Lauren Bowden, experienced B2B marketer shares her experience of the relationship between product development and marketing, with some pragmatic advice to be Pragmatic.


The complementary core skill sets of product and marketing teams should mean that when they join forces, go-to-market plans become bulletproof and customers are left more delighted than they could ever imagine. But it’s rarely as straightforward as that, as exemplified in a Roadmap.comsurvey of 500+ product managers. From broken communication channels to missed deadlines to lack of support, the dysfunction between the two teams was irrefutable in the minds of those surveyed.

Why the disconnect?

Even though cross-team meetings are frequent, respondents claim that communications are not all that clear or productive. And there are no unifying goals across the groups, which leads to poor launches and disconnected marketing programs. Ultimately, and inevitably, the go-to-market activities suffer and so does the value delivered to the customer. A losing game all round.

But I am curious to know what type of marketing folk are being referred to in this survey? How many of the disgruntled product experts in this survey sample are referring to product marketing pros when they describe this kind of disharmony? Why does this even matter? Well if you are a RockStarCMO regular, you are more than aware that these days marketing teams are made up of different types of specialists all with different skill sets, and that the field is expanding all the time as customer expectations change.

It’s all just marketing, right?

You will also likely be very familiar with the blank stare you get when you explain this nuance to people who think that marketing is marketing is marketing. You know it is not just a matter of semantics. From digital marketing to channel marketing, to field marketing – each specialism brings something different to the table.

A good product marketer can be worth their weight in gold to an organization, not least because they have the ability to make a marked improvement on sales enablement tools, can provide an added layer of credibility to your marketing content, and give you a 3-D view of the market you are competing in.

But for that to happen, clear communication about who is responsible for what needs to be firmly embedded, and a cross-team mentality and culture must be in place. Well, that’s easier said than done if your product and marketing teams are spread all over the world, if M&A activity means constant re-orgs and shuffles of responsibility take place, or if just good old-fashioned corporate politics between teams is at play.

Time to get pragmatic

Luckily there are organizations that are devoted to espousing the many benefits of solid product management/marketing collaboration. For me (channeling my favorite Bond theme) nobody does it better than the Pragmatic Institute. I would recommend its training courses and patented Pragmatic Framework to anyone interested in this topic, or in fact anyone who has a product or service they would like to take to market… so that’ll be any business then.

The beauty of this framework is that it covers the full gamut of activities involved in creating and marketing products without enforcing rigid rules about who owns what. That is left to the organization to work out who is best placed to execute each area. Ideally, the framework ‘owner’ will have a comprehensive understanding of every role in the organization and allocates responsibility accordingly.

Now. Obviously, that won’t always happen. There will still be those who think marketing belongs on the right hand, more tactical execution side of this framework. You might unknowingly find yourself and your team restricted to the ‘marketing plan’, ‘events’ and ‘content’ boxes.

Raise your hand

That’s the time to raise your hand. Make it clear that there is valuable knowledge your team has about market problems, competitive landscape, positioning, personas, etc. etc. that should be tapped. And I’m not just talking product marketing team members. As mentioned previously there are many forms of marketing pro – all of whom can add their specialist perspectives to a go-to-market plan.

Arguably it shouldn’t stop there. The pre-sales, sales and professional services teams have direct knowledge of the customer and market that will add another dimension to the categories in this framework. Of course, there is a danger of too many cooks in the kitchen if you keep adding people to this project, and decision making by committee is only ever possible if time and money are no object.

But surely everyone would rather spend time on the strategic to reduce time wasted on the tactical. As ever communication and teamwork are the only ways this can happen.

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