Why are we ashamed of marketing?

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that within the Public Sector we seem to be ashamed of the idea we might need to market our products and services.

In the Private Sector, Product Management as a profession grew out of the marketing profession. In the Pubic Sector we stress the importance of planning for role out; and one of the key metrics for any good Product is uptake. However we never talk about how we market the product. Instead we talk about user engagement.

The problem is, user engagement is an activity we should be doing through out product delivery; we should be constantly engaging with our users; carrying out research, gaining insights into their pain points and needs etc. Thinking about how we engage with our users is different to thinking about how we will market our product to our users.

Marketing, when it does happen; is generally done in one of two ways; firstly it’s done because a policy or legislative point of view; to let citizens know about the change that’s coming; or secondly from an Operational perspective once the Product is live, to let citizen know they should be using it. It’s very rare for the Digital team developing the Product to be involved.

When I talk about the fact that Product Management started out as a marketing role; or tell product people in the Public Sector they need to be planning for how they will market their product; they mostly chuckle, and then start talking about engagement. We seem to either be confused about or ashamed of that element of our role; but it’s also a key part of our role, and one that shouldn’t’ be ignored.

Thinking about why so few product teams in the Public Sector seem to be willing or able to even think about marketing their products; I wonder if it’s because so many of our Products are things that citizens are mandated to use? Because we’re forcing people to use our products and services; we seem to find any discussion about marketing them distasteful.

The problem with marketing being driven by the comms or marketing team without the Product Manager being involved is that even though we’ve spent all this time and effort as product teams understanding our users needs and their pain points and where we can add the most value to solve the users problems; with in-depth user research and analysis, but all of that insight doesn’t translate over into our marketing campaigns. Instead our marketing, when it does happen, tends to be reactive, and planned out at the end, focusing on what has already been developed; rather than proactively thinking about user segmentation and how we can best shape our roll out plan to add the most value and how we can market that accordingly.

This is the area I think Public Sector product people can learn the most from our Private Sector counter parts; and I’d love to see marketing and growth discussed more at Public Sector product events. As product people we should love our products and want to do everything we can to shout about them and how great they are so more people can love them and use them too!



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