How to Keep Product Management and Product Marketing Teams in Sync

by Alton Zenon III
August 21, 2020
product marketing-product management-chicago

Product marketing and product management teams have the same goal: to launch successful products that customers love. But having a shared vision doesn’t mean collaboration for the two orgs is always a walk in the park.

In fast-paced, Agile environments, accomplishing day-to-day tasks and pushing toward short-term goals can silo operations between the two product teams. Throw in inconsistent communication, different KPIs and a lack of clear ownership, and teams face a recipe for failure. Or at the very least, holes in their joint efforts toward a product’s success.

We spoke to Chicago professionals on both ends of the product spectrum — a senior VP of product management and a product marketing manager — about how their teams align with one another. They both agreed that it’s vital for the two product orgs to align early on strategy, goals and responsibilities, and clearly define each. Once there’s alignment, they said communication must be frequent and consistent to ensure accountability and ongoing cohesion.


Josh Duncan
Senior VP of Product Management

Senior VP of Product Management Josh Duncan said feedback from product management, marketing and sales is key for successful collaboration at DFIN, a cloud-based risk and compliance solutions company. The three teams share a repository to access product information and schedule regular calendar holds for open discussion. 


What steps have you taken to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each team?

One of the best ways to help build clarity between the roles is to make sure the upfront work is done to clearly define what a product is going to be, and what it isn’t. This strategy work is not only key to a product’s success but also needed to help build the story and positioning that teams will use to communicate to potential customers. A product can be great but still not be successful if it doesn’t reach the customers that would benefit from it.

Make sure that communication between the teams becomes an ongoing practice.” 


What does collaboration look like between your teams?

It starts with understanding where product management and product marketing can bring value and also the process steps that are important for a business. The Pragmatic Framework is a good starting point for mapping all the activities that need to be supported by product management, marketing and sales. Making sure responsibility for these process steps are clearly defined and communicated, along with who needs to be consulted and informed, will help avoid conflicts. Once defined, make sure that communication between the teams becomes an ongoing practice. 


How do you ensure alignment between product marketing and product management? 

One of the ways we’ve successfully maintained alignment is by having a shared space to capture feedback and product ideas. This space makes sure that all information is available for the entire team to leverage. Additionally, having dedicated times for the product management and product marketing teams to discuss the feedback helps everyone stay in the loop and provide input into prioritization planning.


Kristin Thiel
Product Marketing Manager

“Creating and marketing products would not be possible without collaboration between product marketing and product management,” Product Marketing Manager Kristin Thiel said. 

To make that collaboration happen at commercial real estate marketing platform Buildout, Thiel said she makes daily efforts to communicate with her colleagues in product management to ensure the two teams are fully in sync.


What steps have you taken to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each team?

Product marketing roles are still very fuzzy because no two organizations are the same. In smaller companies, product marketers and product managers wear multiple hats so often that there are gray areas between who owns what between teams. 

My role at Buildout was new, so I was lucky to have the time and flexibility to build relationships, understand processes and define my role at the same time. While this isn’t always the case, to be a successful product marketer, you must collaborate and build great relationships.

We ‘divide and conquer’ our long list of tasks to make sure we set each other up for success.”


What does collaboration look like between your teams?

Aligning on the product and go-to-market strategies are critical for the success of a new product or feature. Our strategic planning involves a kick-off meeting with the development team, so we are all aligned from the start. We review the product requirements and set timelines. After the kick-off, I meet with my product managers on multiple occasions to talk through positioning, buyer personas, market research we have and still need, launch plans and more. Up until launch, we ‘divide and conquer’ our long list of tasks to make sure we set each other up for success. 


How do you ensure alignment between product marketing and product management? 

We learn very quickly that if we are not aligned, no one wins. I spend a great deal of time working closely with my product managers. No matter how fast things move, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have a conversation or check-in with my product team. 

While it used to be in-person meetings or desk drops, these days it’s Slack and video calls. One practice that has been especially successful at Buildout is that all teams have a daily stand-up call each morning before kicking off the day. I join the product teams each morning. Everyone talks about what they are focusing on that day and where we need help. It’s an easy way to make sure we are all on the same page before everyone goes on their way for the day.


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