Building a great product requires a team of people with different skills. Understanding the roles of each individual on the team, what motivates them, and how best to work with them, is not only important to creating a successful product, but also important to your mental health, sanity, and career progression. In this next serious of articles, I’ll be giving guiding principles and tactical tips when working with different individuals, starting with marketers.
Before diving into what you should or shouldn’t do when working with marketers, let’s define what marketers do and different type of marketers you might encounter.
What is marketing?
Marketing is the art of telling stories so enthralling that people lose track of their wallets.
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
[American Marketing Association]
From storytelling to creating offers, marketers tackle a wide variety of activities, depending upon the company and who you’re working with. They aren’t all “Ad Men” portrayed in Mad Men. However, I believe you could categories marketers into four major groups:
Product marketers -> Marketers focused on communicating the “why you should care”
Brand marketers -> Marketers focused on the values and mission of the company
Performance marketers -> Marketers focused on the optimization
Marketer acting also as product managers -> Marketers also doing some of the product manager’s job
Take a few minutes to read the characteristics, motivators and stressors for each category. Source For Image Below
Note: As in any grouping, you’ll rarely find any individual marketer fitting perfectly into one categorization. But this provides a framework for our discussion.
Now that you have read the archetypes, think about the marketer(s) on your team. Take a minute to categorize this person into one primary group and one secondary group. This will help you as read into the next section: tips on working with different marketers.
Tips When Working with Product Marketers
Understand where roles and responsibilities overlap or differ. The exact responsibilities of PM will differ from company to company. As a result, the same is true with product marketers. Start a conversation with your marketer to understand where there may be overlap between your role and the product marketer’s role. For example, in some companies, product marketing drives customer and user research whereas in others, that’s owned by the product manager and product marketing drives competitor research. Another common area of overlap or blurry responsibility maybe pricing.
When there are overlaps in responsibility, identify who is the decision-maker and who is the consult. Yes, this can be a painful process, especially if both of you believe you should be the ultimate decision-maker. But don’t fight unnecessary battles. Most PMs have more than enough work on their plate to give up decision-making while still building a successful product.
Don’t do the product marketer’s job. If you identify issues when working with your product marketer, such as a disagreement on a decision or how a task is to completed, this isn’t the time to take over the marketer’s job. Don’t like how yor product is messaged? Voice your disagreement, but refer back to agreed upon responsibilities.
Recognize the cadence of communicate frequency will change during the product life-cycle and plan accordingly. For example, during product discovery, you might be working together to conduct customer interviews. However, in the middle of product delivery (i.e., development), you maybe work more independently and communicating by updating each other on progress. This ebb and flow is normal, so don’t force a single set of communication.
Build products that solve customer’s pain points clearly. It sounds obvious, but with all the complex trade-offs that can occur during the product delivery process, a PM can sometimes lose sight of the goal in the rush to ship. Don’t be the PM, which I’ve been guilty, of launching features doesn’t solve the customer’s problem. It’ll make your product marketer’s job so much harder, to articulate why customers should care, forcing them to use smoke and mirrors in language. Good product marketers don’t like doing this.
Tips When Working with Brand Marketers
Brand takes time. Understanding that building a brand takes a long time and repeated, consistent messaging. It doesn’t happen overnight and thus working with brand marketers is a long-term relationship.
Ask to understand the “why” behind the brand, company’s mission and values. Listen closely to what feelings or emotions it’s trying to evoke. Good brand marketers will gladly explain and help you go beyond the tagline or mission statement.
It’s not just logos and taglines. Don’t treat brand as just visuals or words to be slapped onto your product at the end of the development process. Think of it as guiding stars, that should evoke what you are trying to create and infuse.
Learn to communicate in the way brand marketers communicate. For example, Dell’s brand talks about “accelerating [customer’s] own success.” Think about how your product feature enhance may help a customer’s own success (e.g., wide viewing angle for easier collaboration) instead of simply listing product specifications (e.g., 15 inch OLED, 500 nits, 20% viewing angel).
