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How to improve collaboration between Product Management and Product Marketing

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

A product manager’s dream is to ship features that customers love to use.

A product marketer’s dream is to craft go-to-market campaigns that will inform customers about upcoming features and generate enough excitement for them to give it a try.

Thus, in order to fulfill their dreams, product managers must empower their product marketing teams to fulfill their dreams first.

Based on my experiences of working with product marketing, I would like to share my learnings on how can product managers and marketers collaborate more effectively.

Just like product management, product marketing too sits at the intersection of several different teams. The following infographic gives a good idea of their primary stakeholders.

Source of Image: Here

Responsibilities of product marketing

In order to build a successful relationship with any team, its important to understand their role and responsibilities first. Once you have understood the team’s responsibilities, your aim should be to help them with information and processes that sets them up for success in their role.

Product marketing works towards the following responsibilities:

  1. Develop a deeper understanding of the buyer persona.
  2. Crafting a coherent product marketing strategy that helps convey the value proposition of the product.
  3. Build a unique and differentiated positioning of the product and ensure that it stays relevant over time.
  4. Enable the sales team to sell better to the customers by creating pitch decks for the product, providing insights on how our product is better than XYZ competitor and holding regular training sessions around latest launches.

Reasons for friction between the two teams

  • Product Managers can’t clearly articulate the role of product marketing — Many product managers are unaware of the role that product marketeers will play in the larger scheme of things. For example, feature awareness and adoption is something that both product managers and marketeers will care about. However, it might not be obvious the different roles each of the teams will play to achieve awareness and adoption. This leads to confusion, unrealistic expectations and frustration.
  • Product management and marketing are not on the same page regarding why a particular feature or product is being built — This happens because the customer needs and goals are not clearly articulated. The ensuing back and forth leads while trying to clarify things leads to frustration and anxiety. It eventually results in poorly crafted GTM (Go-to-Market) campaigns.
  • Product Marketeers often have to make changes at the very last moment —Often, the product marketeers get inputs very late on the GTM campaigns crafted by them. Sometimes, release plans and timelines also undergo frequent changes. Having to make last minute changes leads to stress and anxiety for product marketeers.

Since we have already looked at the responsibilities of a product marketer, we can focus on the other two causes for friction. Reasons for friction can thus be categorized into two buckets:

  1. Lack of clear communication
  2. Absence of proper planning

What can product management do to ensure better collaboration

To develop a more fruitful working relationship with your product marketing counterparts, I would recommend taking action under the following three themes:

1. Developing a shared understanding of the customers and business

Following strategies can be adopted to develop a more shared understanding:

  • While doing customer interviews or listening to customer feedback, remember to share interesting observations with the rest of the team. (I frequently share customer quotes with the team whenever I observe something interesting. This helps the team understand how the customer’s articulate their problem.)
  • If the product or design teams do an exercise around understanding the user persona, doing a competitive analysis etc, the results of such exercises should be explicitly shared with the product marketing team as well.
  • As soon as product strategy or product roadmaps are finalised, they should be shared with the product marketing team. Doing this will help give the team more clarity on the features being built and the overall direction of the product.

Marketing needs to know a product’s unique selling proposition, its key differentiators, and how an informed sales rep would pitch it to a prospect.

2. Building better systems and processes

Effective team collaboration rests on the bedrock of better systems and processes. Following are some suggested activities in this regard.

  • Involve product marketing early on in the development process — Involving marketing early on helps give them sufficient time and context to come up with the best possible Go-to-Market (GTM) campaign for the feature/product.

If you involve them at the last moment, they will not feel as involved in the project and subsequently take less ownership in the project.

  • Have a launch calendar — A launch calendar contains information about all the upcoming features (for the new few months), the expected release dates and the ‘feature owners’. This makes it easier for the team to plan their tasks and set appropriate milestones.
  • Have a feature launch checklist —There are multiple activities that can be done with any feature — updating on social media, updating in the customer newsletter, in-app notification, providing sales training, creating promotional video, writing a promotional blog post, creating pitch deck for the sales team etc. Depending on the scale of the feature, the kind of marketing and educational activities will vary. Having a checklist will help ensure that you don’t forget to perform any of the activities that’s crucial for the feature’s success.
  • Review Process —Any collateral prepared by the marketing team would need to go through one or more iterations before everyone is aligned with the output. Make sure you set up regular checkpoints to review the team’s work well in advance. Last minute rush must be avoided at all costs.

3. Effective and Transparent Communication

  • Communicate in advance — As discussed above, sharing details around product strategy, product roadmapping, release timelines etc should be done well in advance. Moreover, any changes in the strategy/roadmap should be communicated proactively so that the team’s always have updated information.
  • Have regular catch-ups with the product marketing team — Try to meet the product marketeers in your team atleast once a week. This will help you get upto speed regarding each other’s work, clarify doubts and share changes in priorities.
  • Overcommunicate — The golden rule of driving alignment is to communicate to the point that you find yourself repeating the same things. (The pain of confusion and lack of clarity is much more than the pain of repeating the same thing.)

Conclusion

Developing a collaborative and healthy relationship between product management and product marketing requires sincere efforts from both sides. Investments made in strengthening this relationship will help the teams work towards the common goal of helping grow the business and the product usage.

Thus, if you are facing challenges with your product management or product marketing counterparts, do give the above strategies a try.

References

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Vikram Goyal

Vikram Goyal

Currently PM@Airmeet — building a kick-ass product for conducting remote events and conferences.

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