When you think about Go-to-Market strategy, it's easy to think of it as linear. Product comes first and then marketing. But in practice, Go-to-Market is much more of a back-and-forth process. Product and marketing teams both need a lot from each other to successfully carry out their roles. To get the right product, positioning, messaging, and pricing strategies for your next Go-to-Market cycle, you’ll need alignment between these two essential teams.
But achieving alignment is rarely straightforward, especially in larger companies where teams can easily become siloed from one another. So, how can you achieve that closer alignment between product and marketing?
In this article, we’ll be covering:
- Why alignment between product and marketing is important.
- How you can get better alignment between product and marketing.
- What product and marketing should be aligned on.
So buckle up, we’ve got a lot to get through. 🚘
Why alignment between product and marketing is important
There are so many reasons you need this alignment, but we’ll stick to the top contenders.
- Designing a product that resonates with your target audience.
Your product teams shouldn’t design new products in isolation. When it comes to deciding which direction your company will take next and which products you’re going to build, there are a lot of competing priorities. Being at the cutting edge of tech. Staying ahead of competitors. Meeting the priorities of important stakeholders. And so on.
But what really matters the most is what your customers want. When you’re designing your next product, your starting point should be who your target audience is and what their needs are. What problems do they need you to solve? What can you offer them that a competitor can’t? That’s not information that your product team will automatically have. They’re an internal team. But do you know who does have that intel? Marketing.
Marketers are in a unique position as a team. They can have a relationship with customers that doesn't revolve solely around profit. Marketing doesn’t generate profit in the obvious way sales do, which means they can develop more sustainable relationships with your target customers. And they can use the information they gain from these relationships to help direct your priorities when you design your next product.
They know which aspects of their marketing most resonates with your audience. They hear what your customers' pain points are. This information is essential for identifying a gap in the market you can fill and achieving product-market fit. If your product and marketing teams work closely together, you can establish a feedback loop that allows your product team to have all the info they need to design products that are in demand.
2. Creating targeted and effective positioning and messaging.
Your marketing, or product marketing team if you have one, are responsible for designing your positioning and messaging strategy. They’ll build this strategy to target specific buyer personas and audience segments. To do this effectively, your marketing team must really understand the product they’re selling.
Say your product is a mug that self-heats coffee and keeps it warm. Your marketing team is producing positioning and messaging which targets busy people who are on the go a lot and rarely have time to stop and boil a kettle. But if they don’t know the mug can be controlled from an app on your phone, they may not think to target tech heads who like to link all their gadgets to their phone, regardless of how busy they are. Or perhaps, they don’t know the cup has a new patented leak-proof technology that would appeal to new mums who don’t want to risk spilling hot drinks around their kids. Those are two different customer segments that might have been missed without alignment.
This is a very simplified example, but it depicts what happens when your marketing team doesn't understand your product and emphasizes how they could easily miss opportunities when crafting the positioning and messaging. The marketing team knowing what they’re marketing might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. It’s easy to miss details or skip steps when you explain something you know inside out to a newbie. We all do it.
That’s why you need a conscientious alignment strategy between product and marketing to make sure assumptions aren’t made and details aren’t overlooked on either side.
3. Delivering a consistent brand narrative
We likely all know by now that in the modern world, selling products is as much about storytelling as anything else. Consumers don’t just buy products, they buy into brands and the narrative you’re selling them. Your brand story is all about where the company comes from, why you started it, what your company values are, and what you’re offering your customers. And we become loyal customers of brands who effectively sell us a story we believe in (anyone familiar with this blog will know I’m somewhat irrationally obsessed with UK clothing brand Lucy & Yak). We make decisions, often subconsciously, about who we buy from based on how the brand aligns with our values.
If you want to sell your brand's story well, you need to make sure you’re consistently delivering that narrative. That means your products, your marketing, your sales strategy, and your customer service, all need to be consistent and representative of that story.
Your external teams communicate this story through their interactions with customers, but building that brand narrative and making sure it's really solid is all about product and marketing. So it's essential they’re aligned.
How can you better align product and marketing?
