Anastasia Drougka, Staff Product Manager at commercetools, shares her real-life learning about how to boost teamwork between product and product marketing teams, why it's so important and what results you can achieve from facilitating a more effective, smoother partnership between the two teams.
How should product and product marketing collaborate?
The short answer is: Hand in hand. Product marketing should be aware of the key features that the product team is building, alongside the business value they drive and how these map to core market messaging. The product team should be aware of, consulted on and engaged with go-to-market activities, from the early market impact analysis and competitive intelligence, to the marketing materials that will promote such features when they go live.
In an eCommerce business, a product manager’s (PM) primary focus is to define what features will be built, understand how the value these features will bring maps to the overall strategic goals, and coordinate their engineering team towards those goals to ensure the product will be designed and delivered following high-quality standards. Product marketing managers (PMM) need to understand the product’s value and define the ways it makes sense to be marketed, including internal enablement, coordination of global and local marketing campaigns, newsletters, webinars, white papers, blog posts and everything in between. They keep a constant eye on what is going on in the market and in the competitive landscape, and how they can best ensure customers and prospects will be aware of the trends and the value.
Therefore, imagine, if as a product manager, you are planning to work and deliver a feature where its business value is not clearly communicated or is not marketed at all. Your customers may not realize the value of your launch and how this can solve their real business problems — and prospects may not be aware at all. Now, imagine if, as product marketing manager, you have a misunderstanding of what the product's new features can do. You run the risk of giving wrong information or promoting the product in a wrong way, which can lead to unhappy customers.
A real-world example of product and product marketing working together
When the product leadership at commercetools made the strategic decision to invest further into its B2B product offering, it was also the time where I started getting heavily involved as a PM. A few months later, a new PMM joined and became my "partner in crime," so to speak.
We soon realized that it was a great opportunity for us to work together towards that goal. We established new ways of working that allowed us to be in complete sync with ourselves and key stakeholders across the organization.
How the teams synced up
Like with everything else, establish protocols between your teams. For example, we never had meetings without clear goals and outcomes. Our main, recurring meeting cadences include:
A weekly 1:1 between the PM and PMM, where we discuss our week’s priorities, updates and we define what we need to escalate to the product and product marketing leadership.
A biweekly sync up with the senior leadership where we share broader information and status updates, as well as ask for advice when needed. In the early stages of the B2B market motion, this was a weekly sync but as things began rolling forward, the frequency was reduced.
It is critical for product and product marketing teams to always be up to date in terms of the sales pipeline and understand what are the needs of their sales teams and how they can be better enabled. It is also critical to understand why a sales deal is lost and what could have been done better. Making sure that the team is working towards the same sales target is essential, as everyone is focusing on a common goal. For that reason, a monthly sync with sales, product and product marketing has proven very beneficial.
Last but not least, partnerships are also very important. We needed to be united with this team in order to have a clear understanding which of our key partners are related to our B2B offering and what their needs are, how their sales pipeline looks like and how we can enable them further. As such, a monthly cadence with the partnerships team is sufficient to cover these topics.
The key outcomes from both teams cooperating
As we are shipping new features every quarter throughout the year, we define in parallel our marketable moments (MM). An MM is a launch that includes a certain set of new, or even sometimes, an existing product capability addressing certain use cases, to certain customer segments. In order to have a successful MM, multiple assets need to be in place. First of all, every MM needs to have a clearly defined marketing message, a target audience and the feature set that unlocks critical use cases for that audience. Case studies, white papers and sales enablement trainings are some of the assets that need to be in place for a launch.
In order to achieve internal alignment and ensure teams work toward a common goal that will enable sales to achieve their targets, it’s important to define the product’s long-term strategy. While I was working with product leadership on the features that would make most sense to focus on next and build, the PMM was working on how these map to our core marketing messaging and how this messaging would be addressed to each segment. Of course, it would be impossible to define a robust strategy without having key information, for which we collaborated closely to define. We had to designate our Total Addressable Market (TAM), and understand how the features we would be releasing could impact our customer segments and how much of the TAM we’d be able to address each time. We had to understand what the sales target was and how we can meet that target with the features we released and the marketing campaigns that would accompany them.
Another major tip: Involve product marketing in workshops for new features. Big features that require a quarter or two to be delivered, also require a significant level of research before a single line of code can be written. As such, my counterpart in product marketing and I tried an experiment. Product marketing would attend the very high level planning session with the engineering team, while we would craft the MVP (minimum viable product) scope.
What came as a surprise was the fact that the engineering team loved the idea and engaged way more than expected! Why? Because they had the chance to get exposure to more customer stories and understand how the things they build tie back to the marketing messaging and our core strategy. Furthermore, product marketing also loved this idea as it gave them the chance to engage directly with the team, understand how the solution would be designed and ensure a 100% alignment on product’s scope.
The main takeaways
What was the result of that close collaboration? We synchronized our feature releases with our marketing launches and our sales enablement materials and training, which was then followed by content publishing to generate more leads. Last year, with this approach we managed to overachieve on our B2B sales target.
Therefore, no matter whether you are working on your roadmap features or on a big market motion, always work closely with your product marketing counterpart. Involve them from the early definition and strategy stages because they bring in additional knowledge and a valuable perspective.
There’s no better way to celebrate your product’s impact, ensuring the right audience understands how to use your features and what value this unlocks. Similarly, having a PMM who understands the functional capabilities of your product is a gift, as it empowers them to create solid and high-quality marketing campaigns, white papers and any other marketing materials.
Curious to see the results of our B2B MM? Download our Pivotal Trends and Predictions in B2B Digital Commerce in 2023 and read our What makes B2B buyers tick in digital commerce? infographic.