Embrace and communicate your feelings.
It’s not something PMs talk about in the workplace, how we feel about a product. But brand marketing evokes feelings. If you think about the brands you like or dislike, the logos or taglines, you have emotions and associations. So, being in touch with your feels about your product, will help you know if you’re matching what the brand marketer is trying to accomplish.
Tips When Working with Performance Marketers
Figure out a way to say “yes”. Testing new acquisition strategy, running a simple A/B test for different messaging, or changing the on-boarding flow for a particular channel are some examples good performance marketers will want to try. They have new ideas all the time, even during the middle of a sprint. Figuring out a way to test these marketing ideas is critical to his person’s job success in driving growth. This doesn’t mean you have to say “yes” to every single idea or implement the exact idea suggested. Make it smaller, modify it, but try to get to “yes.” Better still, build or implement tools to allow the performance marketer to run new tests independently. An example might be granting Google Tag Manager access so the marketer can place new pixels without your assistance.
Define “success” with data. As you test different growth hacks or new marketing channels, define upfront what is success. Is success improving CAC or LTV? What if you improve one but hurt the other? If it’s improving CAC, is success >10%, >25%, or >500%? This will help both of you know when to move forward or stop. Then, go one step further to understand what metrics are trending down or up that the marketer is trying to address.
Understand what success means and figure out how to get a small, measurable “win” quickly. While this is a common tip for any new relationship, it’s even more important for performance marketers. They are often asked to improve a specific metric or fix a specific conversion issue. Similar to sales who have quarter quotas to meet, performance marketers have specific metrics they have to meet too. Thus, getting even a small improvement, is a good starting point.
Think about how best to scale. While performance marketers are optimizing, you should be thinking about how to scale if this test starts working. How quickly can you scale to driving a meaningful results beyond the quick test? What type of problems may occur at scale that you won’t face during the smaller test? Not only might there be challenges to scaling, you also need to understand the limits of scale and how something may not be repeatable or reproducible to drive long-term success.
Tips When Working with Marketing Acting also as Product Managers
Recognize this isn’t ideal for you or the marketer. As the inverse, where PM’s shouldn’t do the job of product marketing, this isn’t an ideal relationship for the marketer. How you ended up in this situation can be for different reasons, but it happens more frequently than you think. I think part of the reason is that product management, as a profession, actually originated from marketing.
How you change the relationship depends on your level of experience and how the company defines the role of product management.
If you are more junior in your PM career (i.e., inexperienced) relative to the marketer, you’ll likely be relegated to focusing on product delivery (e.g., being told the product strategy, responsible for defining the detailed product requirements, managing project and day-to-day execution). Use this opportunity to hone your product delivery skills, and treat the time as a stepping stone in your PM career. Eventually you may need to move on.
If you are more senior in your PM career relative to the marketer, you have to decide whether to change the working relationship with the marketer or find another marketer to work with. Start by having a conversation with the marketer to understand how she or he thinks about the role of marketing vs product to help define roles and responsibilities.
Some companies view product managers as delivery managers or the new title for project managers. If that’s the case, you’ll have a much harder time changing the relationship with your marketer because they really are the product manager in the company, even if you have the title. If that’s the case, you either need to change roles within the company or find a new job.
You may be the cause of the problem. Conflict between between product marketing and product management is common because the roles can overlap. Thus, there’s natural conflict around decisions. Thus, perhaps your action or inaction maybe forcing a product marketer to turn into a marketing driven product marketer. Have you clearly articulated a product vision? Is there a strategy for executing to reach that vision for the product? Does the vision address the critical marketing concerns (e.g., differentiated against competitors, addresses customer pain points with clear value)? If not, you may be forcing the marketer to take upon your responsibilities.
People who helped contribute to this article:
Nihad Kamal Director, Growth at Luminary Media
Melinda Chung Director of Product Marketing, Adobe; Founder, Product Marketing Bootcamp (pmmbootcamp.com)