The best thing you can do to align any two teams better is to start the alignment process early and check on it with a regular frequency. Get product and marketing together at the start of your Go-to-Market strategy and make sure both teams understand the responsibilities, priorities, and challenges of the other.
Establish how regularly the two teams, or representatives from the two teams, should meet. You don’t want to overdo it and waste time, but too little contact will result in missed information, so it's best to talk to the teams about what they need and check in periodically to make sure the meeting cadence is still right.
One of the biggest blockers to alignment is misunderstanding what each team does. To resolve this issue, you could have representatives from product talk to the marketing team about what their role and processes look like, and vice versa.
Another really useful tool is a project timeline,where everyone can see who’s responsible for what and how long it’ll take. You can set realistic expectations for when work will be done and involve the friction that results from missed and continuously pushed back deadlines.
In that vein, a single source of truth for the project ensures everyone is on the same page about what a product is, why it does, and how it’s being positioned can really help collaboration. If people within your own company lack a clear understanding of a product, how can you expect customers to have the first idea? A single source of truth is a really effective way to get this consistent understanding, and it can be as simple as a Google doc.
Last up, a really quick win is to have your product and marketing teams set shared goals. Now, if you have a lot of people in your content and product teams that might sound a bit hectic, but you can use collaboration tools like Miro to do this in a more organized way with large groups. That being said, there is always value in a good old-fashioned brainstorm.
Setting shared goals together will foster allyship between your product and marketing teams. They’ll have shared priorities and challenges, and a common purpose, which will require them to work together. Uniting people against a common enemy is the best way to get them to collaborate. Like the US and UK uniting over their mutual hatred of James Cordon (no, we don’t like him either).
What should product and marketing align on?
We’ve touched on some of this already, but there are a lot of activities within your Go-to-Market strategy product and marketing can collaborate on to improve your overall strategy and its impact.
Use cases are examples of times when a customer might use your product or service. Essentially, they’re a tool to help you understand why someone would want your product. They’re useful for understanding who you might sell your products to and for producing personalized, targeted marketing. They’re also incredibly helpful for sales and customer onboarding, so you can ensure a consistent and specific journey for your customers.
Use cases are a crucial asset, and they work best when product and marketing produce them collaboratively. Producing a comprehensive arsenal of use cases requires in-depth knowledge of the product and the market. If they’re produced by just one team, you’ll miss opportunities.
Similar to use cases, buyer personas are a tool that can be used throughout the customer journey to ensure you’re delivering a targeted, personalized experience for your prospective buyer. Buyer personas detail who your customer is, what they value, their pain points, needs, and how you can win them over. They’re essential for Go-to-Market.
If product and marketing work together to build buyer personas you can better understand what about your product will convince a prospect to buy and what their journey with your company needs to look like.
Positioning is, in its simplest form, how you position your product in the marketplace. It's typically the responsibility of marketing, but it shouldn’t be done without the input of your product team. Your marketing team might know the marketplace best, but no one knows your product like the people who created it.
Positioning is all about finding the right way to position your product so it’ll appeal to the right audience, have a clear differentiator from your competition and allow you to grab market share. To do that effectively, you need to bring together product knowledge and market knowledge, which is why this should be a collaborative function.
Your product and marketing teams are both already gathering information on their competition, whether you have a formalized competitive intelligence function or not. As we’ve discussed, product and marketing both perform better with each other’s insights. This is no different when it comes to competitive intelligence.
Information sharing between teams is essential for competitive intelligence to be fully effective. For example, there’s little point in marketing knowing who your biggest competitors are according to your customers if they aren’t passing that on to the product team. It can be counterintuitive to share what feels like hard-earned intel with others, even within companies, but that reluctance has to be unlearned.
If you want to get the most out of your Go-to-Market strategy, you must align your product and marketing teams effectively. Product and marketing can both enrich one another’s work with their unique insights and perspectives. This will help you deliver a more consistent brand narrative, achieve product-market fit and better resonate with your target audience.
The best ways to get this alignment are:
- Align early and consistently.
- Have a transparent project timeline.
- Set expectations at the start of the project.
- Use a single source of truth.
- Have your teams set shared goals.