“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
— Stephen King
Coming from humble roots, books have been my stepping stones to greater things. From the free programs at the library, to paycheques as a teenage bookstore clerk, to finding inspiration and lessons through literary characters, books and the community around them have been an accessible magic that’s helped me transform my life and career.
Last year when I started a new chapter in a product marketing role at Shopify, I knew there were also new chapters to be read. Although I don’t want to downplay the importance of experience and learning from strong leads and peers, to become a better product marketer, I found that there were eight books that gave me the guidance I needed to plan and execute product launches more effectively.
For new product marketers, stumped veterans, or folks who just wants to make their go-to-market efforts more effective, you can use this list to find a book that sparks some magic into your own product marketing endeavours.
Book 1— For when you’re trying determine what types of customers will get onboard with your product, and why
Many of us have strong assumptions about what makes a winning entrepreneur or new product, and as it turns out, many of these assumptions are wrong. Just like not everyone will get onboard with the hot new things, not everyone will mind if a product seems more like a settled idea than a pioneered innovation.
To help challenge your assumptions around what makes new products a success — and how to correctly predict if, and who, is the right audience — this book provides a great guide for assessing new ideas when you’re in the discovery and planning stages of product marketing.
Book 2— For when you’re trying to determine if people will trust your new product
A decade ago, the thought of jumping into a stranger’s unmarked car seemed ludicrous. Now, we do it all the time through Uber and Lyft! How did we make this trust leap, and what does this tell us about the nature of human trust?
To understand what takes people go from saying “I don’t trust this new thing” to recommending it to their friends, you first need to understand the modern paradigms and tools of trust. Only then can you ensure that these trust indicators are built into the product and highlighted appropriately in your product marketing content.
Book 3 — For ensuring that you and your Product Designers and Product Managers are speaking the same language
Your relationship with the product team is crucial. As with any relationship, communication and understanding are key. To ensure you comprehend the logic behind how the product was built and what the heck these “affordances” they keep talking about are, you need to know the theory behind the product’s design. Once you understand and appreciate this, you can showcase your team’s expert design work when you launch.
Book 4 — For when you’re wondering “is there something about the product experience we’re missing?”
When you’re launching a minimum viable product (MVP), it’s common to launch something that most people will love and others will be “meh” about. In not launching at 100% sheer perfection, there’s a chance that for some users the product isn’t viable at all.
Not be perfect for everyone at launch is normal, but as the person who owns to go-to-market strategy, you need to be ready and accountable for all the users who the product doesn’t work for yet. You need to stretch your assumptions and scenario plan so that you can predict who the product won’t work for and what kind of support you can provide to them. While you may think that a few annoyed users isn’t a bad thing, a few loud voices who turn to social media because you’re not accountable for your product’s gaps can lead to failure at launch.
Book 5 — For when you’re trying to craft truly inspirational product messaging
While there are countless marketing books on how to craft sticky or persuasive messaging, if you’ve already perfected your marketing messaging craft, you may be able to skip those and give yourself a nice boost by reading this book. Beyond being catchy or persuasive, more and more, customer crave inspiring messaging that they’ll want to follow. If you truly want to build a tribe around your product, this book is a must.
Book 6 — For when you’re determining how to get customers to change existing behaviours
Although we don’t like admitting it, most of us are creatures of habit. Even in tech, as much as a preach about “disruption” many of us are hesitant to change our tried and true methods and products, and sub-in something new.
In order to break habits and establish new ones around the product you’re trying to launch, you need to first understand how habits are first established. Once you understand the habit wheel, you can make like Daenerys Targaryen and break the wheel with your fiery launch campaign.
Book 7 — For when you’re considering issues you may have around localization
If you’re launching a product in markets other than ones you know dearly, make sure to tap into local market experts at any and every opportunity. To give you a primer into what types of cultural miscommunications you could encounter, it’s good to get a general overview of cultural communication styles around the world.
Book 8 — For when you’re determining how to effectively measure a product launch’s success
Even though the Product Manager has likely already established the product’s success metrics, it’s important that you set your own marketing campaign success metrics in relation to the product goal. If you’re not measuring the right thing, do you really know for certain that your marketing efforts are working?
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