The best marketing is great products. Creating and delivering valuable products is why we exist as B2B SaaS companies. It’s easy to know and act on this as a startup. But something happens as we grow — functions are created, silos form, and collaboration gets harder. As a result, we end up with Product Marketing and Product Management fighting uphill battles to work together in a strategic way.
And the biggest impact of this is on our ability to consistently deliver the product innovation our customers most need.
It’s not because customers aren’t telling us what they want or sharing feedback. It’s because our internal process makes it difficult to combine learnings to see the truth holistically.
Our lack of centralized processes around the customer is our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity. The most effective way for Product Marketing and Product Management to work together to influence roadmaps is by aligning on data that matters and the potential impact of every enhancement.
Prioritizing complete and holistic voice of customer data is the first priority. This is what will move Product Marketers from being viewed as “tactical roadmap executors” to “strategic roadmap influencers.”
Ioana Glitia, Product Marketer at 123Formbuilder, experienced this transformation firsthand. Product Management had been building roadmaps primarily based on user feedback — researching user pain points based on usage or form submissions.
Product Marketing knew there was an opportunity to bring a broader perspective to the table. They began collecting and analyzing data across new channels – from competitors, prospects, and online reviews – and identified key opportunities to change what they build and how they deliver for customers.
This approach fueled a new relationship between Product Management and Product Marketing. The holistic data allowed them to work together more strategically and focus on how they execute vs. what they build.
This is the difference between tactics and strategy — moving from building based on behavior to building based on opportunity.
Product Management is responsible and accountable for creating new possibilities and solutions for customers, but the direction for what to build and who to build for should be decided in a collaborative partnership with Product Marketing. This is the only way that organizations will be able to innovate around market opportunities.
We have to embrace the culture and create programs that empower a fundamental shift in the way we approach partnerships between Product Marketing and Product Management.
This begins with leadership instilling a culture of collaboration and scales when departments prioritize their cross-functional working relationships.
The only way to make collaboration sustainable is to remove the red tape and build a foundation of trust, no matter how bought-in leadership is. Product Marketing and Product Management have to invest in each other’s mutual success.
Understand what your cross-functional partners are working on, their goals, their barriers to success, and find ways to be a contributor to their success. You’re a team. The only way to perform like a team is to invest in those you’re working with and align on shared goals.
Product Marketing and Product Management should commit to answering two major questions:
Once there is alignment on what the two departments want to achieve together, you can start to focus more on delivering results.
Every department has different channels for connecting with customers and measuring performance against customer feedback. Without a process and structure that prioritizes bringing this feedback together in one place, teams will end up operating from different sources of truth.
Marketing’s intel may be from frontline conversations and marketing-driven surveys. Product’s intel may be from discovery calls and product-driven surveys. Both teams looking at valuable data, but neither team operating from the same insights.
This is why it is so important that there is an established process for collecting and analyzing customer feedback in a systematic way. It’s the only way to understand holistically what customers need. And if we can more easily understand what customers need, then we can focus more on how to strategically respond.
Segment feedback to understand how roadmap changes could expand your total addressable market, convert existing deals, or retain customers by providing missing value.
By combining impact with insights, product marketers can move from being the executors at an organization, to being strategic influencers and drivers of company growth. Data is power!
If frontline employees that are having conversations with customers every day understand that the data and context they collect from each conversation is critical to decisions made about the product roadmap, what kind of conversations would begin happening?
Product Marketing and Product Management can expand the reach of their research by helping all teams understand the questions they’re trying to answer and the channels they will prioritize for identifying trends. Customers give feedback daily on what they want, in places like online reviews, support tickets, and sales calls. Prioritize those channels and extract the most impactful requests by frequency.
If everyone plays a role in gathering intel that influences product innovation, we start moving to customer-led growth — a team sport.
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