As a Product Marketing Manager, there's lots to do! Here are some of my insights over the years.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Product Marketing in an Agile Environment
ProductCamp Boston 2013 was again another great event! From a discussion facilitated by Steve Robins,
I wanted to share some insights on “Product Marketing in an Agile Environment”.
Agile processes do impact marketing, particularly when product
roadmaps don’t proceed as anticipated. For
example, using FirstBest (where Steve works) as an example, he noted that:
Marketing activities don’t necessarily correspond to the
Agile product development processes typically have a
series of themes, and portion of each theme ends up in monthly feature
releases. Customers then choose
what version they want to adopt, so it’s not SaaS.
These themes, and all marketing efforts to promote the
product, are in support of 1) Customer needs (new and prospective
customers), 2) Corporate image/brand/awareness (including the financial
community), and 3) Creating industry thought leadership. It’d sure be great if they all aligned
each step of the way!
So how does
Marketing handle a launch when features slip from a release, especially when those
features were an important part of an upcoming announcement? One marketer
present was concerned, though, about delaying announcement as new customers would
not find out about the upcoming features unless the features are announced and
discussed externally by marketing.
were proposed and discussed for defining the announcement scope, particularly
given potentially the wavering inclusion of particular features, including to:
Vary the scope of a launch, rather than just delaying all
announcement activities. An example
may be to delay just the outreach to Analysts or the involvement of
Be clear the various segments of the target audience, and
who is impacted by the missing features:
Existing customers (who may upgrade)
Prospective customers you want to attract
Industry thought leadership
Corporate awareness/branding, such as for
financial reasons – investors, financial analysts
Include communications of features – as proof points and to
enable customers to know about and use features. Another marketer present
gave an example from Salary.com where the details made the messaging in an
announcement come alive!
Distinguish between product releases (upon which there is
an announcement) and the product roadmap, which is the development
plan. Typically the dev plan is subdivided
into a series of themes - enabling agile developers to continue to work
and further enhance a particular theme over a series of releases.
Think about 6-7 major themes. Roadmaps may emphasize different themes
in varying proportions over a series of announcements. Some themes may create more interest during
announcements, thereby creating the challenge of how to still create
excitement if an “exciting” feature drops out of a release. Without that features, maybe the announcement
is reduced to a blog or an email to existing customers, and analyst
discussions instead focus on the roadmap with the continuous series of
releases as proof points.
Continuously evolve the marketing plan to track the agile
delivery. The messaging should
track the overall roadmap and themes, with the announcement plans
continuously evolving as needed, rather than just reacting to the latest set
of features for delivery.
Plan jointly. It is
critical that Product Management (PM), Development, and Product Marketing (PMM)
jointly plan and decide trade-offs in the roadmap, particularly since
delivery timeframes are typically affected. The goal is to be customer-focused
– meeting customer needs to the fullest extent possible. Some themes may progress faster or more
completely than others over a series of releases. This joint planning is not just informative,
but should involve all members to jointly refine the launch objectives and
to hopefully empower customers to be interested in buying more, or be more
Highlight a product’s themes – they are more compelling
than individual features, which are likely too detailed for discussion). All themes should become part of the
marketing communications plan as they not only create interest but also
represent the strategic direction.
These themes are supported by the features as the proof points of
the strategy, so it is less credible when those features aren’t
sufficiently complete yet.
Try a hybrid of scope and timeframe-driven deliveries –
this could be optimal. For more
predictability of delivery, the delivery timeframe could be driven by
critical features (~30% of the new features) along with whatever other
items can be delivered in the timeframe that is set for the critical
Find the right balance between iterative and risk. Less mature organizations may be more
iterative on preparing messages. Larger
organizations, however, may have less tolerance for changes and perceive a
greater risk when unauthentic messages are expressed.
insights from a few examples of roadmaps vs announcements scope were offered:
Windows 8. How much
is Microsoft stumbling or will Microsoft pull off the over-arching goals?
Is it time to pull the meat out of the fire, or will leaving it there
result in its falling in?
From an attendee formerly at Monster: PMM was brought to the table to finalize
the roll-out, which required strategic rationalization, and enabled them to
make a splash
Colin Turner offered that there is no cookie cutter
approach for agile, and many things need to be taken into account. PMM doesn’t control the schedule, but it
should be part of the schedule planning.
Scott (from Enforce) asked how much should PMM be involved
in scrum meetings? Bug reviews? The
general consensus was that PMM should be at feature reviews but not
necessarily each scrum or bug review.
roadmaps and the desired themes were seen to be the responsibility of the
Product Manager, supported by clarity/consistency with Development, but Product
Marketing still needs to be included and influence the roadmap to ensure the ability
to deliver effective messages and meet corporate objectives. Having effective messaging enables lead gen
to drive the highest value for the company. The result is an agile and
responsive development processes, but also agile and iterative messaging. Product Marketing should favorably impact the
following by being included:
Keeping delivery timeframes at the forefront of feature
Creating messaging that can be optimized for product
Obtaining collective buy-in by all those involved, not
just a mantra to “get back on track”