In March last year, my colleague and Mind the Product’s Director of Training, Rosemary King, wrote about how the company departments working alongside a product team could better work together to meet their common goals and to improve working practices.
I’ve worked in B2B tech marketing for about eight years, as a product marketer for a large portfolio of niche software, and now as the marketing manager for Mind the Product’s growing collection of events and community-building initiatives. But it’s only in recent years that I’ve really seen the benefit of being a marketer in a world of product.
We’re a small but growing team, and our start-up mentality gives us a great deal of freedom to experiment and develop our processes as the marketing function matures within the business. What has particularly struck me during my time working with product teams and product managers is that adopting the frameworks and mindset of a product manager can be hugely beneficial.
So, I wanted to share a few of my key learnings from working with product people, which mirror much of what Rosemary wrote about in her blog:
Align Around Goals
“Product teams understand that in order to explore a complex and changeable domain, clear goals are a rock-solid requirement.”
In my previous role as a product marketing manager for software products company, Redgate,we would constantly verbally refer back to at least one of our goals and how the work we were doing was contributing to achieving them. It was common to walk the halls in our Cambridge office and hear people uttering the phrases “yes, but what will success look like?”, or “…and that really feeds into our goal of x”. At Mind the Product, it’s always been clear to me what type of business we are. Our focus is on the community and our customers’ experience, but our goals focus has really stepped up in the last six months. I can already feel it making a difference. As Marketing Manager, it’s imperative that I have a common goal to work towards and I know how to measure its success, and my appreciation for that is down to working alongside product managers who are focused on this day-in and day-out.
“Once “testing goggles” have been acquired, they cannot be let go.”
All product managers love a good test. In a busy marketing department, it’s easy to repeat the same actions when your projects come round on a regular basis. However, if you’re not taking the opportunity to try new things and test their effect then you’re wasting an opportunity. At Mind the Product, we’re encouraged to experiment with a view to improving our processes and learning new ways to work effectively, so that’s what we do. In Marketing, in Product, in Operations… test, learn, test again. One of our company values is: “If we’re not winning, we’re learning”, and that’s all the encouragement I need!
Take Stock Regularly
“If a team is always testing and therefore always learning, then the distillation of what has been learned must be fed back into the product at regular intervals.”
Whether this is at a daily stand-up or in a monthly report, it’s key that we share any learnings and use them to improve the way we work. In previous roles I benefited hugely from attending daily product team stand-ups and hearing what the team was working on, what they were trying, what hadn’t gone quite to plan, and how their roadmap was changing as a result. As a marketer, it’s key to keep on top of such things as you work towards campaigns and communicate to customers. In my product marketer role, I was introduced to product retrospectives and it changed my working outlook. The concept is so simple, but so effective. In my time at Redgate, the product team retros were fast rolled out to other groups and taking stock after major milestones became a common occurrence for other departments – events, marketing, HR, and more. Dedicated marketing retrospectives are a recent, but crucial, part of my team’s process and hugely valuable. Just like product, we operate in a “safe space” where there are no stupid questions, and respect is part of our everyday. It means we get honest feedback which we can use for future projects.
Bake in Continuous Improvement
“Just reviewing the good and bad is not enough. Teams must also create and address activities that might cause improvements.”
After a Marketing retro, we usually have a long list of actions to work on which either consist of gathering more data, speaking to other team members, or simply making adjustments to our current processes. This way we see continuous improvement. In my current team, this is very much still a work in progress, but we’ve already reaped the rewards of implementing regular retrospectives.
Embed Yourself in the Team
It very much depends on your role, the product you work on, and whether your company setup allows for it, but if you get the opportunity to spend time sitting with your product team, then take it. I’ve seen different configurations of this in the past, but I found the most beneficial was to have two desks; one with my marketing team and one alongside the product team. You’ll be amazed how many nuggets you pick up and how many ad hoc meetings and conversations you find yourself getting pulled into just because you’re in the vicinity. And of course, you’ll learn so much about your product from just being near the people who are developing it! I am also able to sit in on our product management training courses on a regular basis, and I always come away with a raft of notes which I’ve identified as being extremely relevant to my own working style.
This won’t work for everyone, I’m not sure the same level of integration is needed for finance or HR, but giving yourself the opportunity to learn the techniques and frameworks a product team (especially a product manager) uses are a benefit in itself.
I work very differently from the way I did even 18 months ago, and I still have much room for improvement. But I find myself constantly altering my processes for the better and being wowed by the working practices of the product managers who surround me. As Rosemary said: “If an organisation can drive for general adoption of these processes, then not only will departments work more effectively with product teams, but they’ll generally work better.” And I couldn’t agree more.
What do Other Non-Product People Think?
Kate Duggan, Head of Portfolio Marketing, Redgate Software comments:
Through collaborating closely with our product teams, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits of applying agile and lean practices and have now chosen to adopt some of these in Marketing too. We are much more productive and collaborate more effectively. We also learn more quickly what’s working and what’s not, what should we iterate, or where should we focus our resources. It helps us align more easily with the product side of the business if we’re all speaking the same language and taking the same approach to our work.
Danielle Vautier, Team Lead and UI Developer, ProdPad adds:
At ProdPad, the dev team is influenced on a daily basis by our product managers and the processes they practise. As an example, “test everything” is a mentality that we 100% live by – it filters down into our decisions on what to build, what to remove, how often we iterate, and how often we release. All of our developers are from non-product backgrounds and so understanding the challenges, motivations, and decision making processes of product managers is something which is hugely beneficial in order to fully understand the impact of what we’re creating for our customers and to work better as a team.
What’s your experience of working with product managers? Or, as a product manager, how have you found it working with non-product people?
If you’re interested in learning more about how outside roles should work with product teams and understanding the role of a product manager then watch out for our brand new workshop; Product for Non-Product People, coming to London this summer.