3 Reasons Product And Marketing Can Thrive Together Under The Same Leader

By Matt Lowechief product and marketing officer for MasterControl

A company’s success hinges on cultivating a strong relationship between product and marketing. Each team may have its own specific goals, operations and priorities, but both want the same results: a thriving product, satisfied customers and a strong bottom line.

That’s the reason I have never understood why so many software companies insist on wedging the product and marketing teams apart into their own departments within a company.

I came into software from one of many industries in which product and marketing are the same. While splitting apart those efforts continues to feel foreign to me, it’s a habit that virtually every software company follows.

Dividing product and marketing can create unnecessary barriers to communication between the two departments of the company operating in closest proximity to the customer. In such arrangements, everything from problem-solving to brainstorming to improving processes can take on additional time and effort that might be better spent elsewhere.

Here are three reasons both teams reporting to the same executive leader can foster better understanding, communication and overall efficiency across the organization.

1. Improved communication leads to better products.

Simply put, the most important reasons to combine your product and marketing efforts are because it can help create better products and deliver better marketing.

This is because good product decisions come from the constant feedback delivered by people closest to your customers. Without that feedback, your company will create great, well-engineered products which still don’t most effectively address the needs of customers.

Marketing functions as the conduit between the sales team and the front lines of customer engagement, and the product people need the information that the pipeline can provide. When marketing and product are together under the same roof, it can streamline the flow of real-time product information and feedback in both directions.

Demand generation is an essential component of marketing these days. Engaging with product management to regularly review and provide input for demand generation efforts is incredibly helpful. This can take on added importance when launching new products, as product leadership can help identify early search terms and make connections to other pages.

Any interruptions in that vital exchange of feedback between product and marketing can impede a company’s ability to meet the needs of customers. That’s why when companies continue to have separate leaders for product and marketing—who inevitably do have different objectives—they are risking the efficiency and efficacy of that lifeline.

2. Efficiency across departments benefits the entire company.

Several downstream functions within the company are reliant upon strong communication between product and marketing. Just as marketing functions as the conduit between product and the critical feedback from sales, the product team serves as the conduit between engineering and the business operations of a company.

Product managers serve as the information hubs within the organization. Software is, by its nature, very technical, so it’s important to have someone who can gather all of the information, translate it from engineering terms and send it to the marketing team for dissemination.

Marketing uses product information to create talking points, develop sales materials and generate leads. Meanwhile, product uses the feedback from marketing to provide solutions to customer problems and inform future plans. That’s why when these two departments have different leaders, they are often met with unnecessary friction and delays in the process.

Streamlining the teams under a single leader allows the essential functions of product and marketing to work together without interference. This leads to developing stronger road maps, faster ability to detect and take advantage of opportunities and less friction when trying to solve problems.

3. Joining product and marketing together is easier than it seems.

In my experience, there is a different level of technical aptitude required for product managers in the software space. Perhaps this is the reason that many software organizations align product with engineering. The danger is that the product team may become more interested in the technological solution and lose sight of actually solving the customer problem.

Aligning product and marketing greatly reduces this tendency without diminishing the necessary technical prowess of the product team. Rather, organizations may find that their marketing team becomes more fluent in the technical jargon critical to crafting the right positioning and messaging for the market.

For most software companies, combining product and marketing under the same roof is a much easier step to take than it might seem at first glance. The two teams should already be deeply engaged with each other’s efforts. If they’re not, that may be reason enough alone to make such a change.

The essential effort of marketing sets the stage for the company’s product strategy and signals this to the marketplace. If the marketing team isn’t joined at the hip with the product team and engaged with all of their plans and roadmaps, then the company simply won’t have a story to tell—and new product launches will suffer.

Organizations that want to combine (or re-combine) product and marketing functions under a single leader may have a few challenges to overcome, including how to align parties to one vision. The key to success is opening up those missing channels of communication. Regular full-team meetings, collaborative planning sessions and timely updates when processes get off track can showcase the benefits of a single team and help convince those who were more comfortable with separate teams.

A tight coupling of product marketing management with product management can benefit the company in a multitude of ways by eliminating any potential for disparate visions. As long as the structure is optimized to produce the best outcomes, the leader’s job should be to streamline efforts and stay out of the way.

How well-aligned are your own product and marketing teams?

It’s long past time for companies to bring product and marketing together under the same leadership. The benefits of communication, efficiency and understanding will lead to better products, happier customers and stronger business results.

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