• Ryan MacInnis

Product Marketing from Inception to Scale: An Open Source Syllabus for building better products

At the end of 2020, I submitted a course proposal and syllabus for a product marketing course to be offered in a business school or marketing curriculum and it wasn't accepted. Instead of sitting on it, I would rather make it available for anyone to use or take pieces from in order to help students, or anyone really, build better products.

Disclaimer, I never asked the guest speakers if they would actually be open to being a part of the class, but were people I knew would be excited to speak about the topic of the class discussion for that day.


Instructor: Ryan MacInnis

Course Title

Product Marketing from Inception to Scale

Course Description and Objectives

Out of the 30,000 new products launched each year, 95% of them fail. Startups are creating new markets and competing with billion-dollar category kings, while enterprise companies are reinventing themselves to maintain relevance in an age of digital disruption. Getting to market, and remaining a leader in your space, remains one of the most difficult journeys any entrepreneur or business leader can face.

Product Marketing – the driving force behind getting products to market, and helping them stay there – is one of the most essential pillars needed for business growth. This course concentrates on strategy AND tactics. In keeping with the emphasis on “real world”, this course uses case studies, role playing exercises, guest speaker stories, and the analysis of the rise and fall of products to illustrate what successful products look like, and how you can approach your next venture with the confidence required in making it a hit.

At the end of this class, students will have the knowledge to 1) understand product marketing and its role in a company’s growth 2) comprehend why some products fail and others don’t, and 3) synthesize effective product marketing strategies in order to influence change in their company.

Course Requirements and Assignments


Participation 20%

Guest Speaker Reflections 20%

Case Reactions 20%

Final Group Project 40%

Required Materials

Frank V. Cespedes. “Developing and Using Buyer Personas.” Harvard Business School Case.

John A. Quelch, Sunru Yong. “Launching a New Motor Oil.” Harvard Business School Case.

Len Sherman. “Yellow Tail Wines: Breakout Product Positioning.” Harvard Business School Case.

Shelle Santana, Jill Avery, Christine Snively. “Chase Sapphire: Creating a Millennial Cult Brand.” Harvard Business School Case.

Sunil Gupta, Shelle Santana, Margaret L. Rodriguez. “Apple Pay.” Harvard Business School Case.


This course emphasizes real-world experience. I will be sharing personal stories and frameworks that have helped me launch products at companies like LinkedIn, as well as in fast-growing startups. In order to fully grasp, and act on the material we cover, you must be able to contribute in a meaningful way to class discussion of these materials.

Guest Speaker Reflections:

Over the course of the semester, three guest speakers will share real-world experience that will correspond with what we’re covering in class. You will choose two speakers to reflect on, writing no more than two double-spaced pages and must be submitted on the date indicated on the syllabus (because we will often discuss reactions in class on that date). Reflection papers will be graded with respect to how insightfully and thoroughly you respond to the speaker’s comments and topics, as well as the ability to tie in course material into your paper.

Case Reactions:

Analyzing cases in class will be a key component to your coursework. You will will write no more than three double-spaced pages and must be submitted on the date indicated on the syllabus (because we will spend the class discussing the case on that date). You will focus on two parts: description and analysis. Your grade will reflect your ability to break down the situation covered in the case, and analyze the outcome based on what we’ve covered in class, or an element of product marketing that is apparent in driving business success.

Final Class Presentation:

The key objective of the term project is to break down a product launch and share why it was successful. You’ll do this in two parts:

  1. A group presentation on a new product launch that went well and why

  2. A group paper that analyzes its success based on what we learned during the semester

The final project paper should be no longer than 15 pages, double-spaced. The first part of the paper should be written as a case – it should describe rather than analyze. The second part of the project report is the analysis. The analysis should be modeled on the cases, stories, and frameworks that we shared throughout the semester, and must be organized and methodical. Your presentation, to be presented on the last day of class, will be an overview of your paper, key takeaways from your research, and a brief analysis of why a product was successful.

Class Schedule:

Session 1

Introduction to Product Marketing

Exercise: Obviously Awesome, A Product Positioning Exercise


Session 2

Go-to-Market Strategies and Evaluating Market Opportunities


Session 3

Competition is for Losers

Case: Chase Sapphire: Creating a Millennial Cult Brand



Case reaction for Chase

Session 4

Finding Customer Market Fit

Exercise: Persona Development when launching a new product or feature



Final project topic and team members

Session 5

Buyers vs. Customers: Understanding the difference in your go-to-market strategy


Session 6

The Pillars of Product Marketing: Messaging, Positioning, and Customer Value

Guest Speaker: Maya Grossman, Former Head of Product Marketing at Google, Microsoft



Final Outline

Session 7

Evaluating trade-offs

Case: Launching a New Motor Oil



Case reaction for New Motor Oil

Session 8

Measuring the right business activities to drive growth

Guest Speaker: John Pauler, COO of Maven Analytics



Guest speaker reflection #1

Session 9

Internal Marketing Essentials

Exercise: Role playing to get buy-in and excitement across your company



Guest speaker reflection #2

Session 10

Launch Day Part 1: Getting to Market

Exercise: Walking Through LinkedIn’s Marketing Review Document [MRD]


Session 11

Launch Day Part 2: Launch Day

Exercise: The Steve Jobs Framework for Product Launches

Watch: Steve Jobs Announces the iPhone in 2007


Session 12

Launch Day Part 3: Evaluating the Success of a Launch

Guest Speaker: Dacheng Zhou, Principal Product Manager at LinkedIn


Session 13

Reviving failed products. How would we relaunch them today?

Exercise: In-class group assignment. Select a product that failed and address a new go-to-market strategy from a Product Marketing perspective



Guest speaker reflection #3

Session 14

Product Marketing’s role in innovation over time

Case: How Apple Pay Became A Success



Case reaction for Apple Pay

Session 15

Final Class Presentations

No readings for class

Due: Submit final paper