes inclusivity and more thoughtful decisions.
Now let’s work with the larger marketing team to spot gaps and start problem-solving.
Find a pressing use case
The famous "jobs to be done" theory by Clayton Christensen helps product marketers understand why people buy products and services. In other words: how to find product-market fit.
The idea is that people don’t just buy products or services based on demographics or features. Your personas “hire” products and services to enhance or transform their lives in some way.
So when looking for software, focus on your own jobs to be done (e.g. prove the impact of your product content) rather than falling into the trap of shiny object syndrome (i.e. forcing a tool into your tech stack because it’s popular).
You can avoid tech stack bloat and headaches down the road by quantifying the impact of your purchasing decision.
If you’re buying a sales enablement tool, you should estimate the ROI based on cost and anticipated impact (e.g. cutting sales cycle length in half).
Positioning your decisions in a strategic way also helps you get buy-in (and respect) from product management, founders, and investors.
With those frameworks in mind, let’s dive into the tool categories that can help product marketers increase their impact.
1. Market research tools
Market research gives us the insights we need to craft differentiated positioning, which leads to messaging that resonates with your prospects.
I recommend taking these three actions before getting started on go-to-market motions:
- Review existing performance
- Look at product and content analytics
- Listen to prospects and customers
Here are some tools to help with each stage.
Tools to review existing performance
When I first started working in product marketing, I thought I had to be a data scientist to find answers. I later realized analyzing performance is simpler than I thought.
If you’re a product marketing manager (PMM) in your first 30/60/90 days, your customer relationship management (CRM) or marketing automation platform (MAP) is a safe place to start reviewing your team’s existing performance.
Let your curiosity guide you, instead of just pulling annual recurring revenue (ARR) from new logos in Salesforce.
Ask questions like:
- Who is buying the most and why?
- Which marketing channels are working the best?
- Is the product easy to understand and implement?
This helps you see the backend of the marketing and sales process. Looking at closed-won ARR, pipeline creation, win rates, and sales cycles gives you a full picture of the customer experience.
This data helps you generate hypotheses and ideas to test.
Your RevOps or Finance team likely holds the keys to this kingdom, but you can collaborate with them and get access to:
CRMs and MAPs help you track engagements across the customer lifecycle. They watch your leads turn into opportunities, manage marketing campaigns, and store customer information.
The main ones are:
- Salesforce, a popular CRM for large businesses and enterprises
- Pipedrive, a CRM designed specifically for sales
- Adobe Marketo Engage and Hubspot are the favorite MAPs/customer engagement platforms among marketing and operations teams
Product-led sales (PLS) platforms are an emerging category designed to give revenue teams access to product usage data without needing engineers. Because every product-led growth (PLG) company eventually needs sales.
Key players include:
- Pocus helps you establish product-qualified lead (PQL) targets and signals, then take action on them.
- MadKudu integrates product adoption with marketing and sales data to fuel go-to-market strategy.
Business intelligence dashboards help startups turn unstructured data into ad-hoc analyses. You get a picture of overall financial health but can also cut the data to find revenue by product line, compare outbound campaigns, and measure the results from A/B testing.
- Looker, previously known as Google Studio. It’s free and perfect for startups.
- Mode is meant for data teams at mid-market companies. It costs money but is worth it.
- Tableau is great for visual analytics and providing data snapshots to senior leadership.
Content and product analytics tools
Now we can shift our focus to getting inside our customers’ heads.
Here we’ll look for nuances and specifics like:
- What messaging is working and what’s not?
- Are there gaps in product knowledge and education?
- How do revenue teams leverage marketing content today?
Without overcomplicating it, we want to understand what types of product collateral and content resonate with our audience. The goal is to separate the “real buyers” from people who don’t feel the pain enough to buy.
However, because content is normally shared through emails, Google Sheets, and Slack, we lose out on the data that lets us see who’s engaged with it. And we can’t gauge if the sales team is using it at all.
Dock’s new Content Management platform solves this challenge. It helps you see:
- How sales content is used internally (what content does your SDR team share with clients?)
- How marketing content is being perceived externally (e.g. which prospects are accessing assets, how often, even how many pages of a PDF they're reading)
Here are some other tools that can help you understand product and content performance.
Marketing attribution software helps revenue teams understand where leads are coming from, and can often score or prioritize leads as well. That way, your team can double down on what’s working and cut off the marketing campaigns that aren’t producing sales conversations.
- Dreamdata solves for B2B revenue attribution across the funnel.
- Marketo Measure, previously called Bizible, is focused on tracking marketing engagements.
Search engine optimization (SEO) tools offer insight into how content is performing against search intent and “the crawlers”. Here is where you can improve your page rankings and rise to the first page of Google.
- Google Analytics is the one you know and have grown to love.
- Ahrefs is great for keyword research and competitor rankings (if you can afford it).
- SEMrush is good for merging SEO data with PPC, social media marketing, and content to give you an accurate picture of what’s working (and what’s not).
Product analytics platforms show where users get stuck in product experiences, helping product management teams find and address barriers to adoption.
- Heap is an up-and-comer in the space, dubbing itself a “digital insights platform”.
- Pendo helps improve feature adoption through analytics and in-app guides.
Social listening tools measure metrics and surface qualitative insights from your prospects and customers.
- Shield kills it on LinkedIn analytics and employee advocacy programs.
- SproutSocial is great when you’re ready to scale your social team. They also have a free trial.
Tools for researching prospects and customers
At the end of the day, you’re looking for needles in the haystack. Million-dollar insights or truths that are hidden in plain sight, but no one is paying attention to them. Except you.
It all sounds great on paper. Launch a survey, gather results, and share a report...
The problem is: you don’t have unlimited time or budget at a startup. Somewhere during your presentation, the sales team is gonna pop the question. How is this useful for my demo 20 minutes from now?
I’ve found the easiest way to solve this problem is to talk to people and take notes. Not just customers, but people who fit your ideal customer profile (ICP). You’ll learn everything about them–when they think about buying your solution, where they heard about you, what they ate for lunch yesterday.
All of this informs the way you turn a prospect into a customer.
Start for “free” by setting up a customer advisory board (CAB) and asking them to react to your “keystone beliefs” about the market. (But I still recommend buying them lunch or sending a Sendoso gift.)
But when you’re hungry for insights…you’ll want:
Qualitative research platforms, which gather small sample sizes but bear golden nuggets. Ask long-ended questions, have people similar to your ICP react to sample positioning statements, or even see if they want to meet up for an interview.
- Wynter, a B2B messaging research platform. You can run message and user tests, or even get honest feedback on outbound email sequences.
- Momentive, previously SurveyMonkey, helps you gather both qualitative and quantitative data through surveys and traditional market research.
Quantitative research platforms help you find statistical significance. This type of customer data provides averages and a snapshot of the market.
- Sprig helps you run in-product surveys and usability testing,
- UserTesting makes it easy to get customer feedback through quick market research. Sometimes it’s tough to get quality data, but it all depends on the persona you’re targeting.
Armed with these three sources of data, you’re ready to create happy paths for your customers.
2. Launch planning & project management tools
It’d be silly not to mention project management solutions as an essential tool in the product marketing toolshed. They help you coordinate with the larger marketing team, manage yourself, and track how you’re progressing on massive projects.
- AirTable connects your data, workflows, and teams.
- Asana is a favorite among marketing teams because it’s super easy to use.
- Notion gives you tons of templates to choose from. I use it as my “personal operating system”.
- Dock also recently released a Kanban view you can use for client-facing projects and mutual action plans with your customers.
3. Demand generation tools
You know the experience your customers want. How do you deliver it to them?
Nowadays, “it goes down in the DM.” Also known as dark social. People have product-related conversations in communities, do their own research online, get recommendations from podcasts, or just talk to their peers.
Your revenue-engine-fueled rocket ship has no visibility if you’re not using a shared hub with your prospects and customers.
Dock Workspaces clear the windshield. You can simply send a link to your deal champion, who can share it internally with others. No more relying on PDF attachments in emails that get lost in the ether. It’s the first home ever created for B2B buyers and customers.
There are tons of other great products popping up to help B2B startups rise up to customer expectations.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) and A/B testing allow you to test hypotheses quickly and increase conversions on your site. HotJar sums it up well in this guide: CRO helps you find drivers that bring visitors to your site, barriers preventing them from taking desired actions, and hooks that persuade them to convert.
- HotJar provides user heatmaps to help product and marketing teams improve user experiences.
- Optimizely is great for running quick A/B testing.
- Instapage helps you deploy landing pages to test different messaging and calls to action.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is another area of demand gen that product marketers often find themselves involved in. The category is loosely defined, but the idea is to take a one-to-one approach to target accounts. It’s especially helpful when going after enterprise accounts.
- 6sense and DemandBase help you take action on intent data and buying signals.
- Apollo.io builds target prospecting lists for you.
- CrossBeam deserves an honorable mention. It’s a partnerships tool, but can be leveraged to find overlaps with partners and take combined go-to-market actions for a subsegment of your ICP.
4. Competitive intelligence tools
I used to think competitive intelligence was just a Slack channel you set up with your sales team to surface any news about competitors.
Although scrappy is a great place to start, the speed at which markets move and competitors pivot makes competitive intelligence a larger priority these days.
Purchasing a competitive intel tool will likely hurt the bank, but it also enables your revenue team to have a strong pulse on competitors’ activities.
- SimilarWeb has a free trial and can help you get a birds-eye view of competitor websites.
- Klue is a competitive enablement platform. Similar to Guru, but more focused on surfacing insights about competitors to your sales team.
- Crayon is quite similar, slightly more focused on product marketers that specialize in competitive intelligence.
5. Revenue enablement tools
Alex already outlined how to build out your sales enablement software stack from zero to one.
So we’ll instead focus on the bigger trend: sales enablement doesn’t work on its own. Startups (and their customers) need revenue enablement.
What’s the difference?
The term revenue enablement acknowledges our new reality: lead generation and conversion aren’t the only drivers of revenue anymore. Customer support, customer success, and account management are the most influential ways to improve net dollar retention (NDR).
That’s the metric every investor and founder is looking at these days. It means we have to connect sales closer to onboarding and renewals in the customer lifecycle.
Which is why I like Dock’s CMS. It’s built differently.
There hasn’t been a great way, at least that I’ve seen, for product marketers to organize content and track performance across the customer journey. Even if you’re able to see what content was downloaded, you’ll likely be missing context.
Which account? What triggered the conversation? When did your reps reach out?
A lack of context is any customer success manager (CSM) or account manager’s worst nightmare. Onboarding and growing accounts without understanding what brought them here causes friction. Even worse, churn.
Other revenue enablement platforms have different approaches to removing friction across the customer lifecycle. The ultimate end-result is to increase conversions, improve access to personalized experiences, and make life easier for your reps and customers.
- Chili Piper is an inbound conversion platform that helps marketing and sales teams increase demo conversions.
- Qualified gives you a chatbot that helps you turn qualified pipeline into happy customers.
Free tools and resources for PMMs
If you made it this far, I feel a little guilty. I just gave you a list of tools that could increase your burn rate by 3x.
In hopes you’ll forgive me, I’m sharing the best free product marketing tools and resources I’ve found on the Internet.
- Calendly to book customer discovery calls
- Loom to record product use case videos (and then embed them in Dock!)
- Looker, previously known as Google Data Studio, is free (and plays well with Dock)
- Wynter X Olivine’s B2B messaging course is ungated
- Jason Oakley’s Notion template costs $199, but truly is the complete productivity system for product marketers. The messaging frameworks and swipe files are golden. Chef’s kiss.
- Jess Petrella, a product marketing operations leader at Unbounce, dropped this free product launch roadmap in Notion. Just duplicate and use as your own.
Choose hubs, not spokes.
These are a lot of tools out there for product marketers. Do your best to pick hubs instead of a ton of spokes.
Dock is free to try for up to 5 workspaces and 10 content assets. Get started with Dock for free.