July 24, 2021

What Is Product Enablement & Why Is It Needed?

Product enablement is a term that describes the process of enabling customers to use all product features. It can be accomplished through both marketing and customer support channels, but it often starts with marketing because they are responsible for communicating how products work in detail. This post will explore why product enablement is necessary for marketers to provide their customers with an excellent experience.


"Product enablement" is the intersection of product marketing and sales enablement. It is not about training your customers but rather helping them learn how they can sell more of your product to their customers, which means you need content they can actually use - not just any content that "looks pretty". But what exactly is product enablement? Let us walk you through it!

What is meant by Product Enablement?

There are two parts to this answer. The "what" part, and the "why."

The "What" is what Product Enablement stands for - it is about creating, delivering, and maintaining content that helps employees who sell your products do their jobs better.

The "Why" is why you might need product enablement in your organization. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • To help sales reps close more deals by enabling them with relevant content that will help them build better presentations or prepare for customer inquiries.
  • To help customers troubleshoot technical problems with your products by providing documentation, FAQs, webinars/demos/software downloads so they can learn how to use and get the most out of your products.
  • To help reps upsell by providing additional content such as guides, whitepapers, articles, video tutorials to point customers toward so they can learn more about what else your product can do for them.
  • Any combination of the above!

So, basically, you want to get products into customers' hands faster through self-service, but your organization also wants your sales team involved in the process because it's good for business! In these cases, typically one part of an account team will focus on closing deals while another focuses on supporting/training/etc, from a more holistic perspective.

The key is knowing how much content you need, which should vary based on factors like the size of your sales team(s), the total number of customers, amount of available customer data above and beyond what you have already documented in the product manuals/FAQs/etc. With some very important caveats around using existing content where it makes sense rather than creating new stuff for every need or occasion. 

Who should be involved in Product Enablement?

Everyone who is responsible for delivering or using Sales Enablement materials. If you have a sales team, they are probably included. But there are other players too:

  • Product Marketing owns the messaging so their input is the key.    
  • Your CEO/CMO because s/he needs to understand what it means.
  • Sales management because if your sales reps are not talking about something new, maybe they are doing something wrong. 
  • Marketing leadership because without them the word would not be out!
  • Your internal support teams that actually do the implementation, like Professional Services or Customer Success.   
     
  • Anyone who might want to refer prospects to learn more, like an advocate program.

How is product enablement different from product marketing?

Product marketing works on the strategic side - figuring out what should be built into your products. It's about prioritizing features and technical specifications, not figuring out how you are going to sell it. They are responsible for explaining who your customers are and how they should use your product. Once they nail down everything in these documents called Positioning Docs, they will often hand them over to salespeople so they can start selling.

And then there is Product Enablement or Sales Enablement - which is where someone else steps in with their own set of deliverables that salespeople rely on every day. This isn't just about updating your website or writing another case study. Sales Enablement materials are really only useful when they drive sales. They need to be easy to find, easy to use and most importantly driving decision-makers down the funnel.

It is important that these two teams are not doing exactly the same thing - because if they are it won't help you achieve your marketing goals of creating more qualified leads! Like it or not, your product marketing needs to talk about benefits while your product enablement focuses on features.

What deliverables come out of Product Enablement?

Let's take a look at your typical inbound marketing process for B2B companies. You have got 3 basic deliverables that go out to prospects over the course of their journey:

  • Blog posts - usually collecting some type of email opt-in like a newsletter. Usually, you will see them on company websites or on sites like Medium, but they might also be collected into e-books or guides.
  • White papers - This is where someone tells you everything about what they do (or don't do) when it comes to something like GDPR. EBooks are like white papers, except they are shorter and more focused on just one topic.
  • Guides/templates/visuals - These are how-to's with templates, checklists, videos, case studies, and other helpful information.

In SaaS companies it is usually a combination of the first two - you will see blog posts that are trying to get people interested in signing up for your email list or downloading an ebook.

But these are not the only types of documents you might use! Depending on what stage they are at in their journey, there are different ways to engage them (and which kind of content makes the most sense). Maybe someone is looking through your website but has not downloaded anything yet? You will need informative content about how your product works, pricing, and FAQs. Or maybe someone is starting to test out your product - do they need training docs like videos & tutorials? There is definitely some overlap here, but it is important to remember they are not the same thing.

What are the Four P's of Product Enablement?

These are the pillar of Product Enablement;

  • Positioning - This is like your positioning docs that product marketing creates, except this one is for people in sales (and hopefully support) to use when talking about why their prospects should be excited about using your product.
  • Pitch - Benefits, not features  - Your content should show why your prospect should care about what you built. And how it could solve their problem even if they don't know exactly what they need yet. You can do this by telling them stories of other customers who solved problems with your product, showing visuals of what people typically look like when they have done well with your software. You can just even talk about what your customers are using your product to accomplish.
  • Play - This is just like the Positioning Docs, except this one, shows how people use your product on a day-to-day basis. It's really helpful for getting new hires up to speed on all of the different things your software can do for them. It also helps them sell more effectively because they will be able to talk about features in terms of benefits. They might need case studies or example screenshots here too.
  • Program - In the simplest sense, sales enablement documents explain who should buy from you and how they should contact customer success or sales when they are ready to make a purchase decision. Sometimes these docs will even explain which products/segments would be the most appropriate for their company so they don't waste time trying to sell something that is not a fit. It helps create a roadmap to know what and how the next steps would be executed.

Apart from the above ones, customer success also plays a crucial role in product enablement and giving your brand an edge over other competitors. Suppose, you are selling a product with a free trial, then your average customer is going to have a 90-day journey before they need to contact customer success. They will have questions, maybe some trouble getting things set up or learning how to use your software, and eventually they will be ready for renewal when it's time to pay!

But there are also people who start using your product right away and never ask any questions ever again (these may be less common). Customers can sometimes get stuck along the way though, especially when it comes to finding out whether or not their organization would even benefit from your product. If your customers get stuck during the customer success journey it is really helpful to give them some kind of self-service support so they can figure out what the next step is on their own.

Product Enablement


How can you get started?

There are a ton of different tools out there that help people distribute this kind of content. Here are a few:

  • Ambition
  • Boomerang 
  • Cloze
  • Datanyze
  • Fusion
  • Emissary
  • Hubspot
  • Salesforce
  • Templafy

Using any one of these above tools, you would be able to quickly gather information about who is looking at what pieces of content. You could even segment them by whether or not they have signed up for your product or not, then you would know which pieces of content to prioritize.

When people sign up for a trial, they are much more likely to be interested in learning about the features. When people sign up for the free plan, they are probably slightly less interested in price and feature comparisons, but these are still good things to include if only as an aside.  And when people start paying for your product (ideally after their first month), these are all great opportunities to let them know about other products/features that may be valuable to them too!

This is just one example of how people use this kind of data - what you do with it will depend on your business's situation and your customers' needs.

So are you ready to get started? If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!  There are plenty of places where you can talk about product enablement - just remember that it is about the intersection of marketing and sales!

What problems can product enablement fix?

Sales & marketing alignment is always hard but lack of communication between product management and marketing teams has become increasingly problematic. Product enablement helps lessen the negative impact of these failures. Here are some of the challenges that product enablement reduces:

1. Lack of marketing material

Product management needs to roll out new features, enhancements, and bug fixes soon but they don't always know what messages will resonate with their audiences. They could give marketing mock-ups or even source copy but they would like something more flexible (e.g., easy to update) and automated (e.g., not manual creation process). Marketing can provide this through style guides, stock photography libraries, and video & animation sources.

They will also need tools to make it easier for them to share content across platforms without having excessive duplication. Sales reps need similar materials which include feature comparisons, testimonials, decks, etc.

2. Lack of visibility into product updates

Marketing wants to begin rolling out new materials right away but they are not sure what is coming next. Product management needs to update their team on changes, enhancements, and bug fixes that are currently in development. They need tools that help them share screenshots & videos, feature explanations, with multiple audiences. That includes their engineering counterparts for reviews. Sales reps also need the same type of information which includes feature comparisons, customer stories, demo requests, etc.

3. Poor campaign launch coordination

Sales promotions typically require last-minute changes to messaging or even target audience segments so this can cause problems with coordinating resources across marketing channels (e.g., webinars), sales outreach (e.g., events), and even product management (e.g., rules or restrictions on certain features). Product enablement helps make this less painful - for example, by providing tools that let product managers quickly update release notes & FAQs, marketing to create a campaign landing page, and sales to share a sleeker promo sheet.

4. Unclear feature updates

Engineers communicate new features through their engineering team's blog, internal wikis, or even email lists but it's challenging for other teams to find the right information at the right time. Marketing needs a way to subscribe to these posts so they can begin pulling out relevant content as updates are published. Sales reps need similar access so they can have more materials ready for demos.

5. Lack of visibility into competitive products

Sales reps are always looking for ways to upsell but they are blocked when they don't have the most recent feature updates or product comparisons. Product enablement can help address this by giving reps access to company roadmaps, feature comparison charts, etc. So they know what is coming down the pipeline and how it might impact their deals. Marketing also needs these resources when preparing campaigns & collateral materials because it's important to understand where your product stands relative to the competition - even if you have got a leg-up in some areas, you might still be at a disadvantage in others.

6. Frequent change requests

Product management is constantly rolling out new features, enhancements, and bug fixes but it is easy for sales reps to get stuck making frequent updates to their materials. Product enablement can help by providing content management tools that make it easier for marketing & sales to create & update campaigns. This also includes creating assets that are more shareable across teams - e.g., product demo videos where you have a script or even just an outline so your team knows what specific types of demos will be shown without being involved in the details of each one.

7. Lack of personalization

Customizing the right assets for the right customers is tricky because your needs might differ from others. Product enablement helps by providing product management tools that let them create multiple releases and also let them choose which customers are targeted in their demos. This also includes content management systems that make it easier to manage user personas & their assets across sales & marketing - for example, sharing user stories, testimonials, case studies, customer success stories, etc.

In Conclusion

Product Enablement is a specific process that aims to provide in-depth learning programs tailored to specific departments in order to increase employees' knowledge and effectiveness. Hence, assisting employees in large corporations to gain relevant product knowledge.

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Written by

Harsh Gupta

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