(This article is cross-posted at onproductmanagement.net)
The couple is planning their vacation, and decided to take a car on this trip. They were looking forward to the adventures they could encounter along the way and the side diversions that would present as opportunities for exploration. Then it happened. They got lost. She was looking at the GPS but it offered no help for getting them back on track, there were missing roads and turns that they were passing were not present on the screen. Soon enough they saw a sign for the gas station up ahead. And, as you would expect, he didn’t want to stop. “Real men don’t ask for directions,” was his reply.
True, this a notorious stereotype; but, it is based in many stories (and some real research) of the same situation happening over and over. Yet, somehow we keep expecting a different result.
That night, when they were safely in their hotel room (and the anger subdued,) the couple pulled their resources together and re-evaluated where they were and where they wanted to go. What was their goal? How were they going to get there?
What does this have to do with product marketing? EVERYTHING!
If others follow a map, why not Product Marketing?
When our product management peers are planning our product lifecycle, they follow a plan, a roadmap. When our marketing service peers are planning their programs, they follow a plan, a roadmap. So, why don’t we follow a roadmap when we look at our product marketing activities?
The most common reason I hear for why a product marketing roadmap is not being used or followed is that most teams have never heard of one. This is a travesty. It is truly a disservice to yourself, your peers and your product. Worse yet, the lack of a roadmap for the product marketing activities will hurt your business.
A product marketing roadmap is the bridge between the product roadmap and the marketing plan. It gathers information from the product roadmap, and translates these attributes, features and abilities into actions that support the marketing activities needed to enable sales.
Getting started in building a roadmap for product marketing can seem overwhelming. (Taking the first step is often viewed that way.) Try this exercise:
- Obtain a copy of your product roadmap for the next 4-8 quarters. (You do have one, right?)
- Obtain your marketing team plans – demand generation, web, social media, events, papers, etc. (Hopefully your marketing group has this organized in one place, in a common format and somewhere that is stored in an location that is easy to share.)
- Arrange an off-site meeting day – It doesn’t have to be at an extravagant location but you need room for walls, whiteboards, etc. It is best to avoid a home (unless everyone on the team is comfortable there, and it would be totally free of distractions.)
- Arrange for an outside facilitator. This is someone who does not have a vested interest in the outcome, only that the process flows and all persons involved are listened to, engaged and valued. Companies that run agile product management processes often have coaches and/or trainers you can tap for this resource.
- Put the product marketing team in the room. Bring in post-it notes, paper, white boards and copies of the roadmaps and plans you collected, copies of your marketing artifacts (sales sheets, etc.) but LEAVE THE COMPUTER OUTSIDE! and TURN OFF PHONES! When we are in brainstorming sessions, technology can inhibit or distract one – or more – person. And, that distracted person is all it takes to lose rhythm and collaboration.
- Plot out the product roadmap against the marketing plans. Now, look at the gap between the two plans you have plotted. How are you going to bridge the conversation? How do you bring the product, brought to life from the product roadmap, to returning sales, from the leads generated through the marketing plans? This is the content for the product marketing roadmap.
- Once you have the content of the product marketing roadmap identified, you need to look at your resources and priorities. Then, start plotting out where these content/task areas fit in the new besieged area to accomplish the business, unit and team goals. Fill all this in and you are building your own product marketing roadmap.
It’s not that easy
This exercise is not meant to be viewed as simplistic. While it sounds easy enough to accomplish, it requires a strong cohesive team who have the skills and abilities to think strategically yet understand the practicality of the tactics involved. It is not about simply writing a post-it note for an idea; it is about HAVING the idea to write it.
Like a product roadmap, a product marketing roadmap is one that should be revisited, re-evaluated, and re-engineered as plans, products and priorities shift. It’s like a persona in that regard: never think it is done since it has to have a real life that is based on real and evolving dependencies to be useful.
Creating a product marketing roadmap requires commitment, cooperation and patience. It is like a brainstorming session on steroids, and with more at stake since it will affect actions that impact the business’ bottom line. It will leave you exhausted when you do it right. But, it will leave you exhilarated and excited more importantly. You will clearly be able to see a vision of how to make your vision real. You will have a guide to discuss and share. You will have a focal point for when your GPS steers you off track.
Add one for a bonus
Looking in from the outside, in the end, not only will you have the roadmap to help, but you will enhance the value of product marketing in your organization.
(If you or your organization need help to implement this concept, let me know.)