Three Tools Marketing Should Steal from Product Management
Updated: Aug 17
Why do we accept that adding last-minute features to a product release increases costs and creates delays, yet pile work on the marketing team days before a launch and expect it to get done? Is there anything product marketing can do to stop the madness of unrealistic delivery timelines and capacity expectations?
Yes. To do it, you're going to steal some tools from your product management and development teams.
There may be reasons for unrealistic expectations that product marketing can't control, but we can make some real progress using communication tools that are effective elsewhere in the business. Following are three such tools you should steal to communicate strategy, define priorities and highlight risk:
Communicate Strategy with a Marketing Roadmap
Product management shares a vision of their product's future with leadership via a product roadmap. Roadmaps allow leaders to understand at a high level what value will be delivered over time, enabling annual budget decisions. Roadmaps give the entire organization an idea of the direction a product is taking so they can plan their contributions to its success. Creating a marketing roadmap is an excellent way to provide insight into your plans - and the fact that you have a plan. If marketing is seen as an unconnected series of random activities in your organization, a roadmap is a great way to provide context to your actions.
Implementation Tips: match timeline and format to the roadmaps of products you support, identify target buyer personas and tie initiatives to strategic organizational goals.
Demonstrate Focus with a Prioritized Project Backlog
All teams have more to do than they have time to do. But, without a rationale for why you're working on "this video" instead of "that white paper," you'll spend a big part of every day defending that decision - one conversation at a time. It's incredibly difficult to put off someone who wants you to create a custom sell sheet if you can't show them why what you're working on instead is more important. Worst of all, without a stated prioritization method (that aligns with your roadmap), team members may still not understand why you're doing what you're doing. They'll ask you again tomorrow. And the next day...
A marketing backlog is the key. Aligned with the product backlog and prioritized to meet organization goals, a backlog illustrates that you're working on marketing activities that will have the most impact on the business.
ImplementationTips: create a prioritization method with input from your product, sales and development partners; get approval from leadership.
Highlight Resource Constraints with Project Sizings
Have you ever noticed that product and development teams use a wide variety of visual tools to communicate resource usage and constraints? From load-leveling graphs to burndown charts, they show us where the risks are and how projects are proceeding. When I was a product manager, I used to joke with my dev team that they always seemed to be at 137% of capacity. But here's the thing - they know.
Do you? If so, are you telling anyone? Without help from us, it's difficult for other teams to understand how long it takes to create a video or publish a white paper. If we want them to understand, we need to help them along. If there are seven launches scheduled for June, we need to show the team why that will limit the attention each one gets from marketing.
Implementation Tips: establish average time to complete typical marketing tasks and use that knowledge to build project sizings; be sure to include approvals and contractor work.
Bonus: Showcase Your Understanding of Financial Impact
Stealing these tools offers you a big bonus too: you now have transparency into your own workflows to validate that you are, in fact, working on the most impactful projects. You can see and rectify inefficiencies in your workflows. You can translate work hours into costs to quantify savings and justify budget increases. Now you're speaking the language of your CFO - the language of a leader.
Too often, product marketing's answer to why something can't be done is, "I'm working as fast as I can!" You have better answers, but it's exhausting trying to share them one team member at a time. Steal a few tools from product and development to enable cross-functional understanding, communicate stategically and get a few hours of your day back.
About the Author
Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product innovation for tech companies through strategic focus and powerful go-to-market strategies. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at email@example.